Tsitsikamma: gateway to the Garden Route, adventure capital of South Africa and home to the Otter Trail, a dramatic coastline, fynbos, the world’s highest bungee jumping from a bridge and an 800-year-old Yellowwood towering through the canopy of a lush indigenous forest.
That is Tsitsikamma, or rather that is how Tsitsikamma is often described. And it is true. But my version of Tsitsikamma also throws three decades of nostalgia into the mix.
Tsitsikamma – and especially Storms River Mouth National Park – is the place where I had my first ever holiday and Christmas at the age of two weeks (not that one needs a holiday at that age but I’m sure my parents needed one since I was a gassy and difficult baby, apparently). It is the place where we returned to year after year to camp, to soak in nature, to watch the stormy waves as it crashed into the pool and to jump around the ocean’s leftover Coca-Cola foam. It is also the place that was the starting point of my first ever long distance hiking trail, and the end of my third long distance hiking trail. It is where I climbed up a brick braai stand for a better view and grated my toe open on the way down. It is where I was too scared to walk over the suspension bridge at the age of 5, where I drew pictures at the age of seven and walked from caravan to caravan to “sell” my scribbles (my entrepreneurial start). It is the place that was on the “to do” list whenever I visited South Africa during the period of living abroad, the place where I stop en route to somewhere else, road trip after road trip, the place I make time for even if it is just to get a whiff of that familiar Tsitsikamma smell that hits you like a “welcome home” sign as you make your way down to Storms River Mouth.
During my recent road trip that started in the Garden Route (with a stop in Knysna) with Rawsonville as the next stop, followed by Pat Busch Mountain Reserve in Robertson and Gamkaskloof and a snowy Swartberg pass as the final cherry on top, I couldn’t resist stopping at Storms River Mouth. With limited time I did the short and easy-as-pie hiking trail to the suspension bridge, but somewhere along the way I lost track of time with my camera in hand and turned a 2 km/1 hour trail into a 2 km/3 hour trail thinking, “just one more photo, just one more timelapse”. Oops. But it was oh-so-worth-it. The weather was perfect; the clouds played along and the sun did a dance of light between the indigenous leafs.
Have a look at the video from my walk to the suspension bridge.
For now I’m not going to list all the activities and things to do in Tsitsikamma, but if you have never been to Tsitsikamma before and spending time in nature is how you prefer to travel, then GO!
The Tsitsikamma area offers an array hiking/biking trails and adventure activities (hello, it is home to the world’s highest bungee jumping from a bridge: Face Adrenalin’s Bloukrans Bungee jumping).
Go down to Storms River Mouth National Park (for adventure, hiking, some quiet time, camping or a chalet/forest hut) but also spend some time in Storms River Village (for adventure, hiking, restaurants, shops, and anything from backpacker to high-end accommodation).
Whatever you do, don’t just drive past Storms River Mouth National Park and Storms River Village on the N2. Stop and make some time for the Tsitsikamma.
Don’t plan your Tsitsikamma visit.
Tsitsikamma will plan your visit for you.
But if you really want to plan, visit www.koukammatourism.co.za and also www.sanparks.org (I prefer to stay in Storms River National Park, either in a tent – starting from R300 p/camp site for the first two people – or in one of the forest huts – starting from R555 for the first two people).