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Kagga Kamma

Issue no.: 32

‘This is the best holiday ever!’ says my six year-old Fynn, a couple of hours into our brief, impromptu escape at a very comfortable wilderness destination some 250km from Cape Town.


accomodation in mountain

Among those rocks, behind the thatched huts, is the 'cave’ accommodation

accomodation in mountain

With the sun racing below the horizon and larks darting melodically between aromatic scrubby, bushes, we are making our way back to our room after dinner. The sandy path is flanked by fantabulous, upright sandstone formations to the one side and these aromatic shrubs, with names like kakiebos and skilpadbessie, to the other.

The place is called Kagga Kamma, a private nature reserve bordered by the Cedarberg to the northwest and in the east by the arid Ceres Karoo.

If you’re from these parts and familiar with Afrikaans, that early 20th century Dutch derivative, you’ll recognize the guttural exercise of scraping your throat when pronouncing the word ‘kagga’. But that’s just the sound of the word.

Together the two words mean ‘place of water’, and first fell not from the lips of the Dutch, but San, or ‘bushmen’ as they were originally known by the original European settlers. Some say they are the Khomani San, referring to a particular clan, others say otherwise, and therein lies many a squabble.

I remember a bushman I met in Botswana’s central Kalahari who, loosely translated, said he preferred being called a ‘bushman’ because it referred to his ability to live as one with nature. But the story of these remarkable people deserves more than a page. And anyway, this isn’t an anthropology lesson.

It is rather a short tale of a single Dad sharing two nights with his son in this destination of big skies and remarkable rocks, on which these ancient people etched the first southern African stories.


Knowing that it wouldn't take more than three hours from Cape Town, and that his mind of a spongy six years would likely latch on to the experience, I had decided to introduce Fynn to the world of the bushmen.

These original inhabitants of this remote part of the western Cape lived according to the seasons and stars, and in harmony with all living things. While sounding like great neighbours, simplistically put, they didn’t understand the early western notion of private ownership, believing instead that the earth’s bounty was for all to share. It was a belief system that saw them persecuted by most they came into contact with, from the Xhosa in the east to the settlers here in the west.

Group enjoying the sunset

‘I want to sleep in the cave!’ had been the (expected) response when I give him the option of a thatched rondawel or a room built into the existing sandstone rock formations. I had been here before, and felt that the cave-rooms were in a need of a 21st century upgrade, but the ‘cave’ was an easy winner.


On the next day’s afternoon drive our guide, Pieter Jan Heyman, stops the landcruiser in a valley at one of a number of standout rock formations. While Fynn clambers on sandstone rocks seemingly designed for young climbers, the guide contextualises the paintings we’re about to see, and points to evidence of pastoralists, the Khoi, having settled here at some point.

These are Fynn’s first bushmen paintings. Luckily they are clear, and with head cocked he takes an interest in Pieter’s telling of their story. A first for me is a depiction of the San bushman deity Kaggen, the revered praying mantis.

Bushmen Painting

evidence of bushmen

Pieter stops at what seems like a random spot and heads some ten metres into the bush. While we on the vehicle expect him to return with the likes of a snake, after he’s picked his way between scrubby tufts of hardy grass back to the vehicle he reveals in his hand a prehistoric-looking lizard.

Observing big game in their natural environment is indeed a privilege, but after even a few such occasions you come to realize the value of such spectacular one-off sightings. This speaks to the merits of the little five versus big five (animals).

lizard in Peters hand
look out point

Our next stop is the lookout point.

With the Landcruiser parked and guests dismounted, Fynn bounds over the rocks after Pieter, who is carrying the cooler-box and snacks to the collection of weathered boulders that constitute the viewpoint. Displaying the instincts of a restaurant waiter, Pieter first sees to Fynn, who sets off with cold hands wrapped around a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

Grown-up eyes are meanwhile drawn to horizons north and east, with mountain ranges unfolding in different hues of blue to reveal all that is magnificent about this unpopulated landscape. Neither person, road nor structure can be seen, with a light wind the only sound.

Within minutes of Pieter laying out the snacks, an elephant shrew appears. The size of a small mouse and common to Africa, this small insectivorous mammal with a mobile nose darts out from under a rock.

Fynn is delighted and begins a futile chase after the creature, which is clearly well acquainted with not only the shortest and fastest route between rocks, but also the sundowner tradition.


 bed outside

On my last visit here I remember similar feelings of delight at this new discovery, this marriage of landscapes and celebration of nature.

PS On the subject of close relations, whether wife, partner or child, there is a bed at Kagga Kamma that is surely the equal of any on the planet. It is out in the bush, at the foot of an impressive collection of granite boulders. Looking across the valley to the profiled spine of the Swartruggens mountains, with a shower jutting out of a nearby boulder, a packed dinner, champagne and the right person for company, you would struggle to find a better moment in time.


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