There aren’t many cities in the world where you can drive a quarter of an hour out of town and be lost in dense woodland, your ears filled with the rushing of streams and birdsong. What’s more there aren’t many places where you could do that for free. Cape Town, of course, is one of those places.
Newlands Forest combines several different ecosystems including Peninsula Granite Fynbos and Peninsula Shale Fynbos both of which are endangered, the latter occurring only within Cape Town. These two ecosystems include beautiful protea and daisy flowers, and because the vegetation is lower in these areas a walk in these parts of the forest offer spectacular views over the Cape Flats.
The rest of the forest is a mixture of Indigenous Afrotemperate Forest and pine and eucalyptus plantations which were established after most of the indigenous wood was felled in the 1800s. In recent years significant efforts have been made to re-establish the indigenous forest over the alien plants. The City Parks Nursery has begun a project to grow and transplant native species of trees and bushes and to check the spread of the pine and eucalyptus trees.
Several streams run through Newlands Forest set into deep ravines and littered with large rocks from the mountain slopes. In summer a dip in one of the many natural pools is a great way to cool down after a stroll through the woods. One of the joys of Newlands Forest is how easy it is to be alone if you strike off a short distance from the main paths so a swim in the river doesn’t have to mean queuing up alongside screaming school children or nervously patting overly friendly dogs. If friendly’s your thing though you’ll be pleased to find that the atmosphere between the joggers, walkers and dreamers in Newlands Forest is very warm, and people will always share a ‘hello’ with passers-by.
The main walk through Newlands Forest is on a firm dirt path and offers no challenges to those of us who prefer a more leisurely stroll, the whole route taking little more than an hour to encircle. The real pleasures of Newlands Forest, however, are to be found on one of the many smaller paths that crisscross the park, or better yet, in creeping through the undergrowth to a nice climbing tree and finding your own secluded spot half way up from which to contemplate the world, or just to escape the city for a while.
The car park for Newlands Forest (which is free of course) is located just off the M3 highway on the right hand side after the university. As you enter the park a signpost gives full information about the park as well as a map of the routes, which I have reproduced here for your information.