Hiking The Otter Trail South Africa

The Otter Trail hike Storms river

The Otter trail hike is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful hikes in South Africa. It is named after the cutest aquatic shy clawless Otter that inhabits the estuaries along the Tsitsikamma National Park. After finishing the Otter hike twice, I want to share our last experience with you.

Hiking along the spectacular coastline, one gets rewarded with stunning views of dramatic coastline, white sandy beaches, striking cliffs, and indigenous forests. Besides the Otters, watch out for Dolphins, baboons, bucks, and even whales often seen in the deeper waters. At nighttime, keep an eye out for mammals like civet cats. All of this makes the Otter Trail exceptional and one of the best hikes in Cape Town.

Three hikers at the starting Point of the Otter Trail Hike
Starting Point of the Otter Trail Hike

Information Guide: Booking the Otter Trail hike

Being very popular and known as one of the best treks in the World, you need to apply at least a year in advance. Smaller groups have a better chance of getting approved. But, if you’re a couple or single, you can also apply and share a hut with another small group. Due to Otter’s physical demands, only 12 persons between 12 and 65 can start daily.

What to expect from Otter Hike in Cape Town

During the five-day trial, you will cover a total distance of 45 kilometres, with an elevation of up to 5,167ft. The hike starts at the Storms River Mouth National Park and ends at De Vasselot Rest Camp in Nature’s Valley in the Tsitsikamma National Park.

Two overnight huts, each equipped with bunk beds and mattresses, allow six persons each. Chemical toilets, showers, a Tap with drinking water where you can fill your water bottles, and barbecue facilities. Wood is provided but can be wet.

Hikes in Cape Town, South Africa
Hikes in Cape Town, South Africa

Otter trail difficulty

The hike is moderate to strenuous. Our first was much easier ten years ago, not because they changed the route but also due to the terrain. South African National Parks planted most of the foothold too far apart, and the up and down trudges put a lot of stress on one’s knees. Carrying a heavy backpack put even more tension on the knees. Therefore, instead of making lunges, take it slow to prevent injuries. Sanparks will have to look into this if they want hikers to return.

Storms River weather & Tsitsikamma weather

A temperate coastal climate with an annual rainfall of approx. 1 200mm. The weather on the Garden route changes quickly, and a person can expect four seasons in one day. Therefore, it’s likely to get at least one rainy day during your hike. The wettest months are May and October, and the driest are June and July. Our walks were during September, and we experienced one rainy day during both hikes.

Otter Trail Bookings 2023

Tsitsikamma national Park
Tsitsikamma national Park

Where to Stay Before & After the Trail

Of all the options, Storms River is the best place to stay before hiking the Otter trail. Storms River Village has charming restaurants, little shops, and various accommodations. If time allows, stay a few days exploring the surroundings and go on Storms River adventures and a Tsitsikamma canopy tour or Bungi jumping from the Bloukrans River Bridge.

Storms River

Stormsriver rest camp offers various accommodations: Forest huts, Cabins, Cottages, and Camping Facilities.

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Natures Valley Tsitsikamma

Nature Valley and Tsitsikamma National Park accommodation consist of Forest huts and a Campsite with facilities. Located 40km west of Storms River at the Nature Valley, Tsitsikamma section of the Garden route.

How to get to the start of the Otter Trail South Africa

A person can either drive to the starting or finishing point, where you leave your car for the hike. Whichever you decide on, you use a shuttle service to get you back to your car or drop you at the starting point. We used a shuttle service from the trail’s end back to the starting point. We stayed at Tsitsikamma Backpackers, who recommended Zane, whom you can call on +27 60 365 6338.

The view from the top of a mountain on the Otter trail over the Storms River below.
The view from the top of a mountain on the Otter trail over the Storms River below.

The Otter Trail Hike Itinerary

Arriving at Storms River, we first drove down to the restaurant overlooking the Ocean, where we were privileged to see a whale blowing water out of his waterhole. Then, after indulging in their giant tasty hamburgers and fries, we drove to the reception area to register and start our Otter trail hike. You must register and pay conservation fees at the Storms River National Parks reception before watching a short video on what to expect during the trial.

Watch out for snakes: After parking our car in the parking bay near the reception and going to the entrance, we saw a green snake sailing over the lawn. Unfortunately, we were too late to grab a camera. You will receive a brochure and map; therefore, you can continue to the start. Next to the start is an Otter house wooden cabin, where you can weigh your backpack and write your name in the book. Mistake 1, my bag was too heavy.

Day 1: 4.8km to Ngubu Huts (about 2 – 2.5 hours)

Your shortest hike. Today you will Climb 188 m and descent -373 m. Take your time and look out for Dolphins, Whales, and Otters. Admire all the Bird species and Fauna and Flora. After about an hour, you will reach a beautiful waterfall that cascades into a large rock pool—ideal for swimming and taking photos, especially for day visitors to the Park.

Image of the Waterfall on the Otter Trail
Image of the Waterfall on the Otter Trail

The Otter trail hike will take you through the forest, reaching the two Ngubu huts next to the Ocean. The first hikers arriving at the huts can choose in which hut they want to spend the night. Arriving at our Ngubu hut, we first explored the beach and the surroundings. After a swim in the cosy pools, we returned to Camp and had a nice shower. After that, we made a big fire, made dinner and spent a great evening sitting around the fire while getting to know our fellow hikers.

A Group of hikers in front of one of the Huts on the Otter Trail

Stops for snacks and supper were the highlights every day. Nothing beats barbequed lamb chops and boerewors with famous South African ‘braai-broodjies’.

To make this delicacy, take slices of bread and fill them with tomato, onions, and cheese. Spiced with aroma, salt, and pepper and toasted on the coals is fingerpicking good.

Other Highlights: Besides spotting whales, Dolphins, and a civet cat, I enjoyed our evening barbecues under the starry sky.

Day 2: 7.9km to Scott Huts (about 5 – 6 hours)

Today is the start of your challenge with steep hills, and you will climb 746 m and descent -734 m. Unfortunately, the wooden logs planted as steps for a foothold were very far apart. Therefore it is trudging all the way every day. Take it slow, as these steep descents and ascents can be arduous on your knees. I tore the meniscus in my right knee and wished Sanparks could review the trails’ steps.

About 3.8 km further, you’ll reach the Kleinbos River, the perfect place for taking a break and swimming in the rock pools. However, beware of the naughty monkeys and not leave your backpacks unattended. We left our backpacks on the path when we reached Skilderkrans to admire the most beautiful panoramic view. Also, be careful of the sharp thorns in the lush vegetation when leaving your backpacks next to the pathway.

We saw the monkeys snatching snacks and fiddling in our backpacks on our return. About 3 km further and another hill, watch out for the detour to Bloubaai Beach or Blue Bay Beach. The descent to beautiful Bloubaai beach, where you can relax and swim, is steep but well worth the effort.

Two hikers on the wooden viewpoint overlooking the Ocean and coastline during the Otter Trail Hike.
Two hikers on the wooden viewpoint overlooking the Ocean and coastline during the Otter Trail Hike.

If you missed the turn-off to Blue-bay, you would see the bay from the top of the hill, although few hikers can return. Lastly, you will cross the Lottering River at a steep descent. Before reaching Scott Hut at the Geelhoutbos River Mouth, rest those legs, share the ups and downs, and have fun and laughter with co-hikers.


After a nice shower, sit around the fire, admire the starry sky and watch out for the lovely Genets that visit every evening. These Genets are nocturnal catlike mammals of the civet family with spotted fur and long, bushy-ringed tails. Skilderkrans, Blou braai, Civet cats and the stars.

Ginet on trail Storms River Mouth National Park
Genet on trail Storms River Mouth National Park

Day 3: 7.7km to Oakhurst Huts (5 – 6 hours)

Wake up early, enjoying some coffee and rusks before hitting the trail. Today one will climb 623m and descent -634m. For me, day three was not more comfortable than day two. Vincent and I couldn’t believe it when the Otter came out of the sea and wagon under a big rock. Unfortunately, we waited about 15 minutes for her to come out, which didn’t happen. So keep your swimming costume and water sandals close for swimming in tidal pools and the river crossings.

Admire the coastline and abundance of flowers and butterflies in the area. Try to cross the Lottering River at low tide. The Oakhurst huts are ideally situated, and the location is ideal for swimming and snorkelling in the tidal pools. Put on water shoes so you don’t slip on the smooth wet rocks. Also, wearing your flip-flop sandals on those rocks is looking for trouble.

Highlights: Seeing the Otter, scenery and tidal Pools.

An Otter in the Tsitsikamma National Park
An Otter in the Tsitsikamma National Park

Day 4: 13.8km to Andre huts (about 7 hours)

An early start as a long day awaits, and you need to cross the Bloukrans during low tide. On day four, the trail starts with a steep uphill and continues in and out of the forest. Later you will descend about 945m to 960m. It felt like we were walking in circles that weren’t nice and different from the trail a few years back. Nevertheless, we reached Bloukrans more than an hour before low tide. At Bloukrans, sending the most vital person over is advisable to check where’s the best to cross.

The Bloukrans crossing is the most important crossing on the Otter trail hike. Johan didn’t want to wait and went over while we relaxed in the shade after taking off our hiking boots. He came back and told us the water level was increasing. We then crossed with the water waist-deep instead of waiting another half an hour.

A hiker climbing up the Cliff after crossing the Bloukrans River crossing.
A hiker climbs up the Cliff after crossing the Bloukrans River crossing.

Take care when you reach the other side, as the rocks are incredibly sharp. It’s about another hour’s walk from the River before we reach the Andre huts. After we arrived at the cabin, we went for a walk to explore the surroundings again. We were so excited to see a rob, only to realise it was not alive, only drifting up and down in the waves. With swollen knees and tired bodies, we sat down and admired the scenery and had and had a few laughs with fellow hikers before making supper.


We were crossing the Bloukrans safe and sound while enjoying the scenery. Arriving at the hut, we explored the surroundings and saw a seal in the water. After exploring, we started making dinner. For dinner, Johan first fry some onions with garlic. He then adds a tin of Bully beef cut into cubes, fry some more, and a tin of Curry vegetables and a tomato-onion mix. Finished off with salt and pepper to taste and served with pasta.

Andre Huts overlooking Ocean Otter trail
Andre Huts overlooking Ocean Otter trail

Day 5: 10.8 hours to Nature’s Valley (4 – 5 hours)

When we woke up, it was raining, so after coffee and rusks, we put on our rain jackets, the rain covers over our backpacks, and off we went. Today, on our Otter trail hike, we will climb 466m and descent -460m. The scenery is beautiful, with many pretty views and lots of King Proteas and other vegetation. The further we walked, the more it was pouring. We undoubtedly had the most fun and laughter on this day.

We were later walking so fast as if we were in a marathon to get to the end, and I could already taste the Hamburger and ice-cold beer. When we reached the beach at Nature Valley, I looked back and saw Vincent looking like a bird caught up in a space balloon (see image). Of course, we were all soaking wet, but that was a special moment.

View from the top of the Otter Hiking trail over Nature Valley on the Garden Route
View the top of the Otter Hiking trail over Nature Valley on the Garden Route.

We were disappointed that the Otter trail hike route made us hike in circles. On our previous Otter trail experience, the last stretch was along the beach. Rain was pouring down our faces, and we were relieved to reach the trail’s end. On our arrival at the Camp, one of the rangers drove us to the famous restaurant, where I had a nice hot shower and put on dry clothing before celebrating our victory.

So indeed, we built everlasting memories on our Otter trail hike. Outside the restaurant is a big tree filled with souvenirs from fellow Otter trail hikers ranging from shoes to caps. Inside the cosy restaurant, we joined fellow hikers; the spirit was unique.

Would I recommend the Otter Trail?

Yes, The Otter is one of the most beautiful Trails in the World and an experience you cannot afford to miss. However, I hope Sanparks (National Park) will do something about the irregular ‘wooden planted steps’ which injured our knees. Besides a torn ligament, I pulled my meniscus and had to undergo surgery a few months later.

Therefore, take it very slowly and take two steps for every step instead of making lunges to prevent injuries. The poles are so far apart and steep downhill that people sometimes have to jump with one’s backpacks to reach the next step. Sanparks need to review those steps on the trail.

Mistakes we made

  1. Our backpacks were too heavy due to the excellent snacks and meat we carried (big mistake). I weigh 66kg and carry a 14kg backpack.
  2. We took braai meat for three nights. Next time we’ll take meat for four nights.
  3. Less clothing: Two pairs of pants and three T-shirts will do.
  4. Take fewer snacks, and I don’t know why I always overpack.
Pin for Later
Cape Clawless Otters Tsitsikamma
Storms River Mouth
Tsitsikamma weather national Park

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  1. How cute those otters are. Wow, you hiked a lot. Carrying those heavy backpacks. But you also saw some wonderful things at the national park!

  2. This looks like so much fun! I have done a lot of day hikes, but have yet to be able to do an overnight or couple day hike. This is the plan when my daughter gets a little older-and this trail looks perfect! I love all the wildlife that you see and the coastal views! Very lovely

  3. Glad you’ve enjoyed it. In which province is your friend staying?

  4. I have a friend from South Africa. It seems like such an amazing country. Those otters are adorable. There seem to be so many animal experiences there.

  5. Hiking the Otter Trail sounds like something we are sorry we missed when we visited South Africa. Although we might want to try some portion of this trail and not do the full 5 day hike. The views along the way look stunning. Although I might spend my whole time watching out for snakes. I am not sure I could convince hubby to take less food in our backpacks! Or should I say, “his” backpack!

  6. Great Post!

  7. Yes the Otters are very cute. You have to experience the once in Peru – I’ll writing about the ones at Sandoval lake (Amazon) hopefully soon. thanks for your support Lia I appreciate it.

  8. This looks like an awesome trail to hike! I have a thing for otters, they’re just so freaking cute, so I would love the chance to see them! Glad you made it across the Bloukrans. I’m not sure if I could handle the cliffs around there myself, but it looks awesome!

  9. So glad you find it helpful. Watch out for my other best trail (completely different), The Fish river trail in Namibia. Thanks for commenting and please share if you liked it to support me.

  10. Hiking The Otter Trail looks fabulous. I haven’t been to South Africa yet, but I add this trail to my list. It’s a perfect guide with lots of tips on what to expect and how to prepare for this adventure.