Loadshedding getting you down? Need a wilderness or romantic escape? Then look no further than Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve.
Nervously I revved the engine of my quad bike and headed up the rocky jeep track. The powerful bike was perfect for the terrain so I soon relaxed and began to enjoy the spectacular surroundings. My husband and I were heading out for a night under the stars. But we weren’t roughing it. Oh no, we were in for a spoil.
We’ve spent the last couple of days at Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve, a wilderness retreat deep in the rugged mountains of the Cederberg. Frustrated by load shedding in Cape Town we were seduced by the fact that Kagga Kamma had recently completed a new Solar Power Farm that provides sustainably sourced electricity to the entire lodge.
The drive there was quite something. From Cape Town, we headed to Ceres, then climbed over the Gydo Pass into the Koue Bokkeveld, the road taking us through a maze of dramatic rock formations. The distinctive peaks of Koue Bokkeveld Tafelberg and Sneukop dominated the skyline to our left, and as we turned off the tar road, we knew we were in for an adventure. The views from the dirt road were magnificent, so we took it slowly, stopping to inspect colourful little vygies and climb a magnificent sandstone arch next to the road. Once in the reserve itself, things became even more interesting, with some exciting patches of sand testing our nerves and our little sedan. The welcome drinks at reception were welcome indeed.
After settling into our cosy Hut Suite, we took a dip in the gorgeous pool, set among vast sandstone boulders, then went exploring, striding out on the circular Klipspringer Hiking Trail, which leads through a system of intricate, weathered canyons. Although only four kilometres long, the terrain was rugged, and there were plenty of distractions in the form of little rock agamas, exquisite patches of colourful flowers and numerous rock art sites. The rock paintings are just off the path, and their locations are not marked on the map, so we often detoured to check out caves and sheltered rock faces along the route, enjoying the excitement of the treasure hunt.
After freshening up, it was all aboard for a Sundowner Trip. A huge herd of bontebok less than 100 metres from reception soon had us snapping away merrily. Although it’s not marketed as a game drive, we saw Cape hares, red wildebeest and springbok and stopped to inspect several aardvark burrows. The reserve's fauna is diverse, with eland, steenbok, zebra, and baboons often seen, along with occasional sightings of more elusive creatures such as caracal and honey badger.
The sun was low when we reached a lookout point on the eastern boundary of the reserve. Scrambling up to the vantage point, we gazed over the Tankwa Karoo and the iconic Cedarberg peaks of Tafelberg and Sneeuberg as we sipped our gin and tonics. There was no sign of human habitation, just empty veld and layers and layers of mountains. Raptors soared overhead, and the setting sun painted the wispy clouds with different shades of orange and red as we sat in silence, awed by the majesty of the wilderness.
Dinner was a candle-lit affair in the boma. The food was excellent, as was the discreet but attentive service. We chose conservatively favouring steak over sheep’s tails, washed down with one of the excellent reds from a local Cederberg winery. The attention to detail that we’d appreciated in our room was evident here too. The tables were all beautifully set and widely spaced around a big central firepit, and the flames lit up the sheer orange sandstone faces of the surrounding cliffs. The clear night sky was studded with stars. It was wonderfully romantic. But it was somewhat ironic that part of the reason we’d chosen Kagga Kamma was because if its off-grid, with uninterrupted power: the absence of light pollution means that you appreciate the magic of this remote place in darkness when there’s only the flickering light of the fire and candles.
I woke early and sat out with my coffee and binoculars watching the birds and listening to their dawn chorus. Then it was off on a Rock Art Tour. Again, the bontebok eyed us as we drove out of the lodge, and the startled springbok pronked off into the distance. We began understanding why the reserve is popular with self-drive 4x4 enthusiasts. With its mountains, deep valleys, varied terrain and game sightings, it’s a challenging and fascinating landscape to drive through. After half an hour, we stopped and followed our guide to a big overhanging boulder where he interpreted the many rock paintings, some of which are estimated to be 6,000 years old, and evocatively explained how the harsh landscape had been utilised by former inhabitants, the Khoi and San people.
That afternoon we hiked the seven-kilometre Klipbakke trail before the grande finale, our adventurous, guided quad bike ride to the Sky Suite, an exclusive open-air abode some distance from the lodge. What a place. Nestled among the boulders were a double bed, a wood-fired hot tub, a full-on bathroom and outdoor shower, and a braai and al fresco dining area. It was private and peaceful - our only companions were cheeky field mice and chirping sparrows and weavers.
Our pre-ordered dinner was in the cooler box, ready for us to heat on the fire, and the bubbles were on the ice, so we toasted our amazing find. It must be a hell of a job to run a lodge like Kagga Kamma in this remote desert wilderness, but everything worked smoothly and seamlessly. Hat’s off to them; we felt rejuvenated and relaxed. It was only a two-night escape, but it felt like we’d had a proper holiday. All that remained was to survive the quad bike ride back to the lodge in the morning.
The nitty gritty:
Choose between the spacious Hut Suites overlooking the fynbos plains and distant mountains, the Cave Suites that are ingeniously built into the rocks or secluded campsites nestled among the boulders. Book a night in one of the two open-air suites if you possibly can.
Kagga Kamma’s mission:
Since its inception, in 1988 Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve has always valued and upheld environmentally friendly practices - preserving the natural landscape, protecting the indigenous and endemic wildlife and offering an eco-centric hospitality experience to guests. Their core mission has been centred on developing their green initiatives and sourcing improved methodologies for a sustainable future in this beautiful space. These methodologies, that improve on the long-term sustainability of the Lodge, along with the offering they provide to guests on the back of an environmentally sustainable project such as that of this new solar farm, further add to the security and opportunities of the local communities that staff the Lodge and that benefit from Kagga Kamma’s corporate social responsibility. The Solar Power Farm provides sustainably sourced electricity to the entire Lodge, meaning that the property is officially off-grid and is no longer reliant on resources that negatively impact climate change.
Some more interesting information
Engineering on the project started in November of 2021, a year prior to the unveiling of the Solar Farm in November 2022, though Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve teamed up with SolaSynergi and MLT Engineering a long time before then. Outlining the project scope and determining the best system for the Nature Reserve was no small undertaking, as the Lodge has always aimed to preserve the environment and leave as minimal an imprint as possible. This stands true not only for the solar farm project, but with all operations, and is why the lodge was built with largely natural materials and made to meld with the surroundings. The construction itself further speaks to Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve’s conservation programme, as the whole system can easily be disassembled and relocated or removed entirely, without affecting the land.
The solar farm itself is large and powerful enough to sustain all of the Lodge’s needs, and is coupled with a fuel-powered back-up generator that can maintain the power supply during the rainy season, meaning that Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve will never need to be serviced by the local municipality.
The set-up is a 356kWp (kilowatts peak) DC Solar Array with 300kW (kilowatt) Hybrid Inverters, 1200kWh (kilowatt-hours) Lithium Battery Storage and a 400kVA (kilovolt-amps) Generator. It is ground mounted and north-facing and all 648 of the panels were perfectly positioned through a series of carefully planned engineering tests to maximise the sun’s surface contact with the panels throughout the day, while taking into consideration the changing seasons. The total DC generation capacity of the system is between 350 and 360 kWp at its maximum generation potential during optimal (sunny) conditions. To put this into perspective the same solar energy system could effectively supply power to 50 average-sized family homes! At present, the solar farm supplies sufficient energy to 13 Chalets, 15 Lodge Suites, 26 Staff Homes, as well as the Reception, Restaurant, Bar, Spa, Laundry and Communal Areas - and provision has been made for potential future expansion of the Lodge.
At the official unveiling of the solar power farm, Chairperson of the Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve board, Niel de Waal, said “As custodians of the reserve, we have a responsibility to minimise our environmental footprint. This new solar plant, which provides all of our energy requirements, is one of the last building blocks to make us truly green, sustainable and eco-friendly. We believe that sustainable tourism is incredibly important for the continued development of the tourism industry in South Africa and, as the stewards of this reserve, we have a duty to minimise the environmental impact of sharing this unique experience with our guests.” The solar farm project aligns perfectly with Kagga Kamma’s mission towards being a true eco-lodge, and functions alongside their many other environmentally friendly practices, such as the use of green amenities in-room and as part of their housekeeping services, the replacement of plastic straws with biodegradable ones, and the introduction of glass bottles in-room for guests. Their efforts towards sustainability continue.
Reservations: +27 (0) 21 872 4343,