Share this:

The Northern Cape’s Biggest Secret Revealed – Doornkloof Nature Reserve

The Northern Cape’s Biggest Secret Revealed – Doornkloof Nature Reserve

If you were to tell me that you could find a tourist destination without a single photo on the internet, I would call you crazy. In this digital age of oversharing on social media any place travel worthy has been facebooked, instagrammed and tweeted to death, in addition to being marketed on its website and myriad accommodation booking sites. Everywhere can be found on Google’s image search. At least that’s what I believed until I went on a cyber mission to locate somewhere nice to stay around Vanderkloof Dam in the Northern Cape.


Why Vanderkloof you might ask, and justly so – it is not top of everybody’s travel bucket list. But if you have a fly-fishing mad son, he will have told you about this holy grail of fishing destinations – one of the only waters full of the rare large mouthed yellow fish, and rumoured to be one of the best fishing spots in the country. Where better to visit for his big 18th birthday?


We always travel as a family, so fishing alone will not suffice – we need to choose a location to delight all five of us. Somewhere that also has comfy accommodation, great activities besides fishing and preferably surrounded by nature. On first inspection, this was going to prove somewhat difficult.  There was a popular campsite below the dam wall but aside from not being a happy camper, the thought of rubbing shoulders with rowdy beer drinking carp fishermen while the camp was full because of the school holidays did not excite me in the least. There are some guesthouses and B&Bs in the little town of Vanderkloof, but these also fall short on our location checklist.


Now I have been on lots and lots of fishing trips and although the sport has not managed to hook my interest, the locations are always phenomenal. Fish live in rivers, lakes, dams, estuaries, oceans, lagoons – basically anywhere with water, and these places always guarantee a wonderful setting teeming with natural life and loads of things for non-fishermen to do too. Logic told me that the combination of the second largest dam in the country surrounded by the starkly beautiful Karoo must result in some mind blowingly beautiful locations. So I went to work on Google.


With no luck on the usual sites, I tried out the satellite view on Google Maps to get an idea of the lay of the land around the 80km long dam. The first thing that caught my eye was the contrast between the turquoise colour of the water and the dry brown Northern Cape landscape. The second thing I noticed were two blocks marked in green – indicating nature reserves. Aha! Where there is a reserve, there is usually accommodation I thought.


I got the names of the reserves and googled them, to find out they are both run by Northern Cape Parks – Rolfontein and Doringkloof (upon further investigation it seemed like this one was actually called Doornkloof, but is incorrectly labelled on Google Maps). Besides a short write up with some nondescript photos of buck that could be anywhere, there wasn’t much useful info.


So I googled “accommodation” and “chalet” and “camping” at both and deep down on page 3 found a post from 2014 saying that some chalets were being built at Doornkloof. After digging through the internet trying various search terms, I happened upon a post from SA Tourism on specials running during September 2017 tourism month. Right at the bottom, there was a pensioner’s special for accommodation in a chalet and kayak rental at Doornkloof Nature Reserve in the Northern Cape and EUREKA – a phone number (as well as a website link that does not exist).


So it’s a bit old school, but I waited for office hours and called the number. The first time no-one answered, but I kept trying and eventually the phone was picked up and I was passed on to the most well-spoken, helpful and delightful person – Nthabileng. She told me there were indeed chalets and they did have availability (no surprise as how on earth would anyone have booked with the lack of info). The rates sounded too good to be true so I booked over the phone and gave my email address for a booking confirmation to be sent (which never arrived).


Our phone seemed to know where Doornkloof was and how to get there so off we went, trekking into the unknown full of hope and with absolutely zero idea of what to expect. As we had no information whatsoever on the park and facilities, we took along everything conceivable for our survival, just in case.

The outer gate to Doornkloof

When we eventually reached what Google Maps said was the entrance, there was an impressive set of gates labelled “Hunter’s Moon Game Ranch”. There were 2 walky-talky radio’s (one labelled Doornkloof) and when we transmitted our arrival, the gate rolled open.  The cellphone signal had died way back, and as we ventured into the game park, we were well and truly alone. What a beautiful drive – the landscape was full of hills made of piles of fractured rocks, there was a river meandering through and we saw kudu, nyala, impala, buffalo and a huge breeding herd of Sable – what a rare treat!

A breeding herd of Sable

A fluffy young Eland bull

After about 20km, like an apparition on the horizon, there appeared the huge and impressive entrance to Doornkloof Nature Reserve, quite bizarrely tucked deep in the middle of a different private reserve and unbeknownst to pretty much everyone. I experienced what Howard Carter must have felt as he entered Tutenkamen’s tomb for the very first time – this was truly a discovery of note!

Not many have seen this hidden sign before

There was a reception desk, with friendly staff who drove us to our chalet, a further few kilometres into the reserve. And there they were, brand spanking new proper chalets perched on a slope near a meandering river and surrounded by Northern Cape hills with not a soul in sight and not a stitch of cellphone signal – what bliss! Although the chalets seem to have been built a couple of years ago, there were still price tags on the crockery – clearly they sit unoccupied most of the time, enjoying that magnificent view all to themselves.



Spartan decor, but oh so fabulous views!

The boys fished the river in the rain while we lounged in the chalet, drooling at the endless view. The heavens opened up and drenched the parched soil until it became a slick of clay mud, making it impossible to drive anywhere. We were well and truly alone and uncontactable deep in the middle of nowhere.

Going fishing in the rain

Fishing in the Seekoei River in the rain

Luckily the weather brightened the next day and dried out the roads enough for us to explore the reserve a bit. We spotted a few antelope and lots of birds as we made our way through the park to the banks of the Vanderkloof dam. We set up day camp on the porch of where a farm house used to be and while the boys fished, I read my book and Jess worked on her art.

Starkly beautiful Vanderkloof Dam

Sitting on a very old farmhouse porch

What a view from the old farmhouse porch

The landscape was stark and beautiful, the water a bit murky from the rain. There were smiles all round as Jacob, Luke and Ralph landed a large mouth yellow each. The fishing was hard, but the quality of fish caught made up for the lack of quantity.

Waiting for the fish to bite

Jacob caught a huge carp on fly

Largemouth yellow fish at Vanderkloof

We only spent two nights at Doornkloof – it was such an adventure and we managed to unwind so dramatically with the added bonus of hooking into some trophy yellows. This was a place that crept into our hearts and has jumped straight to the top of our travel wish list. There were hiking trails, drives and kayaking that we did not have time to do, there was way more dam frontage to be fished and views to be enjoyed. We just have to go back.

Doornkloof – the ultimate tranquil escape

Although it was really tempting to keep this big secret all to ourselves, we are happy to be the first to reveal this little piece of heaven to the interweb – its magic is just way too good to stay hidden.


Doornkloof is the epitomy of travel clichés – it truly is a hidden gem and the Northern Cape’s best kept secret.


Doornkloof tips:

1. There is no website, book with this phone number – (051) 753-3006/5.

2. The rates are crazy low (see below). We paid R640 per night for all 6 of us, self-catering.

3. There is no cellphone signal and no nearby shops so come prepared with all your food and drinks.

4. The chalets are well equipped but there is only one two prong plugpoint (I imagine this is to conserve their solar power), so bring along a 2 prong multiplug or powerbank and nothing with a 3 prong plug.

5. We accessed the park fine in our Kombi, but the wet roads can be treacherously slippery and a bakkie, 4×4 or car with high clearance would be preferable.

Ralph got the Kombi stuck in the mud when he tried to go off-road


Luckily we found some friendly farm workers to help!

6. Make sure you enter via Colesberg, and the “Hunter’s Moon Game Ranch” gate. Apparently GPS’s often direct guests to another gate on the Eastern side of the reserve which is locked and unmanned.

If you love peace, quiet, tranquility, endless views and fishing, this is the place for you!

Searching for non existent cellphone signal

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *