There are thousands of incredible hiking trails in South Africa. It truly is one of the best places in the world to explore on foot. From empty beaches to mountain trails and forest meanders, there is quite literally something for everyone. So, with all these amazing options on offer, we decided to put together a list of some of the more…unique places we’ve had the privilege to hike.
Each item on the list has a link to a page with more information on how you can do these hikes too. Be sure to check out our guide to day-hike packing essentials and maybe even start dusting off those old hiking boots...
1. Ancient trees in the Mkhuze Fig Forest
The uMhkuze River runs along the eastern border of the Mkhuze Game Reserve and through a section of forest that is home to some of the oldest Sycamore Fig trees in South Africa. While the Fig Forest Walk is not strictly a “hike”, we figured that it’s a pretty unique experience to be on foot in an environment like that and therefore, worth blurring the line. Read more about the Mkhuze Fig Forest Walk.
2. Self-guided game walks in the Ithala Game Reserve
The Ithala Game Reserve near Louwsburg in KwaZulu-Natal really surprised us with its incredible views and picturesque landscapes. But the thing that makes this reserve unique though, is the fact that it is one of the only public game parks that allows visitors to conduct self-guided trails in the reserve. There are 3 different trails to choose from, each with their own spectacular views over the reserve but be sure to keep on the lookout! The last time we did the Phuzamoya Trail, we stumbled upon a fresh leopard kill and had to make tracks fast! Read more about the self-guides hikes in Ithala Game Reserve.
3. Waterfalls all along the Fanie Botha Trail
The Fanie Botha Trail is a multi-day hike that can be completed in anything from 2-5 days. It's one of the most beautiful hiking trails in South Africa. Its uniqueness stems from the dozens of incredible waterfalls all over the Sabie and Graskop region that you get to encounter along the way. These waterfalls provide some of the best backdrops for a hiking trail we've ever seen, and who doesn’t love a quiet pool to cool off in during a long hike? Read more about the Fanie Botha Trail.
4. Climbing the chain ladders on the Sentinel Peak Hiking Trail
The Sentinel Peak is a famous hiking trail that attracts many hikers from around the world. The views from the Amphitheater over the Royal Natal National Park and the rest of the KwaZulu-Natal is simply spell bounding! And climbing the chain ladders is a unique experience that is not for the faint-hearted. Read more about the Sentinel Peak Hike.
5. Hiking one of the Natural Wonders of the World.
Unfortunately, hiking on Table Mountain has been in the media for all the wrong reasons lately with opportunistic criminals targeting isolated hikers in some areas. But we’re hoping that changes soon, because there’s nothing quite as unique as hiking on one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. Read more about hiking on Table Mountain.
6. Finding treasure on the beaches of Double Mouth
This obscure little nature reserve on the border of the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape barely registers a blip on the radar of most travelers, yet it offers one of the most unique experiences we’ve found on a hike. Around 400 years ago a transport vessel sank offshore and strew all of its precious cargo of carnelian beads and Ming pottery onto the beaches nearby. Today, hikers can skim the shoreline and find fragments of these artifacts that were last handled over 4 centuries ago. Read more about hiking for treasure in the Double Mouth Nature Reserve.
7. The last of the Knysna elephants in the Tsitsikamma National Park
The Garden Route needs no introduction and is one of South Africa’s top tourism hotspots, but there is one particular part of this region that catches our attention more than others, and that is the Deipwalle Section of the Tsitsikamma National Park. Aside from the beautiful hiking trails through pristine Afro-montane forests there is the added allure of the chance to see one of the last, if not the last of the Knysna Elephants. Read more about hiking with elephants in the Knysna forests.
8. The Wild Coast
An aptly named region indeed. This long stretch of coastline in the Eastern Cape is unique for its scenery of rolling hills, towering cliffs and deep river gorges; all with pretty phenomenal views over the Indian Ocean. The Wild Coast is any hiker’s dream destination and unlike anything else we've experienced in South Africa. Read more about the Pondo Hopper Hiking Trail.
9. Birds in the Zululand forests
There are dozens of indigenous forests in the Zululand region of KwaZulu-Natal. Just look at a map of the place and you’ll find dark green patches peppered all over the show. Each of these forests is unique in their own right but the one thing they all have in common is incredible bird life! From the endemic Green Barbet to the highly sought after Narina Trogon, you’ll find that hiking in this area is about a lot more than just the trail. Read more about our favourite forests in Zululand.
10. Reconnecting on the iMfolozi Wilderness Trail
The iMfolozi Wilderness Trail trumps almost all other trails you can do in South Africa. While its not a hiking trail in the traditional sense - there's no set path for trailists to follow, for example - it sure has all the ingredients of a great one. Amazing scenery, solitude in the wilderness and a connection to nature that cannot be rivaled. Read more about the famous iMfolozi Wilderness Trail.
Map of the 10 Unique Hiking Trails in South Africa
And that’s our list! Let us know which one you're keen to try and which areas you love to hike by leaving us a comment below.