The best places to hike with wildlife in Southern Africa MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

The Best Places to Hike with Wildlife in Southern Africa

Hey there! I’ve just returned from my first winter hike on the Naukluft Trail in the Namib Naukluft Park, and let me tell you, it was quite an adventure! This trail is known for being tough, but what surprised me the most was the incredible wildlife encounters I had along the way.

Every day, I would hear the thundering sound of hooves and couldn’t help but get excited. And lo and behold, I would spot herds of Hartmann’s mountain zebra, gracefully roaming in the distance. I also had the pleasure of hiking alongside springbok, which seemed to be my constant companions throughout the journey.

But that’s not all! As I continued my hike, I came across massive herds of gemsbok, and even had the chance to observe troops of baboons going about their business. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I was lucky enough to spot kudu and wildebeest along the way.

If you’re an animal lover like me, Southern Africa is the place to be. These hiking trails not only offer the thrill of adventure but also provide an opportunity to witness the beauty of nature up close and personal. So, lace up your hiking boots and get ready to embark on a journey like no other!

When I think about my love for the bush, I realize that there’s a major distinction between regular hikes and game walks. The focus is different: hikers generally choose a trail with a set distance and clear highlights, while on bush walks, your route, speed, and highlights are determined by what you encounter along the way. One of the main attractions of bush walks is the opportunity to come across the Big Five, which you won’t find on a regular hiking trail.

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Personally, I prefer the latter option and have discovered several trails in Southern Africa that offer sightings of different types of plains game. Here are a couple of my favorite hikes that provide opportunities to spot wildlife:

1. Naukluft Hiking Trail

The Naukluft Hiking Trail is renowned as one of the most challenging trails in Southern Africa. It’s not just the lack of water that makes it tough, but the trail also offers incredible wildlife sightings, although this aspect is not widely advertised. During the night, we could hear the distinct bark of leopards, and the Kapokvlakte Plateau is home to hyenas. You can find more information about this trail at

2. Groenkloof Nature Reserve

If you’re looking for a close encounter with wildlife, look no further than the Groenkloof Nature Reserve, located on the outskirts of Pretoria. The animals in this reserve are incredibly docile, allowing for intimate experiences. The reserve was established as a game reserve by President Paul Kruger in 1895, primarily to safeguard the oribi. While exploring the park’s three hiking trails spanning from 3.5 to 10.5 kilometers, you’ll have the opportunity to see not only oribi but also giraffes and various bird species. For more details, visit

3. Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve

Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve is a beautiful place to explore in KwaZulu-Natal’s Midlands. It’s less than an hour away from Durban, making it easily accessible. When you visit, make sure to check out the amazing trails that run along the clifftop. The views over the Umgeni Valley are absolutely breathtaking.

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One trail that you shouldn’t miss is the seven-kilometer Black Eagle trail. It’s a perfect way to get to know the reserve and immerse yourself in its natural beauty. As you walk, keep an eye out for the zebras that like to graze near the entrance gate. You might also spot warthogs in the marshy areas and catch a glimpse of various antelopes, like the shy bushbuck, along the route.

If you’re interested in learning more about Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve or planning a visit, you can find more information at

4. Western Cape sanctuaries

Hey there! When it comes to the Western Cape, you’ve got plenty of choices for sanctuaries to explore. The De Hoop and Cape of Good Hope reserves are wildly popular and home to special animals like bontebok and other plains game. But don’t forget about the beautiful Bontebok National Park near Swellendam! It often gets overlooked, but trust me, it’s worth a visit.

If you’re looking for a great family outing, check out the Bushbuck Trail. It’s a 5.4-kilometer path that takes you along the Breede River, passing through shady spots where animals find shelter. Along the way, you’ll come across a wonderful swimming hole and picnic area, perfect for a refreshing break.

Here’s a top tip for you: when you’re hiking the Naukluft Trail, remember to purify your water. Instead of using boring old tablets, I recommend the SteriPEN Adventurer Opti water purifier. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket, and it can get rid of up to 99.9% of bacteria. Pretty amazing, right?

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You can grab one for yourself at Cape Union Mart, Due South, Capestorm, or any independent outdoor retailer. Happy exploring!

Hiking with Game vs. Game Walks: Exploring the Differences

Hiking with Game

  • When I go hiking with game, I am on my own, exploring at my own pace.
  • While there is a fixed route to follow, I can adjust my speed along the way.
  • During these hikes, I often spot bucks and various species of birds.
  • However, most of the time these sightings are from a distance.

Game Walks

  • When I opt for a game walk, I am guided by a knowledgeable professional.
  • The route and pace of the walk will depend on what we encounter along the way.
  • On these walks, there is a possibility of coming across dangerous game.
  • In fact, it is quite common to have close encounters with wildlife.

Discover More

If you’re interested in learning about other incredible hiking experiences in South Africa, I highly recommend checking out Fiona’s blog. You can find it at

Photograph by Leon Hugo.

Photograph by Leon Hugo.

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