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Hiking permits

CapeNature manages large areas of the Western Cape mountains and encourages hikers to enjoy the wild beauty of these areas.

For hiking permits, please contact the CapeNature call centre at +27 (0)87 087 8250.

Enquiries can also be emailed to reservation.alert@capenature.co.za.

Hiker safety

Being prepared is key to having a safe and enjoyable experience on our trails. Become self-reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start. Even if you are heading out for just an hour, an injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life-threatening. Never hike alone and pace your hike to the slowest person in your group.

Before heading out on a hike, make sure you have the relevant numbers programmed into your phone:

Mountain Rescue : +27 (0)21 937 0300

West Coast Control : +27 (0)22 433 8700

For all other areas, please ensure you have the local emergency services number saved on your phone before embarking on your hike.

The following guidelines will help you ensure a safe hike.

Planning

Plan your hike thoroughly. Pay attention to:

  • Permit requirements and gate times
  • Your start time and expected finish
  • Pace (3km/h is average)
  • Time of sunset and tides (particularly at Robberg and De Hoop nature reserves)
  • Size of group (preferably three or more) – never hike alone.
  • Capability and responsibility of leader
  • Availability of water
  • Fitness and medical condition of group members – the slowest person determines the pace
  • Informing someone of your plans and expected time of return
  • Leaving a message with your name, size of group, route, expected time of return and a contact person clearly visible in your car

Weather

Weather conditions can change very quickly in the mountains, even if the weather is good at lower altitudes. Trails will be closed in the event of dangerous weather. Do not attempt to hike if the trail is closed – it can endanger lives. If the weather becomes dangerous, make your way back to the start or to the nearest hut as quickly as possible. Do not attempt to complete the trail. Weather forecasts are available by calling 082 162. If in doubt, call the reserve before leaving home.

Emergency equipment

Always carry the following items:

  • Torch (with new batteries)
  • Pocket knife
  • First aid kit
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Waterproof gear
  • 1:50 000 contour map in wilderness areas
  • Compass
  • Space blanket
  • Whistle
  • No less than 1.5 litres of water per person

Clothing and footwear

Take a wind- and waterproof anorak and woollen jersey (even in summer). Wear two pairs of socks. Change the inner pair every few hours to prevent blisters. Boots or shoes should be sturdy with strong non-slip soles and must be well worn in. Tennis shoes and takkies (sneakers) are not suitable. Sun hats are essential, even on cool days. Use sunblock on all exposed parts of your body, not only your face. In cold weather, wear a warm cap or beanie to prevent heat loss.

Food

Lightweight, nutritious, energy-rich foods include packet soups, dehydrated vegetables, powdered milk and soy β€œmeats”, dried fruit, raisins, cheese and chocolates. Carbohydrates such as pasta, dehydrated potatoes and rice are convenient and rich in energy. Tinned and bottled foods add unwanted weight. Glass containers break easily. Drink plenty of water. Alcohol is not advisable, because it can impair judgement and cause dehydration.

Emergencies

In the event of an emergency or accident while hiking, keep the group together. Keep moving, if possible. If you are unable to continue due to injury or collapse, or if weather conditions become too severe, seek shelter, dress warmly and stay in your sleeping bag. Stay on or close to the path, so that you are visible to a rescue party. Do not stray from a given route. In the event of an emergency, notify the relevant reserve office or phone 10111, if possible.

Being lost

  • Never descend via unknown kloofs or slopes. Waterfalls, loose stones and hidden cliffs can be deadly
  • Keep the group together
  • Light and weather permitting, retrace your steps until you reach a known route. Otherwise, camp where you are until rescued
  • Use bright items to reveal your position to search teams. Blow a whistle to attract attention

Serious accidents

  • Stay calm
  • Protect the person/s against further injury
  • Apply first aid
  • Ensure that the rest of the group is safe
  • If possible, send two experienced group members to report the accident. Don’t abandon the injured person
  • Give the authorities the following information: the full names and age of the injured person; the type and severity of injury; the location of the accident (preferably on a 1:50 000 map with grid references); the details of the rest of the group

Hypothermia (exposure)

Wet, windy and cold weather can lead to hypothermia, which can be fatal. A person can get hypothermic very quickly. Symptoms include exhaustion, stumbling, uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, loss of memory and drowsiness. Take the following measures against hypothermia:

  • Stay dry: put on rain gear before you get wet
  • Strip off any wet clothing and put on dry clothing
  • Beware of wind – it whips heat away from the skin and cools wet clothes
  • Wear a warm cap to avoid heat loss through your head
  • Have warm, sweet drinks
  • Seek shelter while you still have energy, but try to stay near the path

Hyperthermia (heat exhaustion)

Hot weather, not drinking enough liquids and exhaustion can cause hyperthermia or heat exhaustion. Symptoms can include exhaustion, stumbling, dizziness, headaches and impaired vision. Take the following measures to avoid hyperthermia:

  • Hike in the cool of the morning or early evening
  • Rest in the shade during midday
  • Wear a sun hat with a wide brim to protect your face and the back of your neck
  • Drink at least 250ml (one cup) of water every hour
  • Wear cool, cotton-type clothing

Mountain fires

Mountain fires can be deadly. Follow these guidelines to avoid danger:

  • Stay calm and think in practical terms. Keep your group together, keep water bottles filled and, if possible, wet your equipment and clothes. Be aware that synthetic materials can melt in severe heat
  • Never try to out-run a fire, especially uphill. Take note of changes in wind direction
  • Find water, rock slabs or cleared areas and stay there. Avoid thick bush, kloofs and rocky areas where you could be trapped
  • Try to keep to jeep tracks, paths or open slopes. If you are in a hut or building, stay there
  • Never try to start a back-burn; you can cause even more danger
  • Remove gas canisters and all other fuel and inflammable objects from your rucksack. Store them in a safe place
  • Keep a lookout for helicopters. Wave bright items to attract attention
  • Inform the trail authorities when you reach the end of your hike

Flooded rivers

Try to avoid crossing a flooded mountain stream. Rather wait until the water level has dropped, then cross at a safe place.

Lightning

If a thunderstorm is brewing, immediately move away from high ground (summits, exposed cols and ridges), prominent trees, power lines and similar lightning conductors. Seek shelter in low bush or inside a dry cave or overhang.

Finally, remember that rescue operations are costly, difficult and can also endanger the rescuers. Relatively few rescue teams serve large mountainous areas, diminishing your chances of a speedy rescue. Make safety your priority.