Wild beaches, enchanting forests, riverside rambles… where would you like to go walking? The HI-TEC Garden Route Walking Festival is the ideal way to explore this beautiful part of South Africa with your friends and family. That’s your Easter weekend sorted. By Gaynor Siljeur
The fourth HI-TEC Garden Route Walking Festival takes place over Easter weekend from 19 to 22 April 2019. That’s four days along the most scenic stretch of the South African coast with a wide selection of walks to choose from.
But you might find it difficult to pick your trail. The walking fest offers over 52 free or professionally guided walks dotted all along the Garden Route, from Mosselbay to Nature’s Valley.
“The number of participants has increased significantly each year, and the programme has continually added new and different walks that really showcase the beauty and diversity of the garden Route,” says Galeo Saintz, HI-TEC Garden Route Walking Festival founder.
This fantastic festival is the only one of its kind in South Africa and has become popular with people of all ages for good reason. The trails range from easy routes perfect for the entire family (even the dog) to extreme mountain peaks for the fit and adventurous. Some trails trace the shoreline while others wind deep into the forest. Have a special interest? There are walks for birders, history buffs, artists and coffee lovers.
This was a well organised festival with a tremendous variety of walks in some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere. It is well worth travelling to the Garden Route for a few days to experience its wonders. – Robert K Berry
Whichever trails you choose to walk, the festival is an irresistible combination of nature, adventure and family fun. From easy to strenuous, here are four trails that will have you itching to explore:
Kids Coastal Pirate Walk
Ahoy matey! Put on your walking shoes and pack a sense of adventure for this fun walk. The Kids Coastal Pirate Walk is a Robinson Crusoe-style beach walk for the little ones. Kids should come dressed up in their best pirate look to make their way along coves and beaches from Keurboomstrand to Cathedral Rock. They can expect to meet fearsome pirates along the way, learn their songs and listen to the fascinating stories of their exploits on the high seas. Mini explorers stand to score great prizes as they search for buried treasure in the pirates’ hide-outs.
Our signature walk – the Kids Coastal Pirate Walk on Easter Sunday started out with a handful of children led by Claire Randon who came up with the idea, has evolved to the point where we now have a team of local ‘professional pirates’ who juggle, sing songs and help the kids find the buried treasure as they walk along the beach – Galeo Saintz
When: Sunday, 21 April, 09:00–11:00
Where: Keurboomstrand, Plettenberg Bay
Circles in the Forest Trail
If you’re a fan of author Dalene Matthee’s novels about Knysna Forest, this walk is a must. Lofty trees, birdsong and tranquillity await avid nature lovers of all ages and fitness levels on this adventure. Learn about the history of the forest and the indigenous trees that grow there while exploring Knysna’s Milkwood Forest, Krisjan se Nek, Rheenendal and the Dalene Matthee Memorial. Who knows, you might even come across signs of the 45-year-old female elephant that was recently discovered roaming Knysna Forest.
When: Saturday, 20 April, 14:00–17:00
Meeting point: Dalene Matthee Memorial, Knysna
Cost: R75 and Wild Card or SANParks permit.
Cape Dune Molerat Trail
Billed as the most picturesque walk in the lakes area, this trail takes in a range of landscapes, from fynbos to coastal dune forest. But it’s more than a pretty outing. Nature lovers will gain invaluable insight into the diversity of habitats found in the Sedgefield area. On this family-friendly forest walk, keen twitchers will be treated to enviable birding opportunities at the Rondevlei Bird Hide. The walk starts at Rondevlei in Wilderness National Park; walkers are reminded to wear hiking boots due to the many mole holes on the trail.
When: Sunday, 21 April, 08:00–12:00
Where: Wolwerivier Road, Rondevlei, Sedgefield
Cost: R120 per person and Wild Card or SANParks permit
Peak Formosa Trail
This strenuous climb is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It’s an all-day adventure to summit the highest peak in the Tsitsikamma range. Make sure your nerves are up to it as there is some exposure in one section. The climb is challenging but the fantastic views from the top across Garden Route National Park make it all worthwhile. An early start at 4:30 will ensure a rewarding and fun outing for very fit and experienced hikers. It will take four hours to reach the top of Peak Formosa and another three hours to get back down again. An experience any adventurer would want to tick off the bucket list!
When: Monday, 22 April, 04:30–17:30
Meeting point: Engen Garage, Plettenberg Bay.
Cost: R850 per person. Includes donation towards conservation charities.
Good to know: Climbers meet at 04:20 to depart from the Engen at the bottom of the hill in Plett at 04:30 sharp. The drive to the base of the mountain is two hours long. Climbers can expect to be back in Plettenberg Bay by 17:30 at the earliest.
What to pack
Galeo Saintz encourages all walkers to be trail ready and pack the following items:
- Gear – hat, rain gear,correct footwear
- Water and energy – 2lt water, energy snacks, food.
- Emergency kit -first-aid kit, whistle, firelighters, head torch, knife.
- Orientation Tools – map, compass, GPS, competent guide.
- Communication – tell people where you are going, take a phone.
- Leave, let live and love – only take photographs and leave the wildlife, plants and rocks be. Love and share the trail.
- Be ready – for fun and adventure. Choose the trail that fits your skill and fitness levels.