Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, which includes the smaller Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve, lies near the town of Stellenbosch in the south-western Cape. The reserve comprises the imposing Jonkershoek mountains and portions of the upper Jonkershoek valley. The lower reaches of the valley are a well-known wineproducing area.
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve is 9 800 ha in extent and functions as a mountain catchment area, providing water for Stellenbosch and surrounds. Its rugged terrain is ideal for hiking, while Assegaaibosch, at 204 ha, is much smaller and is suitable for shorter walks and picnics.
Visitors may choose to explore one or both reserves on a single occasion, as they are in easy reach of each other. The reserves are approximately 9 km from Stellenbosch, and may be reached by following the Jonkershoek valley road.
A circular motor route of 10 km leads around the valley floor. Five hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty and length start from the motor route and lead up the mountain slopes.
The natural vegetation of the Jonkershoek area is mainly mountain fynbos. More than 1 100 plant species are known to occur, of which a number are rare and/or endemic to the area. Distinctive species are Protea repens, Pneriifolia, mountain cypress, as well as various ericas and restios. Several relic forest communities occur in narrow, moist kloofs where they are relatively sheltered from fire.
Large pine plantations are a distinctive feature of the valley and occur on property neighbouring the nature reserves. The reserves' management programmes include control of hakea and other invasive alien plants which threaten the fynbos.
Large raptors such as black eagle, the occasional fish eagle and spotted eagle owl occur, while kingfishers and typical fynbos birds - the sugarbird, orangebreasted sunbird and protea seed-eater - are abundant. On warm days rock agama lizards can be seen basking on rocks. Berg adder, puff adder, boomslang and Cape cobra are fairly common and hikers should be alert!
Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve
This small reserve comprises a wild-flower garden and a natural area on the mountain slopes. The garden is no longer cultivated, but still hosts a wide variety of fynbos species. The vegetation on the surroundjng slopes is mountain fynbos.
The reserve has two hiking routes: a short 3 km walk and a longer 5,5 km trail. Visitors are also welcome to wonder through the garden. Parking, picnic and braai area, and toilet facilities are provided. It is an easy walk to the conservation station over the road, where a fresh-water aquarium and information display may be viewed during office hours.