Ballots Heights Nature Reserve is a picturesque wildlife sanctuary located in the Western Cape, between Wilderness and George. It is part of the world-renowned Garden Route, renowned for its stunning mountains, forests, valleys, and beaches. This beautiful area is home to a rich diversity of habitats, making it a popular destination for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.
The reserve boasts of diverse landscapes including forests, gorges, and open plains, each with its unique collection of wildlife. Visitors to Ballots Heights can look forward to encountering porcupines, bushpigs, grysbok, bontebok, ostriches, otters, zebras, and possibly even the elusive lynx. The reserve is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with over 200 recorded bird species, including the oyster catcher, Knysna loerie, Narina trogon, and Knysna woodpecker.
Hiking and walking trails are abundant in the reserve, offering visitors lovely opportunities to explore the wildlife, breathe in the fresh African air, and soak up the warm sunshine. Many of these trails lead to remote rock pools via steep paths, providing a peaceful escape from the bustling city life.
Ballots Heights is also home to a beautiful forest boma, where visitors can enjoy a braai (barbecue) or picnic surrounded by the lush greenery of the Western Cape and the musical backdrop of its many bird species. The reserve is surrounded by the Fynbos plant family, which is endemic to South Africa and the Cape, and creates a breathtaking mosaic of colors across the landscape.
Popular activities and tourist destinations at Ballots Heights Nature
In addition to exploring the reserve’s diverse wildlife and stunning landscapes, visitors can also engage in various outdoor activities. Popular activities include hiking, bird watching, wildlife viewing, and picnicking. There are a variety of trails available, ranging from easy walks to more strenuous hikes, making the reserve accessible to visitors of all fitness levels.
For those interested in learning more about the area’s flora and fauna, guided walks and tours are available. These can provide a deeper understanding of the reserve’s ecosystem and its inhabitants, as well as offering the opportunity to see more of the area’s hidden gems.
For those seeking adventure, Ballots Heights Nature Reserve is close to several other popular tourist destinations. The nearby beaches of George and Wilderness offer water sports such as kayaking, surfing, and swimming. The nearby Outeniqua Mountains offer scenic drives, as well as opportunities for mountain biking, rock climbing, and abseiling.
Ballots Heights Nature Reserve is also close to the town of George, which offers a range of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Here visitors can find a variety of local shops, restaurants, and bars, as well as a thriving arts and culture scene.
In conclusion, Ballots Heights Nature Reserve is a must-visit destination for those seeking a peaceful escape to nature. With its diverse wildlife, stunning landscapes, and range of outdoor activities, it offers something for everyone, making it the perfect destination for a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway.
Bergplaas MTB Route
The Bergplaas MTB Route located in the Bergplaas State Forest, just 26 km from George, is a must-visit for mountain biking enthusiasts. With a range of options from easy to difficult, riders can choose from circular and return routes that traverse through forestry tracks and 4×4 routes. The area is best explored during the dry months, although it can get muddy during the rainy season.
Base yourself at the 7 Passes Tented Camp for easy access to the Bergplaas MTB Route. To reach the camp, take the Hoekwil turn-off from the N2 at Wildernis and follow the signs to Mandalay Farm. From the camp, simply turn left from the parking lot to reach the tar track, and then follow the Cape Pine signs to the Bergplaas State Forest.
The journey to the forest is an adventure in itself, with breathtaking views of the farms in the valley below. Once you reach the forest, there are a number of options to choose from, with signs indicating any felling areas.
In 2002, the Bergplaas State Forest became part of the Kingfisher Enduro route, which includes a challenging 30 km loop. However, to enter the forestry area, a permit is required, and for safety reasons, riders must wear a helmet.
With its stunning scenery and diverse terrain, the Bergplaas MTB Route is an ideal destination for mountain bikers looking for a thrilling outdoor adventure.
Forest Buzzard Trail
The Forest Buzzard Trail is one of the many popular destinations for tourists visiting the Ballots Heights Nature Reserve. Starting at Witfontein Forestry Station, this 2.2 km hike offers an easy and enjoyable experience, perfect for families and those looking for a relaxing day out. The trail offers a stunning view of pine plantations and indigenous forest, including a waterfall, making it a peaceful retreat in the heart of the reserve.
To reach the Witfontein Forestry Station, tourists can take a scenic drive over the Outeniqua Pass and park their car at the station. The trail’s starting point is well marked, and visitors can pick up a map of the route from the station. The route is clearly marked with white arrows on wooden boards and takes visitors through pine trees, gravel service roads, and jeep tracks, providing a variety of terrains to explore.
Cyclists also frequent this trail, so be aware of other visitors when walking. The trail ends at the Witfontein Nature Reserve, passing over a wooden bridge along the way, and visitors can take a rest on benches provided along the trail. Dogs are allowed on a lead, making this a great option for families with furry friends.
For those seeking a more challenging hike, there is an alternative starting point at the end of Arbour Road in Glen Barrie, turning the trail into a 7 km hike. The gate at the end of the road is well marked, but parking can be difficult, so be cautious not to park in people’s driveways.
Outeniqua Beach, also known as Outeniqua Strand, is a breathtaking destination located along the Garden Route’s coastline, stretching between Mossel Bay and George. This stunning beach spans over 6 kilometers and offers four separate swimming areas, providing ample space for visitors to enjoy. The waters are relatively warm, making it an ideal spot for families who want to enjoy a beach holiday without tackling icy sea water.
One of the main highlights of Outeniqua Beach is the opportunity to witness the amazing displays of dolphins, seals, southern right and humpback whales that visit the area between July and December. It is also an ideal destination for kite-surfing during the summer months.
There is plenty of parking available for visitors and multiple entry points to the beach, which also offers ablution facilities for the convenience of guests. The beach is situated just 10 kilometers from the George Airport and is approximately an hour from Oudtshoorn and the Cango Caves, and around 5 hours from Cape Town and its international airport.
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, pack a picnic, bring a good book and soak up the tranquility of Outeniqua Beach. This is a must-visit destination for anyone who wants to escape to a place of serene beauty, surrounded by fresh air and sunshine.
Garden Route Horse Trails
Located in the Garden Route National Park and its surrounding areas near Wilderness, the Garden Route Horse Trails are a unique way to experience the stunning beauty of South Africa. This scenic trail takes visitors on a journey through forests, past waterfalls, and among magnificent fauna and flora, all from the excellent vantage point of a well-trained horse.
Riders can choose from several trails, including a 90-minute ride through gum tree forests, a two-hour ride into pine forests, or the longest trail, which includes a break at the cascading waterfall and lasts for three hours. The horses used in these trails are chosen based on the riders’ individual abilities and preferences, and their speed and responsiveness make them perfect travelling companions. The personal interaction with these magnificent animals, guided by an experienced guide, is a treat that visitors are sure to enjoy.
For special occasions like engagements or anniversaries, customized rides can be arranged in advance. The Garden Route Horse Trails are open every day and year-round, with bookings being essential to ensure the availability of horses. The trails usually take place at 10:00 and 14:00, but the timings can be adjusted to meet the needs of visitors.
Visitors are welcome to bring their own snacks and drinks, or they can be provided with prior notice. This is a great opportunity to cool off, have a swim, and enjoy some refreshments in the heart of the forest. The Garden Route Horse Trails offer an unforgettable and memorable experience that is not to be missed.
Ballots Heights Nature Reserve is just a 25-minute drive from George and about 40 minutes from Knysna, making it a convenient and accessible destination for those looking to escape to nature. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, birdwatcher, or just seeking a peaceful getaway, Ballots Heights is the perfect destination for you.