The Gifberg, along with the Cedarberg, Bokkeveld and Matsikamma ranges, forms the eastern boundary of the 300km Olifants River Valley, which itself borders Namaqualand and the Atlantic. They all form part of the ruggedly beautiful Cape Fold Belt.
The Gifberg or Poison Mountain, gets its name from the gifboom (poison tree), endemic to the area. San hunter-gatherers used to use the seeds to poison their arrows.
The only way to the top of the mountain is via the Gifberg Pass, a steep and narrow pass which shoots off the N7 about 15kms south of van Rhynsdorp.
The Gifberg is renowned for its abundance of San Rock Art and overlooks the Knersvlakte. The name of the Knersvlakte is ingenious, so called by the early settlers because of the sound the wheels of their wagons made as it crunched over the quartz gravel. Kners in Afrikaans is grit or grind, which conjures up the sound one hears when grinding one’s teeth.
Visit the Gifberg Rock Art Site, which forms a part of the West Coast Rock Art Route. San Bushmen lived throughout Southern Africa for thousands of years, leaving a remarkable legacy of art.
Paintings at this West Coast rock art site depict shaman (healers) and animals bleeding from the nose. The Shaman (healers) often bled in this way after entering a 'healing trance', which they regarded as death and a return to life.
They believed the largest antelope, the eland, provided healing power through the healer in a trance, induced by ritual dance and chanting.
The Gifberg has lush vegetation with a variety of plants, including a number of protea. The mountain has many waterfalls, clear river pools and beautiful rock formations with over forty rock-painting sites.