The Paardekop Pass delves a long way back into history and is recorded as far back as 1772 by the explorer, Thunberg in his journal. The original route was an elephant path which was later to become a bridle path, followed by the inevitable need for an ox-wagon route. It was considered to be one of the most dangerous passes in the colony in its day.
This animated Google Earth video clip is presented in the format of a simulated fly-over, and provides a basic overview of the salient features of the Baviaanskloof. Lower down we provide links to the main passes and poorts within the Baviaanskloof, which are featured elsewhere on this website. We have also provided links to a few of the accommodation and other places of interests. This is a true wilderness area and is a proclaimed World Heritage site.
Whilst the western half of the Baviaanskloof can be driven in a normal car in fair weather conditions, a 4x4 with high clearance is necessary to complete the eastern half, which includes several deep water crossings. Permits can be purchased at either of the control gates. The route can be driven in either direction, but the recommended direction is west to east as shown in this video.
The Grootrivier Pass - (on route R102) played a significant role in the economic developement of the Cape Colony and was originally built by Thomas Bain between 1822 and 1823. Together with it's sister pass, the Bloukrans Pass, they presented some highly technical problems to Bain, who had to contend with rockslides, mud, high rainfall, shale, unstable slopes and the omnipresent baboons. This pass is a perennial favourite and a joy to drive with its tortuous corners and stunning scenery amongst veryold forests of the Tsitsikamma.
The Bloukranspas translates directly from Afrikaans into 'Blue Grag's Pass'. Master pass-builder, Thomas Bain, relished the challenge of planning a route through both of the formidable obstacles of the Grootrivier and Bloukrans gorges within the Tsitsikamma Forests, when the government first started considering a coastal road between Port Elizabeth and Plettenberg Bay in the 1880's. The Bloukrans Pass is one of the most revered and respected passes in South Africa. It is a sad indictment that this road has been allowed to degenerate into such a state of disrepair that it has now been declared closed to traffic. This pass is surely worthy of National Monument status!
The Touw River Pass forms part of the well-known 7 Passes Road in the Garden Route and is the 4th of the official passes when travelling west to east. The road was built circa 1883 by Adam de Smidt, the brother in law, of Thomas Bain - pass builder extraordinaire. This is a gravel road and remains virtually unchanged from it's original route, with the one exception that the original timber bridge was washed away. This was replaced with a steel bridge in the 1900's.
It has similar characteristics to the Kaaimansgat and Silver River passes. It's 2,5 km long and has an altitude variance of 92m with the same inverted vertical profile typical of a pass that descends through a river gorge and rises up the other side.
Of the seven rivers crossed on the 7 Passes Road, the Touw River is the biggest and the most prone to flooding. It is most likely that this pass was also built by Adam de Smidt, as Thomas Bain was held up for a long period with the contruction of the Homtini Pass, which proved to be the most difficult of the seven.
Heights Road (also known as Hoogte Road) is a short and very steep, narrow tarred road connecting the holiday village of Wilderness with the farms and residences on top of the hill known as Wilderness Heights. It is the preferred, quicker route for locals over the much longer, gravel surfaced Whites Road. Both roads terminate at the same point.
The Swartberg Pass is for many South Africans, the rubicon of gravel road passes. There is an allure and a mystique around this old pass, coupled with its status as a national monument, which elevates this pass to the very top of the list. It was Thomas Bain's final and best piece of road building. Most of the historical points of interest are signposted along the pass. There are names like Die Stalletjie (Small Stall), Witdraai (White Corner), Fonteintjie (Small Fountain), Skelmdraai (Devious Corner), and of course Die Top, the latter sign is almost completely obliterated by graffiti by some folk who might feel they have just crested Everest and have this burning desire to paint their name on the well known sign.
The pass is very long at 23,8 km and it takes about an hour to drive, excluding stops. You will be treated to a wide variety of incredible scenery. The pass is not suitable for anyone suffering from acrophobia. It can be driven in any vehicle in fair weather. The Swartberg Pass has almost too much to offer the traveller with a never ending changing set of views - each as awe inspiring as the one before.
Schoemanspoort forms part of the R328 and connects Oudtshoorn with the Cango Caves. It also doubles as the feeder route to the village of Prince Albert via the fabulous Swartberg Pass. This is the lesser of the three major poorts through this mountainous region. The others are Meiringpoort and the Seweweekspoort. The pass was first in use in 1855.
This poort has a bigger altitude variance than most poorts at 220m but due to the long length of just under 20 km the average gradient is an easy 1:88 and never gets steeper than 1:17. This is one of the most underrated scenic roads in South Africa and lives constantly in the shadows of it's more glamorous local attractions - namely the Cango Caves and the Swartberg Pass. The poort offers magnificent Cape Fold Mountain geology as it twists and turns along the banks of the Grobbelaarsrivier.
This short pass makes up for its lack of length in providing magnificent scenery of lakes, rivers, gorges and ravines amongst dense indigenous forests and pine plantations on the higher mountain slopes. It is one of several access roads between the N2 highway and the ever popular Old Cape Road or 7 Passes Road. This one is a gem and not used by many vehicles, so it's usually peaceful and quiet as its a sort of "road to nowhere". With two good tarred roads duplicating the purpose of this gravel pass, the majority of heavy traffic opts (as usual) for the tar. This leaves the Ruigtevlei Pass in peace and quiet.
The Robinson Pass on the R328 route, is a modern classic of the Southern Cape with beautiful sweeping curves and superb views around every corner. It's administrative number is TR 33-2. It connects the coastal port of Mossel Bay with Oudtshoorn. The pass has been rebuilt several times over the past 140 years and offers not only fabulous scenery, but many pages of history around every bend. The pass is subject to heavy rain and frequent mountain mists, which reduces visibility and makes the pass dangerous. It has claimed many lives over the years including a bus full of international tourists. A memorial stone in their memory stands on the left hand side of the road about halfway up the pass.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.