The 12 800-hectare Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve is one of Cape Nature’s most beautiful and sought-after nature reserves. Declared a World Heritage Site in 2014 and proclaimed as a nature reserve in 2000, the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve occupies a very special part of the Western Cape. This natural gem is located in the ecotone where the transition of Fynbos and Succulent Karoo vegetation interface. Creating the most incredible and diverse display of fauna and flora, offering visitors and nature lovers representations of both biomes.
Besides being a true nature lover’s paradise in the heart of the Western Cape, this semi-arid nature reserve contains some exceptional examples of the region’s geological (dating back 300 million years ago) and archaeological heritage (5000-300 years old). Some of Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve’s geological and archaeological discoveries and gems include the Stadsaal cave, rare San rock art, and the Truitjieskraal interpretive trail.
**Important note: If you’re looking to explore any of Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve’s incredible attractions and hidden gems, you will need to acquire a permit. Permits are available for purchase at the CapeNature offices or at any private tourism office in the Cederberg Conservancy.
If you’re a die-hard thrill seeker and adventurer, going rock climbing in the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve should definitely be on your Cape Town adventure bucket-list. The rock formations at Truitjieskraal are ideal for sport climbing and is certainly not for the faint-hearted. There are approximately 37 routes in this area that were developed by the Mountain Club of South Africa. Permanent raw bolts have been placed along these routes for safety purposes. It is important to note that it should only be used and attempted by experienced climbers. There are some great rock-climbing routes and adventures, including bouldering and traditional climbing, in other areas of the Cederberg that can be enjoyed by less experienced climbers.
Besides being a sought-after rock-climbing spot for experienced climbers from around the world, Truitjieskraal arguably boasts some of the most remarkable Sandstone formations in the Western Cape. This makes it a real treat to explore for avid adventurers! To get there, follow the path through Truitjieskraal and read the information boards along the way to guide you. Besides ticking a thrilling adventure off your bucket-list, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in stories of great history depicting the lives of the Khoi and San living in the area approximately 5000 – 300 years ago.
**Note: A permit is required to visit and explore this attraction. Permits are available for purchase from CapeNature’s Matjiesrivier office.
Located in the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve, 45km up the road from Algeria camp in the Cederberg Wilderness, the Stadsaal Cave is a unique and special part of South African history. It is also one of the best secret caves to explore in the Western Cape. The Stadsaal Cave is a series of caverns carved into the rock by thousands of years’ worth of wind erosion. These caves were entirely formed by nature and have been touched only by humans in the form of the ancient bushman paintings found on the walls inside.
Standing inside the caverns of the Stadsaal Caves, you will feel part of something sacred as you’re surrounded by rock paintings believed to date back 1 000 years. In addition to these remarkable rock paintings, you will also find historically significant graffiti preserved in the cave featuring some famous political names, including that of DF Malan, dating back to the late 1800s.
Besides the main cavern area of the Stadsaal Cave, there are several smaller openings and unique formations to discover and explore inside the cave – all of which can be easily accessed thanks to a trail that goes around the entire rock formation (this trails starts and ends at the parking area).
**Note: A permit is required to visit these attractions, available for purchase from CapeNature’s offices at Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve and Algeria or any tourism office in the Cederberg Conservancy.
Another thrilling adventure to tick off your Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve bucket-list is to explore all the incredible rock art this Western Cape natural wonder has to offer. The Cederberg boasts some of the most remarkable examples of San and Khoi rock art, dating back to 300 – 6000 years ago. Found in rocky overhangs and caves, the Matjiesrivier rock art paintings form an integral part of the nature reserve’s history. To date, more than 2 500 sites have been found with many of them being easily accessible to the public.
By far one of the most remarkable hidden gems and rock art sites in the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve is the Elephant rock art paintings. Estimated to be at least 1 000 years old, the infamous Elephant Paintings depict three groups of people and a herd of elephants. These rock paintings are incredibly well preserved. This is owed to the longevity of materials made from ochre rock (which makes the orange, red and yellow paint), as well as charcoal and white clay (for the now faded black and white paint), that the San and Khoi people used to paint. Various conservation efforts have also aided in the preservation of these rock paintings. In fact, rock art is protected by the National and Western Cape Heritage Resources Acts. Vandals who deface rock paintings face fines of up to R10 000 and/or two years imprisonment.
**How to get there: The iconic Elephant rock art paintings are located up the Uitkyk Pass, only 45km along the dirt road from the Algeria campsite. The first stop after you turn off the main road is the site of the Elephant rock art.
The Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve is located approximately 300km from Cape Town. To get there, take the N7 highway north and continue along the N7 past Citrusdal. After 28km take the Cederberg/Algeria turn-off to the right. Follow this main gravel road for 17km until you reach the Algeria office. Once you reach the office, continue driving east for another 40km, over the Uitkyk pass and past the turn off to Kromrivier (take the left fork in the road, following the sign for ‘Ceres’). You will see the Stadsaal cave just a few kilometres into the reserve, while the office complex and Truitjieskraal turn-off are situated a little further along. It is important to note that 40km of this road is gravel and appropriate transport must be used.
- Reserve office hours: 07:30am – 4pm, Monday to Friday
- Reserve office phone number: 027 482 9922
- Permits: Permits can be obtained at any tourism office in the Cederberg Conservancy or at Algeria and Matjiesrivier during office hours.
- GPS co-ordinates: 32° 30’ 0.5’’ S 19° 20’ 10.0’’ E