Hiking the Otter Trail- Tsitsikama National Park on the Garden Route
South African Otter Trail Hike
The coastal area between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town is rightly called the “Garden Route”. With spectacular sea views, great indigenous forests and a large number of “Fynbos” flower species it is an area designed to take your breath away. Tsitsikama National Park, Jefferies and Plettenberg Bay, Knysna and the Wilderness are all popular holiday resorts in their own right.
Nestled in the Tsitsikama National Park is the 42.5 km Otter Trail. This is a five days, four nights hiking trail with four basic huts spread out along the way. It hugs the coastline and varies between the cliff tops and the rivers and sandy bays that dissect the landscape. Starting at the Storms River Mouth it ends at the Wilderness to the S/W. You have to carry your food and sleeping bag with you and water is available from the streams and rainwater tanks.
Crossing the rivers, snorkeling in the impressive gullies, watching the sun come up over the ocean, inspecting the flowers, and taking in the great views will challenge your senses. You will also see a number of small wild animals and if you are lucky an Otter or a Whale. Dolphins along the coast are a given as they swim in schools up and down the coast in search of food.
It is a challenging hike in that it descends and climbs steeply between the sea and the cliffs a couple of hundred meters above. There are very few long level sections and so a reasonable degree of fitness is required. The age limit is 12-60 and if you are not in good shape don’t attempt it. In the last year or two a running race in the ultra-marathon category has been introduced over the trail.
It has been my privilege to do the hike three times and every time it has been an amazing experience. Last year my brother and his wife did the trail for the first and last time (at their age they decided that once was enough) and were suitably impressed. The photos come from their experience and if you are into your hiking this is a highly recommended trail that will not disappoint.