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Cool off in these rock pools made by Mother Nature herself.


1. Otter Trail, Tsitsikamma, Eastern Cape

On what is perhaps the most famous trail in South Africa, you’ll find a variety of magnificent pools in which to cool off. The first along the route is fed by a beautiful waterfall and is also where the day hike ends. For those tackling the full fournight trail, there are various other pools (including some tucked-away spots for those who prefer to soak in private) as well as sea or river swimming options. R32 conservation fee for day hikers. Tel 042-281-1607 (Tsitsikamma), 012-428-9111 (trail bookings), email,


2. Ploughman’s Kop, Royal Natal National Park, KwaZulu-Natal

If the views along the hike to these pools in the Drakensberg don’t take your breath away, a dip in the icy waters certainly will. The Crack and Mudslide and Gudu Falls trails start from the day visitors’ parking lot and can be finished in up to four hours each, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the burbling water and slippery rock slides at the top of the Gudu Falls. Day visits are R30 a person. Tel 036-438-6310, email,


3. Die Hel Groot Winterhoek, Wilderness Area, Western Cape

This rock pool is one of the largest in the Western Cape, fed by a five-metre waterfall. Surrounded by rugged cliffs, it’s only accessible to hikers, so the clear water has remained uncontaminated and safe for swimming and drinking. To get to the pool, take a 13-kilometre hike from the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area offices to the De Tronk overnight huts (there are some wonderful swimming opportunities along the way), and a further five to Die Hel. It isn’t advised to attempt this hike in a single day. R120 a person a night, plus a once-off R50 conservation fee. Tel 021-483- 0190,


4. Tierkloof Pool, Kgaswane Mountain Reserve, North West

Those who tackle the steep, 25-kilometre Summit Route in the Kgaswane Mountain Reserve near Rustenburg will welcome the discovery of this pool. Found at the base of the Tierkloof Waterfall, on the second and final day of the hike, its natural spa bath-like bubbles provide a wonderful spot to cool aching bodies before heading back to basecamp. Entrance is R30 an adult, with additional costs for camping and hiking cottages. Tel 014-533-2050, email,


5. Drupk elders, Knysna Forest, Western Cape

Swimming in large, peaceful pools surrounded by rocks and lush, untainted forestry is a reality on the Drupkelders Walk. These cola-coloured waters are among the most spectacular and peaceful rock pools around, and their serenity is ensured by SanParks issuing only 12 permits (R22 a person) a day. The walk starts near Forest Edge Nature-Lover’s Retreat and winds through indigenous forests, and there’s even a waterfall to climb for a little extra fun. Tel 044-302-5606 (SanParks),


6. Suicide Gorge, Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, Western Cape

This is one for those who want a little adventure with their swim, as it boasts a series of jumps into cool, clear pools, with heights ranging from about three to 14 metres. It’ll take you roughly eight hours to hike the 17-kilometre circular day route, but enjoying the water will keep you a while longer. A wetsuit and waterproof bag are advisable, but leave your fear of heights at home. The trail is open from November until April. Entry to the reserve at R30 a person and R120 a person for the trail (booking is essential). Tel 021-483-0190 or 028-841-4826,


(Post by Michael Maart, photograph by Scott Ramsay)

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