The Cavern is a Site of Conservation Significance, an honour given to only those few sites in South Africa that qualify by virtue of outstanding natural features. The Cavern Nature Trail has been constructed to present most of these to visitors. It begins near the 70s block and follows well-used paths that link points of particular interest. Thirty information boards have been placed along the trail, illustrating each feature, and telling the story about them.
The adventure begins beneath probably the biggest acacias in the Berg. From here there is a good view of Fern Forest which owes its existence to climate changes within the last million years. Above it can be seen the sandstone and basalt layers that make up the higher Berg. These date back to the break-up of Gondwana.
Once inside the forest look for endemic – found only in South Africa – birds such as the Chorister Robin-chat, Cape White-eye and Bush Blackcap. In shady places in the undergrowth are plants now famous as house plants throughout the world – Impatiens, Begonia and Streptocarpus. Above them tower forest giants – Cape Ash, the rare Coffee Pear, and the biggest Cabbage Tree in Africa. Once there were big Yellow-woods too, nineteenth century saw-pits mark the spots where they were felled. Along the path are traces – footprints and droppings – of elusive or nocturnal animals, Porcupine, Caracal, Serval and our resident Leopard.
Once out of the forest meet a whole new world. Mountain grassland is famous for its diversity of spring flowers, most of which bloom shortly after a fire. Among them are Proteas, South Africa’s signature plants. Sunbirds and sugarbirds attend their flowers. Soaring high overhead might be the endemic Cape Vulture, or even the legendary Bearded Vulture – famous for its habit of dropping bones onto a favourite rock. Herds of Eland pass through, or on a steep hillside a family group of Mountain Reedbuck might be seen. Rival groups of Chacma Baboons bark at each other.
Along the stream look for three special birds that are found only where there is clean flowing water, the Black Duck, Mountain Wagtail and Half-collared Kingfisher. Crunched up crab remains reveal the presence of the Cape Clawless Otter and Water Mongoose.
Allow two hours to make the most of this trail.