It was a fresh, early October morning and I was on a mission - to capture through the lens and best paint a picture with words, the beauty of the Goukamma Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area. So there I was, standing on the blissfully deserted Goukamma beach, during a spring-low tide, staring out at the big blue as it collided with the shoreline. I quickly realised no lens or flowery adjective could possibly convey this kind of perfection and I felt a genuine sense of relief and happiness knowing that the natural setting which surrounded me is protected.
CapeNature is the key custodian of this largely untransformed natural landscape, which comprises a terrestrial area of 2500 hectares and a Marine Protected Area of 34km². They have ensured that the human footprint throughout the reserve has remained small and sustainable and they encourage those who seek respite in the natural world to visit and explore all of its assets, of which there are many. There is the Groenvlei Lake, one of only two closed freshwater coastal lakes in South Africa; some of the highest vegetated dunes in the country; large swathes of forest and fynbos through which a series of interconnected hiking trails have been blazed, the long and winding cola-coloured Goukamma River and estuary and a 16,5km stretch of sand and sea and a large MPA. Rich in an insane web of life, the Goukamma is one of the most exquisite natural settings in the Garden Route.
This particular Garden Route MPA is an important nursery for several vulnerable fish species, and fortunately, for the last 16 years or so, this marine ecosystem has enjoyed limited interference from man. In light of the current plight of our seas, this is cause for celebration. It also provides a safe haven for many marine mammal species such as a resident pod of Indo-pacific Humpback Dolphin. Congregating in small pods, this endangered dolphin can be seen feeding within the rocky reefs close to shore. Their propensity for feeding in shallow waters make them quite vulnerable to pollution and any acts of man, but they find sanctuary within these protected waters. The reserve also serves as an important breeding area for the African Black Oystercatcher and White-fronted Plover.
There are several accommodation options for those wanting to linger for a while. There is the Mvubu Bushcamp cottage tucked away among a milkwood forest on the shores of Groenvlei Lake. On the Buffalo Bay side of Goukamma, three thatched cottages with modern décor and facilities overlook the river and estuary. There is also Otter’s Rest Lodge and Fish Eagle Loft, both of which offer stylish accommodation with river and sea views.
For more information visit www.capenature.co.za