Witbank, Mpumalanga

Kingdom Trails is a 15,000 ha privately owned nature reserve, one of the largest in Mpumalanga and South Africa. This pristine nature area is about 120 km north-east of Pretoria and Johannesburg. Hidden within a natural amphitheatre of the Olifants River Gorge, it encompasses the confluence of the Olifants and Wilge rivers in the escarpment break above Loskop Dam. It is an area of outstanding natural and scenic beauty that includes Highveld grasslands, red granite cliffs with seasonal springs, bushveld woodlands and dense riverine vegetation.

Activities at Kingdom Trails include hiking trails of differing durations and challenges, bird watching, game viewing, canoeing, abseiling, river rafting in season and fishing on 32 km of unspoilt river frontage. The two main hiking trails offer two-day circular hikes of ±16 km and 8 km each. Accommodation facilities include four choices. One of these, a rustic base camp on the banks of the Wilge River, offers accommodation for up to 30 hikers in several separate huts.  Numerous indigenous wildlife species occur on the Kingdom Trails property, including kudu, impala, wildebeest and zebra.

Only 1.5 hours from O.R. Tambo International Airport and Pretoria via the N4, Kingdom Trails is easily accessed by road. The last 10 km, however, are on farm tracks which sometimes require 4WD during the rainy season or after rain showers.  Kingdom Trails is a malaria-free area.

The Kingdom Nature Reserve covers an area of 15,000 ha between Witbank and Loskop Dam in Mpumalanga Province.  Two main rivers, the Olifants and Wilge, meander between soaring cliffs and lush riverine bush. Most of the area is mountainous with gorges and red granite cliffs dropping steeply down to the rivers. The property’s altitude ranges between 1,120 m and 1,460 m, and between about 1,140 and 1,450 m in the hiking trails area itself. Annual rainfall for the region fluctuates between 600 and 750 mm.

The area lies within the Grassland (Rocky Grassland and Moist Sandy Highveld Grassland) and Savanna (Mixed Bushveld) vegetation types. This ensures a rich species diversity. At least 120 tree species have been identified. Numerous riverine, woodland, water and savanna bird species have been recorded. Fish Eagles breed along the rivers and Black Eagles (Vereaux Eagle) are frequently seen near the cliff faces. The African Finfoot is one of the interesting river residents often encountered.

The large variety of large mammals on the property include eland, blue wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala, nyala, bushbuck, gemsbuck, tsessebe, waterbuck, mountain reedbuck, klipspringer, oribi, warthog, bushpig, leopard, brown hyena, black-backed jackal, baboons and vervet monkeys.

Rock paintings have been recorded by the Archaeological Department of University of Witwatersrand. The rock paintings are, however, not in an accessible area.

The Green Code:

  • Whatever you bring in with you, must leave with you.
  • Please take your rubbish WITH YOU
  • Fires only to be made in designated areas.
  • Please ensure they are completely dead when unattended.
  • Leave only footprints, take only memories.
  • Do not damage the natural environment.
  • This is a conservation area, no pets allowed.

The Hiking Trails

Hiking trails lead from camp to camp with a good day’s hike between each. A three-day hiking trail would start at Kingdom Camp, hiking to Slagthoek House; then Grootdraai Hut and ending at Klip/Stone Camp.

A suggested two-day hiking trail would overnight at Klip/Stone Camp and a hike on to Grootdraai Hut.  Each hiking trail is approximately 12-14 km (except for the shorter Blue Foot Route).

The Trails:

Kingdom Trails offers two main hiking trail routes, each with various options:

Kingdom Trail
  • Snaaksekrans Loop – 13km
  • Paradors – 12km
Slagthoek Trail
  • God’s Window Loop – 12km
  • Cycad Loop – 11km

Kingdom Camp Trail

From Kingdom Camp there are two trail options:

Paradors/Donkerkloof Loop (±8 km/±4 hrs) – circular route ascending steeply behind Kingdom Camp in a westerly direction to open bushveld. The route also goes through a shady kloof and past a natural fountain surrounded by tree ferns. Mountain zebra and eland are often seen. Typical trees along this route include naboom and proteas. The route is marked with yellow trail foot markers.

Overnight Hike – Snaaksekrans Loop has two possibilities: a hike to (a) Slagthoek House or (b) Grootdraai Hut. The route is marked with white trail foot markers.

  1. Hike to Slagthoek House: Crossing the Olifants River is necessary for this hike. Route starts with a gentle climb along the banks of a stream before ascending steeply onto the high ridge. There is a magnificent view of the Olifants/Wilge confluence, and the path then descends to the river itself. There are rocks and boulders to negotiate, but the scenery is breathtaking with several rapids and pools for cooling down – especially in the hot summer months. The trail crosses the Olifants River twice and after rain or during the rainy season the current can be quite strong when the river is high.

There are two possibilities: hikers destined for Slagthoek House can turn left (distance ±3 km), or hikers can proceed to Grootdraai Hut with the path to the right (distance ±5 km).  To reach Slagthoek House hikers must climb a steep gorge with numerous boulders.

  1. Hike to Grootdraai Hut: From the river crossing the path ascends steeply towards Snaaksekrans which is visible in the distance. It then meanders along the cliff ridge above the Olifants River with spectacular views to the distant large pools. From Grootdraai Hut hikers go via Bamboeskloof which ascends to the south through wooded valleys to the upper high plateau linking Paradors Loop with Donkerkloof and Kingdom Camp.

Slagthoek House Trail

Two circular hiking routes can be followed from Slagthoek House:

  1. God’s Window Route (±12 km): Climbing gently from Slagthoek House the track continues to a viewpoint high above the Olifants River. There are magnificent views of the steep cliffs descending vertically down to the Olifants River far below. Eventually the track drops down via Gifkoppie to a large pool in the Olifants River. From there the track continues up a steep rocky ravine back to Slagthoek House.
  1. Cycad Route (±11 km): A steady walk along an old farm road leads into Boschkloof farm to the south where a permanent, natural stream cascades down numerous waterfalls on its way down to the Olifants River. The route follows its course and eventually ascends through a cycad garden to a series of grass-covered valleys higher up. A link path here connects with the island crossing to Grootdraai Hut if preferred. For those opting to return to Slagthoek House the path continues with magnificent views to the west of Snaaksekrans and distant hills before descending back to Slagthoek House.

There is a link path from Slagthoek House to Grootdraai Hut connecting the Island Crossing Route (±6 km).

General Notes
  • Hikers must bring their own sleeping bags, all food and drink.
  • NO WOOD ORDERS
  • Bedding and cutlery/crockery are NOT supplied
  • “Donkey” boilers provide hot water for showers (Kingdom Camp, Klip/Stone Camp & Slagthoek House).
  • River crossings are not advisable during the summer months. Crocodiles are present and pose a potential danger when the river flow is high.

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Overnight Accommodation:

Four Kingdom Trails accommodation facilities, Kingdom Camp, Slagthoek House, Klip/Stone Camp and Grootdraai Hut, are available for trail users. Various hiking routes and trails link these facilities.

Kingdom Camp

Has 30 beds in total, a bush swimming pool and undercover braai area. There are two luxury chalets with en suite bathroom and private kitchen overlooking the Wilge River, and three chalets and a hikers’ hut with a separate reed lapa use communal ablutions. Each chalet has a private braai area.

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Slagthoek House

Is a large thatch-roof, private farmhouse with attached hikers’ rooms and an outdoor braai facility and undercover leisure area.  The hikers’ rooms consist of two bedrooms (6 and 12 beds each) and an en suite bathroom. The additional hikers’ hut (with two beds) includes an attached kitchen which is equipped with pots pans, paraffin lamps, stove, and fridge. The Slagthoek House is surrounded by a large, attractive garden. The view from the house, which is below some cliffs, is very scenic.

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Klip/Stone Camp

Is nestled between huge rocks. This unique camp, which can accommodate up to 24 – 30 people, blends well with the surrounding red cliff faces just above the Olifants River. There are six rustic huts with a spacious braai and under-cover dining area and kitchen. The camp is within walking distance of a large pool in the Olifants River.

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Grootdraai Hut

Is a rustic hut situated above series of large pools and rapids in the Olifants River with a breathtaking view overlooking an oxbow island in the river. Grootdraai Hut derives its name from the Olifants River’s wide circle (“groot draai”) below the camp. Grootdraai is a hikers’ hut with 16 beds and an enviro-toilet. Ablution is in the river. Grootdraai Hut offers a true rustic bush experience with particularly stunning views. Accommodates up to 16 people.

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General Notes

“Donkey” boilers provide hot water for showers at Kingdom Camp, Klip/Stone Camp and Slagthoek House.
Bedding and cutlery/crockery are not supplied

Access to Accommodation Facilities

  • Kingdom Camp: entry from the Witbank/Bronkhorstspruit (R544); 2×4 vehicle access.
  • Slagthoek House: entry via Middelburg (±40 km); 2×4 vehicle access.

Rates:

Slagthoek:

  • R200.00 pp.pn

Grootdraai:

  • R180.00 pp.pn

Kingdom Camp:

Slangarend / Visarend
  • R220.00 pp.pn
Boekenhout/Papierbas
  • R200.00 pp.pn
Bosvark
  • R180.00 pp.pn

Klipkamp:

  • R200.00 pp.pn

Day Visitors

  • R120.00 pp

Admin Fee

  • R55.00 once off per reservation.

Inquire Now:

Kingdom Hiking Trails
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