Chasing Waterfalls - Harold Porter National Garden

In dealing with the stress of #DayZero in Cape Town we all can breathe slightly easier now that the rain has returned to the parched land of the Western Cape and to celebrate this I decided to make a 2019 Waterfall calendar.

I decided to visit the #Overberg area hoping to photograph waterfalls as the Kloofs above Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens are well known for cascading waterfalls and tranquil pools.

A Famous Quote by Lao Tzu comes to mind - "Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it."

Betty's Bay - Harold Porter National Botanical Garden


In 1940 Harold Nixon Porter purchased land with the intention of building a garden and private nature reserve. The first sod was turned in 1950 and upon completion in 1955 the garden was opened and aptly named Shangri-la, meaning "paradise".

After Harold Porter's death in 1958, management was handed over to the then National Botanical Gardens of SA who renamed it in Harold Porter's honour.

In 1962 the garden was extended to include Disa Kloof, and today the Garden comprises some 200 hectars stretching from the top of Kogelberg mountain range to the sea.

It is believed that Harold Porter himself marked out various pathways in the Garden that are still used today, example being the ZigZag path that leads to the top of Bobbejaanskop. Some of the first labourers who worked in the Garden were actually convicts who helped build walls/weirs in Disa Kloof and cleared brush.

There are 2 Kloofs accessible via Harold Porter National Botancial Garden, namely Disa Kloof and Leopards Kloof who both have impressive waterfalls perfect for photography.

Disa Kloof:

This Kloof is named after the red disa orchids (Western Province's floral emblem) which are found growing along the cliff faces. This popular trail is wheelchair friendly and is set amongst shady trees along the Disa River. I estimate it to take around  30 minutes to walk the 950 metres from the entrance gate to the waterfall. The wooden boardwalk that leads up to the waterfall is the only vantage point from which to take photographs as access to the river itself is prohibited for safety reasons.

Photography Tips:

  • Equipment required

    • Camera

    • Wide Angle lens

    • Tripod

    • Filters

  • Due to shooting from the boardwalk, a tripod that can extend is preferable in order to eliminate the gate and fence from frame.

  • Be aware of blown out highlights (overexposed) as you will loose detail in the whites.

  • Use a polariser to reduce the glare on the water/rocks.

  • Use a neutral density filter to reduce the shutter speed to create that smooth, milky finish to the waterfall.

Disa Kloof.jpg

** Disclaimer - I received permission from the curator to photograph the waterfall from the river (general public need to remain on the boardwalk)!

Leopard's Kloof:

This is the more challenging of the two Kloofs and winds up through the forest crossing the stream several (3) times - I estimate it to take around 40 minutes to reach the top waterfall.

A permit (and a key for the locked gate) is required which can be purchased at the entrance gate to the Gardens - important to note that the cut off time is 1pm to issue keys and 4pm to return the keys.

The trail requires a moderate level of fitness but please note that there are several ladders to climb to reach the top waterfalls:


The trail itself is very well marked (yellow arrows) which eliminates the risk of getting lost, however one needs to be cautious when crossing the stream especially if the water level is high after it rains.


Photography is not limited to waterfalls along this trail, here a few examples that I managed to capture during my recent visit:

Leopards Kloof #1.jpg
Leopards Kloof #2.jpg

The waterfalls however are the main attraction and to prevent doing any injustice by trying to describe them to you I will rather let my images tell the story!

Leopard Kloof #1.jpg
Leopard Kloof #6a.jpg

Photography Tips:

  • Equipment required

    • Camera

    • Wide Angle lens

    • Tripod

    • Filters

  • Both of these images were taken with the following settings:

    • ISO 100

    • Manual Focus (MF) - focused to infinity

    • Polariser - to reduce the glare off the water and rocks

    • 3 stop ND (neutral density) filter

    • 3 second exposure

  • Composition:

    • Often you will need to use the water bubbles/foam as a leading lines to the waterfalls.


It goes without saying that Harold Porter National Botanical Garden (and the 2 Kloofs) is a must see for waterfall photography, and with the abundant bird life during the summer months it qualifies for a visit all year round!

Till next time... 

Mark BooysenComment