The Giant Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness National Park is fully operational again after being closed to the public for a number of years.
It was not only residential and commercial property, roads and railway lines that suffered flood damage during the fateful 2006-2007 floods but also many defined nature walks and walkways close to streams that burst their banks were destroyed or severely damaged. Some walks have been affected even more recently.
SANParks has virtually recreated the Giant Kingfisher Trail by building a substantial boardwalk that must have cost them a packet but it was well worth it as it has been transformed into a magnificent and consequently. very popular hiking trail.
One needs to start off at the Ebb and Flow offices to buy a permit or present your Wild card in return for one and to receive a trail map. It’s a short walk from there to the road where you turn left, cross the road/ railway bridge whereupon a clear sign will direct you to the trail start.
Be sure to take a hat, sunscreen, water, something to snack on and your swimming costume in order to make the most of the Giant Kingfisher Trail. Remember your camera, and binoculars.
The beginning of the 7.2 km trail is known as the Half-collared Kingfisher trail but where you use the pontoon to cross over the Touw River, it becomes the Giant Kingfisher Trail. A little higher you can cross over on stepping stones if you prefer that.
The boardwalk is not totally continuous but it climbs steeply on the way up to the waterfall so the good news is its mostly downhill on the way back!
A bit higher up the river from the pont people can safely beach their own or hired canoes to get on the boardwalk to climb up to the waterfall.
The good thing for birders on the hiking trail is that
for a fair part of it one can walk and at the same time, look up or into the forest without fear
of tripping over tree roots or an uneven path.
Many forest birds can be both heard and seen whilst walking and if you are lucky you will also spot a number of different kingfishers including of course, the Giant Kingfisher after which the trail is named.
(Thanks to Wessel Rossouw for the above bird photos)
At strategic places along the route built-in benches have been provided so there are opportunities for hikers to stop and rest or to quietly absorb and enjoy the sights and sounds around them.
As you approach the waterfall the boardwalk starts to climb quite steeply and then you descend quickly onto a rocky area through which waterfalls gush and some sizable pools form that are ideal for swimming in.
On a hot summer’s day it is ideal to enjoy a dip in the pleasantly cool and refreshing water. Don’t be misled by the dark colour of it. There is nothing wrong - it is merely coloured by the forest and fynbos vegetation through which it passes.
On the return trip you may notice some very interesting and striking rock formations of Table mountain Quartzite right next to the boardwalk. It is more noticeable on the return walk.
Up river you are conscious of the soothing sound of a shallow stream running over rocks and there are some picturesque glimpses of transparent water flowing next to the trail below you.
Close to the end, windows in the thick vegetation allow views of the idyllic and popular Wilderness campsite on the opposite banks of the river.