The Grail of all trails: The Otter

by San Parks

RETTO 2012This month, the Garden Route National Park has the pleasure to host the Otter Trail Run which is organised annually by Magnetic South. This year marks the fifth year since the inception of the race in the Garden Route, yet it still attracts more than 400 athletes every year.  The average age of participating athletes ranges from 38 to about 40 years old.

The trail itself is 42 kilometres long. It starts in Stormsriver Mouth Rest Camp and ends at the De Vasselot Rest Camp in Natures Valley. Lesley-Ann Meyer, Area Manager for the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park says the ‘run is done in opposite directions each year. When run in its original route (Storm River Mouth to De Vasselot), it is called the Otter.  When run in the opposite direction from De Vasselot to Storms River Mouth, then it is called the Retto (Otter in reverse).’

Although the route has undergone minor refurbishments, mainly to the huts along the route, athletes who have run the Otter confirm it’s like no other in the world. Nothing beats running through fynbos in Spring, the enchanting smell of wild flowers, coming across different types of buck, crossing the Bloukrans River and if lucky, spotting whales and dolphins in the oldest Marine Protected Area in Africa.

This year, internationally acclaimed runner, Ricky Lightfoot who won a trail championship in Wales during July this year, will be joining the ‘grail of  trail’ athletes. Among other international names released by Magnetic South are New Zealander Ruby Muir, Kenyans Jared Omwoyo Nyakoe and Silas Kipchirchir Soy.

The Otter Trail will be closed for 10 days to members of the public for the duration of the run starting on the 22nd September 2013 during which time it will give SANParks staff the opportunity to do maintenance to the trail itself.

‘Adventure tourism is growing even in difficult economic times as more and more people are looking for a rare experience’ according to SANParks tourism responsible strategy (2022). Garden Route management identified ‘adventure sports’ to stimulate tourism subsequent to a study conducted on various tourism products offered by National Parks.  Certain parts of the Park are ‘zoned’ off because of their ‘low occupancy’ which is compatible to biodiversity conservation.


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