A Walk in Wilderness, South Africa

Alright I get it, Cape Town is pretty perfect.  Even though I imagined the city to be incredible, I didn’t expect to fall for the place as hard as I did.  I definitely underestimated it.  But as I head down the coast of South Africa, and dive into the Garden Route, I realize that I’ve underestimated the whole country.  But can you really blame me?  The only brochures we see of South Africa advertise one of three things: Cape Town, Kruger National Park, and the townships.  It’s easy to assume that South Africa is nothing but a wildlife rich national park and a couple cities.

Wilderness, South Africa

The view over the town of Wilderness, South Africa

Today I’ve arrived in the town of WIlderness.  It’s like nothing I’ve seen in the brochures of South Africa, nor is it the least bit what I expected to find in the country.  This village is settled along a tranquil lagoon squeezed between miles of perfect beaches and a dramatic range of hills.  Cheery and, dare I say, cute, Wilderness is calm and, befitting to its name, it is tucked into a perfect bit of natural wild.

From town, a healthy web of trails lead into the forest, along rivers and through bits of temperate rain forest.  Withing the trees, a wealth of bird life chatter their ever-singing song.  As I cut through a darkened bit of forest, an awkward pair of geese trumpet their discontent of my intrusion and flap violently off in the opposite direction.  A top a tree, a grey woodpecker hammers at the red wall of a proud tree trying to pierce the forest’s canopy.  Gazing patiently from a sturdy branch above the creek a giant kingfisher is perched.

Wilderness, South Africa

A creek near the town of Wilderness, South Africa

The trail drops to the shores of a lagoon perfectly reflecting the trees above it.  A cord is strung out across the waters and a tiny floating platform is attached.  I pull my way across on the hand-drawn personal ferry.  As I reach the other side, I jump the last step and land on a soft bit of moss and then bounce up the stairs ahead.

Wilderness, South Africa

Boardwalk on the Half-Collard Kingfisher trail in Wilderness, South Africa

Though it’s the early afternoon, the board-walked trail feels dark and at times is ominous.  I have this bit of wilderness to myself, and when the birds choose to dull their voices it can be desperately quiet.  The fall of a branch, the wave of the wind dancing through the leaves, or a dik-dik makes my heightened senses hop.

Wilderness, South Africa, waterfall

Wilderness, South Africa Waterfall

The path carries me along the wall of a tilting canyon wall and past trees clinging desperately to the cliff’s incline.  As I bend around a corner the sound of a splash of rushing water slaps my senses.  The forest gives way to a chasm of erratic rocks and weaving waters.  A fall tumbles from a ledge and into a pool of turning waters.  A light mist tickles the air and floats among the winds.

Wilderness, South Africa

The waterfall at the end of the half-collard kingfisher trail in Wilderness, South Africa

I climb, hand and foot, to the top of the modest waterfall and look down into the valley below.  Part of me wishes that the world could see the beauty, tranquility and energy of this little train outside of Wilderness.  But on the other hand, I’m more than happy that today I have it all to myself.


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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1 Comment

  1. Brings back happy memories! Remember this waterfall well and time and time again I hear the same thing about people underestimate S.Africa…fab. I’ve been enjoying your African pics.

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