The Heerenlogement Cave just inland from the West Coast near Doring Bay has been dubbed the ‘Holiday Inn’ of the 17th Century and beyond. Once the San and Khoi guides had exposed colonial travellers to this refuge, it became an overnight favourite. Their names still cover the cave walls.

Did you know?

More than 174 names of colonial-era travellers are recorded on the walls of the Heerenlogement Cave.

The Heerenlogement Cave (Dutch for ‘the master's lodging house’) lies a few kilometres inland from Lambert's Bay, on South Africa's West Coast.

Dubbed ‘the Holiday Inn of the 1600s’, the Heerenlogement Cave has a fresh water spring, good grazing on the slopes outside and can be easily guarded. From the mouth of this famous cave, you can see across the rooibos (South African tea) farms and down to the coast.

The first to use this ‘hotel’ were the indigenous San (also known as Bushmen) and Khoi peoples. They later guided European hunters, explorers, traders and prospectors to the overnight enclave.

The explorer Olaf Bergh stayed over on his journey north to familiarise himself with the Cape West Coast. The Simon van der Stel party spent some nights here en route to the copper fields of Namaqualand. The famous road builder and engineer Andrew Geddes Bain also rested here.

Just more than a century after the first colonial ‘guests’ arrived at the Heerenlogement, the jauntiest traveller of them all – Francois le Vaillant – pitched up in full sail. In his hat he wore a large ostrich feather, he had his infamously scheming Chacma baboon called Kees by his side, and in his wake came a large retinue of Khoi and no fewer than three wagons.

They stayed there for a week, fattening their trek oxen and dining on dassies (rock rabbits or hyraxes) before wandering north to the Orange River in search of specimens and thrilling adventures. If you stroll around inside the Heerenlogement, you will find the name Vailant (sic), dated 1783, etched into the stone. You will also find other celebrated names alongside his. This cave contains some of the oldest colonial graffiti found anywhere in South Africa.

Once you’re inside the shallow cave, look up and you will see a 300-year-old tree bulging through a cleft in the rock roof – and it’s still growing strong…

Travel tips & Planning info

Related articles