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Hiking the Otter Trail – in pictures

Posted January 14, 2015 by Chris Davies. Article from the Getaway Blog.

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.

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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).

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.

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.

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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 Storm’s River. 

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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 has passed us right to left, heading up the coast 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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

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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. 

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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. 

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Taking in the views on the morning of day 3. 

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Day 3 views. 

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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 line, by now very much looking forward to a rest and a swim in the Lottering River. 

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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. 

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Swimming in the Lottering River. 

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

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

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Sunset on day 3. 

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

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

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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.

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A quick pause during a dry stretch on day 4. 

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

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The Andre huts. 

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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.

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

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

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

More info on the town of Plettenberg Bay More info on the Garden Route area



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