Hike.Run.Explore: A familiar favourite – Fernkloof Nature Reserve
If you’ve been to Hermanus and found yourself spellbound by its magnificent backdrop (as many people do), you’ve probably wondered how you could get closer to those mountains.
The good news is that you can lose yourself in them. As one of the most spectacular, yet accessible, hiking treasures in the Western Cape, Fernkloof Nature Reserve covers about 1800 hectares within the Kleinrivier Mountains above Hermanus, running from the coastal cliff path in some areas, to 842 metres above sea level in others. It combines pockets of coastal lagoon, fynbos, and a small gem of evergreen forest, with 60km of trails for happy hikers (and runners) of all ages and stages to do it justice.
To access the reserve, all one has to do is follow the town’s Main Road along the coast in the direction of Stanford and take a left turn into Fir Avenue. Drive past the Herbarium and Nursery on your left before reaching a small Visitors Centre, efficiently managed by the Hermanus Botanical Society (as is the reserve itself). In the quaint stone ‘huisie,’ you’ll find an organised display of the area’s wild flowers, each neatly arranged in their own glass jar and labelled with common and scientific names for those who’d like to learn. You’ll also find your own copy of the Fernkloof Hiker’s Map, available free of charge (as is entry into the reserve), which provides a list of hiking trails varying in length and technicality; so whether it’s a short, easy meander or a tough, uphill scramble you’re after, you are sure to find it.
We started our most recent Fernkloof foray with a mandatory spin of the Waterfall Loop; one of the most popular nuggets in the reserve as it follows a gentle amble up the valley and then descends into a pocket of forest that provides welcome respite from the hot sun. The waterfall after which the loop is named is an impressive sight in the rainy season, and the current drought has sadly left it without much water at the moment, but the shady scene is serene and beautiful nonetheless.
Once out of the forest, we wound our way around the contours of Kanonkop, climbing steadily as we identified (pleased with our new-found knowledge) species of Erica and Lobelia along the trail. Engaging in far-sighted mode, the view is panoramic, with Hermanus town and harbour peeking through the mountains on the one side, and the vast expanse of Grotto beach, and the Klein River Lagoon extending across the other.
Cresting the top of Kanonkop, the outlook takes on another dimension entirely, as the Hemel en Aarde Valley and majestic Babylonstoren Mountain Range come into view. We always find it remarkable how quickly one gets to such an isolated and impressive vantage point.
While this particular mission only allowed us a morning to explore, we looked longingly at the rocky trail leading to up to Galpin Hut. A night at this humble hiker’s hut on Galpinkop is a must if you have the time (remember to call beforehand to make a booking.)
This time, we sufficed with zig-zagging down ‘The Adder Ladder’ before a tea break under the cool of the Boekenhoutbos forest patch. Then a pleasant amble past the Lemoenkop viewpoint and back down to the car. Looking back up the valley to absorb the scene one last time, we were convinced we heard the faint cries of a Fish Eagle pair. For me, this encapsulates the Cape: in the wild, on the edge of town.
For more information about Fernkloof, visit www.fernkloof.com