Being at the meeting point of Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean and having a vast territory with a diverse terrain, South Africa is home to a great variety of flora and fauna. The Western Cape province in the southwest has a particularly unique climate, similar to that of the Mediterranean. This gives rise to what is called fynbos, which is the colorful flowers and plants, indigenous to this region. The Cape Floral Kingdom of South Africa became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 because of its great diversity, uniqueness and abundance in a relatively confined area. The question is, where and how can one best-experience the natural wonders of the Cape Floral Kingdom?
The iconic Table Mountain of Cape Town is the biggest highlight of the area due to its table-like plateau on top. The Table Mountain National Park alone has more floral species than the country of New Zealand. It’s also very close the Cape Town city center and easily accessible. There are many hiking routes with varying duration and difficulty as well as a cable car that will take you all the way to the top and offer the best views of the city.
There are seven other nature reserves in Cape Floral Kingdom under the protection of UNESCO. Each of these reserves have a remarkable feature that makes them worth a visit. They each cover large mountainous areas, that’s why many people go to these areas for multiple day-hikes and overnight camping.
Cederberg National Park 300 km north of Cape Town particularly stands out for its freezing-cold rock pools and iconic rock formations. The national park is famous for its sandstone hills covered in red and orange. While you are there, you should also remember to visit the caves that were once inhabited by the Khoisan tribes, believed to be the first people to ever live in Africa. You are guaranteed to come across the well-preserved cave paintings.
The Boland Mountain Complex contains several nature reserves such as Jonkershoek, Limietberg and Kogelberg that can each be completed via daily hikes. They are also in close proximity to famous wine farms of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek for those who want to reward themselves after the hiking.
The Swatberg Mountain Complex contains high mountain peaks such as Klein Swatberge and Groot Swatberge that overlook the southern region of Karoo Desert. The Cango Caves well-known for its limestone interior is also in this region.
Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve is in the east of Western Cape, stretching into the Eastern Cape. This area is approximately 10 hours away from Cape Town but very close to the coastal city of Port Elizabeth.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is on the scenic Garden Route along the southern coast, 3 hours away from Cape Town. The area is home to a vast variety of birds and 86 rare mammal species. The area is definitely worth a visit due to attractions such as Cape Agulhas- the southern tip of Africa- and southern right whales which can be spotted easily in the area.
Groot Winterhoek Nature Reserve is 120 km to the north of Cape Town and is famous for its 2077 m-high peak with the same name. This area even experiences occasional snow which is unlikely for the rest of South Africa.
Finally, Boosmansbos Wilderness Area is found in the Overberg region between the towns of Heidelberg and Swellendam. The area is full of hiking trails through lush forests and rare plants such as yellowwood, stinkwood and red alder.
While Table Mountain is very close to the city center, the other nature reserves are at least an hour away from Cape Town. Since the public transportation is not very well-developed, the most convenient and quickest option is to rent a car to drive from Cape Town.