World → Africa → South Africa
One of the best hikes in the world is the
Sometimes called Otter Trail – Tsitsikamma or Otter Trail – Garden Route
The Otter Trail along the Tsitsikamma coast is probably the most popular hike in the country. Lush forests, rugged shorelines, mountain streams and waterfalls and fragrant fynbos make this a special one. It’s strenuous, with lots of ups and downs …
AT A GLANCE
- one of the great coastal hikes of the world
- Storms River Mouth to Nature’s Valley
- 5 days, 4 nights
- clean huts, no tenting
- permits are difficult to get as only 12 hikers start each day. Recommended to book 12 months in advance.
Why We Like This Hike
- gorgeous cliff top walking, returning to sea level to cross many rivers
- side trips down rivers for swimming recommended
- consider bringing a snorkel
- named after the elusive otter, which is found in fresh water and at sea.
- rich variety of bird and animal life including Cape Clawless Otter, Seal, Caracal, Genet, Leopard, Duiker, Bushbuck, Bushpig, Badger, Vervet Monkey, Baboon, Dolphin and Whale.
- there are two huts and a single toilet at each overnight stop. Each of the two huts contains 6 beds with mattresses – hikers must provide their own blankets/pillows/sleeping bags etc.
- cold showers are available at all huts
- trash bins are provided at each of the overnight stops. Field rangers remove the rubbish regularly.
- malaria free — though we saw almost no mosquitoes over the week.
- numerous streams and springs are suitable for drinking. But it’s still recommended to treat water. Rainwater tanks at each overnight hut. Due to erratic rainfall patterns, the level of these tanks may be low from time to time.
- each hut has braai with a steel grid. Within each hut there is a table on which food can be prepared. Hikers need to provide their own gas stoves and pots for cooking.
- mobile phone reception is intermittent along the Otter Trail. Reception may be picked up when the trail reaches up onto the plateau or when the coastline juts out to sea. There is no reception at the overnight huts.
Storms River Police – 10111
Park Headquarters – (042) 28 11 607
- It is important to be aware of the dates and the times of the high and low tides to hike the Otter. This is especially important when it comes to crossing the bigger rivers such as the Lottering and the Bloukrans Rivers.
- tide charts are given to you at registration
- If you are unable to cross Bloukrans, there is a higher escape route. Check with Rangers if you get struck overnight on the wrong side.
- obviously, all water sensitive items must be kept in waterproof bags
- recommended age 12 (minimum) to 65 (maximum)
- there’s a good chance you’ll see poisonous snakes
- In 2012 wardens offered to hike in meat and drinks for your last night. A menu with prices and a telephone was available in Day 3′s hut. A small service fee charged. By 2013 that service had been cancelled.
In 2013 for my booking from overseas I paid:
- 860 Rand ($95) – 4 nights in Camps
- 480 Rand ($53) – conservation fees
Total Distance = 42.5km
Otter Trail is possibly the most desired hike in South Africa, but it’s only one of many treks along that coast. Check the other Garden Route Hiking Trails.
If you can’t get a permit for Otter, don’t let that stop you.
First check Otter Trail Availability
Next, make a reservation.
Telephone: +27 (0) 12 426 5111
Fax: +27 (0) 12 343 0905
Hikers Haven at Natures Valley offer a transport service for hikers starting the trail.(+27 (0) 44 531 6805
Otter Trail Transfers is another option 082 3911 140 or email glenn (a) ottertrailtransfers.co.za
On arrival at Storms River Mouth report to the park reception. Check in. Pay your conservation levy, if needed. And watch a video presentation.
You might want to stay at Storms River Mouth Rest Camp the night prior to starting the hike. As we did.
On finishing the adventure in Nature’s Valley, you could stay at a hotel or hostel there. Or arrange transportation away.
The Baz Bus does stop in Nature’s Valley on request.
- South African National Parks – Otter Trail
Best Trekking Guidebooks
There are no dedicated Otter hiking guidebooks as of 2013.
- Tsitsikamma National Park: Otter Hiking Trail and Storms River Rest Camp – A Photographic souvenir (hard cover)
Best Travel Guidebooks
Other Recommended Books
- Insight Guide South Africa
- South African National Parks – Otter Trail map (PDF)
Best Web Pages
- Footprint Hiking Club – Otter
- South African Hikes – Otter Trail
- Walkopedia – Otter Trail
- Geological Formations at Oakhurst Hut
- The Otter – one day trail run
- interesting photos on flickr tagged “Otter Trail”
- wikipedia – Tsitsikamma National Park
Best Trip Reports
- BestHike editor Rick McCharles (2013)
- Tracking the Wild
- Otter Trail (what goes down, must come up again 2015)
- Roger Gordon photos (2005)
- Kelly Kidson – 10 things I learned on the Otter Trail (2012)
- Scott Ramsay (2012)
- Alison Westwood – The sabre-toothed Otter Trail (2010)
- David P. Anderson (1999)
Click PLAY or watch Jens Niere’s Video trip report 2012 on YouTube.
Check our blog for posts tagged “Otter Trail”.