Cape Town may be a destination on its own, with its famous Mountain, and the neighbouring wine lands, but an off-the-beaten-track tour to some of the Cape's Nature Reserves, and surrounding areas falls under the "must do" category.
Off the Beaten Track | Cape Town Nature Reserves
Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve
The Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, lies in the Hottentots Holland Mountains, some 90 kilometres southeast of Cape Town. The 42 000 hectare reserve stretches from Elgin in the south to beyond Villiersdorp in the north, and from the Stellenbosch Mountains in the west, eastwards to the Groenland Mountains.
The terrain is rugged and mountainous, with altitudes ranging from 500 metres to 1590 metres. The Reserve is important for the conservation of mountain fynbos with approximately 1 300 species occurring here, including several rare and endemic plants.
Small populations of the antelope species such as Grey Rhebuck, Klipspringer, common Duiker and Grysbok occur. Although Leopard frequent these mountains, they are seldom seen. Approximately 110 bird species have been recorded in the Reserve, amongst them several species of raptor.
Approximately 21 000 hectare of private and state property abutting the reserve is co-managed as the Theewaterskloof Conservancy by Cape Nature and various landowners. South Africa has the third-highest level of biodiversity in the world, thanks in no small part to the Cape Floral Kingdom.
Table Mountain National Park
The Table Mountain National Park alone has more plant species within its 22 000 hectares than the whole British Isles or New Zealand. Of the 9 600 species of vascular plants (plants with vessels for bearing sap) found in the Cape Floral kingdom, about 70% are endemic (occur nowhere else on earth).
Unique plant reproductive strategies, adaptive to fire, patterns of seed dispersal by insects, as well as patterns of endemism and adaptive radiation found in the flora are of outstanding value to science.
Fynbos plants are readily recognised by the hard, tough, leathery, and small leaves, found in almost all woody plants and is characterised by having more than 5% cover of Cape reeds (Restios). Additionally, it contains proteas, ericas and members of seven plant families found nowhere else in the world.
True grasses are also relatively rare. Most of the plants have small, thin leaves, typically defined as ericoid leaves. Fynbos plants include the King Protea, South Africa's national flower, and the popular garden plants, pelargoniums, commonly known as geraniums.
Cape Floral Kingdom
There are only six floral kingdoms in the world, of which the Cape is the smallest, and most diverse, with the highest known concentration of plant species: 1 300 per 10 000 square kilometres. The nearest rival, the South American rain forest has a concentration of some 400 species per 10 000 square kilometres.
The Cape Floral Kingdom is the only one that if found entirely in one country. Colloquially known as the Fynbos (literally, fine leaves), there are some 9 000 species making up the collection. The Cape Floral Kingdom comprises 8 protected areas stretching from the Cape Peninsula to the Eastern Cape.
It is the sixth South African "site" to be inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. The World Heritage Committee declared the 553 000-hectare Cape Floral Kingdom/ Region to be of 'outstanding universal significance to humanity', describing it as 'one of the richest areas for plants in the world'.
The region follows the Cape fold belt of mountains, the Cederberg and Hottentots Holland Mountains, and then cuts through the Langeberg, Outeniquas, Tsitsikamma, Swartberg and Zuurberg mountains.