Off the beaten track

Hout Bay is known for many different activities, but one type of experience, that caters for all ages, is hiking. We’re incredibly blessed to have a number of beautiful hiking paths close to Vida Nova Retreat.

Recently, we were fortunate to receive a visit from local hiking expert, Jonny Cohen, who took us on an extraordinary hiking adventure.

Under lock and key are some spectacular rambling adventures, and due to permit restrictions, many of them are not frequented by tourists. Jonny knows the most exclusive hiking trails, that lead to impressive wonders, such as secret waterfalls.

Exclusive trails

Orange Kloof is of high importance for its biodiversity, as well as its role as a water catchment zone. It is located within the Cape Floristic Region, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The area is best known by naturalists for its multilayered Afromontane forest and fynbos. This dense afrotemperate forest is pristine, unique and the oldest indigenous forest on Table Mountain.

This remarkable trail is even noteworthy in history. Jan van Riebeeck is believed to have written about extensive swathes of forest, running southwest from Orange Kloof, following the course of the Hout Bay River, all the way down to the shores of Hout Bay itself. Due to the presumed heavy exploitation that followed the arrival of Dutch settlers in Cape Town, plus fires over the centuries, only small patches of this aforementioned forest remains, with Orange Kloof boasting the most concentrated biodiversity.

Orange Kloof is also renowned for its rare Disas, a revered orchid, with almost 70% of this flora being endemic to South Africa.

hiking trails with waterfalls western cape
Disa Flower

The Disa Orchid

Disas are so remarkable that we named our spa in their honour. One specimen of the Disa family, the Disa uniflora (aka “Pride of Table Mountain”) is strictly protected and one of the most sought after by botanists. These flowers are clearly distinguishable by their vivid petals, which are red in colour. This colour helps them retain their nectar levels since red is inconspicuous to bees. The Pride of Table Mountain are borne during summer, from December to March. Come February, you’ll be entranced by these stunning flowers if you happen across them, as it is their peak flowering period.

Disa Gorge

Another namesake of the Disa orchid is Disa Gorge. Although there are several gorges that lead up Table Mountain, this breathtaking gorge is the most well-known. The path through the Disa Gorge transports you to a magical fairyland, as you are encircled by dewy, rocky inclines, richly covered in moss, ferns, and flowers. And, of course, throughout this gorge adventure, you are constantly surrounded by both jutting and towering forest trees.

The babbling Disa River lies at the base of Disa Gorge, with its intensely deep pools and captivating waterfalls. Hell’s Gate waterfall is another glorious natural marvel that you can navigate to via the Disa River Gorge trail. Bear in mind that it is a steep, often slippery, stream bordered scramble to get to Hell’s Gate, but as many lucky visitors will tell you, it is well worth the effort.

Along the Disa Gorge trail, you’ll find the site of the old 640-metre Woodhead Tunnel, built in the 1800’s to divert water to the Molteno Reservoir from Disa River and Woodhead Dam. It was since replaced by the Apostle Tunnel, which is higher up on the trail.

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With the incredible foliage and ancient, gnarly yellowwoods, ironwoods, rooiels and assegai trees soaring above you throughout the hike, you’ll be excused for thinking you are far from civilisation. We can recommend Orange Kloof for families, although we do suggest that only those with an average fitness level or above participate in this hike.

Get in touch to organise this private hike during your stay with us. Or indeed an adventure to one of the many other nearby Cape Town hiking spots, such as the Table Mountain Kasteelspoort trail, or the Lion’s Head hiking trail, or even a little further afield to the Cape of Good Hope hiking trail.

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