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Baviaanskloof and the Baviaanskloof Lodge

Baviaanskloof Lodge and its garden
The very hospitable Baviaanskloof Lodge in Cambria has a very attractive garden
Common Coraltree
Above: Coast Coral Tree (Erythrina caffra). Below: flower of the Purple Orchid Tree (Bauhinia variegata) at the Baviaanskloof Lodge
Orchid tree
Garden of Baviaanskloof Lodge
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Common Coraltree
Coast Coral Tree at Baviaanskloof Lodge

The Baviaanskloof is situated in the eastern Cape about 120 km west of Port Elizabeth. Judged from a map it looks deceptively easy to travel along the R332 through the Baviaanskloof. However, in the wilderness area the gravel surfaced winding road is quite narrow and steep, with occasionally an abyss on one side; it takes a working day to travel the 200 km route between Komdomo (the eastern entrance, with a camping) and Willowmore. In fact this year (2005) the stretch of road between Cambria and Geelhoutbos can only be accessed with a 4x4 or other "high-rider" type of vehicle, and the driver had better have sufficient experience in driving through such terrain. Minimum vehicle capability of a 4x2, preferably use a 4x4. The road down Holgat Pass has badly deteriorated and will break anything less. All visitors to the Baviaanskloof are urged to stop at Komdomo (or phone the office on 042-283.0227) to get a report on the current road conditions, a map of the area and hear whether visiting sites are full.

Baviaanskloof Lodge - We definitely wanted to see the Baviaanskloof, because it is breathtakingly beautiful. Therefore we booked at the Baviaanskloof Lodge in Cambria, a farming community, where we received a warm welcome from Hantie and Norman Robbertse and their daughter, who did the cooking. The Lodge is in Cambria, i.e. already in the area regarded as the eastern part part of the kloof. In addition we booked a one day tour through the Baviaanskloof with Maxie Streso, who organises daytrips and tours to various destinations. This led to a very nice day for the two of us, in pleasant company. In retrospect, one day just does not do justice to the Baviaanskloof.

Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea in the garden of the Baviaanskloof Lodge
Bougainvillea

Baviaanskloof on World Heritage List - In September 2004 Baviaanskloof was inscribed in the World Heritage List. It forms part of the Cape Floral Region; this region represents less than 0.5% of Africa's area yet is home to about 20% of the continent's flora. According to the UNESCO «The Cape Floral Region is one of the richest areas for plants than for any similar sized area in the world. The number of species per genus within the region (9:1) and per family (52) are among the highest given for various species-rich regions in the world. The species density in the Cape Floral Region is also amongst the highest in the world. It displays the highest levels of endemism at 31.9 % and it has been identified as one of the world’s 18 biodiversity hot spots.»
A world-class "interpretative centre" is being designed to welcome visitors to the Baviaanskloof; it will orientate visitors culturally and in terms of natural history. This centre is projected in the Cambria Valley. The valley (Cambria is Welsh for Wales) is the home to farmers who produce sweet citrus fruits.

Baboon's footprint

About Baviaanskloof - The name means "Valley of Baboons". Particularly on sandy soil it is easy to find their footprints. They forage in the valley and sleep up in the rocky area, where they fall prey to the Cape Leopard. The latter - a very secretive creature that is smaller than leopards found in the savannah elsewhere - protected since 1974, is an endangered species because farmers used to hunt them down to protect their livestock. However, as of late farmers cooperate in securing that the leopards are no longer killed but caught and transferred to a protected area. In 2007 there have been sightings of 5 or more leopards, including three young ones.

The Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area comprises the Baviaanskloof and Kouga mountain ranges, and the valley in between; the total area as of 2005 is 184,385 hectares. If you approach it from the east, as we did, you will travel through the fertile Gamtoos River valley through Hankey and Patensie, where you will leave the tar road. The Baviaanskloof starts from the east at the Komdomo camping area. A gravel road takes you through the Grootrivier Poort, a beautiful canyon of cliffs and folded rock formations carved out by the Grootrivier river. The road continues through protected and nonprotected areas. As soon as you leave the farming area of Cambria the gravel path becomes very steep and narrow, treacherous in many places, and some will find the experience of travelling this pass hairraising. The road partially follows the river bed, crossing it numerous times. Since the surrounding mountains are rather barren, during the raintime flash floods can severely damage the road and prevent you from crossing the river; such flashfloods occur about once every 10 years. The Western District Council no longer makes resources available for the maintenance of the public road through the Baviaanskloof, hence scarce funds of the Chief Directorate: Environmental Affairs are used to keep the gravel road passable. If you contemplate driving through the pass, it is best to enquire about conditions beforehand.

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