When I first drove through the Baviaanskloof, I wondered ‘Why would anyone call their lodge the Devil’s Gorge (Duiwelkloof)?’. It was only sometime later that I realized I was putting an ‘L’ where it shouldn’t be and the location is actually named after a symbol of peace: the dove. Certainly on asking connoisseurs of the Baviaanskloof where their favourite destination was, Duiwekloof has come up on a couple of occasions.
And it was the location that Anja’ chose to spend her birthday, which we have traditionally spent on a hike in the outdoors. Duiwekloof is highly rated on TripAdvisor, and since it is ‘just down the road’ for us (an hour drive), we decided we’d give it a shot. Camping at a location where there would likely be other children to play with to entertain our two seemed like a good idea. Mentally, I was expecting a location along the lines of the popular Doringkloof or Kudu Kaya. However, Duiwekloof would surpass all expectations.
The camp and lodge are located up one of the side valleys of the western Baviaanskloof. The grounds are beautifully maintained and tastefully decorated and sculptured. There was nice green grass to set the tents up on, and very welcome shade netting over seating areas and car parks. The valley is dry, so there aren’t many big trees, so these were very welcome. Most importantly, there is a beautiful rock swimming pool for cooling off. For me, the most pleasant surprise was the lack of crowds: in fact, given the time of year, the location was practically deserted: only one other set of campers and perhaps two groups in the cottages were observed during our 2 nights here.
We started our afternoon with the main hike up to the head of the gorge, which winds up the dry riverbed, past ‘magic trees’, a small overhang with rock art, and other distractions, until the shallow rock pools deep in the cool gorge, defined by incredible folded rock cliffs reaching heavenwards, the lost fortresses of the endangered Willowmore Cedars. The ponds were home to endemic ghost frogs, while I was surprised to see Orange-breasted Sunbirds and Cape Siskins amongst the community of birds.
For our second day we decided to tackle the intermediate length ‘Crocodile’ hiking trail, with a diversion to the ‘Orrelgate’ or Organ Caves. These are part of the contact zone between the ‘Oervlakte’, a conglomerate layer overlaying the Table Mountain sandstone folded rocks that make up most of the folded mountains in the area. The hiking trails are very well maintained, with ropes or ladders in tricky places, although signposting is a bit sparse: we referred often to our photograph of the trail map available at the lodge. Still, views were spectacular in a way only the Baviaans can deliver, with succulent and spekboom slopes mixed in with elements of fynbos, cedars, and the Acacia thickets of the Baviaans river. We were back by 10:30, after 3 hours, by which time the heat was already beating down on us, and the rock pool much needed, not just by us but by a constant visit of birds and bees too. That evening the kids took me for a night walk back up the gorge, where most large rocks seemed to be home to a scorpion or two, easy to spot with our UV torch.
Chewy the Husky dog accompanied on all the hikes. Clearly, he is part of the Duiwekloof personality, and was frequently mentioned in the guest book. My feelings on the very friendly beast were ambivalent: it’s hard to dislike anything that friendly, but I’m allergic to dogs so had to shoo him away and endure his hurt look more frequently than I’d have liked. I’d also prefer not to have a dog on walks given I’d prefer to be looking for wildlife. At one point he bailed Elena off her feet while running past to catch up with us after chasing something into the bushes, and I didn’t appreciate his guard duties that involved waking me up with loud barking during the darkest hours of the night. Still, his attention to guests was impressive: he must have accompanied every set of guests we say on their hikes.
On our way out we spent some time in the Baviaans river, home to Hamerkop and African Black Ducks, as well as plentiful other birds in the riverine thicket. Overall though, extremely pleasant stay and very friendly staff. I could certainly quite happily have spent another night to fit in the Bakrans hiking trail.
Our campsite was R350 a night. Find out more at www.duiwekloof.co.za