- 4km round trip (3km round trip to the first waterfall)
- Approximately 3 hours in total
- Moderate terrain
- Partly shaded
- Drinkable water unavailable
- Not dog friendly
The picturesque Jonkershoek Nature Reserve located just outside Stellenbosch in the Cape winelands is well-known for its plentiful hiking and mountain-biking routes, with the Eerste/Tweede Waterval Trail a shorter, moderately difficult option that most members of the family should be able to conquer. Snaking along the tributaries of the Eerste River, the Eerste Waterval – Afrikaans for “First Waterfall” – is an easy 1.5km away from the start of the hike, with a well-treaded, flat and sandy footpath leading to the water cascade. The Tweede Waterval – “Second Waterfall” – is situated further along the same path, which includes a moderate ascent up the pathway, with the last few hundred metres involving clambering over rocks along the river-bed to the second waterfall.
Jonkershoek Nature reserve is situated just 10km from Stellenbosch, an hour’s drive from Cape Town, at the end of Jonkershoek Road. The nature reserve provides a range of activities for the whole family, including day hikes, swimming, bird watching, mountain biking, river rafting/kayaking, picnicking and fishing. A conservancy fee of R50 for adults and R30 for children is payable at the entrance (free for Wild Card members), where the guard on duty will direct you to the start of this hike, a 5km drive along a rocky dirt road from the entrance gate.
The start of the hike is marked by a relatively small sign, but clearly visible on the right as you close in on where the road crosses the river to a very small parking lot – space is limited, with your best bet parking on the side of the dirt road.
The sandy hiking path takes you on a relatively flat and easy route to the right of the river, with the picturesque Hottentots-Holland mountains towering above. Lizards are often seen basking in the sun, the bird-life is thriving and frogs can be heard croaking in the water as the path remains parallel with the river for the most part, before an obvious – though sign-less – right turn 1km in takes you to the first – “Eerste” – waterfall a few hundred metres off the main path. The area at the base of the waterfall is very small, but shaded, with young children often seen splashing in the gently-flowing stream below.
Back-tracking along the pathway to the waterfall, a right turn will take you along the main path to the second waterfall. The sandy pathway becomes a bit more rocky, first crossing a small tributary before ascending sharply – this ascent is a few hundred metres long, yet wooden logs have been built-in as stairs to help ease the way.
The path then flattens out, but is now elevated above the river, with a well-beaten left turn soon visible – this is not part of the path, but rather a stop-off point many have used to make their way down to the river for a swim or picnic.
Thereafter the path seemingly comes to a fork, leading either to a sharp up-turn to the right, or straight on along the actual river. The right-turn is in fact the way back from a different route in the reserve, with the rocky route directly ahead leading to the base of the second – “Tweede” – waterfall some 500m ahead.
This section may prove somewhat challenging for very young or older hikers, who will need to constantly traverse the flowing water on either side of the river to find the best-possible route along the river bed. Rocks may be a little difficult to clamber over at times, while some are a little slippery, so make sure of your footing, and also be prepared to get a little wet – a towel, and second pair of socks, is advisable.
This route does provide welcome shade, and is well-worth the clambering as you eventually reach the base of the beautiful waterfall which cascades into a small pool surrounded by pebbles. There is space on the rocks to enjoy a snack and sit back and take in the breath-taking scenery.
With a short stop at the first waterfall included, the total time taken to the second waterfall from the start was approximately an hour-and-a-half, with a similar time taken to back-track and return to the parking lot at the start.