BUSHBUCK RIDGE AND NATURAL POOL
TIME: 2 hours round trip.
DISTANCE: 3 km.
TERRAIN: Undulating, with a short, steep but safe section.
From the car park at the 70s block follow the route as for the Fern Forest walk. At the stone cairn in the middle of the forest take the right turn uphill. This eventually emerges into protea woodland. Proteas are tough small trees that must live in full sunshine. They can withstand the grass fires that occur every second year because their thick bark insulates the sensitive growing cells beneath. They also need fire because their seeds germinate only when stimulated by smoke. Protea flowers are South Africa’s emblem and are used by sugarbirds and sunbirds.
Bushbuck Ridge is a good place to meet baboons. Two troops of Chacma baboons, each 20-30 strong, live around The Cavern. One troop is based on Bushbuck Ridge, the other on Surprise Ridge. Sometimes they meet and have a great shouting match. Each troop is ruled by one or two large males. Mostly life is peaceful, foraging across the veld, plucking young grass, bulbs and berries, or raiding chestnuts and pecans in The Cavern grounds.
Continue through the proteas and grassland, and take a right fork down towards the Sungubala jeep track. Turn right again here. About 200 metres before the school take a left path through the bushes, down to a narrow flood plain. This is the highest spot in the Berg where acacias occur. These are Acacia sieberiana, typical of plains where silt has been deposited by long-ago floods. This is a likely spot to see two special reptiles. One is the Drakensberg dwarf chamaeleon. Adults are turquoise, juveniles sandy-coloured, but the key feature is their armoured appearance. This species is endemic to the Drakensberg. The other is the legless lizard. At first sight it resembles a thin brown-striped snake, but it cannot glide like a snake, and has the tiniest legs imaginable. It lashes from side to side and is easily cornered. The legs can then (just) be seen.
Be prepared for a swim at the Natural Pool at the end. The rocks are slippery when wet, be careful. Come back along the main road.