Cats Pass is a typical inverted profile pass with a low point in the middle at the crossing of the Qora River. Although a little difficult to find, this pass will remain one of your travel treasures once you've driven it. It traverses unspoilt Wild Coast scenery through a remote part of the old Transkei, yet there is life in abundance as the locals go about their daily chores and livestock make themselves comfortable on the road. There are many passes similar to this one, yet each one has its own special charm.
At 8.5 km it's a substantial pass and you will experience an altitude variance of 247m via 48 bends corners and curves and of those 6 are greater than 90 degrees, but there are no hairpin bends. The going is fairly slow, due to the constant need to slow down for livestock on the road. The local cattle are particularly fond of spending time on the bridges and are reluctant to move out of the way. Exercise patience.
Cautionary: In very wet weather, the roads in this region quickly become extremely slippery. Under such conditions a 4WD vehicle is a very good option.
Colonanek (also known as Colananek) is situated in the high mountainous area of the Eastern Cape, close to the KZN border between the towns of Mount Frere and Cedarville. The pass, which is gravel surfaced, contains 19 bends, corners and curves withing it's 4,4 km length, producing an average gradient of 1:30 with the steepr sections measuring in at 1:11.
The pass traverses the substantial rural settlement of Colana (from which it takes it's name) so drivers need to be aware of livestock, pedestrians, slow moving vehicles and minibus taxis throughout this traverse. The scenery is lovely with colourful mud huts bedecked with thatch adding a splash of colour to the scenery. This quiet country road is a long and slow drive. If you're in a hurry, rather avoid this one.
Combrink's Pass and the Holgat Pass are the descent and ascent respectively of the high plateau where the Bergplaas camping sites are found. Regardless of which direction you drive the pass, it is a visual feast. It is also the biggest of the five Baviaanskloof passes (Nuwekloof, Grasnek, Langkop, Holgat and Combrinks) in terms of altitude gain/loss. This is the last pass you will encounter before exiting the bio-reserve and entering the Cambria valley.
Compressed within its 5,5 km length the road descends 333m via 73 bends, corners and curves, resulting in an average gradient of 1:16, but there are some sections as steep as 1:8. The road is single width for most of its length making overtaking impossible and passing difficult, where one of the vehicles will need to reverse back to a wider point.
This pass is a winner with stunning views for its entire length, however for anyone suffering from acrophobia, the very steep and completely unguarded drop-offs could be quite intimidating.
If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend watching the Orientation Overview video first.
Daggaboers Nek is a long tarred pass, located south of Cradock on the N10. The upgraded road is in an excellent condition, and features a double lane on the ascents of both the southern and northern approaches. Gradients are gentle and all of the corners have a wide radius, allowing motorists to easily maintain the designated speed limit of 100 kph. The pass offers beautiful views over the undulating Karoo landscape, particularly on the northern side once the summit has been crested. The pass has a history dating back to the 19th century.
This 5,1 km long pass descends into the Umnga River valley via one U bend and two very sharp hairpins. The pass descends from 1291m ASL at the village of Dalibango through an altitude drop of 342m producing a stiff average gradient of 1:15 to end at the crossing of the Umnga River at a low level bridge.
You will be treated to views of towering cliffs and steeply wooded slopes with the Umnga River winding its way down the centre of this fabulous scene.
It contains 14 bends, corners and curves and requires vigilant driiving. 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 high altitude pass is a little difficult to find, but offers rich rewards to the traveller seeking out the more remote passes. It lies to the east of a deep valley between Cookhouse (30km) and Tarkastad and connects a range of farms from the Bedford side with the R344. The pass has a significant altitude gain of 289m over a distance of 6,1 km producing an average gradient of 1:21 with the steeper sections measuring in at 1:14
This is one of those remote farm roads, less travelled, where the more adventurous traveller will be rewarded with wonderful scenery and quiet roads where you are unlikely to see another vehicle over the entire route.
This easy tarred pass is located about halfway between Middeldrift and King Williams Town on the R63 main road. The pass offers scenic views of the forests around Keiskammahoek and Pirie and gives access to the R354 as well as to two railway stations and the busy industrial developement of Dimbaza. The pass is 9 km long, has two gentle curves and only climbs 75 vertical metres. There's plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful forested mountains and rural village scenery.
Unlike most other poorts in South Africa which are generally quite flat, Debruinspoort does have a significant altitude gain of 225 metres. It is located on the gravelled R344 road between Adelaide and Grahamstown, just south of the crossing of the Great Fish River at Piggott’s Bridge and to the west of the Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. Other than some wash-board corrugations, the pass is well maintained and in a good condition, and should present no problems for any type of vehicle.
This high altitude pass can be found after summiting the Katberg Pass. It starts at 1623m ASL and summits at 1713m before dropping through through a series of switchbacks through the Winterberg Mountains to the next plateau of farms. We recommend a high clearance 4WD vehicle for this pass. It connects the summit of the Katberg Pass with the towns of Sada, Whittlesea and Queenstown further to the north.
The road (or rather the track) is mostly badly rutted with some deep washaways and large stones to get over. After rain, the summit area can be very slippery with large pools of muddy water over the road, which have to be traversed. Don't attempt this road without a backup vehicle and recovery equipment. Also make sure you have Tracks4Africa loaded on your GPS otherwise you will more than likely get lost. This is one of those roads very much less travelled.
This big pass is a mixture of a pass and a poort. It's fairly long at 12,8 km and runs along the east-west axis along a valley on the northern side of the Didima Range and the Katberg Mountain. The eastern section gets steep and the first 6 km is where the bulk of the altitude is lost (or gained). This pass forms a western approach to the summit of the Katberg Pass and is a perfect approach for those wanting to drive the Katberg Pass in the descending mode. It also provides access to the summit of the Devils Bellows Pass.
The road can get very tricky in wet weather where a 4WD vehicle will be mandatory but in fair weather most 4x2 vehicles with reasonable ground clearance will manage the road. You will be treated to excellent high altitude scenery. The usual gravel road cautionaries apply - Mountain mists with low visibility, electrical storms in summer, high rainfall, snow in winter, rockfalls, washaways, deep ruts, loose rocks and stones, livestock on the road.
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.