We recently paid a short visit to Grootvadersbos Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site about a two and a half hour drive from our hometown of Knysna (South Africa).  This unique little reserve lies in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom and is renowned for its fynbos flowers and forest of indigenous trees and plants.   Our timing was good for a change, as we managed to see the fynbos bearing its finest blooms, which attracted many sunbirds and butterflies.  Unfortunately the proteas weren’t in bloom, which meant that the sugarbirds were not around.

The area gets its name from the original owner of the land, Roelof Oelofse, who was known in 1723 as the “Groot Vader,” a name that was passed down to subsequent owners over the centuries.  At present the reserve is under the control and management of Cape Nature, who do an excellent job of maintaining it in a pristine condition.  We camped in a very nice campsite that overlooked the forest and were lucky enough to be visited by lots of birds and one cheeky monkey.

There is plenty to do in the reserve, as all tastes and activities are catered for – from swimming and hiking along its many paths, to cycling and birding.  There are two bird hides: one overlooking the treetops of the forest and the second deep in the heart of the forest.  The forest is a delight to walk through, as the calls of the birds constantly remind you that you are deep in the heart of nature.  It was cuckoo season, so we were serenaded by no fewer than four different cuckoos; the Red Chested Cuckoo (also known as the Piet my Vrou) was loudest of them all! 

We spent a number of hours in the forest hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive Narina Trogon and were eventually rewarded with a brief sighting.  It’s incredible how quickly time passes when you are engaging in your favourite hobby.  When the sun went down we found ourselves quite exhausted from all the walking and standing, and it was a treat to relax around the braai, recounting the experiences of the day.

There are a number of accommodation options available at Grootvadersbos, from camping, to glamping and chalets.  The staff are very helpful, although we did have one gripe and that was that Cape Nature were difficult to contact telephonically to make booking enquiries, even from the Reception desk.  Other than that, however, we couldn’t fault them and were handing out kudos for the wonderful ablution facilities and well-kept grounds and the area in general.

Next time you are in the Western Cape, do yourself a favour and pay this wonderful little reserve a visit.  You will be very glad that you did.



Jane is an avid birder and nature enthusiast, whose deep love for travel, camping and exploring the natural world knows no bounds. Assisted by her nature-loving husband, Rob, a skilled photographer, they form a dynamic duo dedicated to visiting remote and breathtaking landscapes. With their camera lenses as their creative instruments, they capture the beauty of birds and wildlife, all while advocating tirelessly for conservation.

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