Gamkaberg Nature Reserve
The conservation authority in the Western Cape, CapeNature, in celebration of the history and heritage of Gamkaberg Nature Reserve will unveil a piece of protected land for visitors to access for the very first time. The reserve, nestled in the mountains of the Klein Karoo between the Swartberg and Outeniqua hills, derives its name from the “Khoikhoi” word Xami, meaning "lion".
The reserve was established in 1974 and is home to the endangered Cape mountain zebra which roam the rugged terrain and deep ravines.
CapeNature CEO Dr Razeena Omar explains why this specific part of the reserve was not open to the public previously. “The rock art on Gamkaberg Nature reserve is estimated to be between 1 500 to 2 000 years old and there are approximately 40 rock art sites scattered within the Protected Area. Each of these sites have spiritual significance and record the lifestyles and stories of the Khoi and San people. The bringing together of these two clans is a first of its kind in the Western Cape. It is to recognise and promote the culture and heritage chiefly and to work together with the community going forward.”
The original 10 000ha Gamkaberg Sector is important as it is globally recognised for comprising of three biodiversity hotspots namely; Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Albany Thicket Biomes, which blend together to create a unique environment. CapeNature State of Biodiversity Report highlighted that the Western Cape is rich in protected areas but they require nurturing and protection as our ecosystems are under increased pressure due to population growth and habitat degradation.
Provincial Minister for Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Minister Anton Bredell says “Consider the recent drought we have been tackling. The majority of the Province's water source areas are affected by the same threats that threaten biodiversity elsewhere. These are alien plant and animal life, human encroachment and agricultural runoff amongst others. It is not different here in the Klein Karoo."
He adds: “We need people to remain interested and invested in their natural environments so we need to make places like Gamkaberg more and more attractive for tourists who will bring their tourism dollars to places like these and plough back into the local community. Without that cashflow, funding the work CapeNature must do, is increasingly difficult.”
Gamkaberg has recently made available additional tourism facilities for visitors. Adventure-seekers can enjoy traditional or trad rock climbing at Tierkloof. The site offers good quality, single and two-pitch, Trad climbing with easy approaches and descents in beautiful, pristine surroundings. The climbing is on hard quarzitic sandstone similar to Montagu but with many beautiful, vertical finger cracks and corners.
Couples will be delighted by the newly built two–sleeper glamping accommodation, Xami Eco lodge. It is beautifully designed with minimal impact on the natural environment. In addition, it is wheelchair friendly and offers privacy in the bush, with a modern look and feel.
All facilities are constructed on one deck which includes a private kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, open plan lounge and a braai area and eco splash pool on the verandah, with secluded romantic views of the valleys and mountains of the Klein Karoo.
Gamkaberg also boasts additional luxury lodges for larger groups taking glamping to new heights. The four eco lodges (tented camps) is each rented out in its entirety, so you’re guaranteed complete privacy.
Dr Omar concludes “A key focus from design to implementation is given to green building technology. Some of these sustainable efforts include; eco-pools, gas and solar geysers, gas and solar refrigerators, led lights, rain water and grey water harvesting and even atmospheric water generation.”
In line with the organisations mandate to create access to a greater proportion of our population, CapeNature also announced its fourth annual Access Week which offered visitors free entry into all CapeNature reserves across the province from 17 to 24 September 2018.
CapeNature is a public institution mandated to promote and ensure biodiversity conservation within the Western Cape. The organisation manages most of the mountain catchments and reserves that supply ecosystem services to the citizens of the Western Cape. This requires good scientific data, a sound understanding of fynbos ecology, and commitment to the principles of integrated biodiversity management and planning.
Much of these efforts are in remote areas out of the public eye, but have a direct bearing on the quality of life of millions of people in the province.