Afritrails.com makes hiking trail bookings easier

Booking hiking trails should not be a pain. Afritrails.com promises to make the process almost as good as the hike itself.

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Afritrails.com magazine screenshot website review homepage 2021

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

If you’ve tried to book some of South Africa’s hiking trails, you’ll know that the process is often as much fun as stubbing your toe and getting lost in the first kilometre of your most important race of the year.

The founders of Johannesburg-based company Afritrails were just as frustrated, which is why they launched website afritrails.com as a one-stop booking portal in November 2020.

“Our interests were piqued when we realised that people are misinformed about the availability of many trails, thinking that they must be booked a year in advance. In reality, this is not the case and the confusion is created by the lack of real-time calendar visibility of each trail,” says co-founder Evan Sparks.

Afritrails.com magazine screenshot for website review Cannibal Trail
Each trail has an initial view with summary info, and more info is available once you dive deeper through the Check Availability button.

First impressions

I enjoyed the site’s uncluttered simplicity. Its menu elicits two actions from visitors:

A third menu – Our Partners – is of minor importance currently, and is expected to be changed in future.

Finding trails with Afritrails

If you’re looking for trails – let’s say in your province – simply select your region from the dropdown, and if you want, filter options further based on price, duration, and distance.

If you’d like to do a wider search, such as trails countrywide for R500 or less, leave Province unselected, then drag the right slider to R500. You’ll be shown the nine trails that currently fall in that price range.

Afritrails.com magazine screenshot website review All Trails menu Alexandria first listing
Leaving all options unselected gives you an overview of trails in alphabetical order. Alexandria Trail gets the honour of currently being the first trail featured.

My search for Gauteng trails via the trails page yielded just three results: Ezemvelo, Somabula, and Sable Ranch Trail. I thought that was on the low side, so asked co-founder Evan Sparks about it. He said there are a lot of Gauteng trails not listed yet, so more are being added.

He also said that a future search function will also offer trails in neighbouring provinces when these are close to the area of choice. For example, Gauteng search results will also show trails in North-West Province, due to its proximity to Gauteng.

Afritrails.com magazine screenshot website review All Trails menu Zulu Waters last listing
Zulu Waters Trail is currently the last trail featured.

A KwaZulu-Natal search yielded 19 trails, some of which are also listed in the Eastern Cape / Pondoland region. This overlap can be useful for someone who’d have no problem travelling a bit further to experience a new trail in a neighbouring province. Personal standouts include Amphitheatre, Dargle, Giants Cup Trail, Karkloof Falls 2 Falls Trail, Primitive Camp, and Wild Coast.

The Western Cape has more public trails than any other province, so a search there unsurprisingly showed the largest number: 37. Some of my personal bucket list trails are Otter, Boesmanskloof, Garden Route, Harkerville, Whale Trail, Tsitsikamma, Swellendam, Swartberg, Strandloper, Outeniqua, and Oystercatcher.

Each trail also has a side menu for its route (including distances from stop to stop), accommodation details (eg camping or hut, whether there’s electricity or not), suggested equipment, food list, and cancellation policy, all of which is useful for planning.

Afritrails.com magazine review magazine Amatola Trail route distance details

Booking trails through Afritrails

You can check availability for any trail until the end of 2021. If you click on the calendar and select 3 November 2021, for example, you’ll get a result showing you a month ahead of that date, ie until 3 December 2021.

Afritrails.com website review TRAIL magazine Alexandria Trail 3Nov-3Dec2021 availability
The kind of trail you want to find! No hyphens means ‘take your pick!’. The numbers indicate available slots for booking.

The number of berths available are shown in the grey blocks. A hyphen (–) indicates the trail is booked out for that day.

Afritrails.com magazine Base Camp Trail month view website review
Some trails will leave you fewer options. The option to look ahead to the end of 2021 is useful to find less-booked months.
Afritrails.com magazine review Otter Trail showing fully booked status
Hyphens are not good news, indicating that the trail is sold/booked out for the days shown. It’s no surprise that the Otter Trail is all out. And that’s not just for February!
Afritrails.com magazine screenshot website review Base Camp Trail About overview
Get a better understanding of the trail in the About info, including difficulty and age recommendations.
Afritrails.com magazine review magazine Amatola Trail route distance details
Distances from hut to hut are important to know so you can plan your food and water.
Afritrails.com magazine review Food list Amatola Trail
For less experienced hikers, the food and clothing lists will be excellent departure points to plan your adventure.
Afritrails.com magazine review Clothing requirements list Amatola Trail
It’s a lot easier when you have a list! Having just enough clothing – not too much or not enough – makes a huge difference.
Afritrails.com magazine screenshot website review magazine Base Camp Trail booking including admin fee
You see the trail fee and the Afritrails administration fee, so everything is transparent.
Afritrails.com magazine review magazine Pricing and cancellation policy Amatola Trail
The all-important cancellation policy for each trail provider is included in an easy-to-read format. You’ll also see pricing for optional night before accommodation costs.

Listing your trail

Countrywide there are already 130 individual partners, and more are being added regularly. It’s free to add your trail.

Afritrails.com screenshot website magazine review days nights duration dropdown
The duration of your trail is one of the snippets of info required. A 10+ day option will be added shortly.

I sent the team a test listing. Their web form required just basic contact details, trail name, trail type, and trail duration. They also have a Zendesk Chat With Us facility, a message to which was responded to in minutes.

Conclusion

What impressed me most about Afritrails.com was the ability to view trail availability in real-time, and book 130 trails (with more being added constantly) directly from their easy-to-use platform. They charge the same price as the trail, plus a service fee, which is shown at checkout.

Co-founder Alon Hendel says “We believe that the site will increase bookings for all the trails in the country and reduce vacancies in the parks in which they are situated.”

Local travel is bound to enjoy a revival once the proverbial coronavirus dust settles. City dwellers certainly have a renewed thirst for wide open spaces, so I think time will prove Alon right.

Afritrails.com features in TRAIL 38.

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