July 3, 2017  By: Gretchen


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South Africa’s Garden Route has been named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve! Biosphere Reserves are internationally recognized areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each reserve promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

One of South Africa’s best kept secrets, the Garden Route runs from Heidelberg in the Southern Cape to Storms River Village on the Eastern Cape border. It is a stunning region filled with quaint, historic towns, Cape Dutch architecture, welcoming locals, and a breathtakingly scenic coastline. Lush with evergreen vegetation, beaches, rivers, and lakes, the Garden Route is best experienced by road. Activities include golf, hiking, swimming, surfing, and adrenaline sports, but many visitors focus on the rich marine life including viewing great white sharks, seals, African penguins, and whales (seasonal). There’s endless reasons to visit, but we narrowed down our top 5 to whet your appetite.

If you’re ready to visit after reading this, contact us to begin planning your Garden Route safari.

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1. Marine Safaris

South Africa is home not only to the ‘Big 5,’ but the ‘Big 7,’ recognizing the excitement and allure of viewing (big!) marine life! The Big Seven includes lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo, plus southern right whales and great white sharks. The southern right whales visit South Africa’s coastline seasonally, while the sharks are there year round (though there are seasons for shark-cage diving – ask us about it).

Southern rights are joined by humpback whales, Bryde’s whale, bottlenose and common dolphins, and even killer whales are seen occasionally. While you can view them from a boat, you can also view them from the air in a Cessna 172. You can even view them from shore – wonderful in and of itself, and also a huge benefit for landlubbers, or those of us that just aren’t sea-worthy.

2. Scenery

It’s impossible to do the Garden Route’s scenery justice with words. Visitors are treated to dramatic mountain ranges, untamed coastline, pristine beaches, ancient forests, secluded bays, and snippets of the world’s seventh floral kingdom – found only within South Africa. The scenery is ripe for exploring or just settling in and absorbing the beauty. It’s also a landscape photographer’s dream!

3. Historic Towns

The Garden Route is dotted with charming, historic villages and towns. There’s Oudtshoorn, the ‘ostrich capital of the world;’ Knysna, with its beautiful lagoon and charming waterfront; Plettenberg Bay, with miles of white sandy beaches and glamorous vibe; Calitzdorp, small, charming and home to surprisingly good local port-style wine – the list goes on! We can tailor an itinerary to your interests and help you to discover the Garden Route’s secret gems!

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the dining options along the Garden Route as well – from tender ostrich steaks to famous Karoo lamb; succulent fish to the freshest mollusks, the dining options and culinary creativity will wow your taste buds!

4. Natural Wonders

We’ve mentioned the wonderful marine life and scenery along the Garden Route, but that’s hardly all. Tsitsikamma National Park is home to ancient forests, untamed coastline, and a stunning river rushing into the ocean. It has beautiful hikes as well as an amazing suspension bridge that crosses the enormous river mouth. Wilderness National Park is connected to Tsitsikamma via a chain of lakes and preserved sections of Fynbos (remember that seventh floral kingdom?), and is an enchanting mix of ecosystems. Knysna is home to the Featherbed Nature Reserve, which celebrates the richness of the region’s fauna and flora.

5. Activities

The Garden Route is home to world-class golf courses, award-winning wineries, nature’s playground (think hiking, scuba diving, beachcombing, swimming, canoeing, and more), craft markets, art galleries, ostrich riding (yes – really!), adventure sports (canopy tours, one of the world’s highest bungee jumps, gorge walks and canyoneering (aka ‘kloofing), caving…the list goes on!), and more. It’s perfect for couples looking for a romantic getaway, families looking for an action-packed adventure, and for anyone looking to make an authentic connection with an inspiring and fascinating part of the world.

It’s easy to add a traditional ‘Big 5’ safari on to a Garden Route itinerary to give you the best of what South Africa has to offer. We’ll be happy to plan a totally customized itinerary for you…contact one of our safari specialists today!

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