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Travel: Exploring the Kogelberg Biosphere

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As a travel journalist and photographer, my life is on the road. And although some people might view long-distance driving as a chore, I love it.

Words & pictures by Richard van Ryneveld

But, after a 6 000km trip from Gauteng through Botswana all the way to north of Namibia, down via Van Zyl’s Pass and back… even I needed a little time closer to home! So, for my most recent trip, I went exploring my own backyard.

This kind of trip is almost a tradition for any camper and caravanner. There comes a time when you take a look at what’s close to home, and suddenly discover something amazing that has been under your nose all the time – and I discovered that my backyard was flinging up a host of treasures I hadn’t even know existed. One of these is the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. So with my old friend the Sprite Tourer SW hitched up behind a brand new Mazda BT-50, I was on my way.

The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve is one of the world’s greatest and possibly the most diverse biodiversity hot spots in the world. It is literally an hour’s drive from Cape Town, and stretches along the coast from Gordon’s Bay in the west, to the Bot River Vlei in the east, and inland to the Groenland mountains.

The biodiversity of this area is mindboggling: it has 1 880 different species of plants, of which 77 are endemic and found nowhere else in the world. To offer you a comparison, the whole of the UK has only 22 endemic species.

I was glad to know that the Biosphere is also home to a couple of lekker caravan and camping resorts.

I headed from Cape Town up the N2, before turning off to Gordon’s Bay and the R44 (Clarence Drive) which goes on to Rooi Els, Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay, and further on to the small seaside hamlet of Kleinmond. Clarence Drive is considered one of the most scenic drives in the world. If you’re a photographer, get there at sunrise – you’ll never be the same again.

Clarence drive was upgraded in 1998 and is now an excellent road, although it has approximately 70-odd bends, curves and corners as it winds along the sea to Betty’s Bay. After crossing the bridge over the Steenbras River, I headed down to Kogel Bay, aka Koeëlbaai, which translates as ‘bullet bay’, or ‘cannonball bay’. I read two explanations on the origins of the name. The first says it comes from the large round boulders that line the shore in places. These do resemble cannonballs, and the sound that is made by the rocks rolling over in the waves also reminded early mariners of cannonballs clunking together on a ship’s deck. The other explanation says that the bay was originally named ‘Colebrook’ after a British sailing ship wrecked here in 1778.

I wonder which is correct.

Kogelberg Biosphere Images

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