Astonishing Anysberg is worth the trip

Getting to a place isn’t always as straightforward as it may seem, especially when few people travel there. But once you get there, the trouble is absolutely worth it. Such a gem is Anysberg Nature Reserve. By Marié Bester

The first time we went in search of Anysberg Nature Reserve was two years ago. Facebook’s algorithm picked up that I was looking for camping spots and CapeNature’s advertisements came up fairly often. Among them, enticing photos of Anysberg. Hidden between mountains, within reach of Swellendam, where we live – technically a lovely quick breakaway. 

Or so we thought. A squizz at the map seemed to point to two options. The ‘long’ way via Barrydale and the R62, direction Ladismith. Or, so we thought, the ‘shortcut’ via the mountains just west of Barrydale. This was a route unknown to us so, of course, it was our first choice. 

Anysberg’s views are worth the wait. Pictures by Marié Bester

The turnoff along the R62, west of Barrydale, took us on a steady gravel road past a resort, a private nature reserve or two, and private mountain cabins. The further we travelled, the narrower the road became and the more gates with ‘Please close the gate behind you’ signs appeared. At certain points the road was washed away, willows were weeping across the gravel and houses became fewer and further in between. 

Making a plan

Then, a loud clang! The rear side of the Jimny started swaying in a way it shouldn’t. We were in the middle of nowhere, with no cellphone signal, no people to be seen… and a broken rear suspension stabiliser bar. However, as someone who grew up in a family that likes to travel the roads less taken, this was not my first time in such a situation.

So, I started looking for bloudraad (fence wire). Like MacGyver’s duct tape, this can fix almost anything. Of that there was plenty; however, most of it was fixed to fence poles. Yet, look and one shall find. Trust the Little Karoo to have random pieces of draad lying around. My husband wound the wire around the rear suspension stabiliser bar to make do. With (less) weird swaying, we inched our way back to town. 

Looking at the route today, I’m not exactly convinced we would have made it all the way to Anysberg in any case. 

Anysberg take two

A few months later, CapeNature’s Black Friday specials came and I decided that we still needed to visit the elusive Anysberg Nature Reserve. We booked a campsite for a weekend the following March, hoping the weather would have cooled down a bit by then. 

And then the heavens opened. The whole of the Overberg and Langeberg region had massive floods in March. Anysberg was inaccessible and completely cut off for weeks. 

Once again, the reserve eluded us.

A picnic table and loungers at the campsite are perfectly positioned to watch the sunrise. When it doesn’t rain, of course.

We managed to reschedule our booking for October, hoping the rainy season would have ended by then.

Third time lucky

We decided to take the ‘long way’ this time. Through the beautifully winding Tradouws Pass, which connected us with Barrydale and the popular R62. This time we continued towards Ladismith and then took the turnoff to Vyversrus to connect with the R323, direction Laingsburg. It was only a short while before the tarmac turned into a lovely gravel road. Finally, we were in the mountains again on a road with few other cars or people. 

After kicking up dust among the towering sandstone mountains, a sharp left turn brought us to the eastern entrance gate of Anysberg Nature Reserve. Straight away, we came across leaping antelope – gemsbok and red hartebeest charging across the green valley in full, awe-inspiring flight. Specks of purple vygies broke up the ‘monotony’ of green. The smooth gravel road quickly made way for several sandy riverbed crossings. These are the ones you must keep in mind during the rainy season, as they flood easily and quickly, cutting off the reserve.   

Anysberg delivers views for days. The reseve’s open horizon means it is also a sought-after destination for stargazing.


A wonder for the eye

Anysberg in spring time is a wonder for the eye. Everything turns green, yellow, white and purple. The stark contrast to deep summer’s brown vegetation is astonishing. Birds are more active and we spotted groups of antelope grazing on the hills. I found the northeastern side of the reserve (Ladismith side) the most beautiful, with a larger and denser variety of plant and animal life.

In spring, Anysberg is even more beautiful.
Gemsbok spotted near the entrance gate.

There are just a handful of campsites available, each with a timber screen for more privacy. But as this reserve is somewhat hidden from the world, the chances are fairly slim you’ll find it fully booked for extended periods. A few large bluegum trees line the small clearing where the office, campsite and ablution facilities are. Beyond that, the veld greets you: absolute, quiet bliss. 

For birdwatching enthusiasts, there is a large dam nearby, which, according to the staff, boasts several kinds of water birds when full. Unfortunately, when we visited, the dam was nearly empty with only a few wild ducks. 

Mountain bikers may also find the reserve a proper challenge. Some of the bike routes have uncomfortably large cobblestones laid in sand, but if you stick to the main routes, the gravel track should make for a smoother ride. 

The facilities at the campsite were superb. Being newly renovated at that stage, we felt spoilt. It was also cleaned daily by friendly staff. 

Exploring the reserve on foot is a good way to discover the treasures at your feet.

Tracks4Africa says: Anysberg is a top destination for hiking and mountain biking. Since there are no big predators, visitors are free to explore where they want. Visit for the landscapes, with wildlife sightings as a bonus. 

More beauty on the way back

Even though we had a bit of rainy weather (of course!), we still really enjoyed the trip to Anysberg. It just means that we need to return soon to hike some more, swim in the old cement dam and breathe in the Karoo sunsets. 

On the last day, we decided to return via the southern gate, towards Montagu. This was a good choice, as we practically passed through the whole of the reserve. Vegetation in the southern part differs dramatically from the north, becoming less dense and the road somewhat sandier. This area is also home to the critically endangered riverine rabbit. 

The way out towards Montagu leads through more open plains.

After passing through the southern gate, we came to a T-junction. Trust me, make your way towards the Ouberg Pass. This area will keep your jaw on your lap. Large mountains, Karoo shrubs… all a feast for the eyes as you meander your way along this magnificent pass. Do enjoy the trip and take it slowly – before you know it, you’ll find yourself in Montagu’s backyard again.

Good to know

  • Access to Anysberg Nature Reserve is with high-clearance vehicles only. (Or, unofficially, we’ve been told old cars and rentals, too.) 
  • The reserve office closes at 16:00, so be sure to enter timeously.  The Vrede office is still quite a way down the road from any of the gates – Ladismith, Montagu or Laingsburg side. 
  • The campsite has a newly renovated ablution block with showers. There is also a kitchen with sinks, electric plugs, gas stove tops, a fridge and a freezer. 
  • Take the thickest and strongest tent pegs you can find, as well as a mallet. The soil is rock hard. (Someone mentioned a cordless drill could be handy too – to be clear, for use on the hard-packed earth, not any paved areas.)
  • There is potable water available. 
  • In summer, take your swimsuit along – the old cement dam has a wonderful covered deck with chairs to lounge the days away.
  • Don’t forget a wind breaker for your tent. When the wind blows, it howls. 
  • Check the condition of the Tapfontein 4×4 route with staff before booking to stay at the Tapfontein Cabins. 
  • There is blissfully no cell phone reception; however, a (slow) wifi connection can be found close to the office.
  • Reservations can be done via the CapeNature booking website. 

Tracks4Africa video on Anysberg and other Karoo highlights

Keen to explore this region? Check out the Tracks4Africa Cape to Addo Touring Maps. The second one in the series, Swellendam to Mossel Bay, covers these parts, indicating scenic routes, mountain passes and protected areas. 

2 thoughts on “Astonishing Anysberg is worth the trip”

  1. Good day. Just a few corrections on the article. Anysberg gates don’t close at 16h00. The electric plug in the kitchen is only for the fridge and freezer provided for the clients. Guest is not allowed to use plugs for any other purpose because the solar power is limited. Thank you

Let us know about your experience