The Oudebosch Leopards Gorge hike is a day hike in the Kogelberg Nature reserve. Departure is from the conservation office close to the Oudebosch cabins, where one picks up a permit at R40 per person. The Oudebosch Leopards Gorge hike requires leaving a vehicle at Harold Porter Botanical gardens organizing a lift back to your vehicle at the Oudebosch office at the trail start. If you would like to walk to the waterfall once you reach Harold Porter its necessary to pick up a key to the gate from the office at Harold Porter Botanical Gardens.https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/harold-porter/harold-porter-nbg-visitor-information Harold Porter Botanical Gardens only open at 08:00 which shatters any illusions you may for an early start. Once you’ve organised a key, left your vehicle at the parking and traveled to the Kogelberg Oudebosch office the “early” start would be 09:00. One of the pleasant attributes of the Oudebosch-Leopards gorge hike is that there is shade n the afromantane forest if you are hiking in summer.
It is an easy to moderate 7 km hike ascending through the Oudebosch Afromontane forest, a little pocket of preserved forest that has survived the Fynbos fires for hundreds of years. The tall dense forest canopy of Yellowood, Boekenhout, Silky Bark and Rooiels restricts the sunlight reaching the ground. This therefore limits the plant growth on the forest floor to evergreen ferns, and geophytes – thus reducing the fuel load which of course increases the forests survival during fires. Fynbos is the dominant vegetation type within the Kogelberg and is a “fire-driven” biome.
The Oudebosch-Leopards Gorge hike rises 400m from the Palmiet River valley to glorious views of Betty’s Bay. When the forest is exited its important to take the left fork of the signposted track to Harold Porter. The fynbos on the mountain is spectacular and we usually stop for a tea break at the top of the waterfall to admire the view. From there the trail skirts cliffs with great views of the folding Elephant Rock Mountain and descends steeply along a zig- zag path into Harold Porter. Once there you keep to the left path that takes hikers to the Leopards Gorge waterfall.
Afromontane forests in the area are limited to small ravines, usually with tannin stained streams and moss covered fallen logs and boulders. These ravines are protected from the “Cape of Storms” winds and therefore the possibility of devastating fires. The 3 pockets of relic indigenous Afromontane forest in Platbos, Louwsbos & Oudebosch . These, together with the magnificent Leopards Gorge provide a “snap-shot” of the coastal forests that were prolific along the South African coast before the devastation form serious logging. Similar to the Knysna forests, they include yellow wood, stink wood and boekenhout trees.
The Palmiet River and its associated vegetation is the most pristine in the south-western Cape. Wild almond, rooi-els, yellow wood and cape beech are among the trees occurring in the riverine scrub. Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage site and now boasts stunning eco cottages that can be hired for overnight trails.