Robberg’s iconic hiking trails

When touring around South Africa there are a few must-do’s that should be on everyone’s bucket list; climb Table Mountain, visit the Kruger Park and hike Robberg Nature Reserve. Robberg Nature Reserve juts out into the Indian ocean like a long thin feather and lies a stones throw away from the small coastal town of Plettenberg bay. The Robberg hike is stunning and the ocean views breathtaking. In addition to a hike, a visit to the Nelson Bay Cave Interpretive Centre to learn about the archeological riches in the area is well worth the effort .

When visiting Robberg Nature Reserve you can either purchase a permit at the entrance gate or, if you are a Wild Card owner, enter for free. There are three hikes available all along the same routes but of different lengths and grades of difficulty. All three routes are hiked clock-wise, starting on the east side of the reserve and returning down the west side.

The Gap is a 2,2 km trail. It is the shortest trail, ideal for hikers with small children. It follows the eastern edge before reaching the Andrew Maccamon Fourie historical site where you turn to head back. Just after turning back there is a short, steep climb. If you are unable to navigate this section just head for the boardwalk for the short walk back to the Picnic area.

Witsand is a 5,6 km trail – slightly more challenging and requires a reasonable fitness level. The Witsand trail veers off at Witsand, a massive dune that funnels down to the beach which connects to The Island. From here the trail continues back to the entrance.

The Point is by far my favorite trail, but the 9,2 km hike can be very taxing as it includes a lot of climbing, rock hopping and hiking through stretches of soft, heavy sand. This trail runs all along the edge of the reserve and makes for an unforgettable hike. Set aside a good 4-5 hours, especially on warm days, to ensure you have enough time to complete the hike and still enjoy all the sites. The eastern side is a relatively easy route but getting around the point and the western side is more challenging. Definitely not suitable for younger children or the those who are unfit. The Point is best done as a morning hike.

Along Robberg’s eastern border, the trail hugs the cliff high above the ocean. The blue waters below provide a stunning playground for bottle nose and humpback dolphins. These acrobats of the ocean surf the waves and often propel themselves gracefully into the air. Further out, sightings of whales breaching and lobtailing are common.

Robberg is named after the cape fur seal, ‘Rob’ meaning ‘seal’ in Afrikaans, and when translated the reserve’s name is Seal Mountain. You will first smell the seals long before seeing colony, and you will hear them as they congregate on the rocks below the cliffs. The Cape Fur seals of Robberg have a violent history. In the late 1800’s the colony was almost wiped out by hunting. A nation-wide ban on seal hunting in the early 1900’s saved this colony which now boasts a population of approximately 6000 seals, although today, overfishing threatens their existence. Robberg has great vantage points from where one may see the seals swimming off to hunt. Great White sharks rely on these seals as their primary diet and they patrol the coast waiting for the seals to emerge from their protected rocky resting places to the fishing grounds. Great Whites are often spotted from the view points and visitors have even been lucky enough to witness them on the hunt.

Birdlife on Robberg is prolific and when not watching gulls and terns over the ocean turn your attention to the rocks where breeding pairs of Black Oystercatchers patrol the rock pools. Inland Fynbos and Milkwood trees provide a habitat for many species such as the Cape Rock Thrush, Orange-breasted Sunbirds and the Peregrine Falcon. At the point at Cape Seal Lighthouse keep a look out for Rock Dassies.

Just before reaching the beach area and The Island at Witsand, you will pass Fountain Shack which can be booked for an overnight stay on Cape Nature’s website. On the route in front of the hut is a water point with fresh water where you can refill water bottles – recommended as there is still a long hike ahead. Strolling The Island with its walkways is well worth the little extra effort.


Don’t forget the following when Hiking Robberg Nature Reserve:

  • Tinker’s Addo Elephant and Garden Route National Park Map and Guide book with route map; animal, reptile, sea creature and bird ID guide and checklist
  • Filled water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Sun Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Walking shoes
  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Bird Identification book
  • Cell phone with the following emergency number saved: NSRI – +27 (0) 82 990 5975
  • Wild Card

Cape Nature (Robberg Nature Reserve):+27 (0) 87 087 3937

+27 (0) 87 087 8250–accommodation and permit bookings