Although you may not experience a traditional African safari like those in the Kruger Park and greater Africa, Western Cape game reserves offers a unique and interesting experience none the less, and is definitely worth the visit.
Situated at the south-western tip of Africa, the TMNP consists of the beautiful Peninsula mountain chain which stretches from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south, a distance of about 60 kilometres.
This Cape Town game reserve is characterized by lush valleys, bays and beaches, flanked by the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the warmer waters of False Bay in the east. TMNP also boasts 2 of Cape Town's most popular attractions within its boundaries, namely Table Mountain and the legendary Cape of Good Hope.
TMNP is world renowned for its rich, diverse and unique flora, and features rugged cliffs, steep slopes and sandy flats. The TMNP is renowned as been scenic, historical, cultural and a recreational asset. Nowhere else in the world will you find an area of such immense beauty and bio diversity within a metropolitan area, the vibrant and cosmopolitan city of Cape Town.
Popular spots to enjoy the scenery of simply to relax and enjoy a picnic with your family are located at the Signal Hill lookout, The Glen, Van Riebeek Park, Newlands Forest, Constantia Nek, Oudekraal, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Tokai, Witsand, soetwater, Buffels Bay, Bordjiesrif, Miller's Point and Perdekloof.
This national park is sheltered by the Langeberg Mountains and bordered to the south by the Breede River. This park is a sanctuary for Bontebok, Cape Mountain Zebra, Red Hartebeest and Grey Rhebuck. It is situated within the spectacular Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest and richest of the world's six floral kingdoms.
Situated close to the historic town of Swellendam and 240 kilometres from Cape Town, this Western Cape game reserve is home to more than 470 plant species, including ericas, gladiolus and the South African national flower, the protea. Bontebok National Park provides a safe refuge for the Bontebok, an animal that has been hunted in the past. In 1930, it was estimated that only 30 Bontebok had remained, resulting in the establishment of the 2 786 hectare Bontebok National Park.
The park can support between 200-300 Bontebok, providing a suitable habitat for these grazers. There is now 2000 to 3000 Bontebok existing in the world today. Bontebok is also a great destination for bird watching, hiking, and fishing and swimming in the Breede River. Avis birders can enjoy sightings of the Secretary bird, Fish Eagle and Francolin, to name just a few.
The Karoo National Park is situated close to the N1 highway between Cape Town and the hinterland, about 1000 kilometres south of Johannesburg and 500 kilometres north of Cape Town. Game viewing is great in the park due to the sparse vegetation in the area. Game that can be found include Red Hartebeest, Black Wildebeest, Eland, 2 Zebra species, Kudu and Springbok. Klipspringer can also be seen occasionally.
The birdlife in the park is prolific, with 20 plus pairs of Black Eagle, as well as Booted Eagle, Chanting Goshawk and Rock Kestrel, to name just a few. The Karoo National Park is also home to some reptilian fauna, including 5 species of fauna, a terrapin, an agama, 2 chameleons, a monitor, 18 snakes and several geckos, skinks and lizards.
This reserve is situated in the Oudtshoorn district between the Great Karoo and Little Karoo. It is bordered by the Gamka River in the west and the Uniondale/Willowmore road in the east.
The Swartberg Reserve spreads over 121 000 hectares of mostly state owned land, with the neighbouring Gamakort Nature Reserve, which forms part of the Swartberg, adds another 8 hectares, making this conservations area a vast 129 000 hectares.
At Swartberg Nature Reserve you will also get a historic experience as the area is rich in numerous rock paintings and artefacts found in caves scattered throughout the reserve. Three historic routes connecting the Great and Little Karoo lead through the reserve, namely the Toorwaterpoort is a train route, Meiringspoort that is used by motorists, and the untarred Swartberg Pass.
The reserve is abundant and diverse in flora, with renosterveld, mountain fynbos, Karoo veld, spekboom veld and any geophyte species. This region is a paradise in spring time, when plants blossom and the area is lush and green. The spectacular protea flowers in early autumn and attracts large numbers of sugarbirds and sunbirds.
Mammals found in the Swartberg Nature Reserve include Klipspringer, Grey Rhebuck, Kudu, Baboon, and Dassie. At Gamkapoort you may see Springbok, Leopard and Caracal. Swartberg is also great for birding, and is home to more than 130 bird species, including Black, Gish and Martial Eagle, Cape Sugarbird and the Pied Kingfisher.
Situated inland from the secluded harbour of Saldanha Bay lays the West Coast National Park. This is an area characterized by noisy seabirds roosting on sheltered islands and beautiful golden beaches. During spring the sandveld is decorated by a kaleidoscope of multi hued colours, compliments of the beautiful flowers of the area.
The largest concentration of mammals is situated in the Postberg Reserve, but is only open to the public during the flower season. Mammals are, however, found throughout the reserve, and include Eland, Red Hartebeest, Cape Grysbok, Caracal and Rock Hyrax. Lucky visitors may even spot passing Whale and Dolphin on the bay.
The park surrounds the Langebaan Lagoon, a Ramsar site. Summer is the best time to visit the lagoon, and the best place to see lagoon waders is the Geelbek hide from low tide as the tide is coming in. Birds you will encounter include Grey Plover, Knot Sanderling, Little Stint, Curfew Sandpiper and Bartailed Godwit. Little Egret and South African Shelduck can be seen alongside the waders, and Flamingo and White Pelican frequent deeper water.
The fynbos in the reserve is home to Black Korhaan, Cape and Greywinged Francolin, Yellow Canary, Cape Penduline, Titbabbler and Cape Bunting to name a few. The coastal islands at the mouth of the lagoon are good breeding grounds for Kelp and Hartlaub's Gull, Cape Gennet and African Penguin, as well as cormorants and terns.
Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve is situated in the Hottentots Holland Mountains, about 90 kilometres south east of Cape Town. It is a 42 000 hectare Western Cape game reserve that stretches from Elgin in the south to beyond Villiersdorp in the north, and from Stellenbosch mountains in the west, eastwards to the Groenland mountains.
This Western Cape game reserve is an important conservation area because of the mountain fynbos with about 1 300 species occurring there, including rare and endemic flora. This area is home to small populations of Grey Rhebuck, Klipspringer, Common Duiker and Grysbok. Leopard are also frequent these mountain but are seldom spotted. This reserve is also home to 110 bird species, including several raptors.
The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness area boasts spectacular rock formations and is situated about 120 kilometres from Cape Town. Situated in the Groot Winterhoek mountain range north of Tulbach and east of Porterville, this area comprises 30 608 hectares, 19 200 hectares of which was declared a wilderness area. The landscape is rugged and mountainous, with rock formations consisting of mainly Table Mountain sandstone.
Various rare, threatened and endemic flora species are found in this area, including the threatened Sorocephalus scabridus, a member of the protea family, which grows in Kliphuisvlakte. A large variety of red disas flower are in abundance along the streams near the reserve during January and February. Erica species also occur virtually throughout the year.
Mammals found in this area include Klipspringers, Grey Rhebuck and Grysbok, Leopard, Caracal, Wildcat, Mongoose and Genet. About 100 bird species make this area its home, including the endemic Cape Rockjumper, Black Eagle, Goshawk and Jackal Buzzard. A few rare lizards also occur, most notably the rock lizard, Australolacerta australis.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is an area that encompasses the breeding grounds of the Southern Right Whale. It is estimated that approximately 120 Whale return to the waters of De Hoop every year to mate and calve.
Witness the memorable experience of seeing these giant creatures of the deep leaping from the water or wallowing in the bay. An excellent vantage point for Whale watching is the high dunes of Koppie Alleen and the lodge at Lekkerwater. Whale season is between June and November every year, with peak months for viewing between August and September.
This 34 000 hectare nature reserve is situated just 3 hours from the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town in the Overberg Region. The De Hoop Nature Reserve is a hotspot for hikers, cyclists, bird watchers, Whale watchers and nature lovers. The De Hoop Marine Protected Area is situated adjacent to the reserve, and extends three nautical miles out to sea. it is one of the largest marine protected areas in Africa, and is home to an abundance of marine life.
The De Hoop Nature Reserve forms part of the world's smallest and most threatened plant kingdom, the Cape Floral Kingdom. This kingdom, although the smallest in the world, boasts the richest and most diverse plant life compared to the other 5 floral kingdoms in the world.
The dominant plant species is fynbos, which is defined by four growth forms, namely proteas, ericas, restiose and geophytes. The Bredasdorp/Agulhas and Infanta area is home to an estimated 1 500 plant species, 108 species which are rare or threatened 34 species which are endemic to the De Hoop Nature Reserve, as well as 14 species that were recently discovered and are still undesribed.
De Hoop, with its diversity of natural and terrestrial habitats, supports a wide variety of wildlife, plantlife, birdlife and marine life. The reserve is home to 86 mammal species, including the rare Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra, as well as Eland, Grey Rhebuck, Baboon, Yellow Mongoose, Caracal and the occasional Leopard. Marine mammals include Dolphin and Seal, as well as the majestic Southern Right Whale during May and December. The water is home to at least 250 species of fish.
De Hoop is also a great bird watching destination, with more than 260 species being recorded here. The De Hoop vlei attracts a large number of water birds. The only breeding colony of the rare Cape vulture in the Western Cape occurs at Potberg.