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Fynbos on the Edge – Taking nature-based tourism in the Northern Cape to new heights

This week, a first of its kind nature-based tourism experience was launched in the Northern Cape. The Via Ferrata (iron trail) is an iron cable installed along the cliffs of the magnificent Oorlogskloof Gorge which will allow tourists to traverse safely along sheer rock faces as part of a unique nature tourism experience. The Via ferrata is on Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm on the Bokkeveld Plateau near Nieuwoudtville, in the Northern Cape.

It will be the first of its kind tourism experience in the Northern Cape.

The Via Ferrata was the brainchild of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Senior Conservation Manager, Cobus Theron, who had this to say: “This nature based experience allow people to experience this magnificent landscape and its abundant biodiversity in an unforgettable way. We are of the opinion that it will attract more visitors to the area which firmly position the district as a year-round nature destination”.

Construction of the iron trail began in 2022, aimed at promoting the Fynbos biome and conservation in the area by allowing tourists unique access to parts of the Oorlogskloof that could otherwise not be safely reached. The Table Mountain Fund funded this initiative as part of their Prosperity Programme, which aims to stimulate and grow the nature-based economy linked to the fynbos biome.

Papkuilsfontein lies within an area that is known as the bulb capital of the world and includes four vegetation types: the Bokkeveld Sandstone Fynbos, Hantam Succulent Karoo, Vanrhynsdorp Shale and Nieuwoudtville Shale Renosterveld. This convergence of vegetation types results in unique biodiversity that is home to many endemic and rare floral species.

Papkuilsfontein is a commercial sheep and rooibos tea farm with outstanding sustainable land management and conservation practices. The Via Ferrata will contribute to diversifying income streams on the farm and extending the tourism season beyond the traditional flower season for which the area is so famous.  This ensures that the tourism economy is more evenly spread throughout the year, which has positive economic impacts. In addition, the Van Wyk’s are committed to reinvesting profits into the conservation of Papkuilsfontein.

In 2020, the Department of Agriculture, Environment, Land Reform and Rural Development (DAERL) and Endangered Wildlife Trust collaborated with the Van Wyk’s to declare the farm a Protected Environment under the Protected Areas Act 57 of 2003. This means that the property will soon be legally and formally protected under the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme which is enabled by the act.

In partnership with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Van Wyk’s started a shift from a primarily agricultural income to an integrated agriculture and nature-based tourism income. This is where the idea of Via Ferrata was born.

The hike to the Via Ferrata  is generally straightforward and can be done by beginner hikers, and even children (height and age restrictions). The trail takes about two hours to complete. Individuals are guided on the entire route. It is a safe activity for families.

A fantastic collaboration project between the owners of the Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm (Van Wyk family), the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Drylands Conservation Programme, and the Department of Agriculture, Environment, Land Reform and Rural Development (DAERL), and was funded by the Table Mountain Fund. Ventures ZA’s Justin Lawson constructed the trail.

For more information on the Via Ferrata and how to book please contact info [at]

Relevant Agribook pages include “Tourism and agriculture” and “Biodiversity and ecosystem services