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Hiking the Otter Trail: Our Guide to South Africa’s Most Iconic Trail

by Emma Harding on July 15, 2021

Image credit: Emma Harding

Founded in 1968, the Otter Trail is South Africa’s oldest and most iconic hiking trail. Spanning 42 kilometres over 5 days and 4 nights, the Otter Trail is a challenge worth rising to. The trail takes you along the coastline from Storms River mouth to Natures Valley.

This trail has it all: steep cliffs, sandy beaches, lots of river crossings, magical forests, even a few mermaid pools! And there’s no shortage of breath-taking views.

The best time for hiking the otter trail is from October to April when its warmer in South Africa and you can really take advantage of the rock pools and beaches along the way.

These are some of the highlights of the Otter Trail

 

Bloukrans River Crossing
Image credit: Joshua Lopez 

The Otter Trail has a few river crossings, some where you can keep your shoes on and others where you’ll need to roll your pants up (or even take them off!). But the Bloukrans River crossing on day 4 is a whole other story.

The crossing is 10 kilometres into your longest day, and you’ll need to reach it at low tide — which is usually mid-morning. This means you’ll start your hike in the early hours of the morning, covering about 5 kilometres in the dark.

When you arrive at Bloukrans, you’ll put your bag into a waterproof survival bag and wade across the river. The Bloukrans River crossing is unpredictable so you might get lucky and cross in knee deep water, or you might end up having to swim. 

 

Otters, Dolphins, Seals, and Whales
Image credit: Ray Bilcliff via Pexels
The trail is named for the Cape Clawless Otter which you might be lucky enough to see on the trail. This shy otter is nocturnal so your best chance of seeing it will be on your way to Bloukrans on day 4. 

The constant sea views throughout the trail mean you’ll see dolphins and seals playing in the waves as you hike. And whale sightings are almost guaranteed if you hike between June and December.

Other wildlife found on the Otter Trail includes genets, leopards, bushpigs, bushbuck, duikers, and badgers. There’s also incredible birdlife and naughty baboons who may try to get into your food supply.

 

Seeing the huts at the end of the day
 Image credit: Helen Harding

Seeing the huts at the end of a long day of hiking is a highlight for two reasons.

The first is that it means, after hours of hiking, that it’s time to rest.

The second reason is because the huts really do get better each day. And they all come with highlights of their own — from a forest shower at Ngubu Hut to a loo with a view at Andre Hut. 

The huts are all situated right at the waters’ edge, so you’ll sleep to the sound of crashing waves and wake to the sight of the ocean. The huts are cleaned every day and restocked with firewood. They have a cooking area as well as very basic ablutions. You’ll have to bring your own gas cookers and headlamps because there’s no electricity!
Image credit: Emma Harding

The Otter Trail is the perfect break from reality where you’ll be tested both mentally and physically. The hills are gruelling but the views from the top make it every bit worth it.

If you want to discover just how deep South Africa’s beauty goes, the Otter Trail is the perfect place to start.

Head to sanparks.org to book the Otter Trail today. 
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