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Expert tips to help you hike like a pro

Magalies Mountain Lodge has a 1,6km trail open daily.
Magalies Mountain Lodge has a 1,6km trail open daily.

Nadia van Straaten turned her childhood love of hiking into a business and now co-owns Fagala Voet, a marketing and booking agent for hiking trails across SA, which also does trail development, GPS mapping and the re-marking of existing trails.

We asked her to share some tips and recommend the best trails for newbies:

The lockdown rules for now make day hikes one of the very few forms of leisure travel available. Have you seen a rise in interest in hiking because of this?

Yes, there has been an exceptional increase in new beginner hikers and
ex-hikers who want to start up the passion again.

Nadia van Straaten co-owns Fagala Voet, which markets and books hikes across SA.
Nadia van Straaten co-owns Fagala Voet, which markets and books hikes across SA.
Image: Supplied

Why would you recommend hiking to people who've never done it before? 

Hiking has a lot of health benefits, including lower stress levels, improved mood and enhanced mental wellbeing.

What's the number one rule to remember when hiking?

There are actually two golden rules: safety first and never hike alone. Always hike in a group of two or four. Four is safer than two because if there is an emergency, one hiker can stay behind with the injured person and the other two can go and look for help.

What should you always take on a hike?

Depending on the type of trail, there is a whole list of things you should take but the most important is enough water.

What are the best local hikes to do if you're starting out?

In Gauteng, the Kiepersol trail at De Wildt is an easy 4km hike suitable for families, kids and pensioners alike. Windybrow's 5km trail is a very easy, simple hike, which is long enough for beginner hikers to feel what it would feel like to hike. Ezemvelo Nature Reserve's Ochna trail is an easy 4km trail with a small koppie, which is also suitable for all ages.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the hikes at Mtentu Lodge and Utshwayelo Kosi Mouth Lodge are a good option.

We don't have a lot of day trails in the Western Cape as it's mostly slackpacking, but Rooiheuwel Farm offers the Karoo Erdvark Backpack Hiking Trail and also one-day circular trails.

What should you do if you run into trouble on a hike?

Make a note of the owner or manager's number before you set out. The most common problem people run into is getting lost. The thing to not do is panic and start hiking in any direction. Rather stop and try to spot the last marker you passed. Hike back to it and start looking for the marker you missed. If you can't find it, use that phone number you saved.

Can I go hiking on my own?

You should never hike alone, purely for safety. Ninety percent of the trails Fagala Voet markets are on private farms and are safe but, as a general rule, all owners require a minimum of two hikers. Some require four or more.

Tell us a bit about the impact of lockdown on the trail owners.

They've been hit immensely, like everyone. There is some relief with day trails being allowed now but most of their income comes from overnight trails, so they are looking forward to when these will be allowed again.