Venturing further afield: The two waterfall route at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve

A couple of weekends ago, we joined our friends L and V and Little N for a hike at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve outside Stellenbosch. Not having been there before, we were curious to see whether our friends’ enthusiastic accounts of the splendours of hiking in those mountains were true.

Indeed they were!

This reserve encompasses both the Jonkershoek Reserve (14,527 ha in extent) and the smaller Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve (204 ha). These mountains act as a catchment area for several rivers, which provide Stellenbosch and its neighbouring areas with water. Summers are warm to very hot, with the south-easter winds being quite common during those months (fuelling the risk of fire), while winters can be very cold, with gale-force north-westerlies bringing rain, and even snow on the higher peaks. The predominant natural vegetation is mountain fynbos, with more than 1100 plant species, some of which are rare and/or endemic to the area. In the kloofs, which tend to be sheltered from devastating fires, there are even remains of old forests.

A number of hiking trails are available, ranging in length and difficulty. The Tweede Waterval (Second Waterfall) Route (8 km) is described as

“a scenic and easy out-and-back option with the Eerste River in sight for most of the route. The ascent to the gorge is fairly steep; the dangerous ascent to the waterfall is closed to hikers.”

This is the route we decided to tackle on our first visit. It was quite wonderful, even though I’ll confess that the final ascent up the steep steps leading to a delightful shady picnic area at the foot of the waterfall was rather tiring – both on the way up, and on the way down.

This is truly magnificent scenery

On our way up, we came across two women hikers by the wayside; one of them had badly twisted her ankle, which had swollen to almost double its normal size. They were awaiting the return of their hiking companions, two men with children, who had decided to continue onwards to the waterfall – and even further up the gorge, boulder-hopping in the river, which struck us as quite dangerous. They came down while we were having our picnic by the waterfall, and one of the young girls slipped and landed in the water. Luckily, she was not hurt, but it could have turned out quite differently.

These two incidents were a sobering reminder that one needs to be responsible when hiking, particularly in such rugged terrain. And that it really is essential to carry a first aid kit – not only for oneself or one’s companions, but also potentially for other hikers. Slipping and twisting an ankle, being stung by bees or bitten by a cape cobra or a puffadder, or even getting caught out by rapidly worsening weather, are always possibilities for which one needs to be prepared.

It also drove home the point that we are only guests in Mother Nature’s domain, and that we are privileged to visit such vast and awe-inspiring mountain wildernesses.

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18 thoughts on “Venturing further afield: The two waterfall route at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve

  1. Pingback: Ceunant Mawr Waterfall « Mike Hardisty Photography

  2. I always love seeing and hearing about your adventures Reggie.

    You are right about the dangers of hiking and how some ignore them–we had 3 young people in the States recently fall to their death at a popular national park after they climbed on top of a fence overlooking a waterfall.

    • Glad you enjoyed reading it, Slamdunk. When one hikes fairly often without having any mishaps or accidents, one does tend to become a bit complacent about the potential risks. But the joy and wonder of being in these beautiful landscapes has such a healing effect, don’t you think?

    • Thank you, Katharine. I popped on over to your blog at, and what a beautiful, serene place it is. And from there I followed your link to your friend Robin’s freshly pressed post (A visit from the green man, and found another like-minded individual who appreciates nature…

      It reminds me of something two fellow South African blogfriends wrote about (Clouded Marbles and Notes from Africa); they spoke of ‘gathering your own tribe’ (post and post), referring to the gradual, fluid creation of a community of writers, bloggers, artists, creative folk who share a similar outlook. It seems to lie at the core of this compulsion to blog about one’s life and one’s space in the world.

      Anyway, thank you for leaving a comment! πŸ™‚

    • You’re welcome, Truels, and repeat away! πŸ˜‰

      Glad you’re enjoying the virtual trip to sunny South Africa – well, um… I’d better rephrase that – RAINY Cape Town at the moment, and SNOW- and ICE-COVERED rest of the country…. which is quite unusual…

    • Brrrr, that sounds totally soggy and squelchy. Denmark is very close to sea-level, isn’t it? Does that mean you tend to have a lot of flooding of rivers when it rains hard?

      In general, South Africans are just not equipped for snow, and don’t know how to drive on icy roads or in snow. So when we do get such weather, entire stretches of important national roads and mountain passes can close down… resulting in gridlock chaos. Have a look:
      SA on snow go-slow, Snow blankets SA; it even made the international news – Snow blankets parts of SA.

  3. We enjoy every moment of sunshine in between the rainy days!
    If you look at my links “Sky mountain” and “Danish “mountains”” (!) you will se, that you are right: Our highest spots are VERY low. I live not far from those higest places here now. Whae I was born, I lived BELOW the sea in Ribe (oldest town in Denmark – 1300 years! (I have a link about Ribe too in my sidebar)
    And yes, we have many floodings of our lowest places when the rain is heavy……

  4. It is always a good reminder that we must use caution while hiking; it is easy to get distracted. Sorry to hear about the hurt hiker. Your pics are, as always, lovely.

    • You’re welcome, Helen. We’d never been there before either, but it is definitely worth further exploration. The other hikes there look quite strenuous and challenging though. A lot of uphill and downhill.

  5. I used to work and live in Jonkershoek when the CSIR Forestry Research Centre was still there! This post brought back fond memories. πŸ™‚

    The emergency services and mountain rescue teams used to do an annual rescue exercise along the Tweede Waterval route.

    I see you have written a lot of interesting looking posts lately, so I’ve got lots of catching up to do.

    • Hello Lisa – welcome back from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – it looks like you had a wonderful time there. I’m glad you liked the post – we hope to get another chance to explore the Jonkershoek area, as it is very scenic indeed, and quite different to the places where we normally hike, such as Newlands Forest and Silvermine.

  6. hi reggie

    I’m new to Stellenbosch, I heard that one has to pay to see the waterfalls in Jonkershoek. Do you perhaps know how much it is? And what other adventures can on eget up to up there?

I'd love to hear your views

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