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Kouga Wilderness Sukkelpoort 4x4 Trail

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28km from Joubertina

-33.7157, 23.8427

18km, 2-3hrs, Grade 3

+27 42 273 9903 www.kougawildernis.co.za

Configuration: A circular trail connecting up with other trails.

Terrain: Rock, loose stone, gravel, boulders.

This is a self-drive route and no guiding is needed. You can drive here any time of the year. There are several self-catering accommodation options available as well as a campsite and bush camp. A lapa and a few freshwater natural 'swimming' pools complete the picture. Apart from the Sukkelpoort Trail another three trails can be tackled at Kouga Wildernis. When not driving your 4x4 you can stay really busy at Kouga Wildernis. Abseiling, mountain biking, fishing, hiking and birdwatching are some of the activities to choose from.

About

In the Kouga region your journey is part of the destination. Time seems to run more slowly here in the Goa!ab region as you marvel at mountains meeting the sea and rivers cutting out deep gorges. The Kouga Mountain range forms the southern barrier to the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve, home to a superb diversity of habitat types and species.

The Sukkelpoort trail runs along a narrow rocky kloof for about 5km before it joins another trail that goes on to the abseil cliff. The narrow kloof can get a bit tricky and you will need some guiding as you really have to place your wheels on rocks to prevent your undercarriage from being scraped.

Towards the end of the ascent you will be faced by a choice: man or mouse? Turn right up a steep rocky incline or take the chicken run to the left. The abseil cliff is a perfect spot for a break as you will have a sweeping view down to the campsite and can watch crazy people dangling from pieces of rope. The route back along the top of the mountain range to the farmhouse might be less challenging, but Mother Nature will be showing off her beauty with views of the surrounding mountains.

The other three trails should each take 1-2 hours to complete. The Blouberg trail runs for about 3km up the mountains overlooking the Kouga and Tsitsikamma ranges. The last part of the trail is fairly steep with climbs of up to 45°. The Kouga River trail starts at the farmhouse, climbs over the mountain and then down to the Kouga River where you can enjoy the sandbanks and the river. You can even cross the river and drive through a black wattle forest on the other bank.

If you are keen on fishing you can catch bass in the river before either returning via the same route or joining the main road back to the farm. The Abseil trail runs from the farmhouse to the top of the abseil cliffs. You can see the highest mountain peak in the area: Smuts Peak.

Lovely self-catering accommodation options are available, all with fully equipped kitchens, electricity and hot water. Oom Carl se Huis, a renovated farmhouse, sleeps twelve. The Heuningkrans Chalet and the River Chalet both sleep five, and a parked caravan has sleeping space for four. The main campsite is situated beneath four huge, shady old oak trees and at least eight sites have Eskom power points. The ablution block has hot water showers and flush toilets and there is a freshwater swimming pool nearby. There is also a lapa with freezer, fridge freezer, tables, benches, central fireplace and braai places.

Finally, for the shy bunch, an exclusive Bush camp for only one group at a time is available at the end of the trail. It has at least three campsites, a flush toilet, a tap with running water, a gas geyser shower and a natural swimming pool. While staying over, try to build up the courage to do the abseil. Otherwise go on one of the four beautiful hiking trails or go mountain biking or fishing.

Take the R62 out of Joubertina towards Krakeel for about 1km before turning right at the Kouga Wildernis sign. Travel for approximately 20km up this road till you cross the Kouga River. Look out for the Kouga Wildernis sign, turn left and travel another 5km.

Tsitsikamma

Eastern Cape

About

The Tsitsikamma region embraces a large swathe of Afromontane forest and rugged coastline within the Tsitsikamma National Park, which is interspersed with tracts of fynbos and commercial tree plantations.

It’s situated on the eastern edge of the Garden Route, between Nature’s Valley and Eerste Rivier, and is accessed along the N2 which runs through the area. Tsitsikamma is a Khoi word meaning ‘place of abundant (or sparkling) water’, and refers to the Indian Ocean to the south and the many rivers and streams in the area.

To the north, it’s bordered by the Tsitsikamma Mountains that spill their verdant cloak of thickly knitted trees and woven vines across hill and dale as they descend towards the sea. In the plunging gorges, rivers of dark water splash and tumble through secret places where creatures of the forest cavort and flutter in a timeless ritual of natural life.

Along the coast the forest pushes onto the white sandy beaches and rocky shore to greet the foaming breakers of the ocean.

Settlement in the area is on a small scale - even the main centre of Storms River Village is just a small clearing in the trees. 

From a visitor’s perspective there’s plenty to do here. The Tsitsikamma National Park is well known for its wild coastline, the Storms River Mouth, and its many hikes, which include the popular Otter Trail. 

Other multi-day hikes in the region are the Tsitsikamma Trail, through the mountains inland, and the Dolphin Trail, along the coastal cliffs. The area in general, with its deep gorges and towering trees, is a treasure trove of adrenaline pursuits that include bungee-jumping from Bloukrans Bridge, gliding through the tree tops or above waterfalls on a series of ziplines (cable slides), abseiling the steep cliffs, and tubing through the Storms River Gorge.

It’s the forests themselves that add that extra touch of magic to the region. The tracks and paths offer a unique opportunity to enter the realm of an enchanted natural world. The large Outeniqua Yellowwoods are the pillars of the forest, towering above any other living thing by far.

Some of these majestic trees are over 800 years old and standing next to one is a humbling experience. Bird watching here is rewarding and a flash of green or crimson may announce the sighting of a narina trogon or Knysna turaco.

Closer to the spongy forest floor, the smaller creatures are no less spellbinding. Butterflies bob in the pillars of sunlight that penetrate the canopy, chorister robin-chats rustle through the leaf litter, and the Knysna dwarf chameleon makes its way hesitantly through the vegetation.

Throughout the undergrowth chortling streams and still ponds reflect the delicate fronds of tree ferns. Here frogs breaststroke beneath a surface stained the colour of bourbon by the tannins and humic acid leached from the fallen leaves.

All around, wisps of old man’s beard drape the wrinkled bark and conjure up faces of wizards, and the patchwork mosses and lichens combine to form their cloaks. On fallen branches and leaning stumps, bracket fungi are natural receptacles filled with fallen rain where insects quench their thirst. The scene is embraced by an eternal peace that even the cicadas seem reluctant to disturb, their characteristic incessant screech curtailed to short periods of intermittent chirring.

With mountains, forests, rivers, and a coastline alternating between glinting beaches and rocky outcrops, Tsitsikamma is a diverse natural playground.   

Look out for

Tsitsikamma National Park - is the number one reason to visit the region and is situated off the N2, 10-minutes drive west of the Storms River Village. It’s a spectacular marine reserve where the indigenous forest grows right onto the rocky coastline. The coastal portion of the park stretches 80km along the shore and 5km out to sea protecting not only life in the inter-tidal zone but that of the deep sea too, while the inland expanse protects the forests, fynbos, and mountain catchment areas. There are various short hikes, a boardwalk to the famous suspension bridge over the Storms River Mouth, snorkelling, scuba diving, a boat trip up the Storms River, a restaurant, and a curio shop. For people wanting to spend more than a day there are campsites and chalets positioned along the shore. 

Hiking trails - a few well-known hiking trails start and finish in this area. The Otter Trail, which starts at Storms River Mouth and ends on the beach at Nature’s Valley, is one of South Africa’s most popular trails. The Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail starts at the Nature’s Valley Rest camp and ends at either Storms River Bridge or Storms River Village. The Dolphin Trail is a guided and portered hike with upmarket accommodation.

Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours - is exactly that - a tour of the forest canopy near the Storms River Village. It’s a combination of an adrenalin activity plus incredible views of the forest from a unique tree top perspective usually reserved for birds and monkeys. There are 10 slides that allow tourists to glide from tree to tree, stopping on platforms attached high up the trunks of giant Yellowwoods. Distances above the forest floor reach 30 metres. The guides are fun and informative. Booking is essential.

Bloukrans Bridge - this is Africa’s highest road bridge, and the world’s highest single-span arch bridge, with a central span of 272m, and a total bridge length of 451m. Statistics aside, the single reason it’s popular with visitors is because it’s home to the highest bungee jump in the world (216 metres). If the bungee is too much to contemplate there’s also a 200m zipline called the "Flying Fox" and a 400m bridge walk out onto the central arch. For the meek there’s a restaurant with a fabulous view. They’re open 7-days-a-week from 09h00-17h00.

Storms River Adventures - offer a 3 hour ‘Woodcutters Journey’ in an open vehicle down the Storms River Pass where oxwagons outspanned more than a century ago. Qualified guides enlighten passengers about the history and flora and fauna of the area. There are 3 trips daily and require a minimum of 6 people.

Tsitsikamma Falls Adventures - offer a thrilling zipline (cable slide) over waterfalls, with the longest glide being 211m. Those into adrenalin activities will love this adventure, and can also abseil 30m down a cliff into a fern cove. They take all ages, from 3 years up, and do tours 365-days-a-year in all weather conditions. Tours start at 08h00 and depart every 30 minutes, with the last tour leaving at 16h00.

Blackwater Tubing - depending on the water level, adventurers may be kloofing on low water, or white-water tubing on high water. Kloofing entails about 50% walking and 50% paddling, carrying the tube over shallow sections and leaping off rock faces that may be as high as 8 metres into pools below. It’s offered by Tube 'n Axe Backpackers from October to April and is a 5-hour trip that includes a lunch braai.

Storms River Village - is where all the adventure companies operate from and walks and mountain biking routes in the Plaatbos Nature Reserve start here.

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