The Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area lies approximately 120 km. West of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa and comprises of approximately 270 000 ha. of unspoiled, rugged mountainous terrain. Starting in the East at Komdomo, the road leads through the rugged beauty of the “Grootrivier” Gorge on its winding path through this pristine conservancy, all the way towards Willowmore in the West. A total distance of about 203 km. The area offers a wide range of eco-recreational opportunities as well as a unique wilderness experience.
Road Conditions / Traveling Time: The road (R332) through the Baviaanskloof is a narrow, steep, gravel surfaced, winding road, through breathtaking mountainous terrain. The distance between Komdomo at the Eastern entrance, to Willowmore in the West, is approximately 203 km. The traveling time however, is 6 to 8 hours. It is advisable to make enquiries beforehand regarding road conditions as well as suitable vehicle type. Presently the stretch of road between Cambria and Geelhoutbos can only be accessed with a 4×4 or other “High-rider” type of vehicle.
The Baviaanskloof is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. To avoid disappointment and consequent inconvenience, plan your visit and make your bookings well in advance.
Recommended vehicle (When entering the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve) : 4×2, 4×4 or high ground clearance vehicle.
Baviaanskloof Tourist Route T1 (R332)
Taking the Baviaanskloof/Gamtoos off-ramp from the N2, 40 km. from Port Elizabeth, the westward bound R331 takes the traveler through an area sometimes known as the “valley of a thousand and one hills”. The route offers a panoramic view of the Eland and Groot Winterhoek Mountains dominated by the 1 759 meter high Cockscomb Mountain known to earlier tribes as T’Muniqua, meaning “covered in clouds”.
The road leads past the town of Loerie, through Hankey (established 1881) and Patensie, along the thriving citrus farms of the Gamtoos valley, past the turn-off to the Kouga Dam towards Komdomo, which is the Eastern entrance and gateway to the Baviaanskloof Mega-reserve.
Komdomo To Cambria (20 km./30 min./Accessible by normal on-road vehicle)
Komdomo, the eastern entance to the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve and Wilderness Area is the starting point of the gravel road, constructed under the supervision of Thomas Baine between 1880 and 1890.
The road winds its way through the Grootrivier Poort with its spectacular, colorful rock formations for approximately 10 km. and opens out into the Cambria valley. The Cambria valley, boxed in by the magnificent Baviaans and Kouga mountain ranges, forms the gateway to the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve and Wilderness Area.
Entering the Cambria Valley with its excellent overnight facilities, ranging from campsites to full-board accommodation, a signboard on the right indicates the turnoff to the Goedehoop/Sandrivier area and the Osseberg 4×4 route, as well as the Tjaart van der Walt monument. In 1798 he was appointed commandant of the Swellendam district by the governor of the Cape Colony, to stop the cross border raids by tribal bands. After numerous clashes with these tribesman he was ambushed and fatally wounded. He’s grave on the farm Onverwacht in Cambria marks the location where he was killed and buried in August 1804.
One of the oldest Outoniqua Yellowwood trees in the area, estimated to be in access of 800 years, can be located at the entrance to Baviaanskloof Lodge. An ancient specimen of Cycad, approximately 3 000 years old can be found at the view point, near the Lodge.
Cambria to Doodsklip & Rooihoek (27 km./2.5 hours/Accessible only with 4×4 or 2×4).
Leaving the Cambria Valley the road winds its way through Poortjies with its sparkling mountain streams and Knysna forest type of vegetation. This ecologically sensitive area also harbors the delicate George lily as well as the protected fish species, the Red Finned Minnow.
A steep and laborious climb up Combrink’s mountain pass provides opportunity to give thought to this feat of engineering as well as the hardships endured by earlier pioneers to the area. At the top of the pass a vieszpoint offers a breathtaking panorama with a view of the towering Mac mountain 1 582 meters high.
The grassland of Bergplaas plateau offers excellent opportunity for game viewing, which includes Red Hartebeest, Mountain Reebok as well as Mountain Zebra.
Before roller coasting down Holgat Mountain pass in the direction of Doodsklip, the old cableway is situated on the right hand side of the road. The cableway constructed in the 1960s, once bridged the gaping Waterpoort gorge providing a link between the Enkeldoorn and Bergplaas farming communities. Before descending a vieszpoint provides a magnificent view of the conical hill called Langkop seen against the backdrop of the Kouga dam.
The wilderness camping sites, Doodsklip and Rooihoek is located at the upper reaches of the Kouga dam and offers excellent eco-recreational opportunities.
One of the unsolved mysteries of the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area is the old stone wall which can be clearly seen from the second vieszpoint at Combrinks Pass.
Rooihoek to Geelhoutbos (28 km/2 hours)
4 km. due west of Rooihoek the trail leads to Kruisrivier, located at the confluence of the Kouga and Baviaanskloof Rivers.
The area stretching towards the Kouga Canyon not only holds some of the best kept secrets of the reserve, but is a favorite haunt for Cape Buffalo, Eland and Kudu.
During the sweltering heat of summer the cement causeway at the foot of the Grasnek/Keerom Mountain Pass offers an opportunity for travelers to cool of in the natural plunge pool nestling between rock face and riverine vegetation.
Ascending Grasnek Pass a backward view provides a sweep of the Kouga/Baviaans flood plains, hemmed in by the impassive Kouga Mountains.
Kouga / Baviaans Flood Plains
Reaching the summit of the Grasnek Pass, the sentinels of the Baviaanskloof Range come into full view, with Scholtzberg, 1 626 meters dominating the Karoo skyline.
Geelhoutbos to Nuwekloof Pass (67 km/3 hours)
From Geelhoutbos the road leads through an area known as Sandvlakte where there are overnight facilities. Further on at Rus en Vrede (overnight facilities) there is a turn-off to the left for the 4×4 trail over the Kouga Mountains, which joins up with the R62 near Kareedouw. The rugged Doringkloof, running at a right angle to the main valley is also home to the rare and endemic Baviaanskloof Cedar (Widringtonia schwartzii). Onward, past the turn-off, the trail heads for Kleinpoort and the last opportunity to refuel before the final haul to Uniondale / Willowmore.