The close relationship between the Swartruggens and the Cederberg is geologically visible in its typical reddish brown weathered sandstone formations, as well as its plant cover, which can be described as a drier mountain fynbos. It is largely treeless and is dominated by a variety of shrubs with interesting local names such kakiebos, klaaslouwbos, koringbos, renosterbos, sneeubos, wolwedoring, taaibos and skilpadbessie. Protea species, so characteristic of the Cape Mountains are not as widespread in the drier Swartruggens region, but do occur in some of the higher areas.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE RESERVE
In 1989 the first antelope were reintroduced and the first chalets were also built.
ANIMAL AND BIRD LIFE
Other small animals include the dassie (rock hyrax), yellow mongoose, rock rabbit, Cape hare and striped polecat. Some other animal residents are either nocturnal or do not often show themselves to people. These include animals such as the aardwolf, lynx, antbear, black-backed jackal, caracal and Cape porcupine. Only leopard represents the larger carnivores, which probably prefer the safety and quiet of the canyon immediately to the west, but include parts of Kagga Kamma in their home range.
The area is also rich in bird life. On the open plains, larger birds such as the ostrich, secretary bird and kori bustard may be seen, while close to the buildings less shy species such as the Cape robin, Cape bulbul, Cape sparrow and house sparrow may occur. During winter and spring, open water attracts water birds such as the Egyptian goose red billed teat, black duck and South African shelduck. Black eagles may be seen soaring high in the sky, while the ubiquitous rock pigeon can be seen and heard in the vicinity of rocky outcrops, where they prefer to nest. Among the most typical sounds of the open veld at Kagga Kamma are those produced by the noisy black korhaan and the Namaqua sand grouse, with its typical call of 'kelkiewyn' 'kelkiewyn', and apt reminder that time for a sundowner approaches.
The small multifamily groups of Bushmen numbered some 10 to 30 members, often related by ties of blood or marriage. These groups or bands are usually associated with specific territories, but are flexible units that continuously change as kinsfolk and friends temporarily join other groups. Through these visits special ties are strengthened, while it is also an important mechanism in ecological adaptation, allowing people to utilize food and water resources in other territories.
As women are the main collectors of plant foods, they are in a sense the breadwinners among the Bushmen. Hunting, nevertheless, is an important activity, as meat is a much sought after food. Men are therefore under constant pressure to hunt. This is mostly done in small parties that search for fresh animal tracks, which are then followed. As Bushmen arrows are light and flimsy, a hunter must be close to the animal before he shoots, thereafter relying on the poison to kill the animal. Kalahari Bushman mostly use the contents of the pupae of certain beetles of the family Chrysomelidae, though Cape Bushmen in earlier times also used plant and snake poison.
Contrary to popular belief, Bushmen hunting activities are often not directed at the larger antelope, but rather at smaller animals such as duiker and steenbok, as well as burrowing animals such as the springhare and porcupine. Custom demands that the meat of larger animals must be shared with others. Not only does it strengthen the ties between people, but it can also be seen as an insurance policy, ensuring that no one will go hungry while others may have an abundance of food. A hunter's parent-in-law are usually the first to receive their share.
This obligation is part and parcel of the custom of bride-service, which must be performed by the groom for some time after marriage.
The Bushmen who lived in the Kagga Kamma area in earlier times most likely had a similar subsistence system than their counterparts of the Cederberg area to the northwest. In this area the Bushmen had a mixed diet of plant foods, particularly the corms of species of Iridaceae (including Watsonia, Babiana, Homeria and Moreae), as well as a variety of fruits and berries, combined with the meat of animals such as rock hyraxes, tortoises, steenbok and klipspringer.
The early Kagga Kamma Bushmen were probably to far from the sea to follow this seasonal movement pattern. As they lived on the edge of Ceres and the Great Karoo, immediately to the east, it is more likely that their areas of exploitation also extended eastwards to perhaps seasonally utilize plains antelope such as springbok and other foods associated with this particular environment.
Most of the Western Cape rock paintings are associated with the Bushmen. Rock paintings are difficult to date accurately, but we do know that the painting tradition in Southern Africa is an ancient one, as a painted slab from Southern Namibia has been carbon-dated to some 26 000 years, putting Bushmen paintings in the same age category as European cave paintings. In contrast with Europe, however, our rock paintings continued over millennia up to the previous century, as the art also depicts ships, ox wagons and mounted soldiers of historical times.
The age of the Kagga Kamma rock paintings, therefore, could be anything from a century or more to several thousand years. To further complicate things, some paintings were over painted at a later stage. Many paintings unfortunately faded away with age, particularly those at more exposed surfaces, while some colors, such as white, have a tendency to fade quicker than some of the others. The paints themselves are derived mostly from earth pigments. The reds and browns which dominate are usually from iron oxides, white pigments could have come from clays, zinc oxide, kaolin, etc., while charcoal were often used as a black pigment.
Rock paintings are dominated by depictions of people and animals. This seems natural as animals had an obvious importance in a hunting and gathering economy,
There are thousands of rock paintings in South Africa and we can of course not be sure what motivated individual artists in all cases. By and large, however, it is nowadays accepted that many rock paintings are related to Bushmen religious beliefs and practices. As is the case today among living Kalahari Bushmen, trance cure dancing seems to have been the most important group ritual of earlier Bushmen populations as well. During these dances, characterized by the rhythmic singing and clapping of hands by the women, some men, sometimes referred to as shamans, danced themselves into a trance. Modern day Bushmen believe that men during a trance state are able to break through to the world of the spirits, the main source of sickness, directly communicating with them, and thereby being able to be more effective healers of the sick.
Many paintings are seen as the products of the hallucinatory experiences of men in these altered states of consciousness, induced by trance dancing. Features such as nasal bleeding (associated with trance states), elongation of figures and figures with arms extended backwards, symbolic of a feeling of being in flight, are typical of this.
During trance dancing the supernatural potency, which medicine men possess, becomes activated by the heat, and this is harnessed for ritual curing. This potency also resides in certain animals, particularly the eland, and can be harnessed in the interest of Bushmen society. This explains the abundance of painted scenes in which eland occur in association with medicine men in trance states.
Rock art, therefore, is much more than simply paint on the rocks. It is a key to the past, giving a glimpse into the workings of an extinct cultural system. As such the paintings deserve our admiration and respect.
In combining a wildlife experience in unspoiled nature with the promotion of indigenous culture, Kagga Kamma prides itself as the first practitioner of eco tourism in its fullest sense in the Western Cape.
OUR VISION . . .
Kamma Nature Reserve