Goukamma Nature Reserve

Unspoilt beauty, bountiful nature

Due to the June 2017 fires in the Knysna and Plettenberg Bay area, Goukamma Nature Reserve has been closed until further notice.

Goukamma Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area, situated on the Garden Route between Sedgefield and Knysna, has a diverse array of fascinating habitats and an abundance of smaller wildlife, birds and fish. It is also a World Heritage Site.

The reserve covers 2 500 hectares of dense coastal forest, including milkwood, yellowwood and candlewood trees. It protects the charming vervet monkey, bushbuck and bushpig, as well as porcupine, mongoose, honey badger and grysbok. This is a popular choice for keen birders, as the Goukamma River and estuary and the Groenvlei Lake provide a welcoming habitat for more than 220 bird species, including the rare African black oystercatcher. There are two indigenous and four alien species of fish found in the Groenvlei Lake. Visitors enjoy the sight of the magnificent southern right whales between June and November. Bottle-nosed and humpback dolphins play in the waves throughout the year.

A great time to visit is in September/October when the first spring rains create splashes of bright spring flowers amid the fynbos. This is a year-round destination, as it falls between the Cape’s summer and winter rainfall seasons.

To find out more, download the Goukamma Nature Reserve brochure.

Goukamma also borders Buffalo Valley – a conservation area overlooking the Goukamma River which offers safe seclusion in three fully-equipped self-catering timber lodges.

Goukamma Nature Reserve has been awarded ECO Certification by Ecotourism Australia.

Ecotourism-Certified-logo

How to get there

From Cape Town: Take the N2 highway and travel for about 500km south towards George. Roughly 40km past George and between the towns of Sedgefield and Knysna, take the turn-off to Buffalo Bay. Follow this road for 8km and then turn right (towards the river) and into the reserve.

GPS: 34 4 6.73 S 22 56 52.29 E

Office hours: 07:30–16:00

Tel: +27 (0)44 383 0042
Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: +27 (0)21 483 0190

Accommodation

Self-catering

  • Buffalo Valley - Vlei Lodge

    *Please note that Vlei Lodge is closed temporarily for maintenance. 

    Buffalo Valley is a large conservation area bordering the serene Goukamma River just two kilometers upstream from the warm Indian Ocean. Buffalo Valley’s three self-catering timber lodges are fully equipped and sleep between four and six people.

    The area contains two circular walks where you can view a variety of bird life in the mixed coastal dune thicket and fynbos, as well as gain access to the Goukamma Nature Reserve.

    Vlei Lodge, which sleeps up to four adults and one small child, is one of three lodges available to rent in Buffalo Valley. The three lodges are all out of sight and sound to one another with complete privacy, providing each with its own unique environment within the 150ha conservation area. Each lodge offers safe seclusion where fireplaces and sundecks ensure year-round comfort.

    Overlooking a tranquil birdvlei, this magical hideaway has extensive sun decks designed around noble milkwood trees. The living area with its huge fireplace has a character all its own.

    Linger around the fire at the spacious outdoor braai area. Fall asleep to a chorus of frogs and wake to the sounds of the singing birds.

    The loft above the living area has two standard single beds and one smaller size single bed (not suitable for an adult). A separate cabin house, the main bedroom with king-size bed, has an en-suite shower and flush toilet with an extra door opening onto the deck which is then also accessible to the loft’s users.

    What we provide:

    • Beds, mattresses including bedding and towels
    • Gas fridge and Stove
    • Cutlery and crockery, pots and pans (for 5 people)
    • Braai grid
    • Three-legged Pot (No 4) – Cast Iron
    • Gas Kettle
    • Camp chairs, tables and benches in the braai area
    • Flush toilets
    • Lanterns -paraffin. Please note that there is currently a problem with the solar electricity
    • Hot water showers (Gas heated)
    • Firewood for sale
    • Firelighter for sale
  • Buffalo Valley - River Lodge

    Buffalo Valley is a large conservation area bordering the serene Goukamma River just two kilometers upstream from the warm Indian Ocean. Buffalo Valley’s three self-catering timber lodges are fully equipped and sleep between four and six people.

    The area contains two circular walks where you can view a variety of bird life in the mixed coastal dune thicket and fynbos, as well as gain access to the Goukamma Nature Reserve.

    River Lodge is one of three lodges available to rent in Buffalo Valley. The three lodges are all out of sight and sound to one another with complete privacy, providing each with its own unique environment within the 150ha conservation area. Each lodge offers safe seclusion where fireplaces and sundecks ensure year-round comfort.

    The sunny River Lodge has a panoramic view of the pristine Goukamma River and sleeps six people.

    The deck and outdoor braai area offer ringside seats to spectacular sunsets over fynbos hills. It’s just a short walk through coastal forest to the grassy banks of the river where you can enjoy a spot of fishing.

    There is one toilet and one shower in separate rooms with a washing basin in each room. Lights are solar powered.

     

    What we provide:

    • Beds, mattresses including bedding and towels
    • Gas fridge and hob
    • Cutlery and crockery, pots and pans (for 6 people)
    • Braai grid
    • Kettle
    • Camp chairs, tables and benches in the lapa
    • Hot water showers (solar heated)
    • Lanterns (solar electricity)
    • Firewood for sale
    • Firelighter for sale
  • Buffalo Valley - Forest Lodge

    Buffalo Valley is a large conservation area bordering the serene Goukamma River just two kilometers upstream from the warm Indian Ocean. Buffalo Valley’s three self-catering timber lodges are fully equipped and sleep between four and six people.

    The area contains two circular walks where you can view a variety of bird life in the mixed coastal dune thicket and fynbos, as well as gain access to the Goukamma Nature Reserve.

    Forest Lodge is one of three lodges available to rent in Buffalo Valley. The three lodges are all out of sight and sound to one another with complete privacy, providing each with its own unique environment within the 150ha conservation area. Each lodge offers safe seclusion where fireplaces and sundecks ensure year-round comfort.

    Hidden in riverine forest right on the edge of the Goukamma River, the spacious sky lit Forest Lodge perfectly complements its stunning surroundings.

    Relax on the magnificent deck built around bird-filled milkwood trees as the river glides by. Follow a short boardwalk to a private jetty from which you can fish, canoe and swim.

    The two bedrooms sleep two people each with an en-suite toilet at the one bedroom and a shower at the other. The back opens to a big deck in the tree tops overlooking the Goukamma River and a walkway that takes you straight to the riverside where you can canoe.

    What we provide:

    • Beds, mattresses including bedding and towels
    • Gas fridge and hob
    • Cutlery and crockery, pots and pans (for 4 people)
    • Braai grid
    • Gas kettle
    • Camp chairs, tables and benches on the deck
    • Flush toilets
    • Lanterns (solar electricity)
    • Hot water showers (Gas heated)
    • Firewood for sale
    • Weber Braai on the deck
    • Firelighter for sale
  • Blacktail Chalet

    Three charming self-catering chalets overlook the lake. Each offers two bedrooms, sleeping four on single beds. One bathroom (shower & toilet) is shared between the two bedrooms. Private braai facilities are provided and wood is for sale at the reserve gate. Blacktail is situated in the middle of the three chalets.

    Electricity: Solar panels
    Bathroom: Shower (solar geyser)
    Kitchen: Fully equipped, cutlery and crockery
    Bedding, linen and towels: Yes (plus blankets)
    Fireplace: Yes, grill is provided
    Disabled access: No
    Pets welcome: No
    Television: DSTV

  • Kabeljou Chalet

    Three charming self-catering chalets overlook the lake. Each offers two bedrooms, sleeping four on single beds. One bathroom (shower & toilet) is shared between the two bedrooms. Private braai facilities are provided and wood is for sale at the reserve gate. Kabeljou is the first chalet on the access road to the three chalets.

    Electricity: Solar panels
    Bathroom: Shower (solar geyser)
    Kitchen: Fully equipped, cutlery and crockery
    Bedding, linen and towels: Yes (plus blankets)
    Fireplace: Yes, grill is provided
    Disabled access: No
    Pets welcome: No
    Television: Yes

  • Fish Eagle Loft

    This duplex unit is located on the top floor of Otters Rest Lodge and sleeps two people in single beds. The loft has fabulous sea and river views, and an open-plan kitchen, dining room and lounge leading onto a deck with private braai facilities. The en-suite bathroom, with skylight, has a shower. Private parking is available.

    Electricity: Solar panels
    Bathroom: Shower (solar geyser)
    Kitchen: Fully equipped, cutlery and crockery
    Bedding, linen and towels: Yes
    Fireplace: Yes, braai facilities on deck
    Disabled access: No
    Pets welcome: No
    Television: No (temporarily due to the dish becoming damaged during a storm)

  • Otters Rest Lodge

    Set overlooking the ocean and river, the lodge sleeps four in two rooms with the main bedroom featuring a double bed, and the second bedroom two single beds. An open-plan kitchen, dining room and lounge provides a space to relax and enjoy a crackling fire in the indoor fireplace. The main area opens out onto an expansive deck with braai facilities. Private parking is available.

    Electricity: Yes
    Bathroom: A full bathroom with bath and shower/toilet is shared. There is also an extra toilet for the other bedroom.
    Kitchen: Fully equipped, cutlery and crockery
    Bedding, linen and towels: Yes
    Fireplace: Yes, indoor fireplace and freestanding braai facilities on deck
    Disabled access: No
    Pets welcome: No
    Television: No (temporarily due to the dish becoming damaged during a storm)

  • Mvubu Bush Lodge

    This elevated, wood and thatch self-catering cottage is nestled in milkwood forest, offering spacious accommodation for four guests in two en-suite bedrooms, one with double bed and the other with two singles. The cottage’s expansive decks afford spectacular views of the lake. A double canoe is available for guest use.

    Electricity: Yes
    Bathroom: En-suite with bath, second bathroom with shower, flush toilet
    Kitchen: Fully equipped, cutlery and crockery
    Bedding, linen and towels: Yes
    Fireplace: Yes, a gas Weber is provided (No fires are allowed due to the high fire risk)
    Disabled access: No
    Pets welcome: No

  • Stumpnose Chalet

    Three charming self-catering chalets overlook the lake. Each offers two bedrooms, sleeping four on single beds. One bathroom (shower & toilet) is shared between the two bedrooms. Private braai facilities are provided and wood is for sale at the reserve gate. Stumpnose is situated furthest up the access road to the three chalets.

    Electricity: Solar panels
    Bathroom: Shower (solar geyser)
    Kitchen: Fully equipped, cutlery and crockery
    Bedding, linen and towels: Yes (plus blankets)
    Fireplace: Yes, grill is provided
    Disabled access: No
    Pets welcome: No
    Television: DSTV

Activities

  • Picnicking

    Visitors are welcome to picnic at any of the designated spots.

  • Whale Watching

    Between June and November each year, the southern right whale heads to South Africa’s shores to breed and calve their young. The sight of these majestic creatures lolling in the water never fails to impress.

     

  • Swimming

    Swimming, sailing, fishing and canoeing are just some of the ways to explore the beautiful Groenvlei River, estuary and ocean at the Goukamma Nature Reserve.

  • Horse Riding

    Guided horse riding trips are on offer along the beach. Costs vary depending on the number of horses required.

    Cost: R100 per horse per day plus R60 for guide’s horse (R100 for the second guide). Free entry for first guide and R40 for second guide.

  • Hiking and Walking

    The six hiking trails vary in duration and required fitness levels. Each route has stunning scenery, with many bird-watching opportunities along the way.

    Hiking trails

    A variety of hiking trails are offered in this beautiful reserve ranging from two to six hours. Take plenty of water and a sense of adventure with you!

    Help us protect nature

    No camping or caravanning/no bait collection/no spear fishing/no fires on the beach/no motorbikes.

    Permits

    Permits may be purchased for R40 per adult and R20 per child at the reserve office or through CapeNature Central Reservations.

    Trail preparation

    • Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat.
    • Do not hike alone.
    • Carry enough food and water with you.
    • Make sure you know what the weather conditions are before you depart.
    • Take a warm jacket/raincoat in winter.
    • Make sure you have a relevant map of the area.
    • Take a field medical kit with you for emergencies.
    • Obey all signage.
    • Stay in a group and on the trails.

    Blombos Route

    Trail distance: 15km
    Estimated time: 6 hours

    Popular with birders, the trail is 15km in length, but can be split into two shorter circular routes: the 13.5km Porcupine Trail (four to five hours) and the circular 6.5km Bushpig Trail (two to three hours). Hikers begin their route by crossing a river on a self-hauled ferry, then head off into the Milkwood forest before making their choice to head along the dunes, stay in the forest or traverse the entire reserve. The full Blombos Route should take six hours to complete.

    Galjoen Trail

    Trail distance: 12km
    Estimated time: 4 hours

    Hikers need to consult tide tables before heading off on this seaboard hike to Platbank, as it is inaccessible during spring high tide. Return transport should be arranged before departing or hikers will need to walk back.

    Cape Clawless Otter Trail

    Trail distance: 6.5km
    Estimated time: 2–3 hours

    This hike takes visitors alongside the southern shoreline of Groenvlei Lake. Hikers will pass through indigenous forest of milkwood trees and along the shores of the beautiful lake.

    Buffalo Bay Trail

    Trail distance: 4.2km
    Estimated time: 2 hours

    This is a circular or open-ended trail that passes through the holiday town of Buffalo Bay, into the indigenous forest and along the coastline. With great sea views all along the trail, this is a popular route for whale watching from June to November each year.

  • Kayaking

    Take a relaxing tour of the reserve on a kayak or pedal boat. Visitors can slowly drift down the river or across the lake, taking in the scenery and keeping a sharp eye out for wildlife and birds. Kayaks and pedal boats can be reserved at the main office. Paddles and lifejackets are provided.

    Cost: R30 for single canoe, R50 for double canoe/pedal boat.

  • Angling

    This is a marine protected area so no bait organisms or shellfish can be removed or disturbed. For this reason no ski-boat fishing or spear fishing is allowed. Angling with a rod and line from the shore is permitted.

    Cost: An angling licence is R45.

  • Bird watching

    This is a popular birder’s destination with more than 220 species recorded in the nature reserve. Visitors should keep an eye out for the rare African black oystercatcher and the endangered African penguin. Species commonly spotted include the African fish eagle, African marsh harrier and Knysna loerie. A bird list is available at the office.

Location

Conservation

Goukamma Nature and Marine Reserve Conservation

Goukamma Nature and Marine Reserve was proclaimed a marine protected area in 1990 and it is heralded as one of the country’s conservation success stories.

Goukamma Nature and Marine Reserve was proclaimed a marine protected area in 1990 and it is heralded as one of the country’s conservation success stories. The reserve stretches along 16.5km of the coastline between Buffalo Bay and Platbank, and 2 500 hectares inland. It also extends into the ocean for 1.85km, (for a total area of 32km square) protecting an array of indigenous and endemic animal, bird and fish species.

Goukamma MPA consists of approximately 6 km of sandy shores, 5 km of rocky shores and 4 km of mixed sand and rock. All these habitats are found both on exposed coastline and in protected bays providing a full scope of habitats. The MPA has important inshore and offshore reefs which protect commercially important species such as Red Steenbras (offshore) and the Southern Cape Rock Oyster (inshore). Additional recreationally important species are Galjoen and White Musselcracker. These protected reefs ensure that reef fish have protected breeding areas which re-populate adjacent reefs.

The MPA is a safe haven for marine mammal species such as the resident pod of Indo-pacific Humpback Dolphin, the Bottlenose Dolphin and Southern Right Whale. The coastline serves as an important breeding area for the African Black Oystercatcher and White-fronted Plover.

The Goukamma Estuary, a priority estuary, also forms part of the MPA, which is a temporarily closed rivermouth which supports important species of fish including Spotted Grunter. Buffalo Bay is further a regionally important recreational area which receives a lot of visitors. Recreation in the bay includes snorkelling, kayaking, kite surfing, shoreline fishing, and probably the most popular use, surfing.

The MPA receives vast numbers of local and international visitors each year who marvel at the breath-taking aesthetic beauty and take part in recreational activities whilst unwinding in this prime example of an unspoilt southern Cape coastline.

Goukamma MPA forms part of a network of MPA’s, in the warm temperate Agulhas bioregion, which ensure that critical habitats and species are managed in a sustainable manner.

To see a close up of the MPA’s boundary, click on the image below (a 1mb PDF will open in a new tab)

Goukamma-MPA-Interpretative-Sign-low-res GOUKAMMA MPA

5 Reviews

Knysna elephants: Giants on the Garden Route - Stray Along The Way, May 9, 2017 - Goukamma Nature Reserve

[…] I spent some time exploring the coastline of this western section of the Garden Route. First up was Goukamma Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area – 16.5 km of coastline and 2500 ha of coastal forest and bush as […]

Reply

A pet-friendly road trip through South Africa - Getaway Magazine, Mar 6, 2015 - Goukamma Nature Reserve

[…] boisterous neighbor like Knysna means that Goukamma National Park is often overlooked. During the mid-December madness there is something to be said for the solitude […]

Reply

A treasure!

Lee-Anne Oldacre, Feb 11, 2015 - Goukamma Nature Reserve

We have the privilege of using Goukamma and it's fantastic accommodation as a base for our trips and hikes in the area. Sharing the splendid tranquility of the reserve with our foreign and local tourists is a rewarding experience, each time we sit and watch that magnificent sunset from the well appointed decks at the cottages, we grin as our visitors gasp in admiration at the beauty. Goukamma has so much to offer and we look forward to many more stays at Goukamma. Well done to Cape Nature for looking after this natural treasure and Thank you too, to the amazing friendly staff who round off the experience at Goukamma. Thank you from all at GoTrekking Africa.

Reply

Leisure Wheels – March 2014 – Garden Route NP and Goukamma Nature Reserve | Year in the Wild, Feb 20, 2014 - Goukamma Nature Reserve

[…] montly article for March 2014 in Leisure Wheels focused on Garden Route National Park and Goukamma Nature Reserve. These are two of my favourite spots…the former is much bigger than the latter, but they both […]

Reply

Well done on Goukamma

Jacques de Villiers, Jan 15, 2014 - Goukamma Nature Reserve

I would like to commend CapeNature for the way in which they are managing the Goukamma reserve and the facilities that are made available to visitors. It is always a pleasure to visit the area and the accommodation is top notch. The reserve isn't that big but it works. The biggest section is unspoiled and easily accessible. It feels like you are away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and you are. The staff is well trained and efficient, the reserve is clean and the accommodation done with good taste. Thank you!

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Bookings are processed through our Call Centre during office hours Monday to Friday 07h30 to 16h30 and Saturday 08h00 until 12h00 noon (CAT).

Our friendly tourism booking officers will take you through the booking process and answer all enquiries.