I’m Farirai, I’m 27 and I really love to travel. I work full time as a chemical engineer in South Africa and I’m a travel blogger. I started this blog, Gophari, to be a voice that keeps it real about the barriers that stop Africans from traveling. The goal is to break these barriers and empower more Africans to travel their country and the world.
Ok now let’s get into the topic of this post…
Planning a trip to Tsitsikamma
Have you ever seen a photo on Instagram that had you start planning a trip? That was me when I first saw a picture of the suspension bridge over Storms River at Tsitsikamma National Park.
So in March 2019, I finally made this dream trip happen. I spent 4 days in Tsitsikamma in Eastern Cape and did as many of the activities that I could fit in.
What is Tsitsikamma?
For those that don’t know, Tsitsikamma is along the Garden Route which is a scenic, coastal region from Mossel Bay in Western Cape to Plettenberg Bay in Eastern Cape, South Africa.
There are a number of outdoor activities to try in the area. What makes it special is the dense forests, the black water of the Storms River, the small intimate town and The spectacular views of the ocean and river.
How to get to Tsitsikamma
It took me a while (a couple of years) to finally make my trip to Tsitsikamma happen. The reason was that it’s not the easiest place to get to. So I have listed different ways to get. Go with what works with your budget and schedule. I promise that the effort to get there is worth it.
Fly to Port Elizabeth
One way of getting to Tsitsikamma is to fly to Port Elizabeth. Once you land in Port Elizabeth you will still need to do a 192km drive to Tsitsikamma.
To get to Tsitsikamma from Port Elizabeth, I would recommend hiring a car or catching a bus. Check out Baz Bus for their bus schedules.
I had initially planned to fly to Port Elizabeth but the flight prices were really high. I was unfortunately planning this trip last minute and the trip was over a public holiday so everything was against me in terms of getting a good flight price. So this option didn’t work for my budget.
Fly to George
The closest airport to Tsitsikamma is George Airport. Once you arrive in George, it’s a 162km drive to Tsitsikamma. Once again you will need to hire a car or catch public transport to get to Tsitsikamma.
Take the bus
After realizing that I wouldn’t afford a flight I looked into other options. I ended up taking a bus from Joburg to Port Elizabeth. That’s a whole 14 hour, slow drive.
The seats in the Greyhound bus were comfortable and had a bit of recline. It was great that there are usb charging points at each seat. Warning: don’t count on that little tv screen in the bus for entertainment.
I chose an overnight bus so I travelled during the night while I would have been sleeping anyway.
I booked my ticket telephonically through Greyhound. It cost R938 for a return ticket to Port Elizabeth from Joburg.
I then hired a car to get to Tsitsikamma. There are car hire outlets at the bus drop off point in Port Elizabeth. Just note that the car hire outlets at this location are not open on Public holidays. On public holidays, you can alternatively hire a car from the airport which is 15 minute drive from the bus stop – get there using Uber.
If you don’t want to hire a car, you could opt for the Greyhound bus that takes you all the way to Storms River. I didn’t use this option because the bus times didn’t fit my schedule and I needed a way to get to each activity.
Depending on where you are driving from and how much time you have, you could simply drive there.
Where to stay in Tsitsikamma
I stayed at a home booked using Airbnb. I had accumulated Airbnb credit which meant that my booking was free. Learn how to earn credit using Airbnb.
When doing your search for accommodation, use the area Storms River to find well located accommodation. Check the distance from the accommodation to Storms River Village as that is where you will find shops and restaurants.
The exact Airbnb listing I booked was a room at Guest Lodge on the Edge. It’s simple, basic accommodation. I had a room and bathroom and shared the other areas with the friendly host and other guests.
Alternatively, I would suggest staying staying at Tube n Axe Backpackers. It’s located in Storms River Village which is the best place to be and they offer many activity options. More on their activities later in this post.
What to do in Tsitsikamma
In this section I have also included some must-do stops if traveling from Port Elizabeth.
*All prices mentioned are the prices as they were in May 2019 for South Africans.
Addo Elephant Park
If you get to Tsitsikamma by traveling to Port Elizabeth first as I did, then make a stop at Addo Elephant Park before going to Tsitsikamma.
Is it just me or does the name Addo Elephant Park make it sound like there are only elephants there? It’s actually a National Park that you can do game drives through like Kruger National Park. It’s one of the few locations where you can see the Big 7 – lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, rhino, southern right whale and the great white shark.
Something I didn’t know before visiting is that there are picnic/braai areas within Addo Elephant Park. So go prepared to make the most of these facilities.
Price: R77 per adult & R39 per child*
Not all beaches are the same. If you’re not convinced of that, visit Sardinia Bay. It’s like a desert and a beach at the same time. Absolutely spectacular! Spending time on this quiet and unique beach was a highlight. Let me let the photos speak for themselves.
It’s a 15km (20min) drive from Port Elizabeth so include a stop at Sardinia bay on your way to Tsitsikamma from Port Elizabeth.
Price: There is no entry or parking fee.
Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour
To experience the lush Tsitsikamma forest from the air, go ziplining from tree to tree with Tsitsikamma Canaopy Tour.
The tour There are 10 platforms on this tour which means you get to zip line 10 times. The platforms are built on Yellowwood trees that are hundreds of years old.
The guides are really fun and make sure that you feel safe and comfortable. They assured us that the cables can hold the weight of two elephants so we had nothing to worry about.
The feeling of zipping over and through the forest reminded me of Tarzan. The forest is very green and the only sounds you hear are of birds chirping and leaves ruffling. The guides shared that leopards walk through that forest but only at night. From that point I was on high alert looking out for a leopard. All I spotted was a chameleon though. I know it doesn’t make sense that I would want to bump into a leopard.
They have six other locations in South Africa which I am also hoping to visit. Follow Canopy Tour SA on social media so that you don’t miss out on their specials.
A tip for when you go: don’t just look ahead, look around too.
Price: R600 per person*
Tube n Axe Backpackers is a hip hostel in Storms River. Even if you don’t stay there, you can sign up for their activities.
Blackwater tubing on Storms River is one of the activities offered at Tube n Axe. They have two options – the green route and the red route. The green route is a 1.5 hour guided tubing and paddle boarding tour on Storms River – this is what I did. The red route takes 4.5 hours and is physically tougher.
They provide all of the gear you need (wetsuit, helmet, life jacket, tube and paddle board). All you need to bring is swim wear to wear underneath the wetsuit and shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. I wore sneakers.
Aand to top it off, the trip includes a light meal afterwards.
Price: R650 per adult & R350 per child*
Tsitsikamma National Park
And finally, the location that blew me away when I saw a photo of it on Instagram – Tsitsikamma National Park. The suspension bridge over Storms River just before it meets the ocean is one of the best sights I have ever seen.
It’s a 5 minute drive from the gate and then a 15 minute walk to get to the suspension bridge. I had sandals on but would recommend that you wear sneakers.
The dark, black colour of Storms River is caused by the type of plants that grow on the River banks. When they get into the river, they turn the water black. At this national park, you see the dark water of Storms River meet the blue of the ocean.
I was so happy to be walking on this suspension bridge
What makes it even better is that you get to view this from different angles and heights depending on how much you are up for a walk and climb through the different pathways.
Price: R59 per day*
Other attractions in Tsitsikamma
Another attraction that people love in the area is the bungee off of Bloukrans bridge which is the highest bridge bungee in the world.
The Otter Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in South Africa. It’s 45km long and takes 3 days to complete. This is also on my SA bucket list.