02 August 2013 by Romi Boom

Goukamma – a Garden Route gem

This pretty reserve along the Western Cape’s southern coast offers opportunities for hiking, paddling and swimming.

Crossing the Goukamma River leads towards a unique hiking trail. Image by Romi Boom

A mere 15km west of Knysna you’re in for a multifaceted surprise. You will love the dense milkwoods, yellowwoods and candlewoods in the coastal forest of the Goukamma Nature Reserve, with some of the highest vegetated dunes in South Africa. The coastal fynbos and extensive dunefields stretch along a gorgeous beach and coastline of 14km.

The adjacent Marine Protected Area extends seawards for 1.8km, protecting numerous marine species. Then there’s the Goukamma River and estuary, and the unique Groenvlei Lake, which has no in-flowing river and no link to the sea.

Spend the night

Mvubu Bushcamp cottage in the milkwood forest on the shores of Groenvlei lake has spectacular views, two en-suite bedrooms and an open-plan lounge/kitchen/dining-room area. On the Buffalo Bay side of Goukamma, three thatched cottages sleeping four, with modern décor and facilities, overlook the river and estuary. You will have a private lapa with your own braai facilities and, for chilly nights, there’s an indoor fireplace. Otter’s Rest Lodge, which sleeps four, and Fish Eagle Loft, which sleeps two, both offer stylish accommodation with river and sea views.

Special sightings

There’s a cormorant roost at the point at Buffalo Bay. Swift and sandwich terns abound and, if you look carefully, you will sometimes spot Arctic and roseate terns. Two nights before our stay, at about 9pm, a honey badger was seen crossing the N2. Travellers are cautioned to drive carefully, since the animals follow a corridor into the pine forests.

If you have one hour before sunset

The far side of the river has been zoned as a wilderness or no-development zone. Take the pontoon across the river and hike the 6.5km Bush Pig Trail through the coastal milkwood forest and along the jeep track. If you have about three hours, a circular route will link you up with the coast and you can climb up one of the dunes, perhaps getting lucky with a humpbacked dolphin sighting. You return to your chalet along the beach, wading hip-high through the river mouth. If time is of the essence, and provided the tide is out, consider stretching those legs with some rock-pooling.

Kick-start your day

Early mornings are usually wind-still on the river, which is part of the Marine Protected Area. With whisps of steam rising from the water, this is the perfect time to go rowing in one of the sit-in canoes and paddle alongside spur-winged and Egyptian geese. Engage in a spot of birding and look out for the three kinds of kingfishers that occur here: malachite, giant and brown-hooded.

For more information on the SANParks Wild Card, visit the website here.

Book it!

CapeNature central reservations +27 (0)21 483 0190 or at www.capenature.co.za

  • Romi Boom is the editor of Wild, the Wild Card magazine

Category: Attractions

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