If hikes which promise breathtaking vistas, or opportunities to take your four-legged friends for a trot in the great outdoors is more your speed, rest assured the Cape Winelands is home not only to some of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world, but also to some of the most exquisite nature reserves!
Perfect for a picnic, a park run, or a close encounter with some indigenous wildlife, why don’t you check out some of these, our favourite nature reserves in Stellenbosch and surrounds.
1. Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
Home to sprawling mountains and indigenous fynbos vegetation, the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve is a favourite among local hiking enthusiasts and outdoor adventure aficionados.
Not only can one hike and walk the trails in this majestic reserve, there are numerous mountain biking trails as well as several opportunities for swimming, and taking a dip along the way to cool off on those hot summer days for which Stellenbosch is so famous!
The perfect photo op, you will discover a number of rockpools and even waterfalls in Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, along with abundant wildlife!
Visitors should keep an eye out for snakes like puff adders, berg adders, cobras and boom slangs – remember, we are visitors in their homes out there in the bush!
Spanning almost 10 000 hectares, this massive reserve is home not only to reptiles, but small mammals and an abundant variety of bird and plant life too.
So, whether you’re interested in hiking, swimming or mountain biking, the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, which is a National Heritage Site, is an adventure that outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds do not want to miss!
At a maximum conservation fee cost of only R30 per adult for certain activities and trails, this attraction is wallet as well as family friendly!
Learn more about Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
2. Eagle Encounters
Avid and amateur ornithologists alike will get a kick out of a visit to the Eagle Encounters wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, education and eco-tourism center located on the idyllic Spier Wine Farm!
Here, visitors can meet, and get up close and personal with numerous species of birds of prey including owls and eagles native to the Cape Winelands and greater Western Cape regions!
With opportunities to pet otherworldly-looking birds, and to participate in the interactive flying shows, Eagle Encounters is fun for the whole family!
Open seven days a week, there’s no excuse to miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity to encounter the Cape’s majestic winged predators up close!
Not an ornithologist? Not to worry!
Though Eagle Encounters is focused on the care and exhibition of birds of prey, reptile lovers will also have the opportunity to befriend various snake and lizard species at Spier, whereas fans of animals of the mammalian persuasion may encounter rescued bokkies, bunny rabbits, piglets, and other farmyard animals in the petting zoo!
Learn more about Eagle Encounters
3. Giraffe House Wildlife Awareness Centre
The Cape Winelands’ answer to the safari, Giraffe House provides visitors with easy access to some of South Africa’s most famous wildlife and bird species!
Giraffe House is dedicated not only to exhibiting but educating visitors on their animals, including their hand-reared name-sake Giraffe, Gerry!
Focussed on guided, educational tours for children from preschool age right through to the young-at-heart, Giraffe House is open seven days a week, and is located just outside Stellenbosch, making it the perfect day-trip for families vacationing with us here at Lanzerac.
Giraffe House is home to a wide variety of mammals, including but not limited to vervet monkeys, meerkats, eland, bontebok, giraffes, cape grysbok, duikers, blue duikers, springbok, impala, zebra, warthogs, serval cats, caracal, bat-eared foxes, cape foxes, black backed jackals, and a whole host of farmyard animals!
Other animals in residence include crocodiles, snakes, tortoises, ostriches, blue cranes, lovebirds, parrots, storks and more!
Learn more about the Giraffe House Wildlife Awareness Centre
4. Jan Marais Nature Reserve
The Jan Marais Nature Reserve in the heart of Stellenbosch is a favourite of student athletes who frequent the reserve to make use of the outdoor gym equipment located within its grounds, or to jog on any one of the reserve’s trails.
Also featuring a labyrinth, designed by well-known artist, Terry de Vries, the Jan Marais Nature Reserve is also home to a variety of sculptural works that have been admired by visitors from all over the world!
Picnics, bicycles, and four-legged friends on a leash are allowed, and even encouraged, but no fires (no braai-ing) and no alcoholic beverages are allowed in the nature reserve.
In addition to the outdoor gymnasium, there is also a kiddies play area complete with jungle gym and swings!
This iconic Nature Reserve celebrates its centenary this year, so what better time than the present to explore it’s 23 hectares of undisturbed, natural beauty, and purpose developed recreational areas?
Hosting various events throughout the summer months, including performances of live music by local artists, the Jan Marais Nature Reserve can also be booked as a private function venue.
Interested parties should contact the Stellenbosch Municipality.
Learn more about the Jan Marais Nature Reserve
5. Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve
Though currently closed, and off-limits to members of the public due to the Groenlandberg fires, we can’t wait for the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve to be redesignated safe, and for the threat to safety to pass.
To stay up to date on the latest developments, visit their website! Please do not venture into the area until it has been declared safe to do so!
Once the Nature Reserve is accessible again, visitors can expect unmatched opportunities for ziplining, kloofing, hiking, and overnighting on a self-catering basis in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve’s self-catering huts.
Learn more about the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve
6. Helderberg Nature Reserve
Offering nature walks for visitors of all physical abilities and fitness levels, the Helderberg Nature Reserve is a beautiful place to get lost for a day!
Situated in Somerset West on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain overlooking False Bay, the Helderberg Nature Reserve is home not only to amazing walking trails ranging from an easy 2.2km trail, to a full-on 7 hour hiking trail, but it is also home to fantastic outdoor concerts in the park and some picturesque picnic facilities – regret, no braai-ing or gas-burning equipment allowed.
If you don’t feel like packing your own picnic basket, why not visit the restaurant for a bite?
Serving up a wide variety of snacks and takeaways in addition to their sit-down meals, you could set-up an impromptu picnic with your purchases!
If spontaneity is not in your nature, you can also book and purchase a packed picnic basket in advance.
Learn more about the Helderberg Nature Reserve
7. Drakenstein Lion Park
The Drakenstein Lion Park is home to an entire pride of rescued lions.
Rescued from situations as varied as circus life, and pits in rich tycoons’ basements, these big cats are thrilled to be back where they belong, in nature, with their own kind.
Witness these majestic beasts frolic and play in their natural habitat!
Worth noting: The only genuine lion sanctuary in the Western Cape, Drakenstein Lion Park is committed to educating the public on equitable and ethical animal treatment, and as such, does not condone lion encounters or lion club petting.
That doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to see and do!
In addition to the lions housed in the park, visitors can expect to see rare white lions, tigers, caracals, and even chimps in the Chimp Haven portion of the park.
The chimps, all previously of Tygerberg Zoo, had nowhere to go following the zoo’s planned closure in 2012.
Drakenstein Lion Park’s dedicated staff stepped up and created the Chimp Haven division with the sole purpose of caring for these rescued creatures for life!
Two of the chimps were born at Tygerberg Zoo, while the remaining chimps were rescued from smugglers, and research laboratories before being brought to the Tygerberg Zoo.
Learn more about the Drakenstein Lion Park
For more information on the specifics of wining, dining, playing, exploring, spending and convening with nature in sunny Stellenbosch, be sure to check back soon for part seven in this, our Things To Do In Stellenbosch series.
Next, we will bring you a list of insider insights into the very best golf courses the Cape Winelands have to offer!
Bring your family and make a day of 9 holes in the summer sun in Stellenbosch!
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