“ Sightseeing Type: Tours / Address: Storms River Village / Port Elizabeth / South Africa „
The Tsitsikamma National Forest is home to the Tsitsikamma Tree Top Canopy Tours, a unique form of eco-tourism that contributes to local jobs and funds the regeneration of a protected forest. The tour consists of platforms which have been constructed high up in the trees, with sets of zip wires between the platforms. The construction is unusual in the sense that the platforms are fastened to the trees in such a way that there is "no harmful penetration of the trees", i.e. no nails or anything that could in anyway damage the trees have been used. This sounds a little worrying considering how high up you will be but they have been built to the strictest safety standards and are all very sturdy.
I am terrified of heights and my partner and I thought this would be a good way to cure me of my phobia, unfortunately though I am even more scared of heights now! (this is more to do with my own inability to follow instructions from our very capable guides than anything else though!). Before starting the tour we were given a load of safety gear and given a detailed briefing about safety. We were then transported to the start of the course in a 4x4 and our guides demonstrated how to slide safely between the platforms, showing us how to use our gloves to brake.
We had 2 guides on the tour, one who always went ahead before anyone else and one who followed up behind everyone. At all points during the tour we were securely harnessed and clipped to either a zip wire (while we were sliding) or the secure platform. On each platform we stopped for a while to take in the amazing view and to listen to our enthusiastic guides who were full of information about the trees, plants and bird life in the forest. Unfortunately however we didn't take much of the information in as most of us were more interested in the zip wires between the trees.
Initially you are taken on the "nursery" wire, which eases you in gently and allows you to practice braking. After the first 3 slides you are given the option of continuing the tour or leaving the course, once you go past that point you have to finish the tour. There are 10 zip wires in total.
If you are not confident enough to brake for yourself the guide at the front has the ability to put brake for you, however I would recommend making sure your guide is paying attention before you set off on the wire - I panicked on one of the longer slides, screamed and completely let go of the wire which meant I couldn't brake for myself. It was unfortunately a rare instance when the guide wasn't paying attention and I ended up crashng into him and the tree! Unfortunately it meant that I was terrified for the rest of the tour and had to be coaxed, in a tearful state to get to the end of the course. I would like to stress however this was entirely my fault for not listening properly to the instructions I was given and then panicking when I realised I didn't know how to brake properly. Everyone else on the tour with me managed perfectly well and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
In total the experience lasted about 3 hours and you were given lunch and refreshments at the end. The cost for this was 395 rand each (approx £26 at the time although this will obviously vary depending on the exchange rate) and despite the fact that I came back even more scared of heights I would thoroughly recommend it, just pay attention to the safety instructions!! Throughout the tour they capture your experience on film and you are given the option to purchase the DVD. We however opted not to buy the DVD (I don't need to see myself crashing into a tree to remember the experience!).
Overall this was a fantastic experience and one I'm pleased I was brave enough to try. It is definitely a unique and exciting way to see the forest, if this doesn't get the adrenalin pumping nothing will!
Take a tour above the tree tops! A Canopy Tour takes you on an unforgettable adventure sliding from one platform to the next along a series of steel cables set amongst magnificent natural surroundings.