Take a hike to see province through fresh eyes
The Eastern Cape boasts an incredible 800km coastline and landscapes that allow one to see for endless kilometres — from the arid Karoo to white, sandy shores and even tropical forests, ancient shipwrecks and majestic mountains.
The best way to explore its diversity — as soon as the national lockdown has been lifted — is to take on one of its many hiking trails.
Though there are certainly some rough and tough hiking trails available, hiking in the Eastern Cape does not always need to be a gruelling expedition.
There are also numerous slack-packing trails for those seeking a little more comfort while still enjoying nature.
The majestic Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve is begging to be traversed by foot.
However, the selected north-south route for the Baviaans Camino lends itself to novice horse riders to accompany hikers.
Hikers and riders are supported in this remote wilderness area by two vehicles, and overnight accommodation is in farm houses and/or tents.
The trail starts in the Klein Karoo, from where hikers and horses traverse the Baviaanskloof Mountain Range into the Baviaanskloof, and continues to cross most of the Kouga Mountain Range towards the coast.
The trail is 75km long over four days and five nights.
Hikers and riders meet in Steytlerville where all stay together to ensure an early start.
Hikers are transported to the foot of the mountain.
Otter Trail, Tsitsikamma
Among SA’s most popular hiking trails, the Otter Trail follows the spectacular Eastern Cape coastline from Storms River mouth to Nature’s Valley in the Tsitsikamma National Park.
The 42,5km trail takes 4½ days to complete.
It follows the rugged, rocky shoreline ranging in elevation from sea level to a height of more than 150m.
Most of the trail follows cliff tops, returning to sea level to cross rivers.
On arrival at Storms River Mouth the hiker reports to the park reception which is situated close to the park entrance.
Here you book in and settle the conservation levy before seeing a video presentation on the trail.
Island Nature Reserve hiking trails
The Island Nature Reserve in Port Elizabeth offers guests a series of interlinked walking trails through the 480ha of indigenous coastal forest.
The forest is home to an abundance of birding species as well as the small blue duiker, bushbuck and bush pigs.
Discover impressive Outeniqua yellowwood, white and hard pear as well as white milkwood as you venture through the dense forest.
Expect to rub shoulders with a sizeable population of vervet monkeys, which share the lush surroundings with bushbuck, bush pigs and numerous colourful bird species.
The exquisite coastal forest is also perfect for long walks, mountain biking, birding and game viewing.
Wild Coast Hike — Port St Johns to Hole-in-the-Wall
Hike along the pristine stretch of coastline from Port St Johns to Coffee Bay and stay over in traditional Xhosa huts.
The Wild Coast is one of the country’s most remote and inaccessible stretches of seashore.
It was an independent homeland until 1994 and continues to be a distinct part of SA, full of tradition and local colour and spectacular scenery.
Empty, white-sand beaches are separated by steep green hills, dramatic cliffs and rocky headlands while clusters of circular mud huts dot the hillsides.
Sign up for a guided hike between Port St Johns and the Hole-in-the-Wall with Jimmy Selani and you will be in for a special treat.
Not only is this strenuous hike one of the finest coastal walks in the world, but staying in local village is a chance to immerse yourself in this unique region.
Selani is a charismatic fountain of knowledge of the area and its people — the perfect chaperone.
Three picturesque fishing villages, a rugged coastline, sand dunes as far as the eye can see, a tidal river, protected fynbos and wetlands.
These are the characteristics that make up the Chokka Trail, a slack-packing trail through St Francis Bay, Port St Francis, Cape St Francis and Oyster Bay.
This is great opportunity to see and experience just how beautiful the area is — on foot, at your own pace and with overnight accommodation at guest houses.
Hikers meet for the four-day, three-night route at St Francis Link where they can leave their vehicle in a secure parking area for the duration of the hike.
From there, they are transported to Oyster Bay, about 20km to the west, and start their Chokka Trail experience with a warm-up walk to Thysbaai, an out-and-back of up to 14km — or whatever distance takes their fancy.
For two magical days you can hike the magnificent Tsitsikamma coast with no heavy backpack and spend three nights in comfort at different accommodation venues.
The trail covers 17km, starting in the Garden Route National Park (GRNP) Tsitsikamma Section at Storms River Mouth.
From there, it winds its way eastward through natural fynbos and pristine indigenous forest, over rugged rocks at the water’s edge, to end on the banks of the Sandrift River at The Fernery.
Hikers enjoy stunning views of the rugged Tsitsikamma coastline with a good chance of spotting whales, dolphins and the occasional otter.
Many birds including the 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.