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The 10 Most Memorable Hikes in South Africa

In South Africa there is so much to watch, grow, learn, seek and enjoy. Also nature and landscapes surroundings, wildlife are in abundance. You can never feel bored when visiting this wonderful and amazing country.  If you really love to explore some of the wonders of this land then it is better to trek or walk to the countryside. Here are the 10 most artistic and natural hikes for you to enjoy.

1. Whale Hiking Trail

Whale Hiking Trail

Located in Western Cape De Hoop Area

De Hoop is one of the largest natural areas managed by CapeNature. This beautiful reserve is a favourite for hikers, cyclists, and bird and whale watchers. The reserve, which is 34 000 hectares, is just three hours from Cape Town, in the Overberg. De Hoop has one of the best hiking trails in South Africa: the Whale Trail. The Whale trail has been said to be the “Sun City of hiking routes” and is renowned to be one of the best whale watching spots on the globe.

This route offers coastal and mountain walking, with spectacular views and, of course, plenty of opportunities for whale watching. This route is a five-day trail which is done in groups featuring well-equipped accommodation on each of the five nights, including the newly-built Noetsie cottages, which are your stopover between days two and three. But remember you need to book in advance. To complete this 55 km stretch is not much cheap but costs R1695 per person + R480 per person (portage).

2. Sentinel Peak Hiking Trail

Sentinel Hiking

Located in KwaZulu-Natal, Free State on the western side of Drakensberg

The Sentinel Peak trail is also known as the ‘chain ladders’ hike is a walk that you will love. This is a single day hike if you love rocks and mountains. It is advisable to have a guide and be prepared before you venture on this hike.

You will find a steep, path that skirts in a series of zig zags  to the base of the Sentinel where you reach the chain ladders. These are high enough up the mountain to immediately scale the vertical face of the Mont-Aux-Sources massif. This area incorporates portions of the natal Drakens berg and the Maluti Mountains and is dominated by the Amphitheatre, Sentinel, Eastern Buttress, Malutis round to Babagibona.

This fascinating mountain range rises approximately 3,475 meters and it extends itself for 1.125 km’ s parallel to the south-eastern coast of South Africa. For hikers, this means an almost endless wonder through rocky terrain with breath-taking views. Rock paintings have been found in the area dating back several thousands of years and are worth looking out for. For those with a little bit more experience, a hike to Sentinel Peak will see you at the highest free standing peak in the Central Drakensberg.

The main rivers are the Tugela, the Namahadi, the Mesti Matsho and the Mahai, which have numerous tributaries and to name but a few: The Vemvaan River & The Gudu River. All of these streams have many beautiful pools and waterfalls.

The entire area is vast and includes some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. This is a challenging hike and some parts of the route involve short- chain ladders and very rugged terrain. The result of your efforts will be the view from the top after the 6 km walk. For costs per person price is on request and can be had by email sarah@active-escapes.co.za or call at +27 (0)84 240 7277

3. Ukhahlamba Amphitheatre Hiking Trail

Ukhahlamba

Located in KwaZulu-Natal / Free State

The Amphitheatre is the most outstanding feature of the Drakensberg mountain range. It is a World Heritage Site of outstanding environmental and cultural significance.
The Amphitheatre is a mighty wall of basalt which rises over 1000 metres from the Tugela Valley to the Lesotho plateau nearly 3000 metres above sea level. The Amphitheatre gains much of its aesthetic appeal from its near perfect symmetry extending as a sheer wall of rock some 5 kilometres in length from the Eastern Buttress to the Sentinel Peak in the west, altogether an area of majestic and incomparable beauty.

The Tugela Falls, the world’s second tallest falls (and the highest in Africa), plunges 948m over the basalt face of the Amphitheatre, down to Royal Natal National Park below. The highest point on the escarpment is the Mont-Aux-Sources at 3283m. Also a home to the largest collection of bushmen paintings south of the Sahara this three day slackpacking trail is designed to allow people of average fitness to enjoy the wonders of nature. For this 33 km trail costs between R3100-R3450 for a couple is required.

4. Olifantsbos Shipwreck Hiking Trail

Olifantosbos

Located in Western Cape.

The Cape has been a trading post for more than 500 years, by the early Portuguese explorers to Dutch, English and French vessels hitting the cape and their each wreck chronicles the life and times of its crew. More than 2 700 shipwrecks have been identified along the South African coast, a large proportion having succumbed to the treacherous rugged coastline of the Cape Point.

Although many ships lie deep below the icy waters off Cape Point, others can still be seen today on the Olifantsbos Shipwreck Trail, also known as the Thomas T Tucker shipwreck trail. Since the trail falls within the Cape Point Nature Reserve, an added bonus is walking amid the indigenous flora and fauna to be found at this southern tip of the African continent. More than 1 200 endemic plant species grow here, and wildlife roaming freely include baboon, Cape mountain zebra, red hartebeest, ostrich, Cape grysbok and bontebok.

Right on the water’s edge you’ll see distinctive African black oystercatchers with red legs and beaks, and the ubiquitous kelp gulls, often squabbling over a kelp frond. You can have more details from the information pamphlet and map  at the Buffelsfontein Visitors Centre and take a relaxing meander through the Cape Point Nature Reserve. This 3-5 km trail costs R110 per person.

5. Blyderivierspoort Hiking Trail

Blyderivierspoort

Located in Mpumalanga.

Hiking in Mpumalanga is to witness the world’s deepest canyons, mountains, rivers, forests and waterfalls. You can walk a half-day trail, stride out for a full day, or take a 4- or 5- day hike for some solace far from city life. Red cliffs rear up from the canyon base, waterfalls cascade into deep pools in thick forest birds sing and small animals skitter in the undergrowth. There’s an abundance of biodiversity. There are also great hikes in the Graskop and Sabie areas. If you hike the two-and-a-half day Blyderivierspoort hiking trail you’ll start at God’s Window and finish at Bourke’s Luck Potholes with two overnight stops.

The 72km Fanie Botha hiking trail, situated in the Sabie area, can be broken up into two-, three-, four-, or five-night options , all with varying degrees of difficulty, from easy and moderate, to difficult. This trail takes you through some of Mpumalanga’s most beautiful scenery including waterfalls, mountains, forests and God’s Window. As a bird watcher you will find yourseld in a feathery heaven with the chance of spotting blue cranes, chorister robins, Verreaux’s (black) eagles, the Knysna lourie and scores more, plus lots of small game such as antelopes, baboons and monkeys. This full hike is five days, with the last two days being optional and covers 60 km that costs affordable price R100 per person

6. Amatola Hiking Trail

Amatola

Located in Eastern Cape Maden Dam near King Williams Town

This is beautiful six day finest trails in South Africa. “Amatola” is Xhosa for “the place of many young calves” as it’s protected forests and glades were ideal for raising cattle. The trail starts at Maden dam near King Williams Town and traverses the Hogsback mountains with the Keiskammahoek valley below, finally finishing at Tyume forest station 3km from Hogsback. You may want to use the charming hobbit like village of Hogsback as your base and arrange a tranfer to the start of the trail.

More than half the trail is through ancient indigenous rainforest with enormous outeniqua yellowwood and redwood trees being the gaurdians of the forest. Sneezewood, wild olive and lemonwood with it’s distinctive spiral bark are also abundant. As are numerous coloured fungi, ground and tree orchids, harebells, watsonias, falling stars, and red hot pokers. Orchestras of cicadas will obliterate all conciousness of the outside world as you immerse yourself in the dappled sunlight and never ending waterfalls. The Amatola trail often offers different routes which you can select based on weather and your health.

You will love to watch variety of Birdlife like knysna louries, cape parrots, crowned eagles, barbets, woodpeckers, flycatchers, robins, and even black eagles around Geju peak. Animals you may encounter include giant golden moles, giant earthworms, bushbuck, duiler, porcupines, bush pig, otters, baboons, samango and vervet monkeys. This 100 km long trail cost can be known from amatolhk@dwaf.gov.za or by phone +27 43 642 2571

7. Strandloper Hiking Trail

Strandloper

Located in Eastern Cape
The Strandloper Trail runs from the Kei River Mouth to Gonubie almot 60 kms of gorgeous beaches, rivers, cliff tops and coastal forests. It’s not called Strandloper meaning beach walker. Most of the hike travails beaches and the accompanying waves, shorelines, tidal pools and incredible sand dunes, estuaries and coastal forests. This 5 day trial will have you look into some good stops en route at hotels and pubs where you can get good meals. Also a challenge to cross one or two difficult river crossings and the fact that the last two hours of the hike where you can view the most magnificent environment and lanscape.

If you want to enjoy this trail with more  comfort and then you can go for Strandloper’s Sundowner Trail which has the same route but sleeping in hotels with your luggage  carried for you with some extra costs. Otherwise this 59 km stretch costs R650 per person

8. Otter Hiking Trail

Otter Trail

Located in Eastern Cape

Otter Trail is the most popular hike in the world known as the prince of hiking. This five-day trail, commences at the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp and stretches westward as far as the Groot River estuary at Nature’s Valley, covering  a distance of about 43 km. Accommodation is provided in four beautifully appointed overnight camps, i.e. Ngubu, Scott, Oakhurst  and André .

You will experience the magnificent scenery and astonishing rock formations and see how the gushing water forms rivers and waterfalls, which carve their way through ravines and give birth to tranquil freshwater pools and crystal clear streams, winding through the forest with its diverse flora, fragrant fynbos and fungi. A variety of diverse animal species also survive in this environment and insects and birds form a backdrop of sound and song. Huge indigenous trees with moss-bearded branches, watch over their domain like giant guardians.

You’ll need to book the Otter Trail well in advance if you intend walking it. Also kids below 12 and persons above 65 are not allowed. The trail costs R1000 per person.

9. Skeleton Gorge Hiking Trail

Skeleton Gorge

Located in Western Cape.

Skeleton Gorge is Table Mountain’s most scenic and adventurous  hiking route within the Kirstenbosh grounds. It starts off from the Fragrance Garden and follows Skeleton Stream up Table Mountain. While the trails’s first half is largely limited to forested ravines, the second half takes in the majority of Table Mountain’s floral zones, and offers magnificent panoramic views of Cape Town. The hike takes approximately 6- 8 hours to complete.  You can cover this 6.5 km trail in R50

10. Garden Route Hiking Trail

Garden Route

Located in Garden Route, Western Cape

To experience the beautiful surroundings of South Africa walking a Garden Route Trail is the best way to observe the spectacular scenery ranging from ancient forests to memorable seascapes. The Garden Route Trail is the most ecologically diverse walking trail in South Africa. A wonderful way to experience South Africa’s famed Garden Route is on a guided trail. Choose from a variety of hiking trails that will take you deep into one of South Africa’s most spectacular scenic areas.

If you have the time and are reasonably walking fit, opt for the guided five-day Slackpacker Trail that traverses the coast 63km from Wilderness to Brenton on Sea. You’ll walk through two nature reserves – the Goukamma and the Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park. On this walking trail you’ll see an amazing variety of scenery, from Afro-montane and dune forests to coastal thickets and gorgeous beaches.

Also you’ll canoe for three hours along the Touws River, splashing under refreshing cascades and swimming in deep rock pools. Also you will be spending time on beaches surrounded by  dolphins, African black oystercatchers and a cliff colony of Cape and white-breasted cormorants for company.

Also you can go for the 6km Dune Mole Rat Trail, which meanders through a wetland area in a Ramsar Heritage site. You’ll see birds galore. Or choose the popular and unforgettable three-hour Moonlight Meander and Starlight Stroll. Or what about the Elephant Walk where you’ll be guided along former elephant trails in the Diepvalle forest. This 7 long day trail covers 108 kms and starts at Beervlei Hut, an old forest station, and finishes at Harkerville hut near another forestry station. It costs around R5000-R6000 depending on number of hikers.