This gem that is the Kogelberg Nature Reserve is a scenic two-hour drive from Cape Town along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline between Gordon’s Bay and Kleinmond – which we missed on the way there, thanks to Google’s directions. Instead I found myself falling in love with the Elgin Valley, before realising I was headed off-course. Google was directing me via a 15 kilometre dirt road with an estimated travel time of 54 minutes, that I was sure I would probably need a 4 x 4 to cope, so I turned back and continued on tar, taking the R44 through Kleinmond.
This visit was our assessment and feedback visit according to Warrior On Wheels Foundation‘s MOU with Cape Nature to provide feedback on how they can make their reserves and accommodation accessible for travellers with disabilities. So while the reserve is not yet 100% accessible in all areas, accommodation is accessible and they are committed to the journey of universal access and improving facilities.
KOGELBERG NATURE RESERVE
The moment my tyres left the tar and touched the gravel of Kogelberg’s service road, it felt I had entered a magical kingdom. The mountain backdrop coloured with fynbos breathes life into a weary roadtripper and I could feel myself shedding stress, deadlines and routine busyness. At this precise moment, my cellphone also shed all signal – and would not regain it until we headed back onto tar the following day. A complete, and utter switch off from the world as we know it, and just being submerged into this wonderland to reconnect with nature and rediscover the essence of our humanness.
The reserve manager, Tania, had phoned me in advance to give me a run-down on what to expect in terms of wheelchair-access and what may be missing. For instance, the toilets do not have grab-rails – but for us specifically, this was not a problem, though it may be for other travellers who are wheelchair-users. The other was to let me know not to park in the visitor parking at reception, as access is up a flight of stairs, but rather to continue up a little farther and park in the staff parking which leads to the reception via a boardwalk. This was valuable information that avoided unnecessary access issues.
We were welcomed, handed our keys and given a rundown on how things work at the reserve. You are given 2 keys on arrival – one which works on all the doors in your cottage, and the other for the main gate if you need to go out of or return to the reserve after 7 pm in the evening. This is something to note as a wheelchair-user, as you need to leave your vehicle to open and close these gates so bear this in mind if you plan on returning after 7pm – if you don’t have someone with you to assist, perhaps rather plan to be back before the gates are locked. The gates are open between 07h30 am and 19h00 so no access issues during the day.
There are 5 eco-cabins, two of which are accessible via boardwalks. We stayed in Iris Cottage and access was easy with the boardwalks, though the braai area has two small steps, so assistance would be needed to access that space. The cabin has a deck with a table with removable benches & chairs, which makes access for a wheelchair-user possible. The cabins are spacious, and with some minor rearranging of furniture, which we gave our feedback on, all areas are accessible. There is a double bedroom, and a twin room. The twin room has clothing rails at accessible height. There are also two bathrooms. In one bathroom, the slatted “wall” next to the toilet can be unlatched and opened to allow more space, but both have space for front and side access, although no grab rails yet. You’d need to bring your own shower seat at this stage, so just bear that in mind. Other than those considerations, which didn’t affect us with our specific access requirements, access was without barriers for us.
While in the current stage, the hiking trails are not wheelchair accessible, I am still able to hike with Damian in a backpack which we do frequently, so it was a definite that we would try one of the trails. There are 5 day trails at Kogelberg Nature Reserve ranging between 6 and 24 kilometres, with a few overnight trails available too. We were prompted to do the Palmiet Trail, which is an easy 10 kilometres taking an estimated 3 hours. It was a scorching day, so we knew we wouldn’t cope with the whole trail, so I checked in at reception and told them where we were headed and that we would be about an hour – just so they knew where and if to come looking for us if necessary. With no cellphone coverage, this is advisable when hiking alone.
Even though there isn’t a trail suitable for a wheelchair-user, don’t feel there isn’t anything for you to do in the area! Just 17 kilometres away is the Harold Porter Botanical Garden and 22 kilometres away is Cape Nature’s Stony Point Penguin Colony – both attractions are accessible for guests using wheelchairs. We visited Harold Porter Botanical Gardens on our first morning, after our hike, and Stony Point on our second morning.
As has become our tradition on our assessment visits, our second evening ends with a braai, and this was no different. It was so serene to sit at dusk, surrounded by nature, with the crackling fire, and last sounds of the birds before they settled in for the night.
HAROLD PORTER BOTANICAL GARDEN
The pathways through the gardens are wheelchair accessible set against a majestic mountain backdrop and abundant plant life, and there is a bridge that crosses over a river, providing even more gorgeous views. This path veers off under a canopy of trees and tapers onto a boardwalk… which leads to a waterfall! As a parent of a child with a physical disability, there are only so many forest walks that can be managed with a child in a backpack, so a forest trail to a waterfall that is wheelchair accessible, is beyond magical! After a tranquil morning roaming the pathways, we enjoyed a light lunch at the Red Disa Restaurant inside the gardens, before heading back to our accommodation.
Entrance Fees: Adult (18-59 years): R22.00, Seniors (60 years plus): R12.00, Student (with valid card): R12.00, Learners: R8.00, Children under 6 years: Free
Operating Hours: Mon-Fri: 08h00-16h30, Weekends & Public Holidays: 08h00-17h00
Contact telephone: +27(0)28 272 9311
Distance from Kogelberg Nature Reserve: 17 kilometres
STONY POINT PENGUIN COLONY
On our last morning, we woke to another sweltering day, so we decided to check-out early to do our Stony Point visit on our way home before it got too unbearably hot. Stony Point has 5 designated disabled parking bays, disabled toilets, a gentle ramp down to the start of the trail, and a boardwalk through the colony – all which make for an easily accessible day outing to experience the penguins in their natural environment. How refreshing the sea-breeze was, we almost forgot the heat wave we had been having. Information boards offer information for parents to satisfy the curious questions from inquiring little minds as they spot penguins and other inhabitants such as the hyrax (or “dassie”), various seagulls and other sea birds.
Entrance Fee: Adults R20, Children R10
Operating hours: 08:00 – 17:00 (last permits issued at 16:30, gates close at 17:00 sharp)
Reserve office phone number: +27 (0) 28 272 9829
Distance from Kogelberg Nature Reserve: 22 kilometres