Olifantsnek Pass (R24)

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The semi-circular dam wall at Olifantsnek Dam The semi-circular dam wall at Olifantsnek Dam - Photo: Panoramio

When approaching Olifantsnek from the south, it is said that part of the mountain overlooking the dam looks like the head and trunk of an elephant, hence the name. Alternatively, it is quite possible that herds of wild elephant would have roamed this area long ago. It is the most westerly point of the “3 Dams” route, which is very popular with the motorcycle set as a breakfast run (the 3 dams being Hartbeespoort, Buffelspoort and Olifantsnek). This little pass is just 1.8 km long and gains only 39 metres in height, but what is lacks in statistics it makes up for in scenic beauty.

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Digging into the details

Getting there: From Pretoria or Johannesburg, travel in a westerly direction towards Rustenburg on the N4. Take Exit 182, labelled as “R24: Rustenburg / Krugersdorp” at GPS coordinates S25.702846 E27.255219. Turn left onto the R24, then travel in a southerly direction for 8.9 kms to GPS coordinates S25.777975 E27.263444. This is the northern start of the pass. You can also approach the pass from the south by travelling in a north-westerly direction along the R24 from Magaliesburg.

Our video of the pass has been filmed from north to south to take advantage of the lighting conditions, so if you do approach Olifantsnek from the south, please invert the description and the coordinates.

Picture perfect!A pretty picture with Jacarandas in bloom with the dam in the background / Photo by PanoramioThe pass begins with a very gentle ascent, moving into a wide sweeping right-hand bend. As you pass the entrance to Hunters Rest on your right, the gradient increases quite substantially to 1:12. A left-hand bend is then negotiated, followed in quick succession by the summit at the 800 metre mark. At the crest, you are suddenly presented with a magnificent view over the Olifantsnek Dam. There is a lay-by on your left-hand side where you can safely stop to take photographs. The road curves to the right down a short sharp descent, which then flattens out through a left-hand bend and straightens, descending gradually, until the end of the pass is reached.

The most prominent feature of the area is the Olifantsnek Dam. The dam was built by German Bernard Sumner, and construction was completed in 1932. The dam, which is situated on the Hex River, has a capacity of about 14 million cubic metres and a surface area of about 670 acres. The dam wall has an arch construction, is 30 metres high and is 129 metres in length. Before the dam was built, a thriving Boer settlement was located along the banks of the Hex River, and the ruins and graves of this community are rumoured to be buried beneath the waters and bed of the dam.

Olifantsnek, like many of the other poorts and passes in this area such as Hekpoort and Kommando Nek, played a key strategic role in the second Anglo-Boer war of 1899 to 1902. In the first year of the war, control of the pass switched between the Boers and the British six times. Three blockhouses were built in the area, the ruins of which still exist today, and Olifantsnek was the north-western extremity of the British blockhouse network that contributed to the eventual Boer capitulation.

Today, a small community still exists on the banks of the dam, which is used extensively as a fishing venue. The famous Hunters Rest Hotel is situated very close to the northern end of the pass, and the Brauhaus Am Damm restaurant, with its exclusive micro-brewery, is located just off the R24 on the southern side.

[Text written and researched by Mike Leicester]

Fact File:


S25.777975 E27.263444


S25.781456 E27.256515


S25.784799 E27.247959














1,8 km




2 minutes


80 kph


Tar (R24)






Rustenburg (17 km)

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Mountain Passes South Africa

Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.

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