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Gamkaberg Cape Nature 1
Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Map of Reserve area

Gamkaberg: where the lion retreated, so humanity might prosper.

Where to Stay

What to Do

Day Walks

The hiking trails on offer at Gamkaberg give you the chance to experience some spectacular viewpoints and natural tranquility within the reserve. Hikers have several options including the overnight Tierkloof Hiking Trail and should be prepared for some fairly rough terrain. When hiking at Gamkaberg, always be prepared for unpredictable weather as the area experiences high temperatures in summer and gets very cold in winter.

Permits may be purchased for R50 per adult and R30 per child at the reserve office or bookings can be made via CapeNature Central Reservations office.

The Klein Karoo falls within the Cape Floral Kingdom and is one of the botanical wonders of the world. It harbours five biomes, namely:

  • Renosterveld,
  • Afromontane forest,
  • Fynbos,
  • Succulent Karoo, and
  • Subtropical thicket

The Gamkaberg day trails take you through the succulent Karoo and subtropical thicket.

Download the Gamkaberg Bossie Identification Guide (pdf) for a map of the day trails and a list of the common species you may encounter.

Bossie Trail Poster - Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Guarrie Trail

Trail distance: 0.7km

Estimated time: 20 min

This short trail takes one through the lowland succulent Karoo vegetation. The 20 most common and interesting plant species are demarcated for ID purposes and interpretation is provided in the info brochure.

Spekboom Trail

Trail distance: 1.3km

Estimated time: 30 min

This trail branches off the Guarrie trail and takes you higher up onto the foothills into the spekboomveld. It offers a wonderful view of the Klein Karoo vlaktes as well as the Swartberg Range in the distance. The 20 most common and interesting plant species are demarcated.

Mousebird Trail (Short Heritage Trail)

Trail distance: 2.5km

Estimated time: 1.5hrs

Explore this heritage trail with interpretation boards along the trail about the plants, animals, geology and fossils, and where guests can visit an authentic rock art site.

This trail takes you mainly through the Sweet thorn thicket along the valley bottom. It’s a great trail for observing the wide variety of bush birds which occur on Gamkaberg. (Bird list provided in the info brochure). The 20 most common and interesting plant species are demarcated.

Pied Barbet (Long Heritage Trail)

Trail distance: 4.1km

Estimated time: 2.5hrs

Experience the heritage trail with interpretation boards along the trail about the plants, animals, geology and fossils, and where guests can visit an authentic rock art site.

Acacia Pied Barbets are often seen and heard along this trail. It branches off from the Mousebird trail and continues further up in the sweet thorn thicket along the valley bottom. Returning at a higher level through the spekboom veld it allows one a view over the sweet thorn treetops. Also great for birding but offering a glimpse into the Tierkloof Ravine where the real wilderness starts.

An option is to branch off into the Tierkloof for a km or two, as your time or fitness levels dictate, just to experience the change in surroundings as the high cliffs on either side with forest vegetation in the valley bottom makes an appearance. Just turn back and join up with the Pied Barbet trail when you have taken in the pristine views.

To Overhang and Back

Trail distance: 14.4km

Estimated time: 6hrs

This trail is highly recommended for those with a bit of extra time and fitness levels.  It covers the two longer day trails (Mousebird and Pied Barbet) as well as the continuing deep into the Tierkloof which has remnants of evergreen forest vegetation below spectacular sheer sandstone cliffs all along the way. At the overhang you can have a picnic and a rest while looking over the dense vegetation further up the ravine before turning around to complete the route back to the start at the info centre.

Multi-Day Hikes

Tierkloof Hiking Trail Day 1    

Trail distance: 13.2km

Estimated time: 8hrs

Tierkloof Hiking Trail Day 2

Trail distance: 11.6km

Estimated time: 7hrs

Starting in succulent Karoo, this is a moderately strenuous trail taking hikers through a deep, forested ravine to a fynbos-rich mountain plateau. Here they overnight at the remote Oukraal camp and enjoy spectacular views of the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountain ranges.

Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised.

By bringing your 4x4 to the reserve you can access the plateau where most of the herd animals occur and enjoy what the Gamkaberg has to offer.

4x4 Generic

The Zebra Crossing 4x4 Route takes you on the Gamkaberg sector mainly through upland fynbos and renosterveld and offers you a chance to see rare Cape Mountain Zebra in its natural habitat. The route covers a large and rugged section of the reserve, taking you to and from spectacular viewpoints more than 1000m above the Little Karoo.

Bookings can be made through CapeNature's Contact Centre.

Swimming is only permitted for guests staying at the eco lodges.

An abundance of birds inhabit the Klein Karoo region, and many of them can be found in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve.

Download the Klein Karoo bird list here.

Gamkaberg was established to protect a small, remnant herd of Cape Mountain Zebra. From just five in 1976, there are now between 40 and 50 at the reserve, making Gamkaberg a unique area for wildlife watching.

There are also many species of buck, along with a variety of other wildlife, that can be viewed in the reserve, either via the hiking trail, or on the 4x4 trail.

There is a picnicking area situated under a thatch lapa that is available to day visitors, where you can relax and soak in the unique atmosphere of the Klein Karoo after your hike or 4x4 excursion.

A small braai is also available for use.

Gamkaberg has recently opened up trad rock climbing at Tierkloof.

The site offers good quality, single and two-pitch, trad climbing with easy approaches and descents in beautiful, pristine surroundings. The climbing is on hard quartzitic sandstone similar to Montagu but with many beautiful, vertical finger cracks and corners.

A comprehensive guidebook for climbing at Gamkaberg, compiled by Johann Lanz and Tony Lourens from Blue Mountain,  is available for download by clicking on the image below (a PDF file will open in a new tab).

Gamkaberg_Guidebook_2016_web-thumbnail

Please note that you have to be in possession of a downloaded guidebook or hard copy, which is available at the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve office, to be allowed to climb at the reserve.

There are also a number of conditions for climbing at Gamkaberg, which MUST be adhered to.

Conditions for climbing in Tierkloof – VERY IMPORTANT!

  • Rock climbing in Gamkaberg will only be permitted to people who are staying overnight in the reserve. This is to control the number of climbers in the kloof, due to the sensitivity of the area.
  • All climbers must check in at the reserve office on arrival, where they will be thoroughly briefed by the duty officer on the rock climbing conditions.
  • All climbers must be in possession of a current guidebook, or otherwise will have to purchase one at reception.
  • Rock climbing is only permitted within approved areas as laid out in this guidebook. It is the responsibility of each person to ensure that they only climb within these stipulated areas.
  • Climbing must be practised according to the LEAVE NO TRACE PRINCIPLE.
  • Unless staying at Tierkloof Eco Lodge, climbers are not permitted to park at the start of Tierkloof. This is reserved soley for guests at the Eco Lodge. Please park at the campsite (if you are camping), or at of the lodge where you are staying.
  • All climbers are subject to the rules of conduct pertaining to all visitors to Gamkaberg as set out in the conditions of entry, which include no damaging or disturbance of the natural environment, no littering, no fires, and no overnight camping within Tierkloof.
  • Climbers must take utmost care to minimise damage to any plants, both on the approach to and at the base of climbs (trampling), as well as plants growing on the cliffs.
  • All human excrement (including toilet paper) must be wrapped in newspaper (available at reception), then deposited into a carrier bag of sorts and carried out, for disposal in a dedicated facility at the main centre. The reason for this is that due to the narrowness of the kloof and its proximity to the water course, which is utilised as a drinking water source for the Gamkaberg tourists and staff, human waste cannot be left or buried in the kloof as it poses a risk of water contamination.
  • Absolutely no bolting permitted.
  • Fixed points, in the form of slings or rope for abseiling from the top of crags, can be installed, but should be kept to a minimum and set up to be out of view.
  • Noise levels must be kept to a minimum. Climbers must at all times show respect for the wilderness character of the reserve and to other users wishing to experience the same.
  • No climbing, picnicking or storage of equipment is permitted in close proximity to any rock art or archaeological site.
  • Certain crags or parts of crags may be temporarily closed for nesting birds, as is done in other climbing locations such as Silvermine in Cape Town. Such closure dates will be available at the reserve office together with the current guidebook of approved climbing areas.
  • Climbers are permitted to stow their gear in the kloof overnight if returning to the crags the following day.
  • All climbers must return to camp before dark each day in order to sign a register with the duty official. This is for the safety of the climbers as well as to control access.
  • Failure to comply with any of the conditions set out above will be in breach of the MOU and could lead to climbing being disallowed in future.

By bringing your 4×4 to the reserve you can access the plateau where most of the herd animals occur and enjoy a richer experience of what the Gamkaberg has to offer.

This moderate ±3 hour out-and-back route starts at the reserve office and winds its way up Gamkaberg for about 16km to Oukraal camp. From here you can explore the rugged plateau and ridges for another ±20km to Mathee se Hek. Alternatively, take the road to the Southern Gate where the newly added 11km Fontein Loop is one of the highlights, offering a good chance of seeing zebra and eland herds near the waterpoints. Guests can overnight at any of the Eco-Lodges, the Stables or at Oukraal Camp.


The brooding Gamkaberg, together with the equally mysterious Rooiberg, appear to have been laid down as one over the lowlands of the Little Karoo. The Gamka is therefore a range in isolation and its name is derived from the Khoisan, gami, meaning lion, where the Cape Lion – now extinct - once so successfully wondered here.

As the humans approached, so the lions withdrew so humanity could prosper. The Gamkaberg Nature Reserve, now a World Heritage Site, was established in 1974 to conserve a small, remnant herd of endangered Cape mountain zebra. They numbered just five in 1976 but, fortunately, focused conservation initiatives, involving resettling of animals into private and national nature reserves, helped their numbers increase.

The reserve is open daily from 7h30 to 16h00. Day visitors can browse the information centre, enjoy finding their way through the labyrinth, take short hikes and use the picnic or braai facilities. The reserve is ideally suited to those seeking some peace and tranquility.

Video by The Good Holiday


Download the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve brochure and map, and The Klein Karoo Birdlist below.

How to get there

From Cape Town: take the N1 from Cape Town north towards Worcester for 110km. Turn right on to the R60 at Worcester, continuing on the road as it becomes the R62. Follow this road until you see the sign to turn right for the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve. Your entire trip will be about 400km. Please note that the directions given on Google Maps are incorrect. The main entrance to Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and the Info Centre is at the northern entrance at GPS co-ordinates: 33 40 17.51 S, 21 53 18.37 E

Download directions to Gamkaberg Nature Reserve below.


General Information

Reserve office hours: 07h30 – 16h00

Reserve office phone number: +27 (0)44 213 3367

Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: 087 087 8250

Conservation Fees

Adults

Day Access = R50; Overnight fee = R40

Children

Day Access = R30; Overnight fee = R20

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15 Jul 2021
The Conservation Symposium

The Conservation Symposium serves as a bridge between conservation practitioners, scientists and policymakers in a conducive environment to solve real-world problems. It integrates a broad range of disciplines in a meaningful way and creates or strengthens connections both within and between disciplines. 

1 Sep 2021
Arbor Day Event - Interview with a Tree Competition 2021

Join us for a fun arbor day event when kids compete on radio by interviewing a tree!

13 Sep 2021
Access Week 13- 20 September 2021

September marks Tourism Month and CapeNature invites you to join in the celebrations. The entity will provide free access to the public during its 7th annual Access Week, from 13 - 20 September 2021. Terms and conditions apply.

15 Sep 2021
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