Newly revamped huts through a hiking excursion of Baviaàns, the famous Leopard Trail in Baviaanskloof World Heritage Site Wilderness Reserve in the Eastern Cape have been added in the four destination camp-sides for hikers who prefer not to bring their own explorer tents and inflatable hiking mattresses when visiting the area for a hiking adventure.
The Department of Tourism with the Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency using European Union funding, upgraded 12 sleeper hikers’ huts along the three camps of the Leopard Trail as well as the three concrete pools and braai facilities. The huts are eight months in existence and have since been operational, they are made of wood and glass yet they are always worm [warm???] between the seasons that a hiker prefers to visit the trail overlook and surrounded by beautiful rock mountains. [check this sentence]
This is optionally a share accommodation where each overnight hut sleeps four people in an open plan, bunk bed setting. Mattresses are provided, however all participants will need to supply their own bedding and towels. Each camp has flush toilets as well as intimate swimming pools filled with natural spring water for your refreshment after a long kilometre day.
There is also a communal kitchen hut where 4 showers are planted on the sides that supply hot water through solar geysers. The communal hut operates using solar power and this is sufficient to charge a mobile phone but nothing else and make a cup of coffee or tea.
NB – No candles or open flames are allowed in the huts.
About the trail
This is a 62km slack packing hike over 4-day and 3-night camping with the food and bags of hikers being transported from one overnight hut to the next one.
The first day of the trail is 9.75km up to three hours. It begins with a nice stiff walk up Kick-Start Hill to the plateau. At the day’s halfway point there is an optional detour to Gabriel’s Pools, a spectacular kloof with small pools for swimming. The detour is 570 metres each way, and with time for swimming will add an extra hour to the day’s hike. From there the path moves down into a valley that winds its way to the first overnight spot.
It recommended that while hiking, give yourself enough time to do the detour because Gabriel’s Pools are in a really special little kloof you might need to check out while out in the trail.
Day 2 takes up to 18 km, 5 – 8 hours
Day 2 starts off nice and easy with a 5.5 km walk along Rhebok Valley. The valley ends at an optional detour (314 metres each way) to the Cedars Viewpoint, passing a stream with drinking water and a small pool to swim in. From the detour turn-off point you start the climb to the top of the saddle and spectacular views of the Kouga and Baviaans foothills, down the other side to Reflection Pools, for a swim and drinking water.
The remainder of the day’s hike takes you across the landscape before climbing two small saddles at the end and arriving at the overnight huts.
It is recommended that in summer, hikers need avoid walking during the middle of the day. Organise yourselves the night before for an early departure. Leave early in the morning (as close to daybreak as possible), enjoy the detour to Cedar Viewpoint, and keep moving to get to Reflection Pools and shade by mid morning. Spend a good few hours at the pools before heading off mid afternoon for the last few hours of the walk.
The longest day of the trail, day 3 starts with you walking across the flow of the landscape.
This is the most taxing part of the hike as you tackle the three climbs of Honeybush Hill, Inconvenient Truth and Ain’t so Bad. This is true wilderness, with no sign of human impact, and views deep into the Baviaans and Kouga mountains.
At the day’s halfway point, Draaipunt, there is a short 224 metre detour to drinking water. The second half of the day is spent walking down the incredibly beautiful Kasey Kloof, following its winding path for 9 km through to the third overnight huts.
Our recommendation: Leave as early as possible in summer and get over the three saddles in the first few hours of the day (prepare your camp the night before for a sunrise departure.) Spend some time at the stream at Draaipunt before continuing. The walk through Kasey Kloof in the second half of the day is a lot cooler, often passing through shaded areas and under trees. Depending on the localized rains, there are often places in Kasey Kloof to sit in the shade with your feet in running water.
Day4 is about 13km, 3 – 5 hours
An easy start to the day has you following yet another beautiful kloof, Birdsong Valley. After 4km you get to Fond Farewell, a steep climb to the plateau. Once on the plateau you will need to get through The Cauldron, a series of two small valleys that get very hot in summer. From there it is a steep descent into the Cedar Falls valley, which brings you towards base camp for a traditional swim in the reservoir’s clean mountain water.
Why hiking is good
Even light hiking may raise your heart rate to a moderate level which assists with improving aerobic fitness and endurance. Over time, your body will adjust to new fitness levels which means that you will be able to hike longer, faster as well as harder without feeling as fatigued or out of breath.
Suggested packing list:
Sleeping bag or blanket/bedding
Sunblock and After Sun
Water bottles -2l per day – You can fill up your water bottles at each campsite (important)
Comfortable walking shoes (important)
Plasters or first aid kit
Comfortable, breathable walking clothes
There is no mobile phone reception during the hike experience. The only mobile reception is at base camp.
The Leopard Trail has hiking safety protocols in place. Every group of hikers walks with an emergency satellite device, and there is an emergency evacuation plan in place.
For directions please see:
GPS Coordinates: 33*34’31.28”S and 23*42’57.33”E