Hit The Trail

Hik­ing in South Africa

In Flight Magazine - - IN THIS ISSUE - { TEXT: BRAND SOUTH AFRICA (WWW.BRANDSOUTHAFRICA.COM) | IM­AGES © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM }

THERE ARE FEW BET­TER WAYS TO EX­PE­RI­ENCE NA­TURE THAN TO PUT YOUR BOOTS ON AND YOUR FEET ON THE GROUND, ONE IN FRONT OF THE OTHER. SOUTH AFRICA HAS A HUGE VA­RI­ETY OF SCENIC HIK­ING TRAILS. HERE’S A GUIDE TO HELP FIND ONE NEAR YOU.

The Oys­ter­catcher Trail is a spec­tac­u­lar guided, lux­ury and fully catered route on the Gar­den Route which has earned high praise from, among oth­ers, Na­tional Geo­graphic, Getaway Mag­a­zine, and the BBC.

The Ot­ter Trail along the Tsit­sikamma coast is eas­ily the most pop­u­lar hike in the coun­try. Lush forests, rugged shore­lines, moun­tain streams, wa­ter­falls and fra­grant fyn­bos make this a spe­cial one. It’s stren­u­ous, with lots of ups and downs, but the dis­tances aren’t too great.

If you want the scenery but less slog and more lux­ury, try the Dol­phin Trail. It tra­verses sim­i­lar ter­rain to the Ot­ter – join­ing up with it in places – but in­stead of hik­ing huts you stay in fully catered guest houses with great views and good food.Your pack is trans­ported to your next overnight spot by ve­hi­cle, and you need carry only a day pack with you.

The Wild Coast of the East­ern Cape of­fers sim­i­lar trails but dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent scenery in the form of miles of de­serted beaches, wave-lashed rocks and oc­ca­sional trop­i­cal for­est. Ac­com­mo­da­tion is in coastal ho­tels in­stead of huts. Hik­ers usu­ally carry their own packs, but you can ar­range to have it driven around, if you plan ahead.

Purists can also tackle the rougher side of the Wild Coast as there are kilo­me­tres of un­spoiled hik­ing trails travers­ing high moun­tains and forests, where the ac­com­mo­da­tion is the usual hik­ing hut, and the cui­sine what­ever you have de­cided to carry with you.

The Strand­loper Hik­ing Trail, on the Transkei coast, cov­ers 60 km over four days, start­ing at Kei Mouth and fin­ish­ing at Gonu­bie. A lit­eral trans­la­tion from Afrikaans for “strand­loper” is beach walker, which gives one an idea of what to ex­pect. An

eas­ier op­tion, the Strand­loper Sun­downer Trail, is also avail­able.

For an even wilder ex­pe­ri­ence, you can hike for days in the Ceder­berg, not too far from Cape Town, or the Drak­ens­berg in KwaZulu-Natal, with­out see­ing a hut or even a route marker. Th­ese are des­ig­nated wilder­ness ar­eas, and you sim­ply take a map and a per­mit and set off, sleep­ing un­der the stars or in caves if you hap­pen to come across one.

The Num-Num Trail in Mpumalanga is a five-day, 42-km hik­ing trail that passes through a va­ri­ety of pris­tine land­scapes, from yel­low­wood forests to sand­stone mazes and open grass­lands. There are also al­most 1,000 wa­ter­falls in the area, in­clud­ing the Uitkom­ste Falls – the high­est in Mpumalanga.

Of course, the most im­por­tant as­pect of a hik­ing trail is that you don’t con­stantly bump into other peo­ple.And the only way to en­sure that is to limit num­bers, which means do­ing a lit­tle re­search ahead of time and book­ing well in ad­vance.The fol­low­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions and on­line re­sources could prove in­valu­able in this re­gard.

THE EAST­ERN CAPE & WILD COAST

Ac­tive Es­capes (www.ac­tive-es­capes.co.za) is a lead­ing author­ity on Wild Coast hik­ing, from tra­di­tional back­pack­ing trails to fully sup­ported “slack­pack­ing” hol­i­days. They also of­fer fully guided hik­ing trails in the Drak­ens­berg, East­ern Cape Highlands and KZN Mid­lands, as well as more chal­leng­ing Drak­ens­berg hikes with a reg­is­tered moun­tain guide.

Drifters (www.drifters.co.za), a tour op­er­a­tor, of­fers a tour that fea­tures a choice of hik­ing or cy­cling on the Wild Coast. Wild Coast Holiday Reser­va­tions (www.wild­coasthol­i­days.co.za) of­fer ex­cit­ing holiday op­tions in the Wild Coast. Their choice of hik­ing trails in­cludes the Hole-in-the-Wall Trail, the Wild Coast Me­an­der, the Wild Coast Am­ble, and the Wild Coast Pondo. Wild Moun­tain Ad­ven­tures (www.wild­moun­tainad­ven­tures.co.za) op­er­ates in the beau­ti­ful moun­tain­ous re­gions of the East­ern Cape, and spe­cialise in lux­ury ad­ven­ture trails as well as tai­lor-made ac­tiv­ity hol­i­days, fully catered in beau­ti­ful farm-stay ac­com­mo­da­tion.

KWAZULU-NATAL

Berg Free (www.bergfree.co.za) is run by Dave Sclan­ders, a reg­is­tered moun­tain guide. He of­fers hikes in the Drak­ens­berg which range from one day to five days in length. De­scrip­tions of the hikes are pro­vided, along with ex­ten­sive safety in­for­ma­tion, pho­tos, and feed­back from hik­ers.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (www.kzn­wildlife.com) over­sees the many game parks in KwaZulu-Natal.They have a sec­tion on hik­ing, which in­cludes a weekly hik­ing re­port, links to weather re­ports, safety in­for­ma­tion and tips.

Peak High Moun­taineer­ing (www.peakhigh.co.za) of­fers trekking, rock-climb­ing, ice-climb­ing, and Moun­tain De­vel­op­ment Trust Cour­ses in moun­taineer­ing, trekking and ab­seil­ing. SHAKAbarker Tours (www.shakabarker.co.za) is lo­cated in St Lu­cia, and op­er­ates in the iSi­man­gal­iso Wet­land Park and the Hluh­luwe/Um­folozi Game Re­serve.They of­fer a num­ber of dif­fer­ent trails, in­clud­ing the 65 km Emoyeni Trail.

SA Ad­ven­ture Trails (www.trails.co.za) is based in Hil­ton and of­fers a num­ber of trails all over South Africa.

Spanafrican Ad­ven­tures (www.spanafrican-ad­ven­tures.co.za) or­gan­ises hik­ing ex­pe­di­tions in the Ukhahlamba Drak­ens­berg World Her­itage Park, rang­ing from day hikes to seven-day tra­verses on top of the escarpment. In­cluded in the of­fer­ings is the 60 km Giants Cup trail, the only es­tab­lished trail in the Drak­ens­berg.

GAUTENG

The Boks­burg Hik­ing Club (www.boks­burghik­ing.co.za) meets on the first Wednesday of ev­ery month. They or­gan­ise trails, and a hik­ing pro­gramme is avail­able on the club’s web­site. Jo­han­nes­burg Hik­ing Club (www.jhb­hik­ing.co.za) or­gan­ises

hikes and hik­ing-re­lated events, and fos­ters a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards the en­vi­ron­ment.

WESTERN CAPE

Cape Na­ture (www.cape­na­ture.co.za) pro­vides in­for­ma­tion on nu­mer­ous out­door ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing hik­ing – from one-day to multi-day trips in the prov­ince’s many na­ture re­serves.

Ex­cel­sior Wine Walks (www.ex­cel­siorguest­house.co.za) of­fers some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent: a three-day walk through beau­ti­ful Cape vine­yards and or­chards that in­cludes vis­its to a num­ber of winer­ies.

Gar­den Route Hik­ing Trails (www.gar­den­route.com) has in­for­ma­tion on dif­fer­ent routes which are also rated ac­cord­ing to dif­fi­culty. High Ad­ven­ture Africa (www.high­ad­ven­ture.co.za) is a moun­tain guid­ing and train­ing com­pany based in CapeTown.They of­fer guid­ing ser­vices that cover the Cape Penin­sula moun­tain chain and other Cape moun­tain ranges, as well as other parts of South Africa and Namibia.

Hike and Trail Run Cape Town (hike­capetown.co.za) is a com­pre­hen­sive site that focuses on day hikes in the Cape Penin­sula.Walks are graded ac­cord­ing to dif­fi­culty.

Na­maqua Sil­ver Sand­sTrails & 4X4 (www.na­maquasil­ver­sands.co.za) of­fers the fully-catered, six-day Na­maqua Coastal Tour, as well as the self-catered Na­maqua Coastal Tour.

Ridg­way Ram­blers (www.ridg­wayra­m­blers.co.za) of­fer guided tours and op­er­ate out of Cape Town.Ta­ble Moun­tain is a favourite venue, but the hikes go fur­ther afield too.

Sand­piper Sa­faris (www.sand­piper­sa­faris.co.za) pro­vides ac­com­mo­da­tion and hik­ing sa­faris in Bog­goms­baai, close to Mos­sel Bay.

Ven­ture Forth In­ter­na­tional (www.ven­ture­forth.co.za) is based in Cape Town and in­cor­po­rates the Cape Town School of Moun­taineer­ing. It’s a spe­cialised moun­tain guide ser­vice and an ac­cred­ited moun­taineer­ing school.They of­fer guided hikes in the Ceder­berg, Swart­berg, and Drak­ens­berg moun­tains, as well as on Ta­ble Moun­tain.

The Trails Club of South Africa (www.trailsclub.co.za) is based in Cape Town and of­fers a wide va­ri­ety of hikes and trails in var­i­ous parts of SA.

LIMPOPO & MPUMALANGA

Serendip­ity Eco Trails (www.serendip­i­ty­trails.co.za) is sit­u­ated on a beau­ti­ful Bushveld farm called Tierk­loof, near Polok­wane.The hik­ing op­tions in­clude 16- and 24-km trails, with overnight stays in com­fort­able bush camps.

Ko­mati­land Eco-Tourism (www.trails.co.za), which op­er­ates out of Nel­spruit, of­fers hik­ing, 4×4 trails and moun­tain bik­ing. There are seven overnight hik­ing trails and eight-day trail op­tions, all fea­tur­ing won­der­ful scenery.

ON­LINE RE­SOURCES

Info Hub (www.in­fo­hub.com) has a list of hik­ing and trekking tours. Each of the tours in­cludes com­pre­hen­sive in­for­ma­tion on the itin­er­ary and links to tour op­er­a­tors.

Linx Africa – Trails in South­ern Africa (www.linx­africa.com) is a use­ful re­source which has in­for­ma­tion about the hik­ing trails avail­able in each prov­ince.

South African Na­tional Parks (www.san­parks.co.za): Click on the links to Game Parks run by SAN­Parks to find out more about hik­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in each of them.

South African Hik­ing Trails (www.hik­ing­southafrica.co.za) has in­for­ma­tion on more than 300 trails. Use­ful de­tails such as du­ra­tion, lay­out, dif­fi­culty and dis­tance are pro­vided.

Trail Guide South Africa (www.trail­guide.co.za) is con­tin­u­ally adding new trails around South Africa, in­clud­ing hik­ing and moun­tain-bik­ing trails, and has put to­gether an im­pres­sive list of routes on an app.

NA­TIONAL

Ad­ven­ture Dy­nam­ics In­ter­na­tional (ad­ven­ture­dy­nam­ics.co.za) spe­cialises in or­gan­is­ing moun­tain and trekking lo­gis­tics and guided moun­taineer­ing ex­pe­di­tions world­wide. They also of­fer team build­ing through Peak Teams.

Foot­print Hik­ing Club (www.foot­print.co.za) of­fers pic­to­rial re­ports on var­i­ous trails, as well as writ­ten re­ports. A hik­ing cal­en­dar is in­cluded, as well as ad­vice on hik­ing equip­ment, hik­ing with chil­dren, and how to start hik­ing.

The Moun­tain Club of South Africa (www.mcsa.org.za) reg­u­larly or­gan­ises hikes in var­i­ous parts of the coun­try rang­ing from short day walks to multi-day tra­verses.

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