A guide for visiting the Tsitsikamma National Park
Tsitsikamma National Park is a protected area on the Garden Route, in the Western and Eastern Cape province of South Africa. It is a coastal reserve well known for its indigenous forests, dramatic coastline, and the Otter Trail. In 2009 the park was amalgamated with the Wilderness National Park and various other areas of land to form the Garden Route National Park.
The park covers an 80 km long stretch of coastline and is home of a variety of marine species and indigenous flora. The Tsitsikamma National Park boasts unique and spectacular scenery in this magical part of South Africa. The word “Tsitsikamma” hails from the Khoi language meaning place of much water, probably referring to the clear water of the Tsitsikamma River.
Its coastal location has made it even more desirable as a traveller destination due to its extensively diverse landscape, ranging from towering mountains to stunning coral reefs, which house thousands of delights for scuba divers and snorkelers to discover. Rocky creeks and mighty rivers are in abundance throughout the park and provide fantastic opportunities for adrenaline-seekers to explore some of the less well-known areas of Tsitsikamma.
Once in the Park, there are different self-guided hiking trails of increasing difficulty and vary in length.
Trails guide in Tsitsikamma National Park
1. The easiest and shortest is “Mouth Trail” (also known as suspension bridges trail), 1 km long and around 1-hour walk. Along a winding boardwalk through indigenous forest to the mouth of the Storms River, you’ll cross 2 suspension bridges. The trail continues after the bridge to get a lookout point on the plateau along a steep path. At the beginning of the trail, you can book the most popular activity “Kayak and Lilo adventure“. It’s an up-close and personal encounter with Tsitsikamma’s famous Storms River. Starting on the kayak you paddle up the river, passing the bats’ cave, cliffs and majestic views.
2. The “Loeire Trail“, 1 km long and 1.30-hour walk, takes you through the beauty of the indigenous forest. The Loerie trail gets to the plateau at the Agulhas lookout point, after a short uphill climb. The trail then passes through a short section of fynbos, before continuing through the beautiful coastal forest.
3. The “Blue Duiker Trail“, 3.7 km long and 3 hours walk, is a more extended version of the Loerie Trail and will take you into the heart of the indigenous forest. In terms of vegetation, the coastal belt is made up of dry forest and a variety of tree species which include White Milkwood, Wild Camphor, Outeniqua Yellowwood, Stinkwood and Red Alder. It takes its name from the rare Blue Duiker that with Bush pig, Vervet Monkeys, Leopard and Caracal roam the forest. The trail ends at the beginning of the famous Otter Trail – Waterfall trail.
4. The “Waterfall Trail” includes the first 3km of the world-renowned Otter Trail; it’s 3 km long and around 3.30 hours walk. At the end of the 3km stretch along the rugged coastline, the spectacular waterfall, plunging into a deep pool, before flowing into the sea, will enchant you. Weather permitting, you can enjoy the pool and have a picknick. This trail is relatively strenuous, and caution must be taken at high tides.
5. The “Otter Trail” is one of South Africa’s most popular trails and is known worldwide. It is a five-day trail that starts at the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp and stretches westward as far as the Groot River estuary at Nature’s Valley, a distance of about 43 km. Along the path, the scenery is continuously changing. Caves, waterfalls, rock outcrops, sandy and rocky beaches (some covered with driftwood) as well as ravines and indigenous forests with unique vegetation and stretches of fynbos can be seen. The Indian Ocean, always within view, enhances the rugged coastline and reflects the setting sun at the end of the day. The weather in the Tsitsikamma National Park can be unpredictable, variable, unsettled and has a substantial influence on the visual effects of the coastal scenery. For general information about the Otter hiking trail and reservation, click here on Sanparks.
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Storm River Village, a tiny town where you can be based outside the park, also offers a different choice of activities. Walks and short hikes like Plaatbos Walks (3 different routes of 8km, 7,5 km and 5 km inside the indigenous forest ), Goesa Walk (2 km inside the forest until you get to a stream), Fynbos Trail (1.8 km along a flat and easy route ), Ratel Trail – The Big Tree (3 different routes of 4,2 km, 2.6 km and 1 km inside the moist High Forest; here a 500m wooden boardwalk through indigenous forest leads to the Yellowwood giant. Walking to the tree takes about 10 minutes. The tree is estimated to be around 800 years old). Another popular activity is the “Canopy Tours“. The Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours is located in the scenic Storm River Village and consists of ten slides, and the longest one is 91m long, each ending on a platform constructed in the trees, 30 meters high.
Fee and opening time: 98 rands, from 7 to 19;
Getting there: The park is along the Garden Route, 190 km from Porth Elizabeth, 60 km from Plettenberg Bay and 100 km from Knysna. We spent in the park half day making the Mouth Trail and relaxing along the coast.
Where to sleep: inside the park at Storm River Mouth Camp (more info click here: Accommodations), outside the park, the best option is at Storm River Village. Here you’ll find a different range of accommodations. Storm River village is only 12 km from the main entrance gate. We slept at Tsitsikamma Backpackers.