The eastern extremity of the diverse Garden Route National Park encompasses the spectacular and renowned Tsitsikamma section. Tsitsikamma, a Khoisan phrase for “place of abundant water”, is a breathtaking mosaic of unrivalled beauty comprising mountains, temperate coastal forests, Cape fynbos and ocean. Home to the world famous Otter Trail, a four and a half day trail ranked amongst the best in the world, the Tsitsikamma section includes the first marine reserve proclaimed in Africa! This ocean sanctuary is a vital link in the breeding cycle of both littoral and pelagic species in South Africa’s southern oceans.
Hikers, trailists and walkers are spoiled for choice in the Tsitsikamma section, as are avid birdwatchers. Birders should keep a sharp eye out for less conspicuous species such as Half-collared Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Victorin’s Warbler, Striped Flufftail, Grey Cuckooshrike and Narina Trogon. The region too caters to the needs of adrenalin junkies – from bungy jumping and black water tubing to canopy tours in the Tsitsikamma forests.
A prominent feature of the Tsitsikamma section is the Storms River, with most visitors to the area catching their first glimpse of the river either via the Paul Sauer Bridge on the N2 or at the river mouth itself. Sanparks have established a tourist camp at the Storms River mouth offering a variety of accommodation options from chalets and cottages to caravan and camping sites. The Tsitsikamma Restaurant, an a la carte eatery famous for its seafood dishes, affords diners spectacular views of the rugged coastline of the Park. A number of short trails, from both the restaurant and the park entrance gate, lead one to the river mouth which is spanned by three suspension bridges, including the Storms River Mouth Suspension Bridge.
This somewhat wobbly but stable piece of engineering is a must for those wishing to experience, at close hand, the pounding of the surf as the Storms River rushes into the Indian Ocean.
The bridge leads to a lookout point affording unsurpassed views of the surrounding river gorge, forests and rocky shoreline. Constructed in 1969 by Jackie de Vos, the bridge is 77m long and only 7m above the water level at its lowest point. With a load bearing capacity of 2 250kg, no more than 25 persons are permitted on the bridge at any one point in time. The suspension bridge was repaired by Haggie Rand in 1996 and a further 2 shorter bridges were constructed in 2006, following a devastating fire that destroyed the boardwalk (and surrounding vegetation) leading to the bridge. These additional suspension bridges only enhance the magic one experiences during this close encounter with the Storms River Mouth.
Despite the somewhat unsettling swaying inherent in all suspension bridges, no serious casualties on the part of bridge walkers have occurred to date. In 2007 a tourist did fall off one of the concrete supports onto the rocks below as she stood up to watch her husband take some photos of the kids – she suffered a broken leg, sprained ankle and some cuts and bruises, but otherwise was unharmed.
The Storms River Suspension Bridge should most definitely be included on all Bamboo, the Guest House Knysna visitors’ itineraries when venturing to the picturesque Tsitsikamma region – a bridge that enables one to soak up the essential beauty and majesty of the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park.