With its extraordinarily diverse wildlife and plants, South Africa stands to be one of the world’s most fascinating counties – it’s the perfect place for the natural adventurer, too.
Thanks to the geography of South Africa, you can find some of the best places in there to take your hikes, treks, and walks. That is, South Africa has everything whether you’re an amateur or a pro hiker. It’s a known fact that nothing beats that exhilarating feeling once you’ve reached the summit of the trails. It feels much like being on top of the world, right?
So if you’re ready to see plenty of nature and walk a few days of your life into the wilderness, take along your essential hiking gear, sleep in your backpackers tent, see baobab trees, meet some trunk-swinging elephants, or admire the skyline and the horizon of the Indian Ocean, then here are the top 6 best hiking trails in South Africa that you can take to complete your adventure.
The Amathole Trail is neither for the weak nor for the feeble hearted. With a distance of 74 miles, the hike would take you six days and is one of the toughest trails found in South Africa.
Nevertheless, Amathole’s indigenous woods and forested countryside would take off your mind from the very long distance that you would have to take. As a classic province in Africa, Amathole has plenty of streams, endless waterfalls, and swimming holes where you can enjoy and refresh yourself after a long day walking.
There are also the songs of the birds and cicadas breaking the sunlight and you might find yourself looking into giant worm hills, exotic mushrooms, or meet monkeys on the way.
For the actual trail, Amatole’s mountains are windy, there are also the rolling hills, valleys, and the rivers to cross. The end point of the trail is at the Tyume River situated within the Amathole Mountains. What makes the end of the trail pretty ideal is that it’s a place where you can pamper yourself and you can already arrange transport for your return.
If you feel like the ultimate hiker and you’re not afraid of challenges, the Drakensberg Trail might be best for you. This Grand Traverse Trail in Kwa-Zulu Natal is not for the weak hiker due to the difficulty of the never ending hike up and down the trail.
What adds to the challenge even more is that there are no distinct paths that you can follow so you have to make sure that you take this trail with an experienced guide.
While Drakensberg Trail might hold some of the finest landscape and seascapes found in South Africa, the trail is also very strenuous and can take 10 to 12 days to complete given that it’s a trek of about 155 miles – the longest trail that you might find in this post.
Nevertheless, you can always be proud after accomplishing this trail because by then, you have finished trekking the six highest peaks found in the range: Champagne Castle, Cleft Peak, Giant’s Castle, Mafadi, Mont aux Sources, and Thabana Ntlenyana.
Giant’s Cup Trail
Compared to the Otter Trail, the Giant’s Cup Trail is a much longer hike at 37 miles but can be done in a span of five days.
This trail is somewhat famous given that it crisscrosses several times day and night on the World Heritage Site found in South Africa. Against the popular trail going to the Drakensberg Mountains, the Giant’s Cup Trail offers more of a challenge.
This is because the starting point of the Giant’s Cup is located on the foot of Sani Pass, which happens to be a famous path given that it is the highest mountain pass in South Africa. From there, the trek continues to the foothills of Drakensberg, the Bathplug Cave with its renowned San rock art, to the breathtaking mountain view of lush forest, and streams and pools for drinking and swimming.
The trail also overlooks two nature reserves found in South Africa, the Cobham’s and the Garden Castle’s, and ends at the Bushman’s Nek Pass.
The Hoerikwaggo Trail is a newly opened trail running down the mountainous range of Cape Peninsula. Hoerikwaggo is a Khoi-San name for the infamous Table Mountain which means “mountain in the sea” and is where the trails begin.
The name of this trail is quite fitting though because after the path up to Table Mountain from Chapman’s Peak to Platteklip Gorge, the third day trails goes down to the coast where plenty of sealife abide.
On this trail, you will be able to reach the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve covered in fynboss and will end at the beach where a monument of a Portuguese explorer, the Da Gama Cross, stands in a distance.
Kruger Wilderness Trails
If you are familiar with the Kruger National Park, then you’re right to assume that it’s the same place where the Kruger Wilderness Trails begins. The Kruger National Park, located on the borders of Mozambique and Zimbabwe is a famous park with two million hectares of baobab trees and shelters five of the biggest animals in the world; buffaloes, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinoceroses.
While half of the Kruger is a national park, the other half is a wilderness dedicated to a three-night trek for the adventurous tourists coming in the area.
Just like other hiking trails in South Africa, the Kruger Wilderness Trails offers beautiful landscapes to see like their verdant grasslands, tropical riverine forest, and plains studded with acacia. You might also come across some crocodiles and hippos on the river and hear the roar of lions on the savannah hunting at night.
The Otter Trail is perhaps one of the most popular hiking trails known in South Africa. That might be because the Otter Trail gives you quite a magnificent view of the country – lush and verdant forest, rugged shores, mountain waterfalls and streams, and special fragrant fynbos.
But of course, there is a price to pay to see such beauty. The Otter Trail starts the east coast, which is Tsitsikamma, and stops at the Garden Route’s west end. The beautiful and panoramic sceneries of nature that you will come to during the 5-day hike will require you to brave a strenuous hike with plenty of ups and downs making the 26-mile trek feel even longer.
In short, the Otter Trail is a tough hike but you can always take a rest watching whales especially when you hike during the months of July to November, do some seaside picnics, or enjoy the cool mountain waters swimming.
Expect a rocky and rollercoaster path between beaches and cliffs. There’s also the challenge of crossing the mouth of Bloukrans River which feels like it can easily sweep you into the sea – so try to cross it during low tide.