The Karkloof Nature Reserve is a vital and significant area because of its biodiversity. Ther Reserve consists of about 60% mistbelt forest, 40% mistbelt grassland and ranges from 1000m to 1767m above sea level. This results in a significant number of endemic and near-endemic species of fauna and flora, including the Karkloof Blue Butterfly (Orachrysops ariadne), and a sub-species of the crested guinea fowl.
The Karkloof Nature Reserve was created in 1983 when Timothy Hancock entered into a long term agreement with KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (now Ezemvelo) where the Rockwood Farm was leased to Ezemvelo to offer protection to the highly threatened area. 269 ha of the farm Spitzkop have been added to the lease and Sappi entered into a separate lease with the Board for a further 230 ha portion of land. In the mid-nineties, Ezemvelo purchased the farm Melmoth (790 ha) at the top of the Karkloof range, the farm consisting of mist-belt grassland and wetlands. In 2002 Nick Hancock purchased Leopards Bush Private Nature Reserve (300ha) and in 2003, Ezemvelo purchased a further 341 hectares of grassland and wetland. On behalf of the Hancock Familes and Ezemvelo, Rockwood Leisure has consolidated these farms into a contiguous reserve of 2681 hectares. Negotiations are continually taking place to add further properties to the Reserve.
Ezemvelo purchasing additional properties adjacent to the Farm, indicates the ecological significance of the area and the necessity to conserve it. The area includes missbelt forest, grassland and wetlands. The entire Karkloof forest had been extensively harvested for hardwood from the 1850’s until about the 1940’s. This extensive harvesting has left the area almost void of any large yellowwoods or other hardwoods.
Rockwood Leisure is responsible for the commercial development of the Reserve and is in the process of renovating existing accommodation and constructing new lodges. Ezemvelo is responsible for the management of the Reserve itself.