How to Hike Africa's Iconic Mountains

Remember that you'll need to add a night on either end of the hike, making climbing Kili an eight or nine-day commitment. Since you are at the heart of East Africa, what better way to reward your mountaineering efforts than by adding on a safari or beach holiday? Make it easy by using the services of an African Safari Expert who has the been-there knowledge to ensure A connects with B and C.

Table Mountain is not only one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, it's also one of South Africa's top hiking destinations.Table Mountain is not only one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, it's also one of South Africa's top hiking destinations.
Views of Table Mountain from Lion's Head.Views of Table Mountain from Lion's Head.
Platteklip Gorge is a popular route.Platteklip Gorge is a popular route.

Table Mountain - a mountain for all seasons

The in-house presence of the world's most recognisable mountain makes Cape Town a truly unique destination. Its steep-sided buttresses and crumbly ravines look intimidating but a dozen paths snake their way up to the top, none easier than Platteklip Gorge.

To get there, drive past the lower cable car station (ignore the temptation to join the queues!) to the well-marked start of the trail a little further on. A tumbling stream will keep you company for a while until the path begins its climb, ricocheting back and forth between patches of welcome shade.

Count on at least two hours to the top. No climbing is required and you don't need to be Tour de France-fit but don't underestimate the mountain: the clatter of a hovering rescue helicopter is a regular sound in high summer. Open all year, temperatures in Platteklip Gorge range from pizza oven to deep freeze. In summer, take more water than you think is polite, a hat and plenty of sun block; at other times of year, pack a rain coat and warm top.

An impressive floral kingdom thrives on the slopes of Table Mountain, including rare fynbos species.An impressive floral kingdom thrives on the slopes of Table Mountain, including rare fynbos species.
There are many routes to the top...There are many routes to the top...
...some quite easy with amazing views!...some quite easy with amazing views!

Once at the top, you are 3 000 feet over one of the Africa's most picturesque ports; whether you turn right for the nearby cable car or left for Maclear's Beacon (the mountain's highest point), you'll enjoy colossal views of the city, Table Bay and the surrounding mountain ranges. The latter are usually snow capped in winter, while the bay sparkles like a beauty pageant in summer.

For the 'classic' self-guided hike, walk up Platteklip and take the cable car down. However, the cable car closes in strong winds - something to remember if you're hiking in poor weather. (It also closes for a month's maintenance in winter.)

Platteklip Gorge is a pretty straight-forward hike but for a richer experience, hire a professional guide to accompany you to the top. And if you want to try one of the lesser-used routes, the use of a guide is highly recommended.

Mount Kilimanjaro stands tall & proud as it looms over Amboseli National Park in neighbouring Kenya.Mount Kilimanjaro stands tall & proud as it looms over Amboseli National Park in neighbouring Kenya.
Colourful tents line the slopes.Colourful tents line the slopes.
The summit is capped by a glacier.The summit is capped by a glacier.

Mount Kilimanjaro - pole-pole to the top.

Pole-pole - Swahili for 'slowly, slowly' - is the mantra guides teach hikers attempting to summit Africa's highest peak. Unlike up-and-down-before-lunch Table Mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro demands a solid commitment of at least a week; in fact, the more time you take, the better your chances of a successful expedition. Only 60% of those who take six days actually reach the top, a success rate that goes up to 90% for hikers who allow nine days.

The reason? You'll be going higher than Everest base camp, up to an altitude where glaciers crack and creak in the thin air. Kili might not be a walk in the park but it is a walk. It requires a decent fitness level, the right hiking gear and a solid determination to reach the peak. It is highly recommended that you hike with a recognised and reputable operator, giving you the advantages of professional guides, properly paid porters, pre-erected tents and hot food.

Making it to the summit is a rewarding experience.Making it to the summit is a rewarding experience.
The glacier at the top is quite a startling sight.The glacier at the top is quite a startling sight.

Of the half a dozen routes to the top, two stand out:

The Machame RouteThe longer and more scenic 'whiskey' route uses tents and needs at least six days. There are a lot of ups and downs and you need to be pretty fit.

The Rongai RouteThe second easiest route after Marangu has far fewer people on it and a high success rate. You'll need to budget at least six days for this tented hike but it's one of the most varied and interesting ways up.

High-altitude hiking not for you? Take a Masai-guided walk & enjoy the view.High-altitude hiking not for you? Take a Masai-guided walk & enjoy the view.
Make the most of your trek by adding on a post-hike safari or beach break.Make the most of your trek by adding on a post-hike safari or beach break.

Remember that you'll need to add a night on either end of the hike, making climbing Kili an eight or 9-day commitment. Read more about our tried-and-tested Kilimanjaro tips and tricks here but since you are at the heart of East Africa, what better way to reward your mountaineering efforts than by adding on a safari or beach holiday? Make it easy by using the services of an African Safari Expert who has the been-there knowledge to ensure A connects with B and C.

Whet your appetite by browsing our Kili tours and safaris, which offer options for every fitness level and taste for adventure.