The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is one of our favourite areas for some reasonably easy but very rewarding hiking. The views down the False Bay side of the coast are quite extra-ordinary and the Atlantic Coast has some beautiful beach and the special interest of the Shipwreck Trail. Our regular, shorter, easier, circular routes are on the Atlantic Coast, with the slightly more strenuous options being on the False Bay coast.
A spate of recent fires in the greater Table Mountain National Park did not leave this area untouched, with a freak lightening strike igniting a fire along the Atlantic Coast, just at a time when the Silvermine fires were being brought under control. For the short term, this means that most of our Atlantic side trails are closed.
With this in mind we have been exploring the options on the more spectacular False Bay coast. The best known and most used of these is the linear route from the gate of the Reserve, near Smitswinkel Bay, to the Rooikrans view point – a distance of abut 13km. This forms part of the Cape Point Trail, but when done as a day hike, requires the transport logistics of a car at each end. Our best option is a circular a circular route that starts at the Buffelsfontein visitors centre and follows the same route to Rooikrans, before turning around and dropping down to the coast for the return trip. Here there are three options:
- For a short hike – about three hours – from the Buffelsbaai picnic area, take the tar road back to the visitors centre.
- A slightly longer option – about four hours – to carry on further along the coast to Bordjiesrif before taking a short section of the tar road to Booi se Skerm and joining the short cut path back to the visitors centre.
- Carry on further along the coast to Booi se Skerm and taking the path up to Kanonkop. From Kanonkop it is about an hour’s walk back to the visitors centre. This route takes about six hours.
A fourth alternative is to walk from the visitors centre up to Kanonkop and then back to Booi se Skerm before joining the short cut path back. This is also about three to four hours. Times can be delayed by the temptation to stop regularly to take photos and to enjoy the spectacular scenery. The photographs tell the story.
The Dolphin Trail
The Otter Trail is arguably the best known hiking trail in South Africa, with any South African who regards themselves as a hiking enthusiast having done it or planning to do it. It is however, a trail that requires a good level of fitness and hikers have to carry a full backpack for five days with food, equipment and clothing for the period.
For those that prefer the less strenuous option of ‘slackpacking’, but want to experience this pristine coastline, there is the three night Dolphin Trail. The hiking, although not quite as strenuous as the Otter, is still challenging, with some steep inclines, cliff paths and rock scrambling along the coastline. The real advantage is that you are only carrying a small day pack with your warm tops, rain gear, lunch and water; the accommodation is comfortable to luxurious, the food is provided and you can get your choice of drinks in the evening. In addition to that you get a very efficient and knowledgeable guide who is able to point out details about the flora, fauna and geology of the trail that you might otherwise miss.
The first night’s accommodation is at the chalets at the Storms River Mounth in the Tsitsikamma National Park. Not luxurious, but very clean and comfortable. This is followed by Misty Mountains on the second night and The Fernery on the third. Both of the later offer luxury guest house accommodation in a rural setting with views of the coastal edge of Tsitsikamma Forest and the ocean beyond. While the evening meal at the Storm River Mouth restaurant would not rate in the gourmet category, it is reasonable and is more than compensated for by the dining experience at the other two venues. The Fernery is particularly excellent in this regard.
Description of Day 1 to follow …..
A warning – this is a route only to be tackled with the utmost care and planning. I am pleased to have done it, but not again in a hurry.
There are sections where you can only get through at low tide and in calm conditions. We thought we had planned sufficiently for the low tide but were caught by high waves and ended up trapped, with no way back. The escape gully is steep and dangerous, with loose granite rocks and scrambling through thick bush. We were lucky, with some advice from mountain rescue via cell phone, to find our way out.
The route also has a good deal of exposure on steep granite slopes that fall off into the sea. The last part, on Duiker Ridge, where there used to be a well established path, is also in the process of being cleared of alien vegetation by SANParks and the path disappears suddenly. It requires considerableg bundu bashing towards the block house. Not good, especially if you don’t know where the path used to be and where you are heading.
It was an 11.5 km walk and took over nine hours.
Nevertheless, it is a spectacular route, with great views and interesting coastline.