Bontebok National Park
Just outside the town, cradled between the Langeberg Mountains and the Breede River, lies the Bontebok National Park. The Park provides a refuge for not only the bontebok, but also other species such as Cape mountain zebra, red hartebeest and grey rhebok. The Park is home to more than 200 bird species. Bird watchers should look out for the secretary birds and fish eagles. The park falls within the coastal fynbos area and is on the banks of the Breede River where swimming, and angling is possible.
Hiking: there are several (circular) hiking trails: the Acacia Trail (1.6 km), the Aloe Hill Trail (3.3 km), the Bushbuck Trail (5.4 km) and the Blue Crane Trail (3.2 km).
Marloth Nature reserve
Extending from the edge of town to the top of the Langeberg Mountains, Swellendam’s Marloth Nature Reserve is a botanist’s dream with an abundance of wild flowers and fynbos. The Nature Reserve is home to klipspringer, duiker, rhebok and leopard.
Hiking: there are eight day trails and the famous six-day Swellendam Hiking Trail. The day trails vary from short, easy walks to longer more strenuous routes. Indigenous forest walks: short and reasonably easy walks between 2 km and 5 km. The Plaat walks are slightly longer and range between 3 km and 16 km. The Peak walks: an ideal challenge for fit hikers to the mountain peaks of Tienuurkop (1195m) or Twaalfuurkop (1450m). All the trails start and end at the reserve office, where vehicles can be parked.
Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve
Grootvadersbosch is situated at half an hours’ drive from Swellendam.
This indigenous forest of 250ha can be explored on foot, or on a mountain bike. Grootvadersbosch is a birder’s paradise. There are about 200 bird species, including the crowned eagle, the black eagle, marina trogon, paradise flycatcher, and the Knysna woodpecker. Bushbuck, klipspringer, grey rhebuck, Cape grysbok, baboon, mongoose, genet and the occasional leopard are found. There are also species of ghost frog and a unique emperor butterfly. Two hides have been built at separate spots within the forest canopy.
Hiking: a short hike brings you to the Duivenhoks River, where swimming and kloofing possibilities exist in a beautiful gorge. The Bushbuck and Grysbok Trails offer day walks varying from 2 to 15 km.
De Hoop Nature Reserve
This is South Africa’s most southerly nature reserve. The scenic coastline has lonely stretches of beach, rocky cliffs, large white sand dunes, a freshwater lake and the Potberg Mountain. The flora and fauna is impressive too.
From June until November the greatest concentration of Southern Right Whales on South Africa’s coast can be found here. The coast is an important breeding area for the southern right whale.
Hiking: there is an 8 km long trail along the cliffs of the De Hoop Vlei (Lake), and day trails of various lengths on Potberg Mountain.