Autumn. For many, likely the most unremarkable of the four seasons in South Africa. But that’s not the case in the Overberg, and especially not in the Renosterveld of the Overberg.
Instead, the combination of the flowers, the wildlife, and you, make this one of the most special times to visit and get to know this Critically Endangered habitat.
Above: Nerine humilis
On Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve, autumn adventures abound. This reserve is owned by WWF South Africa, and is managed by the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust. This Trust is a non-profit organisation working to protect the remaining fragments of Overberg Renosterveld left on earth. The reserve, situated between the towns of Swellendam and Bredasdorp, is the home of the Trust.
Here visitors can stay over in a rustic guesthouse, experience Renosterveld, and enjoy these five autumn adventures.
Come for the flowers, of course
While many Renosterveld species flower in spring, that doesn’t mean you should discount autumn. The pretty pinks of the Nerine humilis, for example, emerge during the autumn months on Haarwegskloof. The intricate Gladiolus maculatus and Vulnerable Gladiolus vaginatus flower in early autumn. It’s also the season for lilies, such as the March Lily (Amaryllis belladonna), the Haemanthus fire lilies and the Candelabra lilies (Brunsvigias). The maroon-pink flowers of the Crossyne guttata (also known as Parasol lily) appear, before breaking off and tumbling across the veld. And many of the strikingly pink Oxalis species also flower in autumn (and into winter) and abound on this reserve.
Orion, Jupiter and many moons: The night sky
Stargazing isn’t always so easy in the big city. On Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve, you’re away from the city (or even town) lights. That means the night sky is that much brighter on a refreshing cloudless evening in autumn. The Southern Cross points to the south. The hunter from Greek mythology, Orion wears his belt and his sword. Jupiter’s moons make their appearance. And satellites pass overhead.
Reserve life after dark
The Renosterveld is full of life during the day. At night, though, something magical seems to happen. Secretive species emerge from their hideaways, to search for food and friends on Haarwegskoof. Look out for small mammals like the Large-spotted Genet and the Scrub Hare. (We even have sightings of Aardwolf and Aardvark, although they are extremely shy). Smaller wildlife like the Little Karoo Dwarf Chameleon also emerge in the autumn evenings.
Cooling off and warming up
Autumn days in the Overberg are often still toasty and warm. A splash pool (a small swimming pool) on the Haarwegskloof Reserve is the ideal way to cool off after an enjoyable hike through the Renosterveld. And in the evenings, when temperatures drop a touch, a fireplace and braai facilities allow you to warm up to the crackling flames (while looking at the night sky, perhaps?).
Making a little bit of history, in your own way…
Renosterveld is Critically Endangered. This habitat has been transformed to, in most instances, be replaced by agriculture. On the Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve, though, you become part of the largest stretch of connected Renosterveld left on earth. This reserve is around 500 hectares in size, and 80% of it is untouched. With the two neighbouring Renosterveld properties, you can see 1500 hectares of Eastern Rûens Shale Renosterveld stretching out before you (from the top of the hill behind the farmhouse). This is the only place on the planet where you are so surrounded by Renosterveld, making you part of something historic and special.