Jonkershoek and Assegaaibosch Nature Reserves, Western Cape
The Jonkershoek Nature Reserve incorporating the Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve, is a wonderland of fynbos, surrounded by the magnificent Jonkershoek Mountains. The Eerste, Berg, Lourens, and Riviersonderend rivers all begin their descent in the Jonkershoek Mountains, and flow down from there through the winelands, offering an abundance of streams and waterfalls.
Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve was originally a farm leased to Wouter Wium by Lord Charles Somerset in 1817 on the proviso that he plant oak trees. In 1960 the original 1790 H shape homestead was restored. Today we inherit the beautiful 160 year old oak trees and the gardens that surround the house, which is now a national monument and guest house.
Just 9km from Stellenbosch, the reserves offer a backdrop of over 1100 fynbos species, riparian forests along the rivers, over 130 bird species and many small animals including leopard, honey badger, baboon, klipspringer, mongoose, and numerous smaller animals like mice, shrews and rats, but most are shy and seldom seen.
The birds are easier to see and include large raptors such as black eagle, the occasional fish eagle and spotted eagle owl, while kingfishers and typical fynbos birds – the sugarbird, orange breasted sunbird and protea seed-eater – are more abundant. On warm days rock agama lizards can be seen basking on rocks. Berg adder, puff adder, boomslang and Cape cobra are fairly common and hikers should be alert!
With pristine natural beauty like this, it is not surprising that this 10 000ha reserve is ideal for hiking. The high mountain peaks and kloofs of Jonkershoek attracts the more serious, fit hiker while the Assegaaibosch section offers some leisurely walks.
Swartboskloof Hike: If you are really adventurous and have a reasonable level of fitness, you can do the Swartboskloof hike, which is 18km. This trail leads via Kurktrekkernek to Witbrug. Hikers face a steep 4.5km ascent followed by a fairly level top section. The ascent and the descent are fairly technical and require good walking shoes and a stick as the shale sections are very slippery. The summit flattens out, with a panoramic view of False Bay and is a good place to have some refreshment. The descent is a steep 2.6km hike down Kurktrekker, joining the Tweede Waterval route. The waterfalls en route are a great place to have a swim.
The Panorama Route Hike: This fairly difficult circular route is 17.1 km long with a rather steep 4km ascent to a contour path that traverses the Dwarsberg Plateau and down Kurktrekker, offering splendid views. The hike takes about 8 to 8½ hours. There are some difficult patches with loose stones underfoot and the descent has loose rocks and log steps to level it out somewhat.
The Swartboskloof to Sosyskloof Walk: Easy scenic circular route ascends for 2km along the western slopes of the Swartboskloof through some really beautiful indigenous forest and continues to Sosyskloof before returning to the start. The route is 5.3km or 6.9km, if the lookout is visited, and lasts from 2 to 2½ hours.
Tweede Waterval Walk: An easy circular walk along the Eerste River, that takes you first to the Eerste Waterval and then to the Tweede Waterval via a steep climb along a gorge. 6.4km and lasts about 2 hours.
Assegaibosch Gardens Walk: A walk through the wild flower garden will only take you about 30- 45 minutes.
Other trails: There are 10km of roads around the valley floor, along the Eerste River for a leisurely drive. For cyclists, the mountain biking routes are mainly on the gravel roads as well as on some really good single tracks in the pine forests.
Weather: Summers can be extremely hot, and strong south-easterly winds can create a serious fire hazard. The winters are cold, often with gale-force north-westerly winds and one of the highest rainfalls in the country. Snow is not unusual on the higher peaks. Hikers should note that at higher altitudes the weather conditions may be quite different from lower in the valley and could change rapidly, becoming dangerous. Hikers are advised to always carry gear for cold and rainy weather as well as adequate sun and insect protection in the summer. Water is critical too, so take at least 2 litres per person and fill up at streams.
Day visitors: If you want to picnic at Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve, you are no longer required to book. Entry is allocated on a strictly first come first served basis. Limitations of 60 people per day will still be enforced. A dam, almost a third of the way up the valley, offers lovely bank-side picnic spots.
Parking, braai area and toilet facilities are provided. There is an entrance fee in the region of R30 for adults and R15 for children between 6 and 16 years old – this can change. Open Monday to Sunday from 07:30-16:00. Tel: (021) 483 0190: Website Email
Directions: You have to drive through the town of Stellenbosch to get to Jonkershoek. From the R44 take Merriman Rd into town and drive through the entire town until you reach Jonkershoek Rd which leads you to the gate of the reserve about 6km outside the residential area. Both reserves are entered from the same parking area.
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