Half Collared Kingfisher Trail- A Hike Packed with Adventure

Half Collared Kingfisher Trail- A Hike Packed with Adventure

 

 

 

 

How to get there

The Garden Route National Park – Wilderness Section is located in the small village of Wilderness between George and Sedgefield. The Half Collared Kingfisher Trail starts opposite the North gate of the Ebb & Flow Rest Camp.

The official website for SANParks has listed the following directions to the Ebb & Flow rest camp:

The Wilderness Section of the Garden Route National Park is situated close to the N2 highway, 15km from George, 2km from Wilderness village, 410km from Port Elizabeth and 450km from Cape Town. The closest airport is at George, where car hire facilities are available. Guests visiting Wilderness’ Ebb & Flow Rest Camp, please note the road sign on the N2 to the Park reads Wilderness National Park and not Ebb & Flow.

Here is a link to the Google Maps Location for the start of the hike.

 

 

Opening Times and contact information:

The Ebb & Flow Rest Camp Reception is open daily from 07h00 – 17h30.

Contact numbers (044) 389 0252   /  (044) 877 1197

For enquiries e-mail enquiries.wilderness@sanparks.org

Hikers are required to purchase a permit in order to be allowed to do the hike. The permit is only valid for 1 day and the fee differs depending on the age and nationality of the hiker.

 

SA Citizens  Adult R40    Child R20  [2 – 11 yrs]
SADC Nationals  Adult R80    Child R40  [2 – 11 yrs]
Foreign Nationals  Adult R130   Child R65 [2 – 11 yrs]

 

If you have a Wild Card, you will not need to pay an entry fee, but you will still need to get a permit from the kiosk at the start of the hike.

 

There was a note stapled to the Gate Registration & Indemnity Docket (hiking permit). It said the following:

“Dear Visitor

Due to a recent change in the agreement between SANParks and the private owner of the last 60 meters of ground to the Touw River waterfall, it is no longer legal to enter this private property and access the Waterfall.

We apologise for the inconvenience but trust that you will enjoy the tranquility of the rest of the 7km of riverine forest and picturesque stops all along the route”.

More on this later…

 

Types of Trees on the Trail

Some of the trees along the trail have been marked with green perspex tags. You will encounter the following tree species, some with very unusual names:

  1.    Bushman Poison
  2.    White Milkwood
  3.    Cape Beech
  4.    Cape Plane
  5.    Common Saffron
  6.    White Ironwood
  7.    Cape Chestnut
  8.    Forest Elder
  9.    Scrambling Fig
  10.    Cape Saffron (aka Forest Spoon-wood)
  11.    False Olive (aka Mock Olive)
  12.    Red Currant
  13.    Real Yellowwood
  14.    Outeniqua Yellowwood

 

The Speedy Review [tl;dr]

I cannot believe I lived in Wilderness for the better part of my childhood (nearly 17 years!), and had never hiked this trail.  I always heard about ‘the trail up to the waterfall’ but never really took much notice. I am so sad I never took the time to investigate more about the route.  The beauty of this trail is truly remarkable, and I am amazed that such a place exists right on my childhood doorstep.

The trail is mainly under forest cover, but there are short stretches that are open and unprotected from the harsh sunlight.  Most of the trail is along a wooden boardwalk, however some of the trail, especially in the beginning, is along the forest floor.  Watch out for roots and overhanging branches, and be careful of some loose sections of sand and rocks.

At the end of the hike, you come to some spectacular rock pools and two waterfalls.  Essential items to pack include: A book, a towel, swimming costume and picnic.  You will definitely want to spend some time there before heading back along the route to your car.

The hike takes between 3-4 hours to complete (We had about a 30 minute break at the end for a swim), but you can spend as much time as you like at the waterfalls.  The total distance is around 8.5 km.  It is child friendly (my 5 year old niece was a trouper of note and managed this hike without a single complaint).

 

 

Trail Ninometer

 

 

 

Nina rated this trail 0/5 paw prints, because there are no dogs allowed in the Garden Route National Park – Wilderness Section.  She spent a few days with her grandparents instead, and was spoiled rotten (as usual)

 

The Nitty Gritty

Belinda and I travelled to the village of Wilderness in the Southern Cape to spend time with her family. We decided to try and get in a few hikes while we were down there. Belinda grew up in Wilderness and had done her fair share of hiking while living there. The Half Collared Kingfisher Trail was however one that she had heard about but never hiked herself. That such a spectacular trail was in the Wilderness all that time, under our noses, was such a surprise to both of us after having visited the village on numerous occasions together during our relationship.

On Sunday 07 January 2018, we started the hike at 12h33. The hiking party was comprised of Belinda and myself together with 5 members of Belinda’s family which included Belinda’s 5 year old niece. The trail starts opposite the North gate of the Ebb & Flow Rest Camp. There is a small wooden hut located at the beginning of the trail where you can purchase the permit required to complete the hike.

At 12h37, after walking a distance of 200 m, we climbed a set of wooden stairs (53 steps) and continued along the path toward the pontoon river crossing. At 12h47, we came to a sign that pointed to the right to the Milkwood picnic site [740 m]. A wooden walkway led toward the picnic site out of sight.

At 12h52, we reached the 1 km mark on the trail. For once, a trail distance marker on a SANParks trail was accurate.

At 12h56, we reached a sign board indicating that the Yellow Wood picnic site was on our right hand side. There was a single wooden picnic table to the right of the path. The path also split there. It continued straight on toward the Stepping Stones and right to the pontoon river crossing. We chose to go right and cross the river on the pontoon. It was a really unique way to cross the river. You had to pull yourself along with a rope suspended over the water. I videoed our crossing while Belinda and her brother, Adrian, pulled us across. They were so engrossed in the task of pulling us across as fast as possible that they didn’t see a submerged rock at the other side of the river. The sudden jolt as the pontoon collided with the rock nearly sent me and my camera over the edge and into the water. It was only a steady stance that kept me dry. And we laughed and laughed and laughed.

 

 

By 13h27, we had covered a distance of 2.75 km. Much of the trail had been comprised of raised wooden walkways. A section of the trail had been constructed of pieces of slate encased in wire building blocks. There were also benches dotted along the walkways where you could sit and take in the view of the forest.

A minute or so later, we reached a set of stairs [2.80 km]. We ascended 42 steps and continued along the path. Something worth mentioning is that the trail follows a pipeline that extends all the way to the waterfall. It reminded us of the Pipe Track along the side of Table Mountain.

At 13h34, we crossed another wooden walkway and came to a sign that said Giant Kingfisher Trail and Waterfall with an arrow pointing straight ahead [3.11 km]. The sign was misleading as the map of the Half Collared Kingfisher trail did not mention anything about the Giant Kingfisher trail. We followed the path toward the waterfall.

 

 

At 13h37, we encountered another wooden staircase comprising of 64 steps [3.23 km]. We climbed the stairs and continued along the path. At 13h48, we crossed a dry water course after covering a distance of 3.77 km. The total time taken to reach that point was 01h15m.

At 13h53, after walking 4.0km, we came to a sign that read:

“NO ENTRY. PRIVATE PROPERTY. SANParks will not be held liable for prosecution of offenders beyond this point”

 

The trail was not blocked off in anyway. There was a green line that had been painted across the wooden walkway below the sign.   As I stood there I could here the shouts and screams of delight of people less than a hundred meters ahead of me and the sound of a waterfall. It did not appear that anyone was taking heed of this sign. Belinda told me later that she didn’t even see the sign! It seemed such a shame to walk all that way and not see the waterfall, so we continued on and a minute later [60 m] descended a short flight of wooden stairs and were met with a spectacular sight. A scene comprised of large boulders, two sets of waterfalls positioned on different levels and people everywhere having fun. It was like a self contained water park with lots of people swimming in the rock pools, sunning themselves on the boulders or sitting quietly in the shade and reading their books. It was a place for both the young and old. Perhaps it does bear mentioning, that the terrain was uneven and slippery and you should exercise a high degree of caution when navigating around the site.

Belinda, her brother, niece and sister-in-law all had a swim in the top pool, and even ventured over to the edge of the waterfall.  The water was surprisingly warm. We will definitely go back there, and take a book and a picnic to spend a good portion of the day enjoying this beautiful and unique setting.

 

 

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At 14h40, we left the water park and headed back along the raised wooden walkway. While we were there, we witnessed a young girl jump of the rocks at the top of the lower waterfall. I can only hope that she had investigated the pool below before leaping off the rocks. It did take her about 20 minutes to work up the courage and to assemble a big enough crowd. Thankfully it ended safely without incident. I had walked around the water park and had accumulated an additional 400 m. The total time that we had spent on the trail, including a long break at the waterfalls, was 02h10m.

At 15h25, we reached the split in the trail again and decided to take the alternate route back to the start, to the right, over the Stepping Stones and not via the pontoon river crossing. The distance to that point was 6.65 km with a total time on the trail of 02h52m.

At 15h27, we crossed two streams making use of stepping stones and ascended a short wooden staircase and on to the other side of the river [6.70 km].

 

 

 

At 15h47, we rejoined the main path at the point where it intersects with the turnoff to the pontoon bridge and the Yellow Wood picnic site [7.42 km]. We continued on along the same path we had walked on the outward leg of the trail.

At 16h08, we reached the end of the hike after walking a distance of 8.7 km and a total hiking time of 03h36m.

 

 

 

The Animals on the Trail

This trail is advertised as being rich in bird life and a bird watcher’s dream. Unfortunately, we didn’t see many birds. What we did see though were various kinds of small creatures along the route and in the immediate vicinity on other hiking trails. Here is a small album of some of the creatures that we encountered while in Wilderness:

 

 

A huge thank you to Johan Huisamen of CapeNature for identifying the animals in this blog post!

 

The Stats

The Half Collared Kingfisher Trail in the Garden Route National Park – Wilderness Section is well signposted. This is an out and back route that should ideally be done in the early morning or the late afternoon.

 

Here are the hiking stats for this trail:

 

Trip Odometer 8.7 km
Total Time 03h36
Elevation Gain 167 m

 



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