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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

A variety of walking and hiking trails are available in this reserve, including the Ou Tol, Platberg and De Hoek trails. The best time for hiking is April–May and September–October each year, because of the milder weather. Please note that the Ou Tol hut is closed until further notice for maintenance purposes.Hiking trails There are a variety of hiking trails to choose from, varying in intensity. Regardless of how long the trail is, read the trail preparation points carefully. Help us protect nature No pets/no firearms/no picking of flowers or collecting of seeds/no fires except in designated areas/no quad bikes. Permits 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.
Ou Tol Circle Route Trail distance: 7.4km Estimated time: 2.5 hours Platberg Circle Route Trail distance: 8.4km Estimated time: 2.5 hours De Hoek Day Trail Trail distance: 8.8km Estimated time: 3 hours Konings Gat (in Gamkaskloof) Trail distance: 1.4km Estimated time: 1 hour This is a relaxing walk through fynbos landscapes to the natural pool alongside the river. There are amazing views along the route. Grootkloof Hiking Trail (in Gamkaskloof) Trail distance: 6.3km Estimated time: 5 hours A scenic route that provides a good workout and beautiful views of the Swartberg region. Swartberg 4-day hike (can be shortened to a 2-day hike by starting at Ou Tol to Bothashoek and back) This is a difficult hike and not for beginners.
  • Best time to hike:  September to October or April to May
  • NB:  A minimum of 3 people up to a maximum of 12 people will be allowed on the route.
  • Keys for the overnight huts to be collected and returned at the Oudtshoorn office before 16h00 – Monday to Friday
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
  • Gel for geyser and stove – (available at all Outdoor shops and Game)
  • 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
Day 1:  8.4 km from De Hoek Private Resort to Bothashoek Hut - 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 (±725m above sea level), up to Bothashoek hut (± 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 (with a solar geyser for warm water) that automatically switches to Gel Geyser when there is not enough sunshine(bring own gel) and flush toilets.  An outside braai is available – need to bring your own firewood.
  • Keys for Bothashoek overnight hut must be collected 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 Following the 4x4 route the trail winds down to Ou Tol hut, next to the Swartberg pass. Out Tol hut can sleep 12 people in 3 bedrooms.  There is an kitchen, living room, bathroom with shower (with a solar geyser for warm water that automatically switches to Gel Geyser when there is not enough sunshine) bring own gel and flush toilet and braai area (again guests need to provide wood)
  • Keys for Ou Tol overnight hut must be collected beforehand at the office in Oudtshoorn before 16h00 Monday to Friday
 Day 3:  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. Day 4:  8.4 km from Bothashoek back to De Hoek - moderate to difficult You’ll have to do a few more steep ups and downs before trailing downhill back to De Hoek where you left your vehicle 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. 

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 are 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 at the above numbers Keys must be collected at the Oudtshoorn office before 16h00 – Monday to Friday Emergency contact nr. 082 784 1786/84 + Mountain search and rescue nr. 083 339 1240
Swartberg’s 4x4 route can  be booked as a day or overnight experience. The overnight hut at Bothashoek accommodates up to 12 people and provides panoramic views of a landscape dominated by Cape Fold Mountains.

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.

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 to all the way to Oudtshoorn. Turn left off the R62 on to Baron van Reede. Follow the road west towards the Cango caves. Just before the Cango Caves, turn left again on to the Swartberg Pass road. The pass is well signposted. Follow the tar road, which then turns into a gravel road.


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 3932 (Gamkaskloof/The Hell office)

Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: 087 087 8250

Permits for day hikes only are also available from the Oudtshoorn Tourism office, corner Baron van Rheede street & the Queen's Hotel building, Oudtshoorn. Office hours: 08:30 - 17:00 (Monday to Friday) and 09:30 - 12:30 (Saturdays and public holidays).

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
21 Jun 2021
Freedom Challenge


26 Jun 2021
George Mountain Ultra Trail
14 Jul 2021
Filming Insights with CapeNature & Wesgro
31 Jul 2021
World Ranger Day

World Ranger Day is celebrated worldwide on July 31st to commemorate Rangers killed or injured in the line of duty and to celebrate the work that rangers do to protect the planet’s natural treasures and cultural heritage. The day allows us to reflect on the courage and sacrifices rangers must make to ensure that the conservation of our biodiversity is preserved for future generations.

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