The resort is tucked in between the folds of the majestic Langeberg mountains, just around the corner from the historic town of Swellendam – nine kilometres further down the N2, to be precise.
The 250 km drive through from Cape Town, through quintessential platteland landscapes, takes approximately three hours. Upon reaching the dorpie Buffeljagsrivier, swing a left just after the correctional facility next to the N2. A few tricky twists on unmarked gravel roads will soon have you arriving at Umshanti. The on-site houses are well maintained and set in lush surroundings right on the dam’s bank.
What makes Umshanti so appealing? Well, for starters, they don’t allow any day visitors. You’ll get the message from the hangman’s noose draped over the ‘no day visitors’ sign at the entrance. Only overnight, paying guests are allowed access to the local boat club’s slipway. This rule keeps the number of boats on the water to a minimum, making the dam feel larger than it actually is. Unless you’re booked in at the resort, you simply won’t be allowed to launch your boat on the dam. Umshanti also boasts some wonderful accommodation options. There are several chalets, built spaciously apart and each capable of accommodating up to ten people. The self-catering bungalows are fully furnished with kitchen, bathroom and private bedrooms. The newly added campsites make the spot just that much more appealing for those of us who like to stay in tents or tow our accommodation behind us when we travel.
Like the chalets, each campsite has its own braai area, along with its own outdoor furniture set, which Kosie, the owner, builds himself. There’s ample firewood, and no matter whether you’re camping or staying indoors, you can simply light a fire, settle back and relax, tan a choppie or two, and enjoy a lekker kuier around your fire.
What to do?
Covering an area of about 170 hectares, Buffeljags Dam has several different faces to show visitors. The waters close to the southern bank are glass-like, making for great skiing, tubing and wakeboarding. For the more sedate, a placid cruise on the resort’s wooden double-decker barge boat, aptly dubbed Kosie se Boot, is a must. It has an open-top deck, bar area, braai and toilet facilities, and enough space for 35 people!
On the eastern side of the dam you’ll find a quiet river lined with tall reeds, where bass fishing is particularly good. But probably the most significant feature for adrenalin junkies on this side of the dam is a foefie slide of daunting proportions – 220 metres long and 45 metres high! I gave it a try, and the exhilaration of the ride down is immense, the water coming closer at breakneck speed. As you hit the water with an enormous splash, your legs are forced back and you skid on your stomach along the water’s surface. Graceful? Not exactly. Outrageous fun? Definitely!
Up the creek
With Kosie se Boot quietly moored in the creek in the gorge on the upper reaches of the dam, it wasn’t long before we were diving into the cool, tanninbrown water, while others grabbed a canoe and boldly explored where no canoe had ever gone before – at least, that’s how it felt. Our mooring spot was surrounded by vertical cliff faces, giving welcome protection from the breeze and sun. With a depth of 30 metres, this area is also the deepest spot in the dam, and possibly the perfect spot for a braai and well-earned relaxation.
Absolutely. Aside from the activities I’ve already mentioned, fishing is also a popular pastime on the dam, which teems with bass and eel. The scenic route around the dam is perfect for hiking, cycling and morning runs. The resort’s thatched conference room, Eengrootgat, can host 35 people, and the play park and mini-zoo will keep the younger ones entertained. Meals can be provided for groups, or you can cater for yourself. Wood is sold at R10 per bag. Umshanti even has its own local watering hole, called the Honesty Bar, that’s brimful of character. When you’ve had your fill of boating there are hiking and 4x4 trails nearby, quad bike tours with three different trails on the coast, horse riding, botanical tours and many other tours and trails in the area.
With its many adrenalin-generating activities, neat fixed accommodation and three wonderful new campsites, the Umshanti Buffeljags Watersports Resort is a must-visit on your next trip to the Western Cape.