Here at Buffelsdrift Game Reserve, we’re no strangers to natural beauty. With the softly lapping waterhole spread out in front of us, and the beauty of the Swartberg mountains behind us, we’re in awe of nature’s bounty every day. While there’s beauty to be found at every turn in Oudtshoorn, today we’re taking a closer look at two ‘hidden gems’ of the local scenery- the Swartberg pass and the Meiringspoort Pass. Often seen as part of the so-called ‘Swartberg Circle’, adventure and natural beauty await you.
The gravel road pass to rule them all
Swartberg pass is, for many South Africans, the most iconic gravel road pass of them all. It’s an area redolent in history, helped by its status as a national monument, and the Swartberg experience can be tough to pin down to words. Even the road itself is a historical wonder, the best (and last) project from the brain of Thomas Bain. Historical points of interest liter the area, from Witdraai (White Corner) and Die Stalletjie (Small Stall) to the ominously named Skelmdraai (Devious Corner).
Even if you want to pass through in a hurry, the almost 24km long Swartberg Pass takes at least an hour to cross. Schedule a lot longer, though. The breathtaking, sometimes startling views are sure to call to you, and you’ll be tempted to spend hours exploring her nooks and crannies. The Swartberg pass is accessible to all vehicle types in fair weather, but acrophobics may want to give it a miss.
The pass that opened the world
Ok, ‘the world’ is slightly hyperbolic- but without the Meiringspoort pass, the Swartberg Mountain Range was near impassable. The Klein and Groot Karoos would never have become interlined without it. With Tierpoort lying 50km to the east, there was no easy route to far-off Mossel Bay. Of course, human ingenuity rose to the challenge. Although short as such routs go, at only 16 kms, the Meiringspoort project would breathe life into the area. Its only drawback in historical times was a tendency to flooding in high rains, a fact that would eventually lead to the Swartberg Pass supplanting it. The modern route, completely refurbished in 1996, is truly beautiful. High cliffs rise sharply away from the road. Nowhere else in the Karoo do you get the same awe-inspiring impressions of nature’s power than here. Sandstone has been pleated, folded and lifted like the softest fabric. Yet, as always with Mother Nature, gorgeous plants call the area home, and remain one of the Poorts attractions- for a tiny area, the species diversity here is remarkable. This is even the true home of the ever-popular geranium!
Forming part of the Swartberg Nature reserve, a trip through Meiringspoort is the perfect excuse for a day of gorgeous views, breathtaking photographs and drinking in the beauty of the natural world.
The Swartberg Circle
These 2 iconic stops are just part of the scenic Swartberg Circle route. Travelling from Oudtshoorn or Calitzdorp to the towns of De Rust, Klaarstroom and Prince Albert, there’s a wealth of picturesque routes to drink in the sights- but a stop at each of these passes is a definite must.