When in Tsitsikamma ..... be Tarzan (or Jane!)

During our stay at Oubos, four of us slipped away one morning to go on the Tsitsikamma canopy tour. The company is based in the charming Storms River Village and it is only a short drive from there to the dense forest and the launch platform. Basically, the tour involves sliding from one platform to another along a steel cable suspended up to 30 meters above the forest floor. So, if you have even a slight fear of heights, this is not for you! Sorry Dad.

Our day started with a safety talk. The guides helped us to get into our safety kit, with a harness, pulleys, crash helmet and gloves. Right from the first platform you are already in awe. Most of the 10 platforms are located in the crowns of giant Outeniqua Yellowwood trees, some up to 600 years old!! (read about THE BIG TREE here). It is amazingly quiet so high up in the trees, and looking down at the giant fern on the forest floor, 30 meters below you, is just breathtakingly beautiful. But do spare some breath for the slides, the longest one being 91m’s, because screaming is allowed :-)!

Our guides were great. They provided us with interesting facts about the forest ecology with a good dose of South African humour! Our morning ended with a short walk out of the forest back to the vehicle before our breakfast back in Storms River Village.

It was a brilliant way to spend 3 hours! I admire their effort to be as eco-friendly as possible (you will see on the photos that none of the equipment or the platforms are permanently attached to the trees) and I also love the way in which this fully accredited Fair Trade company provides work opportunities for the local community. The breakfast was provided by a catering company run by the local women who now own shares in the company. A crafting initiative is given space to display their goods in the restaurant and a few locals also now make their living taking photos and making DVD’s as souvenirs to take home.

So, I am now the proud owner of a certificate and a “frequent flyer card”. Looking back, however, the highlight of this experience was not the scary zip lines. It was the change in perspective. Up there in the rarefied air, amongst the tree mosses and the forest canopy, suspended above the tangle down below which would have been impenetrable on foot, there is a calmness that makes a bigger impact than the adrenaline. It feels almost disrespectful, that a tree could have grown there for 600 years only to now provide you with a thrill. You feel like you are a visitor to a world that is more ancient than yours, a world in which roots that were planted long ago still enable the smallest branch to seek the sun today. It’s a moss covered, 30 metre high philosophy lesson…

PS. I read that the concept of guiding people through the upper canopy of a rainforest started in Costa Rica, where biologists searched for new ways to access the forest canopy to conduct their research. From there, it did not take long for a few adventurous entrepreneurs to start a new way of eco-tourism.

You can visit their website here or like their Facebook page.

Image credits: All photography by me

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