Camping in the wilderness is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in nature, and there are plenty of wonderful campsites near Cape Town.
The closest campsites to Cape Town are a short drive south of the city centre. But they are large, generally lacking shade and extremely busy during weekends and holiday periods. If you want to camp in a purer form of nature, drive north from Cape Town to one of these magnificent wilderness campsites.
Tietiesbaai, a couple of hours drive up the West Coast from Cape Town in the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, is as rustic as it gets. Other than toilets and running water there are no facilities and none of the sites have shade. But the coastal setting is amazing and the nutrient-rich waters are full of marine life. Buy a mollusc permit from a post office before arriving and you’ll be able to harvest your own supper from the rock pools. In season, and with a permit, you can also try your hand at catching crayfish (West Coast lobster).
Some of my favourite campsites are nestled along the rivers and among the rugged, orange boulders of the Cederberg mountains, a three-hour drive north of Cape Town. The superb mountain setting at Sanddrif Holiday Resort at Dwarsrivier and nearby Kromrivier Cederberg Park is a big attraction. In addition to the dramatic mountain scenery, beautiful wildflowers, rock paintings, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and horse riding, both farms have their own craft breweries. Dwarsrivier is also home to Cederberg Private Cellar, the highest wine farm in South Africa. Deep rock pools make offer a great escape from the heat of summer and the unpolluted night sky is incredible. If you’re there on a Saturday night, visit the Cederberg Observatory for a slide show and to peer through one of the telescopes at the starry skies.
Beaverlac is also high in the mountains, but a little closer to Cape Town. It also has wonderful pools and waterfalls, trails, rock art and picturesque, rugged campsites. It is also pet friendly so if you want to bring your dog camping in the wilderness this is your spot.
Long-distance trail runner Andre Gie has won — and set records for — some of the toughest trail races Cape Town has to offer. He lets you in on a few of his favourite places to run.
The unique thing about Cape Town is that you have this big mountain in the middle of the city. The mountain has a special feel to it, with rock formations and vegetation like no where else. You can start running in the city and in a couple of minutes be in a wild environment without anyone else in sight. And you can run from Table Mountain to the beach to the city — all in one morning!
If we expand the parameters outside of Cape Town just a bit, two of my favourite places on earth are the Garden Route and the Cederberg, so it’s not surprising that trails there make it into my selection.
Robberg Peninsula near Plettenberg Bay (a six to seven-hour drive from Cape Town) must be one of the most beautiful seven-kilometre runs on the planet. It is the perfect combination of rocky trails, running along the beach and along cliff-tops above the ocean. You often run along the cliffs above massive great white sharks as they cruise next to the peninsula! There isn’t a boring step on this run and it’s a must-do for any trail runner.
In Cape Town itself, the loop around Lion’s Head should not be missed.
In terms of a medium distance, there is a combination of trails that link together to create a loop around Table Mountain. Start at the cableway and run the contour paths to Kirstenbosch. Then climb up Skeleton Gorge — which looks and feels like Jurassic Park — to the top of Table Mountain. Run past the dams and down Kasteelspoort to the pipetrack and back to your car. This great run gives you the opportunity to see both sides of the mountain, some awesome trails, and a lot of variety.
If you are looking to do a longer distance, anything in the Cederberg (around three hour’s drive from Cape Town) will do. My current favourite is to run from Algeria up Uitkyk Pass, around the back of Sneeuberg, then through the Duiwelsgat ravine, past the Maltese Cross to Sanddrif. It is beautiful and remote running in some big mountains. The bonus is that you end up at Cederberg Wines, which is a great wine farm with fantastic red wines and beer, and a cold river to jump in at the Sanddrif campsite!