Cape Town Outside specializes in unique day trips and multi-day tours to see, explore and experience the intriguing San bushmen rock art in the place it was painted thousands of years ago. We take you to the Cederberg mountains about 2-3 hours outside the City of Cape Town, South Africa – to explore a series of archaeological rock art sites along a wilderness trail. This a uniquely African experience and should be included on any Cape Town itinerary for visitors to South Africa. This is an art, archaeology, cultural history, and nature-rich experience all rolled into one.
These prehistoric, late stone age cave paintings, also referred to as rock art, were painted in rock shelters over thousands of years by nomadic San bushmen hunter-gatherers, the first human inhabitants of southern Africa.
The San paintings are found in rock shelters across southern Africa, with a dense concentration of bushmen rock art in the Cederberg mountains outside Cape Town. This is where we will take you. The Cederberg with its strangely weathered, red-hued sandstone rock formations is an incredibly beautiful landscape to walk in. Managed as a nature conservancy, these mountains are also home to a wide variety endemic plants and animals.
The San bushmen have the longest continual art tradition in the world. However, only a few of the rock paintings have been carbon dated. The oldest dated African rock art was found in the Apollo cave in southern Namibia and is more than 25000 years old. A recent find from an archaeological excavation in the Blombos cave not far outside Cape Town revealed a painted flake of stone dating to more than 73,000 years old. We know from the archaeological record that the San inhabited southern African for more than 100,000 years and are presumed to be the first Homo sapiens on earth. Their genetic heritage belongs to all of us, and the fine-line rock art is their incredible and intriguing legacy.
We start the day around 6.30 am in the summer and 7.00 am in the winter. I’ll pick you up at your accommodation in Cape Town and we’ll drive up the West Coast through wide open landscapes, rich farmland, and scenic mountain passes, with optional stops for coffee and fresh fruit purchases from the farm stores en route, before heading into the Cederberg mountains at the historic town of Clanwilliam (renowned for its seasonal wildflowers that bloom in August and September – See also Cape Town Outside’s wildflower excursions).
In the mountains we will spend around 3-4 hours exploring along an easy 4-5 km trail to view a series of rock shelters adorned with San paintings. This gives you the opportunity to experience the art in the wild African landscape where it was painted so long ago. I’ll tell about the San rock paintings – the latest research, the changing ideas on interpretation of the art, the San people, and the landscape in which they lived including the local flora, fauna and geology.
After the walk, we’ll stop for lunch at one of a number of local restaurant options in the Cederberg – and then make our way back to the City of Cape Town and you’ll be back at your accommodation by evening.
Africa’s rock art is the common heritage of all Africans, but it is more than that. It is the common heritage of humanity.
- Nelson Mandela
These painted stones from the Apollo cave in southern Namibia have been dated to 27,000 years old.
This is the painted stone from the Blombos cave - dated to 73,000 years old.