Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

Grootvadersbosch is temporarily closed to the public, from 20 June 2016 until 4 September 2016

*Please note that Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve will be closed to the public from Monday 20 June 2016 until Sunday 4 September 2016 due to essential upgrades that will take place on the access road. Access from neighbouring properties will not be possible during this time either. We apologise for the inconvenience. 

Originally known as Melkhoutskraal, the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve encompasses 250 hectares of indigenous forest in the Langeberg region, close to Heidelberg. The name translates to “big father” in honour of Roelof Oelofse who owned the land in 1723. It has only been a reserve since 1986 and was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004.

This is the most significant stretch of indigenous afromontane forest left in the south-western Cape, with nearly all of the 35 typical forest tree species, including red alder, ironwood, stinkwood and yellowwood. Visitors to this beautiful reserve will relish the opportunity to get out into the forest on day walks and mountain biking trails. This is an excellent birding destination with more than 196 bird species regularly spotted. Hikers are likely to bump into bushbuck and spot baboons and smaller mammals when out on the trails. Sighting the forest emperor butterfly and a subspecies of the rare ghost frog would be the highlight of a visit here, as they can only be found in this particular forest.

To find out more, download the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve brochure or view the video below.

Grootvadersbosch video and gallery images by Liesel Kershoff

How to get there

From Cape Town: Take the N2 from Cape Town towards George. Just past Swellendam and Buffelsjag River, take the left-hand turn-off for Suurbraak/Barrydale. Turn left and continue through the town of Suurbraak and past the turn-off for Barrydale via Tradouwpass. The tar road becomes a dirt road. Continue till a T-junction, turn left and keep left at the next fork in the road. The reserve is well signposted. The road ends at the entrance gates.

GPS: 33 59 08.4 S 20 49 24.7 E

Office hours: 07:30–16:00

Tel: +27 (0)28 492 0001
Accommodation and permit bookings Tel: +27 (0)21 483 0190



  • Scolopia

    Scolopia is a wooden house that comfortably sleeps six guests in two bedrooms (one with a double bed and one with two single beds) and on a double sleeper couch in the lounge. It is located 500m from the reserve entrance on the edge of indigenous forest and near the start of a day hike. The house, named after an indigenous pear tree, has a well-equipped kitchen, bathroom and living room, as well as a shaded outdoor braai area. Guests must bring their own food, as there is no shop on the reserve. Firewood can occasionally be purchased at the reserve office but bring your own to be safe as supply from neighbouring farms is sporadic.. The water from the taps is naturally brown in colour and not polluted; however, it is advisable to boil it before drinking. Electricity: Yes Bathroom: Shower Kitchen: Stove, fridge, microwave, kettle, cutlery and crockery Bedding, linen and towels: Yes Fireplace: Indoor fire and outdoor braai, with grid Disabled access: No Pets welcome: No


  • Grootvadersbosch Campsites

    There are 10 camps. Each site looks onto indigenous forest, providing many opportunities for bird watching. Communal ablution facilities are offered, as well as a thatched communal braai area with fridge, and a children's play area/jungle gym (no children to be left unsupervised). Campsites have braai facilities, but visitors should bring their own braai grids. Sites available: 10 campsites Power points: Yes Ablution facilities: Hot water showers, toilet paper provided Shop on-site: No Firewood for sale: Occasionally. Bring your own to be safe as supply from neighbouring farms is sporadic. Braai facilities: Each campsite has it's own fireplace and there is a communal braai at the picnic area Disabled access: No Pets welcome: No


  • Mountain biking

    Visitors are welcome to head off on mountain bikes to explore the reserve. Cycling groups are restricted to 12 people and cyclists must keep to the well-marked routes. Please note that there are no bikes available for hire and visitors will need to bring their own. Permits can be bought at the reserve office (R40 per day). Cycle Trail Trail distance: 58km Estimated time: 2 days This challenging mountain bike trail passes through the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve and adjoining conservancy farmland. This is recommended as a two-day trail with overnight stops. Permits are required for this route.    
  • Hiking and Walking

    There are a variety of day hikes as well as longer, overnight trails on offer. Regardless of the length of the trail, visitors should take heed of trail advice given, in particular the need to wear comfortable shoes, suntan lotion and a hat, and to carry sufficient water. Hiking trails Hikers will enjoy the relatively easy three-to-four hour hike on the Bushbuck Trail, and also the more challenging Grysbok Trail. Help us protect nature No pets/no firearms/no picking of flowers or collecting of seeds/no fires except in designated areas/no horse riding. Permits Permits may be purchased for R40 per adult and R20 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.
    • Please alert reserve staff once you have finished your hike, so that they know you are safely off the trails.
    Bushbuck trail Trail distance: 10km Estimated time: 3-4 hours This beautiful route wanders through mountain fynbos and indigenous forest, providing a shaded and relatively easy hike for all ages.The route loops in and around the indigenous forest, affording hikers the opportunity to visit both bird hides in the forest, as well as taking them past most of the tree species in the reserve. Grysboksirkel Trail distance: 15km Estimated time: 5-6 hours The Grysboksirkel is a tougher hike, taking you out of the forest-covered valley, up the mountainside through the fynbos area, and on to the ridge of the hills bordering the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area. The hike is a loop and will bring you back to the reserve road.
  • Bird Watching

    There are nearly 200 bird species that are regularly spotted in the reserve. Visitors should keep a keen eye out for black, crowned and booted eagles, the rare striped flufftail, the narina trogon and beautiful sunbirds and sugarbirds. The forest area features two bird hides (pictured below) which are easily accessible via the hiking trails and provide great vantage points from which to view the many bird species in the nature reserve. [caption id="attachment_3137" align="aligncenter" width="550"]GVB-Bird-Hide-1 Bird Hide 1[/caption] The first bird hide is located approximately 500m from the reserve road along the Melkhoutpad, and provides a wonderful view over the forest canopy. [caption id="attachment_3138" align="aligncenter" width="413"]GVB-Bird-Hide-2 Bird Hide 2[/caption] The second bird hide is located a few hundred metres from the reserve road along Bosbokrand, or it can be accessed via the Bushbucktrail. The triple story structure is accessed via wooden stairs in the interior, and provides a view of the tree tops in the middle of the indigenous forest, allowing birders views of the many bird species in Grootvadersbosch.



Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve Conservation

Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve conserves a significant section of indigenous forest that has most of the typical 35 forest tree species, including yellowwood, stinkwood, red alder and ironwood. Areas in which exotic trees were planted between 1896 and 1913, including camphor, eucalyptus, ash and Californian redwood and oak, are being reclaimed for indigenous species. The reserve is home to two species only found in this particular forest, a subspecies of the forest emperor butterfly and a subspecies of the ghost frog, as well as a host of bushbuck, grysbok, baboons and smaller mammals. Leopards are occasionally spotted. This is a birder’s paradise with 196 species recorded within the reserve, including the rare striped flufftail, Layard’s titbabbler, francolin, black and booted eagles and the beautiful sunbirds and sugarbirds. Located in a transitional rainfall zone between winter and all-year rainfall regions,the vegetation is primarily mountain fynbos, with about 1 200 plant species documented in this region.


Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve Filming

With pristine indigenous forest, amazing Redwoods, and remarkable vistas, there are numerous opportunities for filming in this reserve. Located just over three hours from Cape Town, near the towns of Swellendam and Heidelberg, the reserve is conveniently located for film shoots.

2 Reviews

Back In Action. | Alive & Well, Jun 6, 2014 - Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

[…] and Tar.) We went off on a mountain biking mission. We headed out of the farm and Headed towards Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve. We were told that there’s a rad mountain bike trail that ends up right on the […]


Grootvadersbosch Day Hikes | Boots & Fins, Mar 23, 2014 - Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

[…] are 10 campsites with electrical points at Grootvadersbosch, as well as a large thatched braai area with a fridge.  The communal ablution block is neat and […]


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