Home Things To Do The Best Dams + Rivers for Swimming in the Cape

The Best Dams + Rivers for Swimming in the Cape

by InnsCape

When Cape Town heats up, these alfresco pools – away from the crowds – are the perfect way to cool down.

Drought notwithstanding, Cape Town is dotted with a refreshing array of amazing dams and rivers where you enjoy scenic and exhilarating dips – sans the sand and the crowds. And considering the high temperatures Cape Town faces during summer, there’s hardly a better way to beat the heat than plunging into a crystal-clear rock pool (made all the more rewarding if you have to hike to reach it). These are our favourite reservoirs and rivers for alfresco dipping.

We might have left out one of your favourites, such as Newlands Reservoir, for safety reasons. But let us know of other cool pools in the comments below.

Important note Although the Cape is rich in natural beauty, tourists and locals alike are urged to take necessary precautions when exploring secluded areas, as crimes and accidents do happen.

We have confirmed the safety of all listed rivers and dams, but if you are unsure, please contact the parks at the numbers provided to ensure conditions are suitable before visiting.

Those venturing into the Table Mountain National Park should have the following emergency numbers on hand: 086 110 6417/ 107 or 021 480 7700. Criminal incidents should be reported to the nearest police station as soon as able.

We also recommend @safetymountain as a useful resource for hikers. This free safety tracking service allows you to notify local trackers of your contact details, intended route and travel time via whatsapp. You are then able to provide hourly updates on your progress, and to notify trackers when you are safely off the mountain.

Silvermine Reservoir

Silvermine: Best Dams and Rivers in Cape Town

Where Between Hout Bay and Noordhoek
Distance from CT 50 minutes
The large, glistening reservoir is open to everybody, including your pooches, but there are no lifeguards on duty, so swimming is at your own risk. There’s a 1km trail around the water with a boardwalk that’s easily accessible for wheelchairs and prams. There are also loads of picture-perfect picnic spots dotted around the reserve.
Dog-friendly? Yes, but dog walkers require a Level 1 My Activity Permit. Contact Tokai Plantation Office at 021 712 7471 for more information.
Opening times Daily, 8am – 5pm (May to August); Daily, 7am – 6pm (September to April)
Cost Conservation fee (rates valid until 31 October 2020):
R32 (SA citizens and residents with ID); R16 (SA children, 2 – 11 years)
R64 (SADC nationals with valid passport); R32 (SADC children with valid passport)
R128 (international visitors; standard conservation fee); R64 (international children; standard conservation fee)
Important note In order to qualify for SA rates, you must be able to prove you are an SA citizen, by presenting a valid SA ID, passport or driver’s license.
Good to know The SANParks’ My Green Card entitles you to 12 free entries into the pay points of the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) within a one-year period. If you are a frequent visitor to Cape Point, Boulders, Oudekraal, Silvermine, and the braai and picnic areas at Tokai, Newlands and Perdekloof, this card is worth purchasing.
Contact 021 712 0527, tablem@sanparks.org (Table Mountain National Park)
Where to find it Silvermine Reservoir in Table Mountain National Park (via M3)


Beaverlac: Best Dams

Where Porterville
Distance from CT 2.5 to 3 hours
This lush campsite in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains is famous for its crystalline rock pools and waterfalls. When you’re not enjoying a refreshing dip in the dam, you can explore the various hiking trails and caves, some of which are decorated with rock art dating back thousands of years. You will have to book a spot at the campsite or one of the cabins, though, as Beaverlac no longer allows day visitors.
Dog-friendly? Dogs are allowed in the campsite, but not in the rock pools where people are swimming.
Opening times Daily, 7am – 9pm
Please note

  • Booking is required for camping (book your spot online, and pay cash at the gate).
  • Day visitors are not permitted.

Cost Entrance fee: R30 per car
Camping rates: R75 (per adult per night); R45 (children 4 – 17 years); free (children 0 – 4 years); R50 (per dog per night)
Contact 022 931 2945
Where to find it Beaverlac Campsite, Porterville (via N7)

Klein River

Swimming in Klein River

Phil Murray

Where Stanford
Distance from CT 2 hours
The peaceful river passes through the Akkedisberg Pass and the lush meadows of Stanford on its way to the estuary (Hermanus Lagoon), its calm waters beckoning weary travellers to lay down their loads and forget about the world for awhile. The bottom of King Street is particularly convenient due to the nearby shaded lawns that make for an ideal picnic spot.
The Stanford Wandelpad (walking trail) meanders along the river, and is easily accessed from a number of points – a map is available at the local tourism bureau.
Dog-friendly? Yes
Opening times Always open
Cost Free for swimming
Contact 028 3410 340, ask@stanfordinfo.co.za
Where to find it King Street, Stanford (via N2 and R43)

Crystal Pools Waterfall

Crystal Pools Waterfall: Best Dams and Rivers in Cape Town

Around About Cars

Where Gordon’s Bay
Distance from CT 1.5 to 2 hours
This hiking trail is very doable for anyone who is reasonably fit, and slightly challenging for those who are not. The rockpools along the way, where you can cool down during your walk, make it well worth the slog. The half-day hike takes you through rocky, but generally flat, terrain, and all the way at the top is a wonderful waterfall, but it is quite a trek, so make sure you have plenty of snacks, water and energy to get there.
Good to know To ensure the hiking trails are not too crowded, a maximum of 50 people per day is allowed, so try to book as early as possible.
Dog-friendly? No
Opening times 7.30am – 2.30pm (office hours)
6.30am – 7pm (hiking trails may differ slightly according to sunrise and sunset)
Cost R75 per person (until 30 June 2020)
Contact 021 444 6927, steenbras.naturereserve@capetown.gov.za (bookings must be done via email, at least 3 to 5 working days before your visit)
021 957 4725 (emergency number)
Where to find it Steenbras Nature Reserve (via N2 and R44)

Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

Groot Winterhoek Wilderness

Where Porterville
Distance from CT 1.5 to 2 hours
A mere 120km north of Cape Town, this small conservation area is well known for its rugged landscape and rich heritage. Among the interesting rock formations, exquisite fynbos and clear-water rockpools, you’ll find ancient rock paintings by the San and Khoi people. It is popular with hikers and mountain bikers, and there are plenty of places to stop for a refreshing swim with not a building in sight.
Important note Groot Winterhoek Wilderness was closed as a result of fires, but part of the reserve has been reopened to the public, including day hiking trails such as De Tronk to Die Hel (where the pictured rockpool can be found).
Dog-friendly? Pets are not allowed in CapeNature reserves.
Opening times Monday – Friday, 7.30am – 4pm (office hours)
Cost R50 (adults); R30 (children)
Contact 022 931 2860 / 022 931 2315 (reserve office)
087 087 8250, reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (permits)
Where to find it Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area (via R44, R365 and Dasklip/Cardouw turn-off)

Jonkershoek Nature Reserve

Jonkershoek Nature Reserve: Best Dams and Rivers in Cape Town

Where Stellenbosch
Distance from CT 1 hour
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, which includes the smaller Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve, lies near the town of Stellenbosch in the southwestern Cape. The reserve comprises the imposing Jonkershoek mountains and portions of the upper Jonkershoek valley. There are two very popular hiking trails, offering amazing views of the valley and the beautiful wine farms below.
The clear river water is too tempting not to dip into (if water levels allow), and while you’re there, you can also enjoy a leisurely picnic along the riverbanks under the shade of ancient trees at Assegaaibosch.
Dog-friendly? Pets are not allowed in CapeNature reserves.
Opening times 7.30am – 4pm
Please note

  • Only 80 people are allowed into Assegaaibosch picnic area per day to help with conservation efforts. Admission is on first-come-first-served basis.
  • No alcohol is allowed into the picnic area.

Cost R50 (adults); R30 (children)
Contact 087 087 4118 (reserve office)
087 087 8250, reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (permits)
Where to find it Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, Jonkershoek Road (via N1)

Krom River Trail

Krom Trail: Best Dams and Rivers in Cape Town


Where Paarl
Distance from CT Around 1 hour
The Limietberg Nature Reserve offers some of the best hiking trails in the Western Cape, and the Krom River trail in particular stands out, as it guides you past waterfalls and deep, translucent rock pools that are clear enough to snorkel in. The water is ice cold, but that will probably come as a relief after the long hike.
Please note You’ll need to bring some cash, as using the Huguenot tunnel requires a toll.
Dog-friendly? Pets are not allowed in CapeNature Reserves.
Opening times Daily, 8am – 6pm
Cost R50 (adults); R30 (children)
Please note Permits can be purchased at Du Kloof Trout Farm (just after the tunnel on your left) or from the CapeNature booking office. Only 24 permits are issued per day to prevent overcrowding, so plan ahead.
Contact 021 871 1535 / 087 087 4145 (reserve office)
087 087 8250, reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (permits)
Where to find it Du Toitskloof (to the left after the Worcester exit of the Huguenot Tunnel), Limietberg Nature Reserve (via N1)

Suicide Gorge

Suicide Gorge: Best Dams and Rivers in Cape Town

Bee Outdoor

Where Grabouw
Distance from CT 1.5 hours
Recommended only for hardy and experienced hikers, the Suicide Gorge trail takes you high up into the mountains… and then downhill through the gorge that gives it its name. You’ll be getting wet on this journey, so bring the appropriate gear, including lightweight hiking shoes, a swimsuit, and a change of clothes – a wetsuit is also highly recommended. Much of the 16.2km hike involves slip-sliding your way along this natural waterslide, and at certain points you’ll be required to leap off cliffs – some as high as 14 metres – into the pools below.
An adrenaline-boosting experience to be sure, but if you’d prefer a less intense adventure, the nearby Riviersonderend Route offers a similar challenge, but with fewer drops – the highest being a more manageable seven metres.
Dog-friendly? Pets are not allowed in CapeNature reserves.
Opening times Daily, 8am – 4pm (1 November – 30 April)
Closed (May – October)
Please note

  • The Suicide Gorge and Riviersonderend Route may be closed at any time at the discretion of the reserve management (due to inclement weather or other unsafe conditions).
  • Hikers are advised to start early (no later than 9am), and must be out of the reserve by 4pm.
  • Groups must be guided by a registered and experienced kloofing guide. Contact CapeNature for information about guides.
  • No children under 12 are allowed on this trail.
  • As the routes are popular, advance booking is advisable.
  • Maximum capacity for each kloofing route is 30 people per day.
  • The reserve office is only open on weekdays, but there is a staff member will be on duty seven days a week.

Cost R325 per person (for Suicide Gorge and Riviersonderend Route, cost of permit included)
Contact 028 841 4301/02 (reserve office)
087 087 8250, reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (permits)
Where to find it Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve (via N2 and R321)

Breede River

Breede River: Best Dams and Rivers in Cape Town

Where Swellendam
Distance from CT 3 to 3.5 hours
The Breede River flows east from the Ceres mountains in the Western Cape down into the Indian Ocean, watering the famous winelands of the Breede River Valley along the way. The Bontebok National Park, near the historic town of Swellendam, provides convenient access to the river. It’s a great spot for a picnic or braai, swimming in the calm waters, canoeing, or even angling if you have a permit.
Please note The water is currently too low for canoeing, but swimming is permitted.
Dog-friendly? No
Opening times Daily: 7am – 6pm (May – October); 7am – 7pm (November – April)
Cost Conservation fees (rates valid until 31 October 2020)
R46 (SA adults); R23 (SA children, 2 – 11 years)
R66 (SADC nationals with valid passport); R33 (SADC children with valid passport)
R132 (international visitors; standard conservation fee); R66 (international children; standard conservation fee)
Important note In order to qualify for SA rates, you must be able to prove you are an SA citizen, by presenting a valid SA ID, passport or driver’s license.
Contact 028 514 2735, bontebok@sanparks.org
Where to find it Bontebok National Park near Swellendam (via N1 and R60)

Palmiet River

Palmiet River: Best Dams and Rivers in Cape Town


Where Near Kleinmond
Distance from CT Around 1 hour 45 minutes
The Palmiet River feeds the apple farms of Grabouw, before passing through the town of Kleinmond. Your best point of access is the Palmiet River Trail in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve; a great spot for swimming, hiking and exploring the nearby sandy coastline.
Dog-friendly? Pets are not allowed in CapeNature reserves.
Opening times Daily, 7.30am– 4pm (gate closes at 7pm)
Cost R50 (adults); R30 (children)
Contact 087 288 0499 (reserve office)
087 087 8250, reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (for permits)
Where to find it Kogelberg Nature Reserve, via N2 to Kleinmond or vis Gordons Bay and Clarens Drive

The Berg River

Berg River: Best Dams and Rivers in Cape Town


Where Franschhoek
Distance from CT 50 minutes
Only 60 kilometers out of Cape Town, the Berg River Resort is a clean, family-friendly venue that’s ideal for swimming and leisurely canoeing. If river-dipping is not your thing, there are two swimming pools at the resort: a 3.5-metre-deep Olympic-sized pool and a smaller one that’s shallow enough for toddlers to splash around in, as well as a waterslide. Fancy staying overnight? There’s accommodation in comfortable chalets, as well as designated caravan and camping sites.
Dog-friendly? No
Opening times 8am – 5pm
Please note

  • Berg River Resort and the adjoining farm have no access to municipal water, but the use of their own alternative water sources ensures that the pools and waterslide continue to operate during summer.
  • These water restrictions also apply at the resort.

Cost R100 – R120 (day visitors, depending on season); free (children under 3); R100 – R120 (per vehicle, depending on season)
Contact 021 001 8805, info@bergriverresort.co.za
Where to find it Berg River Resort, R45 (via N1)


Maalgat: Best Dams and Rivers in Cape Town

Cederberg Ridge

Where Cederberg
Distance from CT 3.5 hours
The Cederberg is a land like few others – with vast, silent landscapes and rock formations that look like the remains of an ancient civilisation. The many natural wonders to be found here are examples of how the movements of the Earth can produce structures that are so exact, you’d swear they were crafted by the hand of man.
Among them is Maalgat (aka “Hippo Pool”), a natural swimming pool that is large and deep (don’t try to touch the bottom, you won’t reach it). It can be accessed via a 30-minute hike downstream from Sanddrif camping site, although be aware that there is no shade at the rock pool. There are, however, natural rock platforms from which you can leap into the cool water.
Dog-friendly? Pets are not allowed in CapeNature reserves.
Opening times Monday – Friday, 8am – 12.30pm, 1.30pm – 6pm; Saturday, 8am – 12.30pm, 1.30pm – 5pm;
Sunday & public holidays, 9am – 12pm, 4pm – 6pm
Cost R40 (adults); R25 (children 2 – 13 years)
Please note

  • Permits can be obtained from Sanddrif Reception Office during office hours, or they can be arranged by telephone.
  • Permits for Maalgat will not be issued to day visitors during school holidays and long weekends.
  • Sanddrif Holiday Resort reserves the right to refuse requests for permits if it is considered too late in the day, or if the weather is considered unfavourable.

Contact 027 482 2825 / 044 004 0060, sanddrif@cederbergwine.com
Where to find it Sanddrif Private Holiday Resort, Clanwilliam (via N7)

Witte and Wolwekloof River

Witte River Best Dams and Rivers in Cape Town


Where Worcester
Distance from CT 2 hours
Tweede Tol is a campsite located near the beautiful Bainskloof Pass, and is especially popular because it provides access to hiking trails and swimming spots in the lush Limietberg Nature Reserve. Day visitors to the campsite can access the Witte River, but it’s definitely worth it to stay overnight so you can gain exclusive access to the tranquil Wolwekloof River swimming holes.
Dog-friendly? Pets are not allowed in CapeNature reserves.
Opening times 8am – 4pm (reserve office hours)
Cost Day pass: R50 (adults); R30 (children)
Overnight fee (excludes cost of camping accommodation): R40 (adults); R20 (children)
Contact 021 8711 535 / 087 087 4145 (reserve office)
087 087 8250, reservation.alert@capenature.co.za (for permits)
Where to find it Tweede Tol campsite in Limietberg Nature Reserve (via N1)

Brandvlei and Quaggaskloof

Brandvlei Quaggaskloof: Best Dams and Rivers in Cape Town

Where Worcester
Distance from CT 1.5 hours
Brandvlei, also known as QuaggasKloof Dam, is actually two dams divided by a wall, which is often not seen when water levels are high enough – making it one. Sit on the bank, dive in, or take out the boat for a wonderful selection of watersports; it’s also a bass-fishing enthusiast’s heaven. Access it via the Worcester Yacht Club or QuaggasKloof Waterski Club.
Good to know Both dams have campsites for overnight stays.
Dog-friendly? Dogs are not allowed for QWC day visitors.
Brandvlei dam doesn’t allow dogs or jet-skis.
Opening times QuaggasKloof Waterski Club: 7am – 6.30pm (day visitors must leave by 7pm)
Worcester Yacht Club: 8am – 5pm (day visitors)
Cost QuaggasKloof Waterski Club: R100 (adults)
Free (children, under 18 years)
R100 (vehicle fee)
R100 (boat fee)
R275 (jet ski fee)
R15 (fisherman)
R100 (fisherman with vehicle)
R80 (fisherman with QWC, QuaggasKloof Waterski Club affiliation)

Worcester Yacht Club: R120 – R130 (day visitors, includes one site per 6 people)
R75 (additional vehicle, mid-season from 13 January 2020)
R150 (additional vehicle, high-season)
R30 (fisherman)
Important note Check the weather forecast before you set out; if there is high wind, you might not be able to enjoy certain watersports. Similarly, if it’s a perfect day, the dam might be very busy with watersport events and activities.
Please note Two-wheelers and quad-bikes are not permitted.
Contact QuaggasKloof Waterski Club: 023 340 4163, bookings@qwc.co.za
073 842 8183/ 074 123 2331 (emergency numbers)
Worcester Yacht Club: 023 343 2877, bookings@wyc.co.za
Where to find it QuaggasKloof Waterski Club: R43, Worcester
Worcester Yacht Club: Portion 10, Farm Bokke Kraal 378, Brandvlei Dam, Worcester

Researched by Bianca Hausle and Matthew Flax

Originally published on The Inside Guide – http://bit.ly/304IeQH

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