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TThe Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area in Eastern Cape province offers visitors a fascinating view of one of South Africa’s most rugged and beautiful places. Spectacular vistas, abundant fauna and flora and various 4x4 (SUV) and hiking routes guarantee a fulfilling visit
The Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area starts about 90km west of Port Elizabeth, and it has long been considered a region of exceptional beauty. The area, which includes the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve, is a strong drawcard for off-road travellers wishing to immerse themselves in a mountain wilderness.
The 200km-long Baviaanskloof (‘canyon of baboons’) Valley, bounded by the Baviaankloof Mountains to the north and the Kouga Mountains to the south, is by far the most popular tourist route in this area, and runs from Patensie in the east to Willowmore in the west.
Visitors wishing to drive through this valley will have to navigate a dirt road, built between 1880 and 1890 by Thomas Bain towards the end of his life. This was by far the longest road the legendary road engineer ever built – and it remains one of the most beautiful.
There are two spectacular mountain passes and numerous low-water bridges en route. The entire 200km journey takes at least six hours due to its rugged nature. The eastern part of the valley is only accessible by 4x4 (SUV) and requires a skilled driver, but the epic views are well worth the careful drive.
Wildlife abounds in this unspoilt conservancy, and visitors can expect to see prolific birdlife, including fish eagle and Verreaux’s eagle. Other residents include the inevitable troops of baboons, small mammals like mongoose and vervet monkeys, as well as mountain zebras and Cape buffalo (both of which have been reintroduced to the area). Buffalo can be dangerous, so it is best to take the advice of the locals when hiking.
There are numerous accommodation options, including campsites on the river, should visitors wish to spend a few days exploring this secluded valley.
The larger area known as the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve has been short-listed for World Heritage Site status by Unesco. The Baviaanskloof also forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom World Heritage Site.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve (Komdomo office)
Tel: +27 (0)87 286 6494
How to get here
The Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area can be accessed from Patensie on the Port Elizabeth side or Willowmore on the Karoo side.
Best time to visit
Spring (September to November) has the most pleasant weather, although the Baviaanskloof can be enjoyed year-round.
Be aware, however, that midday temperatures from December to March generally approach 30⁰C on most days, while February and March are also the wettest months of the year. In the dry winter, from June to August, the nights can be freezing (night-time temperatures are usually below 13⁰C throughout the year anyway), so pack according to the season when you visit.
Tours by car or 4x4 (SUV) are popular, but some parts of the valley are rugged and require a skilled driver.
What to pack
Sturdy boots, warm clothes, cameras and binoculars will stand you in good stead. Sunscreen, hats and water will also make any hiking expedition more comfortable.
Where to stay
Accommodation is available at various campsites and guesthouses; you can find several on the Go Baviaans website.
Hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, swimming, snorkelling, kloofing (canyon tours), birding, mountain biking and 4x4 (SUV) routes are available.