Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve is a World Heritage Site, located in the transitional zone where fynbos and lowland succulent Karoo vegetation overlap
Proclaimed as a nature reserve in 2000, and a World Heritage Site in 2014, Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve occupies a very special part of the Western Cape. The 12 800 hectare nature reserve is located in the transitional zone where fynbos and lowland succulent Karoo vegetation overlap. The diversity of fauna and flora found on the reserve thus offers visitors representations of both biomes.
This semi-arid nature reserve also contains some excellent examples of the region’s geological and archaeological heritage, including the imposing Stadsaal cave, rare San rock art depicting elephants, and the newly opened Truitjieskraal interpretive trail. A permit is required to visit these attractions and is available for purchase at the CapeNature offices or at any private tourism offices in the Cederberg area.
Watch some beautiful timelapses of the nature reserve, filmed on the Truitjieskraal interpretive trail, below.
Video shot and provided by Liesel Kershoff. View her work on her website here: lieselkershoff.com
How to get there
From Cape Town: Take the N7 highway north from Cape Town. Stay on the N7 past Citrusdal, after 28km take the Cederberg/Algeria turn-off to the right. Follow this main gravel road for 17km and you will come to the Algeria office. From this office, carry on the dirt road for another 46km, over the Uitkyk pass, past the turn off to Krom Rivier (take the left fork in the road, following the sign for ‘Ceres’). The Stadsaal caves are just a few kilometres into the reserve, while the office complex and Truitjieskraal turn-off are further along. This is a 300km drive, but will take you at least four hours due to the long stretch of gravel road along the last 80km.
Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve contact information
Reserve office hours: 07h30 – 16h00, Monday to Friday
Reserve office phone number: +27 27 482 9922
Permits can be obtained at any tourism office in the Cederberg Area or at Algeria or Matjiesrivier during office hours.
Cellphone reception: No reception, last reception point is the Algeria section of the Cederberg.
GPS: 32° 30’ 0.5’’ S 19° 20’ 10.0’’ E
The first stop after you turn off the main road is the site of the Elephant rock art (pictured above). Estimated to be at least 1 000 years old (the San began the practice of painting on rocks and in caves around 5 000 years ago), the paintings depict three groups of people and a herd of elephants (below).
Painted with materials made from ochre rock (which makes the orange, red and yellow paint), as well as charcoal and white clay (for the now faded black and white paint), the paintings are remarkably well-preserved. This is thanks to the staying power of the orange ochre ‘paint’, as well as more recent conservation efforts, though you’ll notice the humans look ‘headless’ due to the fact that the black paint used for their heads has faded over time. It is truly a privilege to be able to stand in the presence of such ancient artwork and know that the Khoisan people also stood at this very spot, over a millennium ago. Rock art is protected by the National Monuments Act (1969) and vandals who deface rock paintings face fines of up to R10 000 and/or two years imprisonment.
How do you want to get involved?
Bookings are processed through our Call Centre during office hours Monday to Friday 07h30 to 16h30 and Saturday 08h00 until 12h00 noon (CAT).
Our friendly tourism booking officers will take you through the booking process and answer all enquiries.