Now that you have sorted out your bag weight issues and finalised everything, get a good breakfast, calm the nerves and get an early start. Try and start by latest 10 am to enjoy the sights of the first day.
We parked some vehicles at Natures Valley to get us back to the lodge after the hike. The private lodge we stayed at assisted us with transport to the starting point. Once through the SANPARK Storms River gate, proceed to the ranger’s office on the left. You will have to pay the daily conservation fees at this point which is around R 245 (2017 pricing), or free if you have a wild card, per person for South African citizens and more if you not. It may be useful to carry exact amounts as the ranger battled to assist us individually as they had no change, and most people do not carry along credit cards on the hike. Also ensure you have sufficient cash for the trail and afterwards.
After signing the indemnity forms, obtaining a copy of the Otter map with some information, the ranger will provide some brief information. Included in this was a safety warning, and a suggestion to lock the huts specifically for nights 3 and 4 and move all belongings inside. Be aware that there could be oyster poachers along the route. We were fortunate not to encounter any. Apparently the rangers have some sort of stepped up program to combat this. Tide tables and river crossing suggestions were outlined.
Should you wish to purchase any Otter Hike memorabilia (such as badges, magnets etc. to show off), now may be the best time to do it. Keep it to smaller items as it will go into your backpack for 5 days. The end point does not have any souvenir shops, and you most probably will not go back to the start point.
Previous hikers told us of some sort of DVD screening outlying the hike that is shown to hikers. The rangers were not aware of any of this, so we proceeded to commence the hike. The opposite building is the official start point with a mini museum of otter hike pictures and information. Take some group pictures and let the fun begin.
Risks: Rock hopping and slippery surfaces
Highlights: Cave and waterfall
4.8 km excluding exploring and swimming
|Day 1 - Height chart (including some exploration)|
This is the only day that you will not have exclusivity on the hike. Many other hikers explore day trails to the waterfall.
The trail commences from the start point with a decline to almost sea level. From there on wards there’s plenty rock hopping, so careful not to twist an ankle since this is when you also adjusting to the weight of a fully loaded backpack.
It is worthwhile to explore the cave. Leave your bag outside, take along your headlamp, trekking poles (as its very slippery inside) and your camera. There are some bats (look on top) as well as a pond further inside.
|Entrance to cave|
Next is the waterfall area which can be very slippery during high tide or excessive rain. This is a really nice place to spend some time. The rock pool water is icy cold but really refreshing to swim in. Be careful for the rocks when entering the pool.
|Waterfall and pools|
After our swim we came across a Puff Adder making its way through the water and into the rocks.
Not long after this you will come across the huts. 2 huts with 6 beds in each, a clean toilet with a view, a communal braai area and a half cold water shower hidden away. All the remaining huts have a similar setup. There is no cell phone signal at the huts on the first night. The huts have a triple bunk. It’s scary sleeping on the top bunk, and I have seen some people bring the mattress down and sleeping on the floor.
|Toilet with a view|
We took along braai meat for the first two days, and indulged a great braai followed by marshmallows and tea.
Firewood is kept under each hut. Use only that which is allocated to you in one of the under hut shelves and keep in mind the hikers after you who would also require wood. Keep everything clean, and use the allocated bins for all your dirt – “the only trace you should leave is your footprint”.
Often buck, and Cape Genets wander the hut area scouting for hikers leftovers. Dolphins and whales can often be spotted if you look closely. Bird life is abundant – be quiet and they will appear.
|Resident at Ngubu camp|