Otter Trail 101

2012-11-26 15:25
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Pics: De Hoop Nature Reserve

Getting back to nature with the family is easy, head out to De Hoop Nature reserve for a weekend spent birding, watching whales and hiking along the coastline.

The Otter Trail is said to be one of the most amazing hiking trails in South Africa. It follows the Eastern Cape coastline from Storms River Mouth to Natures Valley in the Tsitsikamma National Park - the trail is 42.5kms long hike takes 5 days to complete as it follows the rocky shoreline ranging in elevation from sea level to a height of more than 150m. On this trail you need to be prepared, you'll swim across rivers all the while carrying your own crockery. If you've been considering ticking this one off your list of achievements, here's the essentials you need to know...
Otter Trail hike: When and how to apply
Bookings for the Otter Trail open 11 months in advance. There are only 12 spots available for any specific period of time and this is why people struggle through the booking process. It is, however, possible to apply for availability 14 months in advance by inquiring about the trail and then filling out a form.

To get the application form contact Bridget Bagley ( or call (+27) 012 426 5111. Once you’ve filled out the form, the applications get placed onto SANParks’ server, the day bookings open, it does a random selection and notifies the clients.

Otter Trail river crossing. (Shutterstock)

Click here to view a SANparks PDF version of the Otter Trail map.

Otter Trail hike: Costs
The price as of 1 November 2012 is R860 per person.

Age allowed and fitness:

The age restrictions of 12 (minimum age) and 65 (maximum age) years are used as an indicative ages, due to the level of physical demands of the Otter Trail.
All hikers from the ages of 65 and above will be requested to produce a recent doctor’s certificate that confirms their fitness level to undertake the challenging terrain of the Otter Trail.
All young hikers below 12 years of age should be accompanied by their parents/guardians who will be legal signatories to SANParks Indemnity Form to be submitted with copies of their identity document or passport at the Tsitsikamma reception desk before undertaking the Otter Trail.

Otter Trail hike: The Route

DAY 1: Storms River Mouth to Ngubu Huts  - 4.8kms - 3 hours
DAY 2: Ngubu Huts  to Scott Huts - 7.9kms - 5.5 hours
DAY 3: Scott Huts to Oakhurst Huts - 7.7kms - 6 hours
DAY 4: Oakhurst Huts to Andre Huts - 13.8kms - 7 hours
DAY 5: Andre Huts to Nature’s Valley  - 6.8kms - 2 hours

The rugged coastline offers up some spectacular views (Shutterstock)

Otter Trail hike: How to get there
It seems the best way to get to the Storms River Mount to start the Otter Trail is by self-drive. If you are a bit further away, it might be worth flying from Johannesburg, Cape Town, or wherever you are to George Airport and hire a car, or hire a bigger vehicle, depending on the size of your group.

Otter Trail hike: What to pack - general

Headlight and extra batteries.
Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss.
Camera – remember to take a few extra batteries, your camera will be working overtime.
Leave your cellphone in the car – 2 people in the group need to take a charged cellphone, just in case.
Backpack – a 65 litre backpack for ladies and a bigger one for men. Remember to also purchase a waterproof or survival bag for crossing rivers. You get them at outdoor shops.
Candles to light the fire with (you’ll need one per night).
Matches or a lighter.
Toilet paper.
Cable ties (you never know whose backpack is going to break)
Space blanket.
First aid kit (pack your own one – include plasters, bandages, Imodium, ibuprofen, Betadine, Panado and Savlon)
Hiking pole (it helps on the up- and downhills)
Spare batteries and an extra memory card (take spare batteries for your headlamp too)
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