The Baviaanskloof offers visitors a fascinating view of one of South Africa’s most rugged and beautiful places. It stretches about 90km west of Port Elizabeth, has long been considered an area of exceptional beauty and is a strong drawcard for off-road travellers wishing to immerse themselves in a mountain wilderness.
The 200km-long Baviaanskloof valley ('valley of the baboons'), bounded by the Baviaankloof mountains to the north and the Kouga mountains to the south, is by far the most popular tourist route in this area, and runs from Patensie in the east to Willowmore in the west. The region lies between the Tsitsikamma River in the west, the Van Stadens River in the east and the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Reserve to the north. (Oh, and of course, the glorious Indian ocean to the south.)
There are two river crossings at the bottom of the pass, both of which provide exceptionally beautiful and photogenically rich settings. The well known Bloukrans hairpin-bend created major traffic issues in later years as ever larger trucks rumbled along its precarious twists and turns. This hairpin curves through a whopping 135-degrees and, to add to driver's woes, the slope is almost 1-in-5!
An ironic, but happy bonus for the adventurous is that because the pass is now closed to traffic, one can take a good, long walk along this marvellous road, and enjoy a wonderfully memorable journey back into South African history! The water in the river is (apparently) potable and there is plenty of shade to have a leisurely picnic. For cyclists, this is an excellent road to cycle with its absence of traffic.
This is an all-year-round destination, but even the drier parts still do get rain. If you plan to go off-road to places such as Baviaanskloof, then try and avoid the most likely rainy months – namely October and February.
This part of the world is still hidden from the traditional tourism routes, and you can enjoy the peace and tranquillity pretty much any time of year.
There are two spectacular mountain passes and numerous low-water bridges on route. The entire route takes at least six hours due to its rugged nature. The eastern part of the valley is only accessible by 4x4 and requires a skilled driver, but the epic views are well worth the careful drive.
Wildlife abounds in this unspoilt conservancy and visitors can expect to see prolific birdlife, including fish-eagles and the Verreaux's eagle.
Other residents include the inevitable troops of baboons, small mammals like mongoose and vervet monkeys as well as mountain zebras and Cape buffalo, which have been reintroduced to the area. Buffalo can be dangerous so its best to take the advice of the locals when hiking.
Spectacular vistas, abundant fauna and flora and various 4x4 and hiking routes guarantee a fulfilling visit. There are numerous accommodation options, including campsites on the river, should visitors wish to spend a few days exploring this secluded valley.
The larger area known as the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve has been short-listed to be awarded World Heritage Site status by Unesco.
The Baviaanskloof also forms part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom World Heritage Site.