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The Otter Trail Hike: It’s Easier than You Think

So, You Want To Do The Otter Trail Hike

Renowned as the oldest and most revered hiking trail in South Africa, the Otter Trail is an icon of adventure. Stretching along the breathtaking coastline from the Storms River mouth to Nature’s Valley, this trail has captivated adventurers since its opening in 1968.

Widely hailed as one of the world’s premier multi-day trails, it owes its name to the elusive Cape Clawless Otter, a creature of the night that roams the estuaries and streams along the South African coast.

About the Otter Trail Hike

So, You Want To Do The Otter Trail Hike
Image: Thru Hikes, 2024

The Otter Trail Hike is 45 kilometres long but takes about 5 days to complete. Why so long? Well, the diversity and magnificence of the landscapes are simply captivating. While any adept hiker might complete each day’s trek before noon, the trail beckons with countless treasures to savour along the way.

Days unfold in blissful pursuits: plunging into cool rivers and streams, meandering through lush coastal forests, unwinding on pristine beaches, marvelling at the immense waves crashing onto the shore, relishing the abundance of floral, insect, and bird life, delving into the underwater wonders of tidal pools, and watching in awe as dolphins frolic in the waves.

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Good to Know about the Otter Trail Hike

So, You Want To Do The Otter Trail Hike
Image: Pinterest, 2024

Begin your Otter Trail Hike by visiting the Storms River Park Reception, where you’ll pay the necessary conservation fees, receive the trail map, and watch a brief video outlining the latest trail updates. The trail commences just a stone’s throw away at a nearby parking area.

Your adventure concludes in the serene enclave of Nature’s Valley. Before bidding farewell, make sure to complete a compulsory check-out at De Vasselot Rest Camp, where you’ll also receive your well-deserved Otter Trail Certificate as a testament to your unforgettable journey.

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Day 1 on The Otter Trail Hike

The Otter Trail Hike: It's Easier than You Think

On the first day, you make your way towards the Ngubu huts. This first day’s Otter trail hike is only 4.8 kilometres and takes about 2 hours to complete. The journey begins with a steep descent through the coastal forest, leading to a dramatic emergence onto seaside rocks adorned with awe-inspiring scenery.

As you approach the halfway point, you’ll encounter the majestic Jerling River waterfall, where its cascading waters form a serene pool below. It’s an ideal spot to pause, rejuvenate, and perhaps even take a refreshing swim if you’re willing to brave the brisk waters. Following this, a gentle ascent through the natural forest awaits, leading you to the huts adorned with their expansive communal braai area, promising cosy rest after a day of exploration.

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Day 2 on the Otter Trail Hike

The Otter Trail Hike: It's Easier than You Think
Image: TravPacker, 2024

The second day on the Otter trail hike starts at Ngubu and takes you to Scott huts. Day two is 7,8 kilometres long and takes approximately 4 hours to complete. The trail presents its inaugural test, featuring steep ascents and descents within the coastal forest, where the steps are both lofty and uneven. Don’t miss the opportunity to venture to the summit of Skilderkrans, around the 2-kilometer mark, where breathtaking panoramic vistas await. Amidst the awe-inspiring views, keep a keen eye out for the diverse birdlife and the delightful surprises hidden within the micro-environment, adding an extra layer of enchantment to your journey.

Continuing from Skilderkrans, the trail meanders through its signature undulations, leading to the tranquil banks of the Kleinbos River. Around the 5-kilometre mark, Bloubaai Beach awaits as a delightful destination for lunch and a refreshing swim, especially in favourable weather conditions. Be prepared for a steep descent to reach the beach and consider leaving your backpacks near the main trail if you plan for a quick stopover. This allows for easier access to the beach and ensures you can fully enjoy your time in this idyllic setting without unnecessary burdens.

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Day 3 on the Otter Trail Hike

The Otter Trail Hike: It's Easier than You Think
Image: Wide Angle Adventure, 2024

On day 3 of the Otter Trail hike, the goal is to go from Scott Huts to Oakhurst Huts. It’s another 4-hour hike of 7.7 kilometres that boasts some amazing views. Considered by many as the highlight of the Otter trail, day three offers a perfect blend of diverse landscapes and captivating experiences. Traverse through enchanting, forested sections, cross babbling streams, and discover the tranquillity of a picturesque tidal pool.

As you stroll along the pristine coastline, be mesmerised by the stunning vistas and occasional visits to the plateau, which add a touch of variety to your journey. In season, vibrant wildflowers adorn the terrain, enhancing its scenic beauty. Compared to day two, the terrain on day three is slightly more forgiving, allowing for a more relaxed and enjoyable hiking experience.

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Day 4 on the Otter Trail Hike

The Otter Trail Hike: It's Easier than You Think

From Oakhurst, you will depart for a journey of 13,8 kilometres. This hike lasts 6 hours and ends at Andre huts. Day four on the Otter Trail hike marks the pinnacle of the challenge, testing both endurance and navigation skills with its extensive distance and numerous river crossings. The trail winds through a dynamic landscape, alternating between densely forested areas and breathtaking coastal stretches for the initial 10 kilometres. However, the ultimate test awaits at the renowned Bloukrans River crossing, a notable highlight of the journey. Prepare for an exhilarating adventure as you conquer this formidable obstacle, pushing the boundaries of your hiking prowess.

When conditions permit, it’s advisable to select a sturdy member of the group to scout a suitable landing area before the entire party crosses. Look for a sandy gully near the river mouth during low tide or a rocky landing in a small cove, which may involve some scrambling; however, a safety rope is typically secured in place for assistance. Following the river crossing, prepare for a challenging ascent to the plateau, characterised by steep and lengthy climbs. Descend thereafter to reach Andre Huts, nestled along the banks of the Klip River.

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The Final Day on the Otter Trail

The Otter Trail Hike: It's Easier than You Think
Image: Getaway SA, 2024

As you depart from the Andre huts to De Vasselot, otherwise known as Nature’s Valley, treasure your final moments on the Otter Trail hike. Begin your journey with a brief stroll along a rocky beach, followed by a steep ascent to the plateau. Once atop, the trail primarily traverses gentle terrain along the plateau, adorned with lush fynbos and abundant Erica plants. Don’t miss the chance to spot the majestic king proteas amidst the flora.

As you near The Point, breathtaking cliffs offer stunning viewpoints, providing a memorable conclusion to your trek. The culmination of the trail is marked by panoramic vistas overlooking the Groot River estuary and Nature’s Valley beach. Following a descent, a final stretch of 4 kilometres of beach walking remains before reaching De Vasselot—a fitting opportunity to celebrate and contemplate the remarkable journey you’ve experienced.

If you enjoy this article, be sure to read about a digital detox at Sondagskloof in Sandies Glen, Western Cape!

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The Otter Trail Hike is a Bucket List Item!

The Otter Trail Hike: It's Easier than You Think
Image: African Budget Safaris, 2024

The Otter Trail isn’t just a trek; it’s an immersive journey through South Africa’s pristine wilderness, offering unforgettable experiences and breathtaking vistas at every turn. Whether you’re gearing up for the challenge or simply dreaming of embarking on this iconic hike someday, remember that it beckons with its rugged beauty, diverse landscapes, and boundless opportunities for exploration.

So, lace up your boots, pack your bags, and embrace the call of the wild. The Otter Trail awaits, ready to welcome you into its embrace of adventure and discovery.

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Hi there! I’m Megan, an absolute lover of words, literature, books, stories, anything that has to do with writing, reading, imagining. Because of my passion, I decided to make writing my life, and with that, I decided to study BA Languages at the University of Pretoria and am happy to report that I made my dream come true by graduating and becoming a travel writer. During my final year I wrote for my campus newspaper, the PDBY, where I learned to trust my writing voice. Now, as I sit here writing my petit little bio, I feel more in love with writing than I’ve ever been. Turns out, like much of my personality, my writing can equally showcase both the calm and put-together, as well as the crazy.