Incredible scenery on the Otter Trail you
HIKING South Africa

A comprehensive guide to hiking the Otter Trail

The Otter trail is probably one of the most famous hikes in Africa and definitely one of the most beautiful treks we’ve ever done. The scenery on the Otter trail is spectacular, every day it surprises you with breathtaking views, white-sand beaches, dramatic cliffs, and endless coastline. Not to mention overnight huts in the most beautiful locations. The hike’s difficulty is easy to moderate, daily distances covered are quite short, total distance 45km over 5 days, which gives you a lot of time to admire the nature and enjoy the beauty of the area. If you’re looking for a relatively easy hiking trail in South Africa, the Otter Trail on the Garden Route is the best option.

How to book the Otter trail?

You can book a trail no longer than one year beforehand, spots for December and Easter holidays are the first to be booked so if you want to hike in these periods rather book in advance. We got our 2 spots by chance just two days beforehand due to a cancellation. The other 8 people from our group got cancellations as well and booked the hike less than a month beforehand. It’s easy to get a spot if you’re 2 to 4 people and you’re flexible with dates. For bigger groups, it’s advisable to book as early as possible. Check for Otter trail availability and cancellations HERE  or over the phone (012)428-9111. Maximum group size 12 people. If you’re consistent and check availability almost every day you might be lucky.

Otter hiking trail map
Otter trail hiking map. You get a map like this at the office with a hiking book. Very handy and useful.

Otter trail cost

  • Daily conservation fee – ZAR54 pp for South Africans, ZAR108 for SADC citizens, ZAR216 for foreigners. Wild Card Holders don’t pay the fee.
  • Trail cost in 2018 – ZAR1232/per person includes staying in 4 overnights huts serviced every day, trail book with a maps and tides table.
  • Shuttle service (optional) – ZAR200 pp if two, negotiable if more people.

Best season for hiking

You can do it all year round there are some advantages and disadvantages of hiking in different seasons, the weather in the Storms River area changes very quick.

Rain. In this area you can get rains at any time, the most rainfall is in August, October, November and April, average 10 rainy days a month, with 50mm precipitation per month. In other months you get between 7-5 rainy days, with 30mm precipitation. Any month you hike it’s quite likely that you get at least one rainy day.

Temperature. The hottest months are December – March, average day temperature +25C, av.night temperature +16C. The coldest months are June – September; +19C during the day and +8C at night time, it can get down to +4C or so some nights.

One of the beaches on the Otter Trail
A spectacular scenery on the Otter Trail

Shuttle service and parking on the trail

You have two options; to leave your car at the starting point, Storms River Mouth National park or at the finish, Nature’s Valley National park. In any case, you’ll need a shuttle to get either to the trail or back to your car. Both parking spots are inside the National parks it’s quite safe to leave your car there. If you’re a group of people and drive in two cars you can leave one car at each side.

As for the shuttle service, we contacted Burtin 073-800-6811, we got his phone number in the park office, his car can fit 6 people. We took it back from Nature’s Valley to the Storms River and paid ZAR600 for six of us, plus the toll ZAR50 per car. We did bargain down the price as originally it was ZAR750. If you’re only two he charges ZAR200 per person. You can do it the other way around and park at Nature’s Valley and take the shuttle to the starting point.

If you don’t have a car it’s possible to arrange a shuttle from Port Elizabeth or any other nearby town inquire in your hotel.

A stunning sunset on the second day of the trek
Beautiful sunset on the second day of the Otter trail at Scott hut.

Where to stay before and after the hike?

The best place to stay before the hike is Storms River, it’s the closest town. There are many accommodation options there.

The trek finishes in Natures Valley, it’s a very beautiful quiet place with a spectacular sandy beach.

If you like camping we’d highly recommend camping either at Storms River Mouth campsite or at De Vasselot Rest camp in Nature’s Valley. Both places have great facilities and located in beautiful spots.

Storms River campsite is right at the sea with a stunning view that offers great chances to spot dolphins and even whales. Dassies running around all over the campsite and occasionally otters may be in the proximity. There are a couple of day hikes nearby as well as a snorkeling trail.

De Vasselot Rest camp is 15min. walk or 5min. drive from the beach, at the river bank. Grassy spots, good ablution complex, kitchen, braai place, table, and benches at each site. There are several short hiking trails around, kayak rental is available at the reception ZAR80 per hour. The place is beautiful but the monkeys are there very annoying.

Otter trail packing list

You can download and print our complete packing checklist for the hike including both must-have and optional items.

Otter trail packing list 

Food for the trek

Pack food for 4 breakfasts, 4 dinners and 4 lunches (5 if you’re planning to have lunch on the last day). Our food packing list; instant flavored oats and coffee/tea for breakfast, biltong/droewors and nut mix/energy bar for lunch and pasta/smash, tomato sauce and tuna (can) for dinner. Take chocolate, cookies or nuts for snacking.

Water on the Otter trail

Tap water at the huts is potable no need to take purifying tablets or UV filters. Don’t drink water from Kleinbos, Elandsbos and Lottering rivers as they warn at the reception. Water from the Bloukrans river is not potable either it’s too salty. There are several falls and creeks on the way to refill your water bottles. We refilled every morning both our 1,5l bottles at the huts and it was enough for the hiking day. To add some flavor bring flavored instant drink mixes.

You register at the office where they explain to you some details about the hike, river crossing, give you a small book about the trail, it has a lot of info; distances, diagrams, estimated walking time, river crossing tips, information about local flora and fauna, park rules as well as a trail map – very helpful, small and easy to use book.

Practical information for the trail

  • The trail starts at Storms River Mouth National park and ends at De Vasselot Rest Camp (Nature’s Valley).
  • Total distance – 45km.
  • Total elevation gained (over 5 days) – 2600m.
  • The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, no GPS needed.
  • 4 river crossing; Kleinbos River – day 2; Elandsbos and Lottering River – day 3; Bloukrans River – day 4.
  • 4 overnight stops with two 6-bed huts each.
  • Difficulty level 6 out of 10; distances are quite short but there are many ups and downs not very long but quite steep. Moderate level of fitness required.
  • Don’t pack too much otherwise your back will suffer at every single uphill. Our backpacks were quite light, 8kg and 10kg.

At the office, we were warned about monkeys and baboons trying to steal food but in fact, genets were our biggest problem. If you leave a window or a door opened (close only security gate) these guys can easily sneak through, we had them several times in our hut. Once it ate the dinner leftovers that we kept for breakfast. We saw baboons only once in the last morning a huge male was stealing rubbish bags from a bin.

A yellow footprint marking the route on the Otter Trail
The entire route is marked with yellow footprints painted on rocks and trees

Overnight huts on the route

There are four overnight stops; Ngubu, Scott, Oakhurst and Andre, each stop has two huts with 6 beds (two 3-level bunk beds). The huts are located at the sea level no matter how high you climb you’ll have a downhill at the end of every day. The huts are situated in the most beautiful spots overlooking the sea.

Every hut has the same facilities

  • 6 beds with mattresses.
  • Big table.
  • Bench.
  • Hooks.
  • Security gate.
  • No electricity.
  • Braai place at each hut.
  • Outside flush toilet.
  • Outside cold shower (Ngubu and Andre huts – open-air showers).
  • Roofed kitchen area with braai place, wood, grid, tables, and benches. The wood is stored outside and gets wet if it rains bring firelighters (blitz) with.
  • Washing lines.
  • Rubbish bins.

Otter Trail hiking itinerary

Day 1. Start (Otter House) – Ngubu Hut. 4,8km, 2 hours

Highlights of Day 1

  • Guano Caves.
  • The waterfall.

The shortest day on the hike no need to start early, some people drive the same day all the way from Cape Town. You can easily start after midday. The trail starts in the forest and meanders down to the coast. The second part along the coast is more tricky you walk on rocks and boulders be careful they can be slippery when it rains. Once you reach the waterfall take your time there, go for a swim Ngubu huts are not far.

At Ngubu huts we saw a bushbuck in the bush, dolphins jumping out of the water, giant snails and genets. Don’t miss the sunset it’s beautiful. There are a couple of rock pools at the beach where you can snorkel, we saw a lot of fish and sea stars.

Tsitsikamma Waterfall hiking the Otter Trail
Tsitsikamma Waterfall the beginning of the Otter Trail

Day 2. Ngubu hut – Scott hut. 7,9km, about 4 hours

Note! Water from the Kleinbos River is not potable.

Highlights of Day 2

  • Skilderklip quartz outcrops and viewpoint, short detour at 1,9km mark.
  • Blue Bay, detour at 6km mark all the way down to the sea over the rocks to the stunning beach.

In the beginning, steep up all the way to the top, then walk along the coast with some incredible lookouts. Take a detour to the quartz outcrops. Steep down to the Kleinbosh River though it’s narrow it was a bit of a mission to cross it as the water was waist-deep (we crossed it close to high tide). Steep up, at 6km detour down to the beautiful Blue Bay after long steep up all the way to the top. On the top don’t miss a wooden deck look-out it gives you incredible views. After all the way down to the sea to Scott hut.

Campbell in a rock pool at Blue Bay
Campbell chilling in the rock pool at Blue Bay on the second day of the Trail

Day 3. Scott hut – Oakhurst hut. 7,7km, about 4 hours

Note! Water from the Elandsbos and Lottering rivers is not potable.

Highlights of Day 3

  • The Elandsbos River, wide sandy beach.
  • The Lottering River, nice for swimming, beautiful beach.

A normal day on the Otter trail, with some ups and downs. Two river crossings; Elandsbos river, the river is quite wide we crossed it 1 hour after the high tide in knee-deep water, the bottom is sandy. After the river a steep up and later down to the Lottering river. To cross it wasn’t a problem, we did it 3 hours before low tide water was just over knees, the bottom is mostly sandy, some big rocks close to the shore. Oakhurst hut is just 5 – 10min. walk from the river.

View of the Lottering River on the way to the hut
Lottering River and the beach the last river cross before Oakhurst hut

Day 4. Oakhurst hut – Andre hut. 13,8km, about 6 hours

Highlights of Day 4

  • Several waterfalls (if it rained a bit).
  • Bloukrans River.

The longest day with the main challenge on the trail – Bloukrans River crossing! The trail starts from the steep uphill and continues meandering between the coastline and the jungle with a couple of waterfalls and small creeks on the way. For this day it’s important to cross the river at low tide. The distance from the hut to the river is about 10km, it took us 3 hours to get there. We had lunch at the river while waiting for low tide and crossed it 3 hours after the high tide, it was waist-deep. From Bloukrans River it’s about an hour walk to Andre hut.

A breathtaking view from the trail after the Bloukrans River
Stunning view from the trail just before Andre hut

Bloukrans River crossing

The best way to do it is to cross right at low tide, you just walk in knee deep water but if you’re unlucky and low tide is too early or too late try to cross the Bloukrans as close to it as possible. At the office, you get a tide timetable if you want to know beforehand check for tides HERE.

Attention! If the Bloukrans River is too full after heavy rains and the crossing is dangerous don’t risk rather use E6 escape route, 500m before the river. Through the forest to the plantations, till you hit a gravel road where you have cell phone reception, phone rangers and they will assist you. Emergency number 072-917-4474.


  • Waves, at high tide they are quite big.
  • Current when the tide goes down, it gets strong to make sure it doesn’t drag you out into the sea.
  • Rocky bottom, ensure every step you make to prevent slipping.
  • Leaking survival bags, all survival bags (different brands) in our group leaked some more some less, make sure all your valuable stuff (camera, wallet, phone etc.) is secured in an additional plastic bag or better in a dry bag.
Crossing the Bloukrans River a couple of hours after the high tide
Bloukrans river crossing two hours after the high tide. Water is shoulder-deep but when a wave comes you’ll have to swim.

Day 5. Andre Hut – De Vasselot. 10,8km, about 5 hours

Highlights of Day 5

  • Stunning view from the look-out on Andre Hut.
  • Rocky cliffs and drops.
  • Nature’s Valley beach.

The last day no more river crossing, only the Klip River a small and shallow river next to the hut. Steep uphill in the beginning to the top with a breathtaking view of the area. Long walk on the plateau along the coast with light ups and downs till you reach the beach. The view from over the beach and Nature’s Valley from the top is incredible! You walk a section on the beach and then the trail turns right into the forest and continues for about 3,5km till you reach De Vasselot Rest camp. The trail used to end on the beach at Nature’s Valley but it was extended. We were told the reason for this is that it’s not safe to cross the Groot River. We walked a new route through the river crossing didn’t look any dangerous, some of our group members crossed it. When walking the beach section again the next day we found the river was ankle deep. All our group members finished the hike by 11am.

Day 5 route, Otter trail
Day 5 route, Otter trail

At De Vasselot office you sign out and get an Otter trail certificate. According to the tradition after the trail hikers go to the restaurant to celebrate. It’s about 3km from De Vasselot in Nature’s Valley town. There is a tree in the garden where hikers hang their old shoes, bags, caps etc. Here you can get one more certificate that you completed the Otter trail (free) and get special shooters (not free).

The view from the trail on the way to Nature's Valley
The scenery at the beginning of the last day on the trail

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  1. Manie Loubser

    I have done a lot of multi-day hiking trips since age 18. In August 2017, at age 58, I got my chance to do Otter. All I can say is: WOW!!
    Reading your blog was like re-living every day of the Otter – well done!
    After the Otter our group decided to tackle the Fish River canyon, and we booked for June 2020. Unfortunately COVID-19 threw a spanner in that plan, but we managed to change the booking to July 2021. I am just hoping things will be sort of normal again by then, because I am not getting younger.

    Happy hiking!

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Manie! Thank you for the comment! Both the Otter Trail and the Fish River Canyon are spectacular hikes. We’ve done them only once but could easily do both again! Unfortunately, this year was a very bad year for traveling. We had to cancel several walks and hikes including a couple of Camino de Santiago routes in Spain that we had planned. Hopefully next year we all will be able to hike and enjoy traveling again.
      Keep well!

  2. Hi

    We would like to know availability to hike the otter trail
    Our group will be 12 hikers all from Johannesburg


    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Maajedah! There are contact details on the booking office in the post, please, contact them to book the trail. We’re not a booking office we are two people who did the trek and wrote about our experience.

  3. Thanks for the great blog! I have been trying for weeks to get an answer to a question I have, by looking at S.A. Parks website, calling, and looking at other websites. I’m hoping you can help me. When I view the availability calendar for the Otter Trail and see a day with yes under “available ” and 2 under “Nr. of units” , does the 2 mean that 2 people can start on that day and walk the entire trail? Or does one have to find a period of four days in a row with at least 2 under “Nr. of units” to be able to book the entire trail for 2 people?
    Thanks, John Lamman

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, John! Thank you for the comment! If there are 2 spots available for the first day it means that there will be two spots available for the whole trail, it’s impossible to book only one hut and not to book the entire trail.

  4. Such a great blog thank you.
    Am I correct to understand that if you are booked as 2 people that you hike on your own time, at your own pace?
    You don’t start in a group and progress in a group – Only evening times are spent with the other people on the trail! Thanks

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Leigh! Thank you for the comment! You do your own thing on the trek, start and finish any time you want, you just share huts with other hikers but that’s pretty much it, you’ll probably see other hikers only at the beginning and the end of every day.
      Enjoy the trek!


    I have done the Fishriver at age 64 – am married to Doug who turns 72 in 2020.
    We would love to do the Otter but I see that you have an age restriction – eish! Doug is superfit and with no medical condition. Would there be any way we can bypass this with signing an indemnity form and giving a Dr’s certificate? We would love to do this as a couple

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Alba! Your husband can get a letter from his doctor saying that he’s in good health. I’d recommend phoning the booking office to confirm it.

  6. Magdalena Malan

    What is the dates for the Other trail for the rest of this year?

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Magdalena! We are not a booking office for the Otter Trail. Please, read the post carefully, in the second paragraph (that is named Otter Trail booking) there is a link to the site where you can check availability and a phone number that you can contact to make a booking. They will be able to tell you what dates are still opened.

  7. Thanks for sharing, we are going hiking in two weeks. Your blog is really helpful

  8. Hi, what is safety like on the other trail? With regards to robberies and stuff?

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Aindrea! It felt pretty safe on the Otter Trail, the route goes through difficult to access areas of the park it’s not that easy for anybody who is not hiking to get there. The huts have security gates that can be locked from the inside. There are usually 12 people on the route. The only thieves we encountered on the route were genets and monkeys if you leave your food unattended just for a little while they’ll be on it. Out of four multiday hikes we’ve done in South Africa the Otter Trail felt the safest.

  9. Hi. I just like to know is there any ligths in huts on the otter trail.

  10. Hello, I would like to do the trail on 27 May, but it is just me. Due you think this will be a problem? I emailed Sanparks and I was told there are 6 spots available for that date. Thanks

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Matthew! It doesn’t matter if you’re one person or a group if there is a spot available you can book the trail.
      Enjoy the Otter trail!

  11. Lezette Bester

    Amazing post, Thx
    Will book for 2019

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Lezette! Thank you for the comment! Enjoy the Otter Trail!

    • Hi.
      Can you hike the Otter and wild camp or camp elsewhere, thereby not having to wait for accommodation slots to open?

      • Stingy Nomads

        Hello, Stephan! No, there are no designated campsites on the trail and wild camping is not allowed. If there is no place to sleep in the huts you can’t hike the Otter Trail, you won’t be granted a permit.

      • Thank you for such valued information, especially your video. Can’t wait to do it this year June.

  12. Hello! I noted in the article you said trail transfer was R200 pp, was that from the finish to nature’s valley or back to the beginning of the trail? Which company did you use?

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Callie! Please, check the fifth paragraph of the post Shuttle service and parking on the Otter Trail, there are all the details about the transfer including name, phone number, price etc.

  13. Diego Johnson

    Amazing post.Thanks for sharing.

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