There are many things to love about Tsitsikamma, most of them being the highly adventurous activities you can do there. From swinging from the tree tops on a zip line, to jumping off the highest bungee bridge in the world, to Segway-ing through indigenous rainforest, Tsitsikamma National Park is an adventurer’s paradise.
Nestled between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in South Africa this protected area on the celebrated Garden Route is not only an amazing adventure destination, but also one of the most beautiful places in the world. Here are a few of the most adventurous things to do in the area.
In the middle of Storms River Village, next to the 70s-inspired diner, is the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours HQ. One of the most adrenaline-inducing activities in the park, the canopy tour starts with a brief safety demonstration and gear-up before you’re shuttled to the outskirts of the forest. Then the fun begins. Stepping off the first platform, which is conveniently located on a hill, and zipping through trees to the next platform which is built around a tree top, really gets the blood pumping.
There’s nothing like swinging between 700-year-old Outeniqua Yellowwood trees 30 metres above the forest floor! Two professional guides constantly check and recheck your gear and keep you informed about interesting features of the forest ecology and birdlife. The two-and-a-half hour tour costs US$48 (R540), and includes all gear, a certificate to confirm your participation in the tour and lunch. Booking in advance is essential.
Take an amazing guided tour by kayak across the Storms River habour to the famous suspension bridge. From there you’ll go up the Storms River mouth and experience Tsitsikamma in the most unique way. You’ll also get the opportunity to paddle into caves filled with bats and swim in the natural pools. The US$38 (R427) guided tour lets you truly experience the natural beauty of the region. There are also amazing cliffs that you can jump off into the deep pools of the gorge–a great way to get the adrenaline pumping after a calm kayaking experience. Lilos are also available for those who want to take it easy and just relax.
My favourite way to see the Tsitsikamma forest is by off-road Segway. It is also my favourite thing to do as it is eco-friendly and a less destructive way to the forest. Don’t worry if you’ve never tried the two wheeled, self powered Segway before, because a 30-minute training and safety session is provided. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be taken on a two-hour guided tour through Storms River Village, into the forest (with a few giggles from the locals as you pass by in your safety gear).
The tour takes you to the spectacular Tsitsikamma big tree and back. Heading through the forest, you’ll soon understand why off-road Segways are used instead of the basic city model. Since you’ll be “driving” through a river, through mud, and over bumpy gravel roads and dirt paths, the bigger tyres and more powerful electric motor is a must. The tour costs US$38 (R427). A shorter, one hour tour through village is also available.
Bloukrans Bridge Bungee Jumping
The most adventurous thing to do in Tsitsikamma is bungee jump. And this isn’t your average bungee jump; this is Bloukrans Bridge, the highest bridge bungee in the world. The friendly staff keep your nerves at bay until it is your turn to go: then, standing on the edge of the bridge with 709 feet between you and the ground, your body and mind will both be screaming “don’t do it,” but somehow you will defy them! And once you jump, you’ll realize that it’s one of the best things you ever did, and you can tick it off your bucket list.
For those who are less adventurous, you can try the bridge walk and enjoy the view and vibe on the bridge. Or watch as people bungee from the onsite restaurant and lookout point. The bungee jump costs US$75 (R843) and the bridge walk costs US$10 (R112).
Hikes & Walks
With dramatic coast and beautiful forests, the Tsitsikamma region is ideal for hikes and walks. From extraordinary one-hour trails to a five-day trek, there are hikes for everyone. Here are a few in the area:
Otter Trail: One of the best hikes in the world, this five day walking trail stretches over 41km from the Storms River Mouth to Nature’s Valley. The whole trail is located in the Tsitsikamma National Park and takes walkers through the forest and along the coastline. Amazing huts provide shelter overnight and have amazing views.
The Mouth Trail: Starting at Sandy Bay, this 2km, one hour walk takes you on a winding board walk through the forest, across the infamous suspension bridge, past the Khoisan Heritage Site cave and ends at lookout point.
The Lourie Trail: An easier, family-friendly walk takes you through the forest of Tsitsikamma ending at the Agulhas lookout point. This is a 1km walk with a brief climb will take you about one hour to complete and passes through beautiful fynbos.
Blue Duiker Trail: A longer version of the Lourie Trail, this two hour, 3,7km walk takes you the heart of the forest where you’ll see giant Outeniqua Yellowwood trees. The trail ends at Storms River Mouth (the beginning of the Otter Trail).
Waterfall Trail: The first 3km of this trail is the same as the Otter Trail with the second 3km stretching along the coastline with a stop at a breathtaking waterfall with a deep pool. Great for a day trip with a break at the waterfall. The trail takes three hours with one and half hours to and from the waterfall.
Whether you’re a newbie or a pro, the protected marine area of the Tsitsikamma National Park is filled with colourful coral, a huge amount of fish, sting rays and sand sharks. You can do an underwater guided scuba tour from shore or boat with a certified dive master. The boat dives have a minimum of four people per dive and go to the exquisite Tsitsikamma reefs. Shore entry dives cost US$19 (R213), and boat entry dives are priced according to number of people diving. All gear is available for hire as well, and diving courses cost US$84 (R944).