Many tourists miss some of South Africa's best hiking routes which are just outside of the Kruger National Park. These day trips would make a great addition to a safari holiday.
The Sabie River Valley offers some interesting hikes for outdoor enthusiasts. There are a number of various trails that pass through the Pine and Gum tree plantations and picturesque indigenous forest in the valley. This article is going to focus on the day trails that can be done in the area. However, there are several famous overnight trails in the area, the most famous of which is probably the Fanie Botha Trail.
The Loerie Trail
Perhaps the most famous of these must be the Loerie Trail. This route starts at the Castle Rock Caravan Park by the Bridal Veil Falls. It is a fairly challenging 10 km walk that passes several picturesque waterfalls, including Glynis and Elna Falls. It ascends the sides of the valley allowing you to take in the sweeping views. The final section of the route follows the beautiful Sabie River, and you might be lucky enough to see Hippo and Crocodiles.
The trail is named after the beautiful green Knysna Loerie and you should keep a look out for them in the forests during your hike. There are many natural streams and during the rains many seasonal waterfalls and rare wildflowers, make this one of the most scenic hikes in the country. The water is bilharzia free, so pack your swimming costume and have a dip to cool off.
The Forest Falls Nature Walk
A shorter trail which is a great option for a family outing, perhaps with teenagers is the Forest Falls trail. It is a 4km circular route which leaves from the Green Heritage Picnic Site. This walk takes you through fragrant pine plantations, and into pristine low veldt bush. It continues along the Mac Mac River to the Forest Falls.
The different trees along this route are all named, adding to the hike. The birding is excellent and you should keep a look out for the many species that live in the region. To get to the Green Heritage Picnic Site take the R532 towards Graskop, and just after you cross the railway line the picnic area is on the right.
The Graskop Day Trail
This trail forms part of the Fanie Botha Trail and begins at the Graskop Hut. It is fairly easy hike if you have a reasonable level of fitness. The route is 13km long and takes you through the scenic pine plantations for the first few kilometres before descending into indigenous bush. A highlight of the excursion is the Forest Falls. This trail is great for birding enthusiasts.
Maps and Permits
You need to obtain a permit or pay an entrance fee to do these hikes. Permits and route maps can be purchased from Merry Pebbles, the Lowveld Tourism Information Center, Komatiland Eco-Tourism, Mac Mac Forest Retreat and Valley View Backpackers.
For the longer hikes, allow yourself between 3 and 4 hours to do the route at a leisurely pace. During the rainy season the roads can become very muddy and the trails slippery, so wear good hiking shoes.
What to bring
Remember to wear a swimming costume (so you can cool off in the crystal clear pools). Please only cool off in the mountain streams and pools and not the rivers. Take a towel, sun block, sunglasses, a hat and at least 1 litre of water. Perhaps take a light pack with a picnic lunch to enjoy in a scenic spot.