5 Perfect Days in
Tsitsikamma: Garden Route Gem
The Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park is located on South Africa’s southern coast spanning both the Western and Eastern Cape. With impressively steep cliffs, colourful reefs, ancient forests and an abundance of bird and marine life, it’s a paradise for nature lovers. There are spectacular hiking trails and other adventure activities for even hard-core thrill-seekers to enjoy. And if you just want to get away from it all and indulge in some solitude, you’ve found the perfect place. There really is something for everyone.
Day 1: Storms River Mouth
The suspension bridge ‘’hike’’ is the perfect place to start your Tsitsikamma journey. The entire route to the suspension bridge is covered with a wooden walkway so it’s pretty comfortable to walk along however there are a few steep steps so be careful. The views are simply breathtaking! It’s a good 2 kilometre round-trip walk so don’t forget to take some water with you. I can highly recommend spending the afternoon with Untouched Adventures exploring the river on a Kayak & Lilo Adventure. You’ll start off on the kayak and paddle until you reach a rocky ‘’road block’’. At this point you’ll switch over to a very relaxing lilo cruise. Experiencing the forest from the river gives you a completely different perspective and vantage point. Do something out of your comfort zone – the guides are professional and informative and you’ll be in safe hands!
Day 2: The Waterfall Hike
We completely misjudged this hike…set aside at least 5 hours for this and pack enough snacks and water! Two small bottles of water and an apple between 5 people isn’t sufficient…Initially the terrain is really comfortable but once you reach the rocky section it gets quite technical. Whatever you do, don’t give up and turn around! We came across 2 groups that had turned back without making it to the waterfall and they were so close though! You’ll be rewarded with beautiful views and a refreshingly cool dip in the pool. It’s a great spot for photographers. The route is well marked with yellow arrows and prints so you will easily find your way. Once you get back to camp, kick off your shoes and relax! Pour a drink and look out for surfing dolphins or even a Cape clawless otter on the hunt.
Day 3: Explore The Village
Storms River Village oozes with charm and boasts with pretty tree-lined streets (well, there’s only really one), quaint curio shops and quirky restaurants. Definitely try out Marilyn’s 60’s Diner for delicious milkshakes and nostalgic jukebox vibes. Spend the afternoon ziplining through the canopy for unrivalled views of the forest and excellent birding opportunities. Don’t forget to visit the Big Tree too! It’s located just 1km east of the village – you can’t miss the signs. This giant yellowwood is an impressive 36.6m tall and has a circumference of almost 9 meters! If you feel like a guided tour, there’s a Segway tour which includes a ride through the village and then heads out to the Big Tree.
Day 4: Nature’s Valley
Off the beaten track…secret hideaway…tucked away gem. Nature’s Valley offers tranquillity, bird life in abundance and sublime views. The giant Outeniqua yellowwood trees literally take your breath away. To orientate yourself, I would suggest heading down to the beach and the lagoon. Or you could hire a canoe at the Vasselot Rest Camp for a leisurely paddle all the way to the mouth to explore the estuary. Visit the small café in town for a mandatory ice cream and look out for a Narina Trogan and Knysna Loeries (tourocos). Nature’s Valley is about rest and relaxation – don’t rush anything!
Day 5: Spectacular Hiking Trails
The Salt River Trail is a hike not to be missed! There’s a 15 km route which includes a section of the Keurpad Trail or try the shorter 9 km trail that focuses on the river mouth area. Both of which traverse the beach, coastal forest and pretty fynbos. Keep your eyes open for bush buck, bush pigs and beautiful birds. If you’re lucky enough you may even spot an otter! If you are keen for a shorter, ‘’easier’’ hike, I can highly recommend the Kalanderkloof Trail. It starts at the entrance to the Vasselot Rest Camp and winds along the main road before you join the Tsitsikamma Hiking trail. This first kilometre of this hike is along a wooden walkway which makes for an easy hike. The remainder of the route down to the lagoon. Pack a picnic to enjoy on the beach overlooking the lagoon. You can walk back the way you came or take a shortcut across the lagoon and walk back to camp.
Where to Stay in Tsitsikamma
The SAN Parks accommodation at the mouth is lovely and there’s something to suit every budget. I was impressed at how well maintained and clean the chalets were and the staff are all very friendly. As an alternative, you could stay in Storms River Village. I can recommend the Tsitsikamma Village Inn, Swallows Nest Country Cottages or At The Woods Guest House.
Again, the SAN Parks accommodation is ideal; nothing fancy but clean and comfortable and in the heart of it all. Just be very aware of the cheeky baboons and monkeys – lock your doors and windows. If you are camping, make sure you secure your tent as best you can! For the ultimate spoil, spend a night or 2 at the beautiful Lily Pond Country House just up the road.
There is still so much more to see and do so don’t think that one visit is enough. If you do head out on a Tsitsikamma adventure, I’d love to hear about it. Happy travels!
“Nothing but breathing the air of Africa, and actually walking through it, can communicate the indescribable sensations.“