If you love independence and your own schedule, this budget Karoo escape is an opportunity to get out into nature and soak up the sights and sounds.
This reserve is super-affordable. We went kloofing, hiking, plant spotting and watched the night sky. Take your own identifying books and enjoy DIY exploring.
On the day we arrive at Anysberg Nature Reserve it’s the supermoon. I’m standing alone on a plain a short drive from our accommodation, surrounded by a serration of Cape Fold mountains like giant triangular blocks of cheese, one stacked next to the other. They’re more impressive here.
I have my back to the rising moon, watching the sunset, and when I turn around, there she is: so big and plump and glowing that I gasp. And she’s so house-next-door that for the first time ever, I feel like moon travel is really just a plane ride away.
Jackals call to each other across the veld, but other than that, the night is still. The fact that I can stand here in this field, at dush, quite safely is one of the selling points of this reserve: there is no dangerous game here. There’s a place for reserves in which people can wander at will and get down on their knees to examine a succulent or a bug without having a buffalo snorting up their butt, says reserve manager Marius Brand (not in those words exactly). It allows great freedom to explore as you wish.
Of course, it is the bush and you still have to be careful – there are many types of buck here, baboons, jackals, caracals, snakes and it’s prime leopard country (although they’re hardly ever seen). But it’s a wonderful place to let yourself go feral. Here are some ideas.
There are two eight-inch Dobsonian telescopes here, and Marius will set them up in various suitable spots depending on the conditions. On the nights we were there, the supermoon was so bright you couldn’t look at it, and so big it overflowed the frame. On darker nights the sky here is pretty clean of light pollution, which means you’ll be able to see and explore the Milky Way. A session costs R65 per person. You can’t book ahead because it’s weather dependent.
Also read: Go stargazing on this easy Karoo road trip.
2. Swim or go kloofingAs you drive into the reserve, you’ll pass a sign saying ‘Prinspoort’. (If coming from the accommodation side, it’s quite a long drive.) There you will find the convergence of two riverbeds, the Prinspoort and the Anysberg. There is wildlife here, so keep a lookout for the baboons.
Mostly, and especially now, the riverbed has but a trickle. But further into the kloof you’ll get more water, and here’s where you can swim. The pools get bigger and longer and deeper as you get further into the mountains (about 45 minutes or more). If you were to follow that route, you’d come out at the Prinspoort Dam. There’s quite a lot of boulder-hopping to be done, but it’s great fun and scenery is impressive. Take drinking water (the water is often more stagnant here), your cozzie, a hat, sunscreen etc and the right shoes. (I found my Adidas Terras provided a better grip than my kloofing shoes.)
3. HikeThere aren’t many formal trails here yet. There is the Land se Kloof, which takes you to the waterfall that is the source of the accommodation’s water. It’s a short and lovely walk through gentle mountain folds.
At present, the reserve doesn’t have the staff for guided walks; however, it is hoped this will be offered in the future. Otherwise, experienced hikers can undertake more strenuous treks and even, if suitably assessed by Marius, an overnight hike. (Please note: this is on a case-by-case basis and is entirely at the discretion of the reserve manager, who will lean in favour of safety and not take risks on a hiker.) Take lots of water; it gets dang hot out there. It gets equally cold, so the right gear is essential. Cell-phone reception? Not so much.
4. ExploreWhen I go back again, I’ll make sure to set a few days aside to do DIY explorations; also a great option for kids who love nature. Take a bundle of identifying nature books, your binocs and a magnifying glass, and spend a day hunting for and examining plants of the area, the creepy crawlies, and spotting birds (there are about 180 species here).
You can hire bicycles (R30 half day, R50 full day) from the office, and if you’re staying for a few days, it’s advisable to do so because this reserve is pretty big. There are no single tracks as yet, but it’s expected there will be sometime next year; CapeNature is busy considering this for all its reserves. For the moment, Marius – himself a keen cyclist – recommends the circular Tapfontein route along jeep tracks fitter and more experienced cyclists; it’s 24 kilometres. For the less experienced, there are loads of other jeep tracks across the reserve. The office will give solid advice.
Plan your trip to Anysberg Nature Reserve
Anysberg is just north of Sanbona, but is accessed from Ladismith (142km from Montagu on the R62) or from Laingsburg o the N1. The gate is 50km from either town. A high-clearance vehicle is needed.
Cottages. There are five of these of varying size, spaced fairly close together. They have wood stoves so in winter they’re quite cosy. If you’re a couple, the two single cottages are nicest. Not all have their own bathroom; however, the communal showers are good. All have braai facilities, and the cottages run on solar power and gas. From R680 a night for Seps (sleeps two).
Camping. There are five sites (maximum six people each), really nicely set out, allowing some privacy. All have their own braai spot, plus they share a kitchen. R120 a night per site.
Tapfontein. This bushcamp has four Wendy houses with verandas, set up on a hill, and is charming but very basic. There’s no electricity and the bathroom is communal (but it does have hot water and solar lights). It can only be reached by 4X4, hiking or bicycle. R300 per person (sleeps two each).There is a daily conservation fee of R40 per person for all overnight guests.
This epic road trip first appeared in the September Getaway issue.
Our September issue features 11 amazing beach cottages, two ways to see the Klein Karoo, a windswept 4X4 drive in Namibia, our guide to swimming in Greece and much more!