Fynbos Hiking Trail

Stanford, Gansbaai

The Fynbos trail is a unique nature experience in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom that can be undertaken as a fully guided and catered slackpacking trail or as a self-guided and catered trail. This trail, just two hours from Cape Town and close to Hermanus Overberg, has a two or three night option and takes hikers along a beautiful stretch of trail through coastal and mountain fynbos, remote forests and visits some fascinating environmental and social projects along the way. Ideal for those looking for a walking holiday in Cape Town, South Africa.

As you drive down the R43 between the Overberg villages of Stanford and Gansbaai you have no inkling of the treasures hidden in the hills to your left. The three-day, 26km trail meanders through hidden pockets of indigenous forest alive with birds, to Tolkeinesque dells of dense lichens, tumbling waterfalls and streams and, you guessed it, through exquisite fynbos.

It’s true voyage of discovery, led by a passionate, expert guide who points out the various endemics and rare species and explains the that role the various birds, ants and other propagators play in the ecosystem. More than 800 fynbos species have been identified along the route and, whatever time of year you walk there’s always something in bloom. As you go you learn about the remarkable diversity and fascinating ecology of the proteas, ericas, reeds and wonderful bulbs, gaining an understanding of their preferred habitats and their remarkable tricks. The seeds of the local limestone pincushion (Leucospermum pattersoni) have a waxy coating that attract the local pugnacious ants, who carry the seeds to the safety of their underground nests, where ants are rewarded with nutritious seed coat as food and the seed is planted out of harm’s way until a future fire activated germination!

As you wander you begin to understand the uniqueness of this trail. Vegetation studies on Grootbos Nature Reserve have recorded six plant species that are new to science! A number of plant species including the spectacular Erica irregularis which paints the hills pink in winter and early spring, and Aloe juddii, which escapes fire by finding refuge in a few of the rocky outcrops along the trail are found here and nowhere else in the world and, as you hike, you occasionally come across previously unnoticed individuals. Surprisingly exciting stuff!

There are swimming opportunities in the dams and pools on each day and the views of Walker Bay, across to Dyer Island and over the rolling hills are stunning, but it’s not just the natural beauty that makes this trail so special. The Fynbos Trail is as much about the amazing people and stories of this fascinating region; how European settlers came to settle the farms through which you hike, how modern man has thrived along this fertile coastline and the wonderful work that Grootbos Nature Reserve and Flower Valley Conservation Trust are doing to conserve and support local communities. By hiking the trail you contribute directly towards the conservation and social development work of the partners within the conservancy. Some of the funds generated by the trail are re-invested into clearing alien vegetation, managing fire and documenting and monitoring flora and fauna within the conservancy.

The trail starts at Growing the Future Sustainable Agriculture and Life Skills College on Grootbos Nature Reserve. Growing the Future is all about food production, growing of vegetables and fruit, beekeeping and the principles of successful animal husbandry. In fact the majority of fresh produce enjoyed along the trail is sourced from the project.

From Growing the Future the trail leads through coastal strandveld into the Steynsbos Milkwood forest, one of only eight milkwood forests of its type in the world, all of which are found in the Stanford-Gansbaai area. An island surrounded by fynbos, this small patch of forest contains trees that are many hundreds, if not thousands of years old and is refuge for a number of animals and birds not commonly seen in the fynbos. Thirty four bird species, including Rameron pigeon, Cape Batis, African paradise flycatcher and forest buzzard have been sighted as well as a variety of mammals including bushbuck, porcupine, honey badger and mongoose.

The first night is at the very comfortable Fynbos Retreat, also on the Grootbos Nature Reserve, then on day 2 you hike down through a beautiful valley – characterized by an extra-ordinary mosaic of fynbos – into the lush, green Witwoetskloof forest. This is a different world to the open veld above. You walk on boardwalks and over bridges under the canopy of the magnificent ancient trees such as white stinkwood, wild olive, rooiels and assegai trees that line the river to a waterfall where, if you are feeling brave, you can enjoy a natural shower.

A steep climb out of the valley takes you onto the limestone hills of the Agulhas Plain. The limestone fynbos here is very uncommon so it’s a real privilege to encounter some of the rare endemic species. The path then winds up the slopes of Grootberg (which the energetic can summit) and down into Flower Valley, where wild fynbos is harvested for making bouquets for the local and export market. The afromontane Stinkhoutsbos Forest on the property was badly damaged by the huge fire that swept through the region in 2006, and, as part of the restoration work being undertaken at Flower Valley, each hiker is given the opportunity to plant an indigenous tree grown in this beautiful forest pocket overlooking Flower Valley.

After a night at Witkrans the trail ends with a short walk through more indigenous forest and fynbos-clad hills to the upmarket and superbly located, Grootbos Garden Lodge where you celebrate the end of the trail with a leisurely lunch overlooking the magnificent Walker Bay.

To really appreciate the trail we would strongly recommended the slack packing version on which you’re treated to great local cuisine, expert guiding and wonderful hospitality (as well as a fynbos gift and a beautiful field guide to the flora of the region) but there is also a very affordable, unguided and self-catering option which utilizes the same secluded accommodation.

  • Total hiking distance for standard trail is 25 km
  • Day 1 is a three hour walk that covers 6.6 kilometres from Steynsbos to Fynbos Retreat
  • Day 2 is a 11 km walk that takes most of the day and takes hikers from the first overnight at Fynbos Retreat to the second overnight at Witkrans
  • Day 3 is a 7.8 km walk that takes about four hours from Witkrans to the finish at Grootbos Garden Lodge.

Rates:

Admin Fee:  R55.00 once off per reservation
1 March 2018 to 1 March 2019
OPTION 1 – Full slackpacking option

Includes: Overnight accommodation at fully equipped Fynbos Retreat and Witkrans, two dinners, two lunches and two breakfasts, final lunch at five star Grootbos Nature Reserve Garden Lodge, Lomond wine tasting at Witkrans, expert guide for three days, planting of indigenous tree at Stinkhoutsbos Forest on day two lunch stop, fynbos gift on completion of trail, all luggage transfers and transfer after lunch on day 3 back to cars at the start. Drinks excluded, but you are welcome to bring along drinks and they will be transported to overnight and chilled for your arrival

  • Note: Minimum group size of 4 required for this option
  • Price: R3475 per person over weekend (or including Friday and Saturday nights)
  • Price: R3275 per person during the week (Sunday to Thursday night)
  • Surcharge if less than 4 people: R600/per person (no less than 2 people)

OPTION 2 – self guided slack packing option

Includes: Overnight accommodation at fully equipped Fynbos Retreat and Witkrans, two dinners, two lunches and two breakfasts, final lunch at five star Grootbos Nature Reserve Garden Lodge, all luggage transfers and transfer after lunch on day 3 back to cars at the start. Drinks excluded, but you are welcome to bring along drinks and they will be transported to overnight and chilled for your arrival

  • Price: R2850 per person over weekend (or including Friday and Saturday nights)
  • Price: R2650 per person during the week (Sunday to Thursday night)
  • Surcharge if less than 4 people: R300/per person (no less than 2 people)

OPTION 3 – Self guided and self-catered

Includes: Overnight accommodation at fully equipped Fynbos Retreat/ Witkrans, route map and narrative. Please note this is a circular route that takes hikers all the way back to the start at Steynsbos.

  • Price: R1050 per person
  • Optional Extra: Portage R200 per person
  • Coastal Day Add on rates

Total hiking distance for the coastal section is 9km, and takes about 4 hours.

This part of the route is done at the start of the trail.

Hikers will arrive at their guest house from where they will be transferred to the Drup Kelders, where they will get a guided tour of these amazing caves, followed by a walk back along the coast to the accommodation. The following day the route takes hikers along the Klipgat Trail on the De Kelders coastline overlooking Walker Bay. The rocky cliffs at De Kelders are amongst the very best places in the World to view magnificent Southern Right Whales (June to December). The route includes Die Plaat and Duiwelsgat and Klipgat caves. The trail will then link up to the start of the Fynbos Trail.

Full slackpacking – R1650 (includes overnight accommodation in De Kelders, dinner, breakfast, morning tea, lunch, Permit fees for Walker Bay Nature Reserves, transfer to Growing the Future, luggage transfers and expert guide).

NB: This section cannot be done without a guide as it is very difficult to find your way through the unmarked dune fields.