Western Cape – Seweweekspoort and Surrounding Areas

About the Birding

To date, 195 different bird species have been recorded in the area surrounding Seweweekspoort. Diverse habitats are encountered in this area. In the Seweweekspoort there is always free flowing water that attracts several bird species whilst the very high and nearly vertical rock faces have their own attraction to other bird species i.e. Verreaux’s Eagle, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Eagle-owl, Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Rockjumper, Pale-winged Starling, African Black- & Alpine Swifts, as well as African Rock Pipit.

Birding in the Poort is difficult but the possibility of encountering some of the rock-loving specials makes the experience interesting albeit somewhat challenging. The road is fortunately not heavily trafficked and safe stopping points are easy to come by. Make frequent stops and pay attention to bird calls coming from the cliff faces above or from the dense vegetation along the streambed.

The Boschluyskloof Pass drive to the Gamkapoort Dam provides for a very different birding experience as some of the Great Karoo special birds can be encountered along this drive. The climate in Boschluyskloof is distinctly different from the micro-climate evident in Seweweekspoort. Boschluyskloof is considerably drier than Seweweekspoort and generally also much warmer with quite cold winter nights. Boschluyskloof provides for typical Acacia-type tree cover on the valley floors whilst the Seweweekspoort is covered in Fynbos and broad-leaved shrubs and trees. The closeness of the steep cliffs and mountain slopes to the sides of the road provides good opportunities to get close-up views of some of the rock-dwelling bird species. The road carries very little traffic.

The Rouxpos Loop Road and Vleiland Road are also located on the dry side of the Kleinswartberg Mountain Range and can also provide some of the Great Karoo’s special bird species. The valley floor is however much wider than the Boschluyskloof Pass section and hence views onto the cliffs and mountain slopes are more long-distance views along this loop road. The developed agricultural areas however provide for good opportunities to locate many of the Great- and Klein Karoo special terrestrial species.

It is recommended that a minimum of a two-day trip be planned to adequately cover this area from a birding perspective. The experience of a sunset or sunrise from almost any vantage point within the east to west stretching valley (Rouxpos to Gamkapoort Dam) is something to behold. Spending time after dark in this area may well provide the opportunity to locate or hear the distinct calling of the rare (seldom seen) Cape Eagle-owl from its nesting sites somewhere on the rugged cliff faces.

Key Species:

Ant-eating-, Sickle-winged-, Tractrac- & Karoo Chats, Karoo- & Karoo Long-billed Larks, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, African Rock Pipit, Cape Rockjumper, Sentinel Rock Thrush, Yellow-bellied- & Karoo Eremomela, Pririt Batis, Dusky Sunbird, Rufous-eared-, Namaqua-, Layard’s, Chestnut-vented- & Victorin’s Warblers, Cape Siskin, as well as Black-headed Canary.

About the Birding Site

The area surrounding Seweweekspoort (Seven Week’s Gorge) and the regional roads surrounding the Poort are dominated by the majestic Grootswartberg (Great Black Mountain) Range to the east and the Klein Swartberg (Little Black Mountain) Range to the west of the Poort. The surrounding areas include the Towerkop Nature Reserve to the west as well as the Gamkaskloof (Die Hel/The Hell) Nature Reserves to the east. Both these reserve areas are managed by Cape Nature.
The Seweweekspoort Peak, at 2 325 meters above mean sea level, is the highest mountain peak in the Western Cape Province in the RSA.

The winding road through Seweweekspoort is arguably one of the most scenic drives anywhere within the RSA borders. Complex and majestic rock formations of the Cape Fold Mountains are on view for the whole length of the drive.

Birding along the regional roads surrounding Seweweekspoort is discussed in three different sections hereafter, namely:
• Seweweekspoort Road (R327)
• Boschluyskloof Pass and Gamkapoort Dam
• Rouxpos Loop Road

Description of Seweweekspoort Road (R327):
The southern access point to the Seweweekspoort Road (R327) is located on the R62 Road between Ladismith and Calitzdorp at location GPS -33.4811˚S, 21.4591˚E. The turn-off onto the Seweweekspoort Road is well-signposted. Access can also be obtained from the northern side, from the Laingsburg side, via Road R327. The northern starting point of the Seweweekspoort section is located at GPS -33.3619˚S, 21.4107˚E on the R327.

This 22km long road section is a well-maintained gravel road that closely follows the course of the Seweweekspoort River. Any vehicle can safely drive on the road. The road crosses the stream at numerous low-level crossings that may be flooded during storm events. Caution should be exercised when a crossing of a flooded stream is contemplated as the waters will be fast-flowing.

The road has an average gradient of about 3% along its entire length. The road is quite narrow so always consider other vehicles travelling on the road when you make a stop for birding. Frequent stops along the route are recommended to observe the splendour of the majestic rock formations and spot some of the birds along the route.

A couple of small picnic spots are available along the road where convenient stopping places are located.

Birding in Seweweekspoort:
To date, 152 different bird species have been recorded in the Poort section. This is a low total when compared to adjacent areas, but the splendour of the majestic mountain scenery and peculiar rock formations make up for any shortcomings from a birding perspective. However, the Poort may yield species that will not as easily be encountered at any other locations. Special Poort bird species include Verreaux’s Eagle, Cape Eagle-owl, Pale-winged Starling, African Black Swift, Alpine Swift, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Rockjumper, Victorin’s Warbler, Cape Siskin, and Protea Canary.

At stops along the road pay special attention to birds calling from the cliff faces and check the sky for the high-flying Alpine- & African Black Swifts, Rock Martin, Red-winged- & Pale-winged Starlings, as well as raptors like Verreaux’s- & Booted Eagles, and Rock Kestrel. Also note the bird sounds coming from amidst the thickets that line the streambeds like Cape Robin-chat, Sombre Greenbul, all three Mousebird species, Bar-throated Apalis, Karoo Prinia, Southern Boubou, Cape Bunting, and the respective species of Canaries. Careful scanning of the rock terraces and ledges normally provides sightings of roosting or resting bird species like Mountain Wheatear, Cape Rock Thrush, Ground Woodpecker, Red-winged Starlings, Cape Bunting, and infrequently Cape Rockjumper as well as of raptor species on the lookout during their hunting excursions, like Verreaux’s Eagle and Rock Kestrel. Also check the boulders in the streambed for perching Malachite-, Pied- & Giant Kingfishers, Cape Wagtail, Common Waxbill, and Cape Siskin.

Description of Boschluyskloof Pass and Gamkaport Dam access road:
The entrance to the 24km long dead-ended Boschluyskloof Pass and access road to the Gamkapoort Dam is located at GPS -33.3619˚S, 21.4107˚E (which incidentally is the northern end of the Seweweekspoort Section).

This is a narrow and quite steep gravel road that is unofficially maintained by the Boschluyskloof Lodge to ensure quality access for visitors to their facility. The road is divided into three totally different sections, namely the first 6km section which traverses past cultivated lands until it reaches the watershed in the valley. A gate at the 6km mark indicates the start of the Boschluyskloof private nature reserve, but free entry is permitted for visitors. Access to the Boschluyskloof Lodge facilities is however restricted and is only available for paying guests to the Lodge.

The next road section through the private nature reserve area is approximately 7km long and descends the steep, rough and very narrow pass section of the road up to the Boschluyskloof Lodge. To the east of the Lodge the gradient of the road flattens out and the road runs for the next 11km along the valley floor until it reaches the Gamkapoort Dam.

The agricultural area at the start of the road provides good opportunities to locate terrestrial bird species including all the locally available Pipits, Larks, Cisticolas, and Canaries. This area is an excellent area to observe little brown jobs.

Along the Pass section of the road all the rock loving bird species can be encountered.

The last section of the road leading to the Gamkapoort Dam provides good opportunities to observe most of the Klein Karoo specials, including a few Great Karoo specials. The Acacia vegetation along the valley bottom provides a good habitat for many of the Great- and Klein Karoo special bird species. The Dam itself is not famous for producing a large diversity or number of bird species, but careful scanning of the dam verges may produce a few typical Karoo waterbird species. The road is a dead-end at the Dam.

Birding along Boschluyskloof Pass and Gamkapoort Dam Access Road:
A total of 173 different bird species have been recorded along the Boschluyskloof Pass and along the western edges of Gamkapoort Dam. Special bird species observed include Great Crested Grebe, South African Shelduck, Common Greenshank, African Spoonbill, Verreaux’s Eagle, Cape Eagle-owl, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Ground Woodpecker, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Rockjumper, Ant-eating-, Karoo-, Sickle-winged- & Tractrac Chats, Large-billed- & Cape Clapper Larks, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, African Rock Pipit, Cape Penduline- & Grey Tits, Rufous-eared-, Rufous-vented-, Layard’s- & Namaqua Warblers, Karoo- & Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Pale-winged Starling, Dusky Sunbird, Swee Waxbill, Cape Siskin, as well as Black-headed Canary.

Description of the Vleiland Road (R327) and Rouxpos Loop Road:
The Vleiland Road (R327) and Rouxpos Loop Road can be accessed from the east at the northern end of Seweweekspoort at GPS -33.3619˚S, 21.4107˚E or alternatively from the west at GPS -33.3804˚S, 21.0068˚E. The length of the gravel loop road from the northern end of Seweweekspoort and back to the same point is 57km.

The road follows the east to west stretching valley along the northern foothills of the Kleinswartberg Mountain Range and provides good views of the arid north-facing mountain slopes, especially along the recommended Rouxpos Loop Road section of the drive.

The R327 (Vleiland Road) is a gravel district road that carries a fair volume of traffic and can become quite corrugated and very dusty during dry spells. Considerably less traffic is encountered along the Rouxpos Loop Road and driving conditions are considerably easier along the Rouxpos Loop Road than along the Vleiland Road. The loop road can comfortably be driven with any vehicle.

Birding along the Vleiland Road and Rouxpos Loop Road:
To date, 163 different bird species have been recorded along the roads described in this section. Special bird species observed include Karoo Korhaan, Verreaux’s Eagle, Cape Eagle-owl, African Black Swift, Ground Woodpecker, Black Cuckooshrike, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Karoo Chat, Karoo-, Cape Clapper- & Karoo Long-billed Larks, Karoo Scrub Robin, Karoo Thrush, Cape Grassbird, Cape Rockjumper, Cape Penduline- & Grey Tits, Karoo Prinia, Karoo- & Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Fairy Flycatcher, Long-billed Crombec, Pririt Batis, Layard’s-, Namaqua-, Rufous-eared- & Rufous-vented Warblers, Cape Siskin, Black-headed Canary, and Lark-like Bunting.

Other Related Information

No permits are required to enter any of the detailed routes, but access to the Lodge facilities at the Boschluyskloof Private Nature Estate is reserved for paying guests. The road through the Boschluyskloof Nature Reserve is however a public road with free access.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
There are several guesthouses offering farm stays on farms surrounding the Seweweekspoort area and along the other routes described 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:

Karoo Korhaan, Verreaux’s-, Booted- & African Fish Eagles, Peregrine Falcon, Cape Eagle-owl, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, European Bee-eater, Ground Woodpecker, Black Cuckooshrike, African Red-eyed Bulbul, White-backed Mousebird, Karoo Scrub Robin.

Contact details:

Ladismith Tourism Bureau:
Tel: +27 (0)28 050 0158
Email: visitladismith@gmail.com

Boschluyskloof Lodge:
Tel: +27 (0)23 581 5046
Email: info@boschluyskloof.co.za

Gamkapoort Dam:
WhatsApp: +27 (0)72 925 8421
Email: gamkapoortdam@gmail.com