How to plan a hike

Posted by Fiona Mcintosh on 26 July 2012

When we asked Getaway’s Facebook fans to share the most reliable sources of hiking information, more than half of them said they relied on the recommendations of family or friends or their trusty Getaway magazine.

I have always seen Jaynee Levy’s Complete Guide to Walks and Trails in Southern Africa as my Bible. Sadly, the book has been out of print for nearly two decades and most of the contact details are out of date. However, with maps and detailed descriptions it’s still a superb reference and, encouragingly, most of the trails featured still exist.

A host of new trails have sprung up and finding out about these isn’t always easy. Judging from our quick online survey, books are no longer a hiker’s first resource, which could be bad news for authors like me.

Colin Attwell spelt out why. ‘Books tend to get outdated quickly and are generally sketchy on the details. I usually consult the programmes of the various hiking clubs in the area and hook up with the group that has something interesting planned.’

Trail write-ups by hiking clubs are very useful. The Footprint Hiking Club site (, largely compiled by Getaway contributor Tim Hartwright, is particularly comprehensive. There’s also, which gives maps, trail descriptions and difficulty summaries and accommodation ratings for Green Flag and other accredited hiking trails. A big bonus of this site is that you can download the trail brochures.

The best resource I’ve come upon is that of Nightjar Travel ( This comprehensive new website describes 200 of the best day walks as well as a few longer trails across South Africa (there are more than 1 500 activity listings on the site), with photos, descriptions of length, difficulty, suitability for kids and contact details. GPS and Google Earth co-ordinates are given for the start of each trail.

Finally, if you want to take the schlep out of choosing and organising a trail, why not let an agency do it for you? The most comprehensive is Jacana, a specialist reservations agency which has a huge range of hikes, from day outings to wilderness trails, throughout Southern Africa on its books. Tel 0861-52-2262,


(Photo by Matthew Holt)

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