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One of the true great wilderness areas in South Africa, Baviaanskloof is a vast unspoilt region of the Eastern Cape Province. Directly translated as the ravine of the baboons, entering Baviaanskloof feels as though one has arrived in a prehistoric world, long before man left his footprint. The area has only 13 farms with some of the land completely untouched, and so ecologically diverse that there are 7 different biomes represented here.
Collectively, Baviaanskloof consists of a number of towns along the Baviaans River. The single road follows the river course for most of its 170km and crosses several dramatic mountain passes. Much of the unique plant life is found nowhere else and Baviaanskloof was recently granted World Heritage status by UNESCO.
If you feel the need to get back to nature, Baviaanskloof is a piece of South African paradise.
Top 6 reasons to visit Baviaanskloof
1. Hike the Leopard Trail, a 55km slack-pack trail that traverses mountains, crosses canyons and passes waterfalls, rock pools and ancient rock art. The scenery is spectacular and hikers can expect to see baboon, buffalo, kudu, zebra and if fortunate, Cape leopard.
2. Walk through the shaded and pleasant Sewefontein wild fig tree forest with boardwalk and lovely picnic spots along the route. A deep borehole containing pure spring water can be visited.
3. For an opportunity to see ancient San rock art, travel to Uitspan guest farm to be guided to the site. Expect to see various raptors patrolling the skies.
4. Baviaanskloof has some of the most unusual accommodation facilities around, from open caves with rustic kitchens and ingenious outdoor bathrooms to a massive tree house built around an ancient wild pear tree, and clay- and straw-built cottages built in the old Baviaans tradition. If you are not staying, a visit to see the places are the next best thing.
5. For an insight into the region, mingle with the friendly locals to hear their stories and listen to tales handed down through the generations. Encounters such as these are often more rewarding than just appreciating the scenery.
6. The absence of air pollution makes for brilliant, clear evening skies in Baviaanskloof. Spend a few hours stargazing as you watch the Milky Way and look out for falling stars.
Baviaanskloof can be reached from the George Domestic Airport, 175km away. Nearby Zandvlakte has an airstrip, ask your host to arrange permission to land if flying in via charter plane. Car rental agencies are located in George and at the airport, otherwise order a rental online and collect at a convenient location. There are no trains and bus services into and out of Baviaanskloof and the best travel option is a 4x4 vehicle.
Did you know?
An entrepreneurial farmer once established a factory in Baviaanskloof to produce shoes and handbags from baboon hide. Needless to say, his venture was a dismal failure.
A must-stop is the very unique Baviaans craft shop. The building is made entirely from local materials, the mud floor is sealed with bees wax, the walls are stone and the wooden roof supports a succulent garden. The shop is bursting with creative crafts made by members of the community.