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

Who to contact

Graafwater Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 27 422 1108

Lambert's Bay Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 27 432 1000

How to get here

Head north from Cape Town on the N7 to the hamlet of Trawal (226km from Cape Town). After passing Trawal, turn left at the sign for the Heerenlogement. After about 20km on dirt, you will reach the cave. Coming from Lambert's Bay, head inland to Graafwater for 31km and go north at Graafwater for about 20km and you will find the cave.

Best time to visit

Visiting the Heerenlogement is not weather-dependent, and you can go any time of the year.

Around the area

Clanwilliam and the Cederberg are close; the blooms (seasonal) of Nieuwoudtville are just to the north; a slow, back-roads drive through local villages is always a treat.

Tours to do

Check with Lambert's Bay Tourism for available tours and guides; many visitors come up with Cape Town-based tour operators who know the area, its attractions and its history.

What will it cost

There is no charge. Just pick up your litter and close the gate when you leave.

Length of stay

This is a one-hour visit, unless you plan to picnic there, which many do.

What to pack

It's a day-drive from Cape Town, so pack drinks, extra water, sunblock, your camera, map, local guide book, and lunch.

Where to stay

Lambert's Bay, Doring Bay or Strandfontein would all be options for places to stay. You're in lighthouse country here, so be prepared for atmospheric sunsets and great sunrises all with a lighthouse in frame.

What to eat

On the West Coast, seafood in the form of crayfish and linefish are your best bets. At Lambert's Bay, hunt down some authentic fish & chips.

What's happening

Check the West Coast websites for festival dates and, if you like colour and fiesta, time your visit to coincide with happenings like the Crayfish Festival in Lambert's Bay.

Best buys

Organic foods, jams, handicrafts, handmade paper - all from the various Lambert's Bay stores.

Related articles