Take the plunge: Kloofing in South Africa

Posted on 6 December 2023

Feeling brave enough to take hiking to the next level? Here’s what you need to know about kloofing in South Africa

Kloofing is an extreme sport that involves following a watercourse through the mountains; scrambling or abseiling down small cliffs and waterfalls, and, sometimes, compulsory swims through deep pools. You must be fit and well prepared and novice hikers should attempt it only in the company of a qualified guide or on an organised trip.

READ: Top hiking trails around Pretoria

Picture: Getaway Gallery

Western Cape

Riviersonderend and Suicide gorges

There are many kloofs to explore in the Western Cape, but those in Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve are the best known and most accessible. Beginners should start with the beautiful Riviersonderend Gorge Trail, a seven-hour route which starts just off the main Boland Hiking Trail. There are no abseils and the highest compulsory jump is a mere seven metres (although that’s pretty high when you haven’t done it before).

The neighbouring Suicide Gorge is for the more experienced and courageous. It starts with a two-hour hike high into the mountains and an optional waterfall slide. Then it’s a steep downhill with plenty of jumps (the highest is 14 metres) and swims – allow about nine hours. If you really want a challenge, go down Suicide and back up Riviersonderend Gorge, which you can do in about 12 hours.

Permits are issued by CapeNature (R160 or R120 if you have a Wild Card), tel 021-483-0190, www.capenature.co.za.

Picture: Getaway Gallery

De Hel to De Hoek

Situated in the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area, the Kloofing adventure starts at the famed rock pool, De Hel. It’s about an 8-hour hike to De Hel, so you’ll likely have to set up camp somewhere nearby (note that you can’t overnight at De Hel). You have to arrange with the farmer at De Hoek (affectionately known as Oom Gideo) to exit on the farm (and arrange a lift back to your car).

The Other ‘Die Hel’: Hiking the Groot Winterhoek

Black eagles can be spotted soaring above the cliffs, where you wade and swim through waters up to 5m deep. A 9.5 km kloofing experience, be sure to start early enough in the morning as many who try to finish the Kloof in two days end up taking three.

De Hel in the Groot Winterhoek. Picture: David Henning

Witels, Hex River

Known as one of the best kloofing destinations in South Africa, it’s a multiday kloofing trip that first involves scaling 1 000 m the top of a mountain, to Pells Hut from Silkbushfarm near Botha (between Worcester and Ceres).

Day two is when you actually descend into the kloof, continuing along a marked trail and involves swims in the icy waters. You are in the kloof the entire day 3, until day 5 essentially. Expect to find crystal-clear rock pools.

Read: Hiking safety tips from Mountain Search and Rescue 

Day 2 with the descent to the actual kloof. You continue along a well-marked trail before starting the descent down the very unaptly named “Happy Hill”. The trail is fairly obvious, but it is definitely a test for the ankles, considering on day 2 the packs are still nearly fully loaded.

In total, hikers cover around 38 km over 5 days. To do the hike, at least one person in the group has to be a member of the UCT Mountaineering and Ski Club, as the first section of the route belongs to them – making this quite an exclusive hike, but a bucket list nonetheless.

North West


Picture: Mountain Club of South Africa – Johannesburg

The popular six-hour adventure in Grootkloof is a fairly taxing journey that involves waterfall abseils as well as some fun bum slides, compulsory two-metre jumps and swims.

The day starts with an easy hike up the open slopes of the dramatic Magaliesberg range, followed by a scramble into the Kloof. There’s plenty of opportunity to check your abseiling technique before you reach a 20-metre waterfall abseil a third of the way down. This is the point of no return, but there’s nothing too scary for the rest of the day. Individual access is allowed only for members of the Mountain Club of South Africa. Join a guided trip such as those offered by Mountain Guide. www.mountainguide.co.za.


Kong Canyon

This moderately strenuous kloofing trip down the Injasuti Valley, in the foothills of the Drakensberg, is offered as a half or full-day adventure. Start with a stiff walk, followed by some fun scrambling, boulder-hopping and five to 25-metre abseils, and some down-trickling waterfalls.

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ALSO READ: Hiking Table Mountain: the ultimate trail guide


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