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Top 5 Backpacking Destinations in South Africa

Top 5 Backpacking destinations in South Africa

Nothing beats a good backpacking trip. Being at one with nature, feeling the breeze blow through your hair and breathing in the fresh air does wonders for mental well-being. These are the top 5 backpacking destinations I recommend as a must-do in South Africa. Take in all that these destinations have to offer and have fun!

1. The Otter Trail in Knysna

The Otter Trail in Knysna is the best backpacking destination in South Africa.

If we’re talking raw nature, rocky paths and testing those endurance skills, The Otter is a must-visit for backpacking.

On the coastline of the Garden Route National Park through lush vegetation and in a fresh summer breeze you’ll find a rocky path to peace and serenity. Originating from the Storms River mouth stretching all the way to Nature’s Valley through breathtaking views of the West Coast forestry as well as glimpses of the glistening Knysna shoreline, you cannot ask to be more in sync with nature and yourself.

This endurance tester is a 45-kilometre, 5-day hike so it’s best to come prepared. Here are some tips when taking on The Otter.

Hydration is the word. Bring plenty of water because this is a long trail and you will be spending multiple days on it. Sleeping bags aren’t just for winter, they keep our insect friends in the ground and out of our shorts. Remember that Knysna is home to different spider species; best to keep them off you and in nature where they belong. Thirdly, bring high-carb foods as well as snack/protein bars. We do not want to be hungry and miss out on the magnificent views. Lastly, bring comfortable wear, strong supportive shoes, and breathable clothes, especially in the summer season. Always remember your medical bag, you never know when a headache might sneak up on you.

Most importantly, take in the views, breathe the air around you and become one with your environment. It’s bound to steal your heart and leave you wanting more.

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2. Namaqualand

Namaqualand is the 2nd-best backpacking destination in South Africa.

In the well-known beautiful Karoo lies the Namaqualand. An area that brightens up between July and August each year with a spectrum of colours in its annual flower bloom. This is one of the most colourful backpacking destinations in South Africa.

It’s at this time of the year that The Klipspringer 3-day hike is ideal. When days are mild and nights are cool and calm. It is also the most peaceful and magnificent time of the year as this is when the River Gorge flows through the heart of the Namaqualand for the only time in the year.

Clear your mind and detox in the fresh Karoo air as you watch the wildlife around you such as Gemsbok, Black Rhino and Springbok. Remember your trainers, water bottle as well as sunblock. The African sun is not something to be played with. Also, remember that completing the Namaqualand trail requires a few days in raw nature. For this reason, high-carb foods and protein bars are a must to sustain you throughout the hike.

Unwind and relax in the African sun with views that leave you in awe.

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3. Oribi Gorge in KwaZulu-Natal

Oribi Gorge in KwaZulu-Natal is the 3rd-best backpacking destination in South Africa.

KwaZulu-Natal, also known as Zululand, is a tropical paradise with humid island-like weather. On the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal lies the Oribi Gorge, east of the river Mzimkulwana, one of two gorges to cut through the flats of the province.

I remember feeling like I was on an episode of Survivor whilst walking through the lush forest in this nature park. However, it was less about survival and more of a tropical paradise when I backpacked this trail.

If you are anything like me, you would marvel at the beauty of the place where the cast of Survivor would lived while busy with their endeavours. You would also want some civilisation to go hand in hand with it. Oribi Gorge offers the latter with the former, tropical but we won’t be hunting for bugs.

This trail can be done in a day. As always, make sure your walking shoes are comfortable but sturdy. Stay hydrated and bring those snack bars. Let’s not live out the full Survivor fantasy.

4. uMlalazi Nature Reserve in Mtunzini

uMlalazi Nature Reserve in Mtunzini is the 4th-best backpacking destination in South Africa.

If it’s pristine beaches and creamy white sand dunes that soothe your soul then uMlalazi Nature Reserve is going to tickle your fancy.

Located on the Northern Coast of KwaZulu Natal in Mtunzini. The Northern Coast is best known for its raw nature and wildlife from the Saltwater Crocodiles to lush vegetation and rare nature scenes such as mile-long palm trees.

This 14-kilometre trail is perfect for a quick breather and can easily be done in a day. Walks along the beach make for beautiful moments. When hiking at the uMlalazi Nature Reserve, keep in mind that the trail has one of the highest rates of snake sightings. So, always keep an eye out for our slithering friends. Remember that this is their home that you are entering.

A water bottle, sunscreen and proper walking shoes are essential. Why not wear something light and easy to dry if you’d like to have a quick dip in the ocean? That being at your own risk, of course.

Click here to look at accommodation in Mtunzini

5. Underberg

Underberg is the 5th-best backpacking destination in South Africa.

Imagine sleeping in a cave, stargazing in the fresh air and being at peace within. If that doesn’t catch your attention, then surely the fresh mountain springs and breathtaking views of the Drakensberg will.

Located on the Southern Ridge of the Drakensberg, Underberg is quite literally what its name states, just under the mountain.

Sleeping Beauty Cave in Underberg is my top pick of hiking trails to visit. It has steep ridge walks and rewarding views along the way, passing by natural streams that flow peacefully. Why not take a dip in the rock pools and enjoy the scenery?

Spending a night in this cave is a bucket list must  Listening to the crisp fresh mountain breeze at night and admiring the stars and the Milky Way in its full glory is simply amazing.

Wear comfortable walking shoes stable for the mountainside as these are rocky trails. Also, remember to bring sunscreen and water. If you are sleeping over, a sleeping bag is needed because it can get cold at night up in the mountains.

Click here to look at accommodation in Underberg
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Hi there! I’m Brandon, my friends call me Brando (like the ‘n’ was too much to pronounce) I am an adventure seeker, logophile, melophile and obsessed with detail. My friends describe me as a Broder Collie, if you leave the gate open, I will run out and go explore. Humour is my strong suit; I find inspiration in small things. I love telling people about new places and hyping them up to go out and explore. I believe in Neuroscience and the immense effect it has on our daily life by simply understanding how our brain functions. I love colouring my words to give a clear picture of what it feels, smell and taste like. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou

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