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Timeless Bosch Luys Kloof


Bosch Luys Kloof

The allure of this hidden mountain wilderness lies not only in its breath-taking vistas, unique fauna and flora or its remote and off-the-grid location, but also in its history.

The valley itself is steeped in it, time seems to stand still here and history is part of the present. If the valley could talk it would undoubtedly have countless fascinating tales to tell of everything it has witnessed through the ages. Over the years, via word of mouth from individuals who are familiar with its past or have once been privileged enough to call it home, we continue to gather information on the history of this special slice of Karoo, each rendition slightly embellished as one would expect from a good storyteller, but adding a colourful new yarn to the rich tapestry that is Bosch Luys Kloof.

From the formation of the mountains which surround Bosch Luys Kloof, to fossils of trilobites and sea creatures which inhabited the Agulhas and Karoo seas out of which these same mountains arose, to the first modern humans to walk along its length and hunt its wildlife, one could neither tell, nor ever know, everything this valley has played witness to. As the current custodians of this valley, however, it is our duty to preserve not only its resources and natural assets but also to share the chapters of the story we know…

The birth of mountains at the bottom of the sea

“A scene burst upon us that I shall not forget in a hurry. Breathless I gazed down the valley on the boundless sea of blue mountains, cones and peaks, table tops and jagged lines of hillocks tingled with the faint blush of glowing rays of the unseen sun. What a wild charm thrown over the distant labyrinth of hills in the soft glow of early morn.” – Thomas Bain and Dr Atherstone, 1871

This is an apt description of the Bosch Luys Kloof valley as seen from the top of the pass. Renowned road engineer and pass builder Thomas Bain and naturalist / geologist Dr William Atherstone wrote these words when travelling down the Bosch Luys Kloof pass in 1871. Their reference to ‘a sea of blue mountains’ is surprisingly accurate. What are now mountains in the Great Karoo towering more than 1 000m above sea level were in fact formed at the very bottom of the sea. 

Hundreds of millions of years ago, Africa formed part of the super-continent Gondwana. Around 540 million years ago (mya) at its southern tip a rift formed, the Agulhas sea, when the Falkland Plateau (now the Falkland Islands) initially pulled away from the African continent as a result of plate tectonics. Over millennia, sediments (which now form the sandstones and shales of the Cape Supergroup) accumulated in vast layers on this sea floor. Mountains weathered down into rocks, and rocks into sediments which were transported through erosion and via rivers to the sea, where they, millions of years later, became mountains again. From around 350 to 290mya, the Falkland Plateau had started pushing back into the southern tip of Africa, forcing and compressing these thick layers of sediments upwards into what we know today as the Cape Fold Mountains which dominate the Western Cape. 

The highest point above sea level in the Cape Fold – in fact in the entire Western Cape – can be seen from Bosch Luys Kloof. Seweweekspoort peak towers some 2 325m above sea level where once the very rock that crowns its peak originated.

North of this newly formed Cape Fold Belt there was a sagging in the continental crust and a vast shallow inland basin formed around 280mya as the Permian ice age drew to a close. This basin filled with melting waters and formed the Karoo inland sea, also known as the Ecca sea, with the mountains of the Cape Fold Belt (the Witteberg and Swartberg which border north and south of Bosch Luys Kloof included) acting as a giant dam wall. Progressive climatic drying and massive volcanic outpourings of the Drakensberg lavas around 180mya resulted in this inland sea drying up over time and turning into what is now a 400 000 km² expanse of semi-desert, the Great Karoo.

Bosch Luys Kloof is a geological gem! We can only encourage anyone interested in rocks and fossils to pay us a visit and explore all it has to offer, it will not disappoint!

Sea creatures in the Karoo

The fact that Bosch Luys Kloof, a mountain wilderness, was once covered in water at the bottom of an ocean can be hard to imagine, but this is the wonder of nature. Encased in the mountains and rocks that line the valley are clues, and a closer look will reveal a host of primitive marine creatures which are extinct today, perfectly preserved specimens of a bygone era. 

Trilobites, primitive marine arthropods, first appeared around 540mya and dominated warm shallow seas until their extinction around 250mya. They were among the most successful of all early animals, existing for a period of almost 270 million years and consisting of more than 20 000 different species worldwide (with more being discovered in the fossil record). They filled various ecological niches with some evolving as filter feeders, others moving over the seabed as predators and others scavenged. Many different species of trilobites, as well as various different types of brachiopods, molluscs, gastropods, cephalopods and crinoids, are present in the fossil record, and particularly well preserved in the shales of the Bokkeveld group at Bosch Luys Kloof. These fossils provide solid evidence to even the biggest sceptic that this part of the dry Karoo was indeed at some point, and to quote another well-known Walt Disney Arthropod character, ‘under-da-sea.’ 

The exposed geology at Bosch Luys Kloof ranges in age from around 540mya till around 250mya, which spans the period of time that trilobites successfully dominated the marine environment on earth. The oldest (quartzitic sandstones of the Table Mountain group – TMS) rock types are exposed along its southern boundary, the softer shales of the Bokkeveld group dominate the central valley floor and are geologically younger (meaning they were deposited as sediments on top of the TMS), and the sandstones and siltstones of the Witteberg forming the northern boundary of the Reserve are the youngest. 

Interesting spiral trace fossil examples (not the fossil of the animal or plant itself, but the activity left by it) can be found along the northern sections of the Reserve, at the base of the Witteberg. Initially thought to have been a plant form known as Spirophyton, the organism responsible for creating these trace fossils is now accepted as being of animal origin and the culprits responsible for creating these trace fossils are loosely grouped into the genus Zoophycos. The organisms likely inhabited burrows in the sea bed, with one hypothesis suggesting that they gardened decomposer microbes on a compost of their own faecal pellets, in a similar fashion to termites gardening edible fungi on plant detritus gathered away from their nest. The sandstones of the Witteberg group are not comprised of very fine sedimentary particles like the shales of the Bokkeveld group, resulting in less detailed fossils, but it’s exciting to think that some animal tracks can last for more than 250-million years! 


The first people

About 2 000 years ago pastoralists and herders known as the Khoe, Quena or more commonly referred to as the Khoikhoi moved down into the southern- and westernmost parts of Africa, bringing with them herds of cattle, sheep and goats. Southern Africa was the last part of the continent to acquire cattle and livestock, and it is believed that Bantu-speaking farmers originating from the Great Lakes area in current Uganda came into contact with San hunter-gatherers in northern Botswana who acquired livestock from them. Groups of these San migrated south with their herds, later becoming the Khoikhoi of the Cape.

This brought about great change to the indigenous people of the Cape, the San people (previously ‘bushmen’, from the Dutch ‘Boschjesmens’) who had lived in the Cape for at least 18 000 years with little change to their ways prior to this. The San people were nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived entirely off the bounty of the land, moving from place to place rather than putting too much pressure on natural resources in any given area. They relied solely on available fauna and flora, and had a keen understanding of and respect for nature, and the concept of possession was foreign to them. 

The arrival of the Khoi and their livestock in the Western Cape placed direct pressure on the free-roaming game and vegetation of the area and indirectly on the San way of life, and before long conflict broke out between the Khoi and the San people. Some San groups were eventually forced to resort to ‘hunting’ livestock belonging to the Khoi, as their livestock had competed with or replaced free-roaming game in the traditional hunting grounds of the San. Naturally the Khoi, considering this theft, retaliated with force and began to band together in larger numbers to protect what they saw as theirs. For the most part however, the Khoi inhabited areas closer to the coast with higher rainfall and better grazing for their livestock, while the San were quite comfortable moving around the drier interior. 

San people inhabited and hunted the Bosch Luys Kloof valley for thousands of years before the arrival of the Europeans, before even the arrival of the Khoi in the Western Cape. Sadly, the traditional San culture, although sustainable for thousands of years, was not very adaptable to change and exists only in tiny isolated and preserved pockets today. Despite this, their legacy lives on thanks to their incredible paintings on the rocks that define the Western Cape’s topography – a canvas that itself is millions of years old. Their artform is depicted at hundreds of rock-art sites across the Cape and throughout southern Africa. Rock-art sites located not far from Bosch Luys Kloof and with a very similar style to the paintings found on the Reserve have been dated to around 3 500 years old. There are at least two sites on the Reserve with San rock-art, and a number of sites close to the entrance gate and in nearby Seweweekspoort, with likely more yet to be discovered on the 14 000 ha Reserve. 

The San people’s knowledge on the uses of plants in the Karoo was above admirable, and this knowledge was passed down through generations, spanning thousands of years via word of mouth and storytelling around camp fires. Here are just a few of the plants that grow naturally at Bosch Luys Kloof that were often used by the San people: 

  • Boophone disticha (Bushmans poison) was most commonly used to poison the arrow shafts and aided in bringing down game, but was also used in small quantities to reach a hallucinogenic state in their trance dance around the campfire, a transition to the spiritual realm. 
  • Hoodia gordonii (Bushmans hat) was used as an appetite suppressant on long hunts, a thirst quencher and a cure for abdominal pain. 
  • Euphoriba mauritanica (Pencil milkbush) exudes a milky white latex which was commonly used by the San for its cohesive properties to stick poisons to their arrow tips, and in mixing the pigments for their rock art. 

Likely one of the most commonly depicted animals in San rock art is the Eland, which they revered. In different areas, different pigments and ingredients were used to create the paints used in their artform, but Eland blood or fat was often an ingredient added, with the aim being to capture the actual essence of this, the largest of all antelope, and add great significance to their artworks.

Sadly the arrival of European colonists and their livestock in the valley and surrounds marked the end of the San people’s traditional way of life. We pay homage to these original inhabitants of Bosch Luys Kloof, and revere them for their knowledge of the veld and the legacy that they left behind with their beautiful images captured on the ancient rocks in the area. The truth is that we will never fully understand the exact meanings of their artworks – this is a story that has been lost in time – but we strive to preserve them and stand in awe of the fact that thousands of years after the artist put ‘brush to rock’, considering weathering and exposure to climatic extremes, many of the rock-art images in the Western Cape are almost as vivid as the day they were painted.

The road to Beaufort

Prior to and during the time of the Great Trek, many ‘Boer’ families pioneered their way into the interior of South Africa when tensions arose within the Cape Colony between the original Dutch and newly arrived British colonists in the Cape. With the Western Cape being dominated by a mountainous topography, one of the preferred modes of transport was by ox-wagon. The most reliable, and well-adapted draft animals to local disease and climate it turns out were the cattle which the Dutch had acquired from the Khoi herders of the Cape. The official name later given to the breed that pioneered the exodus of between 12 000 and 14 000 boers from the Cape is the Afrikaner, or Africander. 

With the ability to provide Voortrekkers (pioneers) with milk and meat if needed, cattle-drawn wagons transported the boers through uncertain and often unexplored terrain in search of new lands to claim as their own. Depending on the obstacles, a full day’s trek might only have resulted in 10km’s of distance covered, and considering that lions and elephants still roamed freely throughout the Great Karoo, and water was scarce, the going was tough for these early pioneers.

One such pioneering family, the Hartmans, settled along the old wagon route which ran through Bosch Luys Kloof and on to the frontier villages of Prince Albert and Beaufort West. They set up their homestead close to a natural spring bubbling out of the northern slopes of a mountain which borders the south of Bosch Luys Kloof (now aptly named Hartmansberg after the family). The image here illustrating the map M3/2922 (belonging to the Western Cape Archives and Records Service) was drawn up in 1854 by Albert Kennedy, sworn Governement Surveyor at the time. The section bordered yellow on the map, named Olyvenfontein, was measured out for Mr Hartman and indicates the position of his homestead. In 1856 they obtained the land through a government grant. Accounts have it that Mr Hartman was a blacksmith by trade, so aside from subsistence farming on Olyvenfontein, he also assisted passers-by with their wagon wheels, horseshoes and the like.  Frontier villages were growing fast and accessibility between them and important trade routes closer to the coast was becoming a priority. The great era of pass building in South Africa saw Bosch Luys Kloof appear on the radar of road engineers, and an access route through the Swartberg mountains to reach these frontier villages was considered via a mountain pass into the valley. Led by road engineer Adam de Smidt (brother-in-law of the famous Thomas Bain), with his team of labour consisting mostly of Italian prisoners of war, a road was constructed granting access via Seweweekspoort and down the Bosch Luys Kloof pass. This road essentially linked the Little Karoo (south of the Swartberg range) with the Great Karoo, and made travel between villages such as Prince Albert, Laingsburg and Ladismith a possibility. 

*Permission is granted for the use of map image M3/2922
* Image is the property of 
the Western Cape Archives and Records Service

The proposed road would also bypass the Hartman settlement, cutting it off from passers-by and their source of communication with the outside world. As rumour has it, Mr Hartman attempted to convince the road engineer De Smidt to stick to the old wagon route and just improve the condition of the existing road rather than construct a new one, but the engineer had already mapped his impressive pass through Bosch Luys Kloof, and work commenced.

The road through Seweweekspoort and the Bosch Luys Kloof pass was built between 1859 and 1862 and is still in use today, still gravel and virtually unchanged. 

This road predates the Swartberg pass as one of the main access routes to Prince Albert. The building of the Gamkapoort dam between 1967 and 1969 dammed up the Dwijka- and Gamka rivers which cross the road at the eastern boundary of Bosch Luys Kloof, and turned the old main road into a cul de sac. 

Becoming a nature reserve

The road brought with it accessibility and more homesteaders followed. Aside from Olyvenfontein farm allocated via a land grant to the Hartmans in 1856, at the time of its founding in 2006 the Reserve consisted of a total of seven separate parts/farms covering some 14 000 hectares.  

The lodge was built on the farm Bosch Luis Kloof, which according to the owners register was first documented to have been owned by G L Le Grange from 1885 till 1898. He had likely settled here years before becoming the registered owner. Interestingly the current lodge, which was built around an existing homestead, is indicated on the old maps with the name Sladnedo. During the 1980’s the area was mapped extensively, with existing maps being updated with homesteads, windmills, waterbodies and other areas of significance. One of the fieldworkers visited the homestead (now the lodge) leased at the time by Mr J V R Odendal and indicated that the homestead was considered a large enough settlement to warrant naming it on the maps. It consisted of a house, a shop, a shed, shepherds houses etc. Stumped, Mr Odendal suggested that the fieldworker use his wife’s initial followed by his surname, in reverse. S. Odendal became Sladnedo

Around the height of the wool boom in South Africa in the 1950’s large herds of sheep were kept on massive farms in the Karoo, and Bosch Luys Kloof too was predominantly a livestock farm, with sheep and goats being the main source of income for famers in the area. Construction of the Gamkapoort dam in 1969 turned the road through Bosch Luys Kloof into a cul de sac and limited access to the village of Prince Albert. This paired with droughts and uncertainties about the future of land ownership in the new South Africa, and a shift in the productivity of extensive sheep farming, resulted in Bosch Luys Kloof going up for auction in the 1990’s.

Years before, on a trip through Bosch Luys Kloof to visit the Gamkapoort dam, a couple originally  from Cape Town fell in love with this mountain wilderness. When they heard that it was on the market they jumped at the opportunity to purchase it, and in 1996 Gerhard and Annchen Rademeyer became the new owners of Bosch Luys Kloof, and with great vision and determination became the founding members of Bosch Luys Kloof Private Nature Reserve. They considered themselves custodians of this special part of our country, and since changing hands in November 2020 we continue what they started in a sustainable and holistic manner.

As with species that have gone extinct,

that once were and now are no more, such is history. As the current custodians of this valley it is our duty to preserve not only its resources and natural assets but also its story!

For more information:
+27 23 581 5046 



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Bosch Luys Kloof’s Iconic Flora

Bosch Luys Kloof's

Iconic FLORA

Plants growing in the inhospitable conditions of the Karoo are faced with challenges which range from rocky soils, attack by plant predators, competition by other species to the desiccating sun and comparatively low rainfall. One fantastic aspect of Bosch Luys Kloof is the relative lack of alien plants, many of which would struggle for survival under these conditions. The other is the great diversity of locally occurring plant species both large and small which have evolved adaptations allowing them to survive in these conditions. It is very difficult to single out only a handful, but here are five species that, each for their own reasons, we feel deserve a mention...

Nestled inside a mountain wilderness, at the transition between the Little and Great Karoo, lies Bosch Luys Kloof. The plants that grow and thrive in this valley and surrounding mountains are equipped with a series of adaptations which enable them to survive against all odds.

a great diversity of locally occurring plant species
both large and small.

Bitter Aloe – Eng, Tapaalwyn – Afr (Aloe ferox)

Aloe ferox deserves a mention here as it is one of the first plants that really stands out above the rest as you round the bend at the top of the Bosch Luys Kloof pass before being greeted by the iconic view down the valley and beyond which has become our logo. Not only do they stand tall, some growing to 3m, but adorn the veld in winter with beautiful yellow to bright orange-red flowers crowning the very top of the plant, like branched candles. Aloe ferox fits right into one’s mind’s eye when picturing iconic ‘Karoo’, along with windmills, dorper sheep, donkey carts and small labourers’ cottages.

The tubular individual flowers are pollinated by sunbirds and sugarbirds, at Bosch Luys Kloof by the Malachite Sunbird and Lesser Double-Collared Sunbird, and Cape Sugarbird in Seweweekspoort where they grow abundantly as well.

Aloe ferox is indigenous to South Africa, and has a wide distribution from Swellendam in the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape and southern Kwazulu-Natal, northwards through the Karoo into the Free State and Lesotho.

These plants stand proudly, as watchmen, at the transition between Arid Renosterveld on the plateau at our main gate, and the Guarri-Spekboomveld descending into the valley below. The renosterveld verges on Grassy Fynbos on our To Hell ’n Gone 4×4 route towards the lookout over Gamkaskloof, a habitat type which has evolved to cope with and indeed rely on frequent veld fires for carbon and nutrient deposits, germination and resprouting. Aloes have massive succulent leaves, those of A ferox are around 50cm long and weigh around 1.5 to 2kg each, with prominent teeth on their margins, and are fire retardant. The plant has a woody stem, but old leaves remain on the stem for many years and are not flammable which help to protect the plant against veld fires.

Aloe ferox is a hardy plant and is especially suited to areas that are water restricted. Of the +-350 species of aloe, a few have been used as medicinal plants, but only A ferox is harvested to manufacture commercial medicinal and cosmetic products. At least three rock art sites have been discovered where the San depicted representations of aloes, illustrating that they likely utilised the medicinal value of A ferox years ago already. In years gone by, Xhosa mothers in the Eastern Cape would use the bitterness of A ferox during the weaning process by rubbing it on their nipples in order to get their babies to stop breastfeeding.

Derivatives of the juices extracted from Aloe ferox leaves contain an abundance of amino acids, minerals and vitamins that are essential in the maintenance and health of the largest organ in the human body, the skin. For this reason, various skincare and cosmetic products are produced using A ferox, and Aloe bitters (another derivative of A ferox) is a known laxative and purgative.  

Sweet Thorn – Eng, Soetdoring – Afr (Vachellia karroo = Acacia karroo)

This is the only species in the genus Vachellia (previously and more commonly referred to as Acacia) that occurs naturally in the Karoo, though is also widespread throughout southern Africa. This thorny tree, which grows to a height of 5 to 12m, survives in dry areas where temperatures exceed 40°C. It can be easily identified by the long white thorns which grow from the base of the leaf stalk as a deterrent against plant predators. Fulfilling a protective role, the thorns are often more abundant, and larger lower down on the tree as well as on younger trees, where predation by browsers is more prevalent. Small yellow sweetly-scented flowers are pompom shaped and attract many pollinators, in turn attracting insectivorous birds, and their nectar is known for producing good honey.


The Sweet Thorn is an important fodder plant providing a staple diet to Kudu and other browsers at Bosch Luys Kloof. The sickle-shaped seed pods are a great source of protein and both pods and leaves are readily browsed by game. These bushy trees form dense thickets along the dry river banks and alluvial floodplains of Bosch Luys Kloof, providing great nesting sites for various bird species as well as shelter for Kudu, Common Duiker and many other species of fauna on the Reserve. Sweet Thorn extract water and nutrients from deep underground with their long tap roots and the presence of these trees in a dry area is often an indicator of good underground water. Their ability to utilise underground water, paired with their root nodules which promote beneficial nitrogen-fixation and small leaves (reducing water loss in hot conditions through transpiration) allows them to survive very low rainfall years.

Vachellia karroo also have a chemical defence which protects them against excessive browsing by herbivores as well as against plant pathogens. Plants increase their levels of tannins (polyphenolic compounds) in their leaves when ‘attacked’ or browsed on by Kudu for instance and in turn become less palatable to their herbivorous predators forcing them to feed only for a while before moving along to the next tree. Consuming high levels of these tannins is toxic to browsers. It is also suggested that individual plants release ethylene when browsed on, which in turn signals nearby trees to increase their leaf tannin levels. Browsers will often move against the prevailing wind direction when feeding to avoid browsing on plants that have received these chemical signals and already have tannin rich leaves. This is a form of chemical signalling or communication between plants.

A very useful plant, the tannin rich reddish bark yields tannins used to dye leather, the sweet gum which exudes from the plants stem when damaged is used in the confectionary industry and as an adhesive, the seeds can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute and of course the wood is very popular as fuelwood and for making charcoal in South Africa.

Namaqua Rock Fig – Eng, Namakwa-vy – Afr (Ficus cordata)

There are around 850 species in the genus Ficus worldwide, and around 26 species indigenous to South Africa and Namibia. One of the most impressive and eye-catching trees growing at Bosch Luys Kloof is undoubtedly the Namaqua Rock Fig, or in latin Ficus cordata.

These beautiful trees grow to about 10m high at Bosch Luys Kloof but can reach impressive heights of 20m! With their pale grey trunks and branches, and impressive wandering roots which can extend for long distances to reach water at ground level (as they often grow on rock outcrops or cliff faces) or into crevices in the rock to obtain moisture, they are unmistakeable. They grow in the western arid parts of South Africa, through Namibia to southern Angola, and are able to tolerate very dry conditions. Likely one of the most impressive features of this species is their long, powerful wandering and rock splitting root system.

As is the case with many other kinds of fig trees, F cordata relies on its own specific species of wasp for pollination. Their tiny flowers, both male and female, line the inside of the urn-like fig itself, with the fruit actually being an enclosed inflorescence or flower head referred to as a syconium are pollinated by the equally tiny female wasp Platyscapa desertorum. The female wasp enters the enclosed fig and lays her eggs, in so doing pollinating the flowers. For this reason the fruit of F cordata are not fit for human consumption as they are often insect laden.

The Namaqua Rock Fig bears small stalkless figs around 8mm in size that ripen from light-green to reddish-brown in spring to summer. Fruits are dispersed by frugivorous birds, baboons and monkeys amongst others. At Bosch Luys Kloof the Red Winged, as well as Pale Winged Starlings, are especially fond of the fruit of the Namaqua Rock Fig. Seeds that germinate in cracks or crevices in cliff faces are safe from herbivores.

Beautiful examples of these trees can be seen as you descend the Bosch Luys Kloof pass and continue towards the lodge.

Pork Bush / Elephants Food – Eng, Spekboom – Afr (Portulacaria afra)

Spekboom needs no introduction here, as it has become world-renowned as a ‘wonder plant’ due to its hugely beneficial role in helping to keep the fragile balance of our atmosphere where it should be. We are very lucky to have at least 1000Ha of Spekboom covering the reserves slopes. This evergreen succulent-leafed shrub prefers the north facing slopes and exposure to full sunlight, year round. Even in the driest of conditions, Spekboom remains lush and green. There are a number of noticeable examples on the approach to the lodge where the preference of Spekboom for north- and east-facing sunny slopes is very evident.

With more and more focus on global warming and increasing levels of CO2 in our atmosphere, Spekboom is enjoying a lot of limelight, and deservedly so. Often, however, it is believed that what makes Spekboom so special is its ability to produce large amounts of oxygen, but in fact it is the role of Spekboom as a ‘carbon sponge’ and its ability to sequester massive amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere that gives it renown. One hectare (ha) of Spekboom will typically sequester (remove from the atmosphere) between 4 and 10 tonnes of CO2 per annum – this means the Spekboom growing at Bosch Luys Kloof is sucking between 4000 and 10000 kilograms of CO2 out of the atmosphere, every year. This is a significant amount indeed. Amazingly, hectare for hectare Spekboom rivals the well-known Amazon rainforest in its ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Spekboom is readily browsed by Kudu and Eland at Bosch Luys Kloof. A remarkable plant, with small succulent leaves that are fire retardant and edible to humans, said to boost the immune system and have also been chewed in the Eastern Cape as they stimulate lactation in breast-feeding women. The small pink flowers are not often seen on Spekboom, but produce nectar which makes excellent honey.

During photosynthesis, plants breathe CO2 in and O2 out through small openings on their leaves called stomata. If the stomata are open and the atmosphere is dry and hot, plants will lose H20 through these openings. Spekboom has the incredible ability to close these stomata during the day in hot dry conditions, and open them at night to reduce water loss through the process called transpiration. It is also amazingly able to switch between two different methods of Carbon Fixation based on climatic conditions, namely C3 or CAM Carbon Fixation. When conditions are hot and dry, stomata close during the day and CAM Carbon Fixation is used. When more moisture is in the air, C3 Carbon Fixation is used.

There are numerous Spekboom rehabilitation projects on the go in areas where this very important succulent-leafed bush previously grew abundantly but due to bad farming techniques and ignorance has been removed. Bosch Luys Kloof counts itself lucky to have such an abundance of Spekboom on the reserve.

Karoo Gold – Eng, Geel Berggranaat / Granaatbos – Afr (Rhigozum obovatum)

Karoo Gold (Granaatbos in Afrikaans) is aptly named and deserves a mention here due to its resilience in dry times, and optimization of rainfall in wetter times. Also purely due to the aesthetics, as the Karoo can go from a dull and dreary grey-brown landscape to a spectacular patchwork of golden yellow when these plants flower in comparatively rapid response to good rains. This shrub can grow up to 2m tall, with long thin twiggy and spiny stems, and is very drought-tolerant. In dry times, Karoo Gold appears devoid of life, going almost dormant and conserving energy, a dull dark grey mass of thin dry pointed stems, however it is the transformation of Karoo Gold after good rain that sets it apart.

Plants respond very quickly to rain after drought, and can be covered in beautiful flowers within a week or two after good rains, really covered in flowers. They maximise the chance to reproduce and attract pollinators in response to enough moisture, but only after the stress of drought. The transformation is spectacular and they adorn the veld in a bright yellow hue, glistening gold in the light of sunrise or sunset. They flower mainly in spring and summer, but will respond to rain throughout the year, transforming from dead-looking sticks to lush small green leaves and an abundance of flowers in an alarmingly short space of time.

Capitalizing on the moisture, the flowers when germinated are followed by flattened pod-like capsules that bear the seeds, and make a sound similar to that of a rattle-snake in the wind.

Young leaves are well browsed by game, especially by Springbuck at Bosch Luys Kloof but also Kudu and Steenbok.

Plants in the Karoo epitomise resilience and hardiness,

 forever in competition with each other, their predators and pollinators. They’re equipped with defences, evolutionary traits and adaptive characteristics which together enable them to survive in this harshly beautiful mountain wilderness.

For more information:
+27 23 581 5046 



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Bosch Luys Kloof’s Iconic Wildlife

Bosch Luys Kloof's

Iconic Wildlife

When thinking of a Nature Reserve, the focus often falls on the larger mammals, many of which have had to be reintroduced to the area. At Bosch Luys Kloof, however, we have our own line-up of standouts that have survived here all along – and despite all odds stacked against them, continue to epitomise wilderness in the Western Cape mountainous Karoo…

Nestled inside a mountain wilderness, at the transition between the Little and Great Karoo, lies Bosch Luys Kloof. The animals that call this valley and surrounding mountains home are equipped with a series of adaptations which allow them to survive and thrive amidst drought conditions, temperature extremes, steep and rocky terrain and thorn-bearing plants, to name just a few.

a true wildlife experience
the way Mother Nature provided.

Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)


This majestic spiral-horned antelope occurs naturally at Bosch Luys Kloof. Excellent jumpers, they can clear a 2m-high fence with relative ease, which allows them to move quite freely to access food and water. It’s this ability to roam that has earned them the nickname ‘Trek Kudu’ by local farmers, as they make their way through farms in the area, especially during the winter months, when the thorn trees lose many of their leaves and are not as palatable, forcing the Kudu to move to greener pastures.

Kudu have excellent camouflage when hiding in thickets, earning them another nickname: ‘Grey Ghosts’. They are almost exclusively browsers, showing preference towards Acacia trees and in the Bosch Luys Kloof area their calving season often coincides with the Sweet thorn (Acacia karroo) bearing its protein-rich seedpods.

Peak calving occurs around February and March, but can begin as early as November, following an eight-month gestation period. The bulls don’t walk with the cows all year, but rather form small bachelor herds or walk alone. During the breeding season however, typically autumn through early winter, the bachelor groups will split up and bulls will join small family groups of cows to mate with them.

The Cape Mountain Leopard is the main and likely only predator of Kudu at Bosch Luys Kloof and typically targets calves and younger animals, although they are able to take down larger animals as well. Sadly, Kudu fall prey mostly to hunters as they traverse privately-owned land during their localised migrations.

Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus)

Translated from Afrikaans, Klipspringer means ‘rock jumper,’ accurately describing one of the things this antelope is best known for. Their blunt-tipped hooves give them traction when jumping from rock to rock and scaling steep gradients, and their unique gait, with legs often pressed against each other when stationary, allows them to balance on small surface areas. This adaptation also allows the Klipspringer to change direction suddenly, to avoid predators, which often also elicits a loud whistling alarm call through the nose, that can be heard up to 700m away.

Klipspringer have a coat made up of hollow fibre hairs which are able to trap air, allowing them to survive the cold and windy conditions associated with high elevation, and also assist in the reflection of radiant heat on hot Karoo days. These hair fibres also help to cushion the blow should they lose their footing and take an unlikely fall. The golden colour of their coat has a rough appearance and can differ, depending on the terrain, allowing them to easily blend into their rocky environments.

Primarily browsers, their diet is made up of a variety of plants – including Euphorbia species, which are toxic to many animals – fruits, flowers and lichen. They also have the ability to gain nutrients missing from their diet, such as phosphorous and calcium, by chewing bones (known as osteophagia) and soil from termite mounds (known as geophagia). They can obtain all of their moisture requirements from the plants which form part of their diet, making them independent of water and in its absence they will survive. As with most animals, however, if water is available they will drink it.

Klipspringer will generally mate for life. Ewes are typically slightly larger than rams, and only the rams have horns. One lamb is born, most often in the spring or summer months, after a gestation period of six months. After a period of a year, the youngster will be evicted from the family to avoid inbreeding. They are mostly crepuscular (or active in twilight), and can often be seen resting during the heat of the day on the Bosch Luys Kloof pass.   

Cape Mountain Leopard (Panthera pardus pardus)

The Cape Leopard deserves a mention for many reasons. Panthera pardus or the leopard has the most extensive range of any cat (except the domestic cat), occurring across Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, through Asia to eastern Russia and Korea. There are several sub-species of leopard throughout the globe, but Panthera pardus pardus, the Cape Mountain Leopard, is still considered the same species as leopards found in the savannah and bushveld of southern Africa, despite noticeable differences in appearance, diet and habit.

Cape Leopard males weigh, on average, around 35kg (compared to savannah males which weigh from 60-70kg), and females in the Cape around 20kg (savannah females from 35-40kg). The leopards of the Western Cape mountains are incredibly shy and elusive, and have far larger home ranges than those further north. A Cape Leopard male’s home range can be anything from 200 to 1 000 square kilometres in size, typically spanning that of a few females, compared to savannah males with a home range typically from 25 to 50 square kilometres.

Cape Leopard inhabit some of the most inhospitable environments and habitats. The low-nutrient soils of the Cape Fynbos mountains yield often unpalatable species of plants, or plants with high tannin levels, resulting in very few large herbivores in these areas. This results in the Cape Leopard having a wide range of smaller prey, ranging from porcupine, dassie and hares, to small antelope or the young of larger antelope and zebra, birds, aardvark, small carnivores and mice.

Kills are typically dragged to a quiet place, a gulley or into dense thickets, and not into trees as is the case in the northern populations where other predators and scavengers threaten to steal their kills. The Cape Leopard is opportunistic about food sources and has adapted well to change, which is essential for this member of the Big Five to roam freely and virtually undetected so close to humans outside of protected areas. These are the apex predators of the Cape, and also the main predator of three of the other animals mentioned here: Rock Hyrax, Klipspringer and Kudu. They play an important role in maintaining the fragile balance in the food chain necessary for a healthy ecosystem.

Leopards are solitary animals, only coming together to mate. Typically, females give birth to two or three cubs in a litter, with a high mortality rate in the first six months of a cub’s life due to harsh conditions in the Cape mountains. Cubs become independent at around 22 months old. Snakebites and territorial killings by other leopards pose more natural threats to leopard cubs before they reach this age, but are overshadowed by those posed by humans, with roads, illegal poisoning, unnaturally frequent veld fires, snares, leopard traps and habitat loss, all threats to the survival of these isolated southern populations of big cats.

Based on the home range size estimates provided by the Cape Leopard Trust, we have a healthy and thriving population of Cape Mountain Leopard and we are overjoyed to announce that a female with cub was photographed a couple of months ago, which indicates that they are breeding here too.

Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii)

The mountainous terrain at Bosch Luys Kloof, with its abundance of natural prey, provides an ideal habitat for the Verreaux’s Eagle – once known as the Black Eagle, and the apex avian predator in the Western Cape. Females are larger than males and can weigh in at 4.5kg, with males slightly smaller at around 3.7kg. Their wingspan can reach a whopping 2.8m, but is typically around 2m from tip to tip.

The distribution of these large eagles closely follows that of their main prey, the Rock Hyrax. Adult eagles are territorial residents in an area, monogamous, with a pair bond that lasts for many years, if not a lifetime. Unmistakeable and majestic when soaring through the skies, a pair typically remains close to one another for up to 95% of the day. They nest in the winter months, high up on inaccessible cliffs, on a nest built of sticks lined with green leaves. Mating normally takes place close to the nest site. Two eggs are often laid, but there is a high rate of siblicide, with the first-hatched chick relentlessly attacking and killing the younger chick. Most often only one chick is raised, resulting in a 50% survival rate before the chicks even fledge.

Verreaux’s Eagles are excellent at hunting as a pair. The first bird will often fly past cliffs in plain view to flush the prey for the following bird to catch. They have also been known to panic Rock Hyrax, causing them to fall to their death. Other mammalian prey include hares, Vervet monkeys, African porcupine, rabbits, Klipspringer, African Wild Cat, Black-Backed Jackal, Bat-Eared Fox and Springbuck. They will also feed on birds such as Cape Spurfowl and Egyptian Goose, reptiles and sometimes eggs.

Verreaux’s Eagles feed on carrion occasionally, and this has led to persecution and illegal poisoning, particularly by sheep farmers, which affects the survival of these birds. We have at least one known nesting site on the reserve. In 2018, no fewer than seven different Verreaux’s Eagles were counted on one guided drive, and they can often be seen circling high overhead.

Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis)

Bosch Luys Kloof is an ideal habitat for the Rock Hyrax, which is locally referred to as a Dassie. These medium-sized terrestrial mammals may seem rodent-like, but their closest evolutionary relationships lie with the African Elephant and Dugong. They are often seen scuttling across the road in Seweweekspoort and on the Bosch Luys Kloof pass, rushing to seek shelter in natural rock crevices and cavities where they make their dens.

Arguably the dominant herbivores in rocky habitats, they reach biomasses comparable to successful plains antelope. They are also a vital source of food – not only for our two apex predators, the Cape Leopard and Verreaux’s Eagle – but are also preyed upon by Honey Badger, owls, jackals, Caracal and their young by African Wild Cat, mongoose and even snakes.

The Rock Hyrax is easily the most frequent item on the Verreaux’s Eagles’ menu and they have developed a series of alarm calls when eagles are soaring overhead. They struggle to regulate their own body temperatures and, like reptiles, cleverly use the environment to avoid extremes of temperature and humidity. They typically sunbathe in the morning, within reach of shelter amongst cracks or crevices in the rock, to avoid the midday sun. At night they shelter in these dens, places where temperature and humidity fluctuate half as much as outside. The rubbery soles of their feet are kept moist by sweat glands and assist in climbing and clambering across rock surfaces, with four front and three rear toes equipped with rounded, hooflike nails.

The Rock Hyrax feeds on a wide variety of plants, and although they prefer to graze, will readily browse on leaves, bark and fruits depending on the season. Typically, feeding takes place on the ground, but they readily climb into trees and bushes to access food and have often been mistaken for a totally different species, the Tree Hyrax (Dendrohyrax arboreus) in these instances.

Dassies have a very long gestation period for such a small mammal, 7 to 8  months, which is likely a legacy from their larger ancestors, after which between 1 and 6 (average 2 or 3) perfectly formed miniature versions of the adults are born in September or October, eyes open and able to move about soon after birth. They suckle for up to 3 months, but will sample vegetation within 2 days after being born.

Dassies are fond of company, with a dominant male taking leadership over a harem of several, often related, females and their young. Adolescent males are forced to disperse between the ages of 17 and 24 months and will typically travel more than 2km in search of a suitable undefended rocky outcrop. Most often, however, they end up as peripheral males living on the margin of a different colony’s territory. It is typically from these peripheral males that a challenger for the role of the next dominant male will come. Adolescent females remain with their colony.

The Rock Hyrax plays a very important role in the ecosystem, and is such an iconic part of the rocky and mountainous Karoo, that we felt it certainly deserved a mention here.

To encounter animals during a visit to Bosch Luys Kloof

counts as a true wildlife experience – all of them are free and living naturally off only what Mother Nature provides. 

For more information:
+27 23 581 5046 



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Bosch Luys Kloof – a hidden gem you’ll keep coming back to

Bosch Luys Kloof

A hidden gem
you’ll keep coming back to

Looking for a unique nature and wildlife experience in the heart of the majestic Karoo? Look no further than Bosch Luys Kloof Private Nature Reserve...

Bosch Luys Kloof is a place where animals roam freely, where wild flowers grow abundantly in the sunshine and where people come to feel rejuvenated and reenergised by the soul-filled surrounds.There’s no hustle or bustle – no malaria, no traffic, no pollution, no powerlines – only Mother Nature.

simply look up on a clear night and you’ll be
dazzled by the magnificent brilliance that is the uninterrupted Karoo sky..


Bosch Luys Kloof Private Nature Reserve is located on the northern slopes of the Swartberg mountain range and includes the foothills of the Groot Swartberg.

Besides the western entrance, the whole of the Reserve is surrounded by other nature reserves. To the south, lies the well-known Gamkaskloof (“Die Hel”), on the eastern border is the Gamkapoort Dam, and to the north, the Elands and Blouberge.

Bosch Luys Kloof falls on the border of the Klein (Little) and Groot (Great) Karoo. Only 4km south-west of the entrance gate is the beautiful and well-known Seweweekspoort.


When it comes to historic heritage and story-filled destinations, rich geology, fascinating fossils, botanical value, scenic beauty, a wealth of wildlife and more, Bosch Luys Kloof is packed to the brim. There are many different sedimentary formations running through the area, as well as lively changes in soil and vegetation, year-round. 


To encounter animals during a visit to the Reserve counts as a true wildlife experience, as all of them are free and live naturally off the veld. Currently, the Reserve is home to a myriad of species, including baboons, bucks, porcupines, rabbits, hares, foxes, jackals, zebras, leopards, wild cats, monkeys, badgers and birds of every feather.


Accommodation options at Bosch Luys Kloof include four large luxury couples’ chalets, two spacious open-plan family chalets and four self-catering family chalets – making it perfect for group stays. There is also a guesthouse big enough for eight, complete with four en-suite bedrooms, two lounge areas, an indoor dining area, fireplace, large patio with built-in braai and, of course, outstanding views.

Expect delicious meals inside the Bosch Luys Kloof dining room, as resident cooks create proudly local menus and great tasting experiences for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

The bar area offers another special gathering spot for guests, with a wooden deck overlooking the bush – perfect for sundowners – a waterhole and pool area, plus satellite TV for those not-be-missed kick-offs and race starts.

Other than the usual weekend getaways, Bosch Luys Kloof lends itself to teambuilding events, strategy sessions and small conferences in an inspiring and rejuvenating setting, thanks to a comfortable conferencing facility for up to 20 delegates.

Bosch Luys Kloof is also a popular destination for intimate weddings and other special occasions, with exclusive use of the lodge an option, complete with a personalised program developed around all the facilities and activities available.


Luys Kloof offers a host of activities too – from guided nature drives to hiking, biking, running, birdwatching or simply meandering and relaxing in the great outdoors with a picnic and a good book for company.   

Bosch Luys Kloof offers its own local version of Spain’s Camino de Santiago, called ‘The Karomino’, where hikers of all abilities can embark on a week of walking and spiritual reflection along the many trails marked out within the Reserve – returning every day to the lodge for a hearty meal and a comfy bed.

Mountain bikers eager to discover the landscapes and vistas unique to the Karoo can enjoy the safety of private roads and tracks, while extreme riders can challenge the Reserve’s energising 4×4 routes.

Keen nature photographers, whether novice or pro, should definitely add Bosch Luys Kloof to their list of must-visit ‘shoot’ locations. Think majestic sunrises and sunsets, animals and plants in their natural habitat, pristine landscapes, unparalleled views – the list of incredible photo opportunities really is endless.

And if you’re looking for a ‘stellar’ stargazing experience, unspoilt by city lights and hazy skies, simply look up on a clear night at Bosch Luys Kloof and you’ll be dazzled by the magnificent brilliance that is the uninterrupted Karoo sky.

Possibly the best way to describe Bosch Luys Kloof though,

 is through the comments made by visitors:

“Honestly, Bosch Luys Kloof is the hidden gem we will keep coming back to. Whether you spend your time by the pool, sitting in the bird hides, going on hikes or enjoying the stunning scenery from the chalets, you will feel like you are in another world.”

“We went for long walks along the artfully signed paths and lay next to the pool. And for hours sometimes, we just read… Oh — AND THE STARS.”


For more information:
+27 23 581 5046