The Bobbejaan Mountain cliffs project into the sea at Baboon Point and a large rock shelter in the cliff is adorned with primitive San paintings. Excavations at a rock shelter in the cliffs indicate habitation by man 15 000 years ago. Elands Bay Cave is a rock art site dating back 10 000 years.
The mild weather ensures year-round outdoor activities, walks and hikes, mountain-biking, mountaineering and 4x4 trails.
Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Bobbejaan Mountain lies this hotspot for surfers around the world. For the more adventurous there is the Bobbejaans River Trail. It is rated as: Beauty: 8/10. Mountains, rivers, rock pools and waterfalls… Bliss! After leaving Eerste Tol behind, one is immediately ensconced in the rugged Cape mountains.
Difficulty: 6/10. Moderate to good fitness and good balance is necessary.
Terrain: Standard trail walking with varied terrain depending on route chosen. Trail splits can be confusing. Last section of trail gets very steep – caution is advised.
It must be said upfront that the CapeNature Bainskloof hiking area offers a number of well-maintained trails for a range of fitness and technical ability, as well as some of the most easily accessible day trails in the greater Cape Town region – especially if one is looking for rockpools!
For that reason, the Bobbejaans River trail is a beautiful trail best enjoyed in summer. It is a linear route that totals approximately 10kms (“out-and-back”), depending on how far you walk in. The trail starts at the Eerste Tol/De Nek parking area, and heads immediately down to the Witterivier. Look out for the yellow painted footprint when crossing the river, to find the best way across. You cross the Witterivier and head up the opposite side, for an easy walk along a meandering contour above the Bobbejaans River tributary. After a kilometer or two, you will see some rock outcrops which, while fantastic, offer minimal shade. At this point, you will lose sight of the Bainskloof pass (and the sounds of any traffic). This is a good time to pause and soak in the mountainous slopes that enclose you in the valley and the beautiful view of the gushing river below. Shortly thereafter (at approximately 3.5kms) is the first turn-off to the river. Cairns mark the trail split, and you will see a series of beautiful waterfalls below. A steep descent will get you down to these beautiful falls, and the first opportunity for a dip. Here, the path is not so clear and losing the marked route may require some easy boulder hopping to get to the waterfall.
Continuing along the main trail instead, another – lesser used – path will also take one down to the river, but the main trail winds on, with a slight incline before the valley opens up ahead of you. If you are in luck, you should be able to see the magnificent three-tiered waterfall in the distance, at the head of the valley and below Klein Wellington-Sneeukop peak. At this point, one can continue on straight towards the head of the valley and the main three-tier waterfall feature, or take another trail split down to the river to enjoy a series of sublime pools and flowing waterfalls. If one continues straight to the main waterfall, note that the trail will split once more: taking the right split will lead one straight up the side of the mountain slope via the Mountain Club of SA route and to the vlakte that overlooks the top of the waterfall. Keep your eyes trained for the left split to the waterfall, as it is easy to miss. You will continue along the valley for a while, but be sure to expect a bit of a sudden ascent when you near the ravine. Should one wish to get to the three-tiered waterfall at the head of the valley, suitable scrambling skills and a head for heights are needed, as the last section is steep and tricky to navigate. This is not recommended for small groups or after heavy rains. The path disappears at this point and if in doubt, it is not worth continuing as this section is slippery and can be dangerous. All in all, Bobbejaans River trail is a delightful day out, in an untouched valley enclosed by a bowl of mountains – and even though you may be just more than an hour’s walk back to civilization, it will feel as if you have been immersed in the most isolated corner of the Cape Mountains.
The Bainskloof area is protected and managed by CapeNature. Permits are necessary for all trails in the area, and cost is dependent on the number of people in your group. Please respect the use of the area and those who also wish to enjoy it by adhering to the CapeNature rules.
It is recommended to print out two copies of your permit – one to carry with you, and one to leave on the dashboard of your car. The rangers are known to check both hiking groups and vehicles, and you can be fined should you not have the relevant permit to enter the area or for your group.
Always carry water, even though you will walk near to the river for some of the route. Ensure that every person in the group has a hat to prevent over-exposure, as well as a warm jacket for post-rockpool swimming. There are some lovely spots next to the river for picnicking – please carry everything out that you brought in, including fruit peels, so that the next group can also enjoy the pristine environment.
As with all hiking, start as early as possible to avoid midday sun or afternoon heat – depending on the pace of your group, the first turn off to the river could take up to (or more than) an hour to get to, and there is little shade en route.
The Bobbejaans River Trail can be catered to a group’s needs: as an all-day affair, spent hiking and exploring the different offshoots of the trail and the numerous rock pools and waterfalls, or it can be a relatively quick half day hike, if you know exactly where you are going or want to be and can move fairly fast.
There is something for everyone on this trail – don’t necessarily be lured by the three-tiered waterfall at the end of the trail, as the easily accessible rock pools of the Bobbejaans River are a welcome respite and a wonderful reward at any point along the hike.