Because of it’s bio-diversity and complexity, the Baviaanskloof has been placed on the World Heritage List.
As a major water catchment, the Baviaanskloof is vital to the Port Elizabeth area. The water supply from the Baviaanskloof is so high in quality that no treatment is required and is also used for irrigation in the Gamtoos River Valley.
Numerous gorges, ravines and exposed areas create different micro-climates across an area with great seasonal and rainfall variations.These different habitats support different vegetation types, which often occur in close proximity to each other, sometimes even intermingled to a greater or lesser extent.
The Baviaanskloof is the meeting place for three of South Africa’s seven biomes, contains five veld types and is home to more than 1,200 plant species.
Very little botanical work has been done in the area. Despite this, undescribed species are continually being discovered.Rare and endangered species total 32, and 26 species are regarded as endemic to the reserve (i.e. not occurring anywhere else in the world).
The latter include the rare endemic Willowmore Cedar (Widdringtonia schwartzii). Because of its size and durable timber this tree was once harvested intensively.
Now all that remains are small clumps of trees hiding in inaccessible ravines and the odd stunted specimen cowering along the mountaintops, visible only to the trained eye.
The faunal diversity parallels its plant diversity. There are fifty six reptile species, twenty three being endemic to South Africa and three found only in the Baviaanskloof. The valley is also home to seventeen amphibian and fifteen fish species.
It was also once home to forty six medium-to-large mammal species but over the centuries, fourteen species, including lion, elephant and black rhinoceros became locally extinct. Cape Mountain zebra, red hartebeest, buffalo and eland have since been re-introduced in addition to existing bush pig, klipspringer, grysbok, grey rhebok, bushbuck, mountain reedbuck and duiker.
As the area encompassed within the reserve expands so more re-introductions will be possible.
The low-lying valley slopes and bottoms are a haven for bush loving species like kudu, bush buck, common duiker and Cape grysbok. Buffalo tend to lie up in thick ravine bush during the day and move up into the densely vegetated slopes at night to feed.