Clarens & Golden Gate Highlands NP
Quaint and picturesquely situated, Clarens has made a name for itself as an artists’ haven, a gastronomic stronghold, and a popular weekend getaway for Johannesburgers.
Clarens is also the gateway to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, whose 11600-hectare area in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains forms the border with Lesotho. Since the incorporation of the QwaQwa Conservation Area on the site of the former homeland of the same name, the national park area has more than doubled its size to 34000 hectares.
The national park draws its fascination from the bizarre sandstone cliffs that rise from the grassy and almost treeless landscape and glow golden at dusk.
This typical highland habitat is home to mammal species such as wildebeest, eland, the endemic blesbok, oribi, springbok plains zebra. Rare bird species in the park include the bearded vulture (lammergeier) and the northern bald ibis (waldrapp), which find protected nesting sites in the rocky niches and overhangs of the sandstone cliffs.
Places of interest in the park include the idyllic family cemetery of the van Reenen family dating back to the times of the Orange Free State, the Basotho Cultural Village as a museum village dedicated to Basotho culture in the northeast of the national park, as well as the rock paintings of the Khoi San, who are considered the first inhabitants of the area, which can be found in several places under rock cliffs.
Among the viewpoints in the park, the rock pillar of the Brandwag Buttress is the most prominent. It can be reached in a short hike beginning and ending at Glen Reenen Restcamp.
The imposing Cathedral Cave is one of several caves that have formed in the soft sandstone over the millennia.
A special highlight for most visitors is the so-called Vulture Restaurant. Carcasses of wild animals are laid out here on a ridge to provide an additional food source for the park’s endangered vultures and offer a spectacle to observers. Getting to the ” Vulture Restaurant” is part of the so-called “Oribi Loop”, where you can park your car and follow a narrow path over the mountains to a hide, where you can watch the birds unseen.