Southern Africa has an astonishing diversity of hiking environments and a staggering number of designated, marked hiking trails, particularly in South Africa, Swaziland and Namibia. Many of the formal trails in South Africa were originally designed to link up to form the proposed (and subsequently abandoned) National Hiking Way, which was intended to form one immensely long trail. Sadly, it didn’t materialise but the legacy is a lot of linear trails, which necessitates some car juggling. The newer trails have been designed to be circular. You can choose between trails in the mountains, the forests, along the coast or in the arid or semi-arid areas. Many farms have laid out trails, often with fabulous accommodation in characterful old buildings, caves or purpose-built huts, and some have a network of trails so you can stay in a central place and hike out every day. This option is also available in many forests, plantations and nature reserves.
Designated wilderness areas in South Africa are virtually pristine areas with no infrastructure, other than unmarked footpaths. There are no set trails in the Wilderness areas, so you need to plan and navigate your own route and be totally self-sufficient.
A relatively newish, rather wonderful, innovation is slackpacking – catered, guided hikes on which your luggage is transported to the next overnight stop. Accommodation is usually in comfortable – sometimes very comfortable – B&B’s, hotels, guest houses or cottages.
If you want to see some big game on foot, there are numerous short and overnight wilderness trails in national and provincial parks, as well as in the private game reserves.
We’ve listed only guided day walks but you’ll find self-guided day trails almost everywhere. For a day walk with a bit of a challenge, check out kloofing/canyoning.