Indigenous forest, mountain fynbos and rare birds make Boosmansbos a hiker’s paradise
Boosmansbos Wilderness Area, next to the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve in the Langeberg Mountains, boasts dramatic mountainous terrain, wild indigenous forests, lush mountain fynbos and almost exclusive access for visitors wanting to explore the wilderness. Boosmansbos was proclaimed a wilderness area in 1978 to protect the area’s indigenous forest, including yellowwood, stinkwood, white and red alder, beech and candlewood. It is also a World Heritage Site, as it falls within the Cape Floral Kingdom and is home to several rare erica species, such as erica blenna, erica langebergensis and erica barrydalensis.
This is an exclusive hiking destination and advance bookings are essential, as only 12 hikers a day are allowed on the 64km of marked trails traversing the conservancy’s 14 200 hectares. Hikers pass through fragrant mountain fynbos, beautiful proteas and ericas before descending into the kloofs and the shade of the forest canopy. Look out for a variety of buck, mongoose and genet. Shy leopards seldom make an appearance. This is a birder’s paradise with nearly 200 species regularly spotted, including eagles and the double-collared sunbird.
Click here to download the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area brochure.
How to get there
From Cape Town: 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. Follow the signs for the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve. The road ends at the entrance gates to the reserve; enquire at the office for directions to Boosmansbos.
GPS: 33 56 9.50 S 20 52 46.25 E
Office hours: 07:00–16:00
Tel: +27 (0)28 722 2412
Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: 087 087 8250
Helderfontein provides basic overnight accommodation in an old stone building that was once a management hut.
Bathroom: Communal ablutions
Disabled access: No
Pets welcome: No
Only a basic overnight shelter is provided with no toilet facilities available on site.
Paths are unmarked and hikers may choose their own routes. It is important to note that overnight huts provide basic shelter and there are no toilet facilities, so all waste and toilet paper must be buried. All refuse must be carried out. Fires are permitted in designated spots. Only 12 hikers are allowed on the trails each day.
There are plenty of options to choose from given the 64km of marked paths in the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area. Hikers are welcome to follow their own route; however, it is important to be prepared with enough food and water, warm clothing, appropriate shoes and a good map. Hiking trails need to be booked in advance through CapeNature Central Reservations.
Trail distance: 27km
Estimated time: 11 hours (5 hours on first day and 6 hours on second day)
This is a two-day trail that follows an old jeep track making its way up Loerklip and back down Saagkuilkloof through indigenous forest, kloofs and mountain fynbos. Terrain can be difficult and hikers should prepare for bad weather conditions. A good map is essential. Birders will particularly enjoy this trail.
Birders should keep a keen eye out for the rare striped flufftail and other unusual species, such as the black and martial eagle and Knysna woodpecker. The crowned and booted eagle, red-winged and redneck francolin, Layard’s titbabbler and black-rumped button quail are also regularly spotted in the area. There have been more than 180 species of bird recorded in this region.
Boosmansbos is a World Heritage Site with one of the last remaining stretches of indigenous forest in the south-western Cape. The wilderness area is home to several rare erica species found higher up on the mountain slopes. Boosmansbos falls into the transitional zone between a winter and all-year rainfall region, and the area is fed by several rivers. This creates a microclimate conducive to lush plant and animal life.
A variety of buck, baboons, mongoose, genet and other small mammals inhabit this area. Unfortunately, while there are still leopards in these mountains, they are rarely seen. The isolated pockets of Bokkeveld shale support the growth of the indigenous forest while mountain fynbos, with its characteristic proteas and beautiful ericas, covers the rest. Nearly 200 bird species, including many species of forest birds and birds of prey, inhabit this region.
So... in for something different we set out on the Boosmansbos 3 day hike. We enjoyed a jolly start: up Loerklip; overnight at the Helderfontein huts, so far so good, abundant water from the rain 3 days earlier and a trail that was hard to loose. Ideal hiking weather in the winter sun. Battered by the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness, we then opted for the route less travelled: up Grootberg, onwards to Horingberg. That's when the fun started. Less talking, more walking., ehhh scrambling through dense thickets, battling to hold a bearing, The lady at reception (who admittedly had never been up here herself) had predicted plenty water and some budu bashing but for large parts, the trail has vanished due to it being unwalked: one inevitably looses it in the shoulder-high fynbos on the already steep slopes after rounding Grootberg. A challange for shins and ankles. No trail for hours, no water since we'd left the huts, and a setting sun: we weighed our chances. Against the gradient right up the peak marked 1331m on the map to confirm our position. Water down to 750 ml between the 2 of us. Pitched our tent, ran through scenarios for the next day. Savoured those 2 remaining grapefruits to be even more water savvy. Rose with sunrise, found a track (on the other side of the ridge than is indicated on the map), descended to the spot marked 'suggested campsite' that we'd planned on the night before, and then the liberating sound... trickling water. Lost the trail again, missioned straight up the Horingberg, discerned a path further down, and paced it back to Grootvadersbosch, where we could unwind in the comfort of the Scolopia cottage shortly before sunset (thanks to that farmer that took us the last km's). It had been a 10 hour day. Stunning vistas of the Cape folds and in hindsight the most wicked camp spot for sunset and sunrise, but we got more than we'd bargained for. Bring your stamina. More water still. And a proper map (1:10.000).
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