A personal favourite – hiking the Otter Trail
Hiking is one of my passions, and I am happy to say that I have done a few of the ‘BIG’ ones in the past – the Fish River Canyon in Namibia (the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon), the Inca trail in Peru (which ends at MachuPichu .. spectacular!), trekking in Nepal etc. However, one of my all-time favourites is the Otter Trail in South Africa.
The Otter Trail is a 5 day 42.5km hike which follows the spectacular Eastern Cape coastline from Storms River Mouth to Nature’s Valley in the Tsitsikamma National Park. The route is named after the Cape Clawless Otter which frequents this region of South Africa. The route is absolutely amazing – and the hike is generally considered one of the top hikes in the world, and for good reason. The scenery is AMAZING …. majestic waterfalls, caves, pristine forests, beautiful bays and tons of flora and fauna along the way. The route can be challenging (I see that now anyone over 65 has to produce a medical certificate from their doctor!) – often climbing steeply up the side of a cliff, and then descending to a beach, or beautiful bay, with some boulder hopping thrown in for fun. On Day 4 the route crosses the Bloukrans River, which is quite interesting (and can be exciting!) … time it right (half an hour either side of low tide) and you wade across, carrying your backpack over your head … if you don’t, it’s a swim and beware, there’s a strong current.
The vegetation is always changing – from fynbos (shrubland) to dense forest, from rocky outcrops to white sand beaches .. and an abundance of wild flowers along the way. As you may expect, a ton of wildlife inhabits this area, although the animals can be difficult to spot; leopard, caracal, honey badger, Cape Clawless otter, Genet, Bushbuck, bushpig, Blue Duiker, Vervet Monkey, baboon, seal, dolphin, whale. For bird watchers there’s also quite a variety of birds.
There’s an option to camp, or you can stay in basic huts along the way – and the outhouses have the best views! We used the huts as we didn’t want to carry the extra weight of the tent, and we cooked over an open fire every night. Firewood is available (although sometimes wet if it has rained).
Best time of year to go: November to April (summer). The summer is great – fantastic weather, and you can swim along the way. Fantastic to take a cool dip during or after the day of hiking.
Cost: now it’s R750 for non-residents, or about $95 for the trail + a daily fee for entry to the national park.
Book well ahead of time – this is a really popular hike and they do limit the number of people they allow on the route.
Check out the South African National Parks website for more information