Tsitsikamma, so named by the ancient Khoi San people, means “the place of abundant or sparkling water”.  There could not be a more apt name for such a wonderful area.

Abundant sparkling waters

Looking over Storms River mouth towards the rest camp

The national park was proclaimed in 1964 in order to conserve both the indigenous forests and establish the first ever marine conservation area in Africa.  I’m mighty glad that they did; how hideous would it be if property developers got their dirty mitts on this place? {shudder}…

From Nature’s Valley in the west, the national park stretches along 85km of coastline to the east.  The main rest camp, at Storms River, is central to this protected stretch of land and sea, and the starting point for many a hiking trail; the Otter Trail being the most lauded.

View at start of the Otter Trail

View at the start of the Otter Trail

Compared to the camp at Nature’s Valley, the Storms River camp is much busier, more bustling and generally noisier.  Yes, there are bus-loads of day trippers visiting this stunning location, but the main noise factor is the sea itself.  Picnic sites for the day visitors, campsites, huts and chalets are all laid out along the narrow grassy bank between forested hills on one side and the craggy rocks on the other,  where the most spectacular waves crash with relentless power.  This place is utterly magical.

Crashing waves

Possibly the most photographed wave-crash in the world…

From the ever changing colour of the water, to spotting both Southern Right and Humpback Whales swimming past – to the dassies (Rock Hyrax) grazing on the grass between our chalet and the sea, and the Swift (Greater Crested) Terns, African Black Oystercatchers and Kelp (Southern Blackbacked) Gulls flying by, there was not a moment when nature did not provide us with a visual treat.

Southern Right Whale

A Southern Right Whale teases us with a back-flip

Dassie posing

Dassie posing

Dassie close-up

What do you want? Can’t you see I was busy eating??

Swift (Greater Crested) Terns

Swift (Greater Crested) Tern colony

Swift (Greater Crested) Terns disturbed

Large waves disturb the tern colony

There were  plenty of youngsters sheltering amongst the rocks too…

Dassie creche

Dassie creche

Kelp Gull chicks

Kelp Gull chicks

We even got to rock-perve.  You know how us Geologists are; it is never “just a rock”.

Quartzitic Sandstone

Quartzitic Sandstone stands up to the pounding of the waves

This coastline is formed of the quartzitic sandstones of the Table Mountain Group that, as part of the Cape Fold Belt, form anticlines (arches) and synclines (troughs).  Here we are looking at the eroded remnants of a syncline that is gently plunging towards the sea.

sandstone syncline

Sandstone syncline

Now, I may not be a surfer girl, but I do love to catch a “good wave”.  The water had me mesmerised.  There is no way on this green earth that you can ever replicate the colour of this sea.  Its dimensionality is astonishing.  I loved it.

Blue waters

Just how blue can blue be?

I could have spent hours trying to capture that pale turquoise as the waves crashed over, contrasted with the deep aquablue/green on the underside.  Oh wait..! I did spend hours trying to capture that pale turquoise as the waves crashed over :)

Cresting Wave

Catching the waves

Turquoise wave

Stunning turquoise waves never failed to impress me

As previously mentioned, the Storms River camp is both the starting point for the Otter Trail, as well as playing host to several shorter trails into the surrounding hillsides and along the coast.  The trail of interest for most day visitors is the one that leads to the suspension bridge, which crosses over the Storms River at the river’s mouth.

Storms River suspension bridge

Storms River suspension bridge

The trail starts from behind the camp’s restaurant and shop, taking you past a small beach at the old harbour.

Storms River Restaurant beach and harbour

Storms River Restaurant beach and harbour

The very first time I walked over this bridge, back in 1998, the footpath climbed precariously up the hillside, before dropping down at the start of the bridge.

Unstable footpath

The unstable, now closed off, footpath

Now, that footpath is closed (I’m presuming to be the result of erosion and hillside instability) and there are two new sections of suspension bridge that take you right over the top of the rocky coastline, complete with waves crashing below your feet.  It’s pretty cool – and a whole lot more solid than the last suspension bridge I found myself on in the Kakum National Park in Ghana!

New suspension bridges

New suspension bridges

Suspension bridges from above

Suspension bridges from above

During the day, you will not get this place to yourself, so if that is what you want – aim to be on the footpath by about 8:30am at the latest.

attempting parallel lines

Attempting to capture parallel lines on an empty bridge

You will have plenty of time to walk there and back and, of course, stop to take photographs of the impressively steep-sided gorge whilst actually on the bridge without it being uber wobbly!

Storms River gorge

Storms River gorge

The coach tours tend to descend en masse from about 9:30am onwards; the last to leave in the evening will only do so at around 5-5:30pm.  You could, of course, walk to the bridge after all the crowds have disappeared – and enjoy a little sundowner :)

We enjoyed our sundowners from the stoep, with the braai flames crackling as we made our preparations for cooking our evening meal.

Braai flames

Braai flames…. Check.

Sunset with silhouetted waves

Sunset with silhouetted waves

Sunset skies

Sunset skies… Check and check!

Now, this is the good life!

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