Skeleton Gorge to Maclear’s Beacon TrailEnquire Now
+27 21 799 8783 www.sanbi.org.za
Moderate difficulty; Suitable for children, but there are some scrambling sections
This shaded trail, which starts in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, is steep but is mostly on a good, well-marked path. It forms part of the Smuts Track, which was the favourite ascent of Field Marshall Jan Smuts, a keen mountain walker.
Pay your entrance fee to the Gardens and follow the signs to Skeleton Gorge. Initially, you hike from the main entrance gate along a broad gravel track, the Yellowwood Trail, before entering the forest. The trail crosses a couple of jeep tracks until, after about half an hour, you reach the Contour Path, where you will come across the first of several plaques commemorating Smuts and the true start of the Skeleton Gorge path.
Cross over the Contour Path and continue up the stepped path along the left bank of the stream. After 30-40 minutes (roughly half way up), you negotiate the very steep rocky sections via a series of five wooden ladders, then the path descends into the streambed.
Take great care here, particularly if it’s wet, as both the ladders and the boulders of the gorge can become very slippery. The path now follows the right bank of the gorge and soothing sounds of running water and birdsong accompany you until you emerge from the forest.
Keep on going up, enjoying the fabulous vista down the gorge and over the city to the sea, until you come across a huge boulder known as “Breakfast Rock” – a good place to take a breather and admire the view.
The easiest circular route is to turn left here and descend the steep wooden steps of Nursery Ravine – a glorious route first through stands of protea and then forest, which brings you back into Kirstenbosch.
However, if you are heading for the top, turn right and continue on the Smuts track. The path climbs more gently up through a series of rock bands to Maclear’s Beacon, which is the highest point on Table Mountain at 1087 metres. The fynbos is magnificent and if you’re on the trail in late summer you might see red disas just before the first rock band at the aqueduct above Window Gorge.
Cape Town is without doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With dramatic mountains, a long stretch of Atlantic coastline and a picturesque working harbour, there are few cities in the world to rival “The Fairest Cape”, as explorer Sir Francis Drake described the place in 1580.
The city of Cape Town is regularly voted as one of the best tourist destinations (and cities to live in) in the world – and its Mediterranean climate, superb natural attractions, historic landmarks, fabulous restaurants and fun places to hang out offer all the ingredients for a top holiday destination.
Table Mountain dominates the city’s landscape and Table Mountain National Park is a national treasure and World Heritage Site.
The Cape Floristic Kingdom is known for its incredible botanical heritage and the Table Mountain National Park has more floral species than the British Isles. Stopping to smell the fynbos has an altogether new meaning in this part of the world.
Robben Island is another World Heritage Site worth visiting. Struggle heroes such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and many others were incarcerated here during apartheid and taking the Robben Island Tour is a must on any trip to Cape Town.
The city is loosely divided by Table Mountain into four sections: Cape Town Central, Cape Town South, Cape Town North and Cape Town East.
Cape Town Central incorporates the city centre, the V&A Waterfront, Green Point, Mouille Point, Sea Point, Camps Bay and Hout Bay. There are loads of things on offer in this part of the world, so it’s a good idea to focus on the field of interest/activities that excite you and take it from there.
A trip to the top of Table Mountain is an absolute must (especially if you’ve never done it before). The views on a clear day will give you a clear perspective of the gorgeous city below and you can see as far as Robben Island and beyond.
If history is your thing, there are numerous museums and attractions close to the city centre. The Castle of Good Hope was built between 1666 and 1679 and is the oldest building in South Africa. It is a good place to start your tour of the city, which incorporates historic attractions such as the Bo-Kaap Museum, the District Six Museum, The Company’s Garden, City Hall and the Grand Parade, among many other notable historic attractions.
For shopping and entertainment, the V&A Waterfront is the epicentre of Cape Town and attracts high numbers of international tourists daily. Long Street is a good place to hang out for restaurants, bars and nightlife and Camps Bay is the place to see and be seen around cocktail hour.
The drive along Chapman’s Peak is one of the most scenic drives in the world but you need to do your homework as the route is periodically closed. Mariner’s Wharf in Hout Bay is another great place to visit, with its fun restaurants, great beaches and perfect views.
Cape Town South stretches from Noordhoek to Observatory and incorporates some of Cape Town’s most popular suburbs, including Constantia, Fish Hoek, Rondebosch, Simon’s Town and Muizenberg, to mention just a few.
Constantia is popular for its wonderful restaurants and wine estates and the Constantia Wine Route is a big attraction for foodies and wine-lovers. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens offers hectares of greenery and regular concerts in the warm summer months. There are also various hiking trails on offer.
Take a day trip to Simon’s Town and make sure you visit the statue of Just Nuisance, as well as the scenic Boulders Beach. Noordhoek is a great place for riding horses on the beach and the restaurants are very family friendly. For fresh fish and laid-back vibes, Kalk Bay and Muizenberg are the business. Fish Hoek is popular for seaside activities and antique shops and is a real favourite.
Cape Town North incorporates the Cape Town International Airport, Parow, Milnerton, Durbanville, Table View, as well as Bloubergstrand and Melkbosstrand. The north is a developed business centre that continues to grow rapidly. For chill-out time, Bloubergstrand and Melkbosstrand are popular for walks on the beach and outdoor sports. Shoppers will enjoy Century City and Canal Walk, and for those who love a tipple or two, The Durbanville Wine Route also falls into the northern region.
Cape Town East is made up of Gordon’s Bay, Somerset West, Strand, Sir Lowry’s Pass, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Eersterivier, Macassar and Strandfontein. The region is pretty spectacular as the small coastal towns sit below the imposing Hottentots Holland Mountains and there are fantastic beaches such as Bikini Beach, Strand Beach and Kogel Bay. Here you’ll also find the Helderberg Nature Reserve, Wolfgat Nature Reserve and Edith Stephens Wetland Park.
Look out for
Scenic Cape Point with its sheer cliffs, rugged landscapes, fauna, flora and bold ocean views.
A cable-car trip up Table Mountain to get the view of the incredible landscape of the city. If you’ve done the touristy cable-car thing then take one of the many mountain trails.
V&A Waterfront – spend time enjoying all the facilities at the V&A Waterfront, including the abundance of shopping and restaurant venues. For children, The Two Oceans Aquarium is a winner.
The magnificent beaches of Clifton, Muizenberg, Hout Bay, Bloubergstrand. You are spoilt for choice in and around the Mother City.
Historical sites are a must – including Robben Island, the Castle of Good Hope, the District Six Museum and Bo-Kaap.
Long Street by night. Enjoy the friendly fun vibes of this stretch of tarmac as it comes to life when the sun goes down.
While away the hours at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, the green lung of the city. Look out for the schedule of summer concerts.
Visit the Constantia Wine Route for a touch of history and some of the country’s finest wines and restaurants that continually make it onto the best-of lists.
Drive along the southern coastline and visit places such as Noordhoek, Scarborough, Simon’s Town, Kalk Bay and Muizenberg. Stop off at Kalk Bay for fresh fish at the harbour.