The seaside town of Hermanaus, located in South Africa’s Overberg region, is world famous for its whales, its beautiful coastline and its warm welcome to a plethora of visitors from all over the globe. Located a two hour scenic drive east of Cape Town over the Hottentots Holland mountains, the place is hard not to fall in love with. But relatively few of these visitors have been lucky enough to explore Fernkloof Nature Reserve, perhaps one of the town’s best-kept secrets.
Above: Found at the trailhead at Fernkloof, the visitor’s centre is run by volunteers from the Hermanaus Botanical Society. It offers visitors a plethora of information from walking trails to plant identification.
Managed with care and diligence by the Hermanaus Botanical Society, the Overstrand municipality and others, Fernkloof Nature Reserve encompasses 18 square kilometres of the Kleinrivier Mountains north of the town. A wonderful example of a variety of different fynbos types from the area, Fernkloof Nature Reserve is home to no less than 1250 plant species. Birdwatchers too will find plenty to occupy themselves with over 130 bird species having been recorded in the reserve.
Above: Display tables in the Fernkloof visitors centre help with identification of plants currently in bloom in the reserve.
Fernkloof Nature Reserve has more than 60 km of hiking trails of varying lengths, with most levels of fitness easily accommodated. The trails offer spectacular views across the town of Hermanaus, Walker Bay and beyond, with Danger Point at Gansbaai visible on clear days.
Top: Mimetes hottentotticus. Above: Erepsia anceps.
Thanks to the efforts of the Hermanaus Botanical Society, Fernkloof Nature Reserve is perhaps one of the most informative nature reserves in the Cape Floristic Region. At the main trailhead the society has built and maintains a small visitors centre, with a regularly changing display of meticulously labelled living plant specimens. These are collected and maintained by members of the society who volunteer their time. Here for a small donation visitors can also find information pamphlets on natural history and hiking trails in the reserve.
Above: The Klipspringer Trail offers stunning views over the Kleinrivier Mountains.
The easiest walk in Fernkloof Nature Reserve is the Klipspringer Trail or Blue Route, taking around an hour to complete. Here and on the Yellow Route dogs are permitted. Your furry friends are encouraged to be well-behaved and must be kept on a lead.
Top: Erica discolor. Above: Aulax umbellata.
The trails in the reserve have excellent signage and the paths are well-maintained. However, we recommend footwear suitable for hiking, hat, sunblock, water and snacks as for all hikes. The Klipspringer trail ascends gently, contouring around the mountain on a circular route with spectacular views over Walker Bay. In summer many beautiful Ericas can be seen in bloom in the fynbos.
Top: Erica viscaria subsp. macrosepala. Above: Erica longiaristata.
More energetic hikers with greater time to spare might want to try the Red Route, which culminates in the beautiful Assegaaibos waterfall, taking around 1.5 hours to complete. There is also the option of ascending via the inner or outer circuits and overnighting in Galpin Hut within the reserve. Bookings for the hut can be made in advance through the Hermanaus Botanical Society.
Above: The beautiful indigenous plant nursery on site at Fernkloof Nature Reserve.
On site at Fernkloof Nature Reserve, the Hermanaus Botanical Society also maintain a herbarium of over 4 000 plant specimens, representing a key record of botanical diversity in the region. Visitors can relax and enjoy shaded picnic sites in the small botanical garden near the entrance and shop a fantastic selection indigenous plants for their gardens at the plant nursery too.
Above: The botanical gardens at Fernkloof Nature Reserve offer a beautiful relaxing space for picnics.
This wonderful botanical and horticultural mecca, showcasing the extraordinary fynbos biodiversity of the Hermanaus area, stands testament to the efforts of those at the Hermanaus Botanical Society. And what is more, this amazing place is free to enter for visitors. So why not head along and see for yourself?
Fernkloof Nature Reserve can be found at the top of Fir Avenue, left off the R43 when driving through Hermanaus towards Stanford. Entrance is free for visitors. Opening hours are 6h00 to 19h00 in summer and 7h00 to 19h00 in winter. Visit https://www.fernkloof.org.za for more information.