Walking the New Pioneer Trail at Gondwana Game Reserve

The Gondwana Pioneer Trail is a hiking trail located in the Western Cape region of South Africa. It is a multi-day trek that takes hikers through the fynbos, offering breathtaking views and a chance to experience the unique flora and fauna of the area.

The trail is guided and takes roughly three days to complete. Along the way, you’ll learn about the area’s biodiversity and pass zebras, rhinos, antelope, and all the wonderful safari animals on foot.

The Gondwana Pioneer Trail is a great way to experience the beauty of South Africa’s natural environment and challenge oneself physically and mentally. The Pioneer Trail is a fantastic alternative to the typical safari, where safari goers spend most of their time in the back of a game viewer. It gives visitors a chance to get active while observing everything around them.

Giraffe Time at Gondwana

Where is Gondwana Game Reserve?

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail
Zebras and Wildebeest in the distance on the Pioneer Trail

Gondwana is located just outside Mossel Bay along the Garden Route. It’s less than a 5-hour drive from Cape Town. You can be from a metropolitan city to the malaria-free bush in just half a day!

Gondwana is quite large for a private game reserve at 11,000 hectares. In those 27,000 acres, expect the Big Five, zebra, cheetahs, and an incredible amount of birdlife set among the indigenous and unique fynbos. Gondwana Pioneer Trail offers a refreshing take on the usual safari experience.

What to Expect on the Pioneer Trail?

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail

The Pioneer Trail experience lasts three nights, with two full days of walking across the game reserve. An expert armed safari guide guides the entire trail and teaches you about flora, fauna, wildlife, and of course keeps everyone safe.

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail

Guests will stay at three camps, all of which you will walk between and into. And there’s nothing as satisfactory after completing a long walk to trek right into your luxurious accommodation for the night.

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail

The trails are used exclusively by guests of the Pioneer Trail, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever find anyone else on the path, giving your group complete solitude in the African bush.

The camp assistant will wait for the group to enter each camp at the end of a long day, with everything set up for maximum comfort. Meals are cooked at the lodge and set up in a stunning setting underneath the African sky in a candlelit tent.

A Walk Amongst the Fynbos

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail

The Western Cape of South Africa is the only place home to the incredible fynbos. If you have been to this area of the globe, I’m sure you have heard about it from South Africans.

The fynbos is a small region of shrubland vegetation with a high degree of biodiversity, making it extremely important to the ecosystem here at Gondwana. The fynbos occupies its floral kingdom and is the smallest of the six. Getting to know this kingdom that is only located in a small area of the world was incredible and would thrill any naturalist.

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail

Being with the same ranger for multiple days allows time to explain the colorful, unique, and impressive flora that often gets overlooked on a game drive.

From Buchu to Protea, eco campers could smell the fresh vegetation surrounding us. We even picked the leaves for excellent bush tea every night. Talk about taking out the middleman in the health stores for our tea time!

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How Much Do You Walk on the Pioneer Trail?

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail
Walking down to our camp

The Pioneer Trail is two full days of walking, about 10km per day. The trail is maintained with just a few steep ups and downs. Any person of moderate fitness will easily be able to complete the course.

Depending on your group’s pace, trekkers will walk between 4 and 6 hours daily. After each walk, guests will be able to relax at camp. There is plenty of downtime at the tented camps, so bring a few books!

How Much Wildlife Will You See on the Pioneer Trail?

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail

Although you will undoubtedly see wildlife on the trail, the Pioneer Trail is better suited for those that want to learn about the plants and birds of the region. If your goal is to quickly see as much wildlife as possible, the Pioneer Trail is not for you.

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail
Rhino in the distance

Being on foot allows you to be near wildlife like explorers were hundreds of years ago, with no car engines or modern conveniences. A walking safari is a beautiful experience, but being on foot, you won’t be able to get as close to wildlife as you could in a game viewer.

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail

On our walking safari, we saw plenty of birds, antelope, zebra, giraffe, and rhino from a safe distance!

What Do You Need for the Pioneer Trail?

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail

Besides the typical safari attire, you may wonder what some must-bring items are. For starters, comfortable walking boots or safari shoes, a hat to protect your face from the sun, sunglasses, and sunscreen are essential.

You’ll want comfortable pants and a hiking shirt for the walks. We found safari pants were best as plenty of thorns and harsh scrubs would scratch bare legs.

Comfy clothes are also essential as you will have plenty of downtime at camp.

Upon arrival at Gondwana, guests are provided with safari backpacks, water bottles, and a duffel bag. You can transport all the belongings you’ll need for the three days from your suitcase to the safari duffel, which will then be transported to your camp.

The safari backpack is used during walking excursions to house anything you need, including a packed lunch and camera gear. If you prefer to bring your safari backpack, you are welcome to do so. Before you go, check out what to wear in Africa!

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The Camps on the Pioneer Trail

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail

There are three different tented camps that you will stay at on the Pioneer Trail. Without spoiling the surprise, they are all unique from each other and offer something different.

The camps comprise four en suite tents, with a maximum of 8 guests, guaranteeing an intimate experience.

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail
Our luxurious eco tent

Each tent has a comfortable and plush king-size bed, flush toilets, hot outdoor showers, a full vanity, toiletries, and a desk. For the cold bush nights, heated water bottles are provided in the bed (one of my favorite parts of being chilly in the African bush).

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail
One of the communal areas

The rest of the camps comprise a boma for enjoying a gin and tonic, a lounge area, a complimentary bar, and an ultimate lounging space.

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail
entering the boma

After a full day on the trail, we found nothing better than enjoying a sundowner while recanting about our efforts, all before a home-cooked meal under the stars.

Food on the Pioneer Trail

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail
dinner is served

All breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are provided on the Pioneer Trail, as well as wine, beer, and spirits. Every morning you can expect to wake up with a hot breakfast and coffee prepared by the camp staff. Lunch is either a packed lunch on the trail or will be provided back at camp, depending on your group’s walking pace.

Each dinner has a theme for the night, providing guests with a mix of variety. The food on the entire trip was delicious, never monotonous, and was cooked to perfection by the lovely camp staff. Good thing it’s a walking safari, or you might walk away with a few extra pounds on your belt!

A Typical Day At Gondwana

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail

Unlike a traditional safari, most of the action is seen while standing on your own two feet, far from the comforts of a safari vehicle.

Each day involved an interesting and informative walk through the fynbos.

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail
about to have lunch

When we saw antelope, zebra, giraffe, or any other beautiful animal we observed and enjoyed their presence.

A typical day on the Pioneer Trail went something like this:

  • 7 a.m. Wake up followed by a hot breakfast
  • 8 a.m. Gear up for your walk. Walks start early so you can beat the heat of the day.
  • 1 p.m. Lunch either on the trail or back at camp.
  • 1:30 p.m. Downtime to read, drink coffee, relax in the hammock
  • 4 p.m. More Downtime with other guests or the possibility of an evening game drive.
  • 6 p.m. 10 p.m. Dinner, followed by drinks by the fire and stargazing in the African bush

Are Game Drives Included as Part of the Adventure?

Gondwana Game Reserve / Pioneer Trail
our home for the night on the Pioneer Trail

While this experience primarily focuses on a walking safari, a few opportunities exist to jump into a game viewer. Being on safari in a game viewer has a few perks. You can get closer to wildlife, especially Big Five animals like buffalo, elephants, and lions.

Vehicles transport you into the first camp and from your last camp back to the main lodge. Depending on your group’s pace and fitness, your safari guide may offer to take you out on a game drive on your last night in camp, timing permitted.

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Plan Your Trip to Africa

  • Travel Insurance: We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans. 
  • Travel Waterbottle: When we’re uncertain about the water supply we use our Grayl Purifier. It’s come in exceptionally handy around Africa.
  • Camera Gear: Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. We love the Sony RX100V for a pocket-size camera and the Fujifilm XT-4 for a professional camera. Check out our favorite cameras for Africa.
  • Safari Clothes: Lightweight, beige, and moisture-wicking clothing are great for traveling Africa. See our favorite safari clothing here.
  • Safari Hat: A good hat is both stylish and functional.
  • Safari Bag: A durable bag is ideal for traveling around Africa.
  • Safari Pants: We recommend neutral-colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors.
  • Safari Shirt: Shirts like these are lightweight and keep the bugs away!
  • Boots: While you don’t need to wear sturdy shoes every day, at least one pair of safari boots will make your trip nicer!
  • Travel Adapter: You’ll need a special travel adapter for traveling to Africa. Get one before you get there so you don’t pay a premium on the ground.
About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.