10th July 2010
Whether you're a tree-hugger, bird fanatic or just looking for a peaceful time away from city buzz, the Garden Route has got to be priority on your holiday to-do list. The constant Mediterranean climate of the Garden Route allows it to be a perfect getaway destination in both summer and winter. In summer the forests are fresh and green and most of the wild flowers have already started blooming. Though much more visitors are expected in the warmer seasons, the mild winters are just as beautiful with the sweet sounds of the birds and the scent of unpolished soil just dampened from the drizzle, an ideal place to meditate.
The coastline which escorts the Garden Route lies parallel to a series of enigmatic lakes, majestic mountains and amber coloured rivers that stream close to the mountain like minuscule pathways. Three of the countries most infamous hiking trails are founded here: The Tsitsikamma, The Dolphin Trail and The Otter Trail. The twisty hiking trails mysterious appearance leaves room for plenty adventure.
The guided tour safari also takes you on a land cruise to the world's best whale watching destination, Hermanus, which boasts some of the most scenic roads in the country. You'll stop to enjoy some fine food and wine at the Cape Winelands and then pass the ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn, before you eat your way through as much oysters as you can in Knysna, and witness the unbelievable sights at the Tsitiskamma National Park.
If you don't want to be restricted to a planned pleasure trip you may also opt for a Self Drive Safari where you have the freedom to explore the Garden Route at your own pace. There is no disadvantage to self drive safari's as South Africa has well constructed roads and excellent mobile phone network coverage, on the contrary self drive safari's have become even more popular than guided tours as visitors that travel the Garden Route want to be free from a planned itinerary since there are still so much sights and scents that remain uncovered.
The distance from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth is an estimated 769km but that doesn't mean that you're going to complete the trip within 12 hours. There are plenty of stops you can grab a quick bite to eat or even sit down and dine, and if you're keen on staying the night (or two) there is an endless list of cosy little guest houses available.
The Top Four Attractions
Pack your travel bag with your camera to capture all the memorable sights the Garden Route has to offer. There are four main attractions that are essential for all Garden Routers:
The Cango Caves
The Cango Caves exceeds man's expectation of a natural beauty. This fortress of corridors and dripstone formations is the result of a geological flaw in the Swartberg Mountains, formed by the merging of hundreds of thousands of years of time, water and natural chemistry. Many of the hallways and caves still stand exactly as it was when created and they all carry dreamy descriptive labels such as the Organ Pipes, which is the mirror image of an actual organ.
Next stop: A hearty meal in the bubbly forest of Monkeyland. Its is an innovative primate sanctuary set up in an untouched natural forest that homes chimpanzees and ape species from all over the world. It's unique in it being the only location in the world where you are able to have your caf? latte while watching the primates playing. Visitors leave this thrilling venture always coming back for more.
The Elephant Park
There is a sad history about the Knysna Elephants, but one you will only learn on your Elephant Safari. Situated in the heart of the Garden Route, the Elephant Park is home to the world's southernmost elephants as well as South Africa's resident elephants, and with the help of your tour guide you will be well informed about the differences between these two species. Get a panoramic view of the lush native and exotic forests as you roam on elephant back. Guided nature walks alongside these humble mammals are also available for those afraid of heights.
The Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe
The Choo-Tjoe (pronounced choo-choo) is a vintage little steam train, the only one in the world that passes across a scrap of the ocean and large lake. The train is popular as a means to see part of the Garden Route that runs from George to Knysna. This one-way three hour train ride with a view takes you on a charming adventure along the coast and also passing the Kaaimans River Bridge, one of the most photographed fixtures in the world.
Be Part Of The Experience
The best part of the Garden Route is that there are accommodation spots in almost every tourist attraction location. Apart from Knysna, the heart of the Garden Route, Montagu is at the top of our list of stunning places to stay. It is rich in rock formations and is best known for its hot mineral springs. Other top resorts include Swellendam, a rural Cape Dutch town, Hermanus, the little town on the coast where whales flock to each year, and Plettenberg Bay, known to the locals as the best beach in the Western Cape.
So whether it's a family break you're planning, a romantic getaway or honeymoon, connect with a travel operator that knows the area and make sure to experience the South African Garden Route. It's a treasure...