Rise & Shine
Energetic or idle, old or young, you’ll always find something to do at the Wilderness Section of the Garden Route National Park. By Stephen Cunliffe.
A growing reputation for outdoorsy adventure activities was why my wife and I found ourselves in the charming area known as the Wilderness Section of the Garden Route National Park. After a leisurely stroll along the beach the afternoon we arrived, we would spend the next few days systematically exploring the park’s five well-maintained walking trails. With varying distances and degrees of difficulty, there is indeed a half-day hike in Wilderness to suit all.
The Brown-Hooded Kingfisher Trail is an out-and-back walk, meandering along the Duiwe River in a steep-sided valley below aloe-caked rocky crags. Inside the indigenous forest, with sunlight dripping through a dense canopy, it is hard to see the wood for the trees, but there’s a short climb to a viewpoint overlooking the forest.
It was so serenely quiet atop the ridge I found it impossible to believe we were barely a kilometre from the N2 highway. The distant bark of a baboon snapped me from my musings in the nick of time to see the red wing flash of a Knysna turaco as it abandoned its perch. The trail terminated a kilometre further up the valley at a small, secluded waterfall and icy rock pool. An idyllic spot to escape the midday heat.
By contrast the Pied Kingfisher Trail is a completely flat and shadeless 10 km circular route across the fynbos-surrounded Serpentine floodplain, along the beach and onto the boardwalk alongside the Touw River. It is well suited to an early morning jog or mountain-bike ride. The kingfisher-dominated stretch of trail along the Serpentine is a highlight.
The Cape Dune Molerat Trail is a seldom-used sandy, circular trail through fynbos and beautiful proteas that begins by climbing over the hill behind Rondevlei before tracing the route of the Wolwe River into Swartvlei. We took advantage of the great picnic spot nestled in the shade of a giant red currant next to the river to enjoy a packed lunch of biltong and sandwiches. At the end of the hike, we popped into the Rondevlei bird hide to recuperate in the company of an overwhelming menagerie of herons, egrets, gulls, cormorants, ducks, grebes, teals and coots.
The Woodville Big Tree Circular Walk comprises a short, easy trail through thick indigenous forest. But without a doubt, the most impressive nature walk is the popular 7,2 km Half-Collared and Giant Kingfisher loop trail that follows the tranquil Touw River upstream to a scenic waterfall. Making use of a newly constructed 2 km long boardwalk, this shaded forest walk took us through a densely wooded valley with giant yellowwoods. The pristine terrain afforded a close encounter with a stately bushbuck ram and regular glimpses of brilliantly coloured kingfishers and turacos.
On the way back, we detoured onto the more challenging Bosduif Loop, a strenuous route straight up the mountainside that took us past a couple of spectacular lookouts. It was a sweaty uphill slog, but the panoramic vista overlooking the Touw River valley was well worth the effort to get there. Upon returning to Ebb and Flow Rest Camp, we were in unanimous agreement that this hike has deservedly garnered a reputation as the top Wilderness walk.
Pictures: Stephen Cunliffe
This article was first published in the spring issue of Wild 2012.