On this escarpment of the “small” Drakensberg range, overlooking the green hills of KwaZulu-Natal, is the Black Wildebeest trail. On the slopes of the Drakensberg, south of Van Reenen, in the Sandspruit Conservancy, the owner has made enormous efforts at conservation which can now be enjoyed by hikers. Some of the largest herds of black wildebeest in any private reserve occur here, together with zebra, eland, impala, blesbuck, kudu, red hartebeest and blue wildebeest. There are also leopards and other large cats, and a variety of birds, among which the raptors are excellently represented.
The first day’s hike sets out from Siggy’s base camp, a spacious hut. The trail starts with a climb up a kloof next to a fast-flowing mountain stream. This kloof is a microcosm of the environment and flora one finds further along the trail. The trail goes up the short Dassie Pass on ladders, and along the plateau to Fig Tree Island. It follows the undulating hills and slopes down through patches of indigenous trees, crossing several streams. Along the way one passes dams, a four?way river crossing at the Cascades stream and the Fig Tree Grotto, before coming to the Lost Valley gorge, where there is a lovely swimming spot in the Sandspruit. The trail ends with an easy meander along the river to River camp. Another short day trail is available from this blissful spot to the top of the ridge and back, crossing the Sandspruit on both legs.
The last day’s trail starts by climbing quite a steep incline to the top of the hill, then continues on top of the plateau, which is well shaded by several indigenous forests. It descends into a valley and continues with an easy walk along the contours, crossing the ladders back into the game farm. The last stretch is a comfortable hike as the trail crosses the river, passing a dam for a final swim, before joining the jeep tracks back to Siggy’s camp.
Two day trails have been introduced from Siggy’s. The longer trail, the Blou Aap trail, combines much of the first and second day’s trails, with a lunch spot planned at the river hide. The shorter trail, called Crystal Falls, leaves the first day’s route after Fig Tree Island, goes down the mountain and links up with the final stretch of the other trails. These short day trails are ideal for beginners and small children, with lots of swimming opportunities on both days in the mountain streams.
The Black Wildebeest trail is an all-year-round trail. It is ideal in winter as there is rarely any frost, whilst in summer the canopy of trees, combined with the many dams and streams to swim in, will ensure that one can cool off periodically. This trail can be combined with a 4x4 trail. Choose this trail for a wonderful combination of game viewing and hiking!
Maximum number of hikers: 20
2 - 3 days/nights.
Siggy’s camp: 20 beds and mattresses, 2 rooms sleeping 10 people each. Two showers, basins and flushing toilets. Kitchen: 2-plate gas cooker, braai grid, drum braai, pots, pans, potjies and kettle.
River camp: 20 beds and mattresses in 2 rondavels. Two flushing toilets, showers, basins. Braai grids. Braai and lapa area. Wood supplied. Kitchen facilities - same as Siggy’s camp.
If Sandspruit comes down in flood after a heavy downpour, hikers on day two (of the three-day trail) must proceed to Andrew’s Motel and will be fetched by the owners.
It is advisable to use tick repellent on the trail. Bring own cooler boxes.
26 km from Van Reenen, 35 km from Ladysmith, 400 km from Gauteng, 350 km from Durban.
Acknowledgement and bookings: Jacana