The Dolphin Trail offers keen hikers a premier hiking experience by pairing challenging trails with luxury accommodation, helpful guides and transportation of luggage and other necessities between overnight stops (all one needs to carry is a light daypack!). Enjoy hiking along the gorgeous Tsitsikamma coast, spotting the myriad of unique creatures found in this part of South Africa and appreciating the diverse terrain through which you’ll hike.
Due to the untamed coastlines, rugged and natural terrain, the path through which you’ll hike is not a mere “stroll in the park.” This hiking path is most appropriate for all who enjoy an active lifestyle and enjoy hiking. The Dolphin Trail staff will assist hikers when needed, and offer interesting information about your surrounds along the way.
The various overnight accommodation sites are of the highest standard, and guests can enjoy the incredible views, delicious food and comfortable lodging that is part of walking The Dolphin Trail.
Get in touch with nature whilst simultaneously staying in top-notch accommodation, treating yourself to a unique hiking experience. A great deal of the charm of this untamed coastline lies in its rugged and wild nature, and hiking it is therefore not a mere “stroll in the park”. It is however achievable by people of all ages who have maintained a good level of fitness and agility, and an active lifestyle. The hike does traverse a few steep climbs which some may find challenging but many walkers who would be discouraged by the need to carry a heavy pack are now able to take the challenge and enjoy what is a strenuous but attainable hike through some of South Africa”s most beautiful scenery.
The Dolphin trail is all inclusive, and guests can enjoy:
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 4×4 drive through the old Storms River Pass.
The transportation of all luggage by vehicle between overnight stops.
All of these incredible amenities are included in the price.
A quick overview of the itinerary highlights the various hikes and overnight stops that are part of the Dolphin Trail:
Day of Arrival: Garden Route National Park (GRNP) – Check in is any time after 2:00pm at the GRNP – Tsitsikamma Section Reception. Be sure to have your booking form available as this includes your entry to the Park. After moving into the quaint 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 avid bird watchers, 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.
7:00pm: Please be at the Restaurant* to 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.
*Unfortunately the pub and restaurant suffered a devasting fire in November 2016 and are currently being rebuilt. Temporary structures are in place.
Hiking Day 1: GRNP to Misty Mountain Reserve (Distance – 7.5km; Difficulty – Medium)
8:00am: 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 8:00am. Your luggage will be collected any time after 8:45am 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.
Picnic Lunch: 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.
6:30pm: Meet at the Khoisan Lounge for pre-dinner sundowners, with a world class sunset as a backdrop spanning a 180 degree view of the Indian Ocean, before sitting down to a delectable 3 course menu skillfully paired with award winning estate wines served in the restaurant.
Hiking Day 2: Misty Mountain Reserve to the Fernery (Distance – 9.5km; Difficulty – Medium)
8:30am: A hearty breakfast is served in the restaurant at 08:30. After breakfast at 9:30 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 sterilised snorkelling sets for the use of the group.
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.
6:30pm: Meet for pre-dinner drinks followed by a delicious 4 course menu d’hôte at the Lodge Restaurant.
Day of departure: 4×4 trip through old Storms River Pass (Distance – 25km; Difficulty – None what-so-ever!)
8:30am: 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 export operation.
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.
12:00 noon: Guests arrive back at the GRNP – Tsitsikamma Section from where hikers go their separate ways.
All scheduled transfers of hikers and their luggage are included in the Dolphin Trail package. Special transfers, outside of the schedule, must be arranged with the Dolphin Trail Reservations Team and will be billed as an additional charge.
There are a variety of animals that hikers may be lucky enjoy to view en route. Forest mammals are notoriously elusive, but those that may be seen in the Park and on the hike include bushbuck, blue duiker, bushpig and hyrax (dassies). Vervet monkeys and the Chacma baboon are also present in the forests. While along the shore you may well spot the following:
Otter: Cape clawless otters range from light greyish brown to very dark brown, with white face and chest. They are seldom seen as they are mainly nocturnal and very shy. Found in scrub and forest in the vicinity of fresh water their potential longevity is 16 years.
Seals: The most common seal along our coast is the Cape Fur Seal. Rich brown in colour and covered in thick fur, they are perfectly adapted to water dwelling. They feed mainly on anchovies, pilchards and squid and have been protected in our waters since 1893. Their numbers have recovered well and in SA consume upward of 2 million tons of fish per year.
Dolphins: Common, Bottlenose and Indo Pacific Humpbacked Dolphins weigh between 175 and 250kg. The Common dolphin is the smallest and found in groups of up to 1000 feeding on squid, octopus and small shoaling fish. The Bottlenose are often in groups of more than 100 and are known to hunt cooperatively using ultrasonic sounds.
Whales: The Humpback whale at 13m and 40 tons is a seasonal visitor moving through our seas between feeding grounds in the cold Antarctic and the warm Mozambican waters. The Southern Right whale is larger, weighing up to 65 tons. They breed in our waters and from June to November are found in small groups playing, courting and nursing their newborn calves. Distinguishing features are callositic growths on the head, and the lack of a dorsal fin. Bryde’s whale, a year round resident with a prominent dorsal fin, is a loner and weighs only 14 tons.
Birds: Along the coast look out for Black Oystercatcher, Black winged Seagulls and Cormorants. The Knysna Turaco (Loerie), Narina Trogon, Rameron Pigeon, Cinnamon Dove, Chorister and Starred Robin, Knysna Warbler and many other forest birds can be seen en route though many of them are shy and difficult to spot.
All your meals are included with the hike, including snacks, water and lunches on the actual hiking days. (Your guides will carry these and picnics will waiting for you mid-hike). When making your booking, please advise reservations of any special dietary requirements. A cash bar is available at all venues.
Although a First Aid kit is carried by the guides, please ensure that any special prescribed medication is carried on your person and that the guides are made aware of any pre-existing conditions prior to embarking on the hike.
Please note due to the 1% VAT increase, prices will vary over the course of the next 2 years:
1 April 2018 – 31 October 2018: R6,450 per person sharing; R7,740 per person single
1 November 2018 – 31 October 2019: R7,050 per person sharing; R8,460 per person single