* This artilce originally appeared here on Getaway Magazine.
The Cederberg Wilderness area covers an impressive 71000 hectares of terrain – a rugged escape only two hour’s drive from Cape Town. For decades hikers, rock-climbers and outdoor enthusiasts have been heading to the Cederberg area as their mountainous playground. Before looking at where to stay and what to do, it’s worth looking at the area’s namesake.
The Clanwilliam Cedar Tree, or Widdringtonia Cedarbergensis, is one of four cedar species found in South Africa and as you guessed from the name, is endemic to the Cederberg. This ancient tree is a remnant of the last ice age and despite surviving millennia, it’s a plant that is increasing at odds with the environment that it calls home. An estimated 1-2 million trees once graced the mountain range, but today as little as 15000 remain.
The first threat to the Cedar population was the deforestation at the hands of the early settles, who almost decimated the population, only leaving clusters out of reach in remote rocky outcrops. Unlike their fynbos neighbours these trees arenot regenerated by fire, hence changed fire patterns as a result of climate change have also had a devastating effect. The trees also take an astonishingly long 30 years until they germinate, so regrowth doesn’t happen quickly at all.
Thankfully the erstwhile conservation efforts from the late 1800’s have continued by recent efforts to restock the area. Conservation authority CapeNature, in partnership with Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve, has a seed collection and planting programme aiming to repopulate 2000 tress per year to the area.
Along with several other journalists I was privileged to participate in annual Cedar Tree planting ceremony held at Heuningsvlei every May. The festivities included Rieldans, a community lunch, and of course planting Cedars. The good news is you too can be part of this yearly event: watch CapeNature and Bushmans Kloof Facebook pages for updates or email the Cederberg’s Conservation Manager Rika Du Plessis for more details.
Where to Stay
1. KLIPHUIS CAMPSITE
On the Northern border of the Cederberg you’ll find the three Kliphuis Cottages. Each of these recently refurbished cottages have three bedrooms, sleeping up to 6 people. There’s a fridge and gas stove but no plug points, so be sure to charge your devices before the trip. As the sun sets prepare for a light show as the already orange-shaded mountains turn deep red. One of the best places form which to observe is from the outdoor fireplaces in front of each cabin and wood is conveniently available from reception.
The cottages are a mere 3-minute drive from the Rocklands bouldering site, a favourite site for rock climbers. Exploring a little further, Wupperthal is a 45-minute drive if your vehicle has off-road ability.
2. ALGERIA CAMPSITE
After having driven past this well-known campsite for years, I was finally able to pay it a visit. The accommodation options are campsites or cottages and we chose one of the latter to relax in after our Cederberg adventures. They’re spacious two-bedroomed units, that offer generous mountain views from their stoep. There is also a private pool area for exclusive use of the cottage guests.
There are several hiking trails from Algeria, with the most recommended being the Waterfall Hike. An almost two-hour walk up the mountain is rewarded with your arrival at a large waterfall hidden in one of the kloofs. The views from here down the valley are simply breath-taking. Pack some lunch and enjoy a decent break here.
For a longer adventure, take the 40-minute drive to Cederberg Winery to try their wines of altitude – some farmed at an incredible 1036 meters above sea level. Another 15-minutes and you have the Stadsaal caves and Truitjieskraal which are well worth some exploration.
* Clip courtesy the @themarriedwanderers, filmed with permission
Both these Properties are part of CapeNature’s annual 40% off winter special, so take advantage for an affordable nature escape. You can book for both online here and remember that by supporting CapeNature you’re supporting their conservation efforts as custodians of the environment.
For those who’d like to contribute financially to the Clanwilliam Ceder Tree Planting project, a trust fund has been set up and donations can be made to:
Account number: 1452048398