The Baviaanskloof area, nestled in the secluded inland region of the Eastern Cape Province, is unique for its awesome mountain ranges, characterised by rugged rock faces, deep fertile valleys, and breath-taking views. These ranges are the Baviaanskloof and Kouga ranges, and present visitors with magnificent vistas of untouched African mountainscapes. The mountains, valleys and caves of this area are believed to be some 140 million years old, although the more recent history of the area extends back 20 million years in terms of the fossils and remains found here as well as of the current appearance and make-up of the topography.
The Baviaanskloof Mountain Range runs parallel to the Kouga Range, from east to west, and both constitute part of the Cape Fold Belt, which are rock formations (usually sandstone and shale) that are known for their folded sedimentary sequence. The Baviaanskloof Mountain Range is smaller than its Kouga counterpart, and is long and narrow. Its highest point is 1 625 metres above sea level. However, it connects with the Groot Winterhoek Mountain Range, which has a highest peak of 1 768 metres above sea level.
Through the beauty of the arid rock, the Kouga, Baviaanskloof, Grootrivier and Witrivier rivers flow, creating green belts of fertile vegetation that twist and wind their ways through the countryside. The Kouga and Baviaans rivers are the main ones that make their way through the region, joining at Smitskraal, and then flowing as one into the Kouga Dam.
Amongst the valleys and mountains, the Baviaanskloof boasts a number of plateaus, thanks to millennia of erosion and natural land movements. Some of these have altitudes of only 650 metres above sea level, and provide stunning areas for visitors to explore on foot or bicycle.
There are a number of different types of rock and rock formations found here, which are fascinating for those with an insight into and a passion for geology. These include:
- Goudini Sandstone (usually brown and often found in the shallow caves)
- Skurweberg Sandstone (on most of the higher peaks of the Baviaanskloof Mountain Range)
- Peninsula Sandstone (the oldest type, usually found at high altitudes)
- Cedarberg Shale (on the lower necks and saddles of the ranges)
- Sardinia Bay (this is a mixture of phyllitic shales and small pebble conglomerate and is seen on the lower-lying areas of the Baviaanskloof)
- Baviaanskloof (dark brown, but not commonly seen)
Significantly, the Baviaanskloof is the only part of the Eastern Cape that has an exposed granite formation.
When discovering the beauty of the landscapes in and around the Baviaanskloof, visitors are left in no doubt as to why it is an area of such undeniable appeal, smattered with a sense of history that only makes it even more mysterious and irresistible. It is ideal for camping, or for day visitors in search of great hiking, walking and cycling opportunities.