Elephant’s Eye Cave Trail – Silvermine Nature Reserve
Elephant’s Eye Trail
On Sunday 14 May 2017, we were invited to join friends of ours on a hike to the Elephant’s Eye cave, located in Silvermine. Silvermine forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. Access to Silvermine Dam is controlled by a boom gate operated by SAN Parks. A ‘My Green Card’ or a Wild Card will get you in for free. If you don’t have one of those, it will cost you R50 a person. During that time of year, day visitors need to be out of the park by 18h00.
I had a vague recollection that I had done this hike before, when I was still at school. I had no actual memories of the hike though. That said, I have very little to no memory of my schooling either. Actually Varsity is a blur as well. Anyway, we had heard so much about Elephant’s Eye Cave that we both decided to do it. Again. Or for the first time. Who knows!
How to get there:
The entrance to Silvermine Nature Reserve is just off Ou Kaapse Weg. A short distance after the turn-off, you will reach a security boom, where you can pay your entrance fee or show your Wild Card and get in for free. You will travel for approximately 2.7km before reaching the parking lot.
There is a sign-post which directs you to the start of the Elephant’s Eye trail –
The trail starts at the following coordinates: S 34⁰ 04.513′ E 018⁰ 24.052′
The Speedy Review
The trail to Elephant’s Eye cave is an easy walk, suitable for the whole family. It is short (5km there and back) and the views over the Southern Suburbs are beautiful. The first time we did this hike, we did a detour after the cave to the view point over Hout Bay – it extends the walk a little bit, but the terrain remains fairly flat, and believe me, the view at the end is so worth it.
I wouldn’t really classify this as a hike, more of a walk (or suitable for an easy trail run). If you have 2 hours to spare on an afternoon, it is a great way to get out into nature.
There is no signal from just after the main entrance until about 1km into the trail, so make sure you make all necessary calls and send all the messages you need to before you get there.
There is also not much shade at all on the trail, so ensure you have enough water, sunscreen and a hat. If you go later in the afternoon, there is a bit of a shadow from Constantiaberg Peak over the last section of the trail near the cave, but for the rest, you will be out in the open. If you are taking your pets along, make sure you stop and rest frequently, and have enough water for them.
Nina rated this trail 4/5 paw prints. This trail is the perfect distance for Nina, especially for an afternoon hike.
It did get rather hot, but an earlier start next time should solve that problem.
Blog Post Updated
We did this hike again on 04 April 2018. We have included a few new photos as we had Nina with us and we wanted to get her impressions of the trail.
The only difference with the second time round is that we walked back along the same route and did not go via the Hout Bay view point due to time considerations. The stats for the second hike, in total, were as follows:
Distance: 5 km
Time Taken: 2 hrs
The Nitty Gritty
We started hiking at 14h14 and walked passed a dogs only poo bin. The trail began with a wide jeep track. The temperature was recorded at 28⁰ C with a slight breeze. Just 3 minutes into the hike, we passed an ablution block on our left hand side and it was open. Useful information if you haven’t had a chance to go before the hike!
At 14h25, the jeep track began to ascend gradually. At 14h28, we turned right off the jeep track on to a narrow path. This is a short cut alternative to following the jeep track as it winds its way in a zigzag pattern up the hill. The distance covered to this point was about 900 m.
Looking back at the ground we had covered, we had a bird’s eye view of the Silvermine dam. Even here the dam level has been affected by the drought conditions.
At 14h32, we joined the main jeep track again. After about 20 meters, we turned right again off the jeep track and on to a trail signposted for Elephant’s Eye. A security alert sign has now been erected there warning hikers of the safety risks in hiking in that area. That section of the park should only be hiked in a party of 4 or more.
We followed the trail through a pine forest that still showed signs of the recent devastating fires in amongst the new growth shoots.
The trail then curved to the right and up to the Fire Lookout Station. It has a commanding view over the southern suburbs below which extends all the way to Gordon’s Bay.
We reached the Fire Lookout Station at 14h56 [1.98 km]. The elevation was 571 m. After briefly inspecting the Fire Lookout Station, I turned around and I got my first look at the Elephant’s Eye cave. The sun was shining directly at us so I was not able to get a clear photo of the cave’s entrance. I did manage to get a few photos of the view from the Fire Lookout itself.
At 15h01, we walked a short distance, back the way we had come and turned right on to the trail to the Elephant’s Eye cave. The trail started immediately with an incline. At each subsequent intersection, we kept right and after about 7 minutes, we reached a ‘contour’ type path that led us to the entrance to the cave. It is then that you really begin to grasp how big the cave really is.
We reached the entrance to the cave at 15h11 [2.46 km] and had reached an elevation of 623 m. The inside of the cave itself was quite surprising. There are several rocks dotted around on the ground that are covered in a fine layer of smooth sand while the roof of the cave can best be described as an enormous vertical garden of greenery. The time taken to reach the cave was about an hour which included quite a few stops to take photos of the scenery. The GPS location of the cave is: S 34⁰ 03.612′ E 018⁰ 23.702’E. We left the cave at 15h29 and headed back the way we had come.
After we left the cave, we decided that instead of returning on the same trail we had walked, we should rather turn right (away from the pine forest) and walk to the view point overlooking Hout Bay. We were not sure how much time this would add to our overall journey, but guessed that it would be no more than an hour extra. That actually ended up being a good guess. The trail became a wide jeep track again as we walked toward the view point. At 15h51, the jeep track joined up with the original jeep track from the start and headed off to the right, toward the mountain peaks. The jeep track then ascended gradually toward the viewing point.
At 15h57, we turned right off the jeep track and on to a narrow path marked “H T” in yellow, alongside a yellow shoe print. The distance to this point was 4.7 km. The elevation was 613 m.
At 16h12, we reached the viewing point over Hout Bay, directly above Chapman’s Peak Drive [5.48 km]. It’s the kind of view that forces you to take a step backwards in surprise that something can be so beautiful. We all sat down and let the view, the sun and the breeze wash over us. There was cell phone signal there so we made the most of the opportunity and sent photos of the view to our families and friends and wished our Moms ‘Happy Mother’s Day’. The elevation, at this point, was 613 m.
At 16h30, we left the viewing point and headed back on the trail and on to the jeep track again. After walking over the hill, we walked down a cement jeep track [7 km] toward the Silvermine dam. At 17h03, we turned off the jeep track and on to a path that took us toward the dam.
At 17h08, we turned right off the path and on to a wooden board walk that continued around the outer edge of the dam. The sun was beginning to set which turned the dam into a smoky black mirror. We arrived back at the start again at 17h16 for a total walking distance of 8.47 km, that took us around 3 hours to complete.
The trail markings on this hike are in the form of signposts, silver plaques and silver circular maps mounted on low rock pillars. There was one yellow shoe print on the trail, near the Hout Bay viewing point.
There are no distance markers on this trail.
The route we walked had a total walking distance of 8.47 km. We walked a circular type route, but there were also a combination of other alternate routes available. The standard disclaimer for any hike in the Table Mountain National Park is that alternate routes should only be attempted if you have someone in your party that is familiar with the route to be taken and that enough time has been allocated to complete that route in daylight hours.
The hiking stats for this hiking trail are:
|Trip Odometer||8.47 km|
|Moving Average||3.8 km/h|
|Overall Average||2.8 km/h|
|Max Speed||8.2 km/h|
|Elevation||442 m – 623 m|
I have attached a GPS trip log for the hike, including a side elevation profile: