12 gorgeous spots for a day hike in the Western Cape during lockdown
UPDATE: CapeNature has announced that some of the self-catering accommodation options, camp sites, overnight hiking trails and eco-venues within its reserves will be reopening from August 7. You can find a list of them here.
Itching to get out of the city and explore the environment around you?
A day hike is a great “lockdown level 3 approved” way to do that.
This is especially true if you live in the Western Cape, where many of the glorious nature reserves managed by CapeNature are again welcoming day visitors, provided you pre-book a permit (see below).
1. ROBBERG NATURE RESERVE
Located 8km outside Plettenberg Bay, Robberg is a nature reserve, World Heritage Site and national monument thanks to evidence of Stone Age inhabitants discovered in some of its caves.
Hikers can choose between the 2.1km Gap Circuit Trail that takes about 30 minutes, the 5.5km Witsand Circuit Trail that takes about two hours, or the more challenging 9.2km Point Circuit Trail that wraps about the reserve's peninsula and takes about four hours.
All trails accommodate a maximum of 40 people a day.
2. DE HOOP NATURE RESERVE
Located in the Overberg, this World Heritage Site is home to one of the largest protected marine reserves in Africa. The reserve's famous five-day Whale Trail remains closed, but day visitors can walk on the beach or rocky shore starting from the Koppie Alleen viewpoint, which is popular spot for watching whales.
A maximum of 70 people will be allowed into the reserve every day. Bookings can be made via the CapeNature website (see below), but day permits are also available at the De Hoop Collection entrance.
3. DE MOND NATURE RESERVE
Another World Heritage Site, this reserve lies between Arniston and Struisbaai at the mouth of the Heuningnes River.
The two trails each accommodate a maximum of 50 people a day:
- The 7km Sterna Trail takes about four hours and passes through riverine vegetation, forest and dunes as it follows the coast to the mouth of the river.
- The De Mond to Arniston trail is a one direction 8km trail that follows a coastal route to the Waenhuiskrans cave. If you plan to hike back, it is important to keep in mind that the route takes about four hours to complete.
4. WALKER BAY NATURE RESERVE
Walker Bay Nature Reserve lies between Hermanus and Die Dam near Struisbaai and is a popular spot for land-based whale watching. A maximum of 100 people will be allowed into the reserve each day and visitors can walk along the beach at their own leisure. Given the size of the reserve, find out which entrance to use when making your booking.
5. CEDERBERG WILDERNESS AREA
Forming part of the biodiversity hotspot that is the Cape Floral Region, the Cederberg Wilderness Area is a World Heritage Site. The 71,000ha mountainous terrain, which is covered in fynbos, is popular among hikers and rock climbers.
Overnight hiking trails remain closed, but the circular Skeurkrans hiking trail, which takes seven to eight hours to complete, is open to day visitors. A maximum of 50 people will be allowed into the wilderness area every day.
The cost of a permit to enter the Cederberg Wilderness Area is slightly higher than the other reserves on this list (see below) at R70 for adults and R35 for children between the ages of four and 17.
6. OUTENIQUA NATURE RESERVE
The mountain ranges between the coast and the Klein Karoo fall within the Outeniqua Nature Reserve, near George. One of its drawcards is that Khoi and San rock paintings can be seen throughout the reserve. Visitors have the option to do the shorter 4.7km Pass-to-pass trail or the longer 14.7km Kouma trail. A maximum of 30 people will be allowed on each trail daily.
7. JONKERSHOEK NATURE RESERVE
The Jonkershoek Nature Reserve near Stellenbosch is home to the Jonkershoek Mountains, which offer great hiking opportunities. Of the four hikes on the reserve, only the shorter 6.4km Tweede Waterval hiking trail, which takes about two hours, is open to visitors. A maximum 30 people will be allowed into the reserve each day.
8. VROLIJKHEID NATURE RESERVE
The Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve lies in the Klein Karoo’s Breede River valley. Of the five hiking trails on the reserve, the short 3km Heron trail (maximum 50 people a day) and longer 19km Rooikat hiking trail (maximum 20 people a day) are open to day visitors. If you plan to hike the Rooikat trail, arrive early as it takes about eight hours to complete.
9. MARLOTH NATURE RESERVE
The Marloth Nature Reserve is a World Heritage Site that lies in the Swellendam Mountains between Swellendam, Suurbrak, Ashton and Barrydale.
While not all the hiking trails on the reserve are open, day visitors can choose between the short 1.1km Duiwelsbos trail, the 4km Koloniesbos trail, the 10km Wamakersbos trail or the 10.5km Die Plaat trail, for which shorter loops are available.
A maximum of 50 people are allowed to do the Duiwelsbos, Koloniesbos and Die Plaat trails each day, but only 10 people are allowed to do the Wamakersbos daily.
10. KOGELBERG NATURE RESERVE
One of SA's most beautiful reserves, Koggelberg near Kleinmond is part of the Unesco-designated Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve that boasts more than 1,880 plant species.
Visitors reserve can choose between three hiking trails:
- The 5km Rooisand Ramble that takes about two hours to complete (maximum 40 people a day);
- The 6km Oudebosch to Leopard’s Gorge Hiking Trail that takes between three to four hours (maximum 12 people a day); and
- The 10km Palmiet River Walk that takes about three hours to complete (maximum 58 people a day).
11. GOUKAMMA NATURE RESERVE
The Goukamma Nature Reserve lies on the Garden Route between Sedgefield and Knysna. A World Heritage Site, it’s also been awarded ECO Certification by Eco-tourism Australia, which identifies genuine nature and eco-tourism operators.
The trails on offer, each of which can accommodate a maximum of 50 people a day, are:
- The 15km Blombos Trail, which takes about six hours to complete, but can be split into a short circular route of 6.5km or a medium circular route of 13km;
- The 12km Galjoen trail that takes four hours;
- The 6.5km Cape Clawless Otter trail that takes about two to three hours; and
- The 4.2km Buffalo Bay trail that takes about two hours to complete.
12. SWARTBERG NATURE RESERVE
The Swartberg Nature Reserve lies between the Great Karoo and Klein Karoo. Together with the neighbouring Gamkapoort Nature Reserve and Towerkop Nature Reserve, it makes up a 180,000ha conservation area filled with mountain fynbos, spekboom and renoserbos.
Only two hiking options are open the public: the 7.4km Ou Tol Circle Route and the 8.4km Platberg Circle Route. A maximum of 50 people will be allowed to do each daily.
HOW TO BOOK YOUR HIKE
Day visitors are required to pre-book permits via the CapeNature website or by e-mailing email@example.com. You can also call the CapeNature contact centre on 087 087 8250 on week days or 074 936 2139/062 318 4987 on weekends. No permits will be sold at the reserves unless otherwise specified.
The reserves are open every day from 8am to 4pm. Same day bookings after 10am are not permitted.
Unless otherwise specified, the cost of each hike is R50 for adults and R30 for children between the ages of four and 17. Children under four enter free, but the bookings office must be contacted for prior approval. All under 17s must be accompanied by an adult.