Back on a Bike in the Kagga Kamma

Posted on 2 September 2013

There is something slightly other-worldly about the Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve. The road there from Cape Town (completely unfamiliar to me, as one of the few in the country I don’t remember ever having travelled) takes me through as many different landscapes as I could hope for, as I climb steadily from the coast toward the Cederberg (find out about Cederberg hikes you probably didn’t know about). As my arrival becomes imminent, and I wind through hills and valleys, the sand-stone rock formations seem almost artificial in their design. Towering, knobbly, gnarled pillars reach into the air. Narrow bases support huge boulders and overhangs which seem to suggest that gravity works more by general guidelines than actual laws. Or maybe gravity doesn’t act on structures which can only have been designed by bored extra-terrestrials?

The bright red of the earth; the sky in all its space and perfect clarity of colour; the bush – green, grey, yellow, orange, pink, purple and white; and the sun, shining as it should, all set the scene for what will be a beautiful afternoon. As I wind down my window to greet the man who has opened the reserve gate for me, the fresh chill of winter in the mountains flows into my car. I have come to the Kagga Kamma to ride their new mountain-bike track, and the crisp air gives me renewed enthusiasm for an afternoon of baaie-sukkleing through the bush.

The bike trail

Kagga Kamma has two new trails (find more cycling trails around the country here), one of 10km, and a longer version of 30km. As someone who has little mountain-biking experience, the prospect of doing either of the routes was a slightly daunting one to me. Memories of my excessively well-rounded (in the fattest sense of the expression) 14 year-old self gasping for breath at the back of a group of fitter young friends had me feeling a little apprehensive of my ability to tackle the ride. But tackle it I did, and with thoroughly pleasing results.

Bike track. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

The bike track, just wide enough for a quad bike.

The course starts off by heading away from the reception area along a narrow dirt-track, just wide enough for a quad-bike. It winds through the bush, crossing over the road at a couple of places before striking out, through the veld toward the reserve gate, and snaking back along a combination of the main gravel road and a 4×4 track. The uphill in the early stages of the track had me panting satisfactorily, and some loose sand in a couple of sections almost got the better of me. I soon found my stride (or whatever the pedalling equivalent of a stride is) though, and by the time the path flattened out (which didn’t take long) I was gunning along, remembering how much I actually enjoyed being on a bicycle. The terrain was varied enough to keep it interesting, with some short rocky sections which proved too technical for me, but not difficult to the point of being frustrating at any point.

Namaqua daisy. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

The bright orange of Namaqua Daisies dotted the landscape

The combination of scenery (in both the landscape and particularly beautiful flowers) and my need for photos meant that I had plenty of opportunities for jumping off the bike and taking a quick pic, while letting my heart rate drop a little. The fresh winter air kept me cool (even a little chilly at times on the decent toward the lodge) and I got back feeling exhilarated. It turns out a 10 km cycle is the perfect remedy for a body which is just feeling the first signs of car-bound stiffness. The track is suitable for anybody with even a little biking experience and moderate fitness.

Bike at Kagga Kamma sign. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

Thanks to das Goobenhauser for lending me his bike, which the gatekeeper at Kagga Kamma agreed was a beautiful specimen.

The 30km version of the route has a similar start, but winds further down, covering a bigger expanse in the reserve. Other guests reported some particularly sandy patches, and a more challenging ride. I enjoyed the 10km I covered so much that my only disappointment was that there wasn’t a 15 or 20 km option. The whole exercise also might prove costly in the long run, as I wondered how much the borrowed bike I was riding had cost, and whether I should invest in one myself.

Facilities and activities at Kagga Kamma

Sticking with exercise, Kagga Kamma has three hiking trails, 4km, 7km and 9km in length respectively. The big advantage of hiking and biking is that they’re free. If, however, you book a package (accommodation and rates to follow) which includes excursions, or you are willing to pay the R350 pp fee, there are a number of excursions offered. Morning drives, Sundowner drives, Bushman culture tours, and night drives are all available. There is also stargazing at R80pp, quad biking at R250 pp/hour or R400 pp/2 hours, and a driving range just outside the park where you can hit 50 golf balls for R40. If you feel like a massage or manicure, there is even a spa and beauty salon at the lodge which offers a variety of treatments. There is also a swimming pool for cooling off during sweltering summer days.

Double cloud formation at sunset. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

Other-worldly cloud formations made for a great game of 'it looks like. . .'

I was treated to the sundowner drive and the bushman culture tour. Both consisted of a drive through the park on a typical open safari land-cruiser. The sundowner drive headed up to the second-highest point in the reserve, where we enjoyed a drink and watched the sun go down. The sunset in front of us was rivalled only by the cloud formations behind – eerily reminiscent of the rock formations in their other-worldliness. Out to our right lay the vast moonscape of the Tankwa Karoo – venue of Afrikaburn, receiver of only 30ml of rain a year, and one of my favourite places in the country (read: 10 things I’ll miss about Afrikaburn).

Bright sunset. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

The sun sets over the Cederberg

On the back of the land cruiser, air which had been “fresh” and “crisp” all afternoon, stayed “F” and “C”, but the latter description had changed to “cold”, and the former, well, we’ll leave that up to your imagination. The roaring fires in the lodge were almost as welcome as the beer which accompanied dinner. My sun-dried tomato and mango stuffed chicken breast was tasty enough, but murmurs of approval for the fillet steak rolled around the dining room, giving me a slight case of order envy.

During the bushman culture tour, on my second morning in the reserve, our guide Nicholas stopped routinely to tell us about some of the plants in the area and the specific significance they had to bushmen and animals alike. We admired rock art dating back some 6000 years, and went through that familiar process of trying to wrap our heads around the length of time for which those markings had been there, tattooed, as it were, in the porous surface of the sandstone.

Nicholas and San art. Photo Paul Maughan-Brown

Our guide Nicholas interprets the rock art for us.

Reserve info

Kagga Kamma is a 15 000 ha reserve in the Swartruggens region – a southeasterly extension of the Cederberg (find directions and a map here). Its vegetation consists of mountain fynbos, dominated by shrubbery and the thatch-reed restioids. Game consists of a variety of antelope, zebra, wildebeest, jackal, caracal and more. A leopard has been photographed in the reserve by a motion-triggered camera, but never seen in person. Game concentrations were relatively low in the areas of the park which I saw (which were, admittedly, not all of it by any means) so if your primary interest is game-viewing, then this might not be the best spot for you. There are, however, hundreds of bird species to keep the twitchers happy (the screech of the black korhaan was a regular soundtrack).

For more information on the reserve, visit the Kagga Kamma website.


I slept in a cave. Not the den of any wild creature. Nor an empty, cold, hard-ground, bushmen-used-to-live-here type cave. This cave was a comfortable, double bedded, en-suite bathroomed, electrically lit, kettle and hairdryer provided cave, built into the sandstone rocks which form the backdrop of the lodge. There are also slightly more spacious huts available (also en-suite) at the same rate, as well as more luxury options which you can find at the Kagga Kamma website. The lodge owns one chalet, which sleeps 8 people at R800/night and R1200/night during school holidays. There are more chalets available which can only be booked through timeshare.

Meryl and Krister Greften. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

Meryl and Krister Greften enjoy a spot of sun outside their cave in the afternoon.

Cave by night light. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

Inside my cave at night - hardly the flickering light of a primeval fire.

Rack rates for cave/hut accommodation

During September and October 2013 you’ll pay R2510 pppn for full board and R1535 for B&B

Between November 1, 2013 and April 30, 2014 you’ll pay R2761 pppn sharing for full board and R1688.50 for B&B.

Between 1 May and 31 August 2014 you’ll pay R1925 pppn sharing for full board and R852.50 for B&B

Full board includes 3 meals per day and two excursions.


The caves definitely hold some novelty value, but they are a little lacking in privacy, having been built figuratively on top of each other. If you are looking for privacy and are staying for long enough to need wardrobe space, go for the huts instead. They also have that delicious thatch-smell which, to me, is almost a necessity for a good bush holiday.

Huts accommodation with a view. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

The hut accommodation, as viewed from behind.

If you’re heading up the N1 from Cape town (find directions to the park here) don’t forget the toll road fee. It costs R29 for a car, and the oom in the bakkie behind me didn’t seem particularly impressed when I asked him for the R3 I was short.

Plan your trip according to seasons. Summer temperatures regularly top 40 degrees, while it can be icy cold in the evenings during winter.

Meryl Greften (proud Getaway subscriber) mentioned to me the frustrating lack of detail with which her road atlas covered the area. If, like Meryl and my mother, you prefer paper to a GPS and are looking to include Kagga Kamma as one stop in a longer holiday, invest in a Slingsby Map of the area to help you plan your trip (take a look a this Cederberg slackpacking guide before planning your trip).

The journey takes three and a half to four hours, depending on road works and weather (torrential rain on the return trip slowed me down substantially). Over the 15km before the park gate, the gravel road isn’t in the best condition, so give yourself enough time to take it relatively easy through this section. There’s nothing worse than getting a puncture right on the doorstep of your destination!


Kagga Kamma Reservations

Tel +27(0)21-872-4343, email [email protected]

Kagga Kamma Lodge

Tel +27(0)23-004-0077, email [email protected]

GPS Coordinates

S 32 44 45  E 19 33 46

If you’re looking to include Kagga Kamma in a longer trip, find more accommodation in the Cederberg here.

Look out for the Kagga Kamma subscription special in the October issue of Getaway. On sale 23 Spetember.

Stars at night. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

The stars over the Kagga Kamma Lodge

Scorpion. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

A scorpion found beneath a rock by our guide on the sunset drive

Doll's rose. photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

The pretty little doll's rose

Gate hut. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

The shelter and transport provided for the gatekeeper

Snowy mountain en-route. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

The snow-capped mountains en-route stood as a warning of evening chill to come

View from the top of the Katbakkies pass en-route. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

Another shot from the journey, this one from the top of the Katbakkies pass - the 'intense' setting on my Canon's landscape mode is aptly named.

Rock arch. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

A rock arch photographed during my cloudy exit

Dramatic sunset. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

Another shot of the sunset

Cloud formation at sunset. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

And another of the alien cloud formation, just for good measure

Tankwa karoo in distance. Photo by Paul Maughan-Brown

The Tankwa Karoo sprawls out in the distance

yoast-primary -
tcat - Cycling
tcat_slug - cycling
tcat2 -
tcat2_slug -
tcat_final -