Hiking with kids

Posted by Fiona Mcintosh on 30 November 2012

A few months ago I stumbled across the Amazing Trail, a lovely educational bush trail on a banana and macadamia farm near Port Edward on KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast. On arrival kids are handed a checklist, then set free to find and tick off life-sized cutouts of animals and birds that have been scattered around the farm. The 800-metre trail is close to the restaurant, so mums and dads who prefer not to walk can enjoy a bit of peace as their youngsters rush around on the treasure hunt.

‘It’s a way for kids to see animals they wouldn’t normally see in context,’ explained Natalie Abbott, the mastermind behind the project. ‘There are 100 creatures hidden on the trail and it’s fantastic to see the kids’ reactions when they spot a leopard under a tree or a colourful Knysna turaco in the canopy.’

Offered by Clearwater Trail Centre (cell 083-549-6710, www.clearwatertrails.co.za) this adventure costs R5 a child.

The experience at the Amazing Trail reinforced my view that hiking with kids is all about stimulation. Here are a few other trails that are absolute winners when it comes to keeping youngsters entertained.

Scorpion Safari Trail, KwaZulu-Natal

Whether they love ’em or hate ’em, kids react to creepy crawlies. Anton Roberts, owner of Umkhumbi Lodge near Hluhluwe, indulges his passion for snakes, scorpions, spiders and frogs by taking guests on the lodge’s short (one-hour, one kilometre) nature trails under the cover of darkness, carrying an ultraviolet light under which the scorpions glow lurid green. Chameleons, frogs, toads and bush babies are a few of the other nocturnal species seen on the night-time strolls. DB&B from R990 a person a night sharing, kids aged four to 11 are half price and kids under four are free. Cell 076-164-1134, www.umkhumbilodge.co.za.

Sevilla Rock Art Trail, Western Cape

This self-guided rock art trail along the Brandwyn River in the Cederberg is fascinating for folk of all ages. The five-kilometre path is well marked and there’s a detailed information booklet for sale, so once you’ve pointed out what to look for at the first rock overhang, you can let kids run a little ahead to locate the rock art at each of the other sites. Costs R30 a person (the booklet is R75). Tel 027-482-1824, www.travellersrest.co.za.

Grey Rheebok Trails, Mpumalanga

The three new child-friendly hiking trails in the mountains near Mkhondo (formerly Piet Retief) are perfect for families. The twokilometre bird-watching trail is a gentle stroll, while the five- and eight-kilometre trails meander through the veld to waterfalls and rock pools, ideal for summer swims. If you want to make a weekend of it, there’s a base camp with a natural swimming hole as well as mountain-biking and stargazing opportunities. Day visits are R80 an adult and R50 a child and overnight accommodation is available. Anvie Ventures, tel 012-662-1140 www.anvieventures.co.za.

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