Bontebok National Park is located on the banks of the Breede River a mere 5 minutes' drive form the centre of Swellendam. Bontebok National Park was originally established to conserve a species – its namesake, the Bontebok. In the early 1800's the Bontebok species was approaching extinction with only approximately 17 Bontebok left. In 1931 the first Bontebok National Park was proclaimed on an area near Bredasdorp. The Park was later moved to the area where it is now, to suit the habitat requirements of the Bontebok. Today Bontebok National Park is proud of its achievements in biodiversity conservation, from the endangered fynbos veld type, coastal Renosterveld, to the Bontebok!
Bontebok National Park recently got a new manager with big plans for the park. One example is the reconstruction of woven reed huts in the open werf area where the Hessequa chief, Lang Elsie, and her tribe used to reside between 1734 and 1800. The Termite Loop hiking route is another recent addition.
This 6km loop was added about a year ago and is located in the area between the main entrance and Die Stroom. Die Stroom is the spot next to the Breede River where day visitors can enjoy a picnic, braai, swim and even row. This area has Termite heaps scattered all over - hence the name. The Park does not have printed maps for the route yet, but if you select this link you can see it on Google Maps. This route starts at Die Stroom going clockwise, ending back at Die Stroom.
Our family has never done the whole 6km on one day, but we have hiked two sections on two separate occasions. We only did short sections because we were a bit lazy. So if you find yourself in a lazy mood you can use the shortcuts we used. The views are great and the experience unbelievable. I have done the whole route on my own.
Why do I like the Termite Loop?
1) I might sound like a sissy, but I do not like getting my feet wet in long grass when I hike. On this trail you will not be hiking through thick grass and bushes. The trail is open and clean. Perfect for sissies.
2) The panoramic views are truly breath-taking with very little effort required to enjoy it. You will either be viewing the Breede River or the majestic Langeberg Mountains in the opposite direction.
3) It's a good workout but my kids find it "easy" which means they don't ask "are we there yet" all the time.
3) Your chances of seeing Bontebok etc on this route are very good. I believe they have a drinking spot close to the hill/koppie.
5) It starts/stops at Die Stroom which means you can conclude the hike with a braai, picnic or swim.
When would I prefer not to hike this route?
When it is very hot. If you want to hike Bontebok Park in the summer rather hike one of the other trails which are in the shade or hike in the late afternoon. The Termite Loop is very exposed to the sun with little or no shade.
At what time of the day would I hike this route?
Taking into account that I enjoy hiking in Bontebok Park during the winter, we usually hike in the late afternoon. During winter the afternoon temperature is better and my shoes stay dry. Plus you can take nice pictures in the glow of the setting sun. Just remember that Bontebok National Park's gate closes in the evening. You could of course hike in the morning as well, just check the weather forecast and remember your hat and sunscreen. For some reason our familie's best hikes in Bontebok Park were in the afternoon.
6km Termite Loop
0-4.5km: Stroom to top of hill
When you start at Die Stroom and hike clockwise, you will follow the bank of the Breede River. The first 2km are flattish circling a small hill/koppie. From 2-4.5km you will ascend the small hill, which is not very steep. What I like about this section are the interesting views of the Breede River. You will also see where it crosses underneath the National Road. There are 3 spots in Bontebok National Park where I almost always see Bontebok or Hartebees and the area around this hill is one of these spots. When we reached the top of the hill we found a very excited tourist couple waving to get our attention and pointing towards a group of about 20 Bontebok. When at the top you have breath-taking panoramic view of almost the whole park. This is a perfect spot for coffee, picnic or just sitting around and enjoying the quiet. Note: if you want to enjoy the quiet do not take your kids with you. Our boys were running around, climbing on termite heaps (which they were told not to do), catching termites (which they were told not to do), picking up rocks (which they were told not to do) and trying to touch every plant they have not seen before or were told not to touch.
4.5-6km: Top of hill back to Die Stroom
From here on it is down hill all the way to Die Stroom. You will cross the road you used to drive to Die Stroom. The main office will be visible from here. All the way down you will have the picture perfect view of the Breede River in your sight. You will take way too many photos in this area. The route leads to a section where it links up with one of the other hiking trails - turn right here, back to where you parked your vehicle at Die Stroom.
Shortcut 1: On our first visit I dropped my family off at the spot where the route crosses the road, parked our vehicle at Die Stroom and ran the 1.5km (uphill) back to meet them. We hiked the 1.3km downhill section together. Google Map
Shortcut 2: If the running back bit sounds tiring (which it was), rather do what we did this past weekend. We parked at the main office where you buy your park pass and hiked down the road and up the hill. We then backtracked the way we came. There and back equals about 2.6km of easy hiking. Google Map
Why do I like hiking in Bontebok Park:
1) Very interesting plant life - endangered fynbos veld type called coastal Renosterveld.
2) The opportunity to see Bontebok, Grey Rhebok, Cape Grysbok, Duiker, Red Hartebeest, Cape Mountain Zebra and over 200 types of bird.
3) Wide open panoramic views.
4) You can braai and swim at Die Stroom.
5) Less steep hills compared to Marloth Nature Reserve.
1 Oct to 30 April: 7am - 7pm
1 May to 30 Sept: 7am - 6pm
Photos from Shortcut 2: our 2.6km hike starting at the main office, up the hill and back to the main office
Photos from Shortcut 1: 1.3km starting where the trail crosses the road back to Die Stroom
Check out that view!