Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours in Garden Route, South Africa

This is a great soft adventure option for your Garden Route holidays in South Africa. It’s based in the indigenous rainforest of the Tsitsikamma on the eastern side of the Garden Route.

The tour consists of ten ziplines which whizz you from one treetop platform to another. The ziplines start quite gently both in terms of degree of descent and length (and thus potential speed) and build up to an impressive 70 metres. The treetop platforms are like giant treehouses, but much higher off the ground than those you ever built as children. Another attractive feature is that not one single nail has been hammered into the trees. The construction has been build using ropes and pulleys in a very innovative eco-friendly manner. On arrival at Storms River you have a safety briefing and then you are then kitted up with harness, ropes, helmet and take a short 4×4 ride to the start of the forest tour.

The treetop canopy tour presses several buttons for me: you are enjoying the stunning beauty of this vast tract of natural forest and doing something that you don’t normally do, namely hurtling from one tree to another at top speed.  I was also aware that my younger sons loved seeing their parents – especially their mother – doing something that they wouldn’t expect her to do.

However it would be wrong of me to over-stress the serene, tranquil nature of the forest. Whizzing along at speed in seemingly Tarzanesque style does naturally elicit a couple of involuntary screams and not so involuntary war crys. Indeed my husband and sons had an unacknowledge battle to see who could make the most noise. All very satisfying in a primeval sort of way.

Having said that, the process of getting 6 or 8 people clipped, sped away and unclipped again at the next tree stop, takes a while and so you do have plenty of time to enjoy the vast forest with its birds, gorgeous trees and inquisitive monkeys.

As a family we have enjoyed this excursion before on our Garden Route holidays. Since then, they have added a very useful safety function which enables your guide to slow your descent down if you are coming in too quickly. (Before you had to brake yourself using your hand which was a little scary and secondly people were not always the best judge of their own speed. Some still hurtled into the second landing stage whilst others braked too much and were left dangling in the middle and had to be pulled in laboriously!) Now you braked a little to make the experience enjoyable but in the knowledge that your guide will slow you down at the end if necessary…

On the earlier occasion, my middle son was only 7 years but very keen. He had enjoyed a zipline across a small lake on the previous day and so I was confident that he would enjoy it. As the various harnessed, ropes, back-up ropes, back-up to back-up ropes were added to his small body, I could see the confidence draining out of him. Perversely the safer the activity became, the less sure of himself he was. I could see my much-anticipated trip disappearing with an igminious return to the car. However the guide assured us that he could take Mark in tandem (and said that this was possible for suddenly scared adults as well.) So Mark went with our guide for the first few slides and then built up enough confidence to do it solo. Good to know if you have one child who may not be as brave as the others. On this second occasion, the older and possibly wiser Mark led the way from the start.

Practicalities
Storms River Village is about an hour’s drive from Plettenberg Bay, allow 1½ 2hours from Knysna ie. It’s further than you might think. The whole excursion from arrival to departure takes 3½ hours including the briefing and the complimentary snack/lunch. It is relatively expensive especially for families but if you time it right then the snack can count as lunch which offsets some of the cost.

What else to do in the area?
It would be a shame to only do this activity in the Tsitsikamma area. The turnoff for the Storms River National Park is very close and this makes for a great combination with the treetop canopy tour as you can enjoy the short 1½km walk to the Storms River expension bridge with its glorious ocean views.

Alternatively on your return, you can stop off at the Crags to visit one of a number of attractions such as Monkeyland, the Birds of Eden, the Elephant Sanctuary, Tenikwa Cheetah Sanctuary and perhaps end the day with some wine-tasting at Bramon wine estate.

Not a bad way to spend a day in the Garden Route…

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Kate Bergh is co-founder of Cedarberg African Travel, a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa.

She heads up the South African office, having lived in South Africa since 1993. Her home looks up to the Cedarberg Mountains, where she enjoys hiking and cycling, when she’s not out discovering new places to visit, with her three children in tow. Kate has travelled extensively throughout the region to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as most areas of South Africa. She also loves history, meeting people and a good thriller...

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