Otter Trail

  • Otter Trail -  - © William Mackesy
  • Otter Trail -  - © William Mackesy
  • Otter Trail -  - © William Mackesy
  • Otter Trail -  - © William Mackesy
  • Otter Trail -  - © William Mackesy
  • Otter Trail -  - © William Mackesy
  • Otter Trail -  - © William Mackesy

Key information: Otter Trail

    Superb trail along the magnificent, empty coast of South Africas Eastern Cape. A favourite for many.
    All the delights of true wilderness a variety of beautiful landscape, fascinating animals and intriguing vegetation.
     This is a demanding 4 5 day walk with a lot of up and down and serious river crossings, on which you will have to be self-sufficient (but sleep in huts). Come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating79
  • Beauty32
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest0
  • Charisma31
  • Negative points1
  • Total rating79
  • Note: Heavyish packs

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 42.5km
  • Maximum Altitude: 150m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
Otter Trail -  - © William Mackesy


A very delightful thing, is the Otter Trail, running for some 42km along the marvellous coastline of South Africas Tsitsikamma National Park: an intense experience in true wilderness.


You will enjoy beautiful and varied scenery, walking by the sea where possible but spending much of the time on the hills behind the seaside cliffs, with ravishing and completely empty view it is a rare thing to see other people once away from the overnight huts.


Enjoy the roiling grandeur of the Indian Ocean, caves, cliffs and waterfalls, especially the multi-layered  fall near the beginning. (This is a good half day walk for those short of time: take a picnic, enjoy the falls and the deep pools at its bottom.) Paddle and snorkel in tidal pools and leave your prints on magical beaches.


 The park boasts fascinating wildlife (much of which you are, needles to say, unlikely to see): the Cape clawless otter (hence the trails name); leopards; genets and caracal; buck; monkeys and baboons. And, in the sea, dolphins, whales, seals and a multitude of birds.


And beautiful and interesting virgin forest and South Africas unique fynbos above the cliffs and behind the beaches, with lovely wildflowers at the right time.


This is a 4.5 - 5 day trek. There are four set overnights on the trail, with hut space for up to 12 available. With places so limited and the trail so popular, it can get very booked up, so reserve well ahead!


This is quite a demanding walk, with a lot of steep ascent and descent. Also, there are 11 river crossings, with the Bloukrans river toward the end requiring care and planning: only attempt it at low tide unless very experienced and a strong swimmer.


We should mention, though, that clambering over slippery wet rock can be a trifle dreary, and there is too much of this on the first day to in particular, when you can hanker after a high, silent mountain.


You have to carry all your kit. Bring your own food, cookers, selling bags, water bottles and purification tablets. And, with river crossings to make, take great care to be sure your kit is waterproof stored, especially cameras and the like.


Have a look at for a brilliant summary of the walk, with some excellent photos. What a delightful and inspiring website, by the way the absolute best of the internet. A bit like Walkopedia, really.


See Rachel Lang's account here:


Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.


See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Books and Maps

Suggest books and maps


Books on this walk


Otter Trail and the Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park – Patrick Wagner


Pick up the National Park’s leaflet on the trail, which has a basic map showing escape routes.


Other books

South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland - Lonely Planet

South Africa – Footprint

The Rough Guide to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland




Stanfords:  An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).



Best times to walk/weather


Best times to walk

Doable all year. Driest are June and July, wettest May and October.


Temperate, but with quite high rainfall.


For detailed weather information, have a look at: or


Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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The park is over 600 km east of Cape Town, nearly 200 sw of Port Elizabeth and 70 km east of Plettenberg Bay.


Car is the most realistic way here, although you can get transport from Nature’s Valley (Hikers Haven,    ) to the trailhead.  They say that “Garden Shuttle Airport Transfers are ideal for  hikers and hiking groups from George Airport or Port Elizabeth Airport to the Otter Trail Stormsriver Tsitsikamma”.


Permits are needed to do this walk. They can be obtained from South Africa National Parks ( or ).


 As it is popular and places are very limited, you will need to book well ahead, at popular times, at least and probably for all times.


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See Walk Summary above.


Possible problems, health, other warnings

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·        Variable weather: rain and cold are possible. Come prepared.

·        Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.

·        Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.

·        Beware of tides/currents when crossing rivers, especially the Bloukrans, and plan appropriately. Make sure all delicate items are appropriately protected.

·        Dangerous animals of all shapes and sizes, including snakes, stinging/biting insects and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.

·        This is remote country: you will have to carry all your food and other supplies/food and other supplies will not be readily available and help will be hard to get if things go wrong.

·        Health risks: this is a relatively undeveloped country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill.  Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.

·        Law and order can be problematic. Take appriporiate precautions


See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.


Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.


Make sure you have appropriate insurance.


Guided or independent?

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You have to do this walk independently.







Huts on the trail as described above.


Good accommodation (cabins, chalets, camping) at Storms River mouth:



 And  at Nature’s Valley (which is lovely – spend a night there at the end): try



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Other information and tips


Take a snorkel!


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Useful websites and information


There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.




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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks


Other activities


Otter Trail -  - ©William Mackesy

share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Otter Trail -  - ©William Mackesy...

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