When one thinks of the historical town of Swellendam, one usually imagines well, historical buildings. Grand old churches, quaint 100 year old houses – some of which have been turned into guest houses and cosy little restaurants in equally old structures. But did you know that Swellendam is also a nature lover’s paradise yearning to be explored.
About a month ago we drove our unfit selves to the little Overberg town with the intention of immersing ourselves in a few of the Cape Town Nature Reserves. Mother Nature is the best healer for tired, overworked minds and this little trip revived our bodies by lifting our spirits. This is a nature lover’s guide to Swellendam – and you don’t have to be super fit to tackle it either. And check out my Instagram for the video!
Marveling at the Marloth Nature Reserve Waterfall
One of the Cape Nature Reserves situated a stone’s throw from the town of Swellendam, is the Marloth Nature Reserve. I must admit, I didn’t expect much from this reserve; so much so that I put it last on our list of places to see in Swellendam.
The hike to the Marloth Nature Reserve waterfall winds through the forest and starts off light, evolving into multiple steep inclines. It took us an hour to complete the hiking trail to the waterfall which is about 5km in total. I’m not going to lie, it was strenuous and we had to take quite a few breaks to catch our breaths. Admittedly, this is also due to the fact that we’re relatively unfit!
The forest is shaded which ensured that we didn’t catch much of the sun’s rays even though temperatures were high on the day. The mere sight of the waterfall is the ultimate reward for the tiring hike; picture perfect and tranquil. Surprisingly, the walk back down was much easier and we could even engage in conversation with each other!
Marloth is also home to the demanding 6-day Swellendam Hiking Trail; rated one of the top Western Cape Hiking Trails. The trail is recommended for seasoned hikers only. The reserve also offers self-catering accommodation as well as hikers’ huts for overnight stays. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll spot the shy Klipspringer and Bushbuck on your walks. Baboons are quite common but fortunately we didn’t run into any of them! The reserve has ample picnic and braai areas, perfect for a day out with the family. If you crave something a bit more exciting, there’s also horse riding and mountain biking trails.
Marloth Nature Reserve | 028 514 1410 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Taking a Self-Drive Game Viewing through Bontebok National Park
If there’s one thing I appreciate on a road trip, it’s a well maintained gravel road. We took a game viewing self-drive through the Bontebok National Park which is situated just outside of Swellendam. The dirt roads of the park are an absolute pleasure to drive and offer stunning views of the Langeberg Mountains. The Breede River runs through the national park and really shows off at the view point – where you can overlook the river from the shaded deck.
Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any of the Bontebok National Park animals on the day of our visit. But visitors to the park should be on the lookout for Bontebok, Grey Rhebuck and Red Hartebees. The park also has 3 hiking trails ranging from 1.6 – 5.4km and wells as a 9.2km Mountain Bike Trail. Die Stroom is the popular Bontebok National Park day visitors picnic, braai and swimming spot. The Lang Elsie’s Kraal Rest Camp has 10 fully equipped self-catering chalets as well as 41 camping and caravan sites.
Bontebok National Park | 028 514 3206 | email@example.com
Walking through the Magical Forest of Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve
Just over 10km past Swellendam, you’ll find the turn-off to Suurbrak which will lead you to Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve. It’s quite a lengthy drive in from the highway but this World Heritage Site is well worth it. The 250 hectare indigenous forest looks like something straight out of a Disney fairy tale and we enjoyed a leisurely walk through it.
Our short walk, which forms part of the Bushbuck trail, led us past the birdhide; ideal for spotting some of the 196 bird species found in the reserve. We stopped at the stream of the Duiwenhoks River which runs through part of the forest and appreciated the lush thick jungle surrounding us. The forest is very dense which makes it good for staying cool on walks during hot summer’s days.
Grootvadersbosch has 2 hiking trails ranging from 2-15km and a cycle trail. Cape Nature Reserve accommodation provides 12 self-catering units and 10 campsites which has great views of the forest. Bushbuck are plentiful and Cape grysbok have also been seen in the reserve.
Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve | 028 492 0001 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Good to Know for a Nature Lover’s Visit to Swellendam
The Bontebok National Park entrance fee and Cape Nature entrance fees are both R40 per person for South African citizens. Most of the abovementioned activities can be enjoyed for the small payable conservation fee.
Marloth Nature Reserve is a true hidden gem and offers the best hiking trails in Swellendam. Bontebok National Park is one of the SAN Parks lesser hyped about attractions but is great for day visits and weekend stays – at a mere 2 and a half hour’s drive from Cape Town. And Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve possesses the most precious indigenous forest in the south-western Cape with almost all of the 35 typical forest tree species.
You’ll need to spend a minimum of 1.5 hours at each of the above 3 if you want to enjoy any of its activities – but I’d highly recommend setting a full day aside for each. We booked ourselves into a cute little guest house in Swellendam which was our base for our nature adventures. That way we could enjoy the town’s facilities as well as some of the major Overberg attractions – best of both worlds!