Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

A magical reserve with beautiful stretches of indigenous forest

Please note that there is construction work underway (campsite, road and jungle gym) at Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve – we apologize for any inconvenience caused.

Please note that we are currently operating subject to National Lockdown regulations. Daily capacities are in place and to avoid disappointment, we strongly recommend that hikers book permits on booking.capenature.co.za as online bookings will be given preference. You can also book with our Contact Centre before leaving home. Call 087 087 8250 or email reservation.alert@capenature.co.za. The safety of our visitors and staff remains paramount. All visitors entering a controlled CapeNature reserve entrance gate will be subjected to a screening process upon arrival. Your continued support in complying with the national regulations and guidelines is much appreciated.

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.

The reserve’s 250ha of Southern Afrotemperate forest is the largest remaining example in the Langeberg. The reserve’s highest peak, Grootberg, is 1637 metres above sea level. Most of the thirty-five typical Southern Afrotemperate forest are present, including stinkwood, yellowwood, red alder and the dominant ironwood.

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.

Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve has a magical, fairy tale quality, leaving visitors with the lasting impression that they have stepped into another world. Hikers walk in the dappled light of the precious indigenous forest, and swim in the cool tea-coloured river water while shaded by ancient trees.

Grootvadersbosch is one of the less well-known reserves in the Western Cape. For those who love its air of self-contained mystery, this is how it should be. Day walks, mountain biking trails, and the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area offer an array of challenges for those who want to immerse themselves in the Wilderness. A rare highlight would be a sighting the forest emperor butterfly or a subspecies of the elusive ghost frog, as they can only be found in this forest. Cape Nature offers a range of accommodation, from newly refurbished cabins to comfortable and well-equipped campsites.

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

Grootvadersbosch video and gallery images by Liesel Kershoff

How to get there

Take the N2 from Cape Town towards George. Proceed through Swellendam and Buffelsjag River.  Approximately 1.5 km after the BP garage (on the right side), turn left at the Suurbraak/Barrydale signboard.  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: 07h30–16h00

Gate times: 07h00 – 18h00

Please report to reception on arrival. Check-in times for overnight guests, strictly 14h00 to 16h00.  Note that the Covid-19 related checkin takes at least 15 minutes per guest group. Late arrivals will not be accepted.

Tel: +27 (0)28 492 0001
Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: 087 087 8250

What our guests say



  • 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.

    Seven cabins sleep four people and four cabins sleep five people. There are 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. There is currently a shortage of wood and charcoal at the reserve so guests are kindly requested to bring their own along.
    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)


  • Scolopia

    Scolopia is a wooden house that comfortably sleeps six guests in two bedrooms (one with a double bed and one with two double bunk 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


  • Grootvadersbosch Campsites

    There are 9 campsites, each with a wooden deck and screen, lights, electrical and USB points, braai pit and grid, a bench, table and seating with water and scullery. Each site looks onto indigenous forest, providing many opportunities for bird watching. Communal ablution facilities are available. There is a communal fridge, and a play area/jungle gym for kids (no children to be left unsupervised).

    • Sites B5 and B7 – sleep 4 people
    • Sites B1-B9 – sleep 6 people

    No trailer tents, camping trailers, or 4×4 trailers are currently allowed in campsite B.

    Power points: Yes
    Ablution facilities: Hot water showers, flush toilets (toilet paper provided).
    Shop on-site: No
    Firewood for sale: Due to the ever-increasing distribution of the invasive Shothole Borer Beetle, clients are urged to purchase locally sourced firewood and charcoal at the reserve.
    Braai facilities: Each campsite has its own fireplace and there is a communal lapa with a fridge/freezer that can be shared.
    Disabled access: No
    Pets welcome: No



  • Swimming

    Swimming is permitted in the newly-built swimming pool close to the self-catering cottages and also in the Duivenhoks River which 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 may be purchased for R50 per adult and R30 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.


    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.


    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.


    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.



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.


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.

16 Reviews

Fynbos health linked to protea indicator species in Grootvadersbosch, Jan 3, 2019 - Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

[…] monitoring of certain protea species in the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve near Heidelberg, scientists areusing this popular fynbos genus as an indicator of the health levels […]


A weekend away at Grootvadersbosch...where on Earth is that?!! - Stuck in the Mud, Apr 12, 2018 - Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

[…] where is Grootvadersbosch you might ask? We’d certainly never heard of it before being invited to join the team from […]


Nature Lover's Visit To Swellendam | Tulips and Phoenixes, Mar 20, 2018 - Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

[…] Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve | 028 492 0001 | reservation.alert@capenature.co.za […]


Celebrating South African Heritage - More Than Food Magazine, Jan 14, 2018 - Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

[…] Grootvadersbosch is situated in the Overberg region, off the East Coast of the Western Cape, and it was the first of the Cape Floristic Kingdom sites to be visited on the trip. The reserve is particularly famous for its colourful winter and spring blooms, with many nature enthusiasts and hikers coming out to explore and witness the Cape’s natural beauty. What makes Grootvadersbosch unique is that it contains the largest Afromontane forest in the Western Cape. It’s also a natural habitat for various wildlife, with over 1000 species of fynbos and up to 35 species of forest tree species that are found nowhere else in the world. […]


BEST: breathtaking picnicking and camping sites in the Western Cape this summer – A WordPress Site, Dec 22, 2017 - Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

[…] while the stars wink overhead. More details and directions to Gamkaberg can be found here. 4) Grootvadersbosch Nestled in-between a forest teeming with ancient yellowwood, stinkwood and ironwood trees, […]

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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.