Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Gamkaberg: where the lion retreated, so humanity might prosper

We are fortunate in the Western Cape. The land forever heightens our sense of exploration with its expanses and its wilderness. And with the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve in the Little Karoo, we need not go far to find a place with such space and detachment.

The brooding Gamkaberg, together with the equally mysterious Rooiberg, appear to have been laid down as one over the lowlands of the Little Karoo. The Gamka is therefore a range in isolation and its name is derived from the Khoisan, gami, meaning lion, where the Cape Lion – now extinct – once so successfully wondered here.

As the humans approached, so the lions withdrew so humanity could prosper. The Gamkaberg Nature Reserve, now a World Heritage Site, was established in 1974 to conserve a small, remnant herd of endangered Cape mountain zebra. They numbered just five in 1976 but, fortunately, focused conservation initiatives, involving resettling of animals into private and national nature reserves, helped their numbers increase.

The reserve is open daily from 7h30 to 16h00. Day visitors can browse the information centre, enjoy finding their way through the labyrinth, take short hikes and use the picnic or braai facilities. The reserve is ideally suited to those seeking some peace and tranquility.

Video by The Good Holiday

How to get there
From Cape Town: take the N1 from Cape Town north towards Worcester for 110km. Turn right on to the R60 at Worcester, continuing on the road as it becomes the R62. Follow this road until you see the sign to turn right for the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve. Your entire trip will be about 400km. Please note that the directions given on Google Maps are incorrect. The main entrance to Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and the Info Centre is at the northern entrance at GPS co-ordinates: 33 40 17.51 S,   21 53 18.37 E

Download directions to Gamkaberg Nature Reserve here

Download the Gamkaberg map and brochure here.

Download: The Klein Karoo Birdlist

Reserve office hours: 07h30 – 16h00
Reserve office phone number: +27 (0)44 213 3367
Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: +27 (0)21 483 0190

Accommodation

Self-catering

  • Sweetthorn Eco Lodge

    Number of people it sleeps: 6 Bedding provided: Yes Towels provided: Yes Electricity: Solar and gas Kitchen equipped: Gas Braai facilities: Outside with grid available Bathroom equipped: Solar and gas heated shower Disabled access: No
  • Fossil Ridge Eco Lodge

    Number of people it sleeps: 4 Bedding provided: Yes Towels provided: Yes Electricity: Solar and gas Kitchen equipped: Appliances are gas Braai facilities: outside with grid available Bathroom equipped: Solar and gas heated Shower Disabled access: No
  • Tierkloof Eco Lodge

    Number of people it sleeps: 8 Bedding provided: Yes Towels provided: Yes Electricity: Solar and gas Kitchen equipped: Appliances are gas Braai facilities: Outside with grid available Bathroom equipped: Gas heated shower Disabled access: Only with assistance  

Camping

  • Ou Kraal

    Ou Kraal has recently been upgraded, with four new herders huts, and an Enviro-loo toilet on site. Each hut sleeps two hikers in two single beds with mattresses, with a shelf around the interior for bags and belongings. Ou Kraal is an opportunity for hikers, or those with a 4x4, to experience a night in the heart of the Gamkaberg. Number of units: Four. Ou Kraal sleeps up to 8 people, accommodating two in each hut Electricity: No Ablution facilities: Toilet and a basin Braai facilities: outside, with grid available Disabled access: No What we provide: Braaigrid (wood provided on request for hikers only) Enviro loo (waterless toilet) Water tank with rain water (use sparingly) Three-legged Pot (No 3) Two beds in each Herders hut with mattresses What you need to bring: Lighting & wood Warm clothes (temperatures may drop rapidly) Drinking water, cutlery to prepare and eat meals Bedding and towels Torch Services available at Reserve: Selling of firewood - available at the reserve office
  • Stables

    Number of rooms: 2 rooms sleeping 4 people in each on bunk beds Electricity: yes Ablution facilities: heated shower (electricity) and standard toilets Braai facilities: outside, with grid available) Disabled access: No
  • Gamkaberg Campsite

    Number of campsites: 2 with a maximum of 4 people per site Electricity: no Ablution facilities: heated shower (electricity) Braai facilities: Outside, with grid available Disabled access: No

Activities

  • Picnicking

    There is a picnicking area situated under a thatch lapa that is available to day visitors, where you can relax and soak in the unique atmosphere of the Klein Karoo after your hike or 4x4 excursion. A small braai is also available for use.
  • Wildlife Watching

    Gamkaberg was established to protect a small, remnant herd of Cape Mountain Zebra. From just five in 1976, there are now between 40 and 50 at the reserve, making Gamkaberg a unique area for Wildlife Watching. There are also many species of buck, along with a variety of other wildlife, that can be viewed in the reserve, either via the hiking trail, or on the 4x4 trail.
  • Birdwatching

    An abundance of birds inhabit the Klein Karoo region, and many of them can be found in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve. Download the Klein Karoo bird list here.
  • Hiking and Walking

    Day Walks The hiking trails on offer at Gamkaberg give you the chance to experience some spectacular viewpoints and natural tranquility within the reserve. Hikers have several options including the overnight Tierkloof Hiking Trail and should be prepared for some fairly rough terrain. When hiking at Gamkaberg, always be prepared for unpredictable weather as the area experiences high temperatures in summer and gets very cold in winter. Permits may be purchased for R40 per adult and R20 per child at the reserve office or bookings can be made via CapeNature Central Reservations office. The Klein Karoo falls within the Cape Floral Kingdom and is one of the botanical wonders of the world. It harbours five biomes, namely:
    • Renosterveld,
    • Afromontane forest,
    • Fynbos,
    • Succulent karoo, and
    • Subtropical thicket
    The Gamkaberg day trails take you through the succulent karoo and subtropical thicket. Download the Gamkaberg Bossie Identification Guide (pdf) for a map of the day trails and a list of the common species you may encounter. Bossie Trail Poster - Gamkaberg Nature Reserve Guarrie Trail Trail distance:  0.7km Estimated time: 20 min This short trail takes one through the lowland succulent karoo vegetation. The 20 most common and interesting plant species are demarcated for ID purposes and interpretation is provided in the info brochure. Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised.   Spekboom Trail Trail distance:  1.3km Estimated time: 30 min This trail branches off the Guarrie trail and takes you higher up onto the foothills into the spekboomveld. It offers a wonderful view of the Klein Karoo vlaktes as well as the Swartberg Range in the distance. The 20 most common and interesting plant species are demarcated. Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised. Mousebird Trail           Trail distance:  2.5km Estimated time: 1.5hrs This trail takes you mainly through the Sweet thorn thicket along the valley bottom. It’s a great trail for observing the wide variety of bush birds which occur on Gamkaberg. (Bird list provided in the info brochure). The 20 most common and interesting plant species are demarcated. Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised. Pied Barbet Trail distance:  4.1km Estimated time: 2.5hrs Acacia Pied Barbets are often seen and heard along this trail. It branches off from the Mousebird trail and continues further up in the sweet thorn thicket along the valley bottom. Returning at a higher level through the spekboom veld it allows one a view over the sweet thorn treetops. Also great for birding but offering a glimpse into the Tierkloof Ravine where the real wilderness starts. An option is to branch off into the Tierkloof for a km or two, as your time or fitness levels dictate, just to experience the change in surroundings as the high cliffs on either side with forest vegetation in the valley bottom makes an appearance. Just turn back and join up with the Pied Barbet trail when you have taken in the pristine views. Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised. To Overhang and Back           Trail distance:  14.4km Estimated time: 6hrs This trail is highly recommended for those with a bit of extra time and fitness levels.  It covers the two longer day trails (Mousebird and Pied Barbet) as well as the continuing deep into the Tierkloof which has remnants of evergreen forest vegetation below spectacular sheer sandstone cliffs all along the way. At the overhang you can have a picnic and a rest while looking over the dense vegetation further up the ravine before turning around to complete the route back to the start at the info centre. Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised. Multi-Day Hikes Tierkloof Hiking Trail Day 1     Trail distance:  13.2km Estimated time: 8hrs Tierkloof Hiking Trail Day 2      Trail distance:  11.6km Estimated time: 7hrs Starting in succulent karoo, this is a moderately strenuous trail taking hikers through a deep, forested ravine to a fynbos-rich mountain plateau. Here they overnight at the remote Oukraal camp and enjoy spectacular views of the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountain ranges. Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised.
  • Swimming

    Swimming is only permitted for guests staying at the eco lodges.
  • 4x4 Trails

    By bringing your 4x4 to the reserve you can access the plateau where most of the herd animals occur and enjoy what the Gamkaberg has to offer. 4x4 Generic

    There are two 4 x 4 routes in the Gamkaberg Conservation Area.

    The Zebra Crossing 4x4 Route takes you on the Gamkaberg sector mainly through upland fynbos and renosterveld and offers you a chance to see rare Cape Mountain Zebra in its natural habitat. The route covers a large and rugged section of the reserve, taking you to and from spectacular viewpoints more than 1000m above the Little Karoo.

    The Kannaland 4x4 Route on the Groenefontein sector winds through the vlaktes and foothills where Succulent Karoo and sub-tropical thicket are the dominant vegetation types.

    The name “Kannaland” means the place where the Kanna plant grows. Kanna is a sprawling succulent belonging to the genus Mesembryanthemum. Since it was abundant in this area it was widely used by the early inhabitants (San and Khoikhoi) as a mood altering substance. The prepared, dried plant material was chewed, smoked or used as snuff to elevate mood, decrease anxiety and stress, as well as to reduce thirst and hunger, with no documented severe adverse effects.

    The main attraction of the 32 km route is the 40 000 ha of unspoilt landscape through which it takes you, making this a unique wilderness experience. The route is not technical and relatively easy to drive. There are a number of steep uphills and downhills, but all are on stable surfaces. (It can also be tackled by experienced mountain bikers.)

    The area covered by the route is an Arid Zone Flora Biodiversity Hot Spot, and prime conservation land has been bought up since 2002 by the WWFSA with funds donated by the Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust.

    This makes the route a plant lover’s dream as many of the unique dwarf succulent plants which are characteristic of the succulent karoo biome can be seen along the way. Associated with the high diversity of habitats through which you travel is also a host of interesting birds. Although shy and seldom seen, interesting nocturnal mammals such as leopard, caracal, jackal, honey badger, aardwolf, aardvark, porcupine, spotted genet and striped polecat are often recorded on the remote camera traps used for research. Antelope that are commonly seen are klipspringer, kudu, eland, steenbok and duiker. Spectacular landscapes and geological formations make the route perfect for photographic expeditions and the peace and solitude is unequalled.

    The trip will take a minimum of 5 hours from the Gamkaberg visitor centre. You have to exit the reserve at the Gamkaberg main gate and re-enter the reserve at the start of the Kannaland route (30 km further on). There are two shaded but basic picnic/ braai spots on the route, Dou Karoo and Batis, with an open-air long drop toilet at Batis. There is no water along the way and you need to take your own firewood as you are not allowed to collect wood.

    This is an extremely sensitive environment and has thus previously not been open to the public. It is also for this reason that the route is open only to visitors using the overnight facilities on Gamkaberg. Visitors are reminded that under no circumstances may vehicles leave the track. There are no refuse bins along the track so please take all your refuse out with you.

    A maximum of three groups will be allowed on the route per day and this will be allowed on a first come first served basis.

    Do's and Dont's

    1. Stay on the track at all times.
    2. It is illegal to remove any plant, animal or rock from the property.
    3. Practice "leave no trace" principles and take all your refuse (to the smallest detail) out with you.
    4. The route is not technical but is unsuitable for low clearance 4x4 vehicles. It is graded 3 (i.e. low range and limited off road knowledge required).
    5. Remember to take your own water and braai wood.
    6. Fires are only permitted in the demarcated fire places at Doukaroo and Batis.
    7. Please respect the privacy of other people you encounter along the route.

    Bookings can be made through CapeNature's booking office.

  • Tierkloof Hiking Trail

    Day 1

    Trail distance: 13.2km Estimated time: 8hrs

    Day 2

    Trail distance: 11.6km Estimated time: 7hrs Starting in succulent karoo, this is a moderately strenuous trail taking hikers through a deep, forested ravine to a fynbos-rich mountain plateau. Here they overnight at the remote Oukraal camp and enjoy spectacular views of the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountain ranges. Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised.
  • To Overhang and Back

    Trail distance: 14.4km Estimated time: 6hrs This trail is highly recommended for those with a bit of extra time and fitness levels.  It covers the two longer day trails (Mousebird and Pied Barbet) as well as the continuing deep into the Tierkloof which has remnants of evergreen forest vegetation below spectacular sheer sandstone cliffs all along the way. At the overhang you can have a picnic and a rest while looking over the dense vegetation further up the ravine before turning around to complete the route back to the start at the info centre. Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised.
  • Pied Barbet

    Trail distance: 4.1km Estimated time: 2.5hrs Acacia Pied Barbets are often seen and heard along this trail. It branches off from the Mousebird trail and continues further up in the sweet thorn thicket along the valley bottom. Returning at a higher level through the spekboom veld it allows one a view over the sweet thorn treetops. Also great for birding but offering a glimpse into the Tierkloof Ravine where the real wilderness starts. An option is to branch off into the Tierkloof for a km or two, as your time or fitness levels dictate, just to experience the change in surroundings as the high cliffs on either side with forest vegetation in the valley bottom makes an appearance. Just turn back and join up with the Pied Barbet trail when you have taken in the pristine views. Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised.
  • Mousebird Trail

    Trail distance: 2.5km Estimated time: 1.5hrs This trail takes you mainly through the Sweet thorn thicket along the valley bottom. It’s a great trail for observing the wide variety of bush birds which occur on Gamkaberg. (Bird list provided in the info brochure). The 20 most common and interesting plant species are demarcated. Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised.
  • Spekboom Trail

    Trail distance: 1.3km Estimated time: 30 min This trail branches off the Guarrie trail and takes you higher up onto the foothills into the spekboomveld. It offers a wonderful view of the Klein Karoo vlaktes as well as the Swartberg Range in the distance. The 20 most common and interesting plant species are demarcated. Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised.
  • Guarrie Trail

    Trail distance: 0.7km Estimated time: 20 min

    This short trail takes one through the lowland succulent karoo vegetation. The 20 most common and interesting plant species are demarcated for ID purposes and interpretation is provided in the info brochure.

    Trail Preparation: Do not hike alone. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Make sure to carry sufficient food, water and take along your binoculars. Permits are to be purchased via CapeNature Central Reservations or reserve office. In winter, a raincoat/pancho is advised.

Location

Conservation

Gamkaberg Conservation

The reserve was established in 1974 in order to conserve a local population of endangered Cape mountain zebra and their natural habitat. The terrain is rugged, with mountainous plateau incised by deep ravines. The main rock formations consist of Table Mountain quartzites and shales, and Bokkeveld sandstone and shales. Situated within the Cape Floral Kingdom, which hosts one of the richest flora on earth, the reserve is of particular interest to botanists. Here, four of the South African biomes are represented, namely Fynbos, Succulent Karoo, Subtropical Thicket and Evergreen Forest. The best times of the year to visit are in Spring and Autumn but visits throughout the year can be rewarding. The rare and endangered Cape mountain zebra, leopard and honey badger are some of the reserve’s fauna highlights. Other mammals include eland, kudu, red hartebeest, grysbok, grey rhebuck, klipspringer, duiker, steenbok, baboon, caracal, aardvark, aardwolf, black-backed jackal and numerous smaller species. The reserve is host to a wide variety of birds, reptiles and insects. Gamkaberg is also rich in Khoisan rock art and early marine invertebrate fossils.

Filming

Gamkaberg Filming

The Western Cape is world renowned as being able to offer almost every possible cinematic location imaginable. CapeNature offers film producers a wide selection of the most breathtaking landscapes including mountains, dams, waterfalls, rivers and roads. The combination of fantastic weather and amazing light has resulted in the Western Cape becoming a major venue for local and international film, video and stills productions. In addition to this The Cape Floral Region, the Western Cape is an evolutionary treasure chest, which, as a result of relatively stable conditions over millions of years, has managed to retain the gems of natural selection. In 2004, the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas was added to the prestigious list of World Heritage Sites.

Accessibility

  • Walking Stick friendly
  • Wheelchair friendly

8 Reviews

Great place for a walk

Cees Kramer, London, Mar 28, 2015 - Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

We were very impressed by Gamkaberg. A beautiful park, friendly and well informed staff, clean facilities, plus hardly anybody there. Which is both a blessing, and a bit of a shame as the park offers lovely walks which are very well signed and maintained. We were looking for a good place to walk whilst staying in Oudtshoorn, and found Gamkaberg almost by chance on the internet. It is ca 30 km away from Oudtshoorn and well worth the drive.

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Sublime

Barbara Ikin, Feb 4, 2015 - Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

We have visited Gamkaberg about 15 times in the last six years. This time we were a large group staying at Tierkloof, Soetdoring and the Stables. As usual it was comfortable, exciting, clean, spectacular - Gamkaberg truly remains one of the gems of Cape Nature. Congratulations to Tom and every one of his team.

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12 remote camps and cottages around South Africa - Getaway Magazine, Nov 6, 2014 - Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

[…] restio reeds and delicate pink proteas line the road into the heights of Gamkaberg Nature Reserve. A steep ascent at the beginning of the hour-and-a-half drive from the gate sets the tone from the […]

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The Stables and Camp Site

jackie anderson, Oct 27, 2014 - Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Spending the weekend in Gamkaberg was so amazing. The facilities are the cleanest I have ever experienced. The staff must be commended for their high standard of service. Gamkaberg is the feather in CapeNature's cap and a secret gem of the Karoo.

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Gamkasberg

Kobus en Lizet van der Merwe, Oct 3, 2014 - Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

This is a beautiful tented camp. Very well planned and laid out for maximum privacy and soaking in the wonderful vegetation and golden hills. Very comfortable and environmentally friendly. Stay a few days to relax and to enjoy utter peace. Staff very helpful and ample opportunities for hiking and bird watching. Thanks Cape Nature!

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