The Chokka Trail
Hiking on the Sand River
Hikes and Walks
There are many superb hiking trails and walks in the area ranging in distance from under an hour to several hours with the four days on The Chokka Trail for those who want to explore the area and enjoy breathtaking scenery whilst hiking. We have outlined some of these hiking and walking trails below but for more information a good place to start is at the Tourism counter situated in the Viking Bakery shop in the old village.
Beach Walk - St Francis Bay
Approximately one hour
This walk is best at low tide to allow you to walk the beach from the Neville Road parking area to the Kromme River mouth and back without having to negotiate pockets of sea that exist at high tide. There are also shorter alternatives from the parking area at Ann Avenue or shorter still from George Road, Peter Crescent or Aldabara Run.
Two Harbours Walk
Walk time – 45minutes to an hour.
Starting at the old NSRI station at the bottom of Harbour Road, the walk takes one along the coast to Port St Francis. The walk features spectacular views across St Francis Bay and at the start of the walk is the Heritage Centre which is well worth a visit as are the Community Gardens on the opposite side of Harbour Road. Make sure to watch out for the trail markers as you leave the garden.
The trail follows the coastline rising in places to higher ground and a good resting point is at the Clive Withey Memorial Bench approximately halfway along the walk and which is at a particularly high point of the walk. In the latter months of the year you can often spot Southern Right whales and even the occasional Humpbacks. Dolphins are more prolific and this resting point offers you a great chance of spotting them from up high.
If you haven’t brought something to drink along with you food and drinks are available from a variety of places at the Port.
Cape St Francis Nature Reserve
Just beyond Lookout a path leads into the fynbos of the Cape St Francis Nature Reserve. Using the path leads to the through the fynbos and emerges atop a sand dune with a view of the beautiful, wide sandy beach Cape St Francis with Shelly beach to the left. The route leads along the shoreline and to where point where what remains of the yacht Genisis, wrecked in 1992. The point is a great place to view gannets, penguins and terns and is alo an extremely popular spot for fishing.
Nature rules prescribe that dogs must be kept on a leash in nature reserves.
Irma Booysen Floral Reserve
The Irma Booysen Floral Reserve at Cape St Francis coastal fynbos which has been almost totally been rid of alien vegetation and with well maintained paths through the reserve one can wander through the area taking in the plant and birdlife. At certain points in the reserve there are pleasant views of the beaches, the sea and the surrounding area.
From the reserve one can continue on into the Seal Bay to Rocky Coast Farm trail.
The Sand River offers a totally different walk through the Sand River Dune-Field, one of the finest examples of by-pass headland dune of its kind in the world. A phenomenon occurs where sand is wind-blown in a shortcut over the headland rather than passing around the headland. It is estimated that it takes 3000 years for the sand to travel from Oyster Bay to St Francis Bay. The dune-field is the site of great archaeological value with a number of ancient middens dating back centuries, possibly millennia. Please Note: Artefacts, bones and other remnants should not be disturbed in any way during your walk. Walking through a sand dune may seem difficult to some but really it is quite an easy walk as the route covers firm ground.
The walk starts where the Sand River passes between the St Francis Bay turn-off and the Kromme River Bridge and it is best waked after rain providing the river is not actually flowing. After rain there are usually many pools in the river bed around which an amazing collection of wildlife such as Bushbuck, Duiker, Bushpig and various mongoose and other smaller creatures as well as birds stop to drink. It is possible to walk all the way to Oyster Bay but this is a seven to eight hour hike but going as far as you feel on the day will promise a memorable outing as you encounter spectacular dunes and the utter remoteness of the terrain.
Kromme River Estuary
At low tide the estuary firm, clean sand which allows walks out onto the river bed. Particularly good for bird lovers as the estuary has a wide variety of waders and water birds including flamingos. Access is from Shore Road. This walk can be combined with the beach walk but it would require wading the channel at low tide.
Port to Cape St Francis
Accessed from the Port the trail leads across Boulder Bay and into Cape St Francis Nature Reserve. The trail follows to coastline all the way to the point and it is almost impossible not to spot one or more pairs of the endangered African Black Oystercatchers and signs of the Cape Clawless Otter by way of their spoor or droppings. There are great places along the way to spot whales and or dolphins particularly in the latter part of the year.
The trail takes approximately 30 minutes each way but if you are looking to explore further you can access the Cape St Francis Nature Reserve walk and even on to Seal Bay Reserve or Irma Boosen Floral Reserve.
Seal Bay Reserve to Rocky Coast Farm
A piece of land between Da Gama Way and the beach forms the Seal Bay Reserve and is a lovely hike accessible from several points including from Cape St Francis Nature Reserve, from the end of Shearwater Drive and at several points along Da Gama Way. The trails run parallel to Da Gama Way with access to the beach at several points along the way. The reserve contains excellent examples of uncontaminated fynbos and the paths rise occasionally to high dunes offering lovely views of the bay. As the trail nears the more developed area there is a choice to either cross Da Gama Way into the Irma Booysen Floral Reserve or to walk onto the beach. If choosing the beach route one can walk on towards the Lighthouse and the Seal Point Reserve, another protected conservation area which has well established footbaths continuing on to Rocky Coast Farm. The coast along this latter part of the hike is unprotected by peninsulas and wave roll in from the open ocean. On stormy days the sight of huge waves crashing onto the huge rock outcrops is spectacular and an exciting experience when a large sea swell is running.
Rocky Coast Farm
A walk on the wild side……
The walk starts from the parking area at the end of Maori Street (the first road to the right after entering Cape St Francis), at Rocky Coast Farm. Please note this is Private Property and walkers with dogs are requested to keep dogs on leashes.
The walk runs along paths and tracks either on or near the shoreline and continues on right to Oyster Bay so your walk can be as short or as long as you want. If one chooses to walk the full distance it takes around six hours to Oyster Bay and back, a total distance of approximately 16 kilometres. Close to halfway on the way to Oyster one can rest up at Rebels Rest before continuing. It is recommended that at Rebels Rest one heads inland and follow the a route behind the houses as the coastline becomes difficult to navigate at this point. Once past the houses the trail the trail crosses the beach at Thysbaai, the area where Eskom are considering a pebble bed nuclear reactor. From here on follow the paths along the shoreline or for an easier walk follow the trail behind the houses.
The Chokka Trail
Three picturesque fishing villages, a rugged coastline, sand dunes as far as the eye can see, a tidal river, protected fynbos, wetlands and a visit to South Africa’s only privately owned working harbour. These are the ingredients that make up the Chokka Trail, a slack packing trail through St Francis Bay, Port St Francis, Cape St Francis and Oyster Bay. This is the best possible opportunity to see and experience just how beautiful the area is – on foot, at your own pace and with overnight accommodation at guesthouses. The Chokka Trail starts and finishes at the Cape St Francis Links where you can leave your vehicle safely parked for the duration of the trail.
From the Links you will be driven to Oyster Bay, a trip of around 45 minutes, where you will check in to the Oyster Bay Beach Lodge, your accommodation for the first night. Lunch packs will be provided and you can set off on your warm-up walk. The full walk is around 14km but you can do as much or as little as you like, because it is an out-and-back trail along the coast to Thysbaai (if you have time and you can’t resist adding a beach walk, please note that the bay is 2km long). We suggest you walk out for no more than two and a half hours before turning back. The trail follows the rugged coast line, through fynbos and low coastal thicket. It is peaceful and uninhabited, with only an occasional fisherman to be seen and the crashing waves and birdsong to be heard. At low tide you can see ancient fish traps in a rock gulley, built over two thousand years ago by the KhoiSan. This walk will soothe your spirit and ease your body into the trail mode – and add extra enjoyment to the sundowners and dinner being prepared for you.
After a hearty breakfast, you pick up your lunch pack, fill enough water bottles to last you at least 6 hours and set off down the road, leaving your luggage to be transported to your next overnight stop. You leave the road after about half a kilometre, turning through a security gate onto private property and entering another world. Peace and tranquility take over as you walk through the bush, enjoying the birdsong in the coastal thicket on either side of you. The track leads you to the dunes of the Sand River, a mobile dune-field mobilised by wind and water. The prevailing westerly shapes the dunes, which slope gradually up in front of you and then drop steeply. Your challenge is whether to slide down or traverse! Remember to look across the countryside to the mountains in the north, the beautiful Baviaanskloof range, and look around you for evidence of ancient cultures – a feature of the dune-field is the KhoiSan shell middens that you will come across.
When you first see the sea in the distance, you will have passed the ten kilometre mark for the day. You may be wondering where the water is, if this is a river? It flows into the dune-field from the farmlands on the northern side, at around the fourteen kilometre distance. Just a little further and you will have completed the day’s walk, at the temporary bridge. Enjoy sitting back and being driven to your overnight accommodation at Cape St Francis Resort, where you can have a hot shower and a welcome sundowner, well earned.
We will drive you to the start of the third day’s walk, about half an hour from the Resort, and set you down at a boom gate in the heart of the coastal thicket. Enjoy walking through this special landscape, filled with bird calls, and keep your eyes open for grey duiker, mongoose, porcupine quills, bushbuck or caracal. A kilometre’s walking brings you back to the coast and here you turn left and head east again along the coastal track, through the Coastal Cradle of Humankind. The trail meanders through a small group of holiday cottages at Mostertshoek and along the Wild Side, so named for the untamed sea that crashes onto the rocks in spectacular fashion the length of the trail. Look for otters in the rock pools and keep your eyes open for Oystercatchers, Kelp Gulls, Terns, and Turnstones.
After nearly six kilometres you will arrive at the village of Cape St Francis, passing Sunset Rock on your right. Sunset Rock is a favourite whale watching lookout point as well as a photographer’s dream for sunset seascapes. As you near the lighthouse you will see a giant penguin: this marks the SANCCOB African Penguin Rehabilitation Centre where the team is doing invaluable work to assist injured, sick or oiled birds – they will be expecting you for a visit. From the lighthouse the trail heads for the beautiful sweep of sandy beach of Cape St Francis and then round the point along the bay to Port St Francis. This is a working harbour for the chokka fleet, hake and pilchard vessels as well as for sea-going yachts and leisure craft of all shapes and sizes. The local NSRI is also based here, doing sterling work off this very unpredictable coast. The restaurant inside the Port Hole Building, On the Harbour, will have your calamari tasting ready, local chokka as well as imported squid prepared in various ways. If the weather allows, you will also visit a working chokka boat.
From the Port you will follow the Two Harbours Walk to the Granny’s Pool, again following the sea’s margin and keeping an eye out for dolphins, seals and – between July and December – whales. This is the last three kilometre stretch of the day, ending at the Community Garden and the world famous surfing spot Bruce’s Beauties – that fickle surfing wave that only breaks when conditions are just right. At the Granny’s Pool (you will see the Mediterranean building style of Santareme is now replaced by the unique St Francis Bay’s black roofs and white walls) you will be picked up and taken to Brisan on the Canals, your accommodation for the night and host for a cruise on the famous canals of St Francis Bay (weather permitting).
Your final day starts with a boat trip, along the canals to the Kromme River. Here you say goodbye to Brisan and walk along the public footpath up the river bank. You will come to your old friend, the Sand River, which opens into the Kromme at
this point, and here you turn left and walk up the meandering river bed, enjoying the solitude and the coastal mosaic thicket on either side. The Sand River leads you to a side gate into St Francis Links, your six kilometre marker. A friendly Links staff member will let you in and show you the start of the Links secret trails, a network of paths winding through the coastal forest and wetlands, frequented by birds and small animals. Spend as much time as you like exploring these peaceful glades, for this is nearly the end of the trail. Eventually you will find the road and head for the clubhouse – the short cut gives you a glimpse or two of the outstanding Jack Nicklaus course. This route takes you back to the car park where you left your vehicle on day one, but before the trail is completely over there is time for a Santa Burger in the clubhouse and a last look at St Francis.