Groot isn’t just a walking, talking tree from the Guardians of the galaxy. It is also an Afrikaans word that means big or large. The Groot River Trail, situated in Nature’s Valley, is one of the easiest walks in my area, and most people of any shape, size and age can do it. This trail is managed by SANParks and they do charge a conservation fee, so don’t forget to visit the reception at the De Vasselot campsite. Charges differ according to local SA residents and overseas visitors.
Round the river
This is a circular route of approximately 4,5 km, and you can start it in a number of spots. Half of the route is on tar road, so here is my suggested route to get the most out of the walk…
Pull into the residential side of Nature’s Valley and park at the lagoon parking area. Follow the road back toward the campsite – you can go in and pay at this point – and continue along the road.
Crossing the Groot River with stunning views on both sides; keep an eye open for Chacma Baboons as they are often around the valley. Don’t be concerned, they won’t hurt you.The bridge itself often has the signs that they have been there; their droppings.
Groot River picnic site
On the other side of the bridge is a picnic area. You don’t need to go in here, but it is well worth a look. There is a short, circular, boardwalk route, taking about 20 minutes to wander around, and you will encounter about a dozen or so Outeniqua Yellowwoods; the giant trees of the forest. There is also a beautiful Real Yellowwood specimen; South Africa’s national tree. These two species are known as the emerging layer in the forest as they stretch high up and break out above the forest canopy. These trees are hundreds of years old and you can’t help but find yourself wondering what it is they have seen over their lifetime.
Continue along the road just past the picnic site and you will see the path turning off to the right into the forest.
The wilder side of the Groot
Once you have turned off the road onto this path, you are once again in the wilder parts of the valley. This path will eventually bring you out at the lagoon, but not before passing through a mix of forest, fynbos and river vegetation, with teasing views of the river all the way along.
The animals you could encounter
The one thing you can pretty much be assured of on the Garden Route trails is that you will encounter insects. I sometimes miss all the large mammals I was exposed to on walks in the Limpopo Province, but it gives me an opportunity to concentrate on the small things without any concerns of dangerous game encounters; and without the pressure to see the large mammals.
There are many different species of butterflies around and the one frustration is that I can’t always identify exact species, although I generally at least get the family name. There are a few that are notoriously difficult to photograph, such as the Mocker Swallowtail and Pearl Emperor; they hardly ever stop for long. The Forest Brown’s don’t open their wings very often which means you can never see the patterns on the above side of the wings; making it near impossible to get an exact species name. Still, their beauty, presence and flitting behaviour more than makes up for any frustrations I have.
Butterflies, although insects, tend to be lumped together away from other insects. The reason for this is possibly their beauty. Even people that don’t like insects always usually like butterflies. Putting them together on a photo gallery would possibly ensure less people would look at a photo? Still, I always enjoy finding insects and their relatives, so here are a few I encountered on this walk…
Ending with breathtaking views
Coming out near the lagoon, you have a choice to hike up the hill to the top of what is called Pigs-head rock. Yes, from a distance it definitely resembles this. After what is an easy walk, this is a fairly tough climb, and not for the faint-hearted if you are in any way afraid of heights. Still, once up there, the views over Nature’s Valley are just amazing, and you can spend time sitting on the rocks, taking in the view, and reflecting on life; if you so choose.
This is, as with all available trails in the area, a stunning walk. There is one negative point to make and, to be honest, it is absolutely a personal opinion, and should not discourage you from going on the walk. Please understand that I have lived and walked in a lot of wilderness areas and, as such, enjoy being where most people aren’t. Come the holidays this area can be very busy, especially the lagoon; with families, cars and dogs everywhere. Most of the time they all stick to the beach and lagoon, but it does mean that it can get quite noisy. When I walk alone, I tend to not walk this route as, of course, I actually then want to be away from everyone. Still, it is a beautiful walk, with scenery and view changes all along.
This is a route that you can walk alone, but remember that taking a guide along will always enrich your walk, and is absolutely worth the extra outlay. I also know how to skip parts of the tar road, so if you’re considering this trail, why not think about hiring me along at the same time? You can find my prices and details of other walks available here, here and here respectively.