With the spicy fragrance and the sound of crinkling leaves still fresh in our minds from our visit to Platbos Forest, we were excited to explore Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve. The profound calming and healing powers of forests and water is well documented but, what we didn’t expect was that once you have had a taste of it, you long for the next dose of forest meds. We were ready and excited to discover life in this precious forest.
Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve
Grootvadersbosch is a nature reserve located against the Langeberg mountains between Swellendam (45 km from Grootvadersbosch) and Heidelberg (20 km from Grootvadersbosch).
It takes about 3 hours to get there from Cape Town, so ideally a visit to this gem should be planned over a long weekend. The reserve boasts 250 hectares of pristine indigenous forest and was declared a World Heritage site in 2004.
Going to Grootvadersbosch we drove through Swellendam and took the R324 turnoff (shortly after Swellendam) to Grootvadersbosch. On our way home after the weekend we followed the R324 to Barrydale through the magnificent Tradouw Pass, one of the most beautiful passes in the Western Cape with mountain scenery that will renew your respect and admiration for nature.
Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve is managed by CapeNature and all bookings must be done through them. You can book online: go directly to the booking portal. Alternatively, you can also book telephonically, call the booking line on 021-4830190.
If you have a Wild Card you won’t need to pay the conservation fee. Read all about the Wildcard and its benefits.
There are 10 campsites, most of which are on the small side if you camp with a caravan or large trailer. All the campsites overlook the indigenous forest.
The best sites are No. 4 and 7 because they are located to one end of the campsite and therefore offer a little bit more privacy. These 2 sites also have plenty of shade, courtesy of the False Olive and Red Crowberry trees.
All sites have an L-shaped fence to provide some privacy and there are decent braai facilities too. There is also electricity and most sites have direct access to a tap.
If you prefer more privacy, there are two fenced-off private campsites with exquisite views of the Langeberg mountains, each suitable for a maximum of 6 people and two vehicles. Each of these campsites have a shower, flush toilet, lighting, scullery and braai place.
For the non-campers there are 11 newly constructed wooden cabins. The cabins are all 4-sleepers, with two bedrooms, an inside braai area, kitchen, lounge with fireplace and an outside braai area.
- Units 1-3 have Universal Access with garages, while units 8-11 also have garages. Kitchens are fully equipped with an electric fridge, freezer, microwave, toaster and gas stove with four burners. Bedding and towels are provided.
Scolopia is a wooden house that 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. The kitchen is fully-equipped and bedding and towels are provided. There is an indoor fireplace and an outdoor braai.
The chalets are located 3km from the main camp and there is a fantastic swimming pool for guests to spend the hot middays.
Check-in is from 14h00 and the office closes at 16h00, however the gate stays open until 18h00 for the late arrivals.
Wood can be purchased at the office, but if you are planning to arrive after 16h00 it’s best to bring along a bag, or two.
Check-out is at 10h00 and they are fairly strict with their times, which seems to be a CapeNature “thing”.
P.S: Don’t forget to bring along your Wild Card as you have to produce it at check-in to avoid paying the conservation fee.
Important Additional Info For Your Stay
· There is no shop on site and they don’t sell water or ice.
· They sell wood at the entrance gate.
· Bring your own grid.
· There is limited cell phone reception and your best bet is just outside the office.
The ablutions are close to all the campsites with a washing up area and they are serviced daily. We found the ablutions spacious, clean and well maintained.
There is also a thatched communal braai area with fridge/freezer that everyone can use, and a children’s play area.
Activities At Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve
Grootvadersbosch has a truly amazing indigenous forest, with a number of clearly marked hiking trails, ranging from easy to strenuous.
To the west is a rather strenuous trail through Fonteintjies Bos, which has some steep ascents and descents as it traverses a number of kloofs (we called this trail the “big huff and puff”) and features a picturesque waterfall (which was not flowing very strongly when we were there during December, but must be spectacular during the winter months).
The forest trails are all part of the Bushbuck trail, which consists of a network of trails of about 10 km.
The trails to the east are somewhat flatter. The milkwood, redwood and stinkwood trails are a must, with two amazing bird hides.
Ironically, the highlight of this “indigenous” forest is an impressive stand of California Redwoods, which stand 40m tall and tower over the forest canopy. These giants were planted in 1907 and are still babies; their Californian counterparts are two thousand years old and can attain heights of 100m, making them the tallest trees in the world.
The forest trails are home to bushbuck, and you have a fairly good chance of seeing these elusive, yet beautiful animals.
Birding is a big drawcard for this reserve, with many forest dwelling specials on offer, such as the Olive Bushshrike, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher and Narina Trogon. The reserve boasts a bird list of 200+ species, with the best times being from September to December.
Additionally, there is the collection of Grysbok trails (about 15 km), which cover the fynbos landscape along the Langeberg mountains. These trails are flatter than the forest trails, but are longer and more exposed to the elements; contemplate them for early mornings or if conditions are overcast. They are also popular with the cyclists.
Around Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve Area
Should you have time left after exploring the magnificent forest and all it has to offer, a trip through the Tradouw Pass and a visit to Barrydale is a must.
Along the pass you will find clear fresh pools and rocks for swimming and relaxing.
Barrydale is a Karoo Town with an abundance of character to explore. Read more about Barrydale here!
All I can say is, we left reluctantly and the time spent at Grootvadersbosch felt a lot longer than what it actually was – which was lovely
We set out on a hike exploring the forest every morning which would last around 4 hours. Some areas are more strenuous than others, but we were hardly aware of the time or the effort actually. We felt free, unburdened and ageless exploring the forest with it’s trees, foliage, birds and water. Where there was no road or path we bundu-bashed our way back to a path and it was such fun.
In the afternoons we would enjoy a swim in the pool and laze around until it was time to light a fire and enjoy the sunset canvas.
It was also my 1st time learning how to identify trees – which I thoroughly enjoyed! It gave me the feeling that I am connecting with the forest instead of just observing it from a distance.
Grootvadersbosch is a must do……
Will we be back? Most definitely!
Till our next adventure!