Drakensberg

South Africa: A Hiker’s Guide to Another World

With the arrival of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere, outdoor activities are a must and you can’t go past hiking in South Africa. After all, the country boasts some of the most exceptional trails in the world, and there are over 1,000 to choose from.

Taking advantage of the cooler temps, even if you’re not the fittest or most adventurous of naturalists but still crave the wild and free feeling of going on a quest, you’ll have a much better chance of conserving your energy and going that much further or higher. There is lesser risk of bumping into other people too which, let’s face it, is a huge part of the charm of taking the road less travelled (or, in some cases here, completely untravelled).

Experience the magnificent Otter Trail in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Experience the magnificent Otter Trail in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Picture it: just you sporting your hiking boots and backpack, trekking uncharted territory.

If that sounds a little too ‘rough’ for you though, depending on where you’re hiking, and if you’re alone or with a group, you can always hire a guide, have your gear dropped off to the next rest point, and stay in luxury cabins rather than bunk down in a cave or under the massive starry sky. It’s your pick.

One of the most appealing aspects of hiking in South Africa is the varied terrain. You’ll find awesome trails in each of the nine provinces, each of which offers magnificent scenery, challenges and surprises.

The Otter Trail along the Tsitsikamma coast is one of the most popular multi-day hikes you’ll find. Stretching from the Storms River Mouth in the East to Nature’s Valley in the West, you can expect lush forests, rugged shorelines, mountain streams and waterfalls, and fragrant fynbos. It’s 42km long and takes 5 days to complete but, while it’s strenuous, the distances aren’t too great. And you’ll have the sea mist of the Indian Ocean to refresh you the whole time as it’s always within sight.

If you enjoy coastal hiking, maybe also consider the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape that offers similar hiking with dramatically different scenery. Think endless stretches of beach with wave-lashed rocks and intermittent forest.

Exquisite Coffee Bay on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast. Photo credit: www.en.wikipedia.org

Exquisite Coffee Bay on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast. Photo credit: www.en.wikipedia.org

Another un-missable hike in South Africa is the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Although, aptly listed by National Geographic as one of the world’s best “grail trails”, this is one you might want to start training for! Despite being shorter than The Otter Trail (a mere 20-30 kilometres taken over 3 days), it is particularly challenging, and recommended only for seasoned hikers accompanied by a guide. It will take you to the top of the second longest waterfall in the world via ascending chain ladders!

The uKhahlamba peaks (meaning "barrier of spears in Zulu) along the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike. Photo credit: www.flickr.com

The uKhahlamba peaks (meaning “barrier of spears in Zulu) along the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike. Photo credit: www.flickr.com

And if that isn’t enough of a challenge for you, try the Amathole Trail (120km over 6 days) from Madam Dam, about 22km outside of King Williams Town to the Tyume River about 3km outside of Hogsback, an arty eco-village perfect for recovery. The landscape along this hike is so picturesque, it might even give you inspiration to write your own fictional masterpiece as it did J.R.R. Tolkien with The Lord of the Rings!

Hogsback, at the end of the Amatole Trail, transports you to another world. Photo credit: www.getaway.co.za

Hogsback, at the end of the Amatole Trail, transports you to another world. Photo credit: www.getaway.co.za

If all this sounds too strenuous though, don’t be put off. There are many gentler hikes to do too, and some that are guaranteed to heighten all of your senses. Accompanied by experienced rangers, you can join the Kruger Wilderness Trails in the iconic region bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe for about 50km over 2.5 days. You’ll cover some of the two million hectares of grassland, acacia-studded plains, bushveld, mopaneveld and tropical riverine forest inhabited by the Big Five. Depending on where your trail takes you, you could spot hippos and crocodiles at the river (Olifants Trail), or see lions hunting on the thorn-tree savannah (Sweni Trail) and hear them roaring at night.

Feel the hairs on your neck rise as you come across the Big Five on one of the Kruger Wilderness Trails. Photo credit: www.krugerpark.co.za

No matter your experience or fitness levels, South Africa has a hiking trail for you. With registered trails in all nine provinces, facilities, information and guides standing by, you have no excuse for not getting out into the wild on foot and experiencing the beauty of South Africa first hand.

Not for the fainthearted! Photo credit: Ariadne Van Zandenbergen, www.adventure.nationalgeographic.com

Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg… not for the fainthearted! Photo credit: Ariadne Van Zandenbergen, www.adventure.nationalgeographic.com

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

TRAVEL TIPS & PLANNING INFO

WHO TO CONTACT

South African National Parks
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111

The Hiking Organisation of South Africa
Mobile: +27 (0)83 532 5557
Email: hosavosa@gmail.com

Footprint Hiking Club Mobile:
+27 (0)82 456 7020
Email: bookings@footprint.co.za

South Africa: A Hiker’s Guide to Another World

With the arrival of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere, outdoor activities are a must and you can’t go past hiking in South Africa. After all, the country boasts some of the most exceptional trails in the world, and there are over 1,000 to choose from.

Taking advantage of the cooler temps, even if you’re not the fittest or most adventurous of naturalists but still crave the wild and free feeling of going on a quest, you’ll have a much better chance of conserving your energy and going that much further or higher. There is lesser risk of bumping into other people too which, let’s face it, is a huge part of the charm of taking the road less travelled (or, in some cases here, completely untravelled).

Experience the magnificent Otter Trail in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Experience the magnificent Otter Trail in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Picture it: just you sporting your hiking boots and backpack, trekking uncharted territory.

If that sounds a little too ‘rough’ for you though, depending on where you’re hiking, and if you’re alone or with a group, you can always hire a guide, have your gear dropped off to the next rest point, and stay in luxury cabins rather than bunk down in a cave or under the massive starry sky. It’s your pick.

One of the most appealing aspects of hiking in South Africa is the varied terrain. You’ll find awesome trails in each of the nine provinces, each of which offers magnificent scenery, challenges and surprises.

The Otter Trail along the Tsitsikamma coast is one of the most popular multi-day hikes you’ll find. Stretching from the Storms River Mouth in the East to Nature’s Valley in the West, you can expect lush forests, rugged shorelines, mountain streams and waterfalls, and fragrant fynbos. It’s 42km long and takes 5 days to complete but, while it’s strenuous, the distances aren’t too great. And you’ll have the sea mist of the Indian Ocean to refresh you the whole time as it’s always within sight.

If you enjoy coastal hiking, maybe also consider the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape that offers similar hiking with dramatically different scenery. Think endless stretches of beach with wave-lashed rocks and intermittent forest.

Exquisite Coffee Bay on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast. Photo credit: www.en.wikipedia.org

Exquisite Coffee Bay on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast. Photo credit: www.en.wikipedia.org

Another un-missable hike in South Africa is the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Although, aptly listed by National Geographic as one of the world’s best “grail trails”, this is one you might want to start training for! Despite being shorter than The Otter Trail (a mere 20-30 kilometres taken over 3 days), it is particularly challenging, and recommended only for seasoned hikers accompanied by a guide. It will take you to the top of the second longest waterfall in the world via ascending chain ladders!

The uKhahlamba peaks (meaning "barrier of spears in Zulu) along the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike. Photo credit: www.flickr.com

The uKhahlamba peaks (meaning “barrier of spears in Zulu) along the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike. Photo credit: www.flickr.com

And if that isn’t enough of a challenge for you, try the Amathole Trail (120km over 6 days) from Madam Dam, about 22km outside of King Williams Town to the Tyume River about 3km outside of Hogsback, an arty eco-village perfect for recovery. The landscape along this hike is so picturesque, it might even give you inspiration to write your own fictional masterpiece as it did J.R.R. Tolkien with The Lord of the Rings!

Hogsback, at the end of the Amatole Trail, transports you to another world. Photo credit: www.getaway.co.za

Hogsback, at the end of the Amatole Trail, transports you to another world. Photo credit: www.getaway.co.za

If all this sounds too strenuous though, don’t be put off. There are many gentler hikes to do too, and some that are guaranteed to heighten all of your senses. Accompanied by experienced rangers, you can join the Kruger Wilderness Trails in the iconic region bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe for about 50km over 2.5 days. You’ll cover some of the two million hectares of grassland, acacia-studded plains, bushveld, mopaneveld and tropical riverine forest inhabited by the Big Five. Depending on where your trail takes you, you could spot hippos and crocodiles at the river (Olifants Trail), or see lions hunting on the thorn-tree savannah (Sweni Trail) and hear them roaring at night.

Feel the hairs on your neck rise as you come across the Big Five on one of the Kruger Wilderness Trails. Photo credit: www.krugerpark.co.za

No matter your experience or fitness levels, South Africa has a hiking trail for you. With registered trails in all nine provinces, facilities, information and guides standing by, you have no excuse for not getting out into the wild on foot and experiencing the beauty of South Africa first hand.

Not for the fainthearted! Photo credit: Ariadne Van Zandenbergen, www.adventure.nationalgeographic.com

Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg… not for the fainthearted! Photo credit: Ariadne Van Zandenbergen, www.adventure.nationalgeographic.com

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

TRAVEL TIPS & PLANNING INFO

WHO TO CONTACT

South African National Parks
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111

The Hiking Organisation of South Africa
Mobile: +27 (0)83 532 5557
Email: hosavosa@gmail.com

Footprint Hiking Club Mobile:
+27 (0)82 456 7020
Email: bookings@footprint.co.za

Affordable Adventure in South Africa

South Africa is a paradise for those travellers with a thirst for adventure! There are plenty of outdoor activities in South Africa which will get the heart racing, but won’t break the bank. You can hike a mountain, surf a wave, dive with sharks, take on South African mountain bike trails or even jump off the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban at The Big Rush.

When visiting South Africa there is no excuse not to take a good long walk. No matter where you are staying there is ample opportunity to get out there and get moving. In Mpumalanga, some of the best hiking on offer is in and around the scenic Blyde River Canyon and along the Panorama Route (which offers lots of great adventure activities too). The Free State is another great place for hiking and there are several world class trails on offer in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. If you’re in the Western Cape then hot-footing it up Table Mountain is always an option – with a cable car offering amazing views of Cape Town you could always treat yourself on the way down! Another great hiking option is the Garden Route’s Dolphin Trail with its gorgeous views of the coastline and mountain ranges.

Mpumalanga Trail

Image source: SA-Venues

Surfing is an integral part of South African culture. From the colder Cape waters to the tropical warmth of the Indian Ocean, young and old mingle at popular surf spots from early morning until sundown with a single goal – to pick the best wave of the day and ride it all the way to the beach. Big wave surfers should try their skills at extreme surf spots such as Kalk Bay Reef on False Bay and Dungeons in Hout Bay. Such sections of water should, however, only be attempted by those who know what they are doing.

For the beginners, South Africa offers a choice of surf schools that will have you out there in the breakers, learning to surf and making new friends in no time at all! If you’re a beginner looking to catch your first wave in Durban, don’t look past Addlington Beach for small, consistent waves guaranteed to ignite your passion for surfing.

south-africa-surfing

Image source: TNT Magazine

The Big Rush Rope Swing asks adventurous travellers to take a leap of faith by stepping off the roof of the Moses Mabhida Stadium. The Big Rush is listed in the Guinness World Records as the tallest swing in the world! Those brave enough to take the leap will face a 60 metre free-fall at a speed of over 120kph. If you’re travelling with people who don’t share your taste for adventure, they can watch your jump from the comfort of the Base café in the Big Rush Stadium Shop – so don’t forget to smile for the cameras! The stadium jump will set you back $74 (AUD) and takes place daily from 9am – 5pm, weather permitting.

Enjoy the experience of a lifetime and go shark cage diving on the Great White Trail. Great White sharks are seasonal animals so get yourself to the Cape in June, July or August where you’ll not only have an excellent chance of seeing them, but also to watch them breach and hunt. SharkExplorers in Cape Town offer a range of cage diving experiences. The White Shark adventures take place in False Bay, which is a 30-minute drive from Cape Town and is a Great White Shark hotspot. The tour starts out before dawn and as well as getting close and personal with these sharks in their natural habitat you’ll be able to witness the power of the Great White Sharks as they launch themselves out of the water to catch their prey safely from the SharkExplorers boat. Prices start from $158 (AUD).

Great White Shark Diving

In South Africa, mountain biking has become a tremendously popular sport, and there are new trails opening up all the time. There are some timeless classics though, in glorious surroundings. The Cederberg Mountains and the Drakensberg within sight of whales at De Hoop or in the forests of Knysna. Mountain biking in South Africa offers options for all skill and fitness levels. Some trails and tracks are as short as 10km, while others, like the magnificent Cederberg Mountain Bike Trail in Clanwilliam, can take you over 170 km of the most dramatic rocky terrain you could wish for!

These affordable adventure activities are bound to make your South African trip a memorable one.

Affordable Adventure in South Africa

South Africa is a paradise for those travellers with a thirst for adventure! There are plenty of outdoor activities in South Africa which will get the heart racing, but won’t break the bank. You can hike a mountain, surf a wave, dive with sharks, take on South African mountain bike trails or even jump off the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban at The Big Rush.

When visiting South Africa there is no excuse not to take a good long walk. No matter where you are staying there is ample opportunity to get out there and get moving. In Mpumalanga, some of the best hiking on offer is in and around the scenic Blyde River Canyon and along the Panorama Route (which offers lots of great adventure activities too). The Free State is another great place for hiking and there are several world class trails on offer in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. If you’re in the Western Cape then hot-footing it up Table Mountain is always an option – with a cable car offering amazing views of Cape Town you could always treat yourself on the way down! Another great hiking option is the Garden Route’s Dolphin Trail with its gorgeous views of the coastline and mountain ranges.

Mpumalanga Trail

Image source: SA-Venues

Surfing is an integral part of South African culture. From the colder Cape waters to the tropical warmth of the Indian Ocean, young and old mingle at popular surf spots from early morning until sundown with a single goal – to pick the best wave of the day and ride it all the way to the beach. Big wave surfers should try their skills at extreme surf spots such as Kalk Bay Reef on False Bay and Dungeons in Hout Bay. Such sections of water should, however, only be attempted by those who know what they are doing.

For the beginners, South Africa offers a choice of surf schools that will have you out there in the breakers, learning to surf and making new friends in no time at all! If you’re a beginner looking to catch your first wave in Durban, don’t look past Addlington Beach for small, consistent waves guaranteed to ignite your passion for surfing.

south-africa-surfing

Image source: TNT Magazine

The Big Rush Rope Swing asks adventurous travellers to take a leap of faith by stepping off the roof of the Moses Mabhida Stadium. The Big Rush is listed in the Guinness World Records as the tallest swing in the world! Those brave enough to take the leap will face a 60 metre free-fall at a speed of over 120kph. If you’re travelling with people who don’t share your taste for adventure, they can watch your jump from the comfort of the Base café in the Big Rush Stadium Shop – so don’t forget to smile for the cameras! The stadium jump will set you back $74 (AUD) and takes place daily from 9am – 5pm, weather permitting.

Enjoy the experience of a lifetime and go shark cage diving on the Great White Trail. Great White sharks are seasonal animals so get yourself to the Cape in June, July or August where you’ll not only have an excellent chance of seeing them, but also to watch them breach and hunt. SharkExplorers in Cape Town offer a range of cage diving experiences. The White Shark adventures take place in False Bay, which is a 30-minute drive from Cape Town and is a Great White Shark hotspot. The tour starts out before dawn and as well as getting close and personal with these sharks in their natural habitat you’ll be able to witness the power of the Great White Sharks as they launch themselves out of the water to catch their prey safely from the SharkExplorers boat. Prices start from $158 (AUD).

Great White Shark Diving

In South Africa, mountain biking has become a tremendously popular sport, and there are new trails opening up all the time. There are some timeless classics though, in glorious surroundings. The Cederberg Mountains and the Drakensberg within sight of whales at De Hoop or in the forests of Knysna. Mountain biking in South Africa offers options for all skill and fitness levels. Some trails and tracks are as short as 10km, while others, like the magnificent Cederberg Mountain Bike Trail in Clanwilliam, can take you over 170 km of the most dramatic rocky terrain you could wish for!

These affordable adventure activities are bound to make your South African trip a memorable one.