Baviaans Nature Reserve, Eastern Cape
The Leopard Trail is a 4-day/3-night slack-packing, camping hike (but not for long, huts are on their way and should be ready in 2020). Logistically, this is the easiest hike you will ever do! Each day, we transport your bags, tents (while you still need them) and food from one campsite to the next, and we provide all the cooking equipment, plates, cutlery and kettles you will require. The Leopard Trail is a moderately difficult hike, with the longest day being 22km. The route is designed for people of good hiking fitness.
Slack-Packing The Leopard Trail While you need to bring your own tents, mattresses and sleeping bags, we transport the luggage that you do not want to carry yourself to the next camp site. Please ensure that you put everything you want transported inside the boxes provided. These protect your belongings from rubbing and bouncing on the rough roads between the camp sites. While we take great care, please note that anything not in a box is transported at your own risk. Please do not put valuables such as laptops and cameras in your bags – rather leave them in your car at the Base Camp where they will be safe. Dimensions for the boxes are 465mm x 736mm, and 350mm deep. Bag Drop off times: Our aim is to ensure that those on the last day of the trail and planning to leave by lunch time, get their bags in good time. With this schedule, your bags will be dropped off at the following times (sometimes they may be a little late or early – our vehicle travels rough terrain, and we may have to wait for a hiker or two).
Camp 1: 3pm. Camp 2: 4pm. Camp 3: 11am. Base Camp Final Day: Noon.
Campsites Our overnight sites each have a Catering Tent. The tents are there to give you a communal space for your group, providing shade on hot days, and protection from the winds and rain. Inside each tent is a table and benches, a sink for washing up and a twin gas cooking plate. Also supplied are pots, pans, braai grids, all crockery and cutlery. The nights are very dark and no lamps are provided, so don’t forget to bring torches and headlamps. Please do not use candles as they are a fire risk. Please ensure you clean all the kitchen equipment and utensils before leaving in the morning – the next group of hikers will appreciate it. Spots for tents have been cleared around the catering tent at each camp site. Each campsite has a flush loo.
There are water tanks at each overnight campsite that provide water for drinking, cooking, washing dishes and cold water showers. This water is piped in from the nearest mountain
streams, and is good to drink. Depending on the season and local rainfall, you may find streams and springs along the length of The Leopard Trail that are suitable for drinking purposes. However, it may be wise to use purification tablets especially if you are not used to this water. Unless it has been very dry, there are pools along the way for swimming on the first 3 days.
Fires are only allowed in the fire places provided. Firewood is provided. Please do not collect wood from the natural environment. Dead bushes and branches provide important habitat for a wide variety of insects and animals, and are a vital part of the fire load in the veld for natural burning cycles.
This is a high-risk fire area. Please ensure that your fires and coals are completely doused any time you leave the fire area – at night and in the morning. Water is provided for this purpose.
Bonus Day 5!
There is an optional bonus 5th day you can add to your Leopard Trail hike.
The magnificent Cedar Falls Day Hike really should not be missed. Getaway Magazine described the Cedar Falls Day Hike as “One of those moments of extremely beautiful life!”
This hike leaves from the Cedar Falls Base Camp (where you start and finish The Leopard Trail). Book yourself into one of the accommodation options at Cedar Falls either before or after your Leopard Trail hike, and enjoy the magic of Cedar Falls!
Important Safety Considerations There is no cell phone reception on the trail, and very little vehicle access, so it is difficult to let us know of emergencies in a hurry. This is a risk you accept when walking the Leopard Trail. The Leopard Trail goes through natural wilderness with all the risks associated with wild animals, snakes, insects, unpredictable weather and a strenuous hike. Carry the following safety items with you: first aid kit, survival bag, thermal blanket. In the event of an emergency, ensure that someone remains with the person/people affected while at least two people return to Base Camp or the nearest emergency exit. The route from each campsite to the nearest emergency exit is marked.
• From Camp 1 a 2.6 km trail leads to the main Baviaanskloof Road.
• From Camp 2 a 1.1 km trail leads to Base Camp.
• From Camp 3 a 3.2 km trail leads to the main Baviaanskloof Road and Reserve Ranger’s house. In the event of mountain fires or floods, stay together and use your best judgement as to the safest course of action. We will be doing our best to come to your aid. Seek natural shelter and avoid high areas during dangerous weather such as thunderstorms. The area has a variety of venomous snakes, including puffadders and Cape cobra. Refresh your knowledge of how to handle snake/spider bites and scorpion stings. Leopard spoor is often seen on the trail, and very occasionally you may catch a glimpse of one of these shy creatures during the day. There are no rhino or buffalo in our part of the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve. Baboons in the area still have their natural caution and fear of humans. They will move away when they see hikers. They do not come to the campsites looking for human food. Your
support and cooperation in this regard is very important. Please do not feed the baboons. Do not leave food out or throw scraps into the bushes. When you leave the campsites each morning, ensure that the rubbish bins, as well as the bins in which your food is being transported, have been closed with the cable ties provided.
When to Hike and the Weather The Leopard Trail is a great hike at any time of year. Summer is hot with the daily average in December, January and February at 26 degrees Celsius. Days can get up to the high 30s, so be prepared to walk in the early mornings and late afternoons, spending your midday hours at the lunchtime mountain pools. Autumn and Spring (March, April, May, September, October and November) can provide great fair weather hiking, with average temperatures in the early 20s. As winter approaches, an occasional cold front will blow through, dropping temperatures considerably. Winter days in June, July and August are often perfect for a long days hiking if you don’t like the heat, with temperatures averaging around 16 degrees Celsius. Nights drop to zero though, so make sure you have a warm sleeping bag, hot water bottle and camping mattress. Rain in the Baviaanskloof is an unpredictable affair. All months of the year have only around 4 days of rain so, statistically, your chances of dry weather are pretty good. Like all mountain areas, the Baviaanskloof can experience a range of weather conditions over any 4-day period. You are advised to prepare for rain, wind, cold and heat.
Age and Fitness The Leopard Trail is a relatively difficult hike, with the longest day being 20km. The hike is designed for people of good hiking fitness. Unfit hikers should not attempt the trail. The recommended age range of 12 to 65 years is used as indicative, due to the physical demands of the trail. We will not stop hikers outside of this age range – but encourage you to be realistic about your own ability and limits. All hikers below 12 years of age should be accompanied by their parents/guardians who will be legal signatories to Indemnity Forms (to be submitted with copies of their identity document or passport at The Leopard Trail reception desk before undertaking the trail). There are relatively steep ascents and descents, so please be cautious if you have previously injured your ankles and/or knees.
Base Camp Accommodation For those travelling from afar, or those not wanting to be rushed on day 1 or 4, we have a range of accommodation options at the Cedar Falls Base Camp. Put your feet up, take a rewarding hot shower, relive your hike with your group and then fall asleep on a proper mattress. Want some time out with your partner – alone – after 4 days of hiking with 10 other people – stay at one of our romantic cottages. Trail Day by Day: The Leopard Trail is a circular hike staring from, and returning to, Cedar Falls Base Camp. Vehicles are left at the base camp.
9.75km, 3 – 5 hours The first day of the trail is 9.75km, so please ensure you start walking by 2pm at the latest. The trail begins with a nice stiff walk up Kick-Start Hill to the plateau. At the day’s halfway point there is an optional detour to Gabriel’s Pools – a spectacular kloof with small pools for swimming and your only drinking water along the path for the day. The detour is 570 metres each way, and with time for swimming will add an extra hour to the day’s hike. From there the path moves down into a valley that winds its way to the first overnight spot. Our recommendation: Give yourself enough time to do the detour. Gabriel’s Pools are in a really special little kloof.
18 km, 5 – 8 hours
Day 2 starts off nice and easy with a 5.5 km walk along Rhebok Valley. The valley ends at an optional detour (314 metres each way) to the Cedars Viewpoint, passing a stream with drinking water and a small pool to swim in. From the detour turn-off point you start the climb to the top of the saddle and spectacular views of the Kouga and Baviaans foothills. Down the other side to Reflection Pools, for a swim and drinking water. The remainder of the day’s hike takes you across the landscape before climbing two small saddles at the end and arriving at the camp site.
Our recommendation: In summer avoid walking during the middle of the day. Organise yourselves the night before for an early departure. Leave early in the morning (as close to daybreak as possible), enjoy the detour to Cedar Viewpoint, and keep moving to get to Reflection Pools and shade by mid morning. Spend a good few hours at the pools before heading off mid afternoon for the last few hours of the walk. Bags for Camp 2 are delivered last, so if you arrive at the camp site early be prepared to wait for your bags to arrive. Day 3 22 km, 6 – 9 hours The longest day of the trail,
starts with you walking across the flow of the landscape. This is the most taxing part of the hike as you tackle the three climbs of Honeybush Hill, Inconvenient Truth and Ain’t so Bad. This is true wilderness, with no sign of human impact, and views deep
into the Baviaans and Kouga mountains. At the day’s halfway point, Draaipunt, there is a short 224 metre detour to drinking water. The second half of the day is spent walking down the incredibly beautiful Kasey Kloof, following its winding path for 9 km through to the third overnight spot. Our recommendation: Leave as early as possible in summer and get over the three saddles in the first few hours of the day (prepare your camp the night before for a sunrise departure.) Spend some time at the stream at Draaipunt before continuing. The walk through Kasey Kloof in the second half of the day is a lot cooler, often passing through shaded areas and under trees. Depending on the localized rains, there are often places in Kasey Kloof to sit in the shade with your feet in running water.
13km, 3 – 5 hours
An easy start to the day has you following yet another beautiful kloof, Birdsong Valley. After 4km you get to Fond Farewell, a steep climb to the plateau. Once on the plateau you will need to get through The Cauldron, a series of two small valleys that get very hot in summer. From there it is a steep descent into the Cedar Falls valley, which brings you towards base camp for a traditional swim in the reservoir’s clean mountain water.
Our recommendation: Take time to enjoy the last morning of your walk, being conscious of the spectacular valley, listening to the birds and keeping your eyes open for kudu, rhebuck and klipspringers. This is your last day on the trail, and the world out there awaits. Try to make it wait just a little longer.
• Min 4 hikers • Max 12 • R1180.00 pp – Camping version, which will stay in place until the huts are built
• R55.00 admin fee once off per reservation.