FISH OUT OF WATER: Long distance swimmer and environmental campaigner Lewis Pugh flings himself from a cliff into one of the many deep dark pools of Suicide Gorge in the Nuweberg mountains near Grabouw. Pugh is famous for his long distance swims at the North Pole and in glacier lakes at the foot of Mount Everest. Suicide Gorge is a breathtaking but dangerous route some hikers take (usually wearing wetsuits, but not Pugh) where the only way down is to jump from cliffs or bum-slide down mossy slides. The water is cold. Picture: MICHAEL WALKER

Lisa Isaacs

TWO of South Africa’s most challenging and thrilling hiking and kloofing trails, Suicide Gorge and Riviersonderend, reopened to the public at the weekend.

The trails, where adrenalin junkies can plunge into a mountain stream and follow its boulder-strewn course by sliding, jumping and free-falling downstream, have undergone numerous safety upgrades and improvements.

They are managed by CapeNature in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve.

“In the past people tended to go off trail. Now there has been upgraded signage, route markers and also waterproof route maps given to every hiker. This will be mandatory,” said James-Brent Styan, spokesman for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell.

He said the maps would be given to every hiker and included in the cost of their R275 entry fee.

Bredell described the trails as “spectacular but challenging”. “We believe the improvements will make the experience more enjoyable.

“We do call on hikers to be responsible and to adhere to the recommendations made by CapeNature.”

CapeNature executive director for marketing and eco-tourism Sheraaz Ismail said they were excited to announce the reopening of the two trails.

“Suicide Gorge and its less extreme partner, Riviersonderend, provide seasoned hikers with the chance to experience jaw-dropping landscapes while undertaking some exciting jumps off cliffs and rocks into pools of cool Cape mountain water,” he said.

Beginner adventurers are encouraged to start with the 14.4km Riviersonderend route, CapeNature said.

Starting with a 4.1km hike, the 6.1km canyoning section follows and includes numerous jumps, the highest of which is 7m.

A 3.6km walk back to the parking area concludes the route, which should take between seven and eight hours.

Suicide Gorge starts with a two-hour hike high into the mountains and an optional waterfall slide. Then it’s a steep downhill for 13km, with jumps up to 14m high and plenty of swims. The route can take up to nine hours.

Hikers must start early to ensure finishing before dark.

Hikers are advised to go with someone who has done the route before and check the weather forecast beforehand. Hikers should wear a wetsuit and carry food, emergency gear and warm clothing in a waterproof pack.

“It’s a very tough trail, not for amateurs. It’s both exciting and fun.

“You can jump from heights of 14m… It’s not for people with a fear of heights. It’s the perfect place to go for long hikes with your family, but also a thrilling and exciting challenge,” said Styan.

He added that people should be aware of challenges along the trails.

The routes are open until April 30. The entrance gate is open from 7.30am to 7pm.

Bookings are made through CapeNature’s call centre at 021 483 0190 or via e-mail to [email protected]

The tariff for kloofing is R275 per person per day.

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