Hiking (and Kloofing and Abseiling) Cape Town: Crystal Pools

Abseiling has been on my Cape Town bucket list, and for my birthday last weekend, Chas surprised me with a full day of hiking, kloofing (cliff jumping) and abseiling (rappelling) in Gordons Bay at Crystal Pools.

We arrived at the Abseil Africa office at 7:00 to meet the other people in our party—three Canadians traveling to Cape Town for a week’s holiday from researching ground squirrels.

They were the best, and we all headed about an hour and a half away from Cape Town to the Steenbras River Nature Reserve. The day began with a breakfast at the Sunbird Lodge, and then we started our hour hike up to the Pools.

hiking steenbras reserve

Our guides told us on the way up that we would only be hiking to two pools—apparently there is a higher pool that they normally go to, but it was occupied by an aggressive black eagle and her nest.

The hike up was pretty easy. And even though we’re in the middle of winter here, the day was perfect for hiking—75 degrees and sunny. Once at the Pools, we were met with our first challenge of the day: putting on our super uncomfortable wetsuits for cliff jumping. It felt ridiculous. As the mountain water was absolutely freezing, the wetsuits were a must despite the fact that each of the suits had holes in their crotches or bums.

hiking crystal pools

hiking crystal pools

From the higher pool, we swam out to two cliffs, which our guide admitted he did not enjoy jumping from. Nothing makes you feel more confident.

The jumps were scary—mostly because of the precarious, slippery rocks you have to stand on to prepare for the jump. Our guide also judged us on our form to see if anyone could attempt the even higher jump. Chas was the only one who passed.

kloofing at crystal pools

You can barely see me in this picture—but I’ve got great form!

kloofing crystal pools

After an eventful lunch of drying out on the rocks and losing my tupperware container to the waterfall, it was time to abseil. Our rappelling route went down the side of the mountain opposite the waterfall before dropping a few meters free-fall into the water below—a “bum drop,” they called it. As anyone knows who has repelled before, the scariest part is the beginning, where you must back up and lean over the side of the mountain. Chas and I were the last to go, and as Cheesy, our guide, was setting me up, he said, “Want to have a bigger drop at the bottom? I can shorten the rope if you want.”

I said, “Um, that’s ok…” and Chas said, “Sure!”

abseiling crystal pools

abseiling crystal pools

abseiling crystal pools

If you look closely at the left center of the photo, there’s a little red dot. That’s Chas, rappelling down.

It was a beautiful, prickly and then ultimately, really cold, abseil. The guide at the bottom—the one stuck in the water while all of us descended—might actually have gotten frostbite.

Turning 30 turned out to be pretty great. It was wonderful spending the day exploring more of the Cape with some really fun people.

And just for good measure—here’s the sunset that same day. From our bedroom window!

sunset hout bay

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