See video at the bottom of the page.
If you have a “hike bucket list” then this hike must be at the top of your bucket list. We often discuss which is the “better” hike, The Otter Hiking Trail or The Fish River Canyon hike, and we can never come to an agreement, as both hikes are so hugely different, but we always agree that both of these hikes must be walked at least once in your lifetime.
As you pass through the main gate of the Tsitsikamma National Park, turn left and this is where you book into the hike. This can take a while as indemnity forms and a list of other things must all be sorted before you can start walking.
If you have a Wild Card, remember to bring this along, as this will save you from paying your daily park fees. Now it is just a matter of parking your vechile on the opposite side of the road, get your backpacks on, and start what will most probably be the most beautiful hike that you have ever hiked.
Otter Hiking Trail, Day 1 = 4.8km to Ngubu Hut
We had not even begun our hike when we spotted our first of many Knysna Loeries. Wow! We were quite stoked. This was the first time that we had spotted a Loerie even though we have done quite a lot of walking in the forests of the Southern Cape.
The path starts behind the ablution block, winding its way downhill, through dense forest. Immediately you start unwinding as you sense this overwhelming
peace and tranquillity all around you. I think that only once you have hiked you will truly understand this.
About 25 minutes later we emerged from the forest and saw the sea for the first time, as the hike does not start at the Storms River Mouth anymore, but just after entering the main gate.
Another half an hour later we got to a stunning waterfall (see video clip) with a huge rock pool that looked way to inviting not to have a swim in.
As with most rock pools in the Western Cape, the water was icy, but never the less it was a welcome cool off from the days humidity. This is also an ideal place to have a snack and and enjoy the breath-taking scenery.This marks the end point for day walkers that hike from Storms River Mouth, (it is clearly marked) but as always we encountered some pirate hikers.
An hour later we were at our first overnight huts, where we met our fellow hikers from Pretoria, Etienne, Wiona, Naomi and Liezel.
After a bit of scouting we finally found the shower. Fortunately every hut has a cold water shower, flush toilet and newly built braai lapas for all those to often rainy days, as we were about to find out.
Also be on he lookout for the far to friendly genet. He quite obviously has been fed way to often, as he will come right up to you begging for food. Be sure to pack your food away as you will become a hungry hiker.
Wood for your fire can also be an issue. Our first night we had to little , but thankfully at the rest of the overnight shelters there was enough.
Otter Hike, Day 2 = 7.9km to Scott Hut
Your day starts with a 90m + climb, with a rude gradient, but dont start moaning yet , as much worse awaits you later in the day. As always the climbs rewards you with some more breathtaking views. (unfortunately our GPS did not receive signal all of the time, as we would have liked to have known the heights of these “little hills”)
Be on the lookout for the turnoff to Skilderkrans at approximately the 1.7km mark. Stop and enjoy the scenery, as you have plenty of time to get to the hut.
Then the highlight of the day must be the detour down to Blue Bay, just past the 5km mark. Do not get caught by taking the first turn-off left. You will clearly see from the main path that the beach you are looking at is very rocky. We cannot remember for sure, but we did think that you could pass around the cliff to Blue Bay on the low tide. Take the next turn left down to Blue Bay, you wont be able to see the sea initially. Enjoy a light lunch on this pristine , secluded beach, as it is not often that one has such a privilege.
If this was the highlight of the day, then the “lowlight” is soon to follow, a massive climb back to the top of the hill(mountain). We all agreed this was the worst hill of the hike, specially on a full stomach. It was so steep it took us a while to realise what an impressive view we had staring back at us. (Most of the group was mumbling under their breath, I think profanities.) As always, no photograph can do it justice.
We also saw four more Loeries, and walked through a swarm of butterflies, but somehow not one of us took any photos.
We must have left our gennet very hungry at Ngubu hut, as it looked like he followed us. (haha) Once again pack your food away, as we had him visiting at night. This time he actually jumped onto the door. (We left the top half of the door open)
Because of the heavy rain we had to make use of the braai lapa. Try and avoid using this lapa, as the braai is very high and awkward to use and we got smoked out. Yet this was still far better than not braaing at all.
Otter, Day 3 = 7.7km to Oakhurst Hut
This is an exceptionally short day, so we suggest that you spend some time swimming , relaxing and exploring.
Here your day starts with crossing the Geelhoutsbos river that gently meanders past the front of your hut.This river is usually low enough that one can walk across a rock “bridge” without having to remove your boots.( See photo )
The going is fairly easy until you encounter your first big uphill for the day. By now we are in the swing of things, and this comes as no surprise. We actually expect a lot worse. No sooner are you up the hill when you once again descend steeply towards the Elandsbos River. This was the highlight of the day for us. Here one should spend plenty of time exploring and taking photos, as this spot is exceptionally beautiful. We got to the river at high tide and we had to do a “semi” river crossing. We decided to cross the river at the mouth and not at the designated place. If you do decide to do this, once you have crossed the river, rather walk back and find the path, as some people have tried taking a short cut here, and this has caused massive erosion, and this looks pretty dangerous as well. From this point in the path there is also a breathtaking view looking back down on the Elandsbos River. Rather take to many photos than being sorry later.
Etienne left his bag unattended here for a while, and a crow started to ransack his bag. We assume it was looking for food (or it was looking for the engagement ring that he was going to propose to with Wiona). The crow even managed to open one of the zips. It seems that it is not just people that one has to look out for nowadays , even the wildlife is out to get you.
Then quite suddenly you are looking down at your overnight hut across the Lottering River. Do not fret when you see the mouth of the river , you do not cross the river here, but much further upstream. Here you usually wade through ankle deep water. Spend some time here swimming and exploring as you are only about ten to fifteen minutes away from your overnight hut.
Otter Hiking Trail,Day 4 = 13.8 km to Andre Hut
This is the longest day by far, and we felt that the +- six hours given for this stretch of the trail was a bit short. Seven to seven and a half hours would be a bit more accurate. All the other times allocated on the map we felt were sufficient, but this excluded stopping times.
This day is also probably the highlight of the hike, knowing that you have to cross the mighty Bloukrans River. Mostly this is not a problem, but ideally you would want to cross here at low tide, as quite often one has to swim a small piece, as there is normally a gully on the far side of the river. This time we were very fortunate as we could wade across, with the water being at waist deep level. On our last Otter we encountered a storm surge, and there was no way that we could cross the river, never mind safely. (see photo)
If you feel that you cannot cross the river safely, rather take the escape route. It is definitely not worth loosing your backpack, or even your life for that matter , just to say that you have “finished ” the Otter. But be warned the the trek up the escape route you will not forget in a hurry. It is VERY steep. Also remember to take money with, as a pizza and an ice cold beer can be had at the Bloukrans bungi jump restaurant. Arrange with the ranger where he is going to pick you up. The rangers telephone number is on the map that you should have received when booking in on day one. He will then drop you at the top of the cliff at Andre hut.
Once you have crossed the Bloukrans River there is no more water, and as always there is another steep uphill waiting for you. Be sure to fill up at water point no. 9 on your map. You might have to walk a way up the Bloukrans to get fresh water , depending on the tide.
Not long after crossing the river we came across a rotting whale carcass. We guess it must have been laying there for a few weeks, and the stench we almost chocked on. Who knows how long it will still be there, it will be interesting to know.
The only disappointment for the whole hike was Andre Hut. When we arrived the bins were tipped over at both huts and the previous hikers litter was strewn all over the place. (We assume the baboons did this) The doors and windows were wide open on our arrival, and we can again assume the bins were not shut properly either. The first hut also had beer bottles left on the counters. We don’t think that the baboons did this.
The previous day, at Oakhurst Hut one can phone someone and they will bring beer and food to Andre hut, at a price of course. We believe in here lies the problem. Not at any of the other huts were the windows doors and bins left open, just at the hut where one could indulge in some liquor. We also made use of this service, and with hindsight we regret this. The guy that brought the goods down to our hut is not someone we would want to spend some time around a camp fire with, to say the very least.
This also brings up the question why is this the huts where the people have been robbed lately? This must be one of the oldest hikes in the country, and one never heard of any such complications previously. Now on our last night in this paradise, SANParks sends two rangers down to “babysit” us. We know that SANParks have our best interest at heart , but we felt that this incident put a major damper on our hike. Let us hope that these issues can be resolved soon.
On a lighter note, be on the lookout for a very tame bushbuck that hangs around the campsite. One can get quite close and get some good photos.
Otter Hike, Day 5 = 6.8km to the Point
This day, your last few hours takes you across the the Klip River (another shallow river that you can hop across) and then again up a very steep uphill, to the the lookout point that has been sneering at you all of the previous afternoon. Here you have another jaw dropping view of where you have just come from. From here the going is fairly easy back to the last lookout point, as you walk all the way along the plateau while crisscrossing the forest two or three times.
As you arrive at the lookout point that overlooks Natures Valley, you know that you are just about home. I never know if I should be sad or happy, having spent the last few days without a care in the world, the most difficult decision to make is what am i going to have for lunch, but I guess this is the way it is, as we have to make way for the next group of people.
If the river gods are on your side you might not even have to remove your boots to cross this last river, as we we usually don’t have to. (Bitou River) Now you are back in the real world, it it is a short walk back to your vechile at de Vaselot camp site, where you can have a quick shower before you go to the restaurant at Natures Valley (Natures Valley Restaurant Pub and Trading Centre) right at the end of town.All the roads seem to lead here.
Here you can enjoy a well deserved “Otters Asshole” (a gross looking shooter) and collect you certificate. This is also a good time to discuss when you are going to do your next Otter.
If you would like to to add anything to this page , please contact us.
Photographs by Wynand, Waldo, Paul and Jens
|Otter Trail, Storms River|
+27 (0) 12 426 5111
+27 (0) 12 343 0905
|Nearest Town||Storms River||Max Persons||12|
|Distance from Town||4.1 km||Overnight Shelter||yes, basic huts with bunk beds and mattresses|
|Map to start of hike||View Map||Brochure||Map Click here|
|No of days||5||Trail Type||Linear|
|Tips and things to do|