20 things to do in Nature’s Valley
1. Swim with Sharks in the gully
Nature’s Valley’s gully is home to some wonderful shark species. The sharks that are shown below are most likely spotted gully sharks (also known as Sharptooth Houndshark). They are mostly nocturnal species but may gather in large groups in shallow waters during summer, probably for reproductive purposes. This species is often caught by beach, and rock & surf anglers and without a doubt is one of the more beautiful shark species in the area. Spotted gully sharks are common along the Western Cape coastline. They prey on crabs, lobsters, small fishes and often also other sharks on inshore sandy beaches, in kelp forests and rocky reefs.
2. Sunbathe in winter
Nature’s Valley is a nice pleasant place to be at any time of the year! During the winter months there are still many sunny, warm days (temperatures around 18˚C) to choose from. On warm winter days, you can sometimes be one of the only people on the beach – where else in the world can you find this solitude?
3. Spot a dolphin from the point
After a short but beautiful hike you will end up at ‘the point’. With a bit of patience and a lot of luck you might spot a dolphin from up here!
4. See an otter at Salt River
You can hike some beautiful trails in Nature’s Valley, but the Salt River hike is definitely one to put on your to do list! During this hike, you’ll see some fantastic scenic views wrapped in forest, fynbos and coastal settings. Also remember to look down and spot some bush pig, bush buck and maybe even leopard and genet tracks, look around the corner for the cape clawless otter and look up to see lots of amazing birds.
5. Catch a fish in the estuary
Nature’s Valley’s estuary is a perfect place to take your kids fishing! It is beautiful and safe, without the vigour of the ocean waves. During NVT’s Summer and Easter holiday programmes we host fishing competitions on the estuary. All you need is your valid fishing and bait permits, (attainable from the local post office) to join us for a morning of responsible fishing. This event is very attractive and exciting to the young and old and a lovely family activity. Join us in our education on responsible fishing and consider releasing your catch, especially if under-sized or if you’ve reached your bag limit (visit the NVT offices for more information on these topics). Let’s make sure our kids can enjoy the pleasures of today, tomorrow!
6. Paddle to the Bridge
The quiet and serene Valley is one of the most tranquil places to canoe in the Garden Route area. Hire a canoe at the Nature’s Valley Rest Camp (De Vasselot Camp Site) and enjoy these peaceful waters with great birding opportunities on the Groot River and Estuary. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the secretive African Finfoot or the majestic Narina Trogon.
7. Spy a Narina Trogon in the forest
This is a beautiful medium-sized, green colored bird of the Trogonidae family. It is definitely one of the most gorgeous birds to spot in South Africa. It nests in tree hollows and eats mainly insects and other small invertebrates. The best time to spot the Narina Trogon in the Valley is from October – February. The best place to see them, in the Afromontane forest surrounding Nature’s Valley, on the boardwalk section of the Groot River Trail, and the path down to the pump house.
8. Live alongside Baboons, monkeys, bush bucks and bush pigs
Chacma Baboons, Vervet monkeys, bush bucks and bush pigs are the commonly seen permanent residents of the Valley. Please, do not feed the animals: they are cute and inquisitive but still wild animals, that should be respected, and can be very aggressive. When you feed them, they learn to associate your property with easy, free food, which will cause problems in the long run.
Baboons and monkeys are often perceived as problem animals but as long as you are vigilant closing doors and windows where needed (that is to say when a room is vacant – close it to the outside) you and your family are safe to co-exist with these very smart primates.
9. Enjoy a coffee at the Farm Stall
This is the best place for homemade ice cream, yoghurt, milk, cream and delicious cheeses. The perfect spot for a delectable lunch or a nice relaxed cup of coffee. The Nature’s Way Farmstall is also extremely kid-friendly (we're not talking about the baby goats, although they are waiting for you up there) and has a farmhouse feel to it with calves and a very rotund pig grazing the lawn, and as mentioned a few goats playing in the backyard. There are also a few lazy cats sleeping in baskets in the shop, an exciting find for any toddler and lets not forget the chickens clucking about right below the steps. They are open throughout the year only closing their doors on Christmas Day, New Years Day and Easter Sunday, that gives you 362 to choose from to enjoy the most delicious carrot cake you have every tasted!!
10. Get goosebumps from the amazing call of the African Fish Eagle.
The call of this beautiful raptor is regularly referred to as ‘the Voice of Africa’. Although you have a fair chance of hearing its call all year round, you have a better chance hearing it in summer!
11. Bird ringing with the NVT staff
Bird-ringing is a perfect example of how Nature’s Valley Trust (NVT) combines research and education to reach the public. This is a great opportunity to join the team and see what we do…come get hands-on and experience the fluffy fynbos feathered friends up-close. Learn about this fantastic, unique habitat, its wonderful plethora of birds and why it needs to be conserved.
12. Identify an orchid in the forest
The Orchidaceae are a varied and widespread family of flowering plants, with blooms that are oftentimes beautiful coloured and aromatic. In summer, many different orchids flower in the Valley. Below you can see the beautiful orchids the Valley has to offer.
13. Participate in the triathlon
During the December holiday, NVT hosts the Triathlon as a fun event for the whole family. Through this exciting event NVT raises much needed funds for their important conservation work. This is easily the biggest event on the Valley calendar each year- one for the whole family, where the hard-core competitive edge is set aside for pure family fun and enjoyment.
14. Hike Kalanderkloof
The Kalanderloof Hiking Trail covers an area of 4.8 kilometres, starting in the forest opposite the entrance to the De Vasselot Campe Site. A few 100 meters along the trail the road forks, here you can choose a relatively easy and spectacular walk along a river with amazing forest scenes and towering Yellow woods of 100s of years - oh the stories they could tell! – or you will choose a steep walk up the side of the mountain starting in beautiful forest and leading to steps through Fynbos. The road then converges on the plateau of the mountain in the thick of the fynbos. Enjoy amazing views of the estuary and Valley from the top before heading back down for a well-deserved rest. This hiking trail is easily mastered and can be extended to include the Salt River trail for those Adrenalin junkies that would crave a bit more.
15. Finish the Otter Trail
After five days of walking it is here in Nature’s Valley where your Otter Trail certificate plus a nice cold beer at the Nature’s Valley Restaurant awaits! Make sure you book well in advance; this famous trail sometimes has a waiting list up to a yearlong!
16. Cycle the Groot River Pass
You can cycle up and down the Grootrivier Pass (R102). This pass is an everlasting favorite and a joy to ride, amongst the indigenous forests of the Tsitsikamma. With its steep, winding meander through a low traffic area, it is definitely a must on most cyclists’ lists…
17. Enjoy a Sunset at the beach
What a lovely way to end your day! Sunsets in Nature’s are awe-inspiring and so much fun when enjoyed with friends. Take a picnic basket (unfortunately alcohol is not permitted, as on all Bitou managed beaches), relax and enoy. But remember, the dune vegetation is out of bounds and protected as it is ecologically very important and sensitive; it houses or provides passages for the lovely wildlife we enjoy in and around Nature’s Valley.
Some extra Christmas activities in December:
18. Sing at the Christmas Carol Service
Another firm favorite among the locals, is the annual gathering on the Syndicate lawn where families spend some time singing and reflecting what they are grateful for– overlooking the magnificent Groot Estuary.
19. Witness Father Xmas boating
What a treat for the kids! Where else can Santa arrive across the lagoon on a boat to deliver presents to your kids? If you are in the valley over this time of year, pop in to the NVRA office for more details – the stuff kids’ memories are made of!
20. Buy a Koeksister at the Church Bazaar
The koeksister is a traditional South African confectionery made of fried dough infused with syrup. For a taste of this delight, the annual Church Bazaar is a definite MUST! This is where you get to see the Nature’s Valley community come together to raise funds for the Church, sample the best home-made goodies on the planet, and catch up with old friends from days gone by.