Gamkaskloof (aka Die Hel) promises a sensory feast of proteas, regional ports and donkey trails

Declared a World Heritage Site in 2004, Swartberg Nature Reserve stretches 121 000 hectares between the Klein and Groot Karoo, bordering the Gamkapoort Nature Reserve to the north and the Towerkop Nature Reserve to the west. The town of Oudtshoorn is 40km away. Visitors staying overnight sleep in restored cottages in the Gamkaskloof (otherwise known as Die Hel) and delight in the reserve’s rich heritage. San rock art and artefacts are found in caves throughout the reserve. European contributions to the region’s heritage include three mountain passes built in the 1700s, the Toorwaterpoort railway, Meiringspoort Road and the Swartberg Pass, to link the Klein and Groot Karoo.

This reserve conserves a diversity of vegetation from renosterveld to mountain fynbos and spekboom veld. It also supports a variety of wildlife, including antelope, baboons, dassies and leopard. Plants begin to flower on the lower levels of the mountain in spring and those fit enough to brave the higher peaks of the Swartberg Mountain could be lucky enough to spot the rare protea venusta. For fans of the beautiful protea, autumn is the best time to spot them in full bloom.

To find out more, download the Swartberg Nature Reserve brochure.

Download: The Klein Karoo Birdlist

How to get there

From Cape Town, take the N1 to Worcester, and then take the turn-off to the R60. Follow that road as it changes to the R62 at Montagu, and keep following it until you reach Calitzdorp. There are two options from here. The first has more gravel:

1) In Calitzdorp, from the petrol station on the main road, take the second street on your left to a gravel road that will  take  you to Living Waters and Calitzdorp dam. This gravel road takes you to Kruisrivier and Groenefontein side junction. At the junction there will be Cango Caves signage, then take the left turning to the north (Matjiesrivier) and to the Swartberg Pass.

2) Alternatively, follow the R62 to all the way to Oudtshoorn. Turn left off the R62 on to Baron van Reede. Follow the road west towards the Cango caves. Just before the Cango Caves, turn left again on to the Swartberg Pass road. The pass is well signposted. Follow the tar road, which then turns into a gravel road.

General information

GPS: 33 35 01.69 S 22 11 45.74 E

Office hours: 07:30–16:00

Tel: +27 (0)44 203 6300
Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: +27 (0)21 483 0190

Permits for day hikes only are also available from the Oudtshoorn Tourism office at 80 Voortrekker Road, Oudtshoorn
Office hours: 08:30 – 17:00 (Monday to Friday) and 09:30 – 12:30 (Saturdays and public holidays)
Tel: +27 (0)44 279 2532