Storms River, is an aptly named river mouth flowing into the Indian Ocean. It is a place that oscillates between idyllic calm to battering storms wrapped in pressing clouds and lashed by wind driven rain and thunderous waves in the blink of an eye.
Irrespective of the weather, it ranks amongst the top five outdoor destinations to visit in the Garden Route. Located in the eastern side of the Titsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park, it is renowned as the departure point for the Otter Trail. Yet for the day hiker, it also offers a few softer options for those wanting a half or full day of walking to experience this majestic, yet rugged section of the South African coastline.
The softer option is to stroll to the suspension bridge. A short round trip along a boardwalk that follows the contour, the path takes you through shaded forest punctuated with openings onto breath taking views. Along the route, there are a series of detours that split from the contour path and lead down to the various bays of the shoreline. If you have time, it is worthwhile exploring each one.
The contour path ultimately reaches the river and descends to the suspension bridge via a precipitous staircase, which for the more sedentary visitor is guaranteed to elevate their heart beat and build up a thirst on the return walk. As we descended the stairs, a group of 10 wetsuit clad adventurers left the path to set off on a tubing tour in the lower reaches of the river.
From the suspension bridge, the cliffs that flank the river gorge tower above, a graphic geological display of the sedimentary process that formed the rock and testimony to the rapid tectonic upheaval that raised the region and ultimately caused the equally rapid (geologically speaking that is) incision of the steep gorge as the river sought out the sea. On the way back, while most people rush back to the restaurant, instead spare some time to read the historical and natural display at the ‘outdoor class room’.
If crowds and board walks detract from your appreciation of nature, then a more technical walking option is to do the Waterfall Route, the first 3.6km of the Otter Trail. Here, along a well-worn path through coastal thicket, open glades and over lichen clad boulders you round each rocky spur to gaze upon rock pools and gully’s sparkling turquoise while waves crash against the rocks in a seething flurry of foam. If you are fortunate you can see Spotted Gully Sharks in the pools. If you are observant, you will be able to watch pods of dolphins surfing as they patrol past.
The end point of the day walk is at the waterfall, an invisible barrier through which only the daily elite, the 12 hikers of the Otter trail are allowed to pass. The thrill of the waterfall is that you can climb the lower section, jump into the pool below, swim towards the ocean and climb down into a marine rock pool. The magic though, lies in the ability to bask on a rock and scan the horizon and coastline unblemished by modern human civilization. In that moment, the ability to reconnect with the essence of life will forever be etched in your being.
Clambering over the boulders as you retrace your steps, gently you balance a pebble on one of the many cairns, a monument for future hikers to know that yet another person succumbed to the essence of the lingering Titsikamma spirit. On the final approach to the parking area in the afternoon, the Bushbuck, habituated to human presence, come out to feed on the slopes above the rock pools in the last heat of the day. While we watched a family of four nibbling at Gazania flowers, a pod of dolphins frolicked in the waves below.
Titsikamma is Khoisan for ‘Dark Waters’, and along this section of the coastline the Darks waters definitely run deep.
• Location : The turn off to Storms River Mouth from the N2 is 53.7km east of Plettenberg Bay
• Management : SANParks
• Entrance Fee : Yes, Wildcard free
• Confusion : Different location to Storms River Village
For guided nature walk visit our website at www.gardenroutetrail.co.za