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Gamkaskloof - Die Hel
Swartberg Nature Reserve

Map of Reserve area

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

Where to Stay

What to Do

Visitors to Gamkaskloof (Die Hel) can enjoy angling at the Gamka River with permits for angling in the Western Cape (freshwater and dams), also available at the reserve office and valid for 1 year. Species include the Yellowfish providing many passionate fishermen with their favorite fly-fishing. There are also Black Bass, Mogga and Eel for those who prefer stationary fishing.

With the presence of a combination of birds associated with eastern and western habitats, both Cape and Pririt Batises and Karoo and Olive Thrushes are found in the Swartberg Nature Reserve including Gamkaskloof (Die Hel). Featuring well over 180 species including the Green-backed Cameroptera, Sombre Greenbul and Southern Tchagra, birding will be experienced with peace, tranquility and sheer beauty.

Visitors are encouraged to bring binoculars and bird books with them.

DOWNLOAD: The Klein Karoo Birdlist

The Swartberg Nature Reserve lies in the Oudtshoorn district between the Great and the Klein Karoo. This area was clearly used by the San for many centuries, as evidenced by the numerous rock paintings and artefacts found in caves all over the reserve. It is an area of climatic extremes, with very cold winters, often with snow on the mountains and temperatures well below zero, while summers can be uncomfortably hot with temperatures reaching 40Β°C or more. No fires are permitted along the 4x4 route and hiking trails or at Bothashoek Hut due to fire prone area in a World Heritage Site.

The 4x4 route and Hiking trail have a self-contained hut – this means you need to leave it clean and tidy as you received it and what you take in you need to take out. No dustbins will be provided. No cleaning staff will clean afterwards.

Kindly note that the Ou Tol hut is closed until further notice!!!

SWARTBERG 4X4

The 25.6 km out and back route starts and ends at the top of the Swartberg pass just past The Top between Oudtshoorn and Prince Albert. You will find yourself cutting southeast, straight across the top of the Swartberg mountain range, with views for hundreds of kilometres in almost every direction. The scenery is rugged. In parts the road is painstaking, and vehicles, drivers and passengers will be sorely tested.

  • A maximum of 4 vehicles are allowed on the route and a minimum of 2.
  • Guests can book the Bothashoek hut (at the 12.8 km mark) as overnight accommodation
  • Bookings must be made in advance online
  • Keys must be collected at the CapeNature office in Oudtshoorn before 16h00 – Monday to Friday
  • Emergency contact nr. 082 784 1786/84 + Mountain search and rescue nr. 083 339 1240

Day Hiking Trails in Swartberg Nature Reserve

Ou Tol Circle Route – a 7.4km day-hike that offers stunning views of the Swartberg.

Platberg – an 8.4km circular route with spectacular views

De Hoek Trail – an 8.8km route out-and-back

Overnight trail in Swartberg Nature Reserve

SWARTBERG 2 DAY HIKE- This 2-day hiking route can start from De Hoek Holiday Resort to Bothashoek (8.4 km) and back the next day. This is a difficult hike and not for beginners.

You will have to do a few more steeps ups and downs before trailing downhill back to De Hoek where you left your vehicle. Or hikers can start hiking next to the Swartberg pass along with the 4x4 route of 12.8 km or the Bothashoek – Ou Tol crest route of 12.0 km.

  • This is a difficult hike and not for beginners.
  • Best time to hike: September to October or April to May
  • Permits can be purchased online or at the CapeNature office in Oudtshoorn
  • NB: A minimum of 3 people up to a maximum of 12 people will be allowed on the route.
  • Keys for the overnight hut to be collected and returned at the Oudtshoorn between 07h30 and 16h00 – Monday to Friday

Easy to use trail maps for these hiking trails created by Forge can be downloaded here.

Overnight Guests

Please remember to bring:

Warm cloths

Sun hat

Sun block

Bedding

Towels

Toiletries

Food

Utensils

Water – is available at the huts but none on route

The shower is only cold water

Torch or headlamp

Toilet paper

Plastic bag for the items you want to throw away – you need to take it back with you

No cooking utensils available – clients should bring their own gas/gel stove/burner for cooking purposes (available at all Outdoor shops and Game) – No fires are permitted.

Day 1: 8.4 km from De Hoek Private Resort to Bothashoek Hut and back to De Hoek- very difficult

The trail starts at De Hoek Private Holiday Resort, on the road to Swartberg Pass about 35km outside Oudtshoorn where there is safe parking. (Guests need to make their own arrangements should they wish to overnight at De Hoek: 044-272 8214). Start early as you will be climbing most of the way: from De Hoek (Β±725m above sea level), up to Bothashoek hut (Β± 1460 m above sea level).

  • Bothashoek hut is a basic 4-roomed (3 bedrooms with beds and mattresses for 12 people and 1 room kitchen area, shower (cold water shower) and flush toilets.
  • Keys for Bothashoek overnight hut must be collect beforehand at the office in Oudtshoorn before 16h00 Monday to Friday

Day 2: 12.8 km from Bothashoek to Ou Tol Hut – moderate – On Jeep Track or

Following the 4x4 route the trail winds down to Ou Tol hut, next to the Swartberg pass

OR 12 km from Ou Tol back to Bothashoek – difficult – On Crest of Mountain

The trail takes you over to the summit with majestic views of both sides of the Swartberg Mountain, and then back to Bothashoek hut.

Keys must be returned to Oudtshoorn office – a partition in the glass window was removed with clear notice for returning of keys. Just drop them on your way back.

Thank you and enjoy the beautiful area.

Permission is needed for mountain biking in the Swartberg Nature Reserve. It is prohibited during certain times of the year.Β 

Picnicking is permitted at Meiringspoort and Gamkaskloof (Die Hel) with scenic views on offer. Visitors can picnic and braai at scenic lookout points at Meiringspoort.

The 25.6 km out and back route starts and ends at the top of the Swartberg pass just past The Top between Oudtshoorn and Prince Albert.

You will find yourself cutting southeast, more or less straight across the top of the Swartberg mountain range, with views for hundreds of kilometres in almost every direction. The scenery is rugged. 

In parts the road is painstaking, and vehicles, drivers and passengers will be sorely tested. A maximum of four vehicles is allowed on the route and a minimum of two.

Guests can book the Bothashoek hut (at the 12.8 km mark) as overnight accommodation. Bookings must be made in advance via the online portal.

 Keys must be collected at the CapeNature Oudtshoorn office before 16h00 – Monday to Friday.

The overnight hut at Bothashoek accommodates up to 12 people and provides panoramic views of a landscape dominated by the Cape Fold Mountains.

Overnight Guest

 Please remember to bring:

  • Warm clothes
  • Sun hat
  • Sunblock
  • Bedding
  • Towels
  • Toiletries
  • Food
  • Utensils
  • Water – is available at the hut but none on route
  • The shower is only cold water
  • No cooking utensils available – clients should bring their own gas/gel stove/burner for cooking purposes (available at all Outdoor shops and Game) – No fires are permitted.
  • Matches
  • Toilet paper
  • Plastic bag for the items you want to throw away – you need to take these items back with you and not leave them in the nature reserve.

 Swartberg NR Emergency contact nr. 082 784 1786/84

 Mountain search and rescue nr. 083 339 1240

The Swartberg Four-Day Hike is a strenuous but rewarding trail with beautiful views. Alternatively, slack-packers will enjoy the exciting donkey trail, which allows hikers to soak up their surroundings while donkeys carry their luggage.

Trail distance: 25km

Estimated time: 4 days

This unique experience combines biodiversity, history and heritage in an exciting four-day trail. Donkeys carry your luggage, leaving you free to explore the beautiful surroundings.

The trail passes by ancient rock art sites, distinctive pioneer architecture and amazing plants. Hikers will indulge in regional cuisine and the famous ports of the region. All meals, trail snacks, bedding and towels, guides, donkeys, porters, CapeNature reserve fees and return transfers over the Swartberg Pass are included in the cost.

To find out more visit www.donkeytrail.com or email info@donkeytrail.com.

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat.
  • Take a warm jacket/raincoat in winter.
  • Hikers should bring light slipslops for the evenings (no one may go barefoot at the rest camp), insect repellent, lip ice, binoculars, camera, personal medication, walking stick, day packs, cash for alcoholic beverages and curios, three layers of clothing for hiking days (t-shirt, fleece and waterproof), long pants.
  • No firearms or narcotics allowed.
  • Wine and beer is served at Living Waters and Wyenek. A variety of beverages are on offer during the last night at Gamkaskloof.

The remote and isolated Gamkaskloof Valley (Die Hel) has a rich ecological, archaeological and cultural history and is a must to visit! Declared a Cultural Historical Site within a World Heritage Site, it deserves special care to ensure it is preserved for future generations. It offers accommodation in 11 restored historical cottages, fully equipped with braai facilities. Of these, Stappies Cordier is fully equipped for people with disabilities.Gamkaskloof is only accessible from the Swartberg Pass via the Otto du Plessis road. There are no shops or fuel stations along the way so visitors should bring sufficient food for their stay.

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.

The 4 x4 route to Bothashoek is still open for clients to book.

To find out more, download the Swartberg Nature Reserve brochure and map, and 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 all the way to Oudtshoorn. Turn left off the R62 onto Baron van Reede. Follow the road west towards the Cango caves. Just before the Cango Caves, turn left again onto the Swartberg Pass road. The pass is well signposted. Follow the tar road, which then turns into a gravel road.

PLEASE NOTE that the travelling time from the top of Swartberg Pass to the bottom of the Gamkaskloof (37km) can take about 3 hours and a high clearance or 4x4 vehicle is highly advised.

General information

GPS: 33 35 01.69 S 22 11 45.74 E

Office hours: 07:30–16:00

Tel: 087 087 3002 (Oudtshoorn office)

Tel: 087 087 3943 (Gamkaskloof/The Hell office)

Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: 087 087 8250

Permits for day hikes only are also available from the Oudtshoorn  office, corner Baron van Rheede street & the Queen's Hotel building, Oudtshoorn. Office hours: 07h30 - 16h00 (Monday to Friday). Gamkaskloof office is open for permits during the week from 07h30 to 16h00 and on Saturdays and public holidays from 09h30 - 12h30.

Tariffs
See Tariffs
Conservation Fees

Adults

Day Access = R50; Overnight fee = R40

Children

Day Access = R30; Overnight fee = R20

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Filming
Swartberg Nature Reserve Filming

The Swartberg Nature Reserve is teeming with a rich history and is perhaps best known as Gamkaskloof - a small settlement established there in 1830 by farmers of European origin. Entirely self-sufficient, the community of Gamkaskloof lived in isolation for over a century. The first road into Die Hel, as it is known, was only built in 1962. The village is now a cultural heritage site that forms part of the Swartberg Nature Reserve, a World Heritage Site.

Swartberg Nature Reserve lies in the district of Oudtshoorn, between the Great and Little Karoo.

It’s an area of climatic extremes where winters are characterised by vast snow-capped mountains while summer days reach high temperatures. The Swartberg Pass is a wildly popular setting for both photographers and filmmakers.

Find out more
Visitors Gallery
Events Calendar
2 Feb 2024
World Wetlands Day 2024
23 Sep 2023
7 Sep 2023
1 Sep 2023

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