Hiking Trail: The Donkey Trail
Name of Reserve / Area: Swartberg Nature Reserve, Little Karoo
Nearest Town: Calitzdorp
Province: Western Cape
Country: South Africa
Directions to get there: From Cape Town or From Garden Route or From Beaufort West, link onto the R62 which runs between Oudtshoorn and Cape Town through the towns Calitzdorp, Ladismith, Barrydale, Montague, Ashton, Worcester. (Enjoy the R62 it has much to offer as a route in itself). Once reaching the town of Calitzdorp turn into Calitz Street in the direction of Groenfontein (towards the Swartberg, this would be in a northerly direction). Measure 15km on your odometer. This will bring you onto Living Waters Farm. Turn left at the Donkey Trail sign and follow the signs to reception.
Duration of hike: 4 days required including travel to and from starting point. Trails start on Fridays and finish on Mondays or, Tuesdays and finish on Fridays.
Best time of year to go: March, April, May, September, October and November are arguably the best times to hike. We have however had fantastic hikes all the way through the year with snow to enjoy in winter and divine mountain pools to linger at during summer. There is not much shade on the trail but mountain breezes and the increase in altitude as we hike does bring cooler conditions even on the hottest summer days. Even though the Donkey Trail takes your from the Little Karoo into the Great Karoo, we are more concerned with the sudden drops in temperatures than with high temperatures on this trail.
Fresh Water: Yes there is fresh water. It is THE BEST, completely unpolluted.
Difficulty: You need to be fit to ENJOY this trail. There is no rock climbing or terrifying cliff to conquer however you will need to be fit to walk 14 kilometers up hill, climbing 1500 meters in 7 hours on the first day. Day two of hiking is easier.
You might also want to give your version of the Mike Lundy rating which is a combination of the following two grades: 2B The drive back includes exposure to heights.
1 = Easy stroll;
2 = Moderate;
3 = Streunous excersise;
4 = Only for the very fit
A = No exposure to heights;
B = Mild exposure to heights;
C = Moderate exposure to heights;
D = Very exposed to heights;
Pets: No pets allowed
How safe is it: This is a guided hike. You will feel safe at ALL times. Crime is practically non existant
What costs did you incurr to do this hike: the cost is R2750 per person for 3 nights and 4 days, this includes all meals, bedding, towels, accommodation, park entry fees, guides, return accommodation and non alcoholic beverages.
Our rate includes all meals, trail snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, 3 nights accommodation including bedding (sleeping bags on one night) and soap, shampoo and towels, guides, CapeNature conservation fees, comfortable transportation back to the starting point (over the Swartbergpas) and of course the donkeys to carry your personal items. As rates are seasonal, please call Erika on 0836289394 should you have any rate related queries.
Maximum size of group 8, minimum 4. Individuals and groups of less than four can be matched up with other small group bookings. Let us know your preferred dates and we will see what we can do.
Pics taken by: Pictures owned by Stephan Theron from Die Burger or Erika Calitz.
Hikers Ratings: Our hikers range from young students who save up to do the trail to lawyers and doctors who use the short break opportunity to get into a wilderness area, enjoy some real exercise and drink in the culture, history and incredible biodiversity of the area.
Describe the hike from beginning to end:
Some facts about the trail
- Total distance covered on foot, approximately 26 kilometers
- Gradient not rated but expect moderate to strenuous, no rock climbing required, you MUST BE FIT to complete this trail
- Highest altitude reached during the trail is 1523m at Wyenek. Depart from altitude of 350m at Living Waters
- Do not count on having cell phone reception
- Itinerary : Click Here
QUESTIONNAIRE FOR HIKERS prior to walking – Please provide your full name
1. Do you have any health considerations that we should know about (e.g. asthma, heart problem, diabetes, allergies such as bee sting).
2. As we will be catering for you, we need to know of any food limitations or allergies.
3. Do you have any particular interests in this area (e.g. a specific mammal, plant or bird, local architecture)?
4. Will this be your first visit to Gamkaskloof, “die Hel”?
5. Did you know that you will be hiking through one of only 34 biodiversity hotspots on the planet?
6. Where did you hear about the Donkey Trail
7. Which is the last trail that you walked and when?
What to bring
Hiking boots and socks
Light slipslops for on the mountain (no barefoot at the rest camp on the mountain)
Insect repellant (mainly against ticks)
Swimwear (towels are provided)
Personal medication (we have first aid but not a dispensary)
Day pack rucksack
No firearms or narcotics
Cash for curios and local preserves/wine/port
3 layers of upper clothing for hiking days (t-shirt, fleece and waterproof)
Preferably long pants (the night on the mountain can be VERY cold)
Every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of our guests however indemnities will be signed prior to hiking. The trail traverses a remote, wilderness area which can only be accessed by emergency helicopter services during daylight hours and in favorable weather conditions.
We have confirmation from tracks and signs that leopards, though rarely seen, make use of the Donkey Trail. We also share the mountain with other potentially dangerous animals such as snakes, honey badgers, porcupines, baboons, bees, ticks and spiders. Our guides are trained in basic first aid.
The climate is generally moderate but temperatures can drop by 15-20 degrees as we climb to Wyenek camp (good news for hot summer days), in winter months, below zero is to be expected. Donkey Trail management will monitor weather conditions for 14 days prior to your booking departure and inform you of any scenarios that could require a postponement of your tour.
eMail: email Erika