The self-catering cabins in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, set in the rugged Hottentots Holland Mountains in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, are popular for their spectacular location in unspoiled nature and great views.
The Mbali collection consists of eight glass-fronted cabins – five two-sleeper cabins and three six-sleepers. Two of the six highly popular Oudebosch eco-cabins (also glass-fronted) are wheelchair-friendly. Five of them sleep four people each. The sixth is the well-appointed Palmiet Honeymoon Suite, often booked months in advance.
If you’re looking for total peace and quiet, consider the Anysberg Nature Reserve in the Klein Karoo (there’s no cellphone reception on the reserve, but Wi-Fi is available at the office complex and cottages.) The four wendy houses (each sleeping two people) at Tapfontein are only accessible via 4x4, bicycle or hiking. There are also five other cottages available in the reserve, sleeping from two to six, all with solar-powered geysers, gas and outdoor braais.
Famous Algeria in the Cederberg Wilderness Area offers seven modern, well-appointed, two-bedroom cottages: Waterfall, Wolfberg Arch, Maltese Cross, Cedar, Klipspringer, Grey Rhebok and Garskraal. The eighth, Rietdak, is a charming stone cottage, with one double bedroom.
Also in the Cederberg is Kliphuis, situated on the flower route to the Biedouw valley and Wupperthal, with three refurbished chalets – Rhino Boulder, Cedar Rouge and Leopard Cave – against the backdrop of the Rocklands bouldering site. Each chalet has three bedrooms, sleeping between six and eight.
There are also five cottages with solar lights, and a gas geyser, fridge and stove, at the Bosherberge, about 4km east from Algeria at the base of Uitkyk pass. The cottages are named Uitkyk, Waenhuis, Prik se Werf, Sas se Werf and Peerboom.
The Goukamma Nature Reserve and marine protected area on the Garden Route between Sedgefield and Knysna offers a number of self-catering accommodation options, including three charming self-catering chalets – Kabeljou, Blacktail and Stumpnose Chalet – with solar power overlook the river. Each has two bedrooms.
Otters Rest Lodge overlooks the ocean and river, sleeping four in two rooms; and Fish Eagle Loft is a duplex unit on its top floor, sleeping two and boasting fantastic sea and river views. Mvubu Bush Lodge is an elevated, wood-and-thatch self-catering cottage in milkwood forest, sleeping four.
Opened in 2016, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve in the Langeberg has 11 family/hiker cabins set on a ridge, with forest on either side. The cabins are arranged in two rows, with the top row having extensive valley views and the bottom row looking out on to indigenous forest. The site used to accommodate forestry staff, and the cabins were built using reclaimed materials where possible, with a low impact on the area.
Another option here is Scolopia, a wooden house that sleeps six guests in two bedrooms and on a double sleeper couch in the lounge. It is set on the edge of indigenous forest, near the start of a day hike.
Hidden away in the mountains between Swellendam, Ashton, Barrydale and Suurbraak lies Marloth Nature Reserve. Choose between Suikerbekkie cottage, housing a maximum of four people in two bedrooms, or the fully equipped, three-bedroom Bushbuck Cottage, sleeping six.
The Swartberg Nature Reserve, a World Heritage Site, includes the settlement of Gamkaskloof, a cultural heritage site also known as Die Hel. Swartberg Nature Reserve lies in the district of Oudtshoorn, between the Great and Little Karoo.
The reserve offers a wide range of accommodation, including the Andries Marais House (sleeping five in four bedrooms); the Willem Marais Cottage (sleeping two); the wheelchair-friendly Stappies Cordier House (sleeping two); the Marais Cordier Cottage (sleeping up to six); and the Bush Shelter, rustic accommodation with dormitory-style sleeping quarters that houses up to 12 people.
Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve in the Breede River valley lies about 15km south of Robertson on the road to McGregor. If you’re a big group, you’re spoilt for accommodation choices here. Newly renovated Ichelesi, Luiperd and Rooikat cottages, as well as Bakoorvos and Silwervos, all accommodate up to eight people each.
Anysberg Nature Reserve
Anysberg Nature Reserve is located in the semi-arid Klein Karoo, between the towns of Ladismith, Laingsburg, Touwsrivier and Montagu. The reserve, officially proclaimed in 1990, encompasses 79 629 hectares of plains and the majestic Cape Fold Mountains, with deep valleys and steep gorges.
Cederberg Wilderness Area
The Cederberg was proclaimed as a Wilderness in 1973. The 66811 ha of mountainous terrain is located in the Cape Floral Region only three hours outside Cape Town, but it feels like a different world.
Goukamma Nature Reserve
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.
Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve
Originally known as Melkhoutskraal, the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve encompasses 250 hectares of indigenous forest in the Langeberg region, close to Heidelberg. It has only been a reserve since 1986 and was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004.
Kogelberg Nature Reserve
Considered by many to be the most beautiful of CapeNature’s protected areas, Kogelberg Nature Reserve earns that reputation largely to the fact that it occupies an area with minimal human interference. Its exceptional diversity and quality of fynbos means it is considered the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom. The reserve presents perhaps the finest example of mountain fynbos in the Western Cape and is a world-renowned World Heritage Site.
Marloth Nature Reserve
Marloth Nature Reserve is hidden away in the imposing Swellendam Mountains, between Swellendam, Ashton, Barrydale and Suurbraak. The peaceful reserve, which is 14 123 hectares in size, is managed together with 16 532 hectares of privately owned land, and is a World Heritage Site.
Swartberg Nature Reserve (Gamkaskloof - Die Hel)
Swartberg Nature Reserve lies between the Great Karoo and Klein Karoo, forming a narrow but long stretch of 121 000ha. The reserve was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004 and is bordered by Gamkapoort Nature Reserve immediately to the north (8 000ha) and Towerkop Nature Reserve immediately to the west (51 000ha).
Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve
Vrolijkheid is a striking, rugged nature reserve in the Breede River valley, about 15km south of Robertson on the road to McGregor. The rocky landscape is starkly beautiful, dominated by patches of succulents, dwarf trees and shrubs.