Fear of the unknown is the single largest reason for people to “rather stay at home”, than venture into nature. Tourists want reassurance. Thus, hotels are star graded, beaches are awarded Blue Flag status, and nature trails are Green Flag accredited. The Green Flag Trails accreditation system (endorsed by all the main providers of hiking trails in South Africa) is not a grading system that promotes one trail as being superior to another. It’s a scientifically based, accurate objective assessment that allows prospective hikers to make well-informed decisions; ensuring them that they will get what is being promised and will thus be assured of a good trail experience. Green Flag trails are thus, in this sense, “quality trails” in that one can be assured you will get a good experience if you choose the trail according to your aptitude.
The Green Flag trails initiative seeks to offer trail users all the required information regarding the trail to ensure that it meets their expectations, while simultaneously offering trail managers an essential tool to assess trail conditions objectively. It is a voluntary quality mark and sustainable assessment standard for trails. The Green flag accreditation is implemented by the South African Green Flag Trail Expert Group after thoroughly assessing the trail and confirming that it meets the requirements. The assessment checks the condition of the trail, including the availability of information signposts, the path surface condition, the flora and fauna condition, any obstructions on the path, the condition of the constructions, the environmental degradation, and the overall layout of the trail. Green Flag trails further conduct a risk assessment to ensure that managers offer hikers a safe hiking trail.
The c’s accreditations aim to give recognition to trail owners who adhere to the responsible management concept and deliver a product that is ‘value for money’ to the hikers. This ensures that hikers enjoy their hike and managers keep their trails safe and in good condition.
CapeNature’s Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and World Heritage complex located in the town of Calitzdorp and established with the purpose of conserving the endangered Cape mountain zebras, is home to the Green Flag-accredited Tierkloof Hiking Trail. The moderately strenuous trail offers hikers a breath-taking view of the mountains, the flora and fauna, and the amazing landscape. Hikers overnight at the Oukraal huts, which can accommodate eight people, providing them with mattresses, a fireplace, ablution, fire kettle, and a 3-legged pot. It is a two-day long trail that begins at the Welcome Centre of the reserve, then runs along the dry riverbed through a forested ravine and up a slope to a plateau where the hikers get a view of the Oukraal camp after walking 13.2km.
On the second day, the remaining 11.6km of the trail leads hikers down the slope to another ravine which later links up with the initial trail, from where hikers are led back to the Welcome Centre.
The Gamkaberg staff members were hard at work for about three months, ensuring that the trail adhered to the concept of responsible management. Trail markers at every kilometre in the form of painted leopard spores on rocks were newly painted and made clearly visible. The spores were inspired by the Cape leopard that roams freely in the mountains. An old ladder was dismantled and replaced with a new one that staff made themselves. They also repaired and replaced water barriers that were damaged or in a bad condition on the Oukraal slope and Ribbok Nek slope. Signposts were made and erected indicating the direction to Oukraal.
The Tierkloof Hiking Trail is a wonderful trail worth hiking!
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