Tsitsikamma National Park is known for its famous Otter Trail, perhaps the most popular hiking trail in South Africa. It runs along the jagged coastline for 42 km along the well known Garden Coast. Climbing over boulders walking a split between a roaring surf crashing onto the rocks and 200 foot high cliffs on the other side, it is not an easy five day hike. Unfortunately for us, we did not have five days, nor did we book the trail a year in advance as is usually necessary.
Fortunately, though, there is a four hour day hike that “tastes” of the Otter Trail–the first 3 km–that anyone is allowed to enjoy.The sight that never gets tiring during the whole hike is to watch the waves crash into the rocks. The spray flies in all directions. The sound is intense, especially echoing right off the cliffs behind us. The seafoam in the tidal pools attests to the ferocity of the whole experience.
Our endpoint is a waterfall, although with the drought currently going on in South Africa (we’ve yet to see a river really “running,” they all seem to be dry or sitting still) it was more of a water drip.
And on the way back, the trail lived up to its moniker. It may seem surprising given all the incredible animals Africa has to offer, but I think I may have a new favorite. The African clawless otter. Surprising, huh? We saw one sliding around the rocks, which I was convinced was a seal until we saw the whole family. These live in both fresh and salt water … which I shockingly learned when they swam deftly out into the roaring surf.
I later learned they also have opposable thumbs that they use to catch fish, octopus, shellfish … it seems the eat just about anything they can manage. Fish they eat head first, which I think is what this guy is doing. He came up onto the rocks just 20 feet from me, gave me a look with his prize, and then was swept off by a gigantic wave. Pretty sweet animals.
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