To stay safe on the trail, we recommend that you look at these practical hiking tips:
Sharing Hiking Details
When going to remote places, it may be some time before your absence is noticed if you have not left a plan of your hiking intentions. It is important to notify someone reliable of your hiking plans, including when and where you will start and finish, how you are traveling, the names of members and nationalities of your group, vehicle details, phone numbers of group members and when the alarm should be raised.
You may want to carry at least one mobile phone. Having SIM cards of the main mobile phone carriers with data improves your chances of getting phone reception while you are in remote ar- eas. SIM cards can be purchased at the main airports and in most shopping malls.
Also, ensure you have a cell phone with you as you may need to call park management to open the gate to the hiking area when you arrive and/or leave.
Rain and Clouds
We have described several trails in the Magaliesberg Mountain Range. We suggest that you do not attempt to hike the trails when it rains as walking on slippery quartz rock formations in the mountain range can be a challenge, even under dry circumstances. Hiking in dense fog in the mountains may also not be wise as you may get lost as it becomes difficult to orient, even if you use the GPS trails from our collection.
More importantly, you would miss out on the magnificent views from the top as looking at cold dense fog with a visibility of a few meters is perhaps not the most enticing hiking experience. The good news is that the Magaliesberg is not like Table Mountain in Cape Town where weather circumstances change rapidly. Weather patterns in the Magaliesberg Mountain Range are predictable.
Responsible managers of the wildlife farms and the nature reserves in the Magaliesberg Mountain Range will let you know when it is safe to hike. We have plenty of alternative trails in the guidebook near the Magaliesberg Mountain Range if the weather is not favorable to hiking in the mountains.
Regular snacks will keep your energy levels up, which is especially important if you are hiking longer than expected. You may burn up to 400 calories per hour depending on your weight (including your backpack), hiking speed and terrain. Having a good breakfast will give you the energy to hike. On the trail, we like to nibble on biltong, a local dried, cured meat that is widely available in addition to apples, nuts, bananas and dried fruit. We drink water regularly.
The importance of hydration cannot be overstated. We recommend that you use a CamelBak™ or similar system. You can sip on water while you’re walking, without the need to stop and open your backpack to find a bottle of water. We always bring three liters of water on the trail per person.
While drinking water during the hike is very important, be sure that you hydrate yourself before you start and after you have completed the trail. We suggest that you have a large drink of water while you are on the way to the trail. Try to consume at least one liter of water in the hour before the hike, but do not drink it all at once. It is also a good idea to have drinks available in the car upon your return as you may have consumed all the water in your backpack and nearby supermarkets, if any, may already be closed for the day.
Sun Protection and Heat Stress
The sun can be intense, especially when you hike in the summer when temperatures can go up to 40 °C or 100 °F on an extraordinarily hot day. Hiking in these high temperatures may expose you to hyperthermia (sunstroke), the opposite of hypothermia. Leaving early, staying cool, drinking regularly and hiking only on trails that meet your physical capability will help avoid this potentially lethal condition. To avoid the heat of the day, do not hike too late. Most reserves open at 7 AM for you to complete the hike early. You need a good hat, and a light cotton scarf is also a good idea. Wear lightweight trousers and a long-sleeved shirt.
Take plenty of sunscreen and use it on all exposed parts of your body including your hands if you do not wear hiking gloves. Keep sunscreen on hand in a side pocket of your pack and apply it regularly during the hike. Sunglasses are a good investment.
The national emergency number is 10111. The emergency operators speak English. They will ask for the address and city you are calling from and the nature of the emergency. Using your cell phone, you can also call 112.
• Emergency - Ambulance (10177);
• Emergency - Cell phone (112);
• Emergency - National (10111).
We recommend that you bring a first aid kit with a collection of plasters of various sizes, as well as triangular, regular and compression bandages and antiseptic.
We also recommend that you upload the E-trails from our website onto your GPS or smartphone. Don’t forget spare batteries for the GPS and give your phone a good overnight charge. For added security, you can use a lanyard to secure the GPS or smartphone to your belt to prevent it from being lost.
If you have a sprained ankle, you will appreciate having hiking poles. Even if you don’t use them, lightweight collapsible poles in your pack will not be a burden.
Snakes, Spiders, and Scorpions
You are unlikely to see any of this wildlife while hiking on the trails in this guidebook, but you should be aware of the existence of venomous creatures as they may be on the trail unexpectedly. Staying on clear paths, avoiding dense vegetation, and wearing boots with ankle support, good hiking socks, and long trousers is an excellent way of protecting yourself from these individuals.
Several trails in this guide are in nature reserves where hikers may walk independently among large, non-predatory wildlife such as giraffes, zebras, various bucks, wildebeests, etc. Although the animals look tame, they are wild and it can become uncomfortable for all parties involved when hikers get too close. Often, wildlife feels insecure being too close to human beings and will keep a safe distance. Wildlife feels much more comfortable being close to vehicles than to hikers as they do not associate the vehicle with a predator.
When you walk, wildlife may see you as a predator, although giraffes do not really care about your presence and may get close as they are curious by nature. If they do, there is normally no need to run away as they will keep a safe distance. We are sure you will do the same as they come closer (they are gentle but very big and tall).
Horns of bucks are big and it can be an unpleasant experience if you entice wildlife to use these in their defense. Keeping a safe distance is a good thing to do. If wildlife does not feel cornered and threatened, you should be fine.
Remember: You cannot outrun these animals. Giraffes walk fast, even if it looks slow from a distance. Even hippos can run up to 30 km/h (19 mph) over short distances. Hippos tend to be grumpy and are normally in a bad mood. If you see one, ensure that you keep a safe distance. They can be nasty.
As with all wildlife, please do not touch, pet or disturb it, and observe animals from a safe distance. Take pictures avoiding flash photography and do not collect skulls, horns, and bones. If you want to eat game, do so only in restaurants as we do not want you to end up in jail and on the cover of a newspaper for poaching and consuming protected wildlife. We also strongly recommend that you refrain from buying any products that include wildlife artifacts, especially at the airports, including ivory, hides and other biomaterials. Stick to ostrich leather bags from a licensed and genuine production farm if you happen to also visit the Garden Route and Oudtshoorn, the country’s ostrich epicenter.
Before traveling, we recommend that you check with your embassy or ministry of foreign affairs to educate yourself about the latest travel advisories for South Africa. Many countries have a “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program”, where you register your trip plans and receive important safety and security announcements.
In addition, always consult your physician before embarking on your hiking holiday. It is better to be safe than sorry as you may not be aware of a condition that may make hiking unsafe (e.g., certain medication).