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The Garden Route, South Africa

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A visit to Cape Town will not be complete without spending a few days exploring the Garden Route. The Garden Route is a scenic stretch of coastal highway that links some of South Africa’s famous and beautiful landscape. Every now and then, visitors to the garden route will be awed by the lush, indigenous forest on one side and be mesmerized by endless views of the sea in the horizon on the other.

The garden route sandwiched between the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains and the Indian Ocean begins from Mossel Bay and ends at Storms River, a rustic village towards the direction of Port Elizabeth.

Mossel Bay 

Situated halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay is the first stop in the garden route for driving or touring from Cape Town. The beautiful coastal village is a busy summer destination and an ideal winter retreat. From Maritime Museum to an 800 years old Post Office, the historical buildings are representation of the town’s rich heritage. Mossels, sounds like mussels, which is perhaps why the mussels gathered in Mossel Bay is rated as one of the finest in the world by gourmets.

George

As the sixth oldest town in South Africa, George is the Capital of Southern Cape. George is halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and hence an ideal base for exploring surrounding towns and scenic landscapes. While in George, discover why an ancient English Oak known as The Slave Tree embedded with large chain and lock is a national monument. Enjoy a nostalgic ride on Africa's last remaining passenger steam train, the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe as it meanders through the beautiful fynbos and temperature forest toward Knsyna.

Wilderness

Set between the Kaaimans River and the Goukama Nature Reserve, the approach into Wilderness is a sight to behold. Lying by the border of the Outeniqua Mountains, Wilderness is surrounded by many rivers and lakes. The National Park within Wilderness is a great place to observe many types of wildlife and is especially ideal for bird watchers. Sport enthusiasts will also be spoilt for choice when it comes to adrenaline pumping activities like hang gliding, paragliding and mountain biking. The rustic charm of Wilderness is further enhanced by the presence of quaint, wooden houses perching at the edge of the cliff.

Sedgefield

Sedgefield is a small resort town between Wilderness and Knysna. Known for its many hiking trails and bird hides, Sedgefield is a delightful place to marvel at colourful wild flowers and fynbos. There is even an estuary for bathing and fishing.

Knysna

Knysna is Southern Cape best known holiday destination. Knysna striking geological features ranges from treacherous channels, beautiful lagoon and a large indigenous forest, home to many ancient trees of such as stinkwood, yellowwood, blackwood and white alders. One of the best known attractions in Knysna is the Heads. The Heads are two sandstone cliffs guarding the mouth of the lagoon and it connects the estuary within the sea. The lookout at the Eastern Head is a great place to watch swirling current flowing from the open sea into mouth of the channel and eventually calming down as it blend into Knysna River. Western Head is a privately owned nature reserve, Featherbed Bay and can be visited on a guided walking tour. There are many restaurant, cafes and bars in Knysna selling many types of local and international cuisines. However, don’t forget to try a local delicacy, Knysna oysters; it is reputed to be among the tastiest in the world. Shopping is also an interesting experience in Knysna. One of the main shopping places is Waterfront which sits by the sea. It is a good place to buy African made products and handicraft.

Plettenberg 

Plettenberg Bay is a nursery to the endangered South Right Whale. The whale comes here to calve in winter. From July to December, you can have an opportunity to watch the South Right Whale and its calf frolicking in the waters of Plettenberg. Like most places on the Garden Route, Plettenberg have its share of beautiful forests and varied wildlife. The pretty town is also blessed with a varied ecosystem, one of which is a unique marine reserve which is home to soft coral reefs and a host of marine life. There is a vibrant nightlife in Plettenberg Bay. Pubs, clubs and fine restaurants can be found in every corner of the town. The Bay is a favourite vacation spot for students.

Tsitsikamma

The Tsitsikamma National Park is an internationally recognized nature reserve. The forests in Tsitsikamma is home to a giant Outeniqua yellowwood tree. This enormous tree has survived unchanged for millions of years and is one of the few true monarchs of the world's forests. The national park has many scenic hiking trails and one of the best known is the Otter Trail, which stretches from Storms River Mouth to Nature Valley. The Otter Trail embodies scenic landscape of lush green forest and wild flowers, rocky formations near the sea and tranquil shoreline. There are also biking trails, hunting safaris and fishing trips for visitors to participate. For the adventure enthusiast, try bungee jumping from the world’s highest jump which is 216ms at Bloukrans Bridge, Black Water Tubing, Kloofing or slide from tree to tree in a Canopy Tour. Alternatively, if you like taking great pictures, the rugged and unspoilt coastline in the Tsitsikamma National Park is a photographer’s dream.

You can explore the scenic Garden Route through local guided tours. However, one of the best ways to see the places is self drive. It is easy to drive to the Garden Route. The motorists in South Africa drive on the left hand side of the road and all you need is an international license and the legal driving age is 18. Do not rush through the Garden Route; give yourself 4 to 5 days to truly experience the South African beauty.

 

 

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