Palmiet River Walk after the fire

Posted on 7 May 2019

The Kogelberg Nature Reserve lies within the southern stretch of the Hottentots Holland mountain range, with the beautiful Palmiet River snaking through it.

Rich in fynbos, the reserve, which forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, was affected by the devastating fire that swept through Betty’s Bay and the Overberg in January 2019. We went to explore the Palmiet River Walk some months after the blaze.

Palmiet River Walk, Kogelberg Nature reserve, Betty’s Bay. Image credit: Grace Kirsten

Fortunately, the eco-cabins were not affected but the landscape, though scorched in part, is still beautiful. As we started the walk from the office where you buy your permit, we noticed the mountain to our left is burnt all the way to the top, while across the river the fire didn’t reach as high.

When we’d done this walk before, the trail had begun by going through a lightly forested area with underlying ferns before reaching the banks of the river. The pathway then wound along parallel to the Palmiet, where some fynbos grew and more foliage hugged the waterline.

Palmiet River Walk, Kogelberg Nature reserve, Betty’s Bay. Image credit: Grace Kirsten

Now, there are sections that look like a moonscape, yet the ferns remain and new green shoots inject joy and hope into the blackened scenery as the flora begins to regenerate. As we made our way over the sandy riverine path and rocky sections we found that most of the trail remained intact. Now and again there was a small detour that took us around sections where the fire had burnt a couple of wooden poles at a water crossing over one of the rivulets, but for the most part it remained the same as before.

A troupe of baboons scampered across the base of the mountain across the river from us, easily visible because of the lack of foliage. I was amazing at how quickly they moved – they looked almost like a pack of dogs, tearing across the landscape at a terrific pace. Fortunately, to my relief, they stuck to their side of the river.

The trail is not demanding and is quite suitable for families with younger children. Visitor numbers are also limited daily, so you won’t pass too many hikers on the trail, which gives you a sense of freedom and of having the valley (almost) all to yourself. We walked until we reached the swimming spot known as ‘The Beach’ where the river widens to form a pool alongside a large sandy bank.

Palmiet River Walk, Kogelberg Nature reserve, Betty’s Bay. Image credit: Grace Kirsten

As we arrived, another group of walkers were just leaving and we had the swimming hole all to ourselves. The water is always refreshingly cool and in winter when the river flows more fully you can opt to raft or tube down the river with a guide. You can continue walking past this point, but after a pleasant walk and a swim, we were happy to amble back.

River rafting on the Palmiet River. Image credit: Kian Eriksen

Trail distance: 10 km
Estimated time: 3 hours
Cost: Day walk permits are R50 for adults and R30 for children

Contact, for rafting and tubing contact Gravity Adventures.

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