The Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour offers a whole new perspective on forest life along the Garden Route, and is both an adrenalin rush and a thoroughly enjoyable educational experience.
There you are, at the top of a very tall Outeniqua yellowwood tree, one of the giants of the forest, standing on a wraparound wooden platform with your friends and two guides.
Far below is the forest floor. Your harness jingles as you make your way to the shiny cable leading to another stately yellowwood. The speed-freak in you does another tiny victory dance.
Under guidance, you shuffle forward, have your harness clipped onto the cable, put your hand into position for braking, and let yourself go.
Suddenly you are flying through 60m between the trees, a rush of adrenalin flashing through your body. Now the next tree and platform are approaching. You slow down with your gloved hand on the line and make a somewhat less-than-elegant landing. No matter.
Your triumphant grin hides an urge to make noises like Tarzan.
Your guide identifies a raucous cry: ‘Kow-kow-kow!’ It’s a Knysna turaco, and a few seconds later you see the green and red flash as it flies ahead of you, dodging a forest buzzard. Look out for the monkeys and turacos...
This notion of whizzing through the forest canopy on cable slides was first devised in Costa Rica by biologists who tired of climbing up and down incredibly tall trees while studying the rainforest canopy.
Their discovery spun-off into an ecotourism success story.
One of the same adventurous engineers from Costa Rica came and created the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour. One of the first things that will strike you is how well safeguarded the trees are from any harm. The cables and platforms are cushioned with rubber and other materials.
The state-of-the-art equipment, cables, pulleys and harnesses mean you’re safe too. In fact, the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour is rated as one of the most sophisticated such operations in the world.
HOW TO GET HERE
The nearest airports are either Port Elizabeth, which is three hours’ drive from Storms River Village, or George, which is about two hours’ drive away.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
This is an all-season destination, and the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour runs most days of the year.
AROUND THE AREA
This is adventure-central. Just up the road is the highest bungee jump in the world. The spectacular Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park is nearby. You could opt for the Woodcutter’s Journey into the indigenous forest or you could hire a bicycle and explore the old forestry roads.
If the forest intrigues you, enquire about a guided walk into the forest, or do the Woodcutter’s Journey, a slow putter along an old forest road with a guide explaining the ecosystem to you. This option includes a picnic.
Once you’re in Storms River Village, you can hire a bike or walk. Everything is close. You will be transported to and from the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour.
WHAT WILL IT COST
The price for a canopy tour is around R450 per adult. This includes a light meal and permit fees.
LENGTH OF STAY
A tour takes about three hours, so is a good half-day excursion. But there are plenty of other things to do here.
WHAT TO PACK
Wear comfortable clothing, including shorts or pants and shoes that are unlikely to slip off your feet.
WHERE TO STAY
Storms River Village has a number of options, ranging from backpacker establishments to guest houses and the Tsitsikamma Village Inn hotel.
WHAT TO EAT
Apart from the hotel restaurant (which also has an interesting and historic bar), try out Trees Restaurant, which offers light meals. The restaurant has provided jobs for 10 historically disadvantaged women in the community.
Storms River Village hosts an Elvis Festival in September every year.
How to get there101 Darnell St, Stormsriver