Home » Tourism: 6 memorable hikes and treks in Africa by travel blogger Harriet Purser

Tourism: 6 memorable hikes and treks in Africa by travel blogger Harriet Purser

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Africa has amazing and undulating landscapes, with rolling hills, mountains and valleys, spread across its regions which makes offer some of the best hiking trails and trekking adventures in the world.

In this beautiful piece published on africanbudgetsafaris.com, Harriet Purser, who caught the travel bug early in 1994 and has experienced the seven continents, shares her experiences on “Hiking in Africa – the Treks You will Love!”

Please enjoy the full article below…

During lockdown in South Africa, I’ve been stuck at home in Cape Town. Like so many others across the globe, I’ve been unable to escape outdoors. Since I cannot go on my regular hikes, I’ve been thinking back to the places I have been lucky enough to walk in the past. Reminiscing about all the interesting hikes, climbs and treks, I’ve done over the years, across the African continent.

Here are some of the most memorable hikes and treks I’ve done in Africa, from the tallest mountain on the continent to the southern tip of South Africa.

Hiking on Africa Overland Tours
I did some of my earliest multi-day hikes in Africa while on overland safaris. On one, I hiked up Mount Nyiragongo in the Republic of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Since I visited, this active volcano has erupted and changed topography several times.

On many Overland Africa Tours you have the chance to climb mountains and do shorter hikes along the way. Ask your tour company or travel agent about the hiking options on various overland tours before you book. There are plenty of game parks where you can do walking safaris these days and numerous tours offering all kinds of walks, hikes and treks as part of your adventure. Chat to one of our travel experts for guidance.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania
Let’s start at the top – Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. This is the highest mountain in Africa, known as The Roof of Africa. At 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) Mount Kilimanjaro is on many travel bucket lists.

There are several routes to the summit of this free-standing mountain. I have summited Kilimanjaro via two different routes, Marangu and Machame. I hiked in group sizes from 2 to 75 on this iconic dormant volcano. You can choose to camp in tents or stay in huts on different routes.

There are several routes to the summit of this free-standing mountain. I have summited Kilimanjaro via two different routes, Marangu and Machame. I hiked in group sizes from 2 to 75 on this iconic dormant volcano. You can choose to camp in tents or stay in huts on different routes.

For the best trek, climb Kilimanjaro with well worn-in hiking gear and a reasonable level of fitness. A willingness to follow your guides’ advice will also go a long way. To maximize safety, authorities only allow a limited number of registered companies to operate hikes. These companies are strictly regulated to keep hikers, guides, porters and cooks safe. They provide the guides, porters, cooks and camping equipment for your trek.

Top Tip: Keep one pair of socks and gloves separate and dry for the very long summit day. Clothing that gets wet earlier in the hike doesn’t dry out at altitude.

More about Climbing Kilimanjaro
View our Budget Kilimanjaro Hiking Tours in Tanzania.
Climbing Mount Meru in Tanzania
Before my first hike on Kilimanjaro, I acclimatized by hiking to the summit of neighbouring Mt Meru, the fifth-highest peak in Africa. Mount Meru is located near Kilimanjaro in the Arusha National Park of Tanzania and is 4,562 meters (14,968 feet) tall.

This is a shorter hike than Kilimanjaro (at 4 days) and you are accompanied by an armed game ranger due to the presence of wildlife on the lower mountain slopes. There are huts for the overnight accommodation on the hike.

This isn’t a technical climb but there are far more exposed ridges than on Kilimanjaro. On Mount Meru, the park ranger has the discretion to cancel the summit attempt for safety reasons in the event of thick fog, rain or if there is too much ice. As on Kilimanjaro, the summit walk starts in the early hours of the morning so that you can walk upon the volcanic ash whilst it is still frozen.

Top Tip: Take extra new head torch batteries and keep them warm inside your jacket for use a few hours into the summit attempt. Batteries fade quickly at altitude although they’ll work again normally when you are down at lower altitudes.

View our budget 6 Day Mount Meru Hike in Tanzania.
Hoerikwaggo Table Mountain Hike in Cape Town, South Africa
Being based in Cape Town, South Africa, I’ve done plenty of hiking trails in and around the beautiful mother city. This includes the multi-day hike on iconic Table Mountain.

When the Hoerikwaggo Trail in Table Mountain National Park first opened I hiked a section of this stunning trail. The full Trail spans five days with four different overnight huts between the Wash Houses in Cape Town and Cape Point Lighthouse.

After a night in the comfortable Wash House accommodation, we set off in brilliant sunshine stopping regularly to apply extra sun cream. By the time we were on top of Table Mountain at Maclear’s Beacon (1,086 meters, 3,563 feet) we needed wet weather gear and warm hats. Despite many beautiful photographs and views of Table Mountain with its famous flat top, this hike was the first (but not last) time I discovered that the top of the mountain is made up of a series of ridges and valleys (and especially in bad weather these can seem never-ending).

We did eventually reach Klipspringer cottage where the fire had been lit and we were fed a tasty and warming dinner. The following morning we explored around the Woodhead and Hely-Hutchinson dams and the Waterworks Museum (which contains a steam train that was manhandled to the top of the mountain to help build the dam walls). Then we left the thick fog behind, descending into a hot and sunny Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

Top Tip: Even relatively close to sea level a hike can expose you, without warning, to a wide range of weather conditions. Plan the contents of your backpack accordingly so you’re prepared.

More about Cape Town in South Africa:
• Best Big 5 Safaris near Cape Town (on a budget)
• The best of Cape Town on any budget: Enjoying nature in the Mother City
• 3 of Cape Town’s Best Walking Tours
• 16 of the Best Budget Adventure Activities in Cape Town
View our Budget Cape Town Tours & Safaris or talk to one of our travel experts based in Cape Town.

Hiking the Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa
In the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa there are also a wide variety of hikes from a few hours to multi-day expeditions. The Drakensberg is the highest mountain range in South Africa. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the arguably the best hiking destination in South Africa.

On my most recent hiking trip, I walked up the Tugela Gorge in the Royal Natal National Park. Then, on the following day, I hiked on the other side of the Amphitheatre.

More about the Drakensberg: Hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains
View our Budget Drakensberg Tours of South Africa.
Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Virunga, Central Africa
My first gorilla trekking excursion involved an overnight hike in Virunga National Park starting at the Bukima research station.

More about the Drakensberg: Hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains
View our Budget Drakensberg Tours of South Africa.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Virunga, Central Africa
My first gorilla trekking excursion involved an overnight hike in Virunga National Park starting at the Bukima research station.

Top Tip: long sleeves and trousers are recommended; despite the heat and humidity there are a lot of nettles amongst the vegetation and the forest paths are narrow.

More about Gorilla Trekking in Africa:
• The best gorilla trekking in Africa – is it Uganda or Rwanda?
• Is Gorilla Trekking Good for Conservation?
• Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Africa: Everything you need to know

View our Budget Gorilla Trekking Tours to Uganda and Rwanda.
Hiking in Ranomafana Forest, Madagascar

Another hot and humid forest walk can be enjoyed at Ranomafana in Madagascar. Here the mammals that might be seen are lemurs; the park was created after the discovery in the area of golden bamboo lemurs but there are 11 other species of lemur found in the national park.

Only the very luckiest visitors will see a rare aye-aye. In fact, throughout Madagascar, there are no game drives but only walks through a wide variety of eco-systems to look for extraordinary wildlife. Ranomafana (meaning hot water) National Park is made up of a series of steep forested hills with streams running through which is why the only way to explore is on foot.

There are plenty of different guided wildlife hikes available from just a couple of hours to full-day outings. The park also offers excellent birding opportunities.

Top Tip: Pretty much everywhere you eat in Madagascar there will be a dish of chilli paste on the table. Approach with caution! The heat factor varies from hot to volcanic.

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