Swartberg Mountains – Historical and Natural Significance
Not only are the Swartberg Mountains a magnificent sight to behold, but they are also an important link between the Groot Karoo, Klein Karoo and coast. There are three major passes on the Swartberg Mountains, namely Seweweekspoorts, Meiringspoort and Swartberg Pass. This mountain range in the Groot Karoo offers more than meets the eye. The Prince Albert Village is situated at the foot of the mountains, with Meiringspoort and Swartberg Pass being within the Swartberg Nature Reserve. The Swartberg Nature Reserve is driven to conserve the fynbos found on the mountain and provide water to this area. Both passes are in their own right an engineering feat that is as much a spectacular sight as the mountain. The Swartberg Pass was declared a National Monument in 1988, much to the delight of the Prince Albert Village residents.
The table mountain stone strata continuously changes color in the sunlight, providing the onlooker with a spectacular viewing extravaganza, and the lychen on the mountain is an indicator for clean pollution free air. Black Eagles are just one of the 130 bird species that are found on the Swartberg Mountains, together with dassies, grey rhebuck, klipspringers, baboons and the occasional leopard and jackal. There is a great variety of vegetation that grows on the mountain and rock faces, including mountain fynbos and various succulents. In autumn the mountain comes alive with blooming erica’s and proteas, and in winter, the snowfall on the mountain brings the temperature down to below freezing!
There are various historical sites to be seen along the way, such as a toll hut, hotel and the relics of an old prison. There are day hikes and 5 day excursions available, for which you need a hiking permit and it can be arranged by a tour guide or available from the Prince Albert Tourism offices. There are mountain bike adventures to be enjoyed by the more daring visitors. It is advised that all activities be done in April / May and September / October. The Swartberg Mountains in the Groot Karoo are breathtaking to view, and a recommended site to visit, experience and explore.