The Garden Route
Traveling along the coast about 300 kilometers from Southwestern to Southeastern South Africa, the Garden Route passes through the towns of Mossel Bay, Knynsa (this is a cool, gay-friendly town where we missed the infamous Pink Loerie Festival by only a few days), Oudtshoorn, Wilderness, Plettenberg Bay, Nature’s Valley and ending in Storm’s River.
To get a more complete list of Garden Route towns, click here. Reader beware: I have found conflicting information about the actual town names along the Garden Route. I think a few towns have tried to sneak onto the list and understandably so given the publicity of this exquisite route. From what I’ve gathered, Mossel Bay to Storm’s River seems most accurate.
The name, Garden Route, derives from this area of SA having the most mild climate in the country and supposedly second most mild climate in the world after Hawaii. This climate lends itself to near-perfect living conditions and abundant flora and fauna.
Still part of the Eastern Cape and at the mouth of the Groot River, Nature’s Valley can be found on the Garden Route and in Tsitsikamma National Park’s coastal (Indian Ocean) forest. Groot is fun to say. Tsitsikamma is part of the Garden Route National Park so things can get a little confusing as to which park one is visiting. Apparently, it’s both – a twofer. Nature’s Valley is beautiful with a lot of, well, nature. It has a small village (where supposedly the locals work diligently to keep the area unspoiled and free of new development) with one shop and one restaurant along with several hiking trails ranging from about 1.5 hours to 5 days. We took the trail that began at the beautiful and relatively isolated (not litter-free tho) beach and circled high into the mountains back to the beach – The Salt River route. We did not see river otters for which the area is famous.
Nature’s Valley is considered a bird watchers’ and hikers’ paradise. There’s plenty to experience for everyone of all fitness levels.
Slideshow of the Salt River Trail at Nature’s Valley
Nature’s Valley Restcamp (Chalet #12 about $80.00 US) on a rating scale of 1-6
I took an automatic 2 points off for finding two candy wrappers on the floor by the nightstand. It seems as if the chalet had only a surface cleaning. Otherwise the place was clean enough.
General Accommodations: 3.5
Besides the shower backing up, a general musty odor, mediocre service (the least helpful of any place we’ve been thus far) and attached to another chalet (we could hear snoring from the other side during the night), the space is large and decent enough. Maybe a bit overpriced at about $80.00 US but because it’s a national park accommodation, we believe our money is being put to good use protecting the park and her nonhuman inhabitants.
General Environs: 5
This is what makes the place worthy of a visit. The chalets, particularly, are in a great locale. The river’s edge is right here, and the water washes right up to the cabin. BUT if you have other places to visit and are torn between Nature’s Valley and another place, it’s a tough call. There are SO many beautiful places to see on the Garden Route.
For those who have visited, please write in your favorite town on the Garden Route.
Slideshow of our chalet at Nature’s Valley Restcamp
Driving to Wilderness
Ebb and Flow Restcamp at Wilderness National Park
Yes, there is a place called Wilderness, and it is lovely. Considered the heart of the Garden Route, Wilderness on the Western Cape is a nature reserve chock full of natural beauty. One could easily stay here for 2 or more days. Rivers, lakes, estuaries, mountains, the ocean. Wilderness holds up to its name.
Rating our hut (#14) on a scale of 1-6
There were some minor areas that could have been cleaner, but it was clean enough.
General Accommodations: 5
Our little hut is super cute. And while we had no kitchen, we had plates, cutlery, and a fully functioning bathroom despite a broken toilet seat. The shower was superb. This hut had all the necessary amenities.
General Environment: 5
Our adorable hut at the Ebb and Flow Restcamp was in view of the Touw River. We had #14 at the end of the row of huts. We like being at the end of a row. I imagine during the busy season, it’s better to be at the other end (the cabins #26 and higher) because the camper hook-ups are just in front of numbers 14-18. But for the price, about $45.00 US, the location is fab.
And while the restcamp is just a tad bit more manicured than we prefer, there are several trails within walking distance that takes one into the wild-erness. I took the Half Collared Kingfisher Trail but did not see any King Fishers. I did, however, get bitten up by buggers while trekking through the jungle-like forest with its abundant, verdant flora and birds hidden deep in the bush teasing me to find them. Imagine my surprise to learn that Wilderness is known for its balmy weather. The first time we wore shorts in weeks was the day we departed Wilderness.
The hike I took was on the Kingfisher trail, much akin to a rainforest. The only real downside (according to us) about Ebb and Flow is that they rent quads and one can hear the mechanical sound when one prefers to hear the birds and breeze.
Recommendation: Huts #26 and 27 seem to be in better locations – higher up with a better view of the river.
Slideshow: Our camp and environs at Wilderness
It is here at Wildnerness where one is most likely to encounter the Knysna Loerie (a gorgeous bird). Note to self: know the sound of the Knysna Loerie prior to visiting their place of residence. On my hike, I heard dozens of bird calls. I was unable to distinguish one from the next. YET I did see a Malachite Kingfisher! Happy.
The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.
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Check out the other South Africa posts below:
South Africa Post #1: Our first Kruger National Park Safari
South Africa Post #2: Babysitting a Banded Mongoose Pup in Marloth Park
South Africa Post #3: When Zebras Visit
South Africa Post #4: Daily Living in Marloth Park, South Africa
South Africa Post #5: Kruger Restcamps: Skukuza, Satara and Olifants
South Africa Post #6: Kruger Safari: Full Moon over Letaba
South Africa Post #7: Kruger Safari: Treasure Hunting in Tamboti and Lower Sabie
South Africa Post #8: There’s a Mongoose in my Ear!
South Africa Post #9: Peering through God’s Window at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #10: The Dam Boat Tour at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #11: Rare Sexual Encounters of South Africa
South Africa Post #12: To the Wildlife of Marloth Park
South Africa Post #13: Nelspruit to Cape Town
South Africa Post #14: Moved to Tears on Freedom Day
South Africa Post #15: Penguins in South Africa?
South Africa Post #16: The Southernmost Tip of Africa
South Africa Post #17: Birds of Eden at Plettenberg Bay
South Africa Post #18: Dear South Africa: I love you, but…
South Africa Post #19: Elephants at Addo National Park
This is South Africa Post #20: The Garden Route: Nature’s Valley and Wilderness
South Africa Post #21: Endangered Bontebok
South Africa Post #22: Top Five Cape Town Experiences
South Africa Post #23: Chasing Rainbows in South Africa
South Africa Post #24: Vegan Wanderlust in South Africa
South Africa Post #25: Ubuntu