Whale Season has arrived, which means curious nature lovers will soon flock to the South Coast to watch the arrival of the Southern Right calves. If you are heading to Hermanus, it is worth taking a detour through the Hemel-en-Aarde valley to taste some exceptional wines and scenic surrounds. I also recently found out about the Nature Walks at Bouchard Finlayson and it sounds like just the kind of escape you need from the hustle and bustle of the coast during peak season.
Bouchard Finlayson is a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Conservation Champion. In addition to offering wine tastings, the farm winery has walking trails that allow you to discover the rich Cape Floral Kingdom. The trails are free of charge if you choose to go on your own, or you can join a guided trail with Frank Woodvine, Bouchard Finlayson’s very own resident amateur botanist. Choose between three different Walking Trails (45 minutes, 60 minutes and two and a half hours), which will cost R300 for up to 6 people, and thereafter an additional R50 per person (maximum 12 people in a group). Guided Walking Trails are available throughout the year, but are most popular during the Spring months when the wild flowers are in bloom.
The boutique winery has only 25 hectares planted with vineyard, while 100 hectares remain as natural, protected fynbos. More than 306 plant species have been identified on the Bouchard Finlayson Estate, some of which are scarce and protected, such as Witsenia Maura (commonly known as the Bokmakierieriet), which was thought to be locally extinct in the greater Hermanus region. The walks may also include other exciting sightings such as the first bloom of the Gladiolus bullatus, also known as the Caledon Bluebell, and many different species of Erica and Protea. Hikers may also be lucky enough to spot South Africa’s national bird, the Blue Crane, as well as grysbok and mongoose, and on rare occasions could even come across footprints of the elusive Cape mountain leopard, which is known to roam this region.
More than 306 plant species have been identified on the Bouchard Finlayson Estate, some of which are scarce and protected
The Red Route (2,5 hours) incorporates an extended Forest Loop in the Galpin’s Kloof. This part of Afro-montane forest is one of the few still surviving on the northern slopes of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and carries some fine specimens of indigenous trees. It is the only section of land on the estate sheltered from the strong winds and veld fires, allowing specimens of Rooiels (Gunonia Capensis), Boekenhout (Rapanea Melanophloes), Cape Holly (Ilex Mitis) and others to flourish here. The Forest Loop trail reaches a small, grassy sward at the foot of a waterfall that is ideal for a picnic.
Wine Tastings are offered during business hours Mondays to Saturdays, showcasing Bouchard Finlayson’s latest vintages. A tasting of three wines cost R20 per person; and a tasting of six wines cost R40 per person. Cellar tours are available by prior arrangement, and larger groups may be accommodated with advance notice too.