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The Garden Route, South Africa

For anyone visiting South Africa, one of the most exciting and beautiful things to do is take a driving tour of the world famous Garden Route.

Filled with exotic locations, incredible vistas, welcoming local populations and wide variety of plants and animals to see, The Garden Route is unlike any road or highway you have ever traveled on. There is a reason why travelers and tourists from all over the world make sure this wonderful adventure is on the list of things to do on a vacation in Africa.

The Garden Route is a very popular and beautiful stretch of the coast of southern South Africa, stretching from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape along to the Storms River. Named for the exquisite natural plant life that inhabits the region, the Garden Route is absolutely breathtaking and offers a wide array of places to visit and sites to see. The Garden Route includes towns and areas such as Mossel Bay, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Nature’s Valley and others. The Garden Route is found between the Outeniqua Mountains and Tsitsikamma Mountains and the Indian Ocean, home to temperate forests and nearly 300 species of birds and plentiful wildlife. A variety of habitats are found along the Garden Route including forest, wetlands and fynbos. Nature reserves, varied ecosystems, and maritime reserves where one can find coral reefs, dolphins and seals make the Garden Route one of the greatest destinations in the world for ecotourism and African safaris. Most people enjoy The Garden Route on automobile tours, but it must be noted that it is also the home of Africa’s last remaining passenger steam train, known as the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe.

Mossel Bay is a museum and historical site lovers dream, boasting wonderful educational sites such as the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex, The Maritime Museum, The Shell Museum and Aquarium and others. Historical sites include the Cape St. Blaize Cave and Khoi Village, St. Blaize Lighthouse, Santos Pavilion and Lazaretto Cemetary amongst others, not to mention the rich archtiecural gems of the area. Top notch hotels, some of the greatest game reserves, a plush casino and fine dining are all juxtaposed against a breathtaking landscape and surrounding wilderness area great for animal watching.

Safaris of many kinds and outdoor adventures are abundant along The Garden Route, including the Keurbooms River Ferries, Botlierskop Day Safaris, The Garden Route Game Lodge and others. Plettenburg Bay is home to the Tenikwa Wildlife Center, Monkeyland and Birds of Eden. Knysna boasts outdoor experiences of many kinds including the Knysna Elephant Park and Spring Tide Sailing Charters, and Tsitsikamma offers the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours.

The Garden Route is dotted with artists, galleries, craft museums and markets, making this fantastic stretch of the African Coast one of the most diverse and rich combinations of culture and wildlife. Any type of accommodations you can think of will be found along this pristine stretch of coastline, from bed and breakfasts, upscale hotels and golf courses and metropolitan hospitality, to camping and lodging in a rustic fashion.

The Garden Route is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline and enjoyable highways to travel on anywhere in the world. Offering a wide array of activities for every personality and kind of traveler, it is a must see for anyone visiting South Africa. Whale watching, sea kayaking, traditional African safari, walking safari and many other exciting adventures await you all along this famous bit of highway.

Fun Things to Do on the Garden Route – South Africa

“So where is the Garden Route?” you might ask. It’s a 200km section of the South African coastline stretching from the town of Mossel Bay to just the other side of the Tsitsikamma National Park.

Just recently I took some time out to revisit the Garden Route, this time to research what fun exciting things one can do on the Garden Route. It’s a fabulous destination and a definite “must see” for anybody visiting South Africa. To summarize the Garden Route, I would call it “the outdoor adventure activities and golf Mecca of South Africa!” I have put together some suggestions here for your trip down the Garden Route.

Scenic Drives: Well, there are a couple of lovely scenic drives on the Garden Route and depending on how much time you have and where you are staying the night you could include these on your itinerary.

1. Swartberg Pass and Meiringspoort near Oudtshoorn – a gorgeous day trip to be enjoyed with a picnic lunch stop at a beautiful waterfall in Meiringspoort, dramatic mountain landscape and scenic vistas.

2. Seven passes road, the original road between George and Knysna – dense indigenous forest, tannin rich black water rivers, steep gorges and a prolific bird life.

3. Montagu pass – traversing the majestic Outeniqua Mountains between George and Oudtshoorn, the original route built in 1848 with convict labour.

Mossel Bay

Shark Cage Diving – an exhilarating experience I would recommend to anybody! Mossel Bay has the most accessible great white shark experience in the world, offering a shorter more comfortable boat ride on calmer waters than the competition at Gansbaai near Cape Town. You will leave with a newfound respect for these magnificent predators.

Oudtshoorn – great place to visit especially if it’s raining everywhere else on the Garden Route. Oudtshoorn is the capital of the Little Karoo which is classed as semi desert so you can count on the weather being pretty good most of the year round.

Cango Caves – an underground wonderland with the most spectacular dripstone formations

Cango Ostrich Farm – learn about the ostrich farming industry that made Oudtshoorn famous and take a ride on an ostrich!

Cango Wildlife Ranch – a sanctuary to endangered wildlife species. Get up close and personal with a cheetah or go diving with the crocs.

Wilderness – a tranquil seaside village offering an array of outdoor activities such as Paragliding, Canoeing up Touws River, Hiking trails through the enchanted indigenous forests, Kloofing and Abseiling.

Knysna – a bustling happening little town with much to offer!

I can recommend the 4 Hour Eco Experience at Featherbed Bay, which includes a boat ride across the lagoon, a guided tour in the nature reserve, a tractor-trailer ride and a tasty lunch in a classy restaurant under the old milkwood trees.

Quad biking, Mountain biking in Harkerville and Knysna forests, Abseiling off the Knysna Heads, Canoeing on Knysna River, Hiking in the Knysna Forest

Plettenberg Bay – another bustling town to include on your itinerary offering a huge selection of outdoor activities, something for the whole family. Many children activities on offer as well.

Elephant Sanctuary – where you can walk with these gentle giants and even ride one

Birds of Eden – a magnificent display of birds from all over the world!

Monkeyland – fascinating and informative!

Adventure activities such as Sea kayaking, Canoeing up the Keurbooms River, Boat cruises to view marine life such as dolphins, seals and whales in season (Jul to Dec)

Sky diving, Abseiling, Hiking in the Robberg Nature Reserve, Bunji Jumping off Bloukrans Bridge (the highest bunji jump in the world at 216m)

Plett has become well known as the “polo mecca” of South Africa. Exciting polo tournaments are being played at Bitou House and Kurland during Easter, December and January with polo practices throughout the year.

Tsitsikamma National Park

The Big Tree – largest Outeniqua Yellowwood tree in the area with a circumference of 8.5m and a height of 36m. This is one of the largest tree species we have in South Africa and of the most beautiful in my opinion.

Tree Top Canopy Tours – offering fun and adventurous cable sliding from one big tree to the next, a great way to be introduced to our beautiful indigenous forest and its little inhabitants!

Hiking trails along the rugged coastline

Pristine Beaches

Of course don’t forget that this entire stretch of coastline has a myriad of gorgeous beaches, most of them having “blue flag” status. Heralds Bay, Glentana and Victoria Bay near George, Wilderness beach, Buffels Bay, Noetsie Bay, Plettenberg Bay and Natures Valley, all offering the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean and beautiful stretches of golden sand. This makes the Garden Route a superb summer destination!

Golfing is a huge activity on the Garden Route with some of the top golf course in the world based here such Fancourt Country Club Estate offering 4 courses built by Gary Player, our South African golf icon, George Golf Course, Simola Golf Estate, Pezula Champioship Golf Course offering the most spectacular scenery, Knysna Golf Course and Goose Valley Golf Course in Plettenberg Bay.

So all in all, a great destination to include on your itinerary when you come to visit our beautiful South Africa!

Apps for travelling through Africa

Travelling has been made a lot easier and more informative with the integration of applications (apps) by countries, cities and attractions into their offerings. Tourists now have, in their hands, a personal guide, travelling companion, map and advisor, and a wealth of insight.

This is enhancing the experience of travelling southern and East Africa, and Tourism Update has put together a list of some useful and practical apps to make a traveller’s experience of this beautiful belt of Africa far more rewarding.

Kicking off the adventure

There are a few apps that make travelling into Africa a lot easier, when considering currency exchanges, language, and time differences. These apps help tourists stay on track before and during their trip with a few overall essentials.

XE Currency Converter

This currency exchange app not only provides live exchange rates and charts, but can provide alerts to monitor your client’s currencies of choice.

Safeture

Safeture is personal safety app that provides real-time status on localised security information, as well as delivering warnings, alerts and local SOS emergency numbers. Family members can follow the progress the traveller’s journey at any time, and the app offers local news in-destination, as well as country-specific safety and travel information. Automatic translation is available in 90 languages.

VoiceMap

VoiceMap takes tourists on immersive GPS audio walks, cycles, drives and even boat rides across 100 cities worldwide. It gives travellers the background stories, put together by local storytellers including journalists, filmmakers, novelists, podcasters and tour guides.

The Cradle of Humankind

Explore the world heritage site with this interactive visitor app, which offers numerous experiences to choose from in the area, navigation, pre-booking and itinerary development. If visitors are more adventurous, cycling and hiking routes are provided.

Madiba’s Journey

Inspired by the global icon, Nelson Mandela, this app walks tourists in the footsteps of the great man. Featuring 100 tourist attractions in the life of Madiba, the app also offers attractions on a map, allows visitors to build their own itineraries, and also offers audio, text and image galleries at each location. Real-time weather information is available as well.

Constitution Hill Guide

The Constitution Hill Guide is a Bluetooth-enabled app that takes visitors on a guided virtual tour of the historic precinct. It offers essential information on the diverse museums, such as The Old Fort, the Women’s Jail, Number Four, and The Awaiting Trial Block. Visitors can also see what attractions are available in the precinct, and the app offers general visitor information, and guidance on exhibitions, tours available and ticket prices.

GPSmyCity

Explore over 1 000 cities worldwide with thousands of self-guided walking tours. This app turns a mobile device into a personal tour guide using built-in GPS functions. Taking tourists through landmarks, historical sites, museums, restaurants, nightlife venues and other interesting locations, the app can operate offline as well, saving on roaming data costs.

Africa: Live

The Africa: Live app allows users to view and share wildlife sightings across Africa, including photos, and find out where the game sighting hotspots are. Offline maps are available, contributed by park experts. A new addition to the app, the Phone Ranger field guide, includes a 90-minute audio by a leading ranger.

Sasol eBirds of Southern Africa

Birding is a booming activity for tourists. This interactive app enables birders to identify bird species through clear photographs, distribution maps and descriptions. It shares audible calls for most bird species and a smart search facility allows users to identify a birds by size, colour, beak shape and habitat.

Starwalk

Travelling deeper into Africa, and out of the cities, the night skies become brilliantly clear. Star Walk has thousands of stars and constellations at your fingertips, allowing a gazer to make an effortless journey through the night skies of Africa. An extra benefit is the augmented reality stargazing.

MTB Trails SA

Cycling is growing in leaps and bounds, and MTB Trails SA connects travellers with some of the most inspiring mountain biking trails across South Africa. Select trails by distance, difficulty, type of terrain and facilities available. Contact information on trail owners is available for more information.

Tourism Update