Quench your outdoor thirst with a soft adventure: venture to these scenic parks for a fresh take on seeing the sights. Whether by donkey cart or Segway, mountain bike or walking trail, exploring our wildlife and rugged landscapes has never been so much fun! By Gaynor Siljeur
The Heuningvlei Donkey Cart Trail, Cederberg Wilderness Area
The Cederberg’s captivating landscape is characterised by unusual rock formations, crystal clear streams and mountain fynbos. Best way to explore this breathtaking place? A donkey cart excursion to a nearby village, of course.
For many years donkey carts were the traditional means of transportation in these parts. Residents of isolated hamlets such as Heuningvlei would use donkey carts to transport their produce to the largest nearby town, Clanwilliam.
The two-and-a-half hour trail starts at the top of Pakhuis Pass, where you can park your car. From there you’ll travel to the endearing Heuningvlei village, soaking up views of unspoilt nature along the way. The village evokes another time. You can’t help but fall in love with its whitewashed houses and animals wandering in the streets.
Choose between a half-day donkey cart ride, a full day visit or an overnight stay at Heuningvlei.
Good to know: The track is rough so be prepared for a bumpy but rollicking ride. The donkey cart track can suffer serious erosion during heavy rainstorms, so be sure to check if it’s open. If you decide to overnight, be aware that the guest cottage in Heuningvlei can accommodate up to seven people. Larger parties can stay in the small dormitories in Heuningvlei Lodge.
Contact: Heuningvlei Tourism at +27 27 492 3070
Wilderness Segway Tours, Garden Route National Park (Wilderness Section)
Wild beaches, towering trees and creatures hiding among the undergrowth await you in Garden Route National Park. Looking to add some adventure to the magnificent views? Explore the Wilderness Section on an off-road, self-balancing two-way personal vehicle: the Segway. The tour includes a 15-20 minute training session, after which you will traverse the park in the most unique way. Trundling past fynbos and wetlands, keep your eyes peeled for the park’s best-known birds, the kingfishers.
Good to know: Families or groups of friends can also head to the Tsitsikamma Section for Segway adventures through Tsitsikamma Forest or Storms River Village. Children have to be taller than 1,1m to do the tour.
Rates: R350 per person for the one-hour tour.
Morning guided walk, Mapungubwe National Park
Exploring a national park on foot is the perfect way to admire your surroundings at nature’s pace. Mapungubwe National Park’s incredible medley of wildlife, baobab trees and sandstone boulders will give you a new appreciation for South Africa’s far north.
Start your adventure bright and early and set off at 6am for the three-hour guided morning walk. With more than 400 different bird species, twitchers will be spoilt with enviable birding opportunities. The many baobab trees are also a special sight – one of the baobabs has a circumference of 31m. Be on the lookout for zebra, giraffe, kudu and eland.
Good to know: The walk starts at the main gate. Remember to wear good walking shoes and take sunscreen, binoculars and a hat. Each morning walk allows for up to eight people. Kids have to be older than 12 years in order to do the guided walks.
Rates: R475 per person
Contact: Send an email to [email protected] or call +27 (0)15 534 7923/4/5.
Mountain biking, Namaqua National Park
The upcoming flower season is the perfect time to cycle through Namaqua National Park and enjoy the bold colours of its wildflower display. Cyclists can crank along any of the park’s public roads and there are a variety of experiences on offer.
Although there are no formal mountain biking routes, we can help point you in the direction for a nice pedal in the park – from easy to difficult. The Wildeperdehoek pass is a quick and scenic ride if you have a back-up vehicle to drive you to and from the scenic 4,8km pass. Simply add riding along the Messelpad pass to extend your ride with 17km. Opt for the thrilling ride from Skilpadvlei to Soebatsfontein for more of a challenge. The escarpment will have you flying down the 9km (mostly) downhill route onto the coastal plains and then riding a gravel road for 26km to Soebatsfontein. If you want to ride next to the ocean, best bring a fatbike to deal with the soft sand in the Groen-Spoeg Section – a difficult ride, but the stunning views make for a valid reward.
Good to know: Cyclists should bring their own mountain bikes.
Contact: SANParks Central Reservation office at +27 (0)12 428 9111 or email [email protected],
Also read: What type of camper are you?