Tsitsikamma and Addo National Parks

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Published: September 23rd 2023

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Kudu Ridge Game Reserve

Dear All

I bade farewell to lovely Knysna this morning, to continue my Road Trip eastwards along South Africa’s famous Garden Route. There were so many places I could have stopped off at, it became difficult to choose. For this part of my adventure, I narrowed it down to firstly a stop at the Storms River Bridge in the Tsitsikamma National Park, a 120m high concrete arch bridge looming over a seriously stunning and high river canyon formed by the Storms River flowing deep down below. I’m not one to suffer greatly from vertigo, but walking across it and peering over the side seriously induced some knee-knocking moments for me. With a bit more time I would have loved to have explored the nearby village of Storms River by the coast. I didn’t realise it but also, just a few miles before the Storms River bridge to its west is the Bloukrans Bridge, almost twice its height at 216 metres and actually home to one of the world’s highest bungee jumps. This is definitely something I would not have done, but I wouldn’t have minded stopping off at this bridge, which also marks the boundary between the Western and Eastern

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Addo Elephant Park

Cape. As mentioned, there was so much to see on this Garden Route that it was difficult to choose where to stop, and still arrive at my next destination before nightfall.

Speaking of adventure sports, I did feel ready for at least some adventure in this adventure-sport region of South Africa, and headed next on my journey to the Tsitsikamma Falls Adventure. This was for my first ever zip-lining experience over the forests and waterfalls of the Tsitsikamma National Park, and I joined a group with an extended South African family living in the States. After having seen Morgan Burrett do zip-lining in a number of Travel Bug episodes, I felt inspired to make this a stop on my Road Trip this day. It was really amazing! I must admit I was quite nervous to begin with, but felt I got used to it after the first couple of zips. There were eight lines in total, increasing in length and speed as you go, and I think I feel ready now to perhaps tackle even larger and faster ones – I will keep this in mind for future travels!

After this was a stop in the seaside resort

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Kudu Ridge Game Reserve

of Jeffrey’s Bay, which I found to be a lovely little town on a comparatively calm beach for South Africa. It certainly looked one for dipping in during the warmer summer months, and it is also one of South Africa’s surfing hotspots – there were even a few out there during this chilly winter’s day. I really liked the genteel, seaside-town feel of the place, and stopped for a lunch at a South African chain restaurant which would very much become my friend on this summer trip – the brilliant “Spur” steak ranches, for more £6-a-go steak and chips meals which would become my staple on this trip – I couldn’t get enough of them! I also ordered a takeaway latte and really enjoyed sitting on the soft sandy beach there, watching the waves crash and enjoying the beautiful sea, coastal views and fresh salty sea breeze.

I was initially planning a brief stop in Port Elizabeth next, South Africa’s fourth-largest city, just to say that I had been there, but was thankfully put off this idea after reading about some dodgy parking scammers there at the place I was planning to stop. In fact, everyone I spoke to

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Addo Elephant Park

about PE, as it’s called for short, made the place sound foreboding and not worth the risk. I’m also not even going to deign to call it by its recently rebranded name of Gqeberha, changed to this Xhosa name in 2021. Honestly, I cannot see any point in doing this, as no-one can or even knows how to pronounce that jumble of letters, and I’d also heard everyone thus far still calling it Port Elizabeth, or PE, and road signs also bearing this name. I will continue to call it Port Elizabeth, and also continue to be glad that I just drove through it.

After taking some advice from a fellow traveller back in Knysna, and also my next accommodation owner, I avoided taking the navigation advice given on my Here We Go app as this would have taken me through some dodgy northern townships of PE such as New Brighton and Bethelsdorp. They had both advised me instead to travel to a village about 15 miles further east along the coast called Colchester, and pick up the route from there. What I unfortunately failed to find out was that from there, the preferable route would then do a

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Tsitsikamma National Park

big tarmacced round-the-houses route along the N10 first north, then west, and then south to my destination. Instead, I followed my app to take me 15 miles on the direct route north-west of Colchester, along some seriously bumpy dirt tracks which only 4WD cars seemed to be taking apart from me. It wasn’t terrible, but it was bumpy and slow, and took me around 45 minutes to drive just these 15 miles. In the end, I arrived at a seriously delightful bush accommodation called the Kudu Ridge Game Lodge. It was still quite an adventure to find to be honest, with no clear signage and just a South African number I had to ring at very expensive rates using my UK phone. The arrival instructions involved going through three separate gates through the Lodge’s extensive bush grounds, and not to let the zebra escape through the last one as it had seemingly taken up residence at the Lodge. I thought I had driven my car well over the dirt tracks thus far, but just at the last minute before arriving, in order to avoid a large hole, I swerved slightly and scratched the whole left side of my rental car

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Tsitsikamma National Park

on a big thornbush. This became a pressing issue on my mind for the rest of my journey, to see whether I would be charged for it upon its return, but more on that later!

The Kudu Ridge Game Lodge was just fantastic! As mentioned, the accommodation is in the middle of an African bush game reserve, and my room was in a basic, rustic yet very comfortable and authentic chalet. There was a braai firepit in the communal area which was lit each evening by the owners, and delicious barbecued meat and salads washed down with deliciously cold beer were to be had each evening. I went to sleep each night in the middle of the African bush, with gorgeous silence all around, and a cacophony of bird song each morning. And on the first night, it rained very heavily for a couple of hours, with thunder and roaring winds – it kept me awake for a bit with my chalet’s tin roof, but I very much enjoyed it!

My full day in the Lodge was just amazing – so special and enjoyable! After a lovely breakfast, I drove the ten miles or so to the nearby

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Tsitsikamma National Park

entrance to the Addo Elephant Park and booked myself in on a game drive with one of their rangers. This was my first, of quite a few, safari experiences on this trip. We saw so many elephants, hence the name of the park, with so many of them close up and walking inches from the vehicle. They didn’t seem the angry or aggressive types I had encountered so close-up on previous African safaris I’d done, and in the end I no longer felt afraid when I saw them. We also saw a number of zebra, a warthog, terrapin, mongoose, a hartebeest and several kudu.

After the game drive, I headed back to Kudu Ridge, and did another game drive with the owner, just myself and him, around the game reserve that the Lodge is located in. The highlight of this was definitely seeing a herd of eight giraffe and getting out to walk closer up to them. This was just so special, and I felt small and very awed in their presence. We also saw more zebra, and more antelope types – this time, nyala, impala, wildebeest, blesbok and South Africa’s very own springboks. The springboks were far too

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Tsitsikamma National Park

quick and jumpy for me to take a close-up photo of them though, but I did get one of a group of them from a distance.

We also saw one male lion and two lionesses in a separate quarantine enclosure. They were staying there for a few months, having recently been shipped in from another part of South Africa, to get used to the area, before being released into the reserve. They actually didn’t seem very pleased to see us, and although there was a significant fence between us and them, I felt very wary in their presence. The owner told me that they were not used to humans yet as they’d come from a sparsely populated part of the country. I could tell they didn’t feel comfortable with us being there, unlike encountering lions on safaris before, and I was quite happy that they were still in the fenced enclosure. I felt really quite sorry for all the other animals I had seen on that day, thinking that they wouldn’t be safe anymore to wander around this lovely part of the world they call home, but I guess that is nature… The lions were awesome, and what does

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it matter that I didn’t quite get to see them fully in the wild on this occasion. I at least saw them, which was amazing!

I really enjoyed my time there at the Kudu Ridge Game Lodge. The owners were so very friendly, and the place was so quiet – only myself and three other guests were there during my two nights’ stay. It seems that South African tourism has not quite fully recovered from the last few years, although many were saying that things should pick up again and hopefully return to normal around November, in time for their summer. For me though, I always like to travel out-of-season and with few other tourists around, and while this of course isn’t great for the local tourist industry, I was really enjoying the travelling without the mass tourism.

Having said this though, the next day I was actually leaving the “tourist trail” behind. Other travellers I’d met were either making it as far as Addo and then returning to Cape Town, or flying to Durban or Johannesburg from Port Elizabeth, leaving out much of the state of the Eastern Cape. I was, however, continuing my driving further eastwards

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Tsitsikamma National Park

along what is known as South Africa’s “Wild Coast”, so-called due to its lack of tourism and more authentic African nature.

I was very much looking forward to this next part of my journey, and felt that my travel experiences would change a bit. But of course, more on that in my next one!

In the meantime, thanks for reading, and all the best for now!

Alex






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