While the scenic huts on iconic coastal trails such as the Otter need no introduction, the number of superb overnight accommodation options on inland hikes in South Africa might come as a surprise.
1. Mzimkulwana Hut, Giant’s Cup Hiking Trail, KwaZulu-Natal
The five-day, 59-kilometre self-guided trail from Sani Pass to Bushman’s Nek is a wonderful immersion in the foothills of the Drakensberg and the overnight hut at the end of day two is a gem. Its setting, beneath sandstone cliffs on the banks of a tributary of the Mzimkulu River, is quite superb and the hut is clean with good ablutions, comfortable mattresses and a great natural pool for those willing to brave the icy water. Overnight and shorter multi-day trails are an option. Costs R80 a person a day. Tel 033-845-1000.
2. Arangieskop Hikers’ Hut, Robertson, Western Cape
Perched on a cliff edge, this well-equipped hut on the circular, 21-kilometre Arangieskop Trail is one of my favourite overnight spots. Trail highlights include spectacular scenery, swimming holes, wonderful rock formations and magnificent fynbos. Be warned, the route involves steep climbs on both days and can get quite treacherous in bad weather. It’s a serious undertaking, but if you’re after a weekend trail that offers a physical challenge and a luxurious hut this is for you. Costs R113 a person for the overnight trail. Tel 023-615-8037, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Dome Rock Camp, Thabapashwa, Limpopo
Near Mokopane, roughly three hours from Pretoria, the ingeniously designed, luxury glass-fronted chalets are built into the granite boulders that dominate the landscape. A network of well-marked day walks and overnight backpacking trails means hikers of all ages and levels of fitness can explore the area. Costs R135 a person a night (R210 to include bedding and cutlery). Tel 015-491-4882.
4. Bloukrantz Hut, Tsitsikamma Trail, Eastern Cape
South Africa’s first Green Flag accredited trail, the six-day, 61-kilometre Tsitsikamma Trail from Nature’s Valley to Storms River is a tough hike but the rewards, which include incredibly diverse scenery, swimming holes and magnificent flora, are immense. Two- to five-day options and a bag porterage service make the trail accessible to moderately fit hikers and the well-maintained huts are comfortable with good ablution facilities, firewood, braai and kettle. The most spectacular is the Bloukrantz Hut, right on the edge of the cliffs; you can gaze out over the blue gorges from which the hut takes its name towards the Tsitsikamma mountains. Costs R110 a person a day, with porterage charged extra. Tel 042-281-1712.
5. Aloe Kaya Hiking Camp, Escarpment Trail, Mpumalanga
All the accommodation on the trails at Five Assegais farm near Machadodorp (three hours from Johannesburg) is superb and accessible by car or on foot. The most dramatic is Aloe Kaya, a collection of four huts, each sleeping eight people, and a central dining/lounge area built into the sandstone outcrops on the top of the escarpment. The camp offers the ultimate in outdoor showers and loos with views as well as an honesty shop which includes cold beers. Hiking opportunities are varied with interpretive forest strolls, dramatic waterfalls and gameviewing. Costs R150 a person a night. Cell 082-889-6757 or 072-889-9284.
Accommodation on Green Flag-accredited hiking trails
For detailed information on the quality of accommodation and facilities on Green Flag-accredited hiking trails, visit www.trailinfo.co.za.