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Wednesday, 29th January 2020

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Your guide to hiking, walking and slackpacking Tsitsikamma

Remember to breathe. You emerge from a rainforest, cool from the shade of the canopies and ferns, into the sunlight and find yourself on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. Waves thunder against the rocks below, spraying foam onto the arum lilies that cling to the cliffside. Behind you the towering Tsitsikamma Mountains loom blue-black against the late-afternoon sun. Is this the Garden of Eden? It’s magnificent. It’s breath-taking. It’s Tsitsikamma…

From mountains to forest to coastline to fynbos, Tsitsikamma has a large variety of trails for everyone from the family holidaymaker to the super-fit trail runner, who will never struggle to find new paths to explore. Below is our guide to hiking, walking and slackpacking Tsitsikamma.

MULTI-DAY HIKES

The Otter Trail 

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Image: Kevin Schnider via SANparks

Known as 'The Grail of Trails', the Otter Trail is world famous for its pristine condition and incredible natural surroundings. The trail is tough, averaging around 8km a day for five days and traversing the dramatic coastline of Tsitsikamma National Park from Storms River to Nature's Valley. This isn't a slackpacking trail, so you'll carry everything that you need with you. However, the Otter Trail is still one of the most beloved trails in the country - truly spectacular - and is often booked up more than a year in advance. It's also the location of the famous Otter African Trail Run which attracts trail runners from across the world to take on this most epic of trails. Find out more: SANparks Otter Trail

The Dolphin Slackpacking Trail

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The Dolphin Trail is the luxurious little cousin of the Otter Trail. The same spectacular scenery, flora and fauna, but without the heavy backpacks and with perfectly marvelous overnight accommodation at Misty Mountain Lodge and the Fernery. Your luggage is transferred, you pack a day pack and head out for four days of exploring and three nights of comfortable luxury accommodation along the Tsitsikamma coastline. Expect to be floating in turquoise rock pools, watching the dolphins and listening for the call of the Knysna turaco. Find out more: The Dolphin Trail

The MTO Tsitsikamma Slackpacking Trail

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Where the first two hikes above are all coastline, the Tsitsikamma Trail is all about mountains, forest and Fynbos as this 60km, six-day hike traverses the diverse region from Nature's Valley to Storms River (mouth or village). There is an option to hike 'Otter-style' with all your equipment or slackpack with an extra charge for porterage. Shorter 2,3,4 or 5 day hikes are also available and overnight accommodation is in huts along this lovely trail. Find out more: Tsitsikamma Trail

DAY HIKES

THE STRIPTEASE TRAIL 

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This is one for the books and it's as beautiful as it is memorable and entertaining! The hike starts at the Tsitsikamma Lodge and, while no cost is applicable, you do need to sign in at reception. And...then, the fun really starts on this 5km circular hike, stopping at 11 beautiful rock pools! They're all unique, some with waterfalls, and have names such as Pebble Pool, Bottomless Pool, Bikini Pool and...you can guess the rest. It's a super way to spend a day in Tsitsikamma: exploring the forest and dipping into the pools! Find out more: Striptease Trail

HIKES AT STORMS RIVER MOUTH, TSITSIKAMMA NATIONAL PARK

The Mouth Trail  

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When you see pictures of Tsitsikamma, it's often with the suspension bridge across the river mouth which could, by turns, look crystal blue and inviting or grey and stormy - living up to its name! The Mouth Trail is by far the most popular, starting at Sandy Bay (next to the restaurant) and following a meandering boardwalk through the forest (listen for the rumbling of pebbles in the waves and lookout for lilies clinging to the cliff's edge) to Tsitsikamma's famous suspension bridges which will lead you to the Khoisan cave that is a World Heritage Site. A further (steep) climb will lead you to the lookout point and, as you can imagine, the views are breathtaking! Conservation fees apply. Distance:2km. Find out more: Tsitsikamma National Park

The Loerie Trail

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Image: Janet Middleton

Take a walk through the ancient and magnificent Tsitsikamma Afromontane Forest. A short climb will lead you to the Alghus Lookout Point (again, unsurpassed views ;)), followed by a walk through the Fynbos that is endemic to our Southern Cape coastline and then through lush forests, covered in ferns and watched over by towering trees. Conservation fees apply. Distance:1km. Find out more: Tsitsikamma National Park

The Blue Duiker Trail

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The iconic Blue Duiker Trail is a longer version of the Loerie Trail and will take you to the very heart of the Tsitsikamma forest. Welcome to a forest of giants - ancient yellowwood trees strecthing to the sky and circles back to the beginning of the famous Otter Trail. If you've got the time, you won't be disappointed! Conservation fees apply. Distance:3.7km. Find out more: Tsitsikamma National Park

The Waterfall Trail

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It's definitely best to make a day of the Waterfall Trail, which covers the first stretch of the Otter Trail to the waterfall. Pack a picnic, sunscreen, water and a swimsuit and get ready to relish the beauty of the ocean, mountains and forest! The trail is fairly strenuous and will take about one and a half hours each way and caution should be taken at high tide. Please check at reception before heading out. Conservation fees apply. Distance:6km. Find out more: Tsitsikamma National Park

HIKES AROUND STORMS RIVER VILLAGE 

Plaatbos Trails

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Image: Firefly Africa

Imagine a village where you can walk in almost any direction and find yourself surrounded by deep, green forest and birdsong? This is Storms River Village. Surrounded by national park and nature reserves, it's a small, charming little village and a super basecamp from which to explore the surrounding area. The Plaatbos Reserve trails are adjacent to the village. There are three marked trails, colour-coded as yellow (8km), red (7,5km) and green (5km). No costs apply. Find out more: Storms River Village Trails

Goesa Walk

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Magic in the ferns and, possibly, fairies in the forest! This short, 2km walk starts at the SANparks office in the village and meanders to a stream bordered by giant forest ferns before ascending back to the start. Sections of the hike are on wooden boardwalk and no cost applies. Find out more: Storms River Village Trails

Fynbos Trail 

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Did you know that 80% of the plant species in the Cape Floral Kingdom (the smallest and most biodiverse of the plant kingdoms) are found nowhere else in the world. And, Fynbos forms a big part of that kingdom. Fynbos is endemic to the Southern Cape coastline and of the 8500 different species, 6000 are only found along this stretch of South African coastline, so this is a special hike and an opportunity to see species that might as well be from another planet! The 1.8km, flat trail is easily managed and offers lovely views of the Tsitsikamma Mountains. The walk starts at Armagh Country House in Storms River Village. No cost applies. Find out more: Storms River Village Trails

THE BIG TREE & RATEL HIKING TRAILS, TSITSIKAMMA NATIONAL PARK 

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The name says it all. This tree is big! The Big Tree towered over the treetop canopy - an 800-year-old Outeniqua yellowwood. At 36+m tall and with a trunk circumference of 9m, this is a giant among giants, standing guard over an ancient forest. There are three marked trails, colour-coded as follows: red (4.2km), yellow (2.6km) and green (1km) across wooden boardwalk. Conservation fee applicable. Find out more: Storms River Village Trails

THIS BLOG SERVES TO PROVIDE INSPIRATION FOR TRAVEL TO TSITSIKAMMA AND THE EASTERN CAPE. PLEASE DOUBLECHECK ANY RELEVANT DETAILS BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT. 

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