The Eastern Cape province has some of the most popular hiking trails in South Africa taking that will take you through some magnificent and scenic areas.
The Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail is a six-day, 60-km, linear trail, beginning at Natures Valley and ending at the Storms River bridge or village. It takes you through the heart of the Tsitsikamma mountains where extensive patches of indigenous afromontane forest and mountain fynbos still occur. The mountains form the watershed for a myriad of streams and rivers, many of which are fountainheads for the wider, slower-flowing and magnificently sculptured rivers of the Tsitsikamma coast. Shorter variations of the Trail exist (2,3,4,5 or 6 days) and a range of novel ecotourism activities and luggage transportation options are now available.
The Dolphin Trail is a unique trail that has been made possible by the formation of a partnership between South African National Parks, and two private sector partners, namely The Fernery and Misty Mountain Reserve. The result is a hiking experience that will both challenge and pamper you. The trail covers a distance of 17km starting in the unrivalled beauty of the Garden Route National Park (GRNP) - Tsitsikamma Section at Storms River Mouth, and winds its way eastwards through natural fynbos and pristine indigenous forest, over rugged rocks at the waters edge, to end on the banks of the Sandrift River at The Fernery. Hikers have stunning views of the rugged Tsitsikamma coastline, and the chances of spotting whales, dolphins and the occasional otter are good. On route, many birds including the gorgeous Knysna Loerie can be heard and spotted while hiking through the forest, and the endangered Oystercatcher is often to be seen on the shoreline. Swimming and snorkelling in the rock pools is possible at the discretion of the guides.
The Otter Trail is regarded as one of the premier hiking trails in South Africa. Covering 42 kilometers and taking 5 days to explore some of the most extraordinarily beautiful landscapes imaginable running through the rugged Tsitsikamma National Park coastline on the Garden Route near Plettenberg Bay. Following the blue Otter footprints painted along the route, you will experience the breathtakingly beautiful terrain along the coastline. Crossing 11 rivers along the way, and on day four crossing the Bloukrans River at low tide, where swimming is sometimes required. A limit of 12 hikers a day only, which keeps this nice and “personal” ages between 12 and 65 and able to hike 14 kilometers a day over steep terain.
The Amatola Hiking Trail is situated in the Amatola range, one of the most scenic mountain areas in Southern Africa. It starts from Maden dam, 22 km's from King William's Town and ends 3 km from Hogsback at the Tyume River. Whole days are spent in high climax Afro-montane forest. There are rolling mountain plateaux swathed in rich mountain fynbos and sprinkled with with wild flowers. Countless rivers, streams, waterfalls and pools. There are isolated peaks and dark secretive gorges, open grassy glades and distant views across the Evelyn, Keiskamma, Wolf, Tyume and other lush river basins. This trail is a definite must. It is not, however, an easy hike, with days as long as 19 km and averaging 16.5 km over the 100 km, 6 day trail.
The Strandloper Trail has been described as "the one trail where you can savour the feeling of solitude on an unspoilt beach and down a bar lunch in a cosy pub barely an hour later." The trail is almost 60 km in total and takes 4 days to complete. It is clearly marked with little painted yellow footprints and can be walked throughout the year. The best weather is between February and May, which have warm windless days.
For the not quite so adventurious - We now offer you the laid back way to do the Strandloper Hiking Trail. Hike from Trennery's to Chintsa East the luxury way. You carry only your daypack with a picnic lunch, drinking water or juice. Enjoy the nature along the way, have time to take in the beautiful views. No lugging of your backpack. No aching back, legs and feet! Arrive at your evening destinations relaxed after your leisurely stroll along the coast and enjoy a long hot shower or bath. Enjoy sundowners on arrival, dinner and your own comfortable bed. The next morning have a relaxing breakfast before you start hiking to the next comfortable destination stopping for a picnic lunch along the way.
St Francis Bay walks and hikes are plentiful and very scenic as well. St Francis main beach to the Kromme River Mouth and back – don’t let high tide catch you! Two Harbour Walk between Granny’s Pool and Port St Francis – start either way. From Port St Francis all along the coastline to Shark Point (the furthest point, you will see a white pole and huge waves!). Continue to Cape St Francis by following the footpaths to the main beach – cross the main beach and proceed to the lighthouse. From Port St Francis, walk past Otters Landing and turn right at the parking area. Follow the different footpaths in the Cape St Francis Nature Reserve – you can get through to the Seal Bay Reserve or onto the Cape St Francis beach. Start at the Cape St Francis lighthouse and walk to Rocky Coast Farm. Find the remains of the Cape Recife Shipwreck, look out for otters, tortoises, seals, frogs, birds, and find the blow hole. Follow the footpaths in the Irma Booysen Wild Flower Reserve and enjoy the indigenous fynbos and shrubs. The Seal Bay Nature Reserve has a fairy forest feel, and all the trees are well marked. A walk up the Sand River will lead to some archaeological sites and middens, as the Sand River was the home to Khoisan some 2 000 years ago. Please leave these archaeological sites intact. A walk to Jeffreys Bay will take you up to three hours, and is an easy walk. Arrange with a local to take you across the Kromme River by boat. Take enough water and don’t walk alone. A 20km walk on dirt road will take you to Oyster Bay, enjoying the beauty of the Baviaanskloof Mountains to the north, the Sand River to your left. The road leads through some dairy farms. Once in Oyster Bay, enjoy something to drink at the café before you walk down to see the beautiful beach
There are so many walks and hikes to choose from, why not visit the SA Hikes website for more detailed information: http://www.sahikes.co.za