Stretching nearly 300 kilometers from Mossel Bay in the west to Storms River in the east, the Garden Route in South Africa is a journey every nature lover should take. The coast is almost excessive in its natural beauty, with glorious beaches and stunning landscapes colliding. No matter whether you’re more of a water baby or a mountain goat - if you’re passionate about the outdoors, you’ll never run out of things to do along the Garden Route.
Here are some of the more interesting things to do along the Garden Route for nature lovers.
1. Enjoy Sweet Sea Views at Knysna
The Garden-of-Eden-esque Knysna is a natural paradise that will win over even non-nature lovers! The town is situated on the edge of the lagoon which is a protected marine reserve. Inside swim hundreds of species of fish as well as seahorses. Colorful birds and the mysterious and elusive forest elephant live in the area surrounding Kynysa on land, while offshore whales and dolphins pass by.
Nature lovers will enjoy visiting the Knysna Heads, colorful cliffs flanking the lagoon. Hike up to the lookout point on the top of one of the Heads for unparalleled views of the lagoon and surrounding area.
2. Explore the Depths of Garden Route National Park
If you love the outdoors, you can’t travel the Garden Route without exploring at least one section of the Garden Route National Park. The vast area is made up of a number of smaller parks, reserves, and wilderness areas.
Highlights include the Tsitsikamma section, where you can follow the Otter and Dolphin Trails, and the many lakes and waterways in the Wilderness Park section. Throughout the Garden Route National Park you’ll find nature trails and easy day walks.
3. Cruise the Seven Passes Drive
For a dose of wilderness, detour off the N2 and check out a section of the original Garden Route. Seven Passes is a historic road that connects George and Knysna. It’s a dirt road that traverses seven rivers which cut deep tracks through the mountains on their way to the sea.
There are also dozens of tiny towns along the route. One of the most popular stops on the way is Millwood, an early gold rush town set in the Outeniqua mountains. The Map of Africa viewpoint is another worthwhile place to pull over. From start to finish, this road offers incredible views and some of the most exhilarating driving in South Africa.
At 75 kilometres in length, the Seven Passes Drive takes about an hour and a half to drive, more if you want to stop to take in the mountainous scenery. Pack a picnic and your camera to make the most of the trip.
4. Walk Along Wilderness Beach or Victoria Bay
The whole Garden Route is studded with beautiful beaches, but these are two of the best to visit.
It’s called Wilderness Beach for a good reason. Only 20 minutes outside of George, this vast expanse of sand is breathtakingly beautiful. Indian Ocean waves lap soothingly at the miles of golden sand. The wild beauty of this beach makes it the ideal spot to take deep breaths of fresh air and stretch your legs with long walks. Swimming is safe and occasionally dolphins frolic by just offshore.
Tucked behind the dunes are boutique hotels and B&Bs, along with organic fruit stalls and cozy restaurants dishing up fresh local fare. If you end up staying overnight (and you’ll be tempted to), the open beach is also a wonderful spot for stargazing.
Victoria Bay is another coastal haven near George. A quaint cove with picturesque views, Victoria Bay is a great place to spend a sunny day watching surfers and anglers. Grab an ice cream from the small kiosk near the beach and enjoy a stroll in the clean, salty air.
5. Get Involved In Marine Research and Conservation
The Garden Route is an excellent area for discovering South Africa’s wildlife, particularly the marine variety. Instead of simply passing through one of the nature reserves or national parks along the Garden Route, you can take a more hands-on approach as part of a marine research and conservation program.
Set between Mossel Bay and Addo, this program has a strong educational focus. You will have the opportunity to learn more about the marine critters that live along this part of South Africa’s coast. You’ll also learn more about the conservation issues marine animals are facing and what we can do to help.
6. Volunteer on an African Wildlife Ranch
An hour’s drive inland from George is a privately owned ranch that is home to dozens of different animal and reptile species. It also happens to be on of the largest cheetah breeding centres in the world. Volunteering on this wildlife ranch is a unique opportunity to learn more about South African animals. During your time there you’ll learn more about endangered species, the challenges facing them, and the conservation efforts keeping them away from the brink. Your volunteer efforts will play a role in helping to protect these animals.
This volunteering opportunity is equal parts excitement and hard work. It’s not glamorous - large amounts of your time will be spent cleaning enclosures or preparing feed for the animals - but you will get to have unforgettable experiences. Picture yourself feeding cheetah cubs, providing toys for the big cats to play with, and taking notes that will be added to a larger body of research on their behavior. This is an unparalleled opportunity to experience African wildlife without a safari vehicle in sight.
More volunteer opportunities along the Garden Route in South Africa
If you’re interested in learning more about South African wildlife and contributing to a good cause while you travel, check out some more of our volunteer projects along the Garden Route:
Volunteering is a unique experience for visitors to South Africa. By choosing a GoEco volunteer program, you’ll get a different perspective on the Garden Route and contribute to a good cause at the same time. Get in touch with us today if you would like to find out more about trips to South Africa to help animals.
Six Things for Nature Lovers to do along the Garden Route in South Africa
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