The Gamkapoort Nature Reserve
Gamkapoort Nature Reserve lies to the north of the Swartberg Nature Reserve, whilst Towerkop Nature Reserve lies to the west. Together, they form part of the Greater Swartberg Protected Area, a World Heritage Site that lies between the Great and Little Karoos.
This part of the Karoo is a huge swathe of mountainous conservation, one nature reserve after the other, beginning just north west of Ladismith and moving east in great interconnected folds of land all the way to the Baviaanskloof.
Neither Gamkapoort nor Towerkop nature reserves is open to the public. They are managed together with the Swartberg and the entire conservation area is a massive stretch of 180 000 hectares – critical for the mountain catchments and water yields of this part of the country.
Gamkapoort is 8000 hectares of land that lies in the vicinity of two international biodiversity hotspots – the Succulent Karoo and the Cape Floristic Region. You can visit the Gamkapoort Dam, a huge expanse of water fed by the Gamka River, built in 1962, that blocks the main entrance to Gamkaskloof.
The Gamkapoort dam feeds water to the towns of Ladismith and Calitzdorp and lies in the Gamkapoort Nature Reserve. Bird and mammal life here is extensive and the ancient and beautiful landscape offers an incredible stillness reminiscent of millions of years ago – one feels a little as though one has stepped through time.
The landscape reflects the extreme climate in this part of the world – icy winters bring snow to the mountain with temperatures well below zero, whilst summers in turn are uncomfortably hot, scaling as high as 40°C and higher.