Photoblog: hiking the Otter Trail

Posted by Chris Davies on 14 January 2015

If you have even a passing interest in hiking, make sure you do the Otter Trail at some point in your life – actually don’t delay another moment. Book the Otter Trail right now.

Chris-Davies-Otter-Trail-1567

 
Bookings open 12 months in advance, and the popular dates go quickly (from spring to autumn, and many people like to plan for low tides at the main river crossings – specifically to hit the Bloukrans River for low tide somewhere around lunch time on the fourth day).

Check availability at the beginning of each month when the allocation for the following year opens. It’s a rolling allocation system so, for example, bookings for the entire month of February 2016 open on 1 February 2015. A maximum of 12 people are allowed on the trail per day.

When we did it (November 2014), we booked out the entire trail – R12000 for 12 people, plus a R120 community levy. So R1010 per person. There was also a R42 daily conservation fee (per person) to pay at the Storms River park gate – R42 x 4 nights on the trail. If you have a wild card (approx. R400) the conservation fee is waived, and the card obviously also grants free or reduced fees to all other SANParks for the year it is valid so if you don’t have one already this is a great time to buy.

The trail covers 42km over five days (four nights). It helps to be reasonably fit, but Himalayan thighs are not required. Although there are a lot of short ups and downs, the maximum elevation is only 156m. It’s tough in short bursts, but not as hard as I’d been led to believe. The daily distances are very manageable and there’s plenty of time to stop and rest, swim in the rivers and take in the views. The huts are well managed and maintained, the paths clearly marked, and the Tsitsikamma forest is just beautiful. You can probably tell I loved it. Even the more or less constant rain on days two and four didn’t get me down (it’s possible I was in the minority on this). If anything I think it made the forest even more enchanting.

Here are a few of my photos from the trail. I hope they inspire you.

 

Day 1 - The trail drops down through the forest from the main gate

Day 1: The trail drops down through the forest from the main gate (where you can park and leave your vehicle), and then follows the rocky shoreline for about 4km to the first overnight huts. This was shot looking north, back towards the camp at Storms River.

 

Storms a coming.

Storm’s a coming. We didn’t get much good weather and it rained off and on throughout. This was taken on the rocks below the the Ngubu huts on the first night. Moments earlier a pod of dolphins had passed us right to left, heading up the coast.

 

Each over night stop has two cabins with six bunks each

Each over-night stop has two cabins with six bunks each, and a central wooden boma, with benches, a braai place, and plenty of space to keep out of the rain. And keep out of the rain we did, doing our best to eat and drink our heavy packs as light as possible for the next day’s hiking.

 

Day 2 - The top of the steepest climb on the trail. 156m.

Day 2: The top of the steepest climb on the trail. 156m. It’s not much, but it is steep. Definitely the toughest ascent, especially in the rain with a pack still heavy with 4 days of food.

 

Fresh otter tracks on the sand near the huts on day 2.

Coming down to sea level again, this was the closest we got to seeing any otters. A few fresh tracks on the sand near the huts on day 2.

 

Day 2 huts (the Scott huts)

Day 2 huts (the Scott huts), caught in a rare moment of sunshine.

 

The genets were fearless.

We didn’t see any otters, but the genets were fearless. They came in from all sides on that second night, three or four of them, bold as anything. Here’s one trying to decide if my sister might be something it’d like to eat.

 

Day 3: Setting out in more promising weather.

Day 3: Setting out in more promising weather. Day 3 was my favourite. The sun came out a bit and the views were… well they were great.

 

Taking in the views on the morning of day 3.

Taking in the views on the morning of day 3.

 

Day 3 views.

Day 3 views.

 

The huts at the end of day 3 (the Oakhurst huts)

The huts at the end of day 3 (the Oakhurst huts) were also my favourite. This is the first view you get of them as you come up over a long ridge, by now very much looking forward to a rest and a swim in the Lottering River.

 

The Lottering River at low tide.

The Lottering River at low tide. This was taken after the river crossing, looking back to the ridge from where the previous photo was taken. The huts are on this bank, around the corner on the right.

 

Swimming in the Lottering River.

Swimming in the Lottering River.

 

Making the most of the sunshine outside day 3s Oakhurst huts.

Making the most of the sunshine outside day 3’s Oakhurst huts.

 

A friend checks out the stormy seas.

A friend checks out the stormy seas. Photo taken from the Oakhurst hut boma.

 

Sunset on day 3

Sunset on day 3.

 
Otter Trail

 

I saw plenty of great sunsets last year, but this one from the rocks on day 3 might have been the best.

I saw plenty of great sunsets last year, but this one from the rocks on day 3 might have been the best.

 
Otter Trail

 

Panorama of the Oakhurst huts and the mouth of the Lottering River.

Panorama of the Oakhurst huts and the mouth of the Lottering River.

 

Day 4 - We set out early

Day 4: We set out early – at 13.8km day 4 is the longest and we weren’t sure what to expect. What we got was rain – lots of it – and I don’t have many shots as a result.

 

A quick pause during a dry stretch on day 4.

A quick pause during a dry stretch on day 4.

 

Warm light bathed the Andre huts.

By the evening things had cleared a bit and warm light bathed the Andre huts. The last night on the trail.

 

The Andre huts.

The Andre huts.

 

Day 5 - Looking back on the Andre huts.

Day 5: Looking back on the Andre huts. The day starts with a steep climb to the top of the cliffs and then flattens out along the ridge line for 6km to Nature’s Valley.

 

The cliff-top trail is easy going compared to the previous 4 days.

The cliff-top trail is easy going compared to the previous 4 days.

 

The first glimpse of Nature's Valley beach.

The first glimpse of Nature’s Valley beach. The town is just visible past the river mouth in the distance.

 

It's a loooong beach to tackle after five days of walking

The final push. It’s a loooong beach to tackle after five days of walking, but Nature’s Valley Restaurant lies at the end and great burgers and cold beers await.

 
Also read:

 
 

The September 2015 issue of Getaway magazine is dedicated to all things walking and hiking, with inspiring stories, gear reviews and great competitions galore. Get your copy today.

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