The Swartberg Nature Reserve covers 121 000 hectares of pristine land which is part of a World Heritage Site.
The area was clearly inhabited by San people for many centuries as there are numerous rock painting sites and artefacts that have been found in caves and shelters all over the reserve.
This is an area of climatic extremes, with very cold winters, there is often snow on the mountains and temperatures fall well below zero, while summers can be uncomfortably hot with temperatures reaching mid 40 degrees Celsius and higher.
The Swartberg Mountains are part of the Cape Fold mountain system and the geological formations are chiefly of the Table Mountain group.
The reserve’s vegetation is remarkably diverse, featuring renosterveld, mountain fynbos, Karoo-veld, spekboom-veld, and numerous geophytes species. Most plants flower in spring and some of the low lying areas are transformed into a wonderland as the fi rst rains occur and the dormant plants display their true colours in vast abundance.
Mammals likely to be seen include klipspringer, grey rhebuck, kudu, baboon and dassie (rock hyrax). Leopard and caracal (lynx) also occur in the area but are mostly nocturnal and seldom seen.
More than one hundred and thirty bird species have been recorded here, notably black eagle, fish eagle, martial eagle, cape sugarbird and giant kingfisher.
The best times for hiking are April to May and September to October.
Visitors should check with Cape Nature for permits and availability.