Hiking in KwaZulu Natal
Hiking in South Africa
There’s no better way to explore a country than on foot, taking in the smells of the sea or bush, enjoying the views and interacting with local people you meet along the way.
A network of long-distance and day trails criss-cross the varied landscapes of South Africa, taking hikers along stretches of unspoilt coastline, to scenic viewpoints, along crystal clear rivers and through indigenous forests and flower-covered plains.
Whatever your fitness level and interest, you’ll find a trail to suit you. There are flat, easy strolls through vineyards or to magnificent natural galleries of San rock art; wonderful walks under leafy canopies; unmarked paths through vast wildernesses; and demanding scrambles to the high peaks that will satisfy the most obsessed peak-baggers.
The greatest density of day walks is in the Western Cape, particularly on and around the Cape Peninsula, in the rugged Cederberg Mountains and on the Garden Route. Table Mountain National Park, which runs the length of the Cape Peninsula from the city to the Cape of Good Hope, has myriad trails, most of which are free.
Further afield, there are spectacular hikes through the fynbos-covered Hottentots-Holland Mountains and in the Overberg, while on the Garden Route, walkers have the choice of meandering to pretty lakes, along golden beaches or enjoying the wildlife of the indigenous forests.
There are few marked trails on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast – but that’s part of its attraction. Rather, you can stride out along the empty beaches and animal paths for as long as the fancy takes you, stopping to swim, to explore little patches of forest and to explore the rock pools. And for the more adventurous, there are strenuous trails in the Amatola Mountains and the untamed Baviaanskloof, where you might bump into buffalo!
The trails in the Northern Cape are particularly attractive from July to September, when the normally arid plains are covered with a blanket of colourful wild flowers, but for most of the year the province, and much of the Karoo and the Free State, is big sky country – the place to escape and enjoy the emptiness and endless views.
Walks in the Drakensberg Mountains, KwaZulu-Natal’s premier hiking area, showcase the area’s rolling grasslands, deeply incised gorges, dramatic sandstone formations and towering basalt peaks. There are gentle trails around the resorts, while the fit and strong can brave the relentless passes that give access to the plateau and free-standing peaks.
The Drakensberg Mountains are home to one of the largest natural art galleries in the world and the exquisite paintings of the San people can be viewed on guided walks to the rock shelters.
Mpumalanga’s Drakensberg escarpment also offers dramatic cliffs and mountain scenery as well as sublime lakelands, tumbling waterfalls and historical sites, which can be explored with or without guides. And on many of the trails in Limpopo, Gauteng and in North West province, there’s a good chance of encountering plains animals, and, every so often, even dangerous game.
Not that you have to venture out of town to commune with nature - you can simply head out on one of the city strolls. Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth can be explored on well-marked, self-guided routes and interpretive guided hikes.
Although often on private farms where advance booking is required, many of the trails are in national parks and wilderness areas managed by CapeNature and MTO Forestry, where you can rock up, lace up your boots and hit the trail. Just don’t forget water and sunscreen.
Articles & Blogs
Monk’s Cowl to Ship’s Prow on the Contour Path6:27pm 30 Apr
By George Brits
This trail starts at the Injesuthi Hutted Camp in the central Drakensberg. The first night is spent at the foot of the Monk’s Cowl valley and the second at the foot of the Ship’s Prow valley. The total distance of the trail is 30km and the total elevation change is 1000m. We completed it over four leisurely days. Only the last night is spent in a cave, making a tent an essential item. Also, we hiked this trail at the beginning of October, just before the onset of the summer rains, so we knew that water was going to be an issue. Not a major issue, but still...
Bannerman Pass – Langalibalele Pass5:08pm 11 Sep
By George Brits
We recently decided to give the Berg a bash, but being a tad out of shape, decided on one of the easier routes to the escarpment: up Bannerman pass, and down Langalibalele pass in the Giant’s Castle section of the park. We did the trail over four days, although it is quite possible to do it in three if you are pressed for time.
The trail starts at the Giant’s Castle Camp in the central Drakensberg. It ascends the little Berg via Bannerman path and the first night...
iSimangaliso Trail Challenge 20186:39pm 25 Mar
Undeniably, one of the best ways to experience the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is on foot, and one of the only ways to explore certain parts of the Park is by entering the iSimangaliso Trail Challenge that will take place from the 28th of June to the 1st of July 2018. Hosted on the edges of the Lake St Lucia Estuary, the event looks set to be a fast sell out. Only two hundred places have been made available for the exquisite course set within South Africa’s first proclaimed World Heritage Site.
To make this experience more accessible, a shorter distance that totals 42km over the three...
Sani Pass Wild Flower Walk3:23pm 31 Dec
The next Sani Pass (and Lesotho) Wild Flower Walk will take place on Sunday 28th January 2018.
This could be your last chance. The upgrading of Sani Pass has now begun. Work has started on the stretch between Good Hope and the South African border post. No one knows when work on the section we walk, the 8km to the Top will begin, so again we say that this may be your last opportunity to walk to Sani Pass before road works take over.
Add a short walk through the botanical wonderland of the Lesotho plateau to your exciting day on the Sani Pass.
And if that’s not...
A Land Before Time11:14pm 6 Sep
Words Keith Bain, pics Keith Bain, Gallo/GettyImages, Courtesy Images
It was some time on the still, untamed side of midnight and I’d just been woken for my night-watch stint.
So I joined my predecessor at the fire, listened to her account of the last hour (no dangerous animals and nothing to report but human snores and a chorus of frogs), and then shook myself fully alert. As she slunk back to her sleeping bag, I focused the torch beam into the distant blackness, despite knowing full well it was impossible to really discern what was out there. Then I added an extra log...
Rhino Conservation Ambassadors on the iMfolozi Wilderness Trail10:05pm 24 Mar
Pics Penny Parker and Micah van Schalkwyk
Leaves for loo paper, voracious sand fleas, toe-nibbling river shrimp, 20kg backpacks to carry supplies for five days, taking turns on night watch to guard the camp, heat, dirt and walking among wildlife – these were some of the challenges faced by seven women who recently completed an iMfolozi Wilderness Trail in memory of the late Dr Ian Player. Teenagers Gwendolyn Isaacs from Ballito, KZN (18), Jacomé Pretorius (16) from George, Western Cape, and Kelly Dramos (16) from Maputo, Mozambique, said it was one of the best experiences...
Hawaan Forest Walk9:30am 3 Mar
On the edge of Umhlanga Rocks lies a mystical forest full of breathtaking archways, vines and hidden alcoves. I had high expectations when I heard of the Hawaan Forest Walk, all of which were completely exceeded when I experienced it in real life. As soon as I stepped into a world that surely was a home to magical forest creatures, I realised I had found a new favourite Durban activity. If you are planning a romantic day for your other half, then this is the way to win them over even more. The best part is that you can follow the forest trail all the way to the beach, and spend the rest...
Krantzkloof Nature Reserve6:30am 10 Mar
Krantzkloof Nature Reserve in Durban, also fondly known as ‘Kloof Gorge’, offers numerous, breath-taking hiking trails for both the beginner and the experienced. One such trail leads to a serene part of the Molweni river, in which swimming is a must, passing through large white boulders. The gorge’s trails not only offer exquisite views, picturesque picnic spots at The Ntuku or Kloof Falls - perfect for an outing with friends, endurance training on some of the lengthier trails - but also abundant bird sighting opportunities, and, with zebra and a variety of mongoose species and bushbuck,...
uMhlambonja Ascent - round trip5:55am 11 Sep
By Nightjar Travel
The total distance of the trail is 30km and the total elevation change is 1850m. We did the trail over five days, although only four were spent hiking.
The trail begins at the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Didima camp in the central Drakensberg, and we eventually returned here. However, at the onset, our fate was unbeknownst to us. December 2010 turned out to be a voluptuously misty and rainy December for the Berg, and our...
How not to hike (2)9:00am 4 Feb
Alas, there was one more upset to come... but as I indicated earlier, all three girls are still my friends, so allow me to tell you how it all ended! We were all pretty eager to get a good night's rest, and spend the next day enjoying being so far up in the valley - I guess we were hoping to reap some reward from having pushed so hard on day 1.
Now, in the 'Berg you will often end up having to compromise when it comes to choosing where to pitch your tent, and on this particular instance, the only flat ground we could find that wasn't too close to...
How not to hike (1)7:00am 4 Feb
I am a lucky man... not because I went hiking in the Drakensberg with three girls, not because I am unharmed despite poor planning, and not because I managed to get my girlfriend's father's sporty Audi all the way to Injesuthi camp and back without breaking the undercarriage. No; I am a lucky man because the Drakensberg is such a breath-taking part of the country, that despite leading my girlfriend and two friends on the worst organised hike I have ever been involved in (also the first one I led, hmmm), all members involved are still happy to be my friends! Allow me to tell you...
Lightning in the Berg7:09pm 24 Jan
Sheet lightning paints the sky at the foot of Ship's Prow pass, in the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg. Camping in this storm turned out to be a blessing and a curse - sights, scents and sounds the likes of which you simply cannot get outside the mountains, but every second of awe is a second of sleep sorely missed after the hike to get there! This storm took the best part of three hours to blow over - a good reminder that even on the nicest of days (which it had been) you should still be prepared for anything when you go on long hikes.
ORGAN PIPES TO TSEKETSEKE3:55am 7 Aug
The total distance of the trail is 30 kilometres and the elevation change is 1500 metres up and 2000 metres down. We did the trail over four days.
Organ Pipes Pass must be one of the easiest ways to get to the high mountains - but only if you are prepared to cheat. Fortunately, we had no qualms about doing so.
We started this trail, not at the hikers’ parking near the...
INJESUTHI VALLEY TRAIL9:54pm 6 May
The total distance of the trail is 27 kilometres and the total elevation change is 850 metres. We did the trail over a relaxing four days. It’s not a taxing hike and is ideal for a quick getaway early in the season or if you have inexperienced hikers in the group.
The trail starts at the Injesuthi Hutted Camp in the central Drakensberg. It runs along the valleys that have been...