The Half Collared Kingfisher Trail in the Wilderness

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This is one fun and interesting hike that you should definitely do if you’re ever on the garden route of Southern Africa.

The garden route is a diverse coastline that covers an area from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to Jeffreys Bay in the Eastern Cape. It’s lush, aloe & forest covered with extremely deep valleys and gorges with the wild elements coming to the fore.

This specific walk is in a part of the Garden Route called Wilderness. It’s the descriptive name of the forested mountain-scapes and lakes typical of the area.

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My sister had been telling me about The Half Collared Kingfisher Trail and I just had to do it while we were holidaying nearby. And a couple friends happened to be here at the same time so we joined forces and tackled it together.

It’s not a particularly difficult walk to start with. The trails are pretty well labelled and kept free of debris. Reflective markers are at crucial points for the faster moving among us that prefer to run the trail.

You start at the river railway crossing and need to pay a fee and sign in with the ranger at the hut shortly after the main entry gate. It’s a little cheaper for SA residents than foreigners. I guess they will also come looking for you if you don’t return by the end of the day, so it’s probably a good idea to check in with them.

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After about 1km it got interesting with a cleverly strung up pontoon river crossing. Hallelujah for still waters and no wind! It was so beautifully protected in the deep valley. There had been only a moderate amount of rain lately so the river was running gently and not gushing.

Three at a time we loaded onto the pontoon and pulled ourselves across the river while those on land picked up the slack and helped us along. As long as you have OK balance, this should be a piece of cake, although on a hot day you may want to take a swim.

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I’ve actually Stand Up Paddled on this river before but way further down toward the river mouth. On beautiful days you can hire a canoe from Eden Adventures on the grounds of the Fairy Knowe Hotel and then paddle upriver until you get to the pontoon crossing. Pull your canoe up on a riverbank and then follow the trail the rest of the way. On this day it was windy when we got to Eden adventures, so we opted for a drive to the starting point and walking along the river. It’s all beautiful - but the canoe does add a special touch!

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On we walk along the opposite side of the river admiring the ferns and ancient forests until we get to a very cool boardwalk. This part would be tricky for anyone averse to hills because the stairs felt like they went straight up!!! About 100 steps later, our hips and thighs burning, we move along the upper slope of the steep valley peering down at the river below.

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Up ahead we could hear it before we could see it... out of the forest we emerged onto a huge rock formation with gushing waterfalls and deep rock pools. If the weather had been warmer we all would have jumped in, but it was just Spring (September) at this point and the water was COLD, so rock climbing was enough for us. We scrambled some steep surfaces to enjoy the views of the upper pool usually frequented by brave swimmers. I think I’m becoming a scaredy-cat

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We enjoyed lunch on the boulders listening to the sound of the waterfalls. Then, when we had rested and taken in all there was to see we headedback. By now my son knew the way and streaked ahead of the rest of us.

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Back down the steep wooden steps til we reached the Pontoon crossing - now old hands, we crossed quickly anxious for a coffee.

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Then before we knew it we were back at the rangers hut and almost done!

For some added fun and games I had forgotten the car’s headlights on and drained the battery pretty well. Luckily we had jumper cables and a helpful gentleman jumped to the rescue and hooked us up. (Maybe check you lights before heading out on a hike!!?)

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It was beautiful, refreshing, a good workout and good company and I wouldn’t want to spend a day on my holidays any other way. The outdoors is just good for the soul.

I hope you enjoyed this adventure with me. Let’s do it again real soon!

All photos my own

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