The biggest wilderness area in South Africa and also designated as a World Heritage Site, the Baviaanskloof in South Africa’s Eastern Cape
is absolutely spectacular. One of the Eastern Cape’s hidden gems the Baviaanskloof or ‘valley of the baboons’ is a vast area of raw and rugged wilderness that offers spectacular scenery from crystal clear mountain streams flowing off sheer cliffs, to indigenous forests, and a huge biodiversity of plants and animals. For anyone looking to get back to nature and enjoy the Eastern Cape in its unspoilt glory, the Baviaanskloof is the perfect place.
The Baviaanskloof is an unspoilt wilderness and as such is probably not suited for those who need modern comforts and conveniences around them. But it is perfect for anyone who likes camping
, families who want the kids to explore and those with an adventurous spirit. For anyone keen to experience some of this awesome wilderness but not quite ready to get back to nature, there is plenty of accommodation
available in the Gamtoos Valley
– the eastern gateway to the Baviaanskloof and you’ll find a great little country shop
You can visit the Baviaanskloof at any time of the year however, for us the best time to visit the Baviaanskloof is Spring and Autumn as temperatures are not as hot as in summer and winter can get a little cold for camping.
One thing to bear in mind when visiting the Baviaanskloof is the road conditions
. The area is off the beaten track and therefore, bad weather can make roads impassable. For much of the Baviaanskloof a 4x4 is also necessary so we would advise checking road conditions in advance
of your trip.
- Camp out in the unspoilt Baviaanskloof wilderness at one of the stunningly located campsites, enjoy evening braais and nights in the silence of the wilderness.
- Go for a hike. Take in the amazing scenery and stop to swim in crystal clear mountain streams.
- Enjoy a 4x4 trail scenic drive.
- Stay at one of the game lodges and spot the wildlife.
- Visit the Kouga Dam – this is quite a site and the dam supplies a lot of the Eastern Cape with water.
- Bird and plant spotting – the Baviaanskloof is home to a wide range of bird species and 7 of South Africa’s 8 biomes can be found here – hence its designation as a World Heritage Site.
Baviaanskloof Full Travel Guide (for those who need to know a little more)
The Baviaanskloof Wilderness area is the place to go for anyone who wants to escape modernity and get back to nature. The biggest wilderness area in South Africa and also designated as a World Heritage Site, the Baviaanskloof in South Africa’s Eastern Cape
is absolutely spectacular.
One of the Eastern Cape’s hidden gems the Baviaanskloof or ‘valley of the baboons’ is a vast area of raw and rugged wilderness that offers spectacular scenery from crystal clear mountain streams flowing off sheer cliffs, to indigenous forests, and a huge biodiversity of plants and animals.
A popular spot for bird watchers, plant enthusiasts and wildlife photographers, the Baviaanskloof has an incredibly diverse range of bird and animal species and is home to 7 of South Africa’s 8 biomes (environments). Accommodation
within the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area is largely camping or in very basic huts so it really is a rustic experience. For anyone looking to stay in more comfortable surrounds, there is a good range of Baviaanskloof accommodation
available on the edges of the park, allowing you to still enjoy this scenic area without having to ‘rough it’.
The Baviaanskloof Wilderness area is a designated National Park so visitors will need permits to enter the park itself. These can be purchased from the EC Parks Board
Once in the Wilderness Area there is an immense feeling of space and the narrow and sometimes precarious road will take you through utterly breathtaking scenery of stunning mountain passes, lush forest and clear mountain streams. The route will take you a good 8-10 hours to drive all the way through, so it is a good idea to book your camping and break up the trip. There is also plenty of hiking and climbing available and there are many mountain streams for a refreshing dip – the Baviaanskloof really is nature as it was intended to be.
How to get to the Baviaanskloof
The nearest airport to the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area is Port Elizabeth airport
(about two hours away). From there you will need a car to get to the Baviaanskloof or will need to take part in an organised tour
that arranges transport.
The Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area is inland and a couple of hours drive to the West of the Eastern Cape city of Port Elizabeth
or a 40 minute drive from surfing town Jeffreys Bay, so car is pretty much the only way to get there.
Some roads around the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area and most within the Wilderness area itself are not tarred and therefore, are often difficult to access in anything other than a 4x4 and can sometimes become impassable if weather is bad. We would advise using a 4x4 if you plan to travel far into the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area, although if you plan to stay on the outskirts in places such as Patensie, it may not be necessary. Our top tip is to check road conditions in advance
and make sure you have a suitable vehicle.
When to go
The areas on the outskirts of the Baviaanskloof are good destinations all year round. Towns of the Eastern Cape’s Gamtoos River Valley
are particularly nice in winter (May-August) as the citrus fruit grown in the area is in full bloom. If planning to venture into the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area itself, we would say the best time to visit the Baviaanskloof is March. Temperatures are not as hot during the day as in January and February, but are still pleasant and rainfall is usually low. Of course it is still spectacular at many other times of the year and as long as the weather
has not affected the roads too much and it is not too cold for camping, most months are fine to visit the Baviaanskloof.
Things to do
The Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area in the Eastern Cape is all about escaping modernity and getting back to nature, so things to do in the Baviaanskloof are largely based around this. Below are some ideas.
- Visit the eastern gateway to the Baviaanskloof, Patensie and spend the night in comfort before entering the Wilderness. Stock up on supplies, visit a citrus farm and enjoy a meal at a restaurant before venturing into more rugged terrain.
- Enjoy a few nights camping at some of the scenic camping sites in the Baviaanskloof. We like Doodsklip and Rooihoek on the upper reaches of the Kouga Dam, near to pure white sandy beaches and deep river pools where you can go swimming.
- Hiking – there are plenty of hiking opportunities and this is a great way to spot some of the diverse bird and plant life in the area. Remember a good pair of walking shoes though.
- Stop at Assembly Hill or Vergarderingskop in Afrikaans for an excellent view of the valley.
- Watch the sunset from somewhere within the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area – the colours are incredible.
- Enjoy the scenic drive through the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area – take plenty of time to stop and marvel at the views and remember the binoculars!
- Relax, enjoy being at one with nature, have an evening braai at your campsite and revel in the sounds of silence – this is what the Baviaanskloof is all about!
Eating out in the Baviaanskloof
There are no restaurants or dining facilities in the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area itself. You will need to bring your own food supplies which can be purchased in towns on the outskirts of the Baviaanskloof. If you are staying in one of the huts, there are kitchen facilities to cook your own food, otherwise you are camping and it’s whatever you bring with you.
There are some restaurants
in the nearby towns such as Patensie and game lodges on the outskirts often have their own restaurant, but generally the Baviaanskloof area is about braaiing (bbq) and not eating out.
Accommodation in the Baviaankloof
Within the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area itself accommodation is provided by EC Parks
and is either in basic huts or at various wilderness campsites (generally with limited or no facilities). Accommodation in the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area is limited and needs to be booked in advance through the EC Parks Board.
There is also a good range of Baviaanskloof accommodation
on the outskirts of the wilderness area and this is a great option for anyone wishing to enjoy a few modern comforts whilst still experiencing the stunning surrounds. Check out our Baviaanskloof accommodation
section for more information.