A day on the paths of Robberg Nature Reserve
Just a few kilometres from Plettenberg Bay, it is located a wonderful South African National Park, national monument and World Heritage Site: the Robberg Nature Reserve and Marine protected area. If you like walking in the middle of wild nature, along high cliffs spotting birds, seals, dolphins and if you are lucky also whales, this is the right place. Personally, this is one of the parks we liked most during the trip through the country. Rocks from this region date back 120 million years to the break-up of Gondwanaland, and evidence of middle and later Stone Age inhabitation has been found in a few of the caves along the peninsula.
How to reach the Robberg Nature Reserve
The Reserve is just 8km from Plettenberg Bay and close to many other well-known Parks such as Tsitsikamma and the Garden Route Park. The nearest airport is Port Elizabeth, which is approximately 230 km away. We left Port Elizabeth by hiring a vehicle, stopping one night in Storm Rivers to visit Tsitsikamma National Park, and the following day we reached the Reserve entrance in about 1 hour.
Opening hours: admission fee is 50 rand, and the gate opens from 7 am to 8 pm (1 October – 30 April) and from 8 am to 6 pm (1 May – 30 September). Always check the schedule as it could vary anytime.
The hiking trails of the Reserve
There are 3 circular routes of increasing difficulty starting from the car park along the promontory. All offer fantastic views, brisk sea air and sightings of the animals of the peninsula.
The first trail is called “The Gap”, it is the shortest and easiest route, about 2 km long (1-hour walk to complete it). From the car park, follow the north part (the one on your left) of the cliff until you descend to a small beach. From here, go back up the cliff on the opposite side.
The second trail is called “Witsand”; it leads along the northern ridge of the peninsula and onto the wind-shadow of the climbing-falling dune before heading down to the beautiful beach ‘’the island’’ and the boardwalk. Here, from the top of the cliff, you can spot a resident seals colony along the way and see a colony of kelp gulls at the end of the trail. It’s 5.5 km long, and it takes you around 2 hours and a half. We chose this trail, and it was lovely to hike along the peninsula in the middle of lush vegetation until we reached the “Island Beach”. From the high cliff along the trail, we spotted dolphins and the colony of seals. Once at the white and long beach, some seals were swimming a few steps from the shore. The route is safe, well-marked and without particular difficulties.
The third trail is called ”the Point”, it heads to the northernmost ridge of the Reserve and goes back along the southern rocky shoreline. This is the longest trail, about 9.2 km, and it takes you around 5 hours. Without a doubt, it’s a fairly strenuous walk. The highlight is encountering the hundreds of gannets, cormorants and terns at the Point. Along the trail, you can spot the Cape seal Lighthouse, the highest navigational light on the South Africa coast. Its solar-powered rotating beam has a range of about 27 km, and it was built in 1950.
Where to sleep
If you want to stay overnight in this area, you will find a good choice of accommodation in nearby Plettenberg Bay. The small town is a popular tourist destination thanks to its long beaches where you can relax and maybe take a dip in the ocean waves. If, on the other hand, you want to sleep inside the Reserve, you will find a single Spartan accommodation called the Fountain Shack, which is located not far from The Island beach.