Swartberg Pass Hot

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Swartberg Pass with its large altitudinal gradient supports a variety of plant life and bird species. It also boasts spectacular landscape photography scenery.

Leaving Oudtshoorn at dawn, thin wisps of pink and golden dawn touched cloud contrast against the black silhouettes of the rugged Swartberg Mountain.  The trip through the spectacular 4x4 pass leads through several habitats that showcase numerous plant and bird species as well as providing the opportunity to view interesting geological formations.

The base of the southern slopes holds patches of heavily vegetated thicket, while on the southern slopes, mountain Fynbos is present. Restoid and arid mountain Fynbos is present on the top of the pass and en-route to “Die Hell”. The northern slopes have deep gorges, with small flowing streams in the wet season. North of the pass, typical arid Karoo veld is present.


Best Time to Photograph
Given the high altitudes, glare becomes an issue early in the day and so late evenings and early mornings are best for photography on the pass.
Type of Photography
  • Landscape
  • Birds
  • Flowers
Best Time of Year
  • Spring
  • Throughout the year
Photographic Tips
To best capture the diversity of plant life it is worth stopping occasionally along the pass and walking short distances into the surrounding veld. Birds are more relaxed at the various view points and picnic sites.
Recommended Gear
A good macro lens is advisable for photographing the fynbos and succulent plants, while large telephoto lenses mounted either on a tripod or window mount are best for bird photography. Wide to mid angled lenses are best for landscapes.


Site Highlights
The Waboom Fynbos below “Eerste Toll”.
“Witdraai” Lookout.
The crest of the pass amongst the Protea punctata.
“Eerste Water” at the bottom of the northern slope.
Dry river courses with Acacia karoo thicket amongst the Karoo veld.


Season and Weather
Swartberg Pass is a land of extremes with in most cases either very hot or very cold temperatures. Wind often blows on the pass, creating a wind chill. Summers are hot and dry with temperatures entering the high 30 degrees. In winter snow can occasionally fall and close the pass and winter rains can cause the road to become slippery. It is therefore always wise to check the condition of the pass before setting out.
Other Activities
  • Bird Watching
  • 4x4
  • Mountain Biking


Closest Town
Getting There
From Oudtshoorn, follow the R328 out of the town and follow the signposts towards and through the pass. On reaching the T-junction at the base of the northern slope of the pass turn right on the R407 (To go into Prince Albert turn left) towards Klaarstroom and back along the N12, through Meiringspoort and De Rust to Oudtshoorn.
Swartberg Pass


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Peter Chadwick
Author: Peter ChadwickWebsite: http://www.peterchadwick.co.zaEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
As a dedicated conservationist, Peter Chadwick has 30 years strategic and operational conservation experience in terrestrial and marine protected area management. He has worked within all of the major biomes in southern Africa as well as having provided expert conservation advice at a global level. His conservation and wildlife photography is a natural extension to his conservation work where he has numerous opportunities to capture photographs that showcase the beauty and complexity of the outdoors. Peter’s photography is internationally recognized, with this work appearing globally in a wide range of print and electronic media.