The Fynbos trail is a unique nature experience in the heart of the Cape floral Kingdom that can be undertaken as a fully guided and catered slack packing trail or as a self-guided and catered trail. The trail has a two or three night option and takes hikers along a beautiful stretch of trail through coastal and mountain fynbos, remote forests and visits some fascinating environmental and social projects along the way.
What will you see?
The trail has recently been cut in the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy and links together a number of natural, historical, cultural and social attractions on private properties within the Walker Bay region. The trail is home to an amazing diversity of fynbos and forest habitats. Many rare and endangered plant species grow along the trail. On the trail you can learn about the remarkable diversity and fascinating ecology of the fynbos. More than 800 fynbos plant species have been identified along the route.
The trail is all about experiencing the amazing stories of this special region. Enjoy the fantastic vistas, fynbos covered hills and valleys, forests, beautiful secluded accommodation, great local cuisine, expert guiding and wonderful hospitality. Most of all you will get the opportunity to experience first-hand the wonders of the fynbos with an expert guide. Proteas, pincushions, ericas, a multitude of bulbs and each with their own story and role to play in the landscape.
By hiking the trail you will be contributing directly towards the conservation and social development work of the partners within the conservancy. Some of the funds generated by the trail are re-invested by the conservancy into clearing alien vegetation, managing fire and documenting and monitoring flora and fauna within the conservancy. Your meals along the route are made with fresh organic food produced by the trainees at the Growing the Future sustainable agriculture and life skills College on Grootbos. All hikers on the trail get the opportunity to plant an indigenous tree as part of the Future Trees forest restoration project at Stinkhoutsbos – a beautiful indigenous forest that was badly burnt during a huge wild fire in 2006. The trees for this forest restoration project have been locally grown by the students of the Green Futures Horticulture and life skills project which you will visit on completion of the trail at Grootbos.
Day 1 – 6.5 kilometres
You will start at the Growing the Future sustainable agriculture and life skills training college (340 31’ 18” S, 190 27’ 3.71 “ E) on Grootbos Nature Reserve. Growing the Future is all about food production, and 8 women are trained at this project each year in the growing of vegetables and fruit, beekeeping and the principles of successful animal husbandry. You will meet the trainees and staff of this project, be shown around the gardens. The majority of the fresh produce enjoyed along the trail is sourced from Growing the Futures.
The trail then leaves Growing the Future and after a short walk through some coastal strandveld winds into an ancient milkwood forest. The Steynsbos Milkwood forest is one of only eight milkwood forests of its type in the world – all of which are restricted to the Stanford-Gansbaai area. This complex of milkwood thickets includes the largest of the southwestern Cape’s lowland, dune thickets. The forest is about 20 hectares in size and contains trees that are many hundreds, if not thousands of years old. As a forest island surrounded by fynbos, Steynsbos is an important habitat and refuge for a number of animals and birds not commonly seen in the fynbos .Thirty four bird species including Rameron Pigeon, Cape Batis, African Paradise Flycatcher, Barn Owl, Bar-throated Apalis and Forest Buzzard have been recorded in the forest as well as a variety of mammals including porcupine, honey badger, bushbuck and mongoose. The forest was heavily impacted by woodcutters in the 1930’s, however some of the largest trees survived and you will see individual Milkwoods that are estimated to be over 800 years old.
Leaving the Forest the trail winds up onto a fynbos-clad sandstone ridge covered in bright red pincushions in spring and a diversity of other flowers throughout the year. The trail then drops down to a dam fed with fresh spring water. Leaving the dam the trail heads up to Pinnacle where there are spectacular views over Walker Bay to the west and Dyer Island to the south. From Pinnacle the trail drops down the Witvoetskloof Valley criss-crossing through mountain and limestone fynbos before reaching another forest patch, just above the Fynbos Retreat overnight accommodation. Here the trail passes some ancient milkwood, stinkwood and wild olive trees as well as a crystal clear freshwater spring bubbling out of the base of the limestone cliff.
The overnight accommodation at Fynbos Retreat is situated on the stunning Witvoetskloof farm that is part of Grootbos Nature Reserve. Fynbos Retreat has two houses which will be utilised for hikers depending on availability and group size.
Arum lily house can sleep a maximum of twelve guests and includes braai facilities, a pizza oven, a large living room with a fireplace, a large fully equipped kitchen (with large gas freezer and fridge), and dining room with dining table that can seat 12 people, four bedrooms, three toilets and three showers. The house has spectacular views over the large dam and up the forest and fynbos-clad valley. There is a large outdoor entertainment area, part of which is undercover, as well as a terraced lawn area. It is closely situated to the large swimming dam as well as a level playing area for ball games.
Fountain bush cottage has a large open plan kitchen and lounge with a cozy fireplace, two balconies, a braai area, three bedrooms and a bathroom with shower. The house is privately situated adjacent to a beautiful dam.
Hikers receive a cool, fresh fynbos welcome drink as well as pizzas cooked in our pizza oven and a full breakfast. Fynbos Retreat has a beautiful large swimming dam, short walks in forest and fynbos and is a great place to relax and soak up the wonderful natural environment.
Day 2 – 12 kilometres
After a hearty breakfast the trail takes hikers down through a beautiful valley characterised by an extraordinary mosaic of fynbos – slopes covered in proteas, pincushions, heather, buchus, reeds and so much more. The path crosses over the stream through wetland fynbos and then into the shady, lush green Witvoetskloof forest. The contrast from the surrounding fynbos is staggering as is the natural beauty of the ancient trees that line the river – magnificent milkwoods, white stinkwood, boegenhout, wild olive, assegai trees, rooiels and many others. After about fifteen minutes walk in the forest there is a magnificent waterfall where we stop for morning tea and a cool natural shower for those feeling brave.
On leaving the forest there is a steep climb out of the valley up through limestone hills deposited millions of years ago when the sea level was much higher than today. The limestone fynbos of the Agulhas Plain region is very rare and we will encounter a few of local rare and endemic limestone fynbos species as we head up out of the valley.
The trail then winds up the northern slopes of Grootberg with beautiful views of the Lomond vineyards and dam. For those feeling energetic there is a short extra loop that takes hikers to the summit of Grootberg. At 409m this is the highest point of the Fynbos Trail and has spectacular 360 0 views with the Uilkraals Valley and Dyer Island to the south, the Kleinriviersberge to the north and Walker Bay and Hermanus to the west. From the summit the trail winds down the western slopes of Grootberg into Flower Valley and then after a short climb into the Stinkhoutsbos Forest. This afromontane forest was heavily exploited using Italian prisoners during the second world war and then badly damaged by the huge 2006 fire that burnt some 60 000 hectares of veld on the western side of the Agulhas Plain.
As part of the conservation work being undertaken at Flower Valley, each hiker will have the chance to plant a locally grown indigenous tree as part of the restoration of this special forest. This Stinkhoutsbos Forest restoration project has been ecologically devised to ensure only locally grown and appropriate species are planted in the correct natural composition and density.
After tree planting and a lunch prepared by the staff of neighboring Witkrans Farm, the afternoon walk takes approximately two hours and crosses Flower Valley where you may encounter trained harvesting teams collecting wild fynbos for making bouquets for the local and export market. The second overnight accommodation on the trail is at the picturesque Bodhi Khaya Retreat or Witkrans Nature Farm.
Day 3 – 6.5 kilometres
Day three dawns with breakfast at the tranquil Bodhi Khaya Retreat. The trail then winds along the lower slopes of Witkransberg and takes walkers up the Baviaans Fontein valley through more indigenous forests and dense fynbos-clad hills over onto Grootbos Nature Reserve. After a short section of jeep track on Grootbos the trail then enters the 24 hectare Grootbos milkwood forest. This is a beautiful section of trail that skirts ancient milkwood trees, sea guarrie and wild olive and ends at the impressive Grootbos Garden Lodge. Here you will be able to relax, reflect on the many experiences of the Fynbos Trail and enjoy a light lunch, choose a gift of a fynbos plant and then transfer back to the vehicles at the starting point at Steynsbos.
Fynbos along the trail
The Walker Bay region is home to a remarkable diversity of indigenous plant species, many of which are rare and threatened. A number of plant species, such as the spectacular Erica irregularis, which paints the hills pink in winter and early spring, and the rare Aloe judii which escapes fire by finding refuge in a few rocky outcrops along the trail, are found here and nowhere else in the world. At any time of the year hikers will encounter many unusual and beautiful fynbos flowers along the way.
If you have always wanted to learn about and experience the beauty of the Capes fynbos then the fynbos trail is the place to be. Our skilled guides will share stories about the ecology of these special ecosystems and species and point out the rarest and most special along the way. Fynbos is full of fascinating eco-stories, fire, pollination and how species rely on each other for their existence.
What’s more by walking the trail you will automatically be learning about, and contributing to, the work of theWalker Bay Fynbos Conservancy , the Grootbos Foundation and the Flower Valley Conservation Trust .