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Outeniqua Nature Reserve

Outeniqua Nature Reserve
Outeniqua Nature Reserve

The Outeniqua Nature Reserve lies on the Garden Route in the southern Cape, near the town of George. It is easily accessible from Mossel Bay, Knysna and Oudtshoorn. The reserve of 38 000 hectares, is fragmented over a series of rugged mountain ranges which lie parallel to the coast. The reserve supplies the region with fresh water from its catchments.

The rugged Outeniqua mountains proved a huge hurdle for the early settlers who wished to move from the coastal regions into the hinterland. In the western part of the reserve, the Attakwaskloof, which was originally a thoroughfare for herds of elephants, was first used by settlers in 1689 to travel inland.

Mountain fynbos abounds!  It is particularly attractive in September and October, when many of the proteas and ericas are in flower.  interspersed with pockets of indigenous forest in the gorges, whilst the side that leads into the hinterland of the Little Karoo with the Swartberg in the distance, is home to hardy succulents and other sturdy plants that withstand the almost desert conditions of this beautiful part of the country.

The Outeniqua mountains are host to a variety of animal species.  Mammals include the klipspringer, grey rhebuck, numerous small rodents and the elusive leopard. Birds include large raptors such as the black eagle, as well as smaller typical fynbos birds like the Cape sugarbird.

Five passes cross the reserve, and ten hiking trails, lead along the mountain face of the Outeniqua with incredible views over land and sea.   Three overnight trails include the Tierkop Hiking Trail, the 35 kilometre Attakwaskloff Trail (more arduous), and the Doring River Wilderness Trail, advisable only for seasoned hikers. This 117 kilometre trail travels the length of the Outeniqua Nature Reserve and runs over a week, although it can be shortened. There are also shorter hikes that take hours, as opposed to days, and are more enjoyable for day visitors.

The weather conditions in the Outeniqua mountains could change at any time. In winter snowfalls may occur on the higher peaks. Heavy fog is very common and thunderstorms occur between five to ten days per year. The winter temperature can drop to 5° C and even lower on the northern side of the mountain. The climate is generally hot to moderate with an average summer temperature of 20.5° C.