Things to Do in Garden Route
Surrounded by warm-water lagoons, sandstone cliffs, and dense forests, Knysna is one of the most popular towns along South Africa’s renowned Garden Route. The coastal town welcomes tourists with a blend of natural beauty, quaint accommodations, seafood restaurants, and outdoor adventures. Plus, the estuary’s oyster farms provide the chance to indulge in fresh oysters while cruising the lagoon.
Trails, waterfalls, and wildlife draw visitors to lush Tsitsikamma National Park. Set along South Africa’s scenic Garden Route and spanning 50 miles (80 kilometers) of coastline, the park stretches from the mouth of the Storms River to Nature’s Valley. Embark on various adventures here, from a multi-day hike along the Otter Trail to one of the world’s highest bungee jumps.
Best known as the ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn has more to offer than just a chance to visit ostrich farms. Set in the Little Karoo—South Africa’s semi-desert—the town is the gateway to the Swartberg mountains, the Cango Caves, and innumerable nature reserves and trails. Visitors can also enjoy local restaurants and wineries.
Herds of elephants basking at water holes are just a sneak peek of the classic African wildlife you’ll spot at Addo Elephant National Park. Lions, rhinos, hyenas, leopards, antelope, and zebras also make appearances alongside the park’s vast network of roads and trails, and can even be observed from the safari lodging and restaurants.
The Cango Caves are made up of a diverse array of underground formations. ranging from massive caverns to narrow passageways barely wide enough to squeeze through. Spacious, well-lit corridors reveal floor to ceiling stalagmites and stalactites. In contrast, the cave’s tunnels are dark and cramped, offering a bona fide caving experience.
Whether it’s an international polo match, taking a walk with wild cheetahs or heading out on a wild canyoning adventure, the coastal town of Plettenberg Bay—named Beautiful Bay by early Portuguese explorers—offers travelers ample opportunity to explore the outdoors. The surrounding mountains are home to plenty of hiking trails and scenic bike passes ideal for nature-lovers, while extreme sports like skydiving and climbing prove ideal for the thrill-seeking set.
Plettenberg’s sunny shores, particularly along the Keurbooms Lagoon, offer options for travelers looking to swim, relax and take in the area’s quiet shores. In July, these protected waters attract Southern Right Whales and lucky travelers can catch a glimpse of these beautiful beasts from the safety of shore.
A glorious expanse of mountain peaks and forested valleys scattered with lakes, beaches, and winding rivers, the Wilderness National Park is among the many highlights of South Africa’s Garden Route. Part of the Garden Route National Park, the Wilderness Section affords endless opportunities for hiking and wildlife watching.
The lush forests, streams, and trails of Birds of Eden provide a natural, free-flight sanctuary for more than 200 different bird species from across the world. Wander the vast 5.6-acre (2.3-hectare) aviary dome set in the mountains outside of Plettenberg Bay while observing rehabilitated birds in their natural habitats.
Under the canopy of an indigenous South African forest, more than 700 primates live in the world’s first free-range, multi-species primate sanctuary. Tours of Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary offer no species sighting guarantees, but you will see primates from around the world, while learning about their patterns, habitats, and threats.
Just outside of Plettenberg Bay, Tenikwa Wildlife Center is one of several beautiful nature reserves and protected areas along the Garden Route. It is also one of the few animal welfare centers in South Africa, where both land and marine life can be found. The story of Tenikwa began in 2002, when the founders of the station moved to the Garden Route and discovered that numerous animals required their help, many of them rescued pets who could no longer be released into the wild. They bought a small piece of land and started to take in some animals and a few years later, the Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre opened. A big focus is set on introducing visitors to the different types of African wild cats, such as leopards, cheetahs, servals and caracals, but there are also several other species including penguins, meerkats, storks and monkeys. The center educates about their way of life and the threats they are exposed to. Additionally, it teaches the local population how important the protection of these animals is.
Tenikwa offers various guided tours in small groups and for all ages. There are special tours for photographers and families with kids, but there is also a one hour long standard tour which doesn’t need booking in advance and brings visitors closer to the animals. Let yourself be carried away by the passion the employees have for the rescue of these animals and try to do your apart by contributing to the protection of the African wildlife.
More Things to Do in Garden Route
The Cango Wildlife Ranch, home to endangered species from across South Africa and beyond, is dedicated to wildlife conservation and educating visitors about the challenges facing everything from its majestic big cats to prized Cape Vultures. In addition to viewing wildlife in their natural habitats, you can see big cats from an elevated boardwalk and have personal encounters with select animals in separate enclosures.
On a coastal travel route filled with spectacular scenery, outdoor adventure and unique cultural experiences, the tiny and sparsely populated Little Karoo (Klein Karoo) region offers visitors the opportunity to experience some true South African wonder. From ostrich riding to photography this easily accessible destination is a perfect place to pull off the road, relax, unwind and explore.
Whether it’s taking a ride atop one of Outdshoorn’s native ostriches, venturing out into the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve, sipping a glass of port on the Little Karoo Wine Route or trekking through the Congo Caves, Klein Karoo has something for almost every traveler.
Offering one of Earth’s highest bungee jumps, the Bloukrans Bridge arcs 710 feet (216 meters above the Bloukrans River in Tsitsikamma National Park. Its slender-looking span impresses, but travelers come for the zipline, skywalk, rappelling—and most of all—the bungee, which drops more than 650 feet (200 meters with 5 seconds of free fall.