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10 unique hiking trails in South Africa

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 – so feel free to browse around and maybe even start dusting off those old hiking boots...

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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.

jill mkhuze fig forest bridge
Jill crossing over into the Mkhuze Fig Forest.
jill sycamore fig tree mkhuze
When last did you encounter a living organism that's over 900 years old?

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.

bevan self guided hike ithala
Bevan on a self-guided hiking trail in the 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.

jill in the river on the fanie botha trail
One of the many forest streams along the Fanie Botha Trail.
jill hiking fanie botha trail south africa
Jill enjoying the atmosphere in the indigenous forest.

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.

The Sentinel Peak ukhahlamba south africa
The famous Sentinel Peak in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg.
The Chain Ladder
The way back down the chain ladders looks far worse than going up it!

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.

cape town view from table mountain
The view over Cape Town from the Platteklip hiking trail.
table mountain from Milnerton
Table Mountain: The icon of Cape Town.

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.

bevan double mouth hiking trail
On the hunt for treasure in the Double Mouth Nature Reserve.
Walking on Bead Beach in Double Mouth
Two local ladies walking along Bead Beach in 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.

Bevan in the Knysna Forest
Bevan on the lookout for the last of the Knysna elephants.
Knysna Elephant sign
The sign optimistically points the way to the Knysna elephant.

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.

wild coast hiking trail south africa
One of the dozens of lonely hiking trails along the Wild Coast.
msikaba coastline wild coast
You can expect a lot of this kind of thing on the Wild Coast.

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.

Ongoye Forest
A magical clearing in the Ongoye Forest

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.

Jill looking over the incredible iMfolozi Wilderness area.
Jill looking over the incredible iMfolozi Wilderness Area.
Trailists iMfolozi Wilderness Trail.
Trailists on the iMfolozi Wilderness Trail.

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.

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