Our 5-day escape to the pristine wilderness surrounding the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp is a soothing balm to our pandemic-worn souls and a surprising sensory delight.
You’ll find this small slice of Eden in the Tsitsikamma Section of South Africa’s Garden Route National Park, halfway between Plettenberg Bay and Humansdorp. Here, lush carpets of evergreen indigenous forests and delicate fynbos roll down to the edge of rocky cliffs that tumble into the Indian Ocean.
It is a visual feast that tempts us to explore further on foot. To see what is in the next cove. To hike along the rocky coastline to river mouths and waterfalls carved by ancient tea-coloured rivers.
Follow the sweet melody of birdsong into the cathedral-like beauty of the indigenous forests where a mosaic of wildflowers bloom and the fynbos gives off an earthy melange of peppery herbal fragrances.
Or to simply relax on the patio of our forest cabin, lulled by the sound of the waves pounding the rocks in front of us. And enjoy our surroundings and the creatures that call this place home.
1. Stay at Storms River Mouth Rest Camp for a Night or Three.
Imagine waking up to this view in the morning? We did, for five magical days. Here, the ocean’s energy soothes and calms our troubled dreams. And a salty tang rouses us from our slumbers shortly after dawn. And when we sit up in bed, this view is the first thing we see. How can we not feel revitalised here?
The Storms River Mouth Rest Camp stretches across about 3 kilometres of rocky coastline. It offers a wide range of self-catering accommodations and campsites to suit every budget, especially outside South African school holidays and long weekends. There is also a restaurant in a tent on the rocks and a small shop selling basic necessities.
And as a bonus, many of the accommodation options have sea views.
2. Meet Your Neighbours.
We begin each day slowly. We sip our morning coffee on our patio and listen to the ocean’s ebb and flow upon the rocks.
With an enquiring ‘have you got anything for me’ chirp, a seagull joins us. Together we watch the last of the pastel pink sunrise fade away.
The first rays of sunlight illuminate the back of the waves changing their colour from steely-blue to a dazzling blue-green trimmed with brilliant white foam. And most mornings, dolphins frolic in the waves. They surf and leap out of the water in an early morning display of sheer joy.
The resident baboon saunters past. Ever hopeful, he stops to check each baboon-proof dustbin. You never know; a careless camper might not have closed the bin properly.
And a colony of dassies (rock hyrax) begin to emerge from under boulders and out of the rocky crevices to sun themselves upon the rocks. Like us, they seem to prefer to start the day slowly.
3. Hike the Mouth Trail to the Storms River Mouth Suspension Bridge
The weather gods favour us on our first morning at Storms River Mouth Rest Camp. A barely-there whisper of a breeze wafts across the tranquil ocean that mirrors the brilliant blue dome above us.
We intend to spend the day unwinding, reading our books, admiring the view, and maybe take a nap. But we know the weather here can change quickly. After all, this area is called the Cape of Storms for a reason. And we would be wise to make the most of this perfect day.
So, we head off for the Mouth Trail. A two-kilometre boardwalk winds up the side of a hill through the indigenous forest to a lookout point high above the tea-stained waters of the Storms River Mouth. From the lookout, a steep flight of stairs leads down to the suspension bridge.
We take our time. We often pause to admire delicate flowers and listen to the birdsong in the cathedral-like splendour of the forest. And breathe deeply, inhaling the refreshing lemony scent of pelargoniums tinged with salt.
We sit on thoughtfully placed benches in front of tree-framed windows with awe-inspiring ocean views. And marvel at the seemingly flimsy suspension bridge’s construction before we cross over and sun ourselves on a small boulder-strewn beach.
If you’d like to know more about our hike, why not read 1014 Steps to the Storms River Suspension Bridge?
This is the Cape of Storms. There Will be Weather.
While we were hiking the Mouth Trail, the weather gods changed their minds and decided to whip up a perfect storm. Throughout the late afternoon and the night, the ocean roars against the rocks, outraged by this land barrier. And an equally indignant wind lashes our forest cabin, howling and shrieking in a fury.
But we don’t mind. We’re dry and warm inside our cosy forest cabin. We raise our wine glasses in a thank-you toast to the builders who ensured our comfort.
At dawn, all that is left of the storm’s rage are wispy purple arcs of clouds scattered across a light blue sky. A buttercup yellow sun throws its rays across the landscape, highlighting diamond dewdrops caught on the verdant grass and shrubs.
The dawn chorus trills, chirps and warbles a joyous melody underscored by the soft susurration of a spent ocean. There is a promise in the air. The promise of a glorious day for a 6.4 kilometre there and back hike along this pristine coastline to the Jerling Waterfall.
4. Hike the Waterfall Trail
The Waterfall Trail covers the first day of the five-day Otter Trail. So it isn’t surprising that it’s rated as difficult and not recommended for unfit hikers. We are both walking fit, so we decide to follow the path for a while. When it becomes too arduous, we’ll turn back.
An undulating pathway surrounded by a mosaic of wildflowers lures us into the coastal forest. It’s a visual feast that keeps tempting us to hike further.
So, of course, we don’t turn around when we should. Whenever we encounter a difficult section, we convince ourselves that the hike will get easier once we overcome this new obstacle.
But the Waterfall Trail doesn’t get any easier for these not-as-fit-as-we-thought hikers. Nevertheless, we’re stubborn, determined to work through our misery and get to the Jerling Waterfall.
Besides, each time we’re about to admit defeat, a break in the coastal vegetation reveals yet another wild rocky cove and an even more dramatic ocean view.
Elation threatens to overwhelm us when we finally get to the Jerling Waterfall tucked in the corner of a high lichen-encrusted cliff. Its tiered cascading beauty is worth every miserable step to get here.
We while away an hour or two in blissful solitude, the only humans in this magnificent landscape. And, if you would like more information about the trail, why not read about our misery and elation on the Storms River Waterfall Trail?
5. Whatever You do, Don’t Miss the Sunsets at Storms River Mouth Rest Camp.
My favourite time of day is sunset, most probably because I’m generally a lazy human being and seldom up at sunrise.
Because we’re scuba divers and both hate diving in frigid waters, we tend to head to South Africa’s east coast, where the waters are warmer than on the west coast. This means that we seldom get to see a sunset over the ocean.
But here in the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp, we salute the setting sun each afternoon from the comfort of our forest cabin’s patio with a glass of wine in hand, transfixed by the beauty of an ocean sunset. It is magical!
Escape to Storms River Mouth Rest Camp.
You won’t regret it. We didn’t. If you allow her, Mother Nature will offer a soothing balm for your soul by indulging and delighting your senses at every turn in the pristine wilderness surrounding the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp.
We leave this small slice of Eden refreshed and revitalised, ready to deal with anything life throws at us.
Have you stayed here before? Let me know by leaving a comment below. I’d love to hear about your experience.
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DISCLOSURE: I have no commercial relationship with Sanparks or their affiliates. All photographs, experiences and opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.