Top things to do in Swellendam

Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve was named after landowner Roelof Oelofse (1723), who was then known as the 'Groot Vader' (Great Father) of the region. Its original name was "Melkhoutskraal". This nature reserve is part of a World Heritage Site that includes large sections of indigenous forest. It has only been a reserve since 1986 and was declared a world heritage site in 2004. The wildlife includes lots of birds and small mammals. If you are lucky you might even get to see a ghost frog or one of the unique butterfly species.


This is the most significant stretch of indigenous Afromontane forest left in the south-western Cape, with nearly all of the 35 typical forest tree species, including red alder, ironwood, stinkwood and yellowwood. Visitors to this beautiful reserve will relish the opportunity to get out into the forest on day walks and mountain biking trails. This is an excellent birding destination with more than 196 bird species regularly spotted. Hikers are likely to bump into bushbuck and spot baboons and smaller mammals when out on the trails. Sighting the forest emperor butterfly and a subspecies of the rare ghost frog would be the highlight of a visit here, as they can only be found in this particular forest.


The amount of time/photos world renowned photographer, Jacques Marais, spends here is testament to GVB's beauty. 


Hot Summers and Cold Winters
Most rain: March, October and November
Occasional snow
Grootvadersbosch Tel: +27 (0)28 492 0001
Cabin & permits Tel: +27 (0)87 087 8250


> Dogs are not allowed.

> This is Africa. Remember sunscreen, hats and water.

> The water is safe to drink, but comes from the mountain and has a brown tinge, so if you want crystal clear water - bring your own.

Google Maps:


Hiking Trails

Bushbuck trail

Trail distance: 10km
Estimated time: 3-4 hours

This beautiful route wanders through mountain fynbos and indigenous forest, providing a shaded and relatively easy hike for all ages.The route loops in and around the indigenous forest, affording hikers the opportunity to visit both bird hides in the forest, as well as taking them past most of the tree species in the reserve.


Grysboksirkel trail

Trail distance: 15km
Estimated time: 5-6 hours

The Grysboksirkel is a tougher hike, taking you out of the forest-covered valley, up the mountainside through the fynbos area, and on to the ridge of the hills bordering the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area. The hike is a loop and will bring you back to the reserve road.

Boosmansbos 2 day Hike: more info


Mountain Bike Trails

Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve borders Grootvadersbosch Conservancy. This might confuse you, but they are two completely different organisations, with different permit systems and rules. When you are staying at Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve there are two options:

Option 1: Keep to the open bakkie road in the reserve and area.

Option 2: If you are keen on single track, you must ride some of the 120km GVB Conservancy trails. 


The GVB Conservancy trails are pretty amazing. A day permit costs R50 and a year permit R300.

For more info: Grootvadersbosch Conservancy.

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