Leopard Hiking Trail Baviaanskloof
Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
After Fanie and I did the Outeniqua 5-day trail, and Harkerville Circuit – (a total distance of 102 km in 7 days), we left the coast the Saturday morning, and traveled to Baviaanskloof, where we would have started to hike the Leopard trail on the following Monday. The Leopard Trail is a 4-day and 3-night hike set in the magnificent Baviaanskloof World Heritage Site Wilderness Reserve.
We reserved accommodation in a chalet for that night, to repack our hiking clothes and food for the next four days of hiking. Some of our hiking clothing and socks had to be washed too for this round. Upon our arrival, the weather has changed to very cold and rainy weather.
We met 4 other fellow hikers there on the Sunday, and slept in the very comfortable hikers house the Sunday night before the hike has started. Since it is slack packing and very luxury hike, we have each received a large plastic container, where we could pack our food, clothing, sleeping gear and toiletries. We have also received a cooler box and fridge per group that we used for our cold- drinks and meat. The staff transport these containers and cooler boxes from the one overnight hut to the next, and you only need to carry a day pack.
Day 1 Base camp Cedar Falls to Rest camp #1 (9.75 km)
Day one starts off at the reception office at the base camp, on the Cedar Falls Farm, where we left all our containers for them to pick up and drop off at the first overnight hut. A ranger met us upfront, were he briefed us about the trail, and gave us a SMS device for the group to have satellite communication in case of emergency. It was very cold when we started, and the ranger showed us the snow that has fallen during the night, covering the peak of the mountain behind the farm house.
We kicked off with the hike, with a fairly easy walk on a contour path between the hilly landscape. The trail markings are yellow with white leopard paw prints on it. There are very unique and humoristic saying on other sign boards. That made the route very interesting, and we had a good laugh once we saw them. There was some fynbos blooming still in this area.
On the way to the hut, we saw clear leopard spoor, and were quite weary of he possible sighting of this very shy but dangerous animal.
A few hundred meters before the hut, I almost got a heart attack, as out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly caught a glimpse of the unmistakenly black rosette spots of the leopard, just next to us in the bush. Everyone who walked past the stalking leopard got a huge fright, and your heart pounds in your ears. Only to realize it is actually only a life size cement casted leopard ornament. What a relief!!We were all alert again, and had a good laugh afterwards!!
Then, out of nowhere, the huts appeared in front of us. This is the most luxury and beautiful hiker’s huts that we have ever seen in all of our 20 years of hiking.
There are three cozy sleeping units, all equipped with two bunk beds-sleeps 4, with very comfortable matrasses, with neat, clean and strong covers. There is a washing basin inside each hut. Large windows give you a spectacular view of the surroundings.
The other unit, is the catering hut, fully equipped with cutlery, and cooking utensils, pots and pans and kettle. A gas stove, indoor fire place, a fridge, and everything you need to braai outside at the Bouma. Next to the catering hut on the outside of the wooden deck, are the hot solar showers. Each shower has a its own bit of privacy, as it is barred off with wooden slates between the showers. Even the toilet and wash basin for your face/hands is nicely laid out. Our containers were also already delivered at the catering hut. Wow!! that is service. We were quite impressed.
Day 2: Rest camp #1 to Rest Camp #2. (18 km)
We had a bit of backtrack on the trail of day 1, then the trail split to continue on day 2. At first, it is a variety of easy walk through the kloofs, and Cedar views, to a few up and down hills. The scenery was totally different from the coastal and forest trails that Fanie and I did the week before. But in its own way still had breathtaking views of the surroundings and majestic mountains.
We have passed interesting sign boards, with inspirational wording for self-reflection.
The veld was filled with blooming wild flowers and fynbos, and the sky spoiled us with breath taking cloud formations. We had well deserved lunch break at the reflection pools. You have to fill your water bottles here, since there is not much water spots available further on the trail for the day. Two of our group members had even almost trample upon a snake…
After lunch, we had a nice surprise waiting for us!! Yep, up we go until we reached the plateau of dragon’s ridge. It was a steadily but never-ending incline, then the contour path leads you down again to the valley. Then you see the sign 2 km’s to camp and you get excited. Is it two or twenty? Then another hill to pass-Labyrinth Hill…
From the top of the hill, you can see an actual labyrinth down in the valley. Some of us decided to go and complete the labyrinth. It is a truly interesting experience, as you reflect on your hike, and yourself. We reached the next overnight hut just after 15:00 that afternoon.
Day 3: Rest camp #2 to Rest camp #3(22km)
By now, Fanie and I did not even feel as if we were doing another strenuous hike. The Outeniqua trail and Harkerville circuit that we have done for 7 days, just before this one, was absolutely to our advantage. We were really fit, and that had the effect that we enjoyed the hike much more. For us, it was a breeze, and a walk in the park, despite of the longer distances per day on this trail. Day 3 was the longest day of the trail and we had started a bit earlier that morning. We started off with a lovely uphill early on the trail. On top of Honeybush hill, we had a nice break, and we had cell phone reception. And it “ain’t so bad”
The trail winds up and down through the hills with interesting sign boards, and halfway a very demoralizing sign appears…Draai punt 10km to camp still…We had a descent from the hilly part, into a dry riverbed with beautiful rock formations, entering Kasey kloof.
Here we had a bit of boulderhopping before we finally reached our last overningt camp at 17:00. It was a long day, and the hot showers were a blessing.
Day 4 Rest camp #3 to base camp (13km)
The distance was not too long on the 4th and last day of the hike. We walked easily through Birdsong Valley, doing a bit more boulder hopping in the dry riverbed. Then we reached the part where we had a steep zig zag ascent up the mountain, and a sign board that appears, makes one wonder what exactly does it means, and what is laying ahead of us for the day?
Once you have reached the plateau, the path contours on the plateau, with gorgeous views 360°all around. Here we had a lovely break. The trail then eventually gently descents, and once you have reached the bottom, you are near the boundary of the farm. After a short walk, from there, we reached the base camp. What an epic hike, with lovely friends.” And you know, you should not talk about this hike”
In a timeframe of 11 days, with only two days of rest in between the Harkerville circuit and the Leopard trail, Fanie and I have hiked a total distance of 164.75 km, and it felt great to have achieved it without injuries. Needless to say, we have also dropped a few kilograms along the waistline too, and that felt even better!!
Difficulty rating: 7/10- The hike is designed for people of good hiking fitness. Unfit hikers should not attempt the trail. It is strenuous.
Tips for the hike:
Best time to hike: All year around. The cooler weather of Autum and winter is preferable, since it is a dry region, with not much water in river beds or pools. Weather can be unpredictable. Be prepared for all seasons. Do an enquiry on a 14-day weather forecast before you start the hike.
We did the hike form the 15th of August 2022 until the 18th of August 2022.
Carry enough water for the warmer days, especially for day 2 and 3 with the long distances. Water is available at all overnight spots, but not on the route itself.
Be fit. The trail is well marked, and maintained. Paths are contouring up and down hill and inclines and descents can be somewhat steep at times, or long, stretched out inclines. Two of the days have long distances to cover and can be tiresome if you are not fit. Make sure you reach the huts before dawn, since there are wild animals in the area.
A maximum of 12 hikers is permitted on the trail at a time. The minimum is 6. The rate was R2400.00 per person when we did the hike. Check their official website for current pricing, and prices might increase annually.
Your vehicles are fairly safe at the basecamp at Cedar Falls Farm.
Your gear is being transported daily in plastic containers (465mm x 736mm, and 350mm deep), so you can walk with just a daypack. Trail is well marked.
Overnight huts- luxurious, and well equipped with kitchen utensils, pots, kettles, cutlery
There are some solar lightings in the catering huts. Inside each catering hut is a gas stove top.
There is also a fireplace. Each site has a braai area and braai grid. Each site has a fresh mountain water splash pool. Hot showers, flush toilets.
Torches and headlamps are required.
It is a wilderness area where you may encounter wild animals, snakes, and insects. Carry the following safety items with you: first aid kit, survival bag, thermal blanket.
The products/ food/ gear that are referred to, are things that we personally prefer to use, or helped us on our hiking expeditions, since we have started hiking. Personal preferences may vary from one hiker to the next, regarding gear, food and products used.
All information given above, is based on our personal experience, circumstances, observations and weather conditions of a certain hike.
It might differ from other hikers’ experiences, or different weather conditions and circumstances.