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At the waterfall

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

Loerie on the Otter trailWe 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.

Gennet at Andre Hut on the OtterAn 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

Second night overnight hut on the Otter Hiking Trail

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”)

View on Blue Bay on the OtterBe 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.

Otter slugWe 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

Crossing the Geelhoutsbos River on the Otter hiking trail

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 )

Snake on the otterThe 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.

FrogEti­enne 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

Sunset at Andre Hut on the Otter Hike

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)

bushbuck 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.

ScorpionThe 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

Last bit of the Otter Hiking Trail

JellyfishThis 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.

SnailIf 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

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Otter Trail, Storms River
Con­tact Details
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+27 (0) 12 426 5111



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+27 (0) 12 343 0905

Web­site Click here
Hike Details
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

These tips will prob­a­bly apply to many hikes, but this is what we thought should not be forgotten

1.Ensure that you have you Wild Card with you as this will save you pay­ing the park fees.
2.Take cash with you in case you have to take one of the escape routes.
3.A sur­vival bag is a must, even though were for­tu­nate not to need it this time.
4.Ensure tha you close all the doors win­dows and bins. At the Andre hut we had to do a major clean up.
5.A can­dle or gas light makes things a lot eas­ier in the hut than just a head­light.
6.When cross­ing the rivers make sure your valu­ables are in a water­proof bag.

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