Hiking through the fynbos, then floating down the Palmiet River and rushing over its rapids, offers the kind of intense loading of your senses that you need to experience the beauty of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve.
About an hour’s drive along the southern coast from Cape Town, between Bettys’ Bay and Kleinmond, the Kogelberg has such pristine natural beauty and floral diversity that it is recognized as one of the world’s greatest biodiversity hot-spots.
(The 100,000 hectare UNESCO designated Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve contains more than 1,800 different plant species of which 77 occur nowhere else).
The dramatic sandstone fold mountains of the Kogelberg drop into a lush fynbos valley split by the Palmiet river that plays endlessly over rocks and through reeds to the nearby sea. The water is pure, tea-coloured only by the fynbos plants as it soaks off the mountains.
The reserve is strictly controlled by Cape Nature, but Gravity Adventures has permission to operate tubing and rafting trips down the river.
We went down the river in individual tubes (known as geckos) kitted out with supplied wetsuits, lifejackets and helmets and a full safety briefing from the river guides who took us. I thought the safety was over the top until I was unceremoniously dunked off my tube over the first rapid into the cold churn, and came up gurgling, slightly confused about which way was up. The guide was right there to make sure I was fine and the adrenalin rush had me energized and ready for more.
Between the rapids, we lay back in our boats, lazily paddling our hands and breathing in the scenery, birds and water lulling us along. The river spread and narrowed between reeds and bushes, twisted and tumbled over rocks, throwing us along its currents and into eddies. We nervously tackled “Bubble & Squeak” a rush of bubbling rapids followed by a bounce and dip down a rush of water between large rocks – we squeaked, legs akimbo, spinning and swirling until we were squirted out the other side.
Aside from bruised egos from a couple of ungainly flips into the water, the trip is safe and loads of fun.
To Book: Contact Gravity Adventures.
How to get there: Take the N2 from Cape Town and turn onto the coastal road at Gordon’s Bay towards Hermanus. Relax and enjoy the winding drive alongside the huge Cape mountains plunging into the sea and look out for whales on the route.
Where to stay: Cape Nature offer state of the art ‘Eco cabins” in the heart of the Kogelberg reserve, but they’re heavily booked. Rather look for accommodation in nearby Betty’s Bay, Kleinmond or in the Onrus and Hermanus area. Try airbnb.com – There are plenty of self-catering cottages and guest houses in the area. We stayed at Onrus Cottage, just twenty minutes away and a great base for exploring the area between Hermanus and the Kogelberg.