Groendal is situated 12km from Uitenhage. GPS coordinate: -33.6905, 25.2695
The remote and unspoilt 30 000-hectare Groendal Wilderness Area lies at the eastern extremity of the Winterhoek Mountains, about 40 kilometres northwest of Port Elizabeth.
It protects the water-catchment area of the KwaZungha River, with the Groendal Dam at its centre. Lying within the Groot Winterhoek mountain range, this wilderness area has rugged terrain cut through by numerous streams and ravines. Strydomsberg is the highest peak in the reserve, at 1 180 metres. The lowest point in the reserve (107 metres) is at the boundary along the Elands River.
The reserve is the third-largest proclaimed wilderness in South Africa. Historically, it was a refuge for the Khoi-San people. Evidence of their presence in the area is well documented in the paintings on the walls of caves and shelters in the area. Note that all paintings, archaeological artefacts and archaeological sites are protected by law.
The reserve’s terrain is rugged and mountainous, with a multitude of deep kloofs, flowing streams and clear pools. The vegetation is predominantly fynbos, with great adiversity of individual species. In fact, more than 2 000 species have been recorded so far.
The variety of wildlife protected by the wilderness area includes bushbuck, duiker, grey rhebuck, mountain reedbuck, grysbok, bushpig, vervet monkey and leopard. Bird life within the Groendal Wilderness Area is fairly diverse, with about 180 species having been recorded.
The reserve has a number of marked and unmarked hiking trails. The Blindekloof Trail is a relatively easy 16-kilometre day trail. It starts from the office parking area, leads through succulent thicket and riverine forest and follows the Blindekloof Stream to Crystal Cavern Pool. Hikers return along the same route. There is also a short, clearly marked circular trail route about four kilometres long, which is popular with visitors to the Rooikrantz picnic area.
The unmarked wilderness trails require good map-reading skills. Upper Blindekloof is a 32- kilometre hike. From the parking area, it leads uphill for the first 16 kilometres before descending steeply to Blindekloof Stream. The route involves many compulsory swims.
The Dam Trail is a strenuous 34-kilometre trail, while the Emerald Pool Trail is another strenuous 32–kilometre hike. Permits and maps for hiking and overnight camping are available from the office.
+27 41 991 9912, +27 41 991 9913 www.nmbt.co.za