Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

A magical reserve with beautiful stretches of indigenous forest

Originally known as Melkhoutskraal, the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve encompasses 250 hectares of indigenous forest in the Langeberg region, close to Heidelberg. The name translates to “big father” in honour of Roelof Oelofse who owned the land in 1723. It has only been a reserve since 1986 and was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004.

This is the most significant stretch of indigenous afromontane forest left in the south-western Cape, with nearly all of the 35 typical forest tree species, including red alder, ironwood, stinkwood and yellowwood. Visitors to this beautiful reserve will relish the opportunity to get out into the forest on day walks and mountain biking trails. This is an excellent birding destination with more than 196 bird species regularly spotted. Hikers are likely to bump into bushbuck and spot baboons and smaller mammals when out on the trails. Sighting the forest emperor butterfly and a subspecies of the rare ghost frog would be the highlight of a visit here, as they can only be found in this particular forest.

To find out more, download the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve brochure or view the video below.

Grootvadersbosch video and gallery images by Liesel Kershoff

How to get there

Take the N2 from Cape Town towards George. Just past Swellendam and Buffelsjag River, take the left-hand turn-off for Suurbraak/Barrydale. Turn left and continue through the town of Suurbraak and past the turn-off for Barrydale via Tradouwpass. The tar road becomes a dirt road. Continue till a T-junction, turn left and keep left at the next fork in the road. The reserve is well signposted. The road ends at the entrance gates.

GPS: 33 59 08.4 S 20 49 24.7 E

Office hours: 07:30–16:00

Tel: +27 (0)28 492 0001
Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: +27 (0)21 483 0190

Accommodation

Self-catering

  • Grootvadersbosch Cabins

    Built and unveiled in 2016, Grootvadersbosch has 11 family/hiker cabins that are located on a ridge, with forest on either side. The cabins are arranged in two rows, with the higher cabins having expansive views of the valley, while the lower cabins look on to indigenous forest.

    Built on an existing footprint, which used to be the site of the forestry staff accommodation, the cabins were made from reclaimed materials from the site, as far as possible, and are designed to have as low an impact on the area as possible.

    All 11 cabins are 4-sleepers, with two bedrooms, a kuierkamer (inside braai area), a fully equipped kitchen, and a lounge with a built-in fire place. There is also an outside braai area at each unit.

    Units 1-3 are built with Universal Access in mind (approved by CapeAble) and have garages, while units 8-11 also have garages (view the map below to see the unit layout).

    Bedding provided: Yes
    Towels provided: Yes
    Electricity: Eskom, solar and gas
    Kitchen equipped: Eskom power points for all appliances including fridge/freezer, microwave and toaster. Electric oven and gas hob with four burners
    Braai facilities: Outdoor braai, and indoor braai in kuierkamer
    Bathroom equipped: Shower only. Geyser heated by electricity and solar.

    LAYOUT OF UNITS (Click on the image to view a larger version – it will open in a new tab)

    Please note cottages 7, 8 & 9 are currently closed to the public.

    Grootvadersbosch-Cabins_layout

  • Scolopia

    Please note that Scolopia cottage is closed to the public temporarily. 

    Scolopia is a wooden house that comfortably sleeps six guests in two bedrooms (one with a double bed and one with two single beds) and on a double sleeper couch in the lounge. It is located 500m from the reserve entrance on the edge of indigenous forest and near the start of a day hike. The house, named after an indigenous pear tree, has a well-equipped kitchen, bathroom and living room, as well as a shaded outdoor braai area. Guests must bring their own food, as there is no shop on the reserve. Firewood can occasionally be purchased at the reserve office but bring your own to be safe as supply from neighbouring farms is sporadic.. The water from the taps is naturally brown in colour and not polluted; however, it is advisable to boil it before drinking.

    Electricity: Yes
    Bathroom: Shower
    Kitchen: Stove, fridge, microwave, kettle, cutlery and crockery
    Bedding, linen and towels: Yes
    Fireplace: Indoor fire and outdoor braai, with grid
    Disabled access: No
    Pets welcome: No

Camping

  • Grootvadersbosch Campsites

    There are 10 camps. Each site looks onto indigenous forest, providing many opportunities for bird watching. Communal ablution facilities are offered, as well as a thatched communal braai area with fridge, and a children’s play area/jungle gym (no children to be left unsupervised). Campsites have braai facilities, but visitors should bring their own braai grids.

    Sites available: 10 campsites
    Power points: Yes
    Ablution facilities: Hot water showers, toilet paper provided
    Shop on-site: No
    Firewood for sale: Occasionally. Bring your own to be safe as supply from neighbouring farms is sporadic.
    Braai facilities: Each campsite has it’s own fireplace and there is a communal braai at the picnic area
    Disabled access: No
    Pets welcome: No

Activities

  • Swimming

    Swimming is permitted in the Duivenhoks River. This is a 3km to 5km hike from the main office. Children should not swim unaccompanied by an adult. The swimming holes are located on the neighouring Brackenhills farm property, and we ask that guests please treat the area with respect.

  • Mountain biking

    There is a cycle trail of 6km on the reserve for all to enjoy with your own mountain bike.

    On the adjacent Conservancy there are also a few MBT trails to ride. A seperate permit is however needed for those trails and is available at the Conservancy’s office.

    Please enquire at our Information Centre for more information on the Conservancy.

     

     

  • Hiking and Walking

    There are a variety of day hikes as well as longer, overnight trails on offer. Regardless of the length of the trail, visitors should take heed of trail advice given, in particular the need to wear comfortable shoes, suntan lotion and a hat, and to carry sufficient water.

    Hiking trails

    Hikers will enjoy the relatively easy three-to-four hour hike on the Bushbuck Trail, and also the more challenging Grysbok Trail.

    Help us protect nature

    No pets/no firearms/no picking of flowers or collecting of seeds/no fires except in designated areas/no horse riding.

    Permits

    Permits may be purchased for R40 per adult and R20 per child at the reserve office or through CapeNature Central Reservations.

    Trail preparation

    • Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat.
    • Do not hike alone.
    • Carry enough food and water with you.
    • Make sure you know what the weather conditions are before you depart.
    • Take a warm jacket/raincoat in winter.
    • Make sure you have a relevant map of the area.
    • Take a field medical kit with you for emergencies.
    • Obey all signage.
    • Stay in a group and on the trails.
    • Please alert reserve staff once you have finished your hike, so that they know you are safely off the trails.

    Bushbuck trail

    Trail distance: 10km
    Estimated time: 3-4 hours

    This beautiful route wanders through mountain fynbos and indigenous forest, providing a shaded and relatively easy hike for all ages.The route loops in and around the indigenous forest, affording hikers the opportunity to visit both bird hides in the forest, as well as taking them past most of the tree species in the reserve.

    Grysboksirkel

    Trail distance: 15km
    Estimated time: 5-6 hours

    The Grysboksirkel is a tougher hike, taking you out of the forest-covered valley, up the mountainside through the fynbos area, and on to the ridge of the hills bordering the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area. The hike is a loop and will bring you back to the reserve road.

  • Bird Watching

    There are nearly 200 bird species that are regularly spotted in the reserve. Visitors should keep a keen eye out for black, crowned and booted eagles, the rare striped flufftail, the narina trogon and beautiful sunbirds and sugarbirds.

    The forest area features two bird hides (pictured below) which are easily accessible via the hiking trails and provide great vantage points from which to view the many bird species in the nature reserve.

    GVB-Bird-Hide-1

    Bird Hide 1

    The first bird hide is located approximately 500m from the reserve road along the Melkhoutpad, and provides a wonderful view over the forest canopy.

    GVB-Bird-Hide-2

    Bird Hide 2

    The second bird hide is located a few hundred metres from the reserve road along Bosbokrand, or it can be accessed via the Bushbucktrail. The triple story structure is accessed via wooden stairs in the interior, and provides a view of the tree tops in the middle of the indigenous forest, allowing birders views of the many bird species in Grootvadersbosch.

Location

Conservation

Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve Conservation

Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve conserves a significant section of indigenous forest that has most of the typical 35 forest tree species, including yellowwood, stinkwood, red alder and ironwood. Areas in which exotic trees were planted between 1896 and 1913, including camphor, eucalyptus, ash and Californian redwood and oak, are being reclaimed for indigenous species.

The reserve is home to two species only found in this particular forest, a subspecies of the forest emperor butterfly and a subspecies of the ghost frog, as well as a host of bushbuck, grysbok, baboons and smaller mammals. Leopards are occasionally spotted. This is a birder’s paradise with 196 species recorded within the reserve, including the rare striped
flufftail, Layard’s titbabbler, francolin, black and booted eagles and the beautiful sunbirds and sugarbirds. Located in a transitional rainfall zone between winter and all-year rainfall regions,the vegetation is primarily mountain fynbos, with about 1 200 plant species documented in this region.

Filming

Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve Filming

With pristine indigenous forest, amazing Redwoods, and remarkable vistas, there are numerous opportunities for filming in this reserve.

Located just over three hours from Cape Town, near the towns of Swellendam and Heidelberg, the reserve is conveniently located for film shoots.

9 Reviews

Silver Mountain Music Festival Opening at Schoone Oordt Country House - Schoone Oordt Country House, Jul 5, 2017 - Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

[…] in the Grootvadersbosch Valley and is independent of the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve headed by Cape Nature. The Grootvadersbosch Conservancy aims to engage the communities of both Suurbraak and Heidelberg […]

Reply

Paradise

Helene Blom, Jun 27, 2017 - Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

We had a family weekend -away in the new cabins. We enjoyed every minute of it and the weekend was way too short. We loved the cabins,the location,the interior design and off course the beautiful forestand mountains. It is an exceptional location from which to hike,to ride,to run and just to chill and drink in the fresh mountain air and enjoy the quiet. And of course the Redwoods,the real Belles of the Ball. Amazing giants of the forest. we will definitely be back. On top of it all,it was true value for money.

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Grootvadersbosch

Peter ans Barbara Lotz, Jun 3, 2017 - Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

We spend a awesome weekend in one of the new chalets it was a blessing. Thank you for making our weekend special.
thank you for the staff and for the layout of the chalets 10/10. See you soon.

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What a place!

Willie and friends, Apr 26, 2017 - Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

We were 2 retired couples that stayed for 2 nights in the self-catering chalets. You have really EVERYTHING you need and currently it is brand new. The internal braai,cum birds view area is excellent. It is really food for the sole. The walks in the "bosch" are an indescribable experience. We have however a suggestion on the different trials:
1. Update your paper map to the new terrain. The current is misleading because it has old info.
2. Indicate the start of the walk, a rating of effort, the distance,etc
3. Directions should be throughout the trial and especially at crossings where you have to make a decision which way to go. It seems that the trails are not tested end to end regularly by the staff.
Please see the above as a suggestion and not critics to enhance the stay of our followers.
We can really recommend this place and will be back in a few months time.
Well done Cape Nature!

Reply

Beautiful views

Janesse Fourie, Apr 9, 2017 - Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

Lovely camping weekend! Clean and neat bathrooms, more than enough hot water, great braai area. Beautiful hikes for all ages!

Parking can be a small issue and remember enough drinking water because there is no shop!!

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Boosmansbos Wilderness Area

Indigenous forest, mountain fynbos and rare birds make Boosmansbos a hiker’s paradise

Marloth Nature Reserve

Marloth Nature Reserve is a hidden gem in the majestic Swellendam Mountains
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Bookings are processed through our Call Centre during office hours Monday to Friday 07h30 to 16h30 and Saturday 08h00 until 12h00 noon (CAT).

Our friendly tourism booking officers will take you through the booking process and answer all enquiries.