Vissershok translates from Afrikaans into Fishermans Cage. This small pass has some serious gradients and connects the north-western suburbs of Blouberg (Cape Town) with Durbanville and forms part of the semi-urban M48 route. It's 4,8 km long and sports an average gradient of 1:28 with the steepest sections on the western side getting as steep as 1:7. This road has a poor safety record with many fatal accidents having occurred. The road is narrow, unevenly surfaced and has no safety shoulders. Despite these dangers, it is a perennial favourite training route for cyclists. Large numbers of heavy trucks utilise the road to access the active quarries in the valley - namely Contermanskloof and Cotswold quarries. Drive with caution.
This gravel pass connects the seaside town of Grootbrakrivier (Great Brak River) with the dairy farming coastal plateau to the north as well as being the main connecting road to the region’s biggest fresh water supply – the Wolwedans Dam. We filmed the pass in the descending mode to maximise on the scenic value. The pass carries an alternative official name - Charles Road.
Volstruisnek is a relatively minor pass located on the R323/P315 road south of Laingsburg in the Karoo and forms part of a series of passes and poorts on this fabulous Karoo back road, which is peppered with game sightings and exquisite mountain scenery. This is the smallest of the five passes and has no apparent dangers, providing speed limits are adhered to. The road is suitable for all vehicles.
This historical oxwagon route dates back to 1776 when it was used by pioneers as a trade route between the coast and the Langkloof valley. prior to the current name, the route was known as the Duiwelskop Pass which was first designed by Thomas Bain circa 1865.
Enjoy magnificent views of the Indian ocean, the lakes around Wilderness and Sedgefield and the verdant Langkloof valley. The 21km route starts on Louvain guest farm and ends at the entrance of the Bergplaas Forestry station on the Seven Passes road between George and Knysna. It takes approximately two and a half hours to complete, and is enjoyable and scenic without being unduly demanding. A permit is required to enter the forestry area and the cost thereof is included in the permit obtainable at Louvain Guest Farm, which was R200 per vehicle at time of writing. This route is strictly for 4x4 vehicles with low range and good ground clearance. It can get tricky on the northern slopes in wet weather.
Note - No motorcycles or quadbikes are allowed.
This is an impressive pass by any standards. At 7.9 km long it climbs a whopping 705m producing a stiff average gradient of 1:11 with the steepest parts reaching 1:6. Crammed within that distance are no less than 59 bends, corners and curves of which 5 are full hairpins and another 6 exceed 90 degrees.
The scenery is majestic and changes perpetually as the road winds its way up to the Waboomsberg summit point, to end at a cluster of telecoms towers. You will be treated to 250 degree views of the Warm Bokkeveld and making up the other 110 degrees are views of the Gydo Plateau.
Whilst the road is 98% gravel, there are 8 short tarred sections (with the odd pothole) ensuring reasonable traction on the steeper sections. Besides the wonderful views, you are also likely to spot small antelope like steenbok, duikers and klipspringers and for the birders, you are almost guaranteed to spot a few raptors, sunbirds and other LBJ's.
The pass falls entirely on private land and permission is required (at a fee) to drive the route (Contact numbers lower down). It is a cul-de-sac, so the whole route has to be retraced back to the start. This route is a viable alternative to Matroosberg in the snow season, as the road condition is far superior and holds very few real dangers.
This short, but scenic gravel pass traverses the Wadrift farm approximately 30 km north of Heidelberg in the Western Cape. It follows immediately where the Seekoeigat Pass ends and is flanked to the north by the towering Kanetberg (one of the main mountains within the Langeberg range) and the gentle waters of the Duiwenhoks River can be seen to the south. This is the final of the five access passes for those wishing to drive the historic (and rough) Gysmanshoek Pass, which is accessed where this pass ends.
An easy gravel pass traversing farmlands in the Little Karoo north of the Kammanassie River valley. The going is easy and the condition of the road is generally good. There are very few dangers on this pass, with the only exception being the crossing of the Leeublad farmstead at the end of the pass, where there are a couple of sharp corners and the presence of other vehicles, farming equipment, livestock and pedestrians. Treat the final kilometer with extra caution as the road passes within meters of the main farmhouse. A slow speed also keeps dust levels down for the farmer.
The Wasbank Pass which translates into 'Washing Bank', is a short gravel pass on the R323/P315 road about 30 km south of Laingsburg. It is one of five passes and poorts on this very scenic road and traverses the Rooikoof farm via a small ravine. The pass ascends 75 vertical metres over 1,24 km producing an average gradient of 1:17 with the steepest section being at 1:8
This quiet village road is actually nicer to walk than to drive. It's not an official pass - just a quiet meander down an old style, narrow country lane alongside the Touw River estuary. It forms part of one of the hiking trails starting at the Wilderness National Park. There is always birdsong in the air and if you're lucky you might see a bushbuck but more probably, the raucous call of the Knysna Loerie with it's scarlet wings .
This is a beautiful gravel pass that ascends the eastern side of the Watervalsberg near Wolseley and connects the town with the Suurvlak plantation on top of the mountain. The pass falls under the jurisdiction of Cape Nature as well as the state's forestry arm in the Western Cape (Cape Pine). The road is open to permit holders only - we explain the process of getting the permit lower down on this page. The pass zig-zags its way up the mountain via three extreme switchbacks, at a fairly reasonable gradient and is well designed, offering exceptionally good views over the Tulbagh Valley and the Witzenberg mountains to the east. (Latest news as at Nov 2016 - this pass is now officially closed to the public)
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.