Rebranding of trail aims to attract more avid hikers to South African golden oldie

Bottle-nosed dolphins surf a breaking wave in the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area.
Bottle-nosed dolphins surf a breaking wave in the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area.

Exactly 50 years ago, in 1964, Tsitsikamma National Park was declared following the first World Conference on National Parks in 1962 held in Seattle, where there was a call made for the protection of coastal forest vegetation and marine world.

On March 6, 2009 it was amalgamated with the Wilderness National Park and various other areas of land to form the Garden Route National Park (GRNP).

It has since been referred to as the Tsitsikamma section of the GRNP and covers an 80 kilometres (50 miles) long stretch of coastline, with Nature’s Valley at its western end.

This year also sees the rebranding of the Otter Trail Hike, in order to encourage more people to take nature hikes in Tsitsikamma.

Launched in 1968, four years after the declaration of the park, the Otter Trail was initially not big news until the establishment of the Fanie Botha Hiking Trail in 1973 and the National Hiking Way Board in 1975.

These early trails were developed on state land and used forestry’s staff to do the construction work.

According to area manager for the Tsitsikamma section of the GRNP, Lesley Ann Meyer, “Once branded, the Otter trail hike will be easier to present to both locals and international visitors. It is famous worldwide, yet very few people know that it is actually in a national park.”

General manager of the GRNP, Jill Bunding-Venter says, “A study conducted on the future state of national parks identified ‘activity development’ as a priority for the GRNP. The study included various other tourism attractions relevant for other parks such as tourism development projects, accommodation and others.”

Hiking is growing at a promising rate. Rebranding the Otter Trail Hike along with a cash injection to upgrade infrastructure committed to earlier in the year, is perceived to not only give one of Africa’s oldest hiking trails a facelift, but also to position as one of the best it locally and in the world.



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