Declared a World Heritage Site in 2004, Swartberg Nature Reserve stretches 121 000 hectares between the Klein and Groot Karoo, bordering the Gamkapoort Nature Reserve to the north and the Towerkop Nature Reserve to the west. The town of Oudtshoorn is 40km away. Visitors staying overnight sleep in restored cottages in the Gamkaskloof (otherwise known as Die Hel) and delight in the reserve’s rich heritage. San rock art and artefacts are found in caves throughout the reserve. European contributions to the region’s heritage include three mountain passes built in the 1700s, the Toorwaterpoort railway, Meiringspoort Road and the Swartberg Pass, to link the Klein and Groot Karoo.
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This reserve conserves a diversity of vegetation from renosterveld to mountain fynbos and spekboom veld. It also supports a variety of wildlife, including antelope, baboons, dassies and leopard. Plants begin to flower on the lower levels of the mountain in spring and those fit enough to brave the higher peaks of the Swartberg Mountain could be lucky enough to spot the rare protea venusta. For fans of the beautiful protea, autumn is the best time to spot them in full bloom.