Travel light on the way to heaven – A guide to spending the night at CapeNature’s huts
Spending a night on the Robberg hiking trail or on the Keurbooms River, both in Plettenberg Bay, are absolute bucket-list things to do on the Garden Route or South Africa, for that matter. In fact, I would say they are world-class activities because where else in the world do you hike to a spot that becomes exclusively yours after dusk?
Because both places are off the beaten track, you need to reach them either by hiking or canoeing but, once you do, you own an entire beach or forest.
You need to book with Cape Nature in advance because these gems are very popular and snapped up months ahead. Then you need to make sure you are fit and strong, but also armed with the insider pearls-of-wisdom I am about to offer – lest you make the same mistakes we did.
Probably the most cardinal rule to follow to really enjoy Cape Nature’s Whiskey Creek Cabin on the Keurbooms River and the Fountain Shack on the Robberg Hiking Trail is what no guidebook or brochure can tell you.
And that is to pack for the night as frugally as you can!
We learnt two hard lessons: For the Keurbooms trip it is all fine and well for Cape Nature to issue a giant waterproof bag to put on your canoe, but once you have completed the 7km paddle – as the cabin is only accessible by canoe and not boat – you need to carry that huge sack to the cabin. If the tide and wind are against you, the heavier the load the harder the paddle. Then four hundred metres to walk doesn’t sound far, but trying carrying the contents of a kitchen and it is the perfect recipe for a domestic squabble about who packed the most.
When it comes to Robberg’s Fountain Shack, weight also matters – a lot! The actual hike, at a comfortable pace takes about an hour and a half, but there is some climbing along the path, squeezing through rocks and along terrain that absolutely doesn’t lend itself to sporting a ginormous backpack. If you haven’t ever walked on soft beach sand with heavy luggage, you don’t want to do it!
Here are some tips on everything you need to know about both Robberg and Keurbooms by someone who has the T-shirt, but also learnt some tough lessons.
Whiskey Creek Cabin is located far down the river where only canoes are permitted. That’s what makes it so special because once you get there you own the nature reserve with not a soul to be seen.
Named after the Western Keurboom tree, this reserve is a sanctuary for indigenous trees, including the Cape beech, giant stinkwoods and the Outeniqua yellowwoods. It’s a lush destination filled with an abundance of plant life, swimming in this river is a sublime experience and then there’s bird watching with giant kingfishers to sunbirds and yellow-billed ducks. Go softly and quietly and you may well see the shy duiker, the grysbok and mongooses. It’s a truth, not a marketing ploy, that leopards have been seen up and along this river. Don’t rush the paddle, take a picnic, and stop off at one of the little private beaches along the way.
Whiskey Creek Cabin comfortably sleeps 10 guests in four double bunks and two single beds. The cabin has an open-air kitchen shaded by the verandah roof and an expansive deck with a braai area – all perfect for we South Africans who like to braai.
All bedding and food need to be taken with, but fresh rainwater is provided.
The trick here is to check with Cape Nature about the situation with the wood. We went with men, so it was fine for them to walk a fair distance to find firewood and then chop it with the axe Cape Nature provides. But the wood reserves were low and just imagine a bunch of women chopping wooden logs – and how disappointed South Africans would be with no fire to make a braai.
Otherwise, the cottage is very well appointed with all the requisite cutlery and crockery. And the mattresses are comfortable.
I would listen to Cape Nature’s advice that visitors leave to reach the campsite no later than 2 pm and 1 pm in winter. Check out is at 10 am. The one curveball that can come here, is that if it is low tide, canoes have to be pulled across the rapids and rocks – and that makes it all tougher and takes longer!
The Fountain Shack on Robberg Trail is truly spectacular. It overlooks the Indian ocean with views of the Robberg Peninsula. I can’t think of anywhere in the world where to get to spend a night with a beach that belongs only to you.
The route is marked with an icon of a seal which starts at the car park, and you follow it all the way. Cape Nature recommend this stretch of the hike is regarded with ‘extreme caution’ because of strong winds and cliffs. When it rains the rocks become very slippery.
The renovated old wooden fishing shack sleeps eight in four double bunks in an open-plan room. Only one group can book at a time which means that it’s a perfect outing for a romantic couple, for a family or group of friends.
There is everything you need from pots to braai grid, kettle (cooking is on gas), wine goblets and I noticed there is even a cheese grater. Solar power is used for lighting and there is limited hot water.
The shower is at the back of the hut and open so that you are under the stars. Shampoo and bodywash is provided. Don’t expect the water to be hot for long, because it is rainwater with limited heating time as it’s solar powered. It’s recommended you take drinking water and toilet paper since Cape Nature say they ‘can’t guarantee the supply.’
Like Whiskey Creek what makes this spot special is that it cannot be reached by vehicle and walkers/hikers are not permitted at night which means the whole beach is yours – which is why skinny dipping here is mandatory since you own this piece of ocean!
After a walk, a swim, and a braai there is nothing better in the world than going to sleep with the sounds of waves crashing just below the cabin.
If you are hellbent on bringing the contents of your kitchen portage can be arranged by contacting Rodney Manual on 0799338229.
Please phone 044 533 2125/85 or 082 877 7435 to enquire about weather conditions before embarking on your journey to Robberg. CapeNature reserves the right to cancel a booking if there are adverse weather conditions.