It was an early rise and shine on a Saturday morning for a walk on the Grysbok trail. The whole of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) campus was declared a Private Nature Reserve in 1983. The 830 ha is dominated by the St Francis Dune Thicket vegetation. This fynbos vegetation is highly threatened due to agricultural clearing and coastal development.
Despite some problems with invasive Australian Acacias the vegetation is in very good condition. The trail meanders through the reserve, providing opportunities for observing the exciting fauna and flora of the area.
Do take time to visit the reserve on different times of the year to experience the whole spectrum of the flora and fauna.
There are two trail options that can be walked, a 3.2 km or a 2.5 km loop. Both trails cover relatively flat terrain and are suitable for moderately fit people and no bundu bashing is required. There are also a couple of geocaches (www.geocaching.com) that can be logged on the various trails.
The tranquility of the bird hide, located near the entrance of the trail, can be utilized to observe some of the birds at a water pan. So bring your binoculars! If you are lucky you will spot the proud Springbuck or a plains zebra grazing in the fynbos. Also look closer for some very interesting creatures that roam in this reserve.
On the morning of our walk we did not encounter any of the various buck, but we found a lot of caracal spoor on the trail. Don’t worry about the caracal (not the same as a lynx) as they are very shy and the possibility that you will encounter one of them is very rare. You will be very privileged if you spot one!
Do remember that this is a nature reserve so there is always the odd possibility of snakes, especially during summer time. Good advice is to take a walking stick when walking in the veld as well as some sunscreen and a hat for the relentless African sun.
NMMU also offers game drives, in what is probably a South African first for a university, through its private nature reserve.
Please note that for safety purposes you need to report at the security boom when entering campus – just state that you are going to walk the Grysbok Trail and they do not have a problem. Also sign the Visitors’ Book at the fence stile at the start of the trail to avoid any unwanted trouble as they do spot checks from time to time.