Cederberg Wilderness Area and Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve

After World War II, the notion of escaping to the mountains began to take hold, amongst mountaineers, and then amongst anyone with the means to travel. Today, this 71 000ha reserve is one of CapeNature most popular. The adjacent 12 000ha Matjiesrivier Reserve is managed as part of the greater Cederberg conservation area, renowned for its fantastic sandstone formations – the Stadsaal Caves, the Wolfberg Arch and the Maltese Cross. The Cederberg area (between the towns of Clanwilliam, Citrusdal and Wupperthal) was proclaimed a wilderness area in 1973. More recently, to try and further manage the environment, a plea went out and the result was that conservancies have now been formed on private lands bordering the reserve. One more call is expected – from the United Nations, on the declaration of the Cederberg as a biosphere reserve.

Cederberg has two campsites, a number of self-catering cottages and, for the adventurous, survival camping in the wilderness. The two well-treed campsites are at Algeria and Kliphuis. Algeria, the main camp with 48 sites, is on the Rondegat River. Kliphuis is in the far north of the reserve, in the Pakhuis Pass, 20km from Clanwilliam. It has ten sites on the Kliphuis River. Both Algeria and Kliphuis have hot water, but toilet paper is not supplied.  Five individual campsites have power points.

There are seven self-catering cottages in the area. The two most luxurious, where one needs bring only food, toiletries and a towel, are Garskraal (sleeps eight people) and Rietdak (sleeps five people) at Algeria. Five more basic cottages are situated a few kilometres from Algeria. They do not have electricity or bedlinen, but they have magnificent mountain settings. Uitkyk sleeps ten people, Waenhuis six. Prik-se-Werf, Peerboom and Sas-se-Werf sleep four each. All five cottages have gas stoves and fridges, bathrooms with hot water, and toilets. Lights are powered by a solar panel installation.

The wilderness is for the more independent hiker and a 1:50 000 topographical map bought at the Algeria office is indispensable. To maintain the atmosphere and lessen the impact of people, the wilderness has been divided into three 24 000-ha hiking blocks. Groups are limited to a minimum of three and a maximum of 12 people a day. Permits are only valid for specific blocks. While there are any number of day and overnight hiking routes to choose from in the Cederberg, consider the services of a reserve guide who, for a small fee, will show you things you would otherwise walk right past. By dint of sheer experience, the guides carry a wealth of information on the reserve, the region and its people.

The Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve is home to the eerie Stadsaal rock formations where the presence of people long gone is still palpable. It is here too, not far from the Stadsaal Caves, that the evocative elephant rock painting is found. The reserve is in the drier eastern end of the Cederberg. It was obtained in 1995 with the assistance of the WWF-SA. Matjiesrivier is also the hub of a privately run 16km mountain bike trail and a scenic route well suited to 4×4 vehicles.

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