Ever heard of the Biosphere Breaker Way Trail? Kogelberg Nature Reserve is the anchor destination of this three-day slack-packing adventure. Make a long weekend of it and enjoy the breathtaking views, fynbos-clad mountain slopes and pristine shoreline. By Shirley Kokot
Lying at the heart of South Africa’s first internationally recognised biosphere reserve, the Kogelberg Nature Reserve is a gem. This World Heritage Site is widely considered the finest example of mountain fynbos in the Western Cape. And while you may find settlements in the biosphere’s buffer zone, the nature reserve itself is mostly untouched by humans.
The aim of the Kogelberg Biosphere is to sustain natural resources while allowing people to live, work and use the area for recreation. One of the best ways to explore the concept is the scenic three-day Biosphere Breaker Way Trail, a guided walk that will make any nature lover’s heart sing.
My husband, Mike, and I were fortunate to walk the trail earlier this year. In keeping with the spirit of the biosphere, the first day focused on the sustainable use of the environment. Our hike through Fernkloof Nature Reserve ended at a winery in the Hemel and Aarde Valley, where we had the chance to taste wine. We were very appreciative of nature’s gifts!
Into the wild heart
The next day began with a walk from the Kleinmond Lagoon along the shoreline, listening to tales of shipwreck and survival, with one of these commemorated by three hefty wooden crosses. Our ultimate destination was Oudebosch, home of the award-winning Oudebosch eco-cabins, the highlight of the trail.
The cabins were a delight! Who knew that the concept of eco-friendly did not exclude comfort and aesthetic merit? The furnishings are luxurious and every room has a view – including the waterless loos. The latter were quite the revelation and a far cry from the wilderness long-drop version. It took a little adjustment to realise that no flushing was allowed… Instead scoops of compost did the trick! Simple, effective and water-wise indeed.
After an al fresco lunch at Oudebosch, we met the ‘flower power lady’. Amida Johns has been living in Kogelberg Nature Reserve for decades and seems to know every fynbos plant personally. She took us on a walk along the Palmiet River and revealed the incredible sensitivity of the variety of plants and how they cope with nature’s foibles. I was amazed to learn that the seeds of certain proteas need fire once every 16 years in order to sprout. If there’s no fire, or if it occurs too early or too late, the seeds will be obliged to wait it out another 16 years…
Fresh mountain air and an excellent dinner soon drove us all to an early bed followed by a very good night’s sleep in the dark peacefulness of this wonderful reserve.
From mountain slopes to shining sea
The Kogelberg boundaries set the scene for our final day. After breakfast, we were shuttled to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, a virtual hot spot for floral diversity in this fynbos region. It also hosts around 100 bird species, including the Cape sugarbird, orange-breasted sunbird and protea canary, several snake species as well as some small animals. The gardens are named after Harold Porter, an architect from Johannesburg who managed to acquire the land in 1939. He wanted to develop a wild fynbos reserve and named it Shangri-la (meaning paradise). After his death in 1958, the reserve was donated to the National Botanic Gardens of South Africa and was given his name to honour him.
After lunch we hiked to Stony Point Nature Reserve to spend time with African penguins, enjoy their antics and rejoice that this area is dedicated to their conservation.
It was also time to reflect on a less pleasing topic as Stony Point is the site of the long-abandoned Waaygat Whaling Station. The restaurant has an entire wall dedicated to stories and photos of the whalers who set up the station in the early days of the 20th century. Those of us who delight in the appearance of whales in our seas may be saddened by this history, but it is a reminder that we need to continue our conservation efforts in order to prevent similar tragedies.
The Biosphere Breaker Way Trail is a must! We gloried in the natural beauty of the shoreline, rivers, mountains, vegetation and marvelled at wildlife on land and sea. We made new friends and gained a wealth of new information. Heading home, smug and happy, we agreed that Breaker Way offers the best of all worlds.
Visit CapeNature’s website for more information, or contact +27 (0)21 483 0190 for reservations.
Click here to download a map and brochure for Kogelberg Nature Reserve.