Western Cape – Kammanassie Loop Road

About the Birding

Birding in the areas surrounding the Kammanassie Mountain Range is quite diverse and varies from arid north facing mountain slopes to moist stream valleys along the southern facing slopes of the mountain. The natural vegetation in most areas is still in pristine condition and along valley floors intense farming and cultivation of lands are evident. The farming activities add too the diversity of bird species that may be encountered along the drive.

To date, 216 bird species have been recorded along the Loop Road around the Kammanassie Mountain. The area is blessed with diverse and varying habitats ranging from mountain fynbos, succulent Karoo, montane grasslands, kloof shrublands, waboom-veld (Protea nitida), arid fynbos, spekboomveld (Protulacaria afra), and afro montane forests. This variety in habitats provide for excellent opportunity to locate diverse bird species along the route.

Special bird species to be on the lookout for along this loop road include South African Shelduck, Grey-winged Francolin, Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo- & Southern Black Korhaans, Double-banded Courser, Verreaux’s- & Booted Eagles, Rock Kestrel, Jackal- & Common Buzzards, African Goshawk, Alpine- & African Black Swifts, European Bee-eater, Cardinal-, Olive- & Ground Woodpeckers, Acacia Pied Barbet, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Karoo- & Tractrac Chats, Karoo Thrush, Large-billed Lark, African Pipit, Karoo Scrub Robin, Bokmakierie, Pririt Batis, Grey Tit, Cape Penduline Tit, Layard’s-, Chestnut-vented- & Namaqua Warblers, Fairy Flycatcher, and Dusky Sunbird.

A total of 198 different bird species have to date been recorded along the Kammanassie Loop Road – Northern Section. Interesting bird species that likely can be encountered are bird species that are generally associated with the arid Great Karoo landscapes. Species like Blue Crane, Karoo- & Southern Black Korhaan, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Dusky- & Orange-breasted Sunbirds, Southern Masked-weaver, Swee Waxbill, Black-headed-, Black-throated-, Brimstone-, Cape-, Protea-, White-throated-, & Yellow Canaries, as well as Cape-, Cinnamon-breasted- & Lark-like Buntings may be observed.

A total of 189 different bird species have to date been recorded along the Kammanassie Loop Road – Southern Section. Birding along the southern section of the loop road may yield species like Blue Crane, Verreaux’s Eagle, African Harrier Hawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Clapper Lark, Lesser- & Greater Honeyguides, Red-chested-, Diederik-, Klaas’s- & Black Cuckoos, Cape Rockjumper, White-backed Mousebird, Karoo Chat, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Black Saw-wing, Common Scimitarbill, Pale-winged- & Wattled Starlings, Layard’s-, Rufous-eared-, Namaqua- & Victorin’s Warblers, Pririt Batis, Mountain Wheatear, Cape Penduline Tit, Karoo- & Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Fairy Flycatcher, Cape Siskin, Black-headed Canary, as well as Swee Waxbill.

About the Birding Site

The Kammanassie Mountain range and the Kammanassie Nature Reserve are for most of its circumference surrounded by good quality gravel district roads that can be travelled in any vehicle.

The highest mountain peak in the reserve is Mannetjiesberg (1955m AMSL). The reserve is one of only three nature reserves that serve as sanctuaries for, and protect, the surviving mountain zebras in South Africa. The number of mountain zebras were seriously dwindling during the recent history and reached a low point of only six remaining zebras on the Kammanassie Mountain. The Kammanassie Nature Reserve was thus proclaimed as a wildlife sanctuary to protect the remaining gene pool of the mountain zebras and fortunately the numbers have since been on a steady increase in the reserve. The latest indications are that at least 30 mountain zebras now roam freely in the reserve.

Access to the reserve has unfortunately been closed to the public, hence the only way to appreciate the beauty of the Kammanassie Mountains is to drive the circular route from De Rust to Uniondale and back to De Rust. The route can be undertaken either in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction and the starting point could be at either end, at De Rust or Uniondale. The circular route is obviously split into two distinct sections namely a northern route and a southern route.

The total length of the circular route is approximately 178km and will take at least 7 to 8 hours of intense birding. Plan a full-day outing with a halfway stop at either Uniondale or De Rust, depending on your direction of travel.

Route description:
The start of the Kammanassie Loop Road – Northern Section (75km long) lies just to the east of De Rust on the N12 National Highway at GPS -33.4862˚S, 22.5424˚E. The circular route can also be travelled in the opposite direction from the Uniondale side, but for this description a clockwise travel direction, starting at De Rust is assumed. At the mentioned GPS, turn right (eastwards) onto Road R341 to Willowmore and Uniondale. The first section of this road is a tarred provincial road along the foothills of the Grootswartberg Mountain Range. At about the 14,5km mark at GPS -33.5011˚S, 22.6867˚E a turn to the left onto a small gravel road, signposted “Rooiloop & Vlakteplaas”, is recommended. This short road section follows the railway line and runs eastwards along the northern bank of the Olifants River. One side of the road is extensively farmed whilst the other side of the road is a typical natural Klein Karoo hillside landscape. As such it provides for different species of birds on the opposing sides of the road. Typical Klein Karoo birds to the north of the road and terrestrial birds to the south.

The road eventually automatically turns southwards and at GPS -33.5349˚S, 22.9011˚E (43km mark) reaches the R341 main road again. Cross straight over the main tarred road and continue along the gravel road towards the Kammanassie Mountain which is straight in front of you to the south. This stretch of road runs through pristine Klein Karoo hillside landscapes where all the Klein Karoo special bird species can normally be encountered.

At GPS -33.5868˚S, 23.1023˚E the gravel road ends at a T-junction onto the tarred provincial road R339 to Uniondale (65km mark). Turn right (southwards) towards Uniondale and follow this road southward for about 5km until another T-junction is reached. Turn right again onto the N9 National Highway to Uniondale and George.

Uniondale is not exactly located at the halfway mark of the Kammanassie Loop Road, but it is the only convenient stop for fuel and beverages before you again reach De Rust at the end of the route.

After enjoying the comfort break in Uniondale, continue driving for approximately 9km along the N9 National Highway towards George. At GPS -33.6924˚S, 23.0487˚E turn right (northwards) onto the gravel road to Kammanassie. This section of road follows the southern foothills of the Kammanassie Mountain Range and runs along the southern side of the Kammanassie River. Beautiful vistas of the Kammanassie Mountains are gained at various points along the drive. The southern slopes of the mountain are much moister than the northern slopes, and hence birding on the southern side of the mountain is somewhat more rewarding in the numbers of species to be seen, albeit that many of the real Klein Karoo specials are not as easily observed on this side of the mountain. Keep following the main Kammanassie Road (no turn-offs) until you reach Deyselsdorp at GPS -33.5694˚S, 22.4371˚E (154km mark) where you turn right (eastwards) at the T-junction towards De Rust. The constantly changing landscape and the views of the Kammanassie Mountain peaks are quite extraordinary along this section of the loop road.

After another approximately 6km drive, you will reach the tarred N12 National Highway connecting Oudsthoorn with De Rust, where you turn right towards De Rust. Follow the N12 for about 1km and turn right onto another small gravel road at GPS -33.5261˚S, 22.4815˚E. This road runs through the farming community on the southern side of De Rust and provides an excellent opportunity to see all the birds that associate themselves with farming activities. The road follows the banks of the Olifantsrivier (Elephant’s River) which provides an opportunity to spot all the Klein Karoo wetland bird species.

This road finally ends in a T-junction onto the R341 tarred road very near to where the loop road started just outside of De Rust.

Other Related Information

No permits are required to drive the Kammanassie Loop Road but unfortunately the Kammanassie Nature Reserve is closed to the public.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
There are several guesthouses offering farm stays on farms surrounding De Rust as well as Uniondale or in the towns themselves as well as other accommodation types in the area which are available through the normal accommodation booking sites.

Local guide information:
There are no community bird guides available for this area.

Text prepared by:
Francois Furstenburg

Key species:

Verreaux’s- & Booted Eagles, Rock Kestrel, Jackal- & Common Buzzards, African Goshawk, South African Shelduck, Grey-winged Francolin, Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo- & Southern Black Korhaans, Double-banded Courser, Alpine- & African Black Swifts, European Bee-eater, Cardinal-, Olive- & Ground Woodpeckers, Acacia Pied Barbet, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Karoo Chat, Karoo Thrush, Pririt Batis, Grey Tit, Cape Penduline Tit, Layard’s- & Namaqua Warblers, Fairy Flycatcher, as well as Dusky Sunbird.

Contact details:

De Rust Tourism:
Tel: +27 (0) 44 279 2532
E-mail: enquiries@oudtshoorn.com