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Leshiba T1 Trail
19 Jan 2014
 
     

Leshiba T1 Trail

The stunningly beautiful peaks and valleys of the Soutpansberg mountain range have long been a popular destination for hikers. The T1 trail forms part of a network of trails that is designed to open up the diversity of the Leshiba Wilderness, which consists of nearly 3 000 hectares of beautiful savannah bordered by awesome mountains with rocky gorges that have been carved out solid rock over millions of years.

Starting from the Venda Village camp, the trail, which is marked with yellow spoor, soon takes to the rocky mountain side, offering magnificent views across the plains where wild animals such as giraffe are usually seen. The trail continues through lush bush, slowly but relentlessly ascending towards the edge of the plateau. Then, out of nowhere, the window opens up onto the southern panorama far below...

(GPS coordinates: -23.010589, 29.598099)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/leshiba-t1-trail

Cradock Peak Trail
15 Jan 2014
 
     

Cradock Peak Trail

Cradock Peak, the lofty mountain that stands sentinel over the Garden Route town of George, is a tough trail in anyone’s books. Nearly 20km long, and with an altitude gain of 1 330m, the out and back route will take even a strong hiker seven hours or more. Not least because the path is somewhat slippery and overgrown at times. But if you’re fit enough, the rewards are immense. At 1 579m the peak is the highest in the area and the 360-degree view from the summit beacon is simply astounding...

(GPS coordinates: -33.93573, 22.42735)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/cradock-peak-trail

River Trail, Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve
14 Jan 2014
 
     

River Trail, Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve

The Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve, a 500-hectare floral wonderland 35 kilometres west of Port Elizabeth, is bounded on the west by the impressive Van Stadens Gorge and bisected by the N2 highway from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. The terrain comprises southern wooded slopes, a large plateau and northern river banks, each with its own vegetation type. But the prime purpose of the reserve is to protect and propagate the unique indigenous flora.

It's an absolute gem that is a must for any nature-lover – you could spend hours exploring and enjoying the extraordinary diversity and splendour of the fynbos, succulents and other indigenous flora, as well as the beautiful sugarbirds, sunbirds and butterflies. There is also the three-kilometre Forest Walk, as well as mountain-bike routes...

(GPS coordinates: -33.906201, 25.218113)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/river-trail-van-stadens-wild-flower-reserve

Goegap Hiking Trail
9 Jan 2014
 
     

Goegap Hiking Trail

Although best known for its extraordinary displays of flowers during August and September, this well-managed reserve offers hikers a year-round opportunity to walk around typical Namaqualand granite koppies.

The trail starts behind the office, where you are issued with a map and information brochure. There are also some interesting display boards from which you can learn more about the geology and history of the area before you set out. Spend a few minutes familiarising yourself with the local flora at the Hester Malan Wild Flower Garden then take the dirt road to a rocky path that heads up the hill...

(GPS coordinates: -29.66484, 17.99687)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/goegap-hiking-trail

The Amazing Trail
7 Jan 2014
 
     

The Amazing Trail

This educational bush trail on a banana and macadamia farm close to the gates of the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve near Port Edward is a heap of fun for kids, who can toss their shoes and go wild as they race off to do a little "game-viewing" on foot. The masterminds behind the project have hand-painted a hundred life-size cutouts of various animals and colourful birds and strategically placed them in appropriate habitats in the surrounding area, allowing visitors to see wildlife that they wouldn't normally see in context.

Youngsters are handed a check list and set free to run off and search for the hidden creatures. The easy circular walk starts 20 metres from the centre and winds its way through forest and rocky grassland with Charlie Chameleon, the trail mascot, acting as a trail marker. It's fun for adults too, particularly when you see the sheer delight on the little faces of the treasure hunters as they turn a corner and spot a bushbuck camouflaged in a bush, a ground hornbill in the grassland or a large spotted genet in a tree...

(GPS coordinates: -31.046123, 30.169106)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/amazing-trail

Bushbuck Hills Trail
7 Jan 2014
 
     

Bushbuck Hills Trail

Bushbuck Hills is a beautiful game farm nestled in the hills outside Swartruggens, about two hours’ drive from Johannesburg. The Pilanesberg Mountains and reserve are visible to the north and, should you want to combine hiking with more hedonistic adventures, Sun City is only 60 kilometres away.

With plenty of birds and approachable plains game but no dangerous animals, the farm is a paradise for nature lovers and offers a variety of easy walking trails from a four-kilometre circular loop to a strenuous 18-kilometre overnight trail...

(GPS coordinates: -25.537243, 26.804666)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/bushbuck-hills-trail

Umdoni Trail, Springside Nature Reserve
31 Dec 2013
 
     

Umdoni Trail, Springside Nature Reserve

The Springside Nature Reserve is nestled in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, right in the middle of suburban Hillcrest. It's one of Durban’s smaller reserves, with just 21 hectares of indigenous grasslands, wetlands and riverine forests running next to a gentle stream. 

The Umdoni walk basically follows a stream on a very well-maintained and clearly marked path all the way from the car park to the far end of the reserve. The first point of interest is the interactive sundial: stand on the correct day of the year and your shadow shows the time. Not far beyond this, there is a beautiful shady glen with a few young tree ferns. Further on, the Protea trail cuts in on the left from the upper grassland area and in this area you'll find wonderful butterflies and birds...

(GPS coordinates: -29.782448, 30.776291)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/umdoni-trail-springside-nature-reserve

Maltese Cross Trail
29 Dec 2013
 
     

Maltese Cross Trail

Buy a permit at Dwarsrivier farm (Sanddrif), and then drive along the road towards Algeria for about 800 metres to the rather rough road on the left that leads to the Maltese Cross. Continue past the Cederberg Observatory (which is definitely worth a visit if you’re there on a Saturday night), through the gate and on for about six kilometres until you reach the parking area.

The path to the cross, which is obvious and marked by cairns, goes over a stream then basically follows the right-hand bank of the valley, climbing gradually until you cross the stream bed again at the top. There is usually water in the lower section but not at the crossing point, so make sure you carry water or fill your bottles low down...

(GPS coordinates: -32.50484, 19.203665)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/maltese-cross-trail

Molweni Trail (Yellow), Krantzkloof
27 Dec 2013
 
     

Molweni Trail (Yellow), Krantzkloof

The Krantzkloof Reserve was established by the Natal Parks Board in 1950 and is now managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. A small reserve spanning about 584 hectares, it protects the forested gorges carved by the Molweni and Nkutu rivers and has an abundance of wildlife, including zebra, bushbuck, blue, red and grey duiker, vervet monkey, rock hyrax, several mongoose species, water monitor and genet. More than 200 bird species have been recorded and this is one of the few places in the Durban area where the Knysna turaco can be found.

The Molweni Trail, marked as the yellow trail on most maps, is the only way to access the bottom of the falls. It has three starting points, with the shortest and most popular trail being the one from the main picnic area, adjacent to the dam at the head of Kloof Falls. You need only walk 100m from here to enjoy breath-taking views across the forested gorge...

(GPS coordinates: -29.772587, 30.830432)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/molweni-trail-yellow-krantzkloof

 

Cathedral Peak Trail
27 Dec 2013
 
     

Cathedral Peak Trail

Although there’s a fairly clear path, you need a head for heights and a good level of fitness to summit this iconic Drakensberg peak, as the scramble up the final section is tricky and exposed. But if it sounds intimidating, help is at hand. 

The Cathedral Peak Hotel runs free guided hikes for its guests a couple of times a week and guides can also be arranged from Ezimvelo KZN Wildlife’s Didima Resort and the campsite. If going independently, make sure that you complete the mountain register before setting out and sign back in on your return. Start early, particularly in summer, when afternoon thunderstorms are common, and keep an eye on the weather as you go...

(GPS coordinates: -28.94619, 29.204618)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/cathedral-peak-trail

 

Plodding the Daisies
10 Nov 2013
 
     

Walking the Daisies is an excellent concept. Not only does it keep my inner 'tree-hugger' content - by plodding over 50km to Darling, you get to be kind to your body before a weekend of heavy indulgence and mischievousness.

When the first Daisy Walkers set off back in 2008, the route wasn’t all too inspiring. A two day schlepp along the R27. Luckily the walk has grown enough for an alternative route, which is rather exceptional and there are segments which I’d recommend as a little weekend stroll.

To get to your destination you have to grab your comfiest pair of Hi-Tec’s and get your camera ready for our immaculate West Coast, some sandy dunes and a whole load of well-trodden trails surrounded by our prickly fynbos friends. 

The segment which made me smile constantly, begins on the northern border of the Koeberg Nature Reserve and then follows for the next 14km to Silverstroom Resort (camping and caravanning). This jaunt follows a coastal jeep track which will appeal to anyone, no-matter their fitness level. From rocky pools for a dip to some striking sea-cliffs, it's a couple of kilometres that effortlessly makes you forget that Table Mountain is still staring over your shoulder.

– Kai Fitchen
Photo by Wesley Davis

Kai Fitchen won Readers’ Choice in Nightjar Adventurer 2013. To nominate someone for the 2014 awards, go to http://www.nightjartravel.com/nightjar-adventurer-2014

Game Walk vs. Game Drive
24 Oct 2013
 
     

For bulk game viewing purposes, drives are always better, as you can cross more ground in a very short period of time. However, if it’s a truly unforgettable experience you are after, then a walk is just the thing for you! As professional guides, we often offer the rare opportunity to leave the comfort of the vehicle, and head off into the bush on a walking trail.

Have you ever wondered how many special creatures you have driven past, without realising they are there? A bush walk removes the restrictions of a vehicle, and offers a well-rounded nature experience – away from diesel fumes and loud engine noises, we can start using all of our senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and even taste. Walking through the bush puts you in an ideal position to begin looking at all the smaller aspects of nature, such as trees, insects and tracks, to name just a few.

Walks are not just about the small things though, but also just appreciating the peace and quiet, and discovering all the beautiful spots reserves have to offer, which can’t always be reached by vehicle. Experienced guides might also track some of the big game species, giving you a glance at big animals with only the skill of your guide keeping you safe! A walking trail is one of the most amazing experiences any nature lover could ask for, so the next time you head off to the bush, remember to pack your boots, and explore on foot!

The Lonely Bull
3 Sep 2013
 
     

The difference in perspective between walking and driving in a big 5 area is huge. Without the protective shell of a vehicle, you’re reduced to the level of the animals you encounter. They’re all better equipped than you are for their environment and on day one of the Lonely Bull backpack trail in the Kruger National Park, I missed the size and security of a vehicle and the predictability of a well-marked road with clear lines of sight.

Weaving through the mopane though, I began to tune into the environment. By the second morning, I could feel which way the subtle breeze was blowing as the sweat dried on my neck. Branches didn’t tug at me as much because I’d adjusted the way I was walking to anticipate them. I wasn’t navigating by sight alone; instead I was listening for the ox-peckers that might signal animals ahead. On day three, when our guide Mark Montgomery smelt a young elephant bull in musth, I was also rewarded with a whiff…

I have done several backpack trails in Kruger National Park (they’re my favourite activities) and none have failed to restore and move me. Compared to the gorgeous austerity of the Mphongolo trail, the Lonely Bull is characterised by an abundance of water seeping, oozing and flowing through the streams and small rivers that feed the mighty Letaba River. Getting to know the landscape step by step, you feel it slowly begin to accept you as part of it. And to feel part of something so real, so magnificent and so wild is truly awesome.

 – Dianne Tipping-Woods

Hoerikwaggo Trail
17 Jul 2013
 
     

Two days hiking the Hoerikwaggo Trail

Natalie Roos for Cape Town Tourism

On a beautiful Sunday morning I awoke to the sounds of birds chirping and the smell of a wood fire being prepared outside my tent. It was still dark and my muscles were aching, but I was already looking forward to the day’s challenges that lay ahead.

 I had spent the night at the Orangekloof Tented Camp in the Constantia Nek Valley, after an 11km hike from Silvermine on the day before. We had 14 more kilometres to climb before we reached our final destination: the top of Table Mountain.

The full Hoerikwaggo Trail ("Hoerikwaggo" comes from the Khoisan word for “mountain in the sea") takes you from Table Mountain to Cape Point over a five-day hike. We were only hiking part of the trail, spanning 25km over two days. Our group was made up of first-timers as well as more experienced hikers but our guide, Binny Ridgway of Ridgway Ramblers, set a pace that was comfortable for everyone in our party.

Binny has been a full-time walking leader in the Cape Peninsula region for over six years and knows all the hidden gems, like the Waterworks Museum and the opening on the Woodhead Tunnel, which was built in 1891 to transport water from the mountain to the city.

The trail starts off at Table Mountain, taking hikers to Maclear's Beacon, its highest point, , passing one of the dams along the way to Orange Kloof Forest.

From there hikers head towards Silvermine, and enjoy the magnificent views of False Bay. The adventure continues towards Kommetjie via Chapman’s Peak, along the magnificent beaches. Hikers then make their way towards Simon's Town and Cape Point, to explore the beauty of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.

After a long day, hikers arrive at one of the eco-friendly camps which were exclusively built for the Hoerikwaggo Trail. Hikers overnight in tented camps that blend into the surroundings, boasting comfortable beds and are equipped with fireplaces, braai facilities, and a big kitchen.

On Sunday we hiked through thick indigenous forest and over rocky plains, stopping for lunch on a rock ledge overlooking the route we had experienced so far. We reached the top of Table Mountain with its spectacular views later that day with aching legs, feet and shoulders, but the sense of accomplishment and joy was worth all the effort. The experience was definitely one to remember.

The jungle bites
30 Jun 2013
 
     

Two weeks after finally finding our way out of the jungle I’m still pulling out thorns. I’ve never been anywhere so aggressive as the Belize rainforest. Everything bites – even the palms. The jungle has sophisticated ways of repelling unwanted visitors. The way was littered with booby traps. As the vines tripped you up, the strangler fig did its best to garot you; and when you lost your footing on the slippery karst pavement, there would be a prickly trunk perfectly positioned for you to grasp in order to arrest your fall. The worst were the Warrie Cohune Palm and the 'give-and-take' tree. The fallen fronds of the latter are covered in poisonous razor-sharp thorns and have a nasty habit of whipping up around your calf when you stand on them, temporarily paralysing your leg. Great fun when you’re trekking for days! Nature’s humour is evident in the fact that the only known antidote to this poison is found in the tree's own sap. 

 – Fiona McIntosh

Scouting new hiking routes!
21 Jun 2013
 
     

Fancy yourself as intrepid? Well try this for size. Adventurous hikers are being offered a once in a life-time opportunity to scout their OWN routes for a new hiking trail in the rugged western Baviaanskloof, part of the Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site. Between Sunday 6th and Saturday 12th October, four groups of four guinea-pig hikers maps will be issued with satellite images, rustic accommodation and other basic support and sent off to map what they consider to be the best route for the proposed 5-day Leopard Trail. Although the end product will be a slackpacking trail that the organisers hope will achieve the same international acclaim as the Whale Trail or Otter Trail, only fit, self-sufficient and experienced hikers need apply for the scouting exercise; there are no existing paths or trails, rather this is a wilderness experience on which you need to provide all your personal equipment, food etc. You have been warned….. But what fun!

For more information see

www.theleopardtrail.co.za/images/2013%20leopard%20trail%20scouting%20bri...

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