Our Great Guides are passionate, knowledgeable, inspiring people invited to publish on the site.

IVAN GROENHOF : Rim of Africa

meet Ivan Groenhof

Initiator & co-founder of the Rim of Africa trail, the first mega-trail in Africa which begins north of Cape Town in South Africa.  His knowledge of the environment, commitment to conservation, and passion for encouraging a cultural and personal reconnection to nature makes him an inspiring leader.

Rim of Africa|Ivan Groenhof - Cederberg, South Africa [2004 © Ivan Groenhof]
The Rim of Africa follows the mountain escarpment of the Western Cape, in remote areas travelled by few other groups.

Rim of Africa|Ivan Groenhof - Cederberg, South Africa [2009 © Ivan Groenhof] - Ivan Groenhof - Rim Of Africa - Great Guides

'People need wild places' wrote the author Barbara Kingsolver. Ivan Groenhof not only shares her belief but has dedicated himself to creating access to some of the most dramatic mountains in Africa. Ivan, with his colleague Galeo Saintz, is developing The Rim of Africa, a madly ambitious project to create a mega distance walking experience in the Cape region of South Africa.

North of Cape Town is a spectacular and wild mountain range, the Cederberg. Parts of it are managed by conservation agencies, but much is owned privately. It forms a section of the great escarpment that creates an edge around the entire continent, the Rim of Africa.

In his twenties Ivan created two successful and promising businesses, one was an eco-building company, the other mentoring a very large workforce clearing invasive vegetation from mountain lands on the Cape Peninsula. Yet he sensed a lack of fulfilment and his enthusiasm waned.

Ivan Groenhof, who persisted in his vision for a mega-trail in Africa

Born and bred in Africa, he looked for an African solution to finding direction for his life and he went to see a sangoma (see more on sangomas here) in the township of Langa. The sangoma asked few questions and after some minutes said 'you must go walking, your role in the world is to create a rite of passage'.

Ivan had always enjoyed walking, and had trekked in the Cederberg as a teenager. With the sangoma's words buzzing in his mind he returned to the Cederberg and walked for a month, mainly on the mountain crests, finishing 350 km later having traversed another 4 mountain ranges.

It was his epihany, trekking through this dramatic landscape of red rocks and myriad plants, of leopards and antelope, sleeping in caves marked by bushmen spiritual paintings, under the great open sky of Africa: he says that he 'lost his small self' and was struck by the transforming value of the African tradition of walking in wilderness.

Rim of Africa|Ivan Groenhof - Cederberg, South Africa [2008 © Ivan Groenhof] - Ivan Groenhof - Rim Of Africa - Great Guides
Walking in the Cederberg Mountains north of Cape Town

Inspired by the Appalachian trail in the USA, Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Sendero de Chile and the Te Araoa in New Zealand, Ivan dreamed of a long trail in Africa. More than that, he wanted it to be an experience, of wilderness, of solitude and reflection, and of the traditional communities living around the mountains.

For two years he presented his ideas but was met only by blank faces. He would need permission from 180 different landowners. He would need major funding. There are already many shorter trails. The idea seemed crazy.

Rim of Africa|Ivan Groenhof - Cederberg, Western Cape, South Africa [2010 © Ivan Groenhof] - Ivan Groenhof - Rim Of Africa - Great Guides

The breakthrough came when Ivan was joined by Galeo Saintz, who had already helped to pioneer the 380km Eden to Addo elephant corridor and trail.

Working in conjunction with land owners, existing footpaths, old trading routes and animal paths were mapped. Biodiversity corridors and conservation plans developed. A plan for a spectacular 650km trail took shape, from the northern Cederberg running South across the Skurweberg, and then East through the Hex Valley to the Outeniquas along the Langeberg, linking up with the established trails on the Garden Route.

In 2011 the dream was finally realised


By 2012 five of the 8 stages were openned for guided, seasonal walks (October and November) as a fully supported 26 day trail. Walking in small groups, but with time for silence each morning and African storytelling at night, Ivan's vision of a magnificent trail that could serve as a personal journey was becoming a reality.

There has been a great expansion in the number of people undertaking long trails. The number of people walking mega trails, such as the Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and the Appalachian Trail in the eastern USA, has grown exponentially.

The Rim of Africa is Africa's first mega trail and it has potential to develop, joining up with exisiting trails on the Garden Route, to Addo, the Wild Coast and into the Drakensberg and beyond. It could become thousands of kilometres long. But for Ivan it is the quality of the experience and the service to nature that counts. The trail is not intended as a physical challenge but as an opportunity for a rite of passage, a chance to be immersed in African wilderness, to wonder at our smallness and the greatness of the nature around us. To discover our true place and purpose in the world.

For more on the Rim visit


Author: Roddy Bray
Published Date: 13 Sep 2012
Location: Southern Africa | South Africa
Themes: travel, natural world | tour guide, parks and trails, inspiring, conservation