The Property

The Property we call home

The St Francis Health Centre is located in the heart of the Sunshine Coast near Port Alfred and Bathurst in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. The region has a temperate climate with temperatures seldom going above 27°C or below 7°C. The area has more recorded sunshine hours than anywhere in the country. We are situated between summer (East London) and winter (Port Elizabeth) rainfall regions and experience rainfall throughout the year.

The region is extremely rich in biodiversity and the vegetation comprises riverine forest, valley (or Albany) thicket, sub-tropical thicket, Eastern Cape fynbos and grasslands, which collectively provide habitat for a diverse range of terrestrial wildlife and birds. The thicket and forest vegetation extends from the coast up into the river valleys and includes typical Karoo succulent flora such as Euphorbia species, spekboom, aloes and cycads. The tranquil upper reaches of the rivers have an abundance of large trees such as milkwood, stinkwood, coral trees, and plenty of overhanging vegetation such as the wild date palm. The Eastern Cape fynbos is unique to the region and patches occur between Kleinemonde and the Great Fish River extending inland to Grahamstown. This vegetation includes grasses, small protea species, thorn trees, wild olives and patches of blooming plants such as Watsonia, Helichrysum and Senecio (ragworts). The coastal zone in the region has spectacular unspoilt beaches and a number of estuaries, all rich with amazing bird life. Mammals that occur in the area include bushbuck, common duiker, warthog, bushpig, vervet monkey, mongoose, spring and scrub hares. The occurrence of the latter two species are ever present on the lawns around the Health Centre. The rare oribi are also often sighted in the grasslands on the neighbouring farms. The rich bird life in the region is well documented and over 400 species have been recorded over the years. Our gardens are alive with many resident species such as sunbirds, shrikes, orioles, bulbuls, doves, pigeons and breeding thick-billed weavers at the dam. Sightings of the southernmost distribution of trumpeter hornbill and the rare Stanley’s bustard are also common.

The St Francis Health Centre estate is situated on the 300-hectare Ford’s Party Farm approximately 8km from the coast and is straddled between the upper catchments of the West Kleinemonde and Riet rivers. The farm boasts patches of pristine indigenous forest and thicket vegetation, stands of blue gum plantations and several small dams, which can all be explored on our unguided marked-out hiking trails. A walk down to the West Kleinemonde River will take you past a small orchard of pecan nut and citrus trees to a tranquil spot on the riverbank abounding with the beauty of the natural vegetation of the region. Other short hiking trails reveal breathe-taking views of the river valley, the small dams and the indigenous vegetation of the area. There is also a small unused church on the property that can be visited on request. For anyone interested in exploring the natural beauty of the region we can call on various experts to guide and host you (before or after your visit to the Centre). Alternatively, you can make a booking on our 3-day Nature Cure Retreat that exposes some of the natural beauty of the region.