Happy Holidays on the Glorious
Garden Route by Darren Ravens
South Africa's Garden Route
is one of the country's most popular holiday destinations. This scenic
region finds itself nestled between the Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua Mountains
and the Indian Ocean. Stretching along the charming south eastern coast,
the Garden Route is a montage of mysterious forests, picture-perfect lakes,
pristine wetlands and immaculate beaches. It is a fascinatingly diverse
landscape, blessed with a temperate climate, making it a great place to
explore all year round.
As its name might suggest,
the Garden Route is an indubitable utopia of nature, with richness of flora
and fauna unlike anywhere else in the world. This little corner of Africa
is so magical in its diversity, that it's sometimes known as "nature's
garden" and place names like "garden of Eden" and the 'Wilderness" reflect
The route offers plenty of
highlights for visitors, from the whale-watching haven of Hermanus to the
pristine lagoon and indigenous forests of Knysna, not to mention the pristine
beaches of Plettenberg Bay and the unspoilt beauty of the Tsitsikamma National
Park. For these visitors, the wealth of wetlands, fauna, flora and fantastic
natural geography offer something of interest all year round.
there and getting around
With daily flights to and
from Port Elizabeth from all major South African cities, including Cape
Town and Johannesburg, travel by airline is a popular choice for visitors.
Depending on the intended activity and where along the route one wishes
to be based, there are numerous options for getting around and exploring
further, including car-hire options and the magnificent Outeniqua "Choo-tjoe",
Africa's last remaining passenger steam locomotive.
Arguably, the best way to
discover the Garden Route is by driving there yourself. It's way more flexible
and opens up an infinite number of exploration opportunities. Check out
the area at your own pace, and visit some of the more out of the way places.
Roads are well signposted and in pretty good condition. The local mobile
networks' coverage means that you're seldom out of touch with the "civilized"
world...unless you want to be.
For the off-road enthusiasts,
hiring a 4x4 might also be an attractive option, since that mode of transport
affords even greater flexibility, allowing you to explore places way off
the beaten track and get a true taste of Africa.
Of course, for many people,
time constraints and other factors make a combination of transport alternatives
the best option. Drive the route in one direction, perhaps do some travel
on the steam train along the way, and fly back.
Depending on how much time
you've got at your disposal and what kind of leisure activities you prefer,
there are a wide variety of places along the route that might be considered
"must-see". In an ideal world, with no constraints on your travel, you
could classify the entire length of the route as a Must-See! But of course,
this is not the reality for most of us, so it's important to have some
idea of what the priorities are when exploring and to have a clear idea
of the type of experience to expect from the various destinations.
Seaside Splendour - 5
All along the Garden Route,
small seaside towns and villages lie scattered, like hidden jewels waiting
to delight whoever will unearth them. If what you seek is a relatively
unstructured, an outdoor-focussed holiday of adventure and discovery, then
there are few places on this earth better suited to meet your needs.
With mountains hugging the
shoreline closely, perfect beaches and crystal bays punctuate the embrace
of coastal and mountainous terrain. Trendy coastal resorts abound, drawing
jet-setters and from around the world who enjoy the variety of leisure
activities and accommodation options available. And between these trendy
resorts, for those who seek something a little more low-key, there are
a multitude of unspoiled, tranquil little spots. Here rest, relaxation
and the appreciation of natural beauty are top of the agenda.
One such place is the Garden
Route holiday town of Mossel Bay. Located along the N2 highway between
Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, it overlooks the warm Indian Ocean waters.
It is a town that appears to bask on the sun-drenched peninsula much like
a tourist would on one of the Bay's pristine, north-facing beaches.
Its no wonder the people
of Mossel bay are so laidback and peaceful, how could you not be living
in an area as beautiful as this. Its character is in keeping with that
of a big-hearted small harbour town; unhurried hospitality, friendliness
and complement its natural splendour.
Knysna, as famous for its
oysters as it is for its elephants, is the epitome the Garden Route's diversity.
It lies on the banks of an impressive lagoon and neighbours one of the
most famous indigenous forests in the country.
The town offers an astounding
variety of leisure activities, including forest mountain biking, snorkelling,
boat trips, hikes, golf, fishing opportunities from game fish to fly fishing
to fresh-water, horse-rides, helicopter trips, paragliding, hang-gliding
- there are simply too many options to list here.
The town becomes a hive of
activity mid-year, with the Oyster festival in full swing, so it's worth
a look if you are planning a trip around that time of year.
With a backdrop of gorgeous
mountains, this beautiful Bay is astonishing. The town lies among lush
green forests and fynbos fields, and the expanse of beautiful beach that
separates it from the blue Indian Ocean glistens under sunny skies, like
the white-toothed smile of a landscape pleased with the gods.
In Plettenberg Bay, it always
feels like springtime. The days are warm and relaxed and the evenings mellow
and restful. Don't be fooled into thinking Plettenberg bay is dull place
though, there's certainly no shortage of things to do. With various species
of whales and dolphins visiting the bay, there are great opportunities
to observe these majestic marine mammals by boat or make your way up to
the elevated look-out points for a great land-based viewing experience.
The Robberg Nature Reserve
is not to be missed by the nature lover. Sweeping views, bird and whale
watching opportunities, hiking trails and an archaeological site, dated
more than 120 000 old, which gives some interesting insight to the lives
of our distant ancestors. There are also plenty of other activities in
the area, like polo, golf, forest trails, bungee jumping...the list goes
Still Bay, sometimes called
"the Bay of Sleeping Beauty", is spectacularly unspoilt. Its natural beauty
and peaceful lifestyle make it a perfect year-round destination for relaxation.
Rich in history, the little
'White House' serves as a local museum and information centre, historical
sights show off stone-age artefacts and tours are provided to give visitors
an up-close look at the ancient fish-traps.
Victoria Bay is sometimes
described by tourists as "The Gem of the Garden Route". Charming and beautiful,
it's less than 10 km from George making it a good base from which to explore
the region. Excellent winter weather creates opportunities for surfing,
whale and dolphin watching, and summertime for fishing, bathing or snorkelling.