Traveling through the natural garden of South Africa

A road trip down the Garden Route of South Africa, along the coast from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape is always an experience to remember. There are so many sights to see, so many people to meet, so many things to do. It really does not matter what time of the year you take to the road – though in the summer months and right through to autumn, October to May, you can almost be guaranteed to have warm sunny days – but, it is always picturesque and full of surprizes. The natural beauty is overwhelming, the people are friendly and the activities are exciting!

Garden Route, Wilderness, beach

Wild beauty of Wilderness

Spread out on the kilometres of wooded dunes next to the Indian Ocean, many of the villas in Wilderness, a coastal town between George and Knysna, have the most magnificent sea view you can imagine. Luxury accommodation, in the form of hotels, B&B’s, guest houses and self-catering chalets, is readily available. The pristine beauty of the forest-covered hills and the beach is unique.

Garden Route, Wilderness, life saver platform

The Map-of-Africa is a spectacular viewpoint at Wilderness Heights. From the elevated location, you can view the natural scenery of mountains and indigenous forests that forms the outline of Africa. Nature has created this shape because of the way the Kaaimans River flows. What an inspiring sight!

Garden Route, Wilderness, Map of Africa

Due to the height, the view in all directions is absolutely beautiful. This spot is also the favourite launching pad for paragliders. Colourful and bright paragliders, soaring against the clear blue skies, make an unforgettable picture.

Garden Route, Wilderness, panoramic view

Slow down for Sedgefield

Sedgefield, South Africa’s first Slow Town, is considered to be the secret jewel of the Garden Route. Here you can slow down to the speed of nature with a feeling of tranquil contentment flowing through you. People settling here on the edge of the picturesque Swartvlei Lagoon, share the dream of this area becoming the Garden Route Biosphere with precious indigenous forests, mountains, Cape Fynbos (the biodiverse natural shrubs and heathland vegetation of the Western Cape), the delicate coastal landscape and all the living creatures calling this place home.

Garden Route, Sedgefield, Swartvlei lagoon

In this slow town there is no organised entertainment, no shopping mall, no cinemas. Here you spend your days breathing in the fresh unpolluted air as you picnic next to the lagoon, swim in the clear waters, fish from the rocks, take photos, read a book on the beach, paddle in a canoe on the lagoon, hike or cycle where the trail takes you. Real excitement is the well-known Saturday markets where you can fill your shopping basket with local products of all shapes and sizes, tastes and prices.

Garden Route, Sedgefiels, lagoon

The Heads, Knysna

George Rex, a British-born entrepreneur, is credited as being the founder of Knysna, early in the 19th century. Now the commercial capital of the area and a tourist paradise, the town has recently been voted the South African Town of the Year. A well-known family name in Knysna is Thesen. The Thesen family, who were passing through Knysna on their way from Norway to New Zealand, fancied the little village so much that they never left. They brought their knowledge of commerce and sailing to the town. As a result, timber from the vast forests around Knysna, was being exported to the Cape and a steam sawmill and small shipyard were established on an island in the Knysna lagoon. Thesen’s Island is now the location for a top of the range  luxury housing development.

Garden Route, Knysna, Thesen Isle

Knysna is mainly built on the northern shore of a large warm water estuary, known as the Knysna Lagoon. The estuary opens to the ocean after passing between two large headlands, known as “The Heads”. The waterway between The Heads has become infamous due to the loss of boats and fishermen passing through their treacherous and unpredictable waters. Among the pilots who navigated ships through this dangerous channel, John Benn was probably the most famous and his legacy still lives in Knysna.

Garden Route, Knysna, The Heads

In June 2017 a devastating fire, fueled by strong winds, swept through the town and surrounding areas, killing a few people and many animals, destroying acres of forests and hundreds of buildings and displacing thousands of people from all walks of life. The inhabitants are bravely rebuilding and restoring the town to its full glory!

Pretty Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay is a Garden Route town with a magnificent beach, perfect for swimming or surfing. To the south, Robberg Nature Reserve is a rocky peninsula with a history that goes back to the Stone Age. Places of interest near Plett (as the town’s name is fondly abbreviated) are a free-flight bird sanctuary, indigenous forests and an elephant sanctuary. The world-renowned icon of Plettenberg Bay is the luxurious Beacon Isle Hotel – virtually standing on a rocky island in the sea but connected to the mainland by a sandy strip of beach.

Garden Route, Plett, Beacon Isle

Whales and schools of dolphin come near the coast and love to show off for visitors.

Garden Route, Plett, dolphins

The Big Tree – king of the forest

In the Tsitsikamma forest, east of Plettenberg Bay, a thousand year old Outeniqua Yellowood tree towers above the surrounding trees. From the parking lot, you have to walk a few hundred meters on a well-constructed wooden walkway that is elevated above the forest floor, to get to The Big Tree.

Garden Route, Tsitsikamma, Big Tree walkway

Almost 37 meters tall with a trunk as straight as a rod and a wide dense crown that is often the nesting site for various bird species, the tree is a symbol of timeless vitality and survival for more than a millennium.

Garden Route, Tsitsikamma, Big Tree

Iconic Storms River Bridge

Not only nature produced some masterpieces along this route, man also did! The Storms River Bridge is an impressive deck arch bridge over the Storms River in the Eastern Cape between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The 100 metre long bridge, 120 metres above the river bed, was constructed in a unique way: semi arches were fixed on opposite sides of the gorge and then lowered into position to meet at the centre, thus forming the completed arch structure – nerve-shattering moments for the engineers! A walk over the bridge can be a stomach turning activity, so, take this good advice: do not look down, look up and admire the mind-blowing view.

Garden Route, Storms River bridge

Celine Renaud is Head of Sales for Leo Trippi.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Daisy says:

    Not quite sure I’m up for the adventure of paragliding but there are certainly some beautiful views and I’d like to take some photos here. I also love the idea of being able to see whales and dolphins from the coast! That must be very close – can you go swimming with them at all?

  2. Jane says:

    I’ve personally never been to South Africa but I always imagined what it may look like. When my dad visited for the first time he came back and showed me BEAUTIFUL photographs of lush greenery and I was stunned! May sound ridiculous, but I didn’t expect it to be so green. I’d love a view of the forest-covered hills. What a gorgeous place

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