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Goukamma – the perfect summer playground

Thursday, 10 December 2015 09:41 Written by  Lisa Leslie
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Stretching between Sedgefield and Buffalo Bay lies the Goukamma Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area (MPA), an enormous natural playground fit for a heaven-sent summer holiday. Here the air is thick with the promise of adventure and the perfect place to spend long summer days under indigo skies - surrounded by forests, lakes, rivers and a long stretch of untamed coastline.

It cradles a diverse range of habitats within its 2 500ha range, and as a result, it supports an extraordinary number of species. The marine and protected area incorporates 14km of coastline, the Goukamma River and Estuary, extensive dune field of coastal forest (some of the highest vegetated dunes in the country), and the 250ha emerald tinted Groenvlei Lake.

The Groenvlei is one of six lakes peppered across the region, but unlike the others, it has no link to the sea. It is, in fact, one of the largest freshwater lakes next to a coastal region in the world. The lake is home to two indigenous fish species, Gilchrist’s round herring and Cape Silverside. These two species are usually only found in estuaries, but have evolved in isolation in the Groenvlei over many thousands of years, becoming of unique genetic importance. The Groenvlei is also home to several alien freshwater species such as bass, which were introduced into the lake during the 1950’s. With its abundance of fish, Groenvlei provides fishing enthusiasts with bumper catches. It is also a great place to canoe and swim.

The Goukamma’s coastal greenbelt that drapes the dunes above the lake and extends further seaward, offers a myriad of hiking opportunities. Milkwood forest dominates large parts of the landscape that is interspersed with vast tracts of coastal fynbos. Several hiking trails have been blazed through these varying landscapes, incorporating the best attributes of this reserve.

One of the most enchanting hikes is the Galjoen Trail. This trail takes hikers along the golden sands of the reserve’s pristine beach. Hikers will be accompanied on one side by sculpted sandstone cliffs and a wild Indian Ocean on the other. The reserve has a MPA extending one nautical mile out to sea and is rich in fish, bird and marine mammal species. Dolphins can often be seen feeding within the surf. Because it is a MPA, no bait organisms or shellfish can be removed or disturbed and definitely no ski-boat fishing or spear fishing is allowed. Angling with a rod and line from the shore is permitted (angling license is required)
This is also a popular birding destination with more than 220 species recorded here. Visitors should keep an eye out for the rare African black oystercatcher and other commonly seen species such as the African fish eagle, African marsh harrier and Knysna Loerie.

There is a wonderful selection of accommodation available across the reserve. Some of which are located above the shores of the Groenvlei, tucked discreetly amongst Milkwood forest, while others sit high above the banks of the Goukamma River.

This is in an unadulterated playground for those looking for adventure and soul food!
For more information visit: http://www.capenature.co.za/reserves/goukamma-nature-reserve/

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