The Otter Hiking Trail – South Africa’s Oldest Organized Trail
The Otter Trail has the distinction of being South Africa’s first organized hiking trail, and although it is quite difficult in places, it has never lost its appeal. The Otter Trail winds along the coast from Storms River mouth to the Groot River estuary which is in Nature’s Valley. Its popularity has much to do with the unbeatable coastal scenery, indigenous forest and short daily distances. This makes it ideal for all family members, although it goes without saying that it is advisable to be reasonably fit before attempting to hike the trail.
Many people enjoy the fact that the Otter Trail is a self-guided hike. This is made possible by the fact that the route is clearly marked out with painted yellow otter emblems on rocky areas. It starts out near the shore for a while before ascending roughly 200 meters to the coastal plateau. As hikers make their way along the trail, they will be able to enjoy the shelter of a thick canopy forest and the refreshment of a number of streams and rivers. The longest day is approximately 14 kilometers long and though daily distances are relatively short, they can be quite grueling due to sharp inclines and slippery terrain. Still, the Otter Trails provides the opportunity to take one’s time, snorkeling in the tidal pools, walking at a comfortable pace and taking in the animal life that live here. Waterfalls, caves, and marine life in the form of dolphins, seals and whales all add to the experience. Animals you may be fortunate enough to encounter include dassies, bushbuck, grysbok, blue duiker, baboon and vervet monkey while spoor for bushpig, leopard, otter and klipspringer are abundant though the animals themselves are rarely sighted.
The trail length is roughly 41 kilometers which are spread out over a period of five days. Use of the overnight huts is compulsory to prevent overbooking. There are 2 huts each catering for six people at every overnight camp. If you plan to hike the Otter Trail sometime soon, it is a good idea to ensure that your backpack is as waterproof as possible since you will have to cross the Bloukrans River by wading or swimming. In order to make this as easy as possible, it helps to find out when you can expect low tide and to plan your day around this. Permits can be obtained from the National Parks Board in Cape Town who are responsible for the maintenance and running of the trail.