Tranquillity and solitude in the heart of the Garden Route:
|(Sunrise over the Goukamma estuary)|
Deciding on our holiday adventure in the garden route required careful planning. We wanted to experience the Ancient Knysna forest, surf the warm waters at Buffalo Bay, see new forest bird species, yet miss all the crowds. With the new lockdown rules in place and the closing of the beaches as a result of the second wave of the COVID 19 pandemic, how would our Garden Route experience be affected?
|(360 views across Groenvlei and looking towards Sedgefield)|
|(Sunrise over the entrance to Goukamma Nature Reserve)|
Would Goukamma embrace all these requirements and more?
|(Tranquil waters along the Goukamma River)|
This charming nature reserve is managed by Cape Nature, situated on the Cape south coast in the Western Cape. With Sedgefield and Knysna just a short drive away, this made for the ideal getaway. The Reserve covers an area of 2500ha, while the Marine Protected Area extends along approximately 18km of coastline from Buffalo Bay to Sedgefield. With extensive Dune fields and some of the highest vegetated dunes in South Africa. Wide, unspoilt beaches, coastal dune forests and the Goukamma river estuary all compressed in one small area. A paradise for walkers, hikers with more than six listed trails to choose from, depending on your fitness and time constraints.
|(Coastal forests in the Buffalo Valley section)|
|(Sunrise in Buffalo Bay: Kelp Gulls talking)|
|(Coastal forests on the Porcupine Trail 13,5km)|
|(Almost at the summit of a large vegetated sand dune above Groenvlei)|
|(Public Boat launch site to Groenvlei)|
|(Otters Rest and Fish Eagles Loft as seen from the coast)|
|(Large sundeck with braai area, you can witness the best sunrise and sunsets in comfort)|
If you’re looking for complete privacy, consider the River Lodge, Forest Lodge, or the Vlei Lodge. They are situated in the Buffalo Valley section, far away from the main Goukamma operational offices. Three recently renovated luxury lodges overlooking the scenic Goukamma river and estuary is another excellent offering.
Cape Nature has two accommodation units available in the Groenvlei section, the Mvubu Bush Lodge and the rustic Groenvlei Bush Camp (due for an upgrade this year). All the accommodation units are self-catering.
|(Forest Lodge set deep in the Coastal Forest and right on the river’s edge)|
|(Vlei Lodge on the edge of Bird Vlei)|
|(Bird Vlei and the private Vlei Lodge)|
|(Crashing waves at the Buffalo Bay Campsite)|
Up early for some of the unique forest birds and at night, we searched for Owls and Nightjars. Due to the natural environment’s diversity, more than 200 birds have been recorded in this nature reserve. Birding being my main priority, we were very impressed by the variety of birds encounter in each ecosystem. Some of the notable birds we recorded were:
|(It doesn’t get more picture-perfect than this)|
|(Enjoying Sunset after a relaxing walk on the Galjoen Trail)|
Along the coastline, Kelp Gulls, Swift, Sandwich, Caspian and Common Terns.
|(Juvenile Kelp Gulls at the Goukamma river mouth)|
|(Tern roost, Greater Crested, Sandwich and Common Terns)|
|(Breading pair of White-Fronted Plovers)|
In the estuary, Cape-, reed-, white-breasted and darter Cormorants, common greenshank and common sandpiper.
|(White Breasted Cormorant)|
|(Surprised to find this Cape Cormorant on the estuary)|
Coastal Forest, recording Knysna turaco, Cape batis, Black Cuckooshrike(male and female), Southern Boubou and the African Paradise Flycatcher.
|(Paradise Flycatcher found at the Forest Lodge)|
|( Elegant Knysna Taraco in the coastal forests)|
|(Cape Batis captured at the Forest Lodge)|
Coastal Fynbos, Bar-throated Apalis, Nedeky, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Red-necked Spurfowl and Forked tailed Dorongo.
|(Forked Tailed Dorongo)|
Vlei and marsh, Common Moorhen, Malachite Kingfisher, Western Marsh Harrier, Jackal and Common Buzzard.
|(One of many Forest Buzzards)|
|(Marsh Harrier over the Vlie section)|
|(Juvenile Malachite Kingfisher at Bird Vlei)|
Goukamma River, African Fish Eagle, Pied and Giant Kingfisher, Common Weavers, Grey Heron.
|(Resident Fish Eagle, seen on every day of our stay)|
|(Hunting Pied Kingfisher, a good number of birds seen on the estuary)|
|(Giant Kingfisher with a decent size catch)|
Groenvlei Section, Little Grebe, Red Knobbed Koot, Green Woodpecker, Olive Thrush, Speckled Mousebirds.
|(The very busy Green Woodpecker)|
|(Little Grebe: Dabchick at Birdvlei)|
|(Speckled Mousebirds enjoying some early morning sun)|
Intermediate Zones, Blue Crane, Red Billed-Teal, Purple Heron, Diederik Cuckoo and a host of Sunbirds.
|(Grey Herron on the prowl)|
|(Another odd find, Red-Billed Teal)|
|(Disturbed this regal Purple Heron at Bird Vlei)|
Time seemed irrelevant in this setting, surrounded by the Indian ocean and the Goukamma river, the crashing waves and sounds of the dark water lapping on the shore: two powerful forces of nature controlling our mood. Goukamma is the Khoisan word for “dark waters” in reference to the rivers’ water being coloured by natural occurring tannins in the soil.
|(African Oystercatchers along the coastline just before estuary mouth)|
|(Surfing in Buffels Bay)|
Take the Blue Ferry and cross over the Goukamma River, to explore one of the six-day trails, experience beautiful coastal fynbos together with dense concentrations of milkwood, yellowwood and candlewood found in the coastal forest. Soak up the solitude of miles of unspoilt beaches as the powerful waves chase the rare African Black Oystercatcher. We hiked some of the shorter trails on the Goukamma side, the scenic Blombos trail at Groenvlei is a must if you are feeling energetic.
|( The little blue ferry will get you across the river to enjoy the solitude of the coastline)|
|(The start for the Blombos Trail on the Groenvlei side, this trail comes highly recommended)|
|(Some of the largest vegetated sand dunes in South Africa, on the Blombos Trail)|
Hire a canoe and take a slow meander up the river, one can picnic, swim and fish in the lagoon. Head down to Buffels Bay and surf in the warm water or work on your tan, if this is too stressful, kick back and enjoy the views from the large sundeck while relaxing. The reserve welcomes day visitors and one can braai and picnic right on the water’s edge. Goukamma has it all.
|(Rough seas near the Goukamma River mouth)|
|(Hire a canoe and take a slow boat up the Goukamma River, we were hoping to find the Finfoot)|
Undoubtedly, we will return to complete some of the walking trails that we didn’t have time to appreciate and hopefully record some of the rare birds we missed.
Leaving the coastline and heading deep into the Knysna forests, the tented decks in the Diepwalle section would be our next destination. No holiday experience in the Garden Route is complete without exploring these lush green forests.
Look out for our next adventure as we encounter numerous champion trees, unique forest birds and various walking trails.
|(Use this Map to plan your Activities)|
|(Another great find the Fiery-necked Nightjar on the road towards the Vlei Lodge)|
|(Yellow-billed Ducks at Sunset, and the supporting cast of Blacksmith Lapwing)|
|(Forest Buzzards in an atrial display at sunrise)|
|(Great Egret with small fish)|
|(Grey Heron at Sunset)|
|(Spotted Grunter caught at the entrance gate by the local fishermen)|
|(Scorpion crossing the road on a hiking trail)|