The Garden Route aptly for it’s greenery and Tsitsikamma Forest, located all along the southern coast of South Africa, is a natural paradise and must-see when visiting the Western Cape.
Ideally, to behold this beautiful extended region, a few days should be spent on the Route, which in near-on tracing the coastline, passes through or close to the towns of Mossel Bay, George, Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley -every one of them having holding their own unique charm and attractions, including the Outeniqua Choo-Choo (a steam train with comfortable passenger carriages) which regularly chugs between George and Knysna offering many spectacular views.
A spectacular (though unfortunately seasonal) sight, are the dolphins (sometimes numbering as many as 4000) and the Southern Right Whales who visit the shores of the Paradise Coast in Hermanus.
A visit to Monkeyland, the world’s first free roaming multi-species primate sanctuary, a modern sanctuary where multiple species of primate ranging from the Gibbons of Asia to the Lemurs of Madagascar roam freely, lays tribute to the rehabilitation efforts carried out on the many predominantly previously caged by other organizations or individuals.
And right next door to Monkeyland is the Birds of Eden, the world’s largest free-flight bird sanctuary located under a two hectare dome, home to a very unique amphitheatre which can accommodate over 200 people for their demonstrative & informative functions relating to the various and very varied species of birds.
A little further inland is Oudtshoorn (pronounced “Oats – horn”), the largest town in the Klein Karoo (meaning “Little” Karoo), which offers all the amenities of a regional capital -with all the charm of a small rural town and it’s home to the world’s largest ostrich population, whereat many a working ostrich farm will take visitors on guided tours to see large flocks of ostriches at different stages of development in the surrounding fields and close-encounters with these feathery non-fliers!
And not too far from Oudtshoorn, at the head of the scenic Cango Valley, lies the spectacular underground wonder of the Klein Karoo, namely the Cango Caves. This 20-million-year-old system of interconnected caverns & chasms, including a series of hidden chambers, is situated in a limestone ridge which runs parallel to the well known Swartberg Mountains. Guided tours amaze even the most aweless traveller with its vast natural earth-made halls and the finest towering dripstone formations and caverns alike.
Knysna, which is arguably the most popular and picturesque town along the Route is filled craft shops, flea markets, restaurants and cafes. This town is located on the shores of the shimmering Knysna Lagoon which is home to over 200 species of fish, including the rare Knysna Seahorse and is well known for its annual Oyster Festival.
The Featherbed Nature Reserve also offers an abundance of rich fauna and flora to explore, not forgetting the Knysna Elephant Park, wherea a memorable close-encounter with the elephants can most certainly be had.
And for those more inclined to admire the scenery, another breathtaking experience will be a cruise under the southern skies, overlooking the famously known Knysna Heads, which as the cliffs at the entrance of the Knysna Lagoon, are where the fresh water meets with the surge of the Indian Ocean.