OUTDOOR ESCAPES SOUTH AFRICAN HIKING BUCKET LIST
1. Otter trail
Inaugurated in 1968, the Otter Trail is the oldest official hiking trail in South Africa, making it an absolute must for any keen hiker’s must-do list. The trail starts at the Storms River Mouth rest camp in the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park, winding its way along cliff tops, through forests and along beaches to the Groot Rivier Estuary at Nature’s Valley.
Accommodation is extremely rustic, with no hot water and electricity, but cold showers are a small price to pay for the dazzling scenery exploding all around you every step of the way.
Number of days: 5 days (4 nights)
Difficulty: Hikers should be fit and strong enough to take on steep up- and downhills as well as a number of river crossings. Previous hiking experience is advised.
More info: Visit the SANParks website
2. Fish river canyon
Technically NOT in south africa but still a must-do for all South Africans. Exploring the world’s second-largest canyon on foot – I mean! Does it get any more epic? Second, only to the Grand Canyon in the US, the Fish River Canyon in Namibia stretches 180km from Seeheim in the north to the Orange River in the south. The trail itself covers just under half of the full distance of the canyon, starting at the viewpoint at Hobas and ending at Ai-Ais Resort and Spa.
Because of its arid climate, it can get very hot during the day and rather cold at night, so be sure to bring the appropriate clothes. Along the way, you will be treated to starkly beautiful scenery, nourishing hot springs, and the starriest skies you’ve ever imagined!
Number of days: 5 days
Difficulty: While there are no sharp inclines as you’d have with a mountain trail, extreme weather conditions, sand, and boulders do pose something of a challenge. You should be relatively fit and have had training before undertaking the trial.
More info: Send an email.
3. Whale trail
If you want to treat yourself to a hike of a slightly more luxurious nature, then the Whale Trail is without a doubt the way to go. Wending its way along the coastal part of the De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Overberg, it’s awash with spectacular ocean vistas, and yes, if you go at the right time of year (June – December), you’re guaranteed to spot whales frolicking with their calves!
So where does the luxury come in? Well, firstly, it’s exclusively a slackpacking trail, which means the bulk of your luggage, as well as all your meals, is transported to your accommodation every day. Secondly, whereas most hikes have rugged overnight huts available to hikers, the Whale Trail offers cozy cottages complete with comfy made beds, fully equipped kitchens, and in-house bathrooms with warm water and flush toilets.
Number of days: 5 days
Difficulty: Although the trail itself is quite challenging, the fact that you need not carry your full heavy backpack (they offer porterage). A medium level of fitness is still required.
More info: Check out the www.dehoopcollection.com/project/hiking-whale-trail/