The Otter Trail follows the spectacular Garden Route coastline from Storms River Mouth to Nature’s Valley in the Tsitsikamma National Park. Recently, Scott Forssman did the hike and shared the experience with OnRoute...
The Otter Trail is certainly one of SA’s most beautiful hikes and a bucket list for any hiker. It's five days long and covers around 50 kilometres along steep gradients, cliff edges and rocky boulders at sea level. Accommodation is fairly simple but adequate for up to 12 people. You sleep in log cabins which cater for six people each on triple bunk beds. There's one toilet and a cold shower per destination and no electricity. Costs are around R1 220 as well as a conservation fee of R216 and there are plenty of write-ups and info on the web to be prepared.
Storms River reception, where you begin, is also full of information and where an introductory video will describe the fauna and flora, what to expect and what boots you should be wearing… too late if this priority didn't cross your mind sooner! (After the hike, go down to the Nature’s Valley Inn for a drink and good burger, and you'll see all the shoes that didn't make it hanging from a tree!) You’ll be given a map with vital water information of distances, where you can fill up and where you shouldn’t as the water is unfortunately polluted from upstream shanty towns.
TOP TIP: Take water drops rather than tablets as they taste better and work more effectively.
The Otter Trail is certainly one of SA’s most beautiful hikes and a bucket list for any hiker.
You'll traverse rocks, beaches, trails and river crossings, with opportunities to swim in the sea or lagoons. Your fitness should be moderate but most people would be capable. The only time constraint is when you need to cross the Bloukransrivier on Day 4 to make low tide. There's very little to no cellphone reception, but there are escape routes should you need assistance or medical attention.
A highlight on Day 3 was arriving at the Elandsbos river crossing where we played beach cricket in the open lagoon. A drawback would be the difficulty in getting gas canisters for cooking with, since you can't fly with compressed gas. Only Outdoor Warehouse (George) had the variety you need. A contrasting hike to The Otter Trail would be the Sentinal hike up the chain ladders over the Drakensberg in winter, with a much higher altitude vs. sea level; cold vs. warm, and tents vs. cabins. But the views are just as stunning, being above the clouds, overlooking the white landscape.
TOP TIP: Booking is essential and has to be pre-booked a year in advance. Visit www.sanparks.org for more.
Photos courtesy of Scott Forssman