IMAGINE a hike where you don’t have to carry your bags, where luxury accommodation, gourmet food and warm hospitality greet you at every stopover and you have a personal guide who unlocks the secrets of the trail.
One doesn’t need to imagine, because such a trail exists.
Started by The Fernery owners Meg and Franz Gerber a few years ago, the Dolphin Trail along the Tsitsikamma coastline is a luxurious 20km hike where you are surrounded by spectacular views, can hear the mighty roar of the ocean and enjoy the magic of the forest while your bags are being portaged to the next stop and your guide carries your snacks and drinks.
The trail starts at Storms River Mouth in the Tsitsikamma National Park and after we had checked into our log cabin by the sea we were free to explore the park before we met our guide and fellow hikers at dinner.
We were a group of six, including the editor of Elle Decorations and her husband and another couple who were avid hikers.
We met up at the newly opened Cattle Baron restaurant and were greeted by manager Robert.
In between our three course dinner, he told us about the area.
Our guide, Henry, met us at the restaurant and told us about the trail. It was clear we were in safe hands.
After getting to know our “hiking family”, we headed back to the cabin for a good night’s rest.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the restaurant before we set out for the 7.5km first leg.
Henry met us and organised our luggage to be portaged to Misty Mountain Reserve, which would be our first stopover that night.
We started at the beach and made our way towards the swing bridge at Storms River Mouth.
It was a lovely, scenic walk as the guide stopped often to explain about the plants and trees.
This hike is going to be a breeze, I thought, and soon was not intimidated by my fellow hikers who had done several gruelling hikes around world.
But once we had taken our pictures at the bridge and admired the view, it was a strenuous uphill climb that seemed to last forever.
Luckily, I could catch my breath as the guide stopped every few metres to point out plants of interest and show us the whales which were playing in the ocean.
At the top of the mountain, we were rewarded with a delicious spread of snacks and drinks, organised by the Misty Mountain staff.
We snacked and took in the spectacular scenery – and then it was downhill along the coastline as we enjoyed the unexplored territory.
For lunch, we stopped at a beautiful spot which had amazing tidal pools. If it was summer, the hikers would spend time cooling off in the pool and snorkel.
Another tough incline after lunch, and before long we were at Misty Mountain Reserve where staff offered us welcome drinks and a hot towel.
We had the rest of the afternoon to relax and enjoy the views of the Indian Ocean.
Supper was served in a lovely dining room area and we sat with our “family” and shared about our lives.
Exhausted, we went to our stunning chalets which had the most comfortable bed I had ever slept on.
After a peaceful night’s rest we made sure we ate well at breakfast for the almost 11km leg ahead of us.
The first part was easy going downhill and we stayed mainly at sea level. This walk along the coastline is magnificent. It was my favourite part of the trail. We also got adventurous as the trail ended and we had to make our way over rocks right by the sea.
Henry was fantastic and made sure we were safe.
The only incline of the day was short but steep and we were rewarded with a surprise picnic lunch in the forest.
After a beautiful walk in the forest after lunch, we made our way to The Fernery.
Exhausted, we sat at the lodge, enjoying our drinks and admiring the views. Life does not get better than this!
We stayed in a magnificent, luxurious suite at the lodge. When you open the curtains in the morning, you are greeted by an amazing view of the ocean and waterfall.
We met our “family” for our last dinner together in the dining area.
The food was as good as it looked. We went to bed late that night chatting to our friends. It is amazing what relationships can be formed on hikes.
After we checked out of The Fernery the next morning, we were taken on a scenic drive in a 4×4 vehicle down the historic Storms River Pass. This was another highlight of the trip.
The Dolphin Trail was an experience I will never forget. – Catherine Richards