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Getting high in Tsitsikamma National Park

by Louise Evans on 17 June 2014, 10:06AM


‘Five, four, three, two BUNGEEEEE….’ Suddenly, I had left solid ground and was swan diving through the air, reaching speeds of 60mph as I dropped for seven seconds before springing back upwards and bouncing around like a rag doll for a further minute. I was hanging somewhere in the canyon below Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa, and had just ticked off a major bucket list activity – a bungy jump – but not just any bungy jump – the World’s Highest Commercial Bungee Jump – at 216m.


This is just one way adrenaline junkies can get their kicks on a trip to this region of the Eastern Cape. Set along the scenic Garden Route, Tsitsikamma National Park is an Adventure Lovers haven, with canopy tours, river tubing, horse riding, segwaying, kayaking, over 26 mountain bike trails and the infamous Bloukrans Bridge Bungy to name a few heart fluttering activities available to the intrepid traveller.
I had arrived via South African Airways to Port Elizabeth, and was staying at the charming Tsitsikamma Village Inn. A collection of cosy cottages set around a Village Green, the vibe was friendly and fun, with locals and visitors mixing to create a buzzy atmosphere.

I whetted my appetite for a thrill with a treetop canopy tour amongst the forest. Some trees reaching 1,000 years old, I swung 30m above the forest floor through the treetops like a native monkey, but maybe less elegantly. There are 10 zip lines of various lengths and speeds, and the course took in some spectacular vantage points with the chance to spot some local wildlife along the way. We saw beautiful local birds, including the colourful knysna loeries with their bright red wings and green bodies.


As the sun began to dip in the sky, we headed to the coast for a traditional South African sundowner, complete with biltong (a local favourite of dry cured beef) and a Windhoek beer. Delicious. We strolled along to the Storms River mouth, where the river meets the Indian Ocean, taking in the stunning view as the mountains dropped into the wild ocean while a rainbow appeared above. The swinging suspension bridges made a fun crossing over the river. Here you can try out water-based activities, such as river tubing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, or, for the less adventurous, lilo-ing, where, you just float around on an inflatable.


After working up an appetite, we dined at the fabulous Marilyn’s Diner, set next to the hotel. Crammed with Marilyn Monroe and Elvis memorabilia, including an imported Chevvy, juke box, and dress-up box, this American Diner had me confused for a moment where I was… South Africa or the Deep South??
Fully fuelled by a Hawaiian burger, chilli cheese fries and a shake, I was ready to embark on my next adventure; a Segway tour of the forest. If you’re familiar with a Segway, you’ll know there is absolutely no way to look cool on one. But, once you get over the cringe factor, they are really great fun. With the capability of reaching 24mph (I maxed out at 7mph!) we took a forest trail through the trees and spotted a family of baboons grazing.


All of this was a warm-up to the big-boy though. The final activity of my trip: The Highest Bungy Jump in the World. The walk to get to the bridge is scary enough and is itself classed as an activity for those not brave enough to jump. Best avoided for those with a fear of heights, you walk along a (secure) suspended walkway below the road deck, with views of the Bloukrans River as it flows into the sea. Arriving at the jump point, the atmosphere is electric, with music pumping and adrenaline running high. The guides help put nerves at ease, and other jumpers excitedly squeal as they leap off the edge, then emerge two minutes later with huge grins.

When my turn came, I was surprisingly calm. It was my first ever bungy jump, so I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have much time to think about things when I was called up. Suddenly I was hopping like a bunny with my legs securely tied together to the edge of the platform with nothing but 216m of air below me. Jumping off felt so exhilarating, I felt like I was flying (when I watch my DVD back, I can see I actually flapped my arms). As the rope pulled and I sprung back upwards, I bounced around for about a minute before coming to a standstill.


It was there, hanging upside-down, with the trees and the sky and the sea all merging into one view, and the only sound I could hear was the wind whistling through the valley, that the enormity of what I’d just done hit me. I felt like the only person in the World, and had a little wobble while waiting for my rescuer to come and winch me back to solid ground. After what felt like forever, I was back with my friends on the bridge, all huge grins, wanting to do it again. I later found out the oldest person to complete the jump was a 96-year-old, which just goes to show – anyone can, and should do this!

After the best experience of my life in South Africa, I have a thirst for more adrenaline-inducing activities. Now, where’s that bucket list....

For further information about the Eastern Cape visit www.visiteasterncape.co.za

To find out more about holidays to South Africa's Eastern Cape, go to www.travelbag.co.uk/holidays/africa/south-africa

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