Cape Town is blessed with abundant natural beauty, and the best way to experience it is on foot, hiking through the many nature reserves.
These wilderness areas can be extremely dangerous – especially in cold or wet weather. Weather conditions can (and do) change rapidly and, on average, every week there are 2 hiking-related incidents in the Cape Town area. About 25% of them result in serious injuries, and there are 3 or more hiking-related deaths each year.
Most of these incidents occur during or soon after bad – especially rainy – weather. Wet conditions make rocks slippery, significantly increasing the risk of injury.
When compared with the large number of hikers who explore here each year, this is not an unreasonable statistic. But it is worth noting that these incidents mostly happen on normal, fairly gentle hiking routes and generally aren’t the result of foolish or risky behaviour. If you do have an accident while hiking, this article provides advice that will maximise your chances of it remaining a minor issue.
The most important safety advice is to always hike in a group (a minimum of 4 people is recommended) and to ensure that someone in the party has a working cellphone and the contact number of someone local who can co-ordinate assistance.
There are several organizations equipped to respond to these kind of emergencies, ranging from experienced hikers able to come and assist you on location, to medical rescue helicopter services.
A local contact person will be able to choose the correct type of assistance for you and take the actions that will get you that help as fast as possible.
Some of the most important safety tips when hiking around Cape Town are:
- Always hike in groups of at least 4 people. In the event of an injury, 1 person can stay with the injured person, while 2 others get help (you will often need to walk to a high point to get cellphone reception).
- Ensure that at least 1 member of the party has a fully charged, working cell phone and a local contact number.
- Stay in sight of one another at all times.
- Get an accurate weather report before setting off. If very hot, or cold or rainy conditions are expected, you should postpone your hike.
- Regardless of this weather prediction, always carry both plentiful water and warm clothing / space blanket – conditions can change rapidly and dramatically.
- In the event of an injury or other serious situation, do not move the injured person unless they are in a dangerous position.
- Do not leave them alone. If possible, send 2 people to get help. These people should take note of several landmarks so they can give a clear description of where the injured person is.
- If you feel you are becoming lost, go back the way you came rather than trying to forge ahead.
- Chacma baboons can be very dangerous, and have been known to attack humans. Don’t approach them, and – most importantly – don’t feed them, or even eat in front of them.
- When you see a snake, back off and wait for it to move away. While most are not dangerous, any snakebite can be painful and the resulting panic and uncertainty can lead to bad decisions.
We recommend signing on to our Guardian Angel Program, and having your own fully-informed local helper available just a phone call away 24/7.