Goukamma is one of those special places that takes you far away from the crowds and lets you explore some of South Africa’s unique environments up-close. This hidden gem boasts miles of golden sandy beaches, some of the highest vegetated dunes in South Africa, large expanses of coastal forest with milkwood, yellowwood and candlewood trees and Groenviel Lake. This lake is unique in the fact that it has no inflowing river nor an outlet to the sea, instead it is feed by an underwater spring.
Goukamma is the jewel in the crown of the Garden Route National Park, hidden away at the centre of the South Africa’s spectacular Garden Route just a few kilometres from the bustling coastal towns of Knysna and Sedgefield. Whales and dolphins can often be seen close to shore here; and between June and December the Southern Right Whales come to breed here and these magnificent mammals can often be spotted in large numbers off the beaches at Goukamma.
One of the best ways to explore the reserve is through the series of beautifully kept and well-marked walking trails. We loved the Bush Pig Trail; it is the perfect circular hike which explores some of the best parts of the reserve, passing through the famous fynbos, which flower in September and October. The trail goes along the high dunes and has fantastic views across to the sea, as well as passing through fascinating and well-preserved areas of indigenous coastal forest. There is an optional detour that goes down to a particularly spectacular part of the 14km of beach that is protected by the reserve. The whole walk is very enjoyable but it is the stretches along the fynbos ridges that are especially memorable as they offer breathtaking views of the coast and the estuary.
There are five other day hikes of varying length, each covering a hugely diverse terrain with different habitats. The Galjoen Trail is a 12km beach walk; The Porcupine Trail (13.5km ) explores the extensive dune systems; whilst The Cape Clawless Otter Trail ( 6.5km) goes through the different habitats near Groenviel lake. The shortest walk is The Buffalo Bay Trail that meanders for 4.2km through the forest and coastal vegetation of Buffalo Bay. Whilst on the Groenvlei side of the reserve is The Blombos Trail. This is a must for anyone interested in birdwatching and the trail has 15km, 13km or 6.5km options.
As well as hiking we loved watching the sun set from Goukamma’s beach near Buffelsbaai. This stretch of the coast is rocky, rugged and breathtakingly beautiful and there is a small sandy stretch which is perfectly placed to chill out and watch the sun go down over the Goukamma Nature Reserve. A little further on is the wide sandy swimming beach of Buffalo bay and at its furthest end is Brenton-on Sea and the lovely little restaurant Blu. Blu sits above the beach and has a fantastic terrace that faces out to sea with views across the bay towards Buffalo and Goukamma. We thought Blu was the perfect place for sundowners and dinner, its position is unbeatable and the views are stunning.
If you have any special places or things to do at Goukamma and would like to share them please do so using the comments section below.
The main entrance is on the main road to Buffalo Bay on the N2 between Sedgefield and Knysna.