Enjoy a Walk in the Karoo Desert NBG

Located outside Worcester in the Western Cape Breede River Valley, the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden is home to a comprehensive collection of succulents endemic to the arid Karoo region of South Africa. In addition to the cultivated gardens, there are a number of walking trails for visitors to explore, including the relatively easy Shale Trail and the slightly more challenging Grysbokkie Trail.


As the name suggests, the Shale Trail is named after the fine-grained sedimentary shale rock common in the garden. Beginning near the upper parking area of the gardens, the circular Shale Trail route is approximately one kilometer long and can be completed in around half-an-hour. Visitors can be sure that nature will put on a spectacular show all year around. In the spring months, the hardy flowering succulents, commonly known as vygies, start blooming with vibrant shades of yellow, pink, purple and red adding splashes of color to the surroundings. In autumn a variety of flowering bulbs add their colour to the landscape, while in winter the indigenous aloes flower in bright orange and yellow. Summer temperatures can reach over 40 degrees Celsius, so hikers should get an early start when exploring the Shale Trail, where they’ll find the indigenous and hardy botterboom adds some colour to the surroundings.

The 3.4 km Gysbokkie Trail takes between two and three hours to complete and begins with a steep incline up a ravine. The trail includes the highest point in the Karoo Desert NBG, Beacon Hill, which at 526m offers a breathtaking view over the Breede River Valley. It also meanders through the Breede Shale Renosterveld which consists of shrubland resembling, but not the same as, fynbos. The southern slopes covered by the trail are hot and dry, featuring aloes, euphorbias, crassulas and mesembs. Little hills caused by termites create fertile conditions that most plants in the area do not do well in, so the hills tend to stand out from the surrounding vegetation, but some plants may be specifically found growing in the more fertile soil the termites have created by taking dead plant material into their nests, including the yellow milkbush.

When exploring the Shale Trail and Grysbokkie Trail, hikers are requested to remain on the pathways, to avoid littering and not to remove any plants, seed or stone. Leave only footprints, and take only photographs.