The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve’s conservation manager Mark Johns confirms that the area is home to around 1 800 plant species; 150 are ‘rare and noteworthy’, and 77 occur nowhere else on earth.
Once we start fossicking about along the Palmiet River Trail with Mark’s wife, botanist Amida Johns, everything comes into sharper focus. ‘The Kogelberg is a biodiversity and endemism hotspot,’ she says.
‘Although it provides refuge for threatened or endangered species, our large, diverse plant communities and our rare and endemic plants are equally important.’
A doublecollared sunbird makes kissing sounds in a bush nearby and a sugarbird flaunts its long tail as Amida skips along the trail, fizzing with enthusiasm.
She’s a mine of information about geology, pointing out how succulent daisies grow on tillite but leucadendrons like the shale soils. She also rattles on about laureolums and microcephalums, assuming that we’re as intimately acquainted with these yellow cone-like members of the protea family as she is.
The trail is fairly flat and there are wondrous views of the river, not to mention places to swim in the cool brown water. In winter, the river is wide and moves along at quite a lick over the rocks.
‘In summer the river’s so puny you can hop over parts of it, but don’t underestimate its power in winter,’ says Amida.
She went rafting some years ago, fell out and got sucked into a ‘toilet hole’. ‘It seemed like forever before I got spat out again and I’ve never been back on the river,’ she confesses.
But the Kogelberg is more than the heart the Cape Floral Kingdom and a mind-blowing treasure trove of fynbos species. It's also a fun place to work up a sweat.
To keep you active and entertained, for instance, there are lots of day hikes, a challenging overnight trail, mountain bike trails, a whitewater kayaking trail along the Palmiet River, fishing, birdwatching and whalewatching.
There's a host of other attractions in the villages within the biosphere too: farmstalls, wine estates, restaurants, museums, art/potter’s galleries, Elgin’s open gardens in October, Kleinmond Harbour Road tourism hub, Arabella golf estate, historical Houwhoek Inn, boating, beaches, horse-riding, quad-biking, sand-boarding, etc.
There's just no way you can come here and be bored.
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