ACTIVITIES

Trails

The Reserve offers some interesting trails for either hiking or by mountain bike. Local residents can be seen almost daily enjoying the quality of life that such activities present in a peaceful environment. Each year the Zoetendal Academy, an independent school at the southernmost tip of Africa, organises a mountain bike event which goes through the Reserve as well as the neighbouring Agulhas National Park.

Spookdraai Hiking Trail

This passes adjacent to the Reserve and may be accessed via a stile through the eastern border fence of the Reserve a few hundred meters from the Main Gate. The start of the Spookdraai Hiking Trail is at the entrance to the town of L’Agulhas and follows the coastline to the top of the mountain and along a ridge, through a deep ravine, and back to the start. “Spook” signs indicate the route, and where hikers need to take special care, route markers are painted in yellow. The original trail passed through the Reserve where many of the old spook signs/markers can easily be seen.

The Spookdraai Hiking Trail can be completed in 2 hours. A map and extensive information booklet can be purchased from the Information Office in the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse.

Nature walks

The longest unobstructed stretch of white sandy beach in the Southern hemisphere is located at “Die Plaat” at Struisbaai (±18km). This stretch of beach is totally untouched and picking up shells and other flotsam off this beach is a great pastime. You may walk from Struisbaai all the way to Arniston, passing through the Heuningnes River mouth at de Mond Nature Reserve which in itself is worthy of a day visit. A multitude of historical shipwrecks ranging from hundreds of years ago to quite recently lie along this beach.

Bird Watching

Birders may check the open fields and short grasslands for ground dwelling species such as Denham’s Bustard, Secretary Bird, Southern Black Korhaan, Karoo Korhaan and the Blue Crane. The recently described Agulhas Long-billed Lark and a number of other larks including Red-capped Lark and the Large-billed Lark can also be found on the undulating plains. Knowledge of the different species’ calls will help in separating them. The open agricultural areas are also home to Capped Wheatear, African Stonechat, Pied Starling, Cape Crow and Cape Longclaw. Both African Pipit and Long-billed Pipit are present, with the latter preferring the stonier areas.

Drainage lines and areas of scrub between farmlands hold a number of interesting species including Grey-winged Francolin, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Yellow Bishop, Bokmakierie, Cape Bulbul, Grey-backed Cisticola, Karoo Prinia, Long-billed Crombec and Southern Double-collared Sunbird. Areas with permanent water and reed beds play host to Cape Weaver, Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Common Waxbill.

Birds of prey found on the Agulhas plain include the near-endangered Black Harrier as well as the Jackal Buzzard and Lanner Falcon.

Game Viewing

In the long term the Agulhas Nature Reserve is positioned to re-introduce some of the endemic species of animals that used to roam these plains and valleys. However, repairs to the game fence surrounding the Reserve will be needed first, so this is a limiting factor that would need to be addressed.

Continuing the effort of alien vegetation removal will bring the veld back to its original condition. Higher grazing capacity could then allow the introduction of the almost extinct Cape Mountain Kwagga, springbok, wildebeest, and blou duiker etc. Smaller antelope like the duiker and bushbuck are frequently spotted inside the Reserve, and by creating an ideal environment in the Reserve, this could ensure a steadily growing population in future years.

There are currently plans to use an old ground-level dam along the borehole pipeline route as a game viewing location for residents. An eland has been observed here in recent times and other buck such as the grysbok frequent the area.

In October 2011 a caracal (rooikat) was caught in a trap as it was killing our geese. It was relocated to the de Hoop Nature Reserve near Arniston and hopefully will find enough food there and not return to the Reserve.

Southern Tip Day (Suidpuntdag)

Festivities are held annually over the weekend closest to 16 May. This is an initiative by the Agulhas National Park to commemorate the history of the Southernmost Tip of Africa and the influence of shipping and shipwreck survivors on the area.

In 1488, Portuguese navigator Bartholomew Diaz turned back after he failed to reach the east in search of a trading route. On his return journey he passed a certain flat piece of land on 16 May. He named it “Ponte de Sao Brendao” after an Irish monk, St Brendan, whose festival day it was that day. This was the southernmost landmass of Africa.

The festivities programme includes guided walks, talks, meals and various other Strandveld activities.

Cape Agulhas Wine Route

Most of the vineyards are found near the little village of Elim. This pretty village, a Moravian Church mission, is a national monument in its entirety. There is also an Agulhas Wine Festival (which was held in De Hoop Nature Reserve in May, 2010) showcasing award winning wines from the Agulhas area including Napier, Elim and nearby Gansbaai. Wine estates include Black Oystercatcher, Jean Daneel, The Berrio, Zoetendal, Strandveld Wines, Land’s End, Lomond and Wine Boutique in L’Agulhas.

Elim has caused much excitement in the wine community worldwide. The cool and strong winds that prevail – south westerly and south easterly – have the effect of providing a very cool ripening season, perfect for Sauvignon Blanc. But more than that, this aspect, together with other climatic factors, results in the vineyards here developing unique explosive flavours that have not been tasted before, even by seasoned connoisseurs. Elim was established in 1824 as a mission station of the Moravian Missionary Society. The influence of religious principles and of the missionaries themselves has been very strong. There is a restaurant in the historic watermill, and a museum.