Cape's Roaring Lion Claims Africa's Finest Accolade
Statement by Anton Bredell, Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning
It is with great pride that I can confirm that Africa’s Finest, an ecotourism project that celebrates the top "green" lodges in Africa, has recently selected Gamkaberg Nature Reserve in the Klein Karoo as one of its top 50 facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands.
Other award winners included lodges and camps from the Seychelles, Madagascar and Mozambique, while CapeNature is the only public entity out of the seven South African contestants that has made the list.
To arrive at the 50 Africa’s finest spots, a team of nine environmental specialists conducted vigorous on-site environmental assessments over two years. Each lodge was evaluated on 102 different points, which were divided into four broad categories, namely: successful conservation work, community outreach programmes, the use of renewable energies and waste treatment and disposal.
We are delighted that one of the jewels of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, Gamkaberg Nature Reserve, features in this project.
Gamka (derived from the Khoikhoi word gami, meaning lion) falls within one of the most species-rich environments on the continent.
The reserve is known as a botanist's paradise and is home to the spectacular Mimetes chrysanthus, one of the most beautiful of the protea family and indeed in the whole of the Cape Floral Kingdom. The species was first seen by Mr Willie Julies, a game guard, while on patrol in the reserve in September 1987.
The rare and endangered Cape Mountain Zebra, leopard and honey badger are some of the reserve’s fauna highlights.
But it is the minimum impact of the tourism development on the environment, coupled with its community involvement and conservation projects, that had earned CapeNature the accolade.
The reserve features stylish and small footprint lodges with solar water heaters and lighting, recycling, waterless toilets and non-chlorinated splash pools, built and maintained by contractors from surrounding communities.
When asked how visitors can limit footprints while holidaying on reserves, Tom Barry, Manager of the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve, said: "Stick to the guidelines for responsible behaviour. Go easy on the lights, water, noise, chemicals, goggas (insects) and the infrastructure".
He also said that the reserve teaches awareness about the environment in general and hosts bush trails as well as several short and long hikes for visitors.
Gamakberg - Other awards and accolades
Gamkaberg's Tierkloof trail has been acclaimed as one of the world's best during April 2008 in a book entitled: Unforgettable Walks to Take Before You Die, by British authors Steve Watkins and Clare Jones. The trail is now placed alongside world-renowned trails such as Peru's Inca Trail, India's Darjeeling Tea Trek, China's Giant Panda Walk and Scotland's West Highland Way.
Starting in succulent Karoo, this two-day (14.5 km + 13 km) trail is a moderately strenuous trail taking hikers through a deep, forested ravine onto a fynbos-rich mountain plateau. Here you overnight at the remote Oukraal campsite and enjoy spectacular views of the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountain ranges. It's located in the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve just outside Oudtshoorn, which is characterised by rugged, mountainous terrain and a plateau incised by deep ravines.
The Tierkloof trail was recently selected by the Travel24 team as one of the best hiking trails in the country to hike during winter. Click here to read this story www.news24.com/Travel/South-Africa/Best-winter-hikes-20130523
The reserve lies between the winter and summer rainfall regions, experiencing gentle, soaking rain in winter, so be sure to have waterproof gear at hand as well as dry, warm clothes for night time.
Leopard Research Project
The Cape Leopard Trust is helping CapeNature to monitor leopard movement in the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve as part of a research project in the Gouritz corridor. Several cameras have been set up to monitor these big cats. The Gamkaberg staff recently, much to their delight, spotted a resident male leopard that patrols the Tierkloof trail. This majestic leopard, Oom Pep, has been named after a local man who lived and worked in the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve for most of his life and loved to take long walks in Tierkloof. As a result, he often encountered leopard on this track.
But not to worry, leopards are active during the cooler periods of the day and prefer to avoid contact with humans as far as possible. Hikers who want to spend more time on the reserve have the alternative to overnight on the reserve itself – at one of three overnight facilities. The Tierkloof bush camp has recently been upgraded. It has three luxury stand-alone tents.
Cape Floral Kingdom and Contribution to GDP of the Western Cape
The natural beauty/unique biodiversity of the Western Cape have made the region a global tourist "hotspot" of choice, with tourists citing the unique natural beauty as their number one reason for visiting – hence our biodiversity contributes significantly to the GDP of the province, besides offering essential eco-system services and products to the people and economic drivers of the region.
Alan Winde, the Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, said eco-tourism was no longer a niche market and was fast becoming an international norm.
"This award confirms the Western Cape’s status as a leading eco-tourism destination. As the industry continues to expand, its contribution to jobs and economic growth will increase."
Gamkaberg features four of the nine South African biomes, namely Fynbos, Succulent Karoo, Subtropical Thicket and Evergreen Forest.
For booking queries, please call 0861 227 362 or 021 483 0190 or visit www.capenature.co.za.
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