If you explore the parks on foot, you’ll appreciate your surroundings at nature’s pace. It’s all about using every sense to experience the wonders of the wild. Grab your hiking gear and get out there! By Arnold Ras

Escape the urban jungle and make 2017 a year in the wilderness with Wild’s Year of Adventure and Activity. Every month Wild will share some inspiring ideas to explore our national parks and nature reserves. First up is our selection of wilderness walks sure to make you fall in love with nature.

#1: In awe at Cathedral Cave

Golden Gate-Cathedral Cave-Hein Grobler-9

Picture by Hein Grobler

Golden Gate Highlands National Park is a canvas of glorious sandstone scenes and heavenly sunsets. Ever heard of the Cathedral Cave Hike? A strictly guided four-hour walk to this sacred circular cave will transport you to another world. Under the cavern’s soaring roof it’s easy to grow quiet and feel the power of nature. The hike has a low difficulty rating and is offered to a minimum of four hikers. Remember your swimming gear – inside the heart of the cave awaits a magical pool. Dare to explore the second cave? The icy mountain water is the only way to get there… Be sure to book in advance with park reception.

Cost: R80 per person
Bookings: +27 (0)58 255 1000

#2: Walk on the wild side in Mapungubwe

Mapungubwe-guided walk-Karin Schermbrucker

Picture by Karin Schermbrucker

Fancy a three-hour guided morning walk where the Big Five roams? Mapungubwe National Park, a World Heritage Site where archaeologists unearthed the famous golden rhino, offers several guided morning walks throughout the park. Groups are limited to eight hikers itching to explore some of Mapungubwe’s highlights: stately baobabs (one of the baobabs in the park has a circumference of 31m), more than 400 bird species, rock art, and glorious giraffes. Morning guided walks start at 06:00 in the morning – remember your sunscreen and a hat.

Cost: R424 per person
Bookings: +27 (0)15 534 7923/24

#3: Rise and shine in the Karoo

Karoo-morning walk-Ron Swilling

Picture by Ron Swilling

Between Cape Town and Johannesburg, Karoo National Park is the stop-over for spending a night or two. The open plains are ideal for game viewing and you’ll discover a rich diversity of life in the seeming ‘emptiness’. A guided morning walk led by a knowledgeable guide will unlock the secrets of South Africa’s biggest ecosystem. Did you know that the anchor bush plant (Pentzia incana) is what gives Karoo lamb its distinctive flavour? During summer months, guided two-hour hikes start at 06:00; park visitors should book their spot before 19:00 the day prior.

Cost: R212 per person
Bookings: +27 (0)23 415 2828/9

#4: On the West Coast

Picture by Alessandro Bonora

For a hike with picturesque panoramas, head to the West Coast National Park’s Langebaan Gate. The 4,6km Bakoor Trail is short and easy enough for the whole family to be enjoyed. As the trail is self-guided, you can take your time to drink in the stunning views of Langebaan Lagoon all the way to Seeberg View Point. This hill overlooking the lagoon offers some of the best vistas in the park. Smell the sea air while keeping an eye out for wildlife species such as bat-eared foxes, ostriches and eland. The West Coast is a dreamy destination all-year round for old and young to be discovered.

Cost: Wild Card members enter the park for free. Daily conservation fees for South African residents: R50 per adult, R25 per child.
Bookings: +27 (0)22 772 2144/5

#5: Africa’s giants

Garden Route-Elephant Trail-Judy van der Walt

Picture by Judy van der Walt

The Garden Route National Park’s non-guided Elephant Trail is situated in the mystical Knysna Section of the parks. The trail kicks off at the Diepwalle office and consists of three options: black trail (9km), white trail (an easy 8km circular route starting at the Diepwalle Picnic Site) and the red trail (a moderate 7km route starting close to the Diepwalle office). The trio-trail boasts rock pools, picnic sites, massive yellowwood trees and, of course, the enchantment of the Knysna Forest. And who knows, maybe you will cross paths with a Knysna elephant – a sighting very few can brag about.

Cost: Wild Card members enter at no cost. Daily conservation fees for South African residents: R30 per adult, R15 per child.
Bookings: +27 (0)44 382 9762/3

Are you up for the challenge?

Wild has declared 2017 the Year of Adventure & Activity. Challenge yourself to try something new, whether it’s a self-guided trail or a guided walk through Big Five Country. Share your Year of Adventure & Activity experiences with us on our Facebook and Instagram pages!

Remember to tag us: #wildadventuregoals. The best images will feature in Wild’s online gallery.