The Dolphin Trail is a luxury and fully portered hiking or slackpacking trail along the Tsitsikamma coastline. A beautiful part of the Garden Route. This unique trail allows you to sample some of the coastal scenery seen on the Otter Trail without the hardship of having to carry your own gear and sleep in basic huts!
The trail comprises a two day/3 night 17 km hike from Forest Ferns. Along the banks of the Sanddrif River, to the Storm’s River Mouth in the Tsitsikamma National Park. Trained field guides unlock the mysteries of nature and marine life to the walkers. It is called a slackpacking trail because all luggage is portered to the two overnight stays. So you only need to carry a daypack and binoculars.
The accommodation on the Dolphin Trail is of a particularly high quality with four star guesthouses and luxury retreats being used.
On route, many birds including the gorgeous Knysna Loerie can be heard and spotted while hiking through the forest. The endangered Oystercatcher is often to be seen on the shoreline. All walkers are encouraged to enjoy the walk, and not take it as a route march. Perhaps taking some time to cool off in the tidal pools of the Indian Ocean and explore them with snorkelling gear.
All scheduled transfers of hikers and their luggage between the 3 venues are included in the Dolphin Trail package. Special transfers to and from the airport can be arranged with the Dolphin Trail Reservations Team and will be billed as an additional charge.
All meals, from dinner on the day of arrival, to breakfast on the day of departure (excluding drinks); the attendance of well trained local guides; a 4x4 drive through the old Storms River Pass; the transportation of all luggage by vehicle between overnight stops; all you need to carry is a light daypack and your camera!
Note: We usually include this in a longer trip. If we book it as a standalone tour, we may need to add an admin fee to cover our costs.
Dolphin Trail at a glance
Day of Arrival – Garden Route National Park (GRNP)
Check in is any time after 14:00 at the Garden Route National Park – Tsitsikamma Section Reception which is situated at the mouth of the Storms River. This is where you park your car for the duration of the hike and where you spend your first night. A Shuttle Service to the start can be arranged at an extra fee.
After moving into the rustic Dolphin Trail chalets you are free to enjoy what remains of the afternoon at your leisure. There are a number of short trails that you can enjoy and for twitchers the Loerie trail is recommended as on this 1km walk it is possible to spot 35 species of birds. For a taste of the famous Otter Trail you can walk the first 3km known as the Waterfall Trail. Lunch is not included in the package but there is a lovely outside pub that serves a variety of meals.
At the Restaurant you will meet your Dolphin Trail host who will answer any questions you may have, and will give you information regarding the trail. Enjoy your dinner to the sound of pounding waves with a myriad of stars shining above you.
Hiking Day 1 – GRNP to Misty Mountain Reserve
Distance – 7.5 km / Difficulty – Medium
Early risers can enjoy the stunning view of their surroundings and are welcome to go bird watching or walking before breakfast which is served from 08:00. Your luggage will be collected any time after 08:45 at your chalets, and you will meet your guides who will be with you for the two days of hiking.
When the group is ready and all drink bills settled, you depart along the boardwalk to Storms River Mouth. After crossing Storms River on the suspension bridge, you follow a steep and rocky path to the Lookout Point with a magnificent view of the coast towards Plettenberg Bay. Here you will be greeted by the friendly Misty Mountain Reserve staff offering a well deserved refreshment and light snack. Relax and enjoy the endless view of the Indian Ocean while keeping your eyes peeled for whales and dolphins.
The path continues level for a short distance before beginning a long descent through indigenous forest to sea level. This is the perfect place for your picnic lunch, either in the shade of trees at the stream’s edge, or on the rocks in the sun. Take a good break here as the climb up Steilkop (Steep Hill) is quite taxing and follows immediately. Remember that there is no rush so walk slowly and admire the beautiful views as you go. Once you have conquered Steilkop it is a comfortable forest walk to Misty Mountain Reserve.
Night 2 – Misty Mountain Reserve
Arrival time at Misty Mountain Reserve depends on the speed of the hikers and the amount of time spent enjoying the magnificent environment. You will be given a warm welcome and can enjoy an ice cold or piping hot refreshment before being shown to your Ocean View or Tented Lodge. For the energetic Misty offers many on site activities to keep you entertained including our very popular sundowner quad tours, mountain biking, foot golf, 9 hole chip and wedge mashie golf and fresh water fishing.
Meet at the Khoisan Lounge for pre-dinner sundowners, with a world class sunset as a backdrop spanning a 180 deg view of the Indian Ocean, before sitting down to a delectable 3 course menu or specially prepared traditional barbeque accompanied by award winning estate wines.
Hiking Day 2 – Misty Mountain Reserve to the Fernery
Distance – 9.5 km / Difficulty – Medium
A hearty breakfast is served in the restaurant at 08:30. After breakfast at 09:30 the guides will brief the hikers for the start of day two of the hike.
Hikers follow a steep path from their chalets straight down to the rock pools. Today’s route is mainly at sea level and the morning walk along the coast is magnificent. Enjoy the beautiful plant life and rocky scenery, and keep your eyes open for the spoor of the Cape Clawless Otter in “Otter’s Alley”.
Swimming and snorkelling are possible in a couple of rock pools en route so please take your swimming gear with you. The guides will carry 2 sterilized snorkelling sets for the use of the group.
It’s a hike after all…
At times you are required to clamber over rocks that are often damp from the sea spray, so please take care.
After a stiff climb up the cliff on to level ground, when you are tired and hungry, you will reach a beautiful spot in the forest – and lunch. Enjoy it and soak up the peace and tranquillity of the magnificent forest before setting off on the last 3km through indigenous fynbos to The Fernery.
Night 3 – The Fernery Lodge & Chalets
Relax and enjoy the view
Hikers arrive at The Fernery to a well earned drink and are then shown to their beautiful chalets nestled in fynbos along the river. Several activities are available for those who are still feeling energetic, such as boating, cycling and bird watching.
A swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna are there for your use, and you are welcome to browse through the Fernery and nursery facilities if you wish.
Meet for pre-dinner drinks followed by a delicious à la carte meal at the Fernery Restaurant.
Day of Departure – 4 x 4 trip through old Storms River Pass
Distance – 25 km / Difficulty – None what-so-ever!
The weary can sleep in and enjoy the peace of their chalets, and early risers are welcome to go bird watching or visit the fern nursery.
Breakfast is served at the Lodge Restaurant at 8:30 after which the luggage is loaded and you set off on a scenic 4×4 trip through the old Storms River Pass.
Guests arrive back at the GRNP – Tsitsikamma Section from where hikers go their separate ways.
Africa Travel Specialist