Flying past the ancients: A treetop canopy adventure.
I hadn’t noticed it until I was standing next to it. It was older than anything I had the pleasure of encountering other than in a museum. But unlike the relics; it was still living and breathing. And was probably the biggest tree I had ever seen and at 30 metres high was probably the highest as well. In short, one thing was for sure, we were going to climb up into its canopy and soar like an eagle to the next one, all in an afternoon as we braved the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours.
The drive from Cape Town was uneventful but as we entered into the Garden Route it all changed. A wolf sanctuary, an elephant walk, the Garden of Eden and radical Raptors to mention a few. The list of activities on offer all amounted to the antithesis of city living. And Storms River Village our destination was no different. A once hunters box today is a settlement of sorts down a short turnoff the highway as you pass into the Eastern Cape. It’s peppered with activity centres and was upon observation a sanctuary unto itself. We were in Davy Crockett’s town as depicted by all the log cabins nestled neatly in the woodlands.
But before we made our way to the tours office we had to make a stop, a food stop. The A – Frame outside with the words “Best Coffee” was definitely the clincher. And true to form it was, for what ensued next could only be described as heavenly. Hot beef and vegetable soup garnished with homemade breads made my breakfast at the Bistro @ Bitou the perfect start for an adventure.
Of which ours was just beginning as we stopped in front of the orientation office. I had to admit though; it was the only time the hairs on the back of my neck rose, especially when we were asked to sign the indemnity forms. But according to our lead Guide; Marlin no one had ever been in a pickle, yet.
Soon afterwards and having donned our harnesses and performed our safety checks we found ourselves deep within the forest. And as we drove through rows of towering Yellow Woods rivalling city skyscrapers the distinctive barking, kow, kow of the Knysna Loeries left me with a feeling as if I were in a world lost to time.
But time as I came to appreciate was of no importance as we climbed onto the first platform. Marlin prompted me to go first – probably due to my apparent fear of heights – and said “don’t forget to look down”. Needless to say I couldn’t as I kept my eyes shut sliding slowly to the first of eight platforms. Landing “Bees” just said “if you keep your eyes closed you’re going to miss out on all that’s around you” as he tied me to my post while we waited for the others. I had to admit though after getting a feel for the tour upon completion of my second slide I was able to bravely keep my eyes open throughout.
A couple of slides later we were on the highest platform – a full 30 meters up – or 11 storeys if you like. The height perpetuated my swaying stance as Marlin reminded me to “Stop in the middle it’s the highest point”. “Why not” I replied as I was whisked fast approaching the middle of the cable. I squeezed the cable as tightly as I could and suddenly felt myself slowly sliding to a stop. And there I was right in the middle dangling like a carrot in front of a donkey’s nose. It was high, higher than I have ever been and it was beautiful. The midday light piercing through the canopy and nourishing the ground dwelling ferns looked as if I stepped into a world when Dinosaurs still roamed.
Following this I began to pay closer attention to my surroundings as the guides shared with us some informative little snippets concerning the natural fauna and flora residing in the forest. One worth mentioning was particularly intriguing. And as we landed on the platform of a 600 year old Yellow Wood, Marlin asked “Why are there those little hairs growing near its canopy.” To which all present presumed it to be parasites or moss only to be told it’s called Old Man’s Beard. And grows not just because of its age, but due to the lack of pollution, and is why you’re not allowed to smoke while on the tour. Apparently the trees are strangers to it and as in Marlin words ‘We would love to keep it that way”. It was in a nutshell eco – tourism in action.
At any rate we were fast approaching our final slide. It was nothing to write home about but was probably the hardest one to complete. As it meant our tour was coming to an end, and we would soon be back on the highway bound for home. But shortly after we unclipped from the cable for the last time – now standing again at the foot of a Yellow Wood giant – I just smiled. Knowing that for now at least, that everyone, not just tourists, would still have the chance to see all this nature in nature and not in a museum.
- Why not take a hike to the oldest and biggest Yellowwood tree in the Garden Route. It’s a quick hop across the highway and is well worth the visit. I mean just being in the presence of a living organism that’s been around since before the European explorers even set foot on South African soil is something I just cannot put into words. Estimated to be between 600 – 800 years old.
- If you’re looking for a spot to have a drink and/ or chow before or after your chosen activity then why not grab something either at the Bistro @Bitou or at the throwback 50’s style diner Marilyn…(They also host an annual event, whereby 50’s enthusiasts show off their vintage cars and style.)
- Other than the treetop tours one of our favourite excursions has to be the Noah Park wolf sanctuary. Situated just outside of Plettenberg Bay, it acts as a refuge for wild wolfs and what is known as wolf – dogs/ hybrids that have been illegally smuggled into the country and/ or bred. It is a charitable concern and does rely heavily on the public for donations. Not so much on cash as they require food, meat to be specific. So if you find you have any to spare or know of someone who is for example, a cattle farmer, and are willing to donate give us or them a call.
- And if the activity above doesn’t get your heart racing then the wolfs feeding time will. Between 4 – 5 pm daily its their feeding time and all members of the public are welcome to watch the wolfs howl as they themselves distribute their food according to their packs hierarchy.
- The Garden Route itself is home to a lot more activities and sites to explore and enjoy, just keep your eyes peeled as you drive along the N2 (while at the same time keeping your eyes on the road) otherwise you might miss one. Another of our favourites had to be the heads in Knysna. It’s basically the two towering cliffs that flank the mouth of the lagoon and is a feast for the eyes. Along with the Cornuti restaurant situated on the rump of the east head make it a fantastic stop for a sun downer and/ meal.
- Check what events might be happening at the same time you decide to visit the Garden route. As there are many events that take place all throughout the year and it just might be something that’s right up your alley.
- Our accommodation was provided by the Knysna chalets and was, especially if you’re an animal enthusiast, a paradise of sorts. Situated on the banks of the lagoon near Brenton on Sea, its menagerie of local wildlife and the log cabins up in the trees made our stay a memorable one.
A special thanks goes out to all the staff at Storms River Adventures Tsitsikamma forest. With an extra special thanks going out to “Marlin” and “Bees”.
The tour itself cost R250 per person and was no more than 3 hours long. It consisted of eight platforms of various heights and was supervised at all times by officials of Storms River Adventures.
Our canopy tour adventure took place on June 27th 2014
By Slippery Joe Lyzard © (Writer for Nomadic Existence)
Photography: Nomadic Bug ©
Nomadic Existence 2015 ©
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