Eastern Cape - Eight hikers from Salt River were confronted with the notorious Bloukrans River crossing along the Otter Trail on Thursday – and three got into severe difficulty when they were washed out to sea and had to be rescued in rough conditions.
The trio had to be airlifted from rocks because sea swells prevented a rescue craft from getting to them.
Despite the ordeal, the three, who have not been named, opted to spend Thursday night at the last hut on the trail with the rest of their friends and are expected to finish it on Friday.
All eight had attempted to cross the river at low tide when the two women and a man were swept to sea.
The National Sea Rescue Institute’s (NSRI) Plettenberg station commander Deon Truter said they had been called out at 9.15am.
When the NSRI had launched a rescue craft, sea conditions had been rough with swells of between four and five metres.
They found five hikers had managed to cross the river.
“The remaining three hikers had been swept further out to sea and they had reached some rocks and had clambered on to the rocks but in the rough sea conditions our sea rescue boat was not able to rescue them,” Truter said.
An emergency service’s helicopter, Skymed 2, had been sent to the scene.
NSRI rescue swimmer Robert Gibson got aboard the helicopter and was winched on to the rocks where the three hikers were stuck.
The trio were hoisted from the rocks into the helicopter, airlifted to safety and reunited with the rest of the group.
Aside from a few scratches, the trio were fine, but their backpacks had been lost at sea.
Rangers had met them at the point where the rescue helicopter had dropped them off and had walked with them to a nearby hut.
Acting general manager for the Garden Route National Park, Mzwandile Mjadu, said the three had initially been shocked, but had recovered sufficiently to finish the trail.
He warned hikers doing the trail to be careful of the river.
Andre Scott, a rescue co-ordinator with the Mountain Club of SA, said the river could pose a danger.
“There was a big sea running and if you catch that outgoing tide, it can be potentially dangerous,” he said.