Encompassing ocean stretches, mountain wilderness and some parts of the Cape West Coast farming region, the Cederberg is one of the most diverse biospheres in South Africa. The region is famed for its Bushman rock art paintings, seasonal wildflowers, stark and unspoilt mountainscapes and salt-of-the-earth communities.
Although the Cederberg (named for the endangered Clanwilliam cedar tree) is only three hours by road from Cape Town, it could well be in another country thanks to its unique landscape, gleaming mountaintops, thriving farming communities and secret valleys that hide tiny hamlets and historic mission stations. Visitors au fait with the region will point out that although the Cederberg is mostly mountain and valley based, it also has a rich coastal aspect. Elands Bay is something of a one-horse seaside village, with a surf break that ensures diehard surfers keep coming back for more. Further north along a 30km-long dirt road lies Lamberts Bay, a working fishing town that also plays host to an open-air seafood dining experience – Muisbosskerm should not be missed.
If ‘big sky’ country is on your South African holiday agenda, then the inland areas of the Cederberg are a must. A mecca for hikers, the Cederberg Wilderness Area plays host to numerous standout overnight hikes and day walks – among them sojourns to the Sneeuberg and Tafelberg Mountains as well as the iconic Maltese Cross, Wolfberg Arch and Wolfberg Cracks sandstone rock formations.
This is a land of harsh but magnificent environmental contrasts (winters here are bitterly cold, especially at night). But in springtime, the Cedarberg comes alive with carpets of flowering wildflowers as far as the eye can see. It’s why keen flora enthusiasts the world over visit year after year – and why good accommodation is booked out a year in advance. And, although there are numerous accommodation options from self-catering chalets to smarter hotels and luxe lodges, one of the best ways to experience this pristine part of the world is by camping. The rolling lawns of Algeria with its cooling river waters (essential in the baking hot summer months) are as perfect a place as any to erect a tent.
Essential information is that no visit to the Cederberg is complete without making a plan to view Bushman rock paintings in the mountains. Some, on private land, can be accessed only with a guide, others can be viewed easily within Cape Nature Conservation areas. Either way, to bear witness to rock art etched into the landscape thousands of years ago is an unforgettable and altogether humbling experience.
A visit to the Cederberg is all about enormous and impressive contrasts – the bright colours of the sandstone mountains are extinguished by a no-less magnificent Milky Way at night, and each day offers another chance to explore and discover the challenging and fascinating landscape.
Things to do
• 4×4 vehicle safaris
• Cape leopard tracking
• Flower safari
• Guided heritage walking trails
• Mountain biking
• Rock art expeditions
• Rooibos tea farm tour
• Wine tasting
Cederberg Wilderness Area