Image supplied Afritrails.
Image supplied Afritrails.
  • Avid hikers can now get into nature faster, without the hassle of outdated booking systems.
  • Online platform Afritrails was created to take the pain out of the admin that goes into going on a hike – from finding up-to-date trail information to getting permits if necessary
  • The site has at least 130 hiking trails across the country listed on a single platform.
  • From a pro-hiker to a beginner, it is a great place to start if you are interested in exploring the country by foot.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Avid South African hikers can now get into nature faster, without the hassle of outdated booking systems, using online platform Afritrails which covers more than 130 trails across the country.

Founder Evan Sparks says the platform was created to take the pain out of the admin that goes into going on a hike – from finding up-to-date trail information to getting permits if necessary.

“There were several issues when looking to book a trail in the past. The first being the lack of up-to-date trail information from trail locations, to distances as well as and most importantly where and how to book.

“The next problem was the lack of real time availability, meaning if you eventually found a contact you would have to phone and email them with your dates and number of people and if those dates were unavailable your hiking dreams were over. This led to the next issue of there being no aggregator to offer other options of a similar nature in such instances,” says Sparks.

Sparks and a team of like-minded hikers spent 15 months building the site, which aggregates trails from all over the country - over both public and private land.

The “one-stop-hiking-trail-shop” includes sites for camping, sleeping overnight stays in huts, slackpacking, multiday hiking, or going on safaris. Afritrails gives real-time access to some highly sought-after national park trails as well as many closely guarded ‘hidden gems’ that many people don’t even know exist.

“Our mission is to connect people with nature and in doing so we aim to make overnight hiking trails more accessible by solving the inefficiencies in trying to find a suitable trail and make a booking in real time.”

You can make a booking using the site’s search function and filtering by location, price and duration. If the hike you want is fully booked, the system will immediately re-direct you to something similar.

Image supplied Afritrails.
Image supplied Afritrails.

Not only does this make it easier to find trails suitable to your hiking levels, but it is also available in one place, so you don’t have to spend hours jumping from website to website trying to pick a spot.

The site also gives private landowners a chance to register their trails and let people know about them.

“Many of the private landowners or tour operators do not have the time or financial resources to run and market their trails as it is often not their primary business. Our platform allows them to list and market their trails and accommodation at no fee. We do not charge any listing or ongoing fees, rather a commission per booking through the Afritrails platform. We have listed many private trails and are excited to be listing many more in the near future.”

Image supplied Afritrails.
Image supplied Afritrails.

Since its launch in November, it already has some 130 locations listed and more and more are being added each day. And thanks to South Africa’s lockdowns restrictions the website is booming.

“Over the last few years, the number of people who have started to [hike] has increased and this has been further accelerated by Covid-19. There has been a big spike in South Africans looking to escape to more remote places away from the hustle and bustle of the city life and fortunately this has resulted in a positive reaction to Afritrails from the market since our launch.”

Image supplied Afritrails.
Image supplied Afritrails.

For Sparks getting outdoors is as much a chance for locals to get some fresh air as it is about discovering new places – like the Alexandria trail which he describes as being “not well known but absolutely incredible”.  At the top of their most popular hikes are some of the most scenic routes found in South Africa.

“The most popular trail in the country is without doubt the Otter Trail. Other popular trails include the Whale trail, Boesmanskloof trail, High 5 trail, Queen Rose Trail and Fanie Botha Trail,” says Sparks.

From a pro-hiker to the beginner this is a great place to start if you are interested in exploring the country by foot.

For those that use a Wild card, or other discount membership programmes, the bookings on the site do not include conservation fees – so you can still get your discounts at the gates when entering a reserve.

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