But even with this action, the pools around the rest camp still brim with life and in mid-December when we were there dark bait balls of prey fish were drifting offshore, raising the excitement of predator species to fever pitch. From the veranda of our oceanette, we watched the dolphins somersaulting clear of the water and surfing huge rollers. On one occasion amid this display of joyousness, another, bulkier animal, a bronze whaler shark, rifled out of the water and twisted its white belly towards me.
The bustle of wildlife is equally intense on the adjacent rocky coastline and in the grey-green forest that curls like a whale’s baleen over the dunes, home to bushbuck, baboons and friendly flocks of francolin.
Untouched Adventures founder Marthinus van der Westhuizen described how three dassies, common camp residents, were loitering ahead of him on a path one morning when a caracal exploded from the bush and dispatched them all seemingly with one blow of his paw before fleeing from the human in a tawny flash.
There was something of a latter-day Great Trek about the Storms River camping area as the regulars rolled in and gathered in comfortable lagers and families who had not seen each other for the year greeted like old friends. But unlike the old exclusivity around white Afrikaner culture, the new binding force, it seemed to me, was an appreciation of nature, environmental protection and security.
Surrounded by wild riches, the kids could whizz from one end of the rest camp to the other on their bicycles and families could kuier, braai and hike in safety. With the main holiday crowd about to descend when we were there, there was a comforting sense of care and oversight, with honorary rangers patrolling and teams of SANParks staff trimming and painting.
Garden Route National Park manager Paddy Gordon said the recent fires that had ravaged the park had posed a challenge but the good news was that the key tourism areas were still open to the public.