This average length pass of 4 km forms a back to back continuous pass with the Umzimvubu Pass on the tarred R61 route between Lusikisiki and Port St Johns. The pass has plenty of corners compressed into those 4 km, so drivers need to be wide awake as the pass traverses three villages - Gemvale, Mdovu and Gcakeni.
Expect pedestrians on the roadway, minibus taxis and the ever present threat of livestock. Some of the locals drive like maniacs, so it's best to let them pass you as quickly as possible. The scenery more than compensates for the Level 3 driving and is typical of the Wild Coast.
Take your time. Stop at the roadside stalls. Support the local crafters and allow the climate and the people to embrace your spirit.
This tarred pass is located between the Eastern Cape towns of Queenstown and Lady Frere on the tarred the R410 route. The pass descends through 216 vertical metres over 5,6 km producing an average gradient of 1:26 with the steepest parts presenting at 1:10. The pass contains 15 bends, corners and curves, one of which exceeds a radius of 90 degrees. This is a safe, well engineered road and is suitable for any vehicle. We do however issue a cautionary for bad weather as this is a high altitude pass and is subject to winter snowfalls and heavy thunderstorms in summer. Always adjust your speed according to conditions and watch out for livestock on the road.
Noorspoort is a short winding poort just north of the lovely Karoo town of Steyterville. The poort is perhaps best known for it's painted flags on the rock faces on the eastern side of the road and the town of Steytlerville is a shining example of how to rejuvenate an old town, which is immediately evident as one drives down the neat, broad streets filled with neat Victorian houses, lovingly restored replete with broekie-lace and shady stoeps. Down the cenrtre island of the main road the lamp posts are decorated with heraldic emblems and family crests from all sectors of the local community. The Noorspoort is 3,1 km long and has a minor altitude variance of just 24m, making for an easy drive, but don't get too transfixed by all the flags. The poort was carved out by the Grootrivier - a very long river which winds its way all the way down through the Baviaanskloof to form a confluence with the Gamtoos River near Patensie.
This pass has an inverted vertical profile typical of a pass that drops down into a river valley. There are 44 bends to contend with, including one hairpin. The pass is the first of three back to back passes that drivers have to negotiate that terminate at Port St Johns.
At 7.2 km it's well above the national average and offers an altitude variance of 180m. The pass is quite steep in places with a maximum gradient of 1:6. Although the R61 is in good shape, there are numerous dangers to contend with, which include dense mountain mists, badly behaving minibus taxis, erratic local driver behaviour which can range between ridiculously fast to frustratingly slow, plus the standard Wild Coast hazards of livestock and pedestrians. Commercial vehicles and even large trucks drive here at high speed.
This section of the R61 should be treated with the utmost caution in any weather and drivers should be alert and drive anticipating these dangers at any time.
All the dangers aside, if you have time to glance up from the road, you will see fabulous scenery, so typical of the Wild Coast. The pass is also the access point to head down to the Ntafufu River estuary where the pristine waters offer some of the best fishing in the area in magnificent settings.
The Nungi Pass is named after the mountain of the same name which forms the western portal of the Umzimvubu River valley. The pass traverses tribal trust land and connects Cedarville in the north with Mount Frere in the south. It's of above average length at 8,7 km and packs 39 sharp bends, corners and curves into it's length and displays an altitude variance of 335m with a classic high centre point profile.
The Colonanek Pass further to the south lies on the same road, so these two passes will always be driven in tandem. The steepest gradients are at 1:7 which might present traction issues in wet weather for non 4WD vehicles. There was major reconstruction taking place during 2018 as can be seen on the virtual fly-past. This includes excavating cuttings to reduce the number of blind rises and corners and ease some of the steeper gradients as well as a substantial improvement to the road width.
As is the general rule in this part of the Eastern Cape, most of the area is unfenced, so finding livestock on the road is the norm. Add in slow vehicles, minibus taxis, rutted potholed and corrugated roads, and you have a recipe for having to stay wide awake on this pass. We recommend driving this road in a small convoy of two to three vehicles in case of emergency. Be aware of personal safety at all times and make sure you leave the nearest town with full fuel tanks and that your vehicle is serviced and reliable.
This spectacular kloof (which is part of the R332 route) links the western section of the Baviaanskloof with the higher Karoo hinterland, and more specifically, the towns of Willowmore and Uniondale, which are standard Baviaanskloof refuelling points. The pass needs to be driven slowly to best appreciate its dramatic, unique geology. This is a big pass and involves multiple river crossings - none of which are conventionally bridged. Should you find the first two crossings difficult or the current too strong, rather turn back as conditions get much worse the further down the kloof you proceed.
The pass contains 41 bends, corners and curves within it's length, which includes 1 full horseshoe bend and 10 other bends in excess of 100 degrees. The gradients are generally fairly easy and never exceed 1:12, but the road surface can vary between quite good (the road had just been graded on the day of filming) to badly corrugated and rutted and the road is also frequently damaged by floodwaters and especially so at the river crossings.
If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend that you first watch the Baviaanskloof Overview and Orientation video clip. You will find a comprehensive set of links to accommodation options and other attractions in the Baviaanskloof on that page.
Olifantskop is a beautiful tarred pass located on the N10, a major arterial national road which bisects the country from the Namibian border in the north to Port Elizabeth in the south. Surprisingly, it is one of only three passes which reference elephants in their title, the other two being Olifantspoort near Queenstown and Olifantsnek near Rustenburg. Although the road is in a good condition, it is considered to be one of the most dangerous passes in South Africa for a number of reasons, including severe weather conditions, rockfalls, wild animals, multiple blind corners, steep gradients, and last but not least, the large number of heavy commercial vehicles which ply this route.
Olifantspoort is located on the N6, the national road between Bloemfontein and East London, about 20 km north-west of Queenstown. The road is in an excellent condition and can be traversed in any vehicle and in all weather conditions, with the possible exception of when snow falls, which does happen here from time to time. The poort is undoubtedly named after the herds of elephants which once frequented this area; unfortunately, this is no longer the case, and these giant pachyderms are today restricted to some of the larger game reserves, like the Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth.
Ongeluks Nek was so named in about 1860 after one of the trekkers in the Griqua trek to 'Nomansland' died from a gun-shot wound. This pass is strictly for offroad vehicles only. They must have low range and adequate ground clearance as this track is usually rutted, muddy and quite difficult to negotiate as can be seen in the video footage. With an AVERAGE gradient of 1:9 it slots in at position number 7 in the steepest passes listing. For offroad bikers, mostly this pass is a tough nut to crack and it has humbled many egos. The pass falls within the Ongeluksnek Nature Reserve. GPS co-ordinates of key navigation intersections getting to the start are given further in the text.
The word spectacular describes this pass perfectly. It has all the elements of a classic gravel road pass of intrigue, danger, amazing views and technical driving. This pass ranks in position 31 nationally in the 'most altitude gained' category with a walloping 658 vertical metres! This was one of our favourite passes in the Eastern Cape. The pass is driveable in a normal car in fair weather, but when it rains heavily and the surface gets muddy, you will need a 4x4. Gravel roads can change overnight, so always take this into consideration before attempting this pass. The rather obscure road is neither a short cut, nor a main route to any specific place, but finally the two tiny settlements of Ida in the south and Clifford in the north get a mention, as they just happen to be at either terminus of this pass over the Drakensberg.
The pass was named after Dr. Otto du Plessis, a popular politi7al figure at the time (MP for Stellenbosch and later Administrator of the Cape) and one time Minister of Health. He was born in 1905 and passed away in 1960. There is a hospital near Bredasdorp named after him, as well as the road down the Gamkaskloof to Die Hel, which also officially bears his name. One of the main roads in Cape Town's Atlantic suburbs is also named the 'Otto du Plessis Drive'.
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.