The Garden Route of South Africa must be one of the most naturally beautiful places on earth. It has everything to make it so - long, sandy beaches, pristine rainforests, rugged sandstone mountains and lakes and estuaries. The pioneers who passed this way in the 1800s called it Eden because of its awesome beauty.
Eden wouldn't be so without animals and there are some unusual residents in the Garden Route. The Knysna Elephant is known as the only truly free-roaming elephant in South Africa. Its habitat is the Knysna forest which it shares with other animals like the leopard, baboon, porcupine and bushpig as well as the flashy Knysna Tauraco, a bird that has become the emblem of the area. The Knysna forest is one of the few remaining indigenous forested areas of South Africa. The best way to explore this pristine landscape is on foot and several well-marked trails exist.
The Southern Right Whales are another star attraction of the area and one can easily spot them from the beaches or atop the cliffs, or take a boat ride to get up close and personal. These leviathans come close to shore from the depths of the Antarctic to breed and to calve and there have been some magnificent sightings between May and September.
Adventure tourism is very popular these days and there's no better place than the Garden Route, with its high cliffs and deep gorges, to get the adrenalin rushing. At the Bloukrans Bridge one can experience the thrill of the world's highest bungee jump (216m!) or if that's too scary, there’s a bridge swing which is also loads of fun. Another way to have fun is on the canopy tour, which is a tree top fufi slide between the trees or across a gorge. Other heart-pounding activities include shark cage diving, abseiling, paragliding, deep sea fishing, and kayaking.
The human history of this region is extremely rich and interesting, and inextricably intertwined with its natural history. The first inhabitants were the Khoi-khoi, beachcombers who lived off the sea and took shelter in caves. There is evidence of their existence in various shelters along the seashore. The development of the area was prompted by the exploitation of the area’s natural resource: timber, from the early 19th century. These days the forests are protected and enjoyed by all who love nature.
The Garden Route stretches from Mosselbay to Humansdorp - about 200km in the South Cape. An area which should be included on anyone's itinerary when visiting South Africa!
Thanks so much, Fiona, for providing us with yet another reason to visit the fascinating nation of South Africa. If you’re interested in starting a conversation with Fiona about the Garden Route, you can contact her here: Fiona’s Guide Page.