Article by Dr. Anton Odendal
One of the most underrated entry points into the Karoo takes one via SEWEWEEKSPOORT (S33º 23’36.23” E21º 24’06.55”) to LAINGSBURG (S33º 10’55.79” E20º 42’18.40”). The turnoff is just outside Zoar on the R62 between Ladismith and Calitzdorp. The scenery through Seweweekspoort must be experienced and birders are in with a very real chance of finding specials such as Booted and Verreaux’s Eagle, Cape Rock-Thrush, Cape Siskin, Cape Sugarbird and Ground Woodpecker. Allow at least two hours to travel through this gorge to experience one of nature’s true marvels. Once the intersection is reached, there are two options - one can travel east to Bosch Luys Kloof Private Nature Reserve and the western shores of Gamkapoort Dam, or one can travel west towards Laingsburg. Travelling by 4x4 is advised when going east from here. Huge numbers of Cape Siskins can seasonally be found along the first five km along this road.
The gravel road towards Laingsburg is usually in very good condition, but caution is advised. Ensure that the many dams along this road are checked as African Darter, African Black Duck, SA Shelduck, Cape Shoveler, Cape Teal and many more waterfowl are common. Both the Vleiland and Rouxpos detours are also of interest. The scenery along this road is often described as a geologist’s wonderland - a supreme area for landscape photography. The turnoff to Anysberg Nature Reserve (S33º 30’58.27” E20º 28’26.11”) is just before Laingsburg. The Flood Museum in Laingsburg is certainly worth a visit. There is a variety of self-catering establishments available along this road.
We selected WAGENDRIFT LODGE (S33º 22’45.34” E20º 56’33.50”) and were very impressed- an ideal destination for birders and bird clubs. This is big sky country in incredible blues. The silence is magical - the night sky glitters with millions of stars. Wagendrift Lodge is a magnificent example of the peace and tranquillity of so many farm-based destinations in the Great Karoo. We found no less than 60 species in 6 hours of birding on the farm, including Acacia Pied Barbet, Familiar and Karoo Chat, African Fish-Eagle, Fairy Flycatcher, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler and Karoo Scrub-Robin.