Three Nature Walks To Escape To.

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If you prefer time in nature and have a more active approach to your holiday, here are four rather off-the-beaten-track Nature Walks to Escape To.

1. West Coast National Park

The West Coast starts just a short drive up the R27 highway and offers a look at Bloubergstrand, Melkbosstrand and Yzerfontein, Blouberg undoubtedly boasting the best views towards Table Mountain.

But I encourage you to head further North to the West Coast National Park with its 16-mile beach, tranquil lagoon and beautiful landscape. It’s a perfect place to spend a day and just an hour from the city. You can book lunch at Geelbeck Restaurant, or continue to Langebaan and have a meal on the water’s edge before heading back. This park offers a stark contrast between the tranquil turquoise waters of the lagoon on the one side and the wild Atlantic Ocean on the other. Along the ever deserted beach, waves crash and the wind always blows, a true reminder of the strength of nature, there’s even a shipwreck on the shoreline that you can walk to. A sobering reminder of the harsh Cape storms.

Take some quiet time at Kraalbaai with its resident houseboats and Preekstoel on the lagoon. Here there always seem to be sheltered from the wind and I’ve often spotted Bull-Rays swimming in the shallow waters. Activities in the park include walks and hikes, mountain biking, kayaking and kite-boarding, birdwatching and looking for whales in season. This is also one of the most popular places to see the wildflowers in Spring. There are a number of trails offered with the Geelbek self-guided 9km and 7km walks the most popular. There is also the Bakoor Trail from the Langebaan gate to the Seeberg View Point, which is only 4,6km long and may suit some with less time or inclination.

For more serious hikers the Strandveld Trail and seasonal Postberg Two Day Hiking Trails may be choices. Other walks in the area include the 25km Darling Stagger from Darling to Yzerfontein, passing through wine and olive farms along the way. If you fancy a bit of beach walking, Eve’s Trail is a great option, as it includes the 16-mile as well as sections of the Park.

2. Climb Paarl Rock

Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve has the second largest granite boulder in the world, beaten only by Australia’s Ayers Rock, and consists of three dominating structures that are visible from a great distance. Paarl originally got its name when early settlers caught a glimpse of the giant boulder after the rain and thought it shimmered in the sun like a pearl. They called the area ‘Die Perel’ and it has remained so, transforming slightly over the years to Paarl.

Declared a Nature Reserve in 1977, the nature reserve above the town is rich in unspoiled beauty, and has picturesque landscapes covered in fynbos vegetation, ancient wild olives, rock candle woods and wagon trees. The dams on the top of the mountain contribute to the tranquillity. There are several viewpoints that offer panoramic views toward Table Mountain and the sea in the west and the Boland Mountains in the east, with well-marked walking trails to enjoy here.

The most popular is the Klipkers Nature Trail, a circular route that starts at the Afrikaans Language Monument and takes roughly two hours at a leisurely pace. The Mountain Road is well maintained, although not tarred, and you can park near the upper garden and picnic area, to walk from there. On the plateau, roads are not intensively maintained, mainly to discourage motor traffic and to retain it as an unspoiled walking area.

All that said, the main reason visitors venture this way is to climb Paarl Rock itself. You can carefully clamber up to the top with the help of a chain and rope set in place for support, with little steps carved into the granite to help. lt can be slippery though, so wear the right shoes. I love the sense of achievement when you do reach that top point and have 360-degree views to take in. For the more adventurous rock climber, this is a destination with routes like the Belly Button Brigade, Stairway to Heaven and most challenging Blue Diamonds and White Ice to tackle. The Paarl Mountain Reserve is open every day and there is a nominal entrance fee payable at the gate. 

3. Off the Grid in Bain’s Kloof

For me home means Wellington, the more modest of the Winelands towns and certainly one of the most scenic with its outlying vineyards, table grape and citrus plantations, as well as dominant mountain ranges that hold the town in their curve and historically sealed the valley from the hinterland. That was until the completion of Bainskloof Pass in 1853, which remains one of the country’s most scenic mountain drives and offers recreational beauty, hiking trails and picnic spots. The Liemietberg Nature Reserve stretches into the 102 000 ha greater Boland Mountain range and forms part of the impressive Cape Floral Region and is home to 277 varieties of plants as well as the elusive leopard, baboon, otter, honey badgers, klipspringer, steenbok as well as 182 listed species of birds.

It’s an untouched natural paradise with nine clearly marked hiking trails set out to offer varying levels of difficulty. Depending on your interest and group dynamics, you could opt to spend a day with the family and a picnic at Tweede Tol or Balgat swimming holes. However, should you choose to do one of the longer trails, I’d recommend the Bobbejaansriver hike to the three-tier waterfall (9km), the Murasie up to the ill-fated Hugo’s Rest ruins – said to be haunted (7km) – and the intensely beautiful overnight Liemietberg Trail (31km). Hiking permits are required and can be bought at the Lodge or from Cape Nature.

The ‘Liemietberg Nature Reserve and Hiking Trails’ map from Cape Nature offers comprehensive details and you can pick one up when you get your permit. There is no cell phone reception here so be sure to let somebody know where you’ll be and when you’ll be back.

Whichever you choose to do, hit the open road with those walking shoes and sun hat and find a trail to enjoy, reconnecting with nature and yourself.


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