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Goukamma Nature Reserve

To many in the Knysna area, the words unspoilt beauty and bountiful nature describe one place. The Goukamma Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area. The Nature Reserve, stretches between Buffels Baai and Groenvlei Lake near Sedgefield, covering an area in extent of 2500 hectares with the Marine Reserve extending a further nautical mile out to sea.

The reserve can be accessed from both sides, although the main offices and main entrance are just outside Buffalo Bay on the South African Garden Route. The reserve consists of dense coastal forest, consisting of amongst others, milkwood, yellowwood and candlewood trees. Some of the inhabitants which find protection here include the vervet monkey, bushbuck and bushpig, as well as porcupine, mongoose, honey badger and grysbok. Keen birders enjoy the area because the Goukamma River and estuary and the Groenvlei Lake provide a welcoming habitat for more than 220 bird species, including the rare African black oystercatcher. The rugged coastline is wild and features sizable oyster and mussel beds. Visitors to the reserve also enjoy the sight of the southern right whales between June and November each year. Bottle-nosed and humpback dolphins can be spotted offshore throughout the year.

Set between the Goukamma River, which gets its name from the Khoisan word for Dark Waters, and the Groenvlei Lake you will find a coastal strip which comprises of a band of vegetated fossil dunes that have turned to stone over thousands of years, these include some of the highest vegetated dunes in the country. One of the reserves greatest attractions is based on something it lacks, no access for public transport in the main body of the Goukamma Nature Reserve. This means that the area can only be explored on foot, giving visitors the opportunity to experience unspoilt nature.

The park is filled with an array of trails, from lake trails to beach trails, and along the dunes, wherever you are you are sure to experience the beautiful surroundings which are Goukamma Nature Reserve. If you enter the reserve at Buffalo Bay Road and turn right at the gate, driving along the winding dirt road past the picnic site next to the Goukamma River and double back up a steep incline to reach the car park, you will find the secluded hillside offices where you will be able to purchase various permits for fishing and walking and maps to orientate yourself to the many hiking trails. At the picnic sites on the riverside you are also able to hire canoes which you can paddle up the river or use to explore the area towards the river mouth.

Although Goukamma is a year-round destination, some feel that the best time to visit is during September and October when the first spring rains create splashes of bright spring flowers amid the fynbos.


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