Teams will trek, kayak and cycle through extremely remote areas and venture where few humans have ever set foot before. From the mountains to the sea, the journey the destination.
The Eastern Cape is fondly known as the Adventure Province, and includes the Baviaans, Kouga, Tsitsikamma, Addo, Sunshine Coast, Karoo, Great Frontier and Wild Coast, and the highlight of the 2017 route of Expedition Africa will be the Baviaans.
The Baviaans, home to the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and biggest wilderness area in Southern Africa is the highlight of this year’s 500km route. The 225 000 ha mega-reserve boasts unspoiled, rugged mountainous terrain with spectacular landscapes.
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The road through the Baviaanskloof road stretches from Patensie in the east to Willowmore in the west (197km) and nature lovers taking the untarred road find an almost pristine wilderness. The road itself is spectacular but very rough in parts. The seasonal rain can sometimes cause wash-aways and it is ultimate 4×4 territory.
The Baviaanskloof is a 75km long valley of varying width and depth that lies between the parallel east-west running Baviaanskloof and Kouga mountains. it is the third largest conservation area in the country, characterized by remarkable scenery, owning to the high geological, topographic and climatic diversity. Plant life is prolific and diverse with proteas, pre-historic cycads, giant Outeniqua yellowwoods and at least 70 succulent species growing in the Kloof. It is part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom.
An estimated 2500 plant species, including 20 endemic species, represents about 10% of all the plants in South Africa. It further boasts 33 endemic reptile species and 9 amphibians endemic to south Africa. More than a third op all south African bird species are found here. It boasts 7 of South Africa’s 9 vegetation biomes, it is an ecological treasure.
Cape Mountain zebra, black rhinoceros, red hartebeest, buffalo and eland have since been re-introduced in addition to existing bush pig, klipspringer, grysbok, grey rhebok, bushbuck, mountain reedbuck and duiker. The low-lying valley slopes and bottoms are a haven for bush loving species like kudu, bush buck, common duiker and Cape grysbok. Buffalo tend to lie up in thick ravine bush during the day and move up into the densely vegetated slopes at night to feed.
The high-lying grassy plateaus and fynbos covered mountains are home to the red hartbeest, Cape mountain zebra, mountain reed buck, grey rhebuck and klipspringer. The eland are the great wanderers, moving over vast distances and utilizing a variety of habitats.
Caracal and leopard are the main predators in the area. Although caracal may occasionally be seen, the sighting of a leopard is still a very rare and noteworthy event (recent evidence suggests that their numbers are increasing).
Cape clawless otter, bushpig, aardwolf, aardvark and a host of other smaller mammals are still reasonably common despite being seldom seen.
The most ubiquitous species must certainly be Chacma baboons. They seem to have been just as plentiful, if not more so, in earlier times. The Dutch word for baboon, “baviaan”, gave the area its name.
Baboons are reported to live for about 45 years. They are quite vocal animals as they roam around in search of food and “bark” alarms when they see a potential threat.
South of the Baviaanskloof Mountains lies the Kouga, the eastern gateway to the Garden Route. It includes a 600 km shoreline, known as the Coastal Cradle of Mankind between the Tsitsikamma in the west and the Van Stadens River in the east. It includes the towns of Jeffreys Bay (famous for its perfect surfing waves), St Francis Bay, Cape St Francis and Oyster Bay. It is a major international, national and regional tourism attraction.
The Gamtoos River Valley is the eastern gateway to the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Reserve, and is characterised by wide, fertile flood plains associated with low-lying land and steep less-fertile slopes. The towns of Hankey and Patensie, Loerie and Thornhill are focal points of this high-potential agricultural region.
The climate of the area is subtropical, which makes it conducive to a range of outdoor activities. Rainfall varies between 650 mm per year (St Francis Bay area) to 400 mm (Gamtoos River Valley).