A garden is a place where nature is in command and where humans can escape their daily chores to enjoy the natural world.
The Garden Route is that enchanted part of the South African landscape. From the very beginning explorers and visitors had a second look when their travels brought them there, and a lot of them had a sudden change of mind and stayed on to build a completely different style of existence.
What was, and still is, the allure of the Garden Route South Africa?
Densely vegetated indigenous forests flow over mountains, fed by higher than average rainfall, covering the more delicate bushes and plants (fynbos) so that the harsh climate of the inland is kept at bay. The Garden Route of South Africa has remained lush and greener and in it’s produce of enriched oxygen, small wildlife, butterflies and birds excel in abundance. Not so small animals like the Tsitsikama elephants also had free range in the quiet misty forests and their trails are still there. There are, to the joy of all naturalists, still quite a few old timers stomping through the deep forests with their offspring.
With the Outeniqua and the Tsitsikama Mountains on one side soaring in green velvet against the horizon, and the Indian Ocean thrashing its wall of rolling waves from the other, the South African Garden Route was formed to become a quiet heavenly haven.
So, the adventurers came, but apart from an early diamond craze, business and materialism never became the driving force of this enchanted area. It became the holiday destination of South Africans through the decades and at retirement most holiday makers became permanent citizens. And this still is the case today as it will be tomorrow.
All that is added to this enduring trend, is the increase in holiday makers and the droves of tourists heading into South Africa’s Garden Route. The laid back residents watch this with private humour, as they know that many of these mesmerized visitors will be coming back again and again.
Cape Town is the starting point for many tourists as they primarily start their visit to this great country from that base. From there, it is less than four hours drive to get to the Garden Route and it’s first town of notice, Mossel Bay. Should they however decide to fly in, they will land at George Airport. Both ways are noted as breathtaking intro’s to the area on Garden Route maps.
Mossel Bay is an old world town where everything goes slow and endeavours to go slower by the next day. It offers cozy guest houses, classy hotels and it’s claim to fame is the fact that Bartolomeu Diaz landed there when the world was still an adolescent. Tourists can visit the Bartolomeu Diaz Museum and also with a dash of cynicism the old Post Office Tree. During the 16th century shipmen left messages under the Post Office Tree for the next boat to arrive. It is a true and wonderful story, but the appointed tree might or might not be the definitive Post Office Tree.
One can also enlist in Mossel Bay for the honour to become bait for the Great White Shark lurking in the deep blue waters with only a cage of steel bars between you and shark eyes colder than the Antarctica.
From Mossel Bay and onwards one will find a great variety of golden Garden Route beaches. Hartenbos, Small Brak River, Great Brak River, Glentana and Herolds Bay on way to the busy town of George are a few of the popular spots. Great Brak River is renowned for the whales that can be watched there at certain times through the year. Weather in the greater Mossel Bay area can be described as Mediterranean with warm summers and mild winters. There are various golf courses that can be aptly put to ongoing tests as the weather will try not to interfere. Residents are proud to say that their climate is the best in the world second to Hawaii.
George is about 10 kilometres from the ocean and apart from the link of the Airport it is also the main gate to the Klein Karoo. The business hub of the Garden Route, hospitals, restaurants, main sport stadium in the area and schools are all found in this big town nestled against the Outeniqua Mountains. The world renowned golf course Fancourt attracts players from afar and if you are lucky you may be able to qualify for a special Fancourt package deal.
The Garden Route area also provides spirit-renewing stop-overs at the luxury game lodges South Africa has to offer. You can book a safari online when planning your trip, and return home with dramatic and spectacular wildlife pictures.
One can pay a visit to Victoria Bay just outside George as it offers huge waves if one would like to do the surfing thing. Body boarding can also be tried by the brave for an exhilarating experience, but it is definitely not for the faint hearted.
Wildernis, on the other side of the drive through the open vein of the mountain, lies bathed in sunlight and rolling walls of water. The Wildernis National Park, flanked by lagoons and wetlands, offers more than 250 species of birds and the enigmatic Knysna Loerie can be viewed and listened to.
The area that includes Sedgefield and Buffalo Bay offer holiday makers and tourists apart from the long stretched out beaches also a great variety of lagoons and lakes. One can therefore indulge in surfing, skiing, canoeing, biking, hiking or ordinary entertainment like sipping a cold beer on the verandahs of restaurants competing to present tourists with the most amazing views.
Knysna, is the mysterious word spoken by tourists returning home, if they can overcome their melancholy for a South African Garden Route town that offers coffee shops, restaurants, arts and crafts, boat trips on the lagoon, the Knysna Heads, where many a boat leaving the safe waters came to a watery end.
So during a Knysna vacation, some shop, some play golf, some swim, some laze around, but everybody will report joy in some form.
The indigenous forests intensify their hold here on the curving road to Plettenberg Bay, and the Tsitsikama National Park is the foremost attraction in the whole area. There one can go walking on the Otter Trail for 5 days and become completely oxidized by sea, forest and breathtaking views in all directions. If comfort is of more importance, the Dolphin Trail will provide a more up market experience in comfort, but still the same breathtaking scenery.
If one can find more time to explore, one can venture out of the Garden Route to visit the town of Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo. It had it’s era when the ostrich farmers became enormously rich as the ladies of the world required the luscious ferns of this odd bird. Their off spring are still around and entice tourists with their overboard behaviour and one can even be brave to request a ride from them. You will fall, but you will remember. The Cango Caves cannot be missed as they offer amazing halls in the depth of the earth and also passages where only the ‘not to heavily overweight’ explorer should endeavour to go.
When one has experienced the Garden Route in all it’s splendour, the memories will keep you going for quite a while. But, eventually you will come back again to see whether those towering yellow wood trees are still weaving above the awesome totality of the Garden Route in South Africa.
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