Craving the Kouga

23 January 2015



Words: Duane Stacey ǀ Photos: Wessel Theron & Cape St Francis Resort


Having spent much of my childhood enjoying road trips up the Garden Route, there are only so many work-related matters I can deal with before the craving for another coastal exploration begins to gnaw at my soul.

Splendid views into the gorge.

Rest and relaxation aboard the lilo.

Views over the Tsitsikamma.

The Kouga territory stretches along the coast from the Tsitsikamma River in the west to Van Stadens River in the east and inland towards the Baviaaskloof Mountains in the north. It was time to explore its inner beauty more thoroughly.

Uncovering Tsitsikamma

The N2 pierces through the heart of the Tsitsikamma bush, offering the occasional spotting of bushbuck or forest residents, but it’s only when one turns off the highway and draws open the luscious green forest curtain that the true meaning of this hidden gem is justly exposed. Tsitsikamma is the Khoisan word for 'place of much water'. As we enter the gates of the national park and meander through the ever-green shrubberies towards the true blue Indian Ocean, it is evident how its name originated. Breakers pound the rocky shores beneath high cliffs, where ancient rivers have carved their path to the ocean through rocky ravines.

Nestled at the foot of the cliffs and a mere 150 m from Storms River mouth, Untouched Adventures afforded us the opportunity to explore this river (where the five-day otter trail commences) by kayak. We enthusiastically kitted up and prepared to paddle across the small stretch of ocean, hoping to be swallowed up by the river mouth.

Bobbing feverishly in the swell, we paddled under the stares of holidaymakers perched on a suspension bridge that runs overhead and marks the entrance to the gorge. The sound of crashing waves softened as we paddled beyond the gazes and chatter from above, replaced instead by the tranquility of dripping mountain waterfalls piercing the ever-still waters of the gorge.

Further upstream, ancient caves, once inhabited by the San, stretched hundreds of metres back into a dark abyss and seemed to absorb any echoes created by our paddles dipping into the water. It was here we exchanged the kayaks for lilos and continued splashing upstream and where we found some icy pools to plunge into from the rocks that surrounded it. Feeling rejuvenated, we slowly drifted back to the ocean before heading to whence we had come.

The rain forest-type vegetation gives the Tsitsikamma its unique character. Much life lies deep within its foliage and it is only through the advent of advanced camera technologies that the once thought-to-be-extinct Knysna forest elephant has been exposed in recent video footage. Knowing that an animal of this size could be ‘lost’ for years in the forest, we could not wait to explore a bit of the jungle. What better way to do this than by Segway, a self-balancing, two-wheel human transporter. Tsitsikamma Backpackers runs daily Segway excursions into the forest and it is recommended that you make use of their well-constructed obstacle track in their own backyard to find your balance before embarking on the forest paths. Bustling along the varying terrains at a gentle pace provided much elation as we took in the scenery of greenery before proceeding on our coastal adventure.

Crossing the lagoon on horse back.

Jockey in Jeffreys Bay

Jeffreys Bay is the 'home to the perfect wave'. Glancing out over the aloes from the wooden deck of the famous car park that overlooks Supertubes, it’s not hard to imagine the drama of some great surfing contests that have graced these shores in the past playing out in front of you. But really, the magic of this town is found in the people who have made it their home.

We are soon introduced to Alison, who heads up the Supertubes conservation initiative. Her projects not only deal with recycling, beach clean ups and local plant protection but also involve the community in a number of these ventures. It is evident that her passion behind the scenes is what drives the sustained beauty of this endangered coastline.

With stomachs rumbling, we turned towards De Viswijf Restaurant, a lovely family restaurant nestled above another classic J-Bay surfing beach, aptly named Kitchen Windows. Some argue whether the surf spot or restaurant came first, but I am sure the owner, Ernie Blignault, will indulge you in this and other 'Viswijf stories' whilst you enjoy the delectable dishes on offer from the unique positioning of this award-winning restaurant.

Feeling gratified after a scrumptious lunch, we mosied on toward the eastern side of Jeffreys Bay to a horse riding school, Featherfoot Horse Rides, in Kabeljouws. They offer a variety of trails for beginners to more accomplished riders and provide everything one needs for a horseback adventure.

The skill level of our group varied significantly, so we opted for a gentle trot along the beach. Sandwiched between the lagoon and incoming tide, the well-trained horses kept pace with one another before turning back for home and allowing the more experienced riders to break into a gallop. I sat at a contented trot and watched the sun begin its descent into the ocean, causing the sea and lagoon to glitter simultaneously before pausing for a moment, as if to give the photographers among us the chance to capture some exquisite shots of these golden minutes.

Scintillating St Francis

'A village within a village' is the impression one gets walking amongst the secluded villas and self-catering bed and breakfast units found within Cape St Francis Resort.

With direct access to a long stretch of untouched coastline and an award-winning restaurant and bar on site (Joe Fish Restaurant), there seems no reason to go any further if you are looking for some rest and relaxation.

Stencilled into the horizon is Seal Point Lighthouse, which at 27.5 m high is South Africa’s tallest masonry lighthouse.

As with Jeffreys Bay, it is the people who really shape the character of this seaside town. Actively pursuing responsible tourism, Betty’s Tours provides a glimpse into the everyday life of those in the area.

One can visit the SANCCOB, a penguin rehabilitation centre, Talhado Children’s Haven and Nomvula’s Knitters, an initiative started to empower woman from the township by creating a sustainable income and imparting business skills in the clothing industry.

By night, the glow of fishermen’s lamps strapped to fishing vessels decorate the bay, which is widely renowned for its chokka (squid/calamari.) The Chokka Trail offers the more active traveller a chance to explore the region on foot over four-days of slack packing.

The trail opens up the Sand River dunes, Oyster Bay, St Francis Bay and the coastal paths, which weave along a treacherous coastline responsible for many a shipwreck in years past, commonly referred to as 'The Wild Side' of Cape St Francis.

We were fortunate enough to time the tides well enough to see a natural blowhole, created from waves gushing through a gully, powerfully forcing through a small opening and creating a fountain that showered all those who had crept close enough.

After a great day filled with wonderful conversations and tough walking, it seemed only appropriate to enjoy a calamari feast, overlooking the harbour at Port St Francis with our new friends who had endured the day’s activity with us.

After a good day's exercise, Liquid Lines, a new sports facility in Cape St Francis, offers just the set up to deal with lactic-acid build up. Haydn Holmes, recently back from Dubai, has a state-of-the-art aquatics facility that some will use to begin their training for the gruelling IRONMAN Series, which takes place in March each year. However, those with any kind of aquatic ability are also welcome here and it is well worth visiting on your day off.

Surf Art in the Supertubes parking lot.

Horsing about on the beach.

'The perfect wave' and perfect spot from where to watch the magic unfold.

Slack packing from Mosterts Hoek, with guide Esti.

Seal Point.

Seal Point lighthouse stenciled into the horizon.


* Cape St Francis Resort:
* Villa Staysea: Private lodging sleeps 4-10 people. Contact Dave on +27 82 921 9585

Things to do:
* Jeffreys Bay Tourism:
* Supertubes Foundation: Alison +27 83 210 8122
* Tsitsikamma Segway Tours:
* Horse riding:
* Chokka Trail: Esti Stewart +27 82 394 7363
* Untouched Adventures:+27 73 130 0689
* Liquid Lines:

Places to eat:
* De Viswijf:
* Joe Fish Restaurant: +27 82 494 3755 or +27 42 298 0054