GOUKAMMA NATURE RESERVE
Goukamma Nature Reserve offers variety of hiking trails ranging from two to six hours in duration. Take plenty of water and a sense of adventure with you! In January we walked just 7km of the area and will go back when it is cooler to enjoy the longer trails amongst the fynbos. We saw thousands of terns on the beach and enjoyed the picnic site and a swim on completion of the circular 7km route we chose. Several walks can be taken from the Buffalo Bay side of the Goukamma Nature Reserve, but you must cross the Goukamma River on the pont first – an unusual start to a hike! One can also spot migrating whales from the top of the dunes in the winter season.
The reserve covers 2 500 hectares of dense coastal forest, including milkwood, yellowwood and candlewood trees. It protects the charming vervet monkey, bushbuck and bushpig, as well as porcupine, mongoose, honey badger and grysbok. This is a popular choice for keen birders, as the Goukamma River and estuary and the Groenvlei Lake provide a welcoming habitat for more than 220 bird species, including the rare African black oystercatcher. There are two indigenous and four alien species of fish found in Groenvlei Lake. Visitors enjoy the sight of the magnificent southern right whales between June and November. Bottle-nosed and humpback dolphins play in the waves throughout the year.
A wonderful time to visit is in September/October when the first spring rains create splashes of bright spring flowers amid the fynbos. This is a year-round destination, as it falls between the Cape’s summer and winter rainfall seasons. A variety of hiking trails are offered in this beautiful reserve ranging from two to six hours in duration. Take plenty of water and a sense of adventure with you! Between June and November each year, the southern right whale heads to South Africa’s shores to breed and calve their young. The sight of these majestic creatures lolling in the water never fails to impress.
Take a relaxing tour of the reserve on a canoe or pedal boat. Visitors can slowly drift down the river or across the lake, taking in the scenery and keeping a sharp eye out for wildlife and birds. Kayaks and pedal boats can be reserved at the central office. Paddles and lifejackets are provided.
This is a popular birding destination with more than 220 species recorded in the nature reserve. Visitors should keep an eye out for the rare African black oystercatcher and the endangered African penguin. Species commonly spotted include the African fish eagle, African marsh harrier and Knysna Turaco. A bird list is available at the office.
Goukamma also borders Buffalo Valley – a conservation area overlooking the Goukamma River
Location between the towns of Sedgefield and Knysna, take the turn-off to Buffalo Bay. Follow this road for 8km and then turn right (towards the river) and into the reserve.
GPS: 34 4 6.73 S 22 56 52.29 E
Office hours: 08h30–16h00
Tel: +27 (0)44 383 0042
The Cape Clawless Otter Trail starts off at Groenvlei and takes hikers alongside the lake through a magical dune forest before the path climbs steeply up the dune into fynbos where one gains increasingly wonderful panoramic views of the Outeniqua mountains, the lake and over the dunes to the sea and to Gerickes Point. One can hike down into the valley and up over the next dune and eventually down to the oyster beds on the coastline. If you don’t want to do the return journey you can walk along the beach and climb off it up the boardwalk at Platbank. Just be sure that the tide will allow you to do this, it’s best to check with the Cape Nature Office.
There is also the very enjoyable Porcupine Trail that starts at Groenvlei and ends after crossing the Goukamma River on the pont. This is aone-way distance of about 13,5 kms.
The circular Bush Pig Trail takes you inland up and along the dune, through some coastal forest down to the sea. You then double back and go around the back of the dune and alongside the river and along the side of the dune back to the pont crossing. This walk is less strenuous the other way around!
The 12 km Galjoen Trail is a beach walk from Platbank to Buffalo Bay. However, one needs to do this at low tide so you should consult a tide table. If the river mouth is open, then you will need to walk inland to cross over the Goukamma River via the Pont. You need to organize transport back to your starting point or arrange a cross-over procedure like the Porcupine Trail.
Going out the Goukamma Nature Reserve gates and turning right to Buffalo Bay, drive a short distance and then turn right into the parking lot next to the sea. Cross over the road to the Buffalo Bay Trail. This trail takes you up a gentle slope to overlook the village of Buffalo Bay then down through a piece of forest and along the dune to give you stunning panoramic views of the bay area. You then come down onto the beach and depending on time, you can either walk left towards Brenton-on-Sea and back again. Alternatively, you can turn right walking along the beach to the Buffalo Bay outdoor restaurant overlooking the sea. Otherwise, you can continue to walk towards the caravan park and in the quiet season request permission to walk through the resort that is situated on a grassy peninsula surrounded by the ocean. The rocky outcrops along this part of the coast provide roosts for hundreds of white-breasted and Cape Cormorants.
Within the Marine Reserve this is a popular and scenic campsite in the summer months as the bay has a superb swimming beach and is also a favorite for surfers. You can frequently see pods of dolphins surfing the breakers. Overall, Goukamma Nature Reserve presents a magnificent natural environment of ocean, river, beaches, dunes, fynbos, coastal vegetation, and forest.