If you haven’t yet visited Cape Nature’s Anysberg Nature Reserve between Laingsburg, Ladismith and Montagu in the Karoo, do it now. It’s a special place for endangered plants and riverine rabbits, but you can also kick back and relax in the silence, gaze at the stars or choose from a number of activities like hiking, horse riding and mountain biking.
If horses aren’t your thing, hire a mountain bike – or bring your own – to explore the tracks in the reserve. Or drive the network of gravel roads in your high-clearance 4x4. At Vrede, where the chalets, campsite and offices are, there’s a swimming pool and wooden deck for cooling off on hot days, or you can go paddling and bird-watching on Rooidam not far away.
But perhaps the two best activities are simply to walk the veld or look at the stars. The walk to the Landsekloof waterfall is about 1.5km from the start of the kloof, some 6km from the cottages. Although it’s the only official trail, there are lots of other paths through the veld where you might spot some of the reserve’s gemsbok, red hartebeest, steenbok or Cape mountain zebra.
‘We also have two PhD students from France conducting research in and around Anysberg,’ he says. ‘Marine Drouilly is comparing the distribution, diet and behaviour of caracal and black-backed jackal on Anysberg with those on private farms, while Elsa Bussiere’s research is looking at distribution and numbers of brown hyena in the area, and collecting scats to analyse their diet.’
If you’re a plant nut, you’ll be in heaven on your walks here, where there are many rare and endangered species. ‘Anysberg falls into two biomes – Succulent Karoo and Fynbos,’ says Brand. ‘We have rare succulents like the mauve Gibbaeum nebrownii (vis-oë) and bright yellow Tanquana hilmarii (klipvygie). We also have rare fynbos like Leucadendron osbornei, which is endemic to the area.’
But if you’re really keen to learn, join a guided star gazing evening at Vrede, using the reserve’s telescopes and tapping into the knowledge of Marius Brand or one of the other three star guides, who were trained by astronomy guides Chris De Coning and Kechil Kirkham from Over The Moon. Depending on the time of year, they might be able to point out Jupiter and its moons, Saturn’s rings or the Andromeda galaxy, 2.5 million light years away.