A local’s secret, the Fountain Shack is the only way to overnight in the spectacular Robberg Nature Reserve in Plettenberg Bay, a national monument, World Heritage site and marine protected area.
Difficulty (fitness): 5/10. Moderate to good fitness and good balance is necessary.
Technical Rating: Standard trail walking with varied terrain depending on route chosen – from boardwalk to beach walking, with some technical sections and slippery or uneven sections across rocks.
Starting at the main parking area, the trail to the hut is marked by a seal icon and initially follows the main, circular route via The Point. Once hikers cross The Gap and hit the boardwalk, overnight visitors in a hurry to get to the Fountain Shack turn right – continuing the circular trail in an anti-clockwise direction towards Die Eiland.
From this point on, the trail winds its way around the rocky shoreline, at some points just a few metres above the roiling, pounding waves. The wind-driven sea spray on one’s face, the slippery trail underfoot, and the coastal beauty will exhilarate hikers and day visitors alike and take one’s breath away.
The famous Die Eiland, an outcrop of the Robberg Peninsula linked to the mainland by virtue of a tombola, comes into sight, and forms a periphery to the horizon. While marked at points, the trail undulates and disappears along this stretch, and the coastal vista ahead beckons the eyes and encircles one – giving the sense that there is an invitation at hand: let the beauty of this unique part of South Africa’s spectacular coastline envelop you, and leave the realities and concerns of daily life behind for a little while.
Leaving the cliff-hugging trail behind, the next stretch of the trail is across pristine beach and the width of the tombola itself, before passing below the colossal Witsand sand dune – one of seven climbing-falling sand dunes on the Cape coast. Should hikers have the time, energy and inclination, it is worth climbing (read: clambering or crawling) this dune for the near-bird’s eye view across the tombola and Die Eiland…and the sheer liberation of running headlong back down.
At this point, the beach merges onto trail again – and the Fountain Shack will come into view.
A basic, no-nonsense hut, the unique location of the Fountain Shack is what makes this a truly exceptional overnight stay. A short distance from rockpools resplendent with marine life, surrounded by rich Montane fynbos and views past Die Eiland to the western sunset, this haven presents hikers the unique chance to be the only visitors to the Robberg Nature Reserve overnight.
Given enough time, it is worth dropping one’s backpacks off at the Fountain Shack before exploring the surroundings – in particular Die Eiland, which offers an extended, round route on boardwalk to the ends of the Peninsula.
With a nighttime display of stars that could contend with the most isolated of wilderness ventures, the setting adds a coastal symphony to the visual feast: the boom of the ocean, the whistle of the wind, and the cries of marine birds will be the twilight music that accompanies your stay.
If one is lucky enough to experience low-tide, the evening or morning can be spent exploring the inter-tidal zone where all kinds of creatures weird and wonderful wait to be discovered before the next high-tide sees them disappear back to their sea kingdom. (Or, with the entire Nature Reserve to yourselves, an icy skinny dip might be a tempting means to start one’s day.)
As the morning progresses, shapes will appear in the distance, and the day visitors to Robberg will arrive in what may now have begun to feel like your back garden. No worry, the return trip to the car park offers you the equivalent beauty right up until the moment of departure, whichever route you decide to take.
There are few other trails along South Africa’s coastline that offer one such a quick and easy exit from civilization, a simple reset in nature’s splendor, and a re-entry into reality with one’s perspective refreshed and soul revived.
All photos @daniapea
This review is based on the typical route recommended by Cape Nature. For those who prefer a gentler but longer walk, they can continue from The Gap towards Witsand, which will add 20 minutes to the journey. For the more sadistic, the longer circular route via The Point will add a number of kilometres and hours to the overall journey and should be undertaken with proper care and preparation.
The CapeNature website indicates that the typical route followed to the Fountain Shack will take the average hiker 2 hours. Our party arrived within 40 minutes of leaving the main parking area. However, the suggestion is to start as early as possible, giving oneself time to drink in the surrounds and take a slow walk to the shack, stopping often to admire the view.
Do not attempt this route with the young, frail or unfit, or in adverse weather conditions. The terrain is rugged and can be slippery when wet. Caution is advised.
Be aware of rip tides when swimming.
Info & Bookings
For more information and bookings, contact CapeNature
Fountain Shack bookings: 0861 227 362
Robberg enquiries: 044 533 2125/85