Typically, rock pools are formed by the continuous scouring action of fresh or salt water. Found where rivers work their magic through the landscape, or beside the sea, naturally created rock pools can be thimble-size or big enough to swim in, metres deep or a few centimeters shallow, freezing cold or invitingly warm.

Did you know?

The popular five-day Otter Trail has many delightful rock pools on route.

Rock pools are found throughout South Africa, and in many instances are considered major attractions.

Rock pools in South Africa don’t come better or in greater abundance than the uKhahlamba-Drakensburg. Hikers will tell you there’s nothing more rewarding than rounding the corner, during a strenuous hike, to be greeted with clear natural pools to dip tired feet into, or swim in to cool off. Ploughman's Kop, at the edge of the Amphitheatre, is a slip-and-slide collection of pools.

In the North West province, Tonquani Gorge in the Magaliesberg Mountain Sanctuary Park has dozens of rock pools to float in combined with some high velocity bum-sliding. Near Rustenburg, the Tierkloof pool creates natural bubbles to tickle and tease – just like a jacuzzi!

Rockpools also abound in the Mpumalanga province due a high number of waterfalls – especially around Waterfall Boven, Sabie and Hazyview

If you favour marine rock pools then head for the Eastern Cape Wild Coast, where there are kilometers of intertidal zone to explore.

Another excellent spot for marine rock pools is northern KwaZulu-Natal, where the tidal pools on remote beaches like Black Rock and Rocktail Bay brim with sea life.

The Western Cape’s rock pool roundup is equally impressive. In Knysna’s Forest Edge Nature Reserve, the Drupkelders rock pools on the Homtini River are scenic, cola-coloured (from vegetation in the river water), and invigorating fun.

Experience the diversity of southern African rock pools on the country’s most famous hike, the Otter Trail. On the trail, inland, and beside the Indian Ocean, there are some exquisite rock pools in which to splash, or explore.

If it's size you want, look to the Winterhoek Mountains in the Western Cape. The Eden pool in Die Hel is one of the biggest in the country, but be warned paradise is at the bottom of a steep cliff. Another favorite Capetonian spot for liquid lounging is the Rondegat rock pools in the Cederberg Mountains.

To visit South Africa’s more extreme rock pools, like those in the Steenbras River gorge, alias the ‘Kamakaze Kanyon’, and Suicide Gorge in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve in Grabouw, it’s best to go with a professional kloofing (canyoning) operator.

Travel tips & Planning info

How to get here

There are rock pools all around the country. You can fly to most metropolitan areas or alternatively hire a car and get off the beaten track. There is also a wide network of intercity buses and trains.

Best time to visit

Summer will make the water temperature more inviting.

Get around

Walking is the only way to see the country’s best rock pools.

What will it cost

Most of the pools are in reserves. Entry fees vary.

Length of stay

Generally a hike to a rock pool will be a day trip unless part of a longer trail.

What to pack

Walking shoes and cameras are a must. Sun protection is essential, and of course your swimming costume.

Where to stay

Rock pools are often found in nature reserves that have accommodation ranging from camping to self-catering chalets. Some even five-star lodges or tents.