Heerenlogement Cave

Called the Heerenlogement in Dutch or in English “The Master’s Lodging House” 30km outside Graafwater. 170 Names register carved in the rock

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The Heerenlogement Cave - National Museum

An 18th Century "stop-over" The Heerenlogement Cave one of South Africa's oldest and historical caves, just 23km outside Graafwater on the Vredendal road.

Heerenlogement - overhanging rock used as overnight shelter, you will turn at the sign and drive 3 km from there, Stop and walk about 20 - 30 meter to the rocks. You can not drive up to the cave. The walk is worth it as at the mouth of this famous cave, you can see across the Rooibos (South African tea) farms and down to the coast.

The 17th Century and beyond, San and Khoi guides had exposed colonial travellers to this refuge, it became an overnight favourite. Their names still cover the cave walls.

Originally the cave was used by indigenous San (also known as Bushmen) and Khoi peoples and later discovered by Simon Van der Stel and his party on his way north in search of copper in 1685 and again on 29 October 1712.

The best “hotel” as it was known for miles was popular overnight stop for travellers, soldiers, hunters and traders between 1665 and 1682.

In 1682 Olaf Bergh came to Graaf Water in search of the legendary gold fields of Monomotapa and was one of the first white people who spent the night there. The cave well preserved engravings provide evidence to those early travellers and whose journals support the names of the visitors.

Just more than a century after the first colonial ‘guests’ arrived at the Heerenlogement, the jauntiest traveller of them all – Francois le Vaillant – pitched up in full sail. In his hat he wore a large ostrich feather, he had his infamously scheming Chacma baboon called Kees by his side, and in his wake came a large retinue of Khoi and no fewer than 3 wagons.

They stayed there for a week, fattening their trek oxen and dining on dassies (rock rabbits or hyraxes) before wandering north to the Orange River in search of specimens and thrilling adventures. If you stroll around inside the Heerenlogement, you will find the name Vailant (sic), dated 1783, etched into the stone. You will also find other celebrated names alongside his. This cave contains some of the oldest colonial graffiti found anywhere in South Africa.

Others who slept in the secluded cave were Ensign IT Rhenius (1721), the Swedish botanist Carl Thunberg (1774) and the French traveller François le Vaillant (1783). Andrew Geddes Bain the road engineer also visited the cave and left his mark.

Other well-known travellers also visited the cave during the 19th century were Captain James Alexander and Baron Von Ludwig.

Once you’re inside the shallow cave, look up and you will see a 300-year-old tree bulging through a cleft in the rock roof – and it’s still growing strong…

Commander K.J. Slotsbo in 1712 wrote about the tree growing from the cleft in the rock roof which is still in the cave 300 years later. See photo attached.

Cape Governor Hendrik Swellengrebel passed this way in 1737 and later wrote an account of this shelter. He mentioned a wild fig tree growing out of a cleft at the back of the cave and it can still be found to this day. This cave has been declared a national monument.

From the Cave you can see the Zink Blokhuis/fort which was use to stop the Boer soldiers, on the farm Graafwaterplaas, as well as the Oloffs/Bergfonteijn on the farm Klipfontein, 10km south from the Heerenlogement, also one of the oldest rest places on the historical route to the north.

The Riethuisies / houses (Original post)

Where buildt 1968 +- 40 years ago. And are still occupied.

Tourist Information

* Head north from Cape Town on the N7 to the hamlet of Trawal (226km from Cape Town). After passing Trawal, turn left at the sign for the Heerenlogement. After about 20km on dirt road, you will a spot to park from there you can walk to the Cave - overhanging rock about 20 to 30 meters.

* Coming from Lambert's Bay, head inland to Graafwater for 31km and go north at Graafwater for about 20km and you will find the cave.

What will it cost

There is no charge. Just pick up your litter and close the gate when you leave.

Length of stay

This is a 1-hour visit, unless you plan to picnic there - which many do.

What to pack

  • It's a day-drive from Cape Town,
  • so pack drinks,
  • extra water,
  • sunblock,
  • your camera,
  • map, local guide book,
  • Ideal place to Picnick lunch.
  • A little hike to the site to bring walking shoes


  • Garage - Graafwater
  • JB's Deli for dry worse, biltong, meat products
  • Shop and Cafee - Graafwater Lucky 7 Square Deal, and Kaap Agri
  • Click here for accomodation
  • Tourist Guide - Umbuli Tours - Graafwater