Interested in Somerset West?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for Somerset West each week.
Helderberg Nature Reserve is my favourite place in all the world!
It has so much to offer in a comparatively small space, nestling in the foothills of the Helderberg mountain. Starting from the gate the visitor passes through lush paddocks where buck roam freely and ancient giant tortoises can be seen strolling oh so slowly. A little higher and one comes to the Environment Centre, with all its information about the flora and fauna and geology of the reserve, and the restaurant, The Duck Inn, situated adjacent to a large dam, home to Egyptian Geese, Spur Winged Geese and teals on the water, while Cape Weaver birds make their dangling homes in the vegetation around its shores and Cape Francolins and Guinea Fowl wander through the bushes.
The climb up through the nature reserve has been made far more accessible in recent years than when the reserve opened back in the 60s. Boardwalks have been laid to make the pathways wheelchair and pushchair friendly and the wooden walkways are certainly a help in wet winters, when paths can become quickly waterlogged, and the many small rivulets flowing down from the mountain begin to swell and overflow their banks. At the start of the walk there are lily ponds, quite wild and lovely, with so many beautiful blooms floating on the still water. Sometimes in the early mornings I have seen mongeese around here.
The pathways become wilder and the boardwalks give way to stony dirt tracks as one ascends through the tiers of 'fynbos'. This is the name for the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of the richest in the world, with an amazingly large number of different floral species in such a small geographical space. Some of these species are not found anywhere else in the world. The predominant species are proteas and ericas, but there are many other fine leafed plants that can survive through times of little rainfall and which can regenerate after devastating mountain fires.
The mountain looms over the reserve, a stunning mountain, aptly named 'Clear Mountain'. It is chiefly of sandstone composition, though its underlying rock is Cape granite. It is a pleasure to walk and climb on this mountain. The pathway through the reserve leads out onto the mountain itself and winds up through natural vegetation to the gloriously beautiful Disa Gorge, a forested oasis along the banks of a swift stream with crystal clear waterfalls leaping down over the rocks. From Disa the pathway climbs steeply up to the Dome, from where the view back over an ever-expanding Somerset West and out to False Bay and the sea is stunning indeed.
All this time the walker/climber will have been aware of bird calls and bird activity on every side. There are several varieties of sunbird, long tailed birds with curved beaks that are made to take nectar from the tube-like blooms of the ericas and that can reach into the heart of the proteas. Sugarbirds, with even loner tails, also feed on nectar. There are Cape Canaries and different kinds of doves, kingfishers, and the Cape Batis with its yellow-ringed eyes. There are also birds of prey soaring high on the air currents near the top of the mountain, including the black eagle.
The pond and lake habitat, giving way to the fynbos and then to the lower mountain slopes really compresses a whole geography expedition into a day's pleasure. And there's something to offer the visitor in all seasons, even in winter. It is, truly, the most beautiful place of its kind that I know.