Marloth Nature Reserve is a hidden gem in the majestic Swellendam Mountains
Marloth Nature Reserve is hidden away in the imposing Swellendam Mountains, between Swellendam, Ashton, Barrydale and Suurbraak. Swellendam is the third oldest town in South Africa and has many interesting cultural-historic features. The peaceful reserve, which is 14 123 hectares in size, is managed together with 16 532 hectares of privately owned land, and is a World Heritage Site.
Marloth Nature Reserve is named after the pioneer botanist who, together with a deputation of Swellendam residents, petitioned the Minister of Lands and Forestry in 1928 to set aside part of the mountain as a nature reserve. During 1981, the reserve was enlarged to include the rest of the State Forest and the Swellendam hiking trail was opened.
The reserve’s vegetation is predominantly mountain fynbos, with patches of forest. There are several species of protea and more than 25 species of erica, most of which flower in November. Marloth, like the rest of the southern Cape, has hot summers and cold winters. The higher mountain peaks are occasionally dusted in snow during the cold winter months.
To find out more, download the Marloth Nature Reserve brochure and map.
How to get there
From Cape Town: Take the N2 highway towards Swellendam. Just past Swellendam, turn left onto the R60 and then follow signs for Marloth Nature Reserve. Turn right at the signpost and travel about 3km until you reach the reserve gates. There is a short amount of gravel road, approximately 1.2km long, leading up to the reserve gates. The route from Cape Town is about 220km and will take about two and a half hours.
GPS: 33 57 56.16 S 20 23 31.2 E
Office hours: 07:00–16:00
Tel: +27 (0)28 514 1410
Emergency tel: +27 (0)82 496 2450
Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: +27 (0)21 483 0190
Marloth offers charming and comfortable accommodation in a self-catering cottage that sleep up to six people at a time.
Bushbuck Cottage is a fully equipped self-catering cottage. It is perfect for a weekend getaway or as an overnight stop before starting the six-day Swellendam Trail. Bushbuck Cottage sleeps six people in three separate rooms. One bedroom has a double bed, while the other two rooms have two single beds. Guests will need to stock up in Swellendam, as there is no shop on site.
Bathroom: Hot-water bath and shower
Kitchen: Fully equipped
Bedding, linen and towels: Yes
Fireplace and braai: Yes, please note that no firewood is sold on the reserve. Guests will need to buy wood in the town which is approximately 500 metres from the reserve gates.
Disabled access: No
Pets welcome: No
Marloth offers various day trails, ranging from easy, short walks to more strenuous, longer hikes. These trails lead into the shady green indigenous forest, where cool pools and waterfalls wait to be discovered. Day walks are open from sunrise to sunset.
Hikers may, however, still walk the first section of the trail which starts at the office and passes through Boskloof, Goedgeloof, Proteavallei and Wolfkloof. Shorter day routes are possible. This trail is fairly demanding and should only be attempted by fit hikers. Reservations are limited to a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 10 people. Trips should be planned in advance as hikers are not permitted to leave the trail due to it being surrounded by private property, especially at Wolfkloof and Gooedgeloof, as well of the possibility of getting lost.
Marloth offers four hiking trails, all with their own scenic attractions.
Four rustic huts equipped only with beds, water and primitive toilets provide limited overnight shelter. Hikers should bring their own cooking utensils, bedding, warm screen and drinking water. Boskloof shelter has no mattresses so hikers need to provide their own hiking mat rolls. Fires are only permitted at the demarcated site at Wolfkloof due to the high risk of veld fires and the scarcity of fire wood. All shelters are self maintained and must be left as found with “leave no trace” principles needing to be adhered to at all times. No refuse bins are provided as hikers must carry out everything carried in, and no dumping of any items is allowed.
Help us protect nature
No pets/no firearms/no picking of flowers or collection of seeds/no fishing without permits/fires only in designated areas.
Permits may be purchased for R40 per adult and R20 per child at the reserve office or through CapeNature Central Reservations.
Trail distance: 12.4km
Estimated time: 6 hours
This challenging hike starts from the reserve office. The trail takes hikers to the mountain peak of Twaalfuurkop (1 450m), offering breathtaking views of the entire Langeberg Mountains, the Rûensveld and even the Indian Ocean. We suggest hiking in a group of at least three. Be prepared for rapid climatic changes and extreme weather conditions.
Trail distance: 2km
Estimated time: 2 hours
This lovely hike starts at the Koloniesbos parking area. Hikers make their way to the beautiful Duiwelsbos Waterfall via the cool green indigenous forest. On the trail you’ll see the reserve’s rich plant and wildlife, including fynbos, birds and small animals.
Trail distance: 12km
Estimated time: 3 hours
The Plaat Loop is a moderate hike with inspiring views and plenty of cool mountain streams to swim in along the trail.
Trail distance: 21km
Estimated time: 5 hours
This trail starts from Marloth Office and provides a good workout.
The challenging Swellendam Hiking Trail is one of South Africa’s top ten hikes. Hikers can choose various routes between two and six days in length. The trails have rustic huts, with mattresses, basic toilets and drinking water. No cooking utensils are provided. Fires are only allowed at the Glen Stream and Wolfkloof huts due to the high risk of wildfires and scarcity of firewood. A trail map and brochure are available on request.
Marloth’s original forests covered a much larger area, but they were exploited by the local furniture and wagon industries over the years, leaving only a few isolated patches of forest in damper areas today. Typical forest species include yellowwood, stinkwood, Cape beech, wild olive, assegaaibos, cherrywood and hard pear.
The nature reserve is home to many small mammals, including the grey rhebok, klipspringer, common duiker, baboon, caracal, mongoose, porcupine, dassie and hare. Marloth also has leopard, but they are rarely seen. The area is rich in birdlife, with 114 species recorded, including the African fish eagle, black eagle, wood owl, red-winged francolin, tambourine dove, and four different species of woodpecker. Hikers should be on the lookout for snakes, such as puff adder, Cape cobra and mountain adder.
The floral diversity of Marloth Nature Reserve is unmatched across the Western Cape and the fact that it is named after a pioneering botanist says much about the vegetation in this 14 123 hectares of pristine mountain tract.
As a filming location, this area consists mostly of mountain fynbos, including several species of protea and more than 25 varieties of erica. Patches of afromontane forest are also existent in the valleys and gorges of the reserve.
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