08 September 2015 – Two mountain visionaries and trailblazers, Galeo Saintz and Ivan Groenhof, together with a dedicated team of guides and advisors, are developing South Africa’s longest mountain traverse and trail initiative linking 650km of trails and ridgelines between Clanwilliam and George, called the Rim of Africa, and now they are ready for the world’s hikers to come and discover it.
“The Cape Mountains and the Rim of Africa are playing a vital role in making the Cape a desired hiking and walking destination – the Rim of Africa is the longest mountain traverse of its kind in Africa, where hikers encounter spectacular and diverse landscapes rich in biodiversity and we are on a mission to put the region and its trails on the world map,” says Saintz.
This ambitious trail and conservation project now in its sixth year of development, links existing trails right across the Cape Mountains, through multiple CapeNature reserves and across 180 private properties stretching from the Cederberg to the Outeniqua mountains.
In 2012, the Rim of Africa founders were invited to participate in the second annual World Trails Conference in South Korea, where the World Trails Network was formed. This network of the world’s leading trails and trail destinations elected Rim of Africa co-founder Galeo Saintz as its inaugural chairperson. As a result, Saintz has a unique global perspective on the value and benefits the Rim of Africa can deliver to the Cape Mountains.
“We have learnt from and follow the inspiration of other mega-distance hikes from around the world,” says Saintz, “but, the Rim of Africa is also playing a major role in the burgeoning development of the world’s global trails industry, and it will put Africa on the map as far as mega-distance trails go.”
“Trails when correctly developed deliver tangible benefits to landowners and communities living close to the trail infrastructure. Ecotourism is a product South Africa needs to continually invest in. Trails are a global contributor to the world’s adventure tourism market and form the backbone to many activities that take place on them from day hikes to interpretive guiding, to trail running events, etc. They can be an important contributor to the rural economy in the Cape.”
Co-founder Ivan Groenhof, a dedicated hiker who originally envisaged the project agrees: “Through our partners, including the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, CapeNature, local community forums and regional tourism authorities and with financial support from boot and apparel brand Hi-Tec South Africa, we are now in a position to further develop our community projects.
“This initiative is as much about the future as the present – Linking trails to conservation and involving communities, helps us to build a new generation of nature champions as the trail experience is all about reconnecting with nature, our mountains and each other.
“The Western Cape’s mountains are a valuable heritage with rich cultural and biodiversity elements and a tourism potential that offer many opportunities. Our collaborators in CapeNature understand this and are willing to support our efforts and show the powerful impact state and NGO collaboration can have.”
Rim of Africa is a movement and a trails project that really belongs to the people. A non-profit trust oversees the project implementation, planning and coordination, and works to empower local communities with the skills and capacity to be custodians of their section of the route. Money raised goes directly back into supporting the vision and goals to make the Cape Mountains a global trails destination.
“We like to think of the Rim of Africa as a necklace of trails extending along the Cape Mountains, with the beads or gems being the biodiversity, the vistas, the communities, the rivers and waterfalls that hikers experience along the way,” comments Groenhof.