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Travel Guide

Going off the beaten track down South Africa's Garden Route

When traveling down the splendiforous Garden Route from the Western to the Eastern Cape of South Africa, there are many magnificent sights and scenes to be experienced.  Officially starting at lovely Mossel Bay, some feel that the route actually begins at the city of Cape Town. 
Mossel Bay
Along the N2 highway, we visit lovely coastal towns like Mossel Bay itself, Knysna, Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay. Native Escapes offers some great holiday options in the area including so many charming locations, where sandy beaches, rocky outcrops, forests and floral displays make for a wondrous journey down the Garden Route.

However, you may have done it all before, and if its a case of "been there, done that, got the T-shirt" for you, why not try something a little different, by heading off the beaten track?  Below are a couple of options:

Whale Nursery of South Africa

When driving down from Cape Town, after around 300 kilometres take a little detour and visit the tiny village of Witsand.  Witsand is perfect for a quieter beach holiday, with some southern right whales thrown in for good measure!

In fact, while Hermanus in the Overberg is possibly better known for land-based whale watching, Witsand is considered to be the Whale Nursery of South Africa and they come back every year to breed. 

Located on San Sebastian Bay, where the mighty Breede River meets the ocean, Witsand is perfect for both land- and sea-based whale watching.  A record number of these magnificent animals migrate to San Sebastian Bay annually between June and November and can be seen from the beach, out on the water or even from your balcony at a local guesthouse.

Witsand Beach
Photo courtesy Whale Watchers Inn
Southern Right Whale
Southern Right Whale
Not only whales are on offer, however, as many activities are available in this lovely place.  Land and sea fishing, all the best watersports, dune surfing, a myriad of birds for the birding enthusiast and so much more is available in Witsand.  For the latter, blue cranes, flamingoes, black oyster catchers and Cape sugar birds are just a few of the birds on offer for those precious Kodak moments.

For a historic experience, head down to the Malgas Pont, close to the village, where you can experience the last remaining hand-operated pontoon in the country at Malgas crossing to the De Hoop Nature Reserve, and which is still in operation today.

The nature reserve is also well worth visiting for its glorious "fynbos" or natural vegetation, including the country's national flower, the Protea.  You will also see plenty of game running around.

Klein Karoo/Route 62:

Another off-shoot from the main drag, so to speak, is Route 62 and the Klein, or Little Karoo.  A scenic off-shoot from the N2 highway, this area has plenty to offer the holidaymaker. including the fascinating town of Oudtshoorn.

If you have always had a yen to ride an ostrich, here's your chance, as many of the ostrich farms in the area offer this option to tourists. 

Oudtshoorn is a major centre for ostrich breeding in South Africa and this dates back from the old days where ladies used to enjoy wearing those fabulous feather boas or a large feather in their fancy hats.

Nowadays you can enjoy a tasty ostrich steak or buy a decoratively painted ostrich egg to take home with you.

Ostriches in Oudtshoon - photo cc-by-sa Reinderd Visser
Ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn - photo CC-by-SA Reinderd Visser
Cango Caves photo cc Andy Jou
Cango Caves - Photo CC Andy Jou
Another fascinating stop while in Oudtshoon and on Route 62  is, of course, the Cango Caves.  Nestled in the Precambrian limestones in the foothills of the Swartberg range of mountains, they are an interesting visit indeed.

The main cave is one of the finest to be seen in South Africa and attracts many overseas visitors, but regrettably only about one quarter of the four kilometres of extensive system of chambers and tunnels in the caves is open to the public.

However Cango Caves does offer two different types of tours.  The Standard Tour apparently takes an hour, but if you are more of a daredevil, try the Adventure Tour, where you crawl through narrow passages and then climb up steep rock formations, lighting the way with only tiny helmet lights.  This is probably not for the claustrophic!

While on Route 62, do a little wine tasting around the towns of Barrydale, Montagu, Ashton and Robertson, where you can sample some of South Africa's best wines or, while in the Ashton/Robertson area, see some beautiful thoroughbred horses on the horse farms in the area.

Suffice to say there is so much to do, both on the Garden Route itself and close by on Route 62.  Set aside some time during your Cape Town holiday to visit.

Travel Guide


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Latest Update: July 19, 2016