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Hiking to Elephant’s Eye
Your questions answered: permits, dogs, kids, hiking trails and swimming spots
The easiest route to Elephant’s Eye Cave is from Silvermine reservoir, giving you the advantage of climbing most of the height by car up Ou Kaapse Weg. Alternatively, start your hike from Tokai Arboretum. It's a slightly more difficult route but still easy enough for the kids to enjoy.
We pay the conservation fee (R35 per adult and R15 per child) at the Silvermine main gate and drive a few kilometres to the reservoir car park (also the only bathroom facility on the hike). The good signage (throughout the whole hike) points us in the right direction.
OFF TO ELEPHANTS EYE
The name is derived from the fact that this mountain looks like the shape of an elephant’s head, and the cave is perfectly located where the eye would be. This leisurely hike brings us past indigenous fynbos. We even get to see the king proteas bloom - a joy for the eyes and easy on your feet. The hike’s inclines are very minor, and an unfit person could do this route too. Even my 12-weeks-old Italian greyhound puppy enjoyed the hike.
Silvermine was made part of Table Mountain National Park on 1 May 1998, thereby ensuring its unique and diverse natural offering will be protected. Silvermine offers spectacular scenery, an abundance of fynbos, and a popular spot for all sorts of activities, including hiking, caving, rock-climbing, and mountain biking.
WHAT TO BRING
Money. There’s a small conservation fee which you can pay at each entrance. Both fees for each entrance are R35 per adult and R15 per child.
WILD Cards. If you have a WILD Card you can enter for free. If you would like one you can purchase them online via sanparks.org.
Picnic. Fill your backpack with goodies and water for a memorable picnic with a view of the cave itself.
Garbage bag. There are only dustbins at the car park, keep it tidy and leave no trace.
Hiking shoes. To keep it safe, wear hiking boots that give your feet a stronghold. There’s a bit of semi-climbing and a few steep paths so you’ll need shoes with a good grip.
Hats and sunblock. There are patches of shade for you to rest in but the majority of the walk is exposed. It’s a good idea to get an early start to avoid the midday sun.
Camera. The views are incredible and the flowers definitely worth a shot.
Swimsuit. After your hike, you can have a picnic and a swim in Silvermine dam.
Children of all ages.
Dogs are allowed but you will need a level 1 My Activity Permit. You can purchase your permit at the Tokai Plantation Office on Tokai Road, Tokai. It’s open between Mondays to Fridays 08:00-15:45.
Numbers. Take these numbers up with you just in case and use them for your planning. Call the emergency number if you get lost or injured 086 110 6417 or 27 (21) 937-0300.
Tokai Lookout and Elephant's Eye
Tokai Lookout and Elephant's Eye are found on the slopes of Constantiaberg and offer excellent views of the Cape Flats and False Bay. These can be accessed from the car park at the Silvermine reservoir. The reservoir setting, surrounded by pine trees reflected in the water's surface, is a nice place to start and end with a picnic and swim.
This is an easy hike; most of the walk is along the gravel road, making the going a lot more relaxed. You will find incredible viewpoints en route, views as if you were in a helicopter; some call them' the most photogenic views in all of the Western Cape'.
You will pass clusters of pine trees, the Prinzkasteel Stream and a fire lookout stone hut for the foresters, but don't have your picnic here; Elephant's Eye cave is too close. From the fire lookout, you can see the cave, literally a big hole in the side of the mountain.
Your reward for the hike is definitely this stop. The roof of the cave is partly covered in green ferns. It's mystical. From here, you can view the dark green forests and vineyards of Tokai and Constantia. Time to unpack your picnic and enjoy the spectacular views.
Duration: Two hours (or longer), including a picnic at Elephant's Eye cave.
Conservation fee: You will need to pay as you enter Silvermine at gate 1. Per day it’s R35 per adult and R 15 per child. Remember to bring some form of identification.
Take the M3 towards Tokai, take the Tokai Road off-ramp, and turn right under the M3 bridge. Follow Tokai Road all the way to the end, passing the Tokai Forest picnic area, and turning left to the Arboretum when you reach the T-junction at the Manor House. Sign in at the thatched gate. The path is clearly marked with signs bearing an elephant. This is quite a long climb up to Elephant's Eye, but it makes it a more challenging hike when you start at Tokai Arboretum.
Duration: It is a comfortable two-hour walk up to the cave, so plan 4.5 hours at least including a lovely picnic at the cave.
Conservation fee: You can pay when you sign in at the thatched gate. The conservation fee is R35 per adult and R15 per child. Additionally, you can pay R25 per vehicle.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Fauna: Grysbok, lynx, baboon, porcupine, genet and tortoise have been recorded. You may also spot a variety of reptiles, insects and amphibians. Birds often seen in Silvermine are the Orange Breasted and Malachite Sunbirds, Cape Sugarbirds, Rock Kestrels, Kites, Buzzards and Peregrine Falcons. The majestic Black Eagle is also seen here occasionally.
Flora: Silvermine is located within the magnificent Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest but most diverse of the six floral kingdoms in the world, with an enormous variety of plant species. Many of these plants are rare and endangered, and some are found nowhere else in the world.
Fynbos is the most dominant vegetation type. Almost 900 species have been recorded, with many Proteas, Ericas, and Restios occurring to date. The protea family's remarkable specimens include: Mimetes hirtus, or bottlebrush, which is endemic, Protea nitida or Waboom, Protea cynaroides or King Protea, Leucospernum concocarpodendron or Kreupelhout. Depending on the season you will see parts of the mountainside coloured by the many Erica species.
by Antonia Heil | photographs by Desmond Louw
Silvermine: right off Ou Kaapse Weg coming from Cape Town | +27 (0)21 780 9002
DISCOVER MORE HIKES AND DAMS
Stretch your legs and find more hiking trails in Cape Town.
Get the full low down of swimming in Silvermine dam.
Go tree-hugging in Tokai Arboretum.
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