Who needs fenced-in swimming pools and overcrowded beaches this summer when our parks and reserves are overflowing with rock pools, rivers and waterfalls ideal for a dip? By Nell Hofmeyr

Algeria, Cederberg

If rugged beauty and remote solitude are on your checklist, a trip to the Cederberg will always deliver. The landscape begs to explored on foot, and in summer, a refreshing swim after hiking up the mountain is called for. Cool down with a dip in the rock pool at Algeria Camp, conveniently located along the banks of the Rondegat River. Soft grass and picnic facilities make this an idyllic spot to wile away the hours. Prefer to escape the crowds? Go for a short walk instead to the Middelberg waterfall for a secluded dip with scenic views. Extend your stay at Algeria’s self-catering cottages or campsite, both of which come highly recommended.

Rates: Camping R180 for 1-2 people off-peak season, R420 for 1-6 people peak season, R60 an extra person. Cottages R990 for 1-2 people off-peak season, R1770 per cottage in peak season.

Cool off in the rock pool at Algeria Camp in the Cederberg. Photo by Alessandro Bonora




The stunning waterfall above Algeria offers cool respite.

Bontebok National Park

Could this be the prettiest swimming spot in the Cape? Situated just outside Swellendam, Bontebok National Park is one of several gateways to the Breede River, but surely the best among them. The campsite is located right on the river’s edge, offering pristine scenery of the park and Langeberg mountains. Unwind with a riverside braai or picnic at Die Stroom before wading into tranquil waters. Splash with the kids, take a solitary lap further out or simply float on your back and bask in the peaceful atmosphere. The park is renowned for its birdlife, so twitchers should be on the lookout for riverine birds like the swee waxbill and water thick-knee.

Rates: Camping from R240 for 1-2 people, R94 an extra adult, R47 a child, maximum 6.

The beautiful Breede River is a magnificent setting for an open water swim. Photo by Bridgena Barnard, courtesy SANParks

At Die Stroom, visitors to Bontebok can make use of picnic and braai facilities following their wild swim. Photo by Johan Barnard, courtesy SANParks

Cobham Nature Reserve

For a truly wild swim, head to Cobham Nature Reserve where the crystal clear waters of the Pholela River beckon. The word “pholela” means “a place to cool oneself” in Zulu, and in this untouched section of the Southern Drakensberg, you’re spoilt for choice. The Pholela River Walk is a short and easy meander (between 1 and 5km) along the river’s edge, ideal for a day trip with the family. Serious hikers should consider the Giant’s Cup Trail (five days total) for access to pools and waterfalls along the way. You’ll even spend a night in a cave! Take note that there is no electricity or mobile reception at the campsite, so Cobham is perfect if a back-to-basics getaway is what you’re after.

Rates: Camping R80 a person.

The pristine Pholela River in Cobham Nature Reserve is particularly inviting on a hot day. Picture from Tripadvisor