Tsitsikamma Coast, Garden Route (600km from Cape Town)
Starting at the same point as the famous Otter Trail, this is the more comfortable option. For two magical days you can hike the magnificent Tsitsikamma Coast over a distance of 17km. The trail starts in the unrivalled beauty of the Tsitsikamma National Park at Storms River Mouth. It winds its way eastwards through natural fynbos and pristine indigenous forest, over rugged rocks at the waters edge, and ends on the banks of the Sandrift River at The Fernery Guest House.
This trail includes two days’ walking and three overnights. For the moderately fit.
Dolphin Trail Itinerary
Day of Arrival
Check in is any time of the afternoon at the Tsitsikamma National Park Reception. If you arrive early, you will have time to walk one of the shorter trails or even the first part of the Otter Trail (in the opposite direction to the Dolphin Trail) or just relax on the beach.
At 7 p.m. there is a briefing at the restaurant by your Dolphin Trail hosts, where you will be get an overview of the next two days and given a chance to ask any questions you may have. Dinner is served after the briefing, to the sound of crashing waves close by.
Hiking Day 1
If you are up early and ready packed, there is time for a short walk and some bird watching before breakfast at 8 a.m. The guides who will be with you for two days of hiking will meet you after breakfast and will organize the collection of your luggage.
Your hike starts on the boardwalk to Storms River Mouth and the nearby Khoisan Cave. If the weather is good there is an opportunity for a short boat trip up into the gorge, before starting the hike itself by crossing Storms River Mouth on the suspension bridge. This is followed by a steep, rocky path to the Lookout Point with wonderful views of the Tsitsikamma National Park and the Indian Ocean. With luck you may spot a school of dolphin or, in season, Southern Right whales.
The hike is level for a short while after this followed by a long slow descent through the indigenous forest and back to the sea. This is usually a good place to break for a picnic lunch, with a choice between the shade of trees at the edge of the stream, or the rocks in the sun. There is time for a good rest before the fairly strenuous climb up to Steilkop (Steep Hill) straight afterwards. There is plenty of time however and hikers can stop regularly to enjoy the views or stick to a slow steady pace, taking in the natural environment. From the top of Steilkop it is a shady and level walk through the forest to Misty Mountain Reserve – your overnight venue.
Here, after being shown to your rooms, you have plenty of time for swim in the pool or to make use of the spa bath. For those with energy left after the hike you can go bass fishing in the dam or bird watching in the immediate vicinity of the chalets. Then it is time for pre-dinner drinks, watching the sun set and dinner, with time and company to chat about the days acitivities.
Hiking Day 2
Breakfast is served at 8.30, so again there is time for early risers to catch an early morning bird watching.
By 9.30 you should be on the trail again, following a steep path to the sea and the rock pools along the coast. Most of the days walk is along the coast, taking in the diverse plant life and rocky shoreline. If you are lucky and alert you may see the Cape Clawless Otter, from which the Otter Trail gets it’s name. There are opportunities to do some swimming and snorkeling in one of the many rock pools, so it is advisable to take swimming gear and snorkeling gear with you. The guides will carry 2 sterilized snorkeling sets for the use of the group, but if you prefer you can request to purchase a new set at the onset of the trail.
Care should be taken when clambering over damp and slippery rocks and another useful piece of equipment is open water friendly sandals or ‘strops’.
Shortly before lunch time there is a stiff climb up the cliff, to higher level ground in a forested area. Probably a bit foot weary, you will be ready for lunch in a picnic spot among the trees. After the rest you will be ready for the last 3 km through the pristine indigenous fynbos to Forest Ferns – the second night’s accommodation venue.
After finding your chalets, set in fynbos along the river, there is still plenty of time for those with the extra energy to go boating on the river, cycling or bird watching. There is a swimming pool and the jacuzzi and sauna are there for your use, or you can browse through the Fernery and the nursery facilities if you wish.
Dinner is served in the Fernery restaurant or at the Lodge, you will be informed of which in time to meet for pre-dinner drinks followed by a delicious 4 course menu d’hôte.
Day of Departure
In the morning you are free to sleep late and enjoy the peace of their chalets, or to rise early for a walk or even an early morning cycle. Bird activity is often at its best at this time or you can visit the fern export operation.
Breakfast is served at 8.30 in the Fernery after which the luggage is collected you set off on a scenic 4×4 trip through the old Storms River Pass back to the Tsitsikamma National Park and your cars. Arrival here is at about noon.
What is included:
All accommodation and meals, the transport of luggage and guides are included in the cost of the trail. Alcoholic beverages and extra cold drinks are for your own account and should be settled prior to departure from each venue.
You should bring:
- Good hiking shoes and socks (with spares).
- Sunblock and hat.
- Water for the days walk.
- Sandals or strops or ‘Crocs’ that can be used in water.
- Rain and cold weather gear.
- A small day pack to carry the above.
- Binoculars, camera etc.
- Hiking poles (recommended but optional).
- Your overnight luggage in a separate bag or suitcase for transport to the overnight accommodation.