Kaaimansgat Pass (P355) - 7 Passes Road,

Read 11655 times
View from the Victorian bridge at Kaaimansgat View from the Victorian bridge at Kaaimansgat - Photo: Trygve Roberts

The historic "Seven Passes" route between George and Knysna includes 'Kaaimansgat' - a twisting, turning tarred road, close to the town of George, which traverses lushly indigenous forest to this area's famous 'black water' rivers. The road is old, narrow and the tarring is in sub-standard condition, but the beautiful indigenous forests through which it passes more than makes up for this minor inconvenience. The pass has an old bridge (a national monument) worth stopping at. 

Although the pass is fairly short at 2,8 km it has many sharp corners and drivers would be wise to keep their speed below 40 kph. The only safe place to stop as on either side of the bridge where there is limited parking for one or two vehicles.



Scroll down to view the map & video. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.) Wait a few seconds for the video to display.....


[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

FULL-SCREEN MODEMODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.

Digging into the details:

Getting there: Historically the Kaaimansgat Pass was something of a nightmare for travellers with ox-wagons in the late 1800's, having to cross a steep and deep gorge across the Kaaiman's River - itself subject to frequent flash floods. Master road builder and engineer, Thomas Bain, took on the project of building a proper road between George and Knysna in 1867, which would include traversing 10 rivers and 7 gorges and would cover a distance of 75 kms.

Bridge detailBridge detail - Kaaimansgat / Photo: Trygve RobertsBain started at the Knysna end and left his brother in law, Adam de Smidt, to deal with the George side of the route. The pair disagreed vehemently about the routing of the road, which led to bitter acrimony and a lifelong "no speak" scenario. Despite this, De Smidt toiled away and produced a very good pass whch has stood the test of time. It was completed and opened to the public in 1869.

At first the rivers were crossed via stone drifts.By 1893 timber bridges were built over the Kaaimans and Silver Rivers. They were built from imported pine and tarred (to prolong their lifespan) and had sides which were 8 feet high and strongly resembled huge black coffins. The oxen baulked at having to cross these bridges and gave their drivers a torrid time. These pine bridges lasted less than 10 years and were replaced in 1902 by concrete bridges, utilising the same stone columns of the original timber bridges. These concrete bridges were declared national monuments in the 1970's. It is worthwhile stopping at the bridge and scrambling down the pathway for a good look at the old bridge which bears the date 1904 on it and the coat of arms of King Edward (ER). The road served as the main route between the two growing towns for 70 years, before the new national road (N2) was opened in 1952. The completed 7 Passes Road was handed over to the Divisional Council in 1887.

Kaaimansgat photo collage by Lisa RobertsKaaimansgat photo collage by Lisa Roberts

Why not visit the Big Tree at Woodville which is 800 years old and enjoy a short 30 minute circular route through beautiful indigenous forests.

Watch out for small antelope and baboons. Keep a look out for mountain bikers who frequent this road. Speed limit is 60 kph. The pass is tarred but not in great condition, so take it easy. It takes 10 minutes to drive the pass, excluding stops. It is suitable for most vehicles.  Be especially careful of locals who tend to drive very fast on this road and they tend to cut the corners, making the potential of a head on collision very real.

For ease of use, we have hyperlinked all the passes on this route. Hop to any pass by clicking on the relevant green hyperlink.

There is some confusion in respect of which the 7 Passes officially are. Research shows that there are in fact 8 passes: Starting from George in the West, they are:

1. Swartrivier Pass (Zwartrivierhoogtepas)
2. Kaaimansgat Pass [The page you're on]
3. Silver River Pass
4. Touw River Pass (also incorrectly called the Duiwelskop Pass)
5. Hoogekraal Pass
6. Karatara Pass
7. Homtini Pass (Goukamma River Pass)
8. Phantom Pass

Some references don't acknowledge the Black River Pass and others dont recognize the Silver River as a pass. The most common version is that the Silver River pass is technically part of the Kaaimansgat Pass. Early references show the Black River Pass to have been very challenging for ox-wagons, but the new modern tarred road almost leaves one with a sense that there is no pass there at all.

Fact File:


S33.971869 E22.534497


S33.970866 E22.547605


S33.964885 E22.556627














2,8 km




10 minutes


40 kph


Tar (Sub standard)






George (8 km)

Route Map:

Use these powerful features to get the best use out of the map:

  • Choose either Map View or Satellite View (overlaid on the map detail.)
  • Zoom in and out; rotate in any direction.
  • Use the Get Route'feature (directly beneath the map): type in your address to get a personalised route straight from where you are to the pass, with time and distance included.
  • Detailed written and printable directions.
  • Drag the 'little orange man' icon onto the pass for a complete 360° tiltable "street view".

From Address:

Route files:

||Click to download: Kaaimansgat Pass (Note - This is a .gdb file which can be opened in most GPS software systems)

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter with News and Updates from Mountain Passes South Africa

Subscribe to our Site

Subscribe for only R350 a year (or R250 for 6 months), and get full access to our website including the videos, the full text of all mountain passes articles, fact-file, interactive map, directions and route files.



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.

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map 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.

View Master Orientation Map...