Spend a couple of days away from the city, in and around the majestic mountains of the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area, enjoying a personalised Cape Town tour that will teach you much about the geology of the area, and the plants of The Cape Floral Kingdom.
Truly personalised tour in 4x4 vehicles
Your tour starts when you are collected from you Cape Town Hotel (at approximately 08.00). The first day takes you to the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area, travelling via Wellington, Gouda and Porterville. The tour is conducted in an air-conditioned, 4x4 vehicle, and only has 2 to 4 participants, making it truly personalised. The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness area, with its extraordinary and diverse rock formations, and popular hiking routes, lies some 120 km north of Cape Town, and is situated in the mountain range of the same name.
The wilderness area is particularly important for the conservation of mountain fynbos and wildlife, as a source of clean water to the metropolis and the west coast, and for outdoor recreation. The landscape is rugged and mountainous, with altitudes of 1 000 to 2 077 metres above sea level. The rock formations consist mainly of Table Mountain sandstone. This sandstone weathers easily, and exceptional rock forms, shaped by the elements, are a special feature of the Groot Winterhoek.
These early farmers used pack animals to transport their produce and supplies to and from the small towns of Porterville and Saron. The tracks are still visible above Driebosch and Weltevrede. There are still working farms in the area, which produce a number berry species. Mountain fynbos is the predominant vegetation. Various rare, threatened and endemic species occur here. A large variety of red disa Proteas flower in abundance along the streams in January and February.
Small antelope and predators occur
Small antelope such as Klipspringers, grey rhebuck and grysbok are abundant and easily seen. Leopard, Caracal, wildcat, mongoose, genet and other predators occur in the Wilderness area, but sightings are rare.
About 100 bird species, including the endemic Cape rockjumper and numerous raptors such as Black Eagle, goshawk and jackal buzzard are also present. A few rare lizard species occur, most notably the southern rock lizard. Various examples of rock art, believed to be between 300 and 6 000 years old, are found in the area.
Rock paintings illustrate Bushman life
Rock paintings illustrate the religious and social life of the San (Bushman), whose ancestors have lived in southern Africa for some 100 000 years. The National Monuments Act protects all rock art, and it is an offence to damage it. After enjoying a refreshing lunch, you spend the afternoon on an exploratory walk, which allows you to learn more about the area, and, in particular, the vegetation. You return to your accommodation in time for sunset, and in the evening, enjoy a traditional barbecue.
Accommodation is in a simple, but neat mountain chalet, with shared ablution facilities. After a leisurely breakfast on day 2 of your tour, you spend the morning exploring the area, by vehicle. There is time to visit a couple of Rock Art sites, which are a short walk from the main 'track'. The Winterhoek Mountains are rugged and beautiful, and there is a valley lined with surreal rocks, all shaped over millennia, but the elements.
You enjoy a light lunch, before returning to Cape Town, where you will arrive by late afternoon. This tour is truly 2 full days of off-the-beaten track travel, to a remote and beautiful area, which is well worth the visit, and which gives you a new perspective on the Cape.
Cape Floral Kingdom
There are only 6 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 is found entirely in one country. Colloquially known as the Fynbos (literally, fine leaves), there are some 9 000 species making up the collection.
This heritage site comprises 8 protected areas, considered the most important examples of the Cape Floral Kingdom: Table Mountain, De Hoop Nature Reserve, the Boland mountain complex, the Groot Winterhoek wilderness area, the Swartberg mountains, the Boosmansbos wilderness area, the Cederberg wilderness area, and Baviaanskloof, which straddles the Western and Eastern Cape boundary.
The region also 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. Fynbos plants are readily recognised by the hard, tough, leathery, and small leaved nature that is common of almost all woody plants, and is characterised by having more than 5% cover of Cape reeds.