The Garden Route is one of the most beautiful routes in the world. It runs along one of the most spectacular coasts on the continent, the South African coast, where you can enjoy beautiful and varied landscapes in the more than 700 kilometers that make up this route.
The N2 road from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town is the main artery through which the Garden Route passes. Along the way, you will find different national parks where you can see beaches, river mouths, the strength of the ocean, forests that reach the sea, mountains, vineyards, lagoons and a very green environment that will accompany you along the way. In addition, you will find unique landscapes such as the De Hoop Nature Reserve with its sand dunes crashing against the waves of the Indian Ocean; and the southernmost tip of the African continent: Cape Agulhas, which separates the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean.
The South African coast is also one of the best places in the world to view marine animals. Mainly southern right whales, which between June and November go to the waters of this coast to mate and feed before migrating back to Antarctica. Some of the points on the Garden Route that you will read later are some of the best places in the world to see these spectacular marine mammals.
Some people spend two whole weeks doing the Garden Route, while others only have 2-3 days to cover the coast. Below, we’ll highlight the main points of interest on the Garden Route, so you can get more information on how to plan your days and itinerary during your visit to South Africa. We only recommend that you consider Garden Route as one of your things to do during your trip to enjoy the scenery and the many activities you can do. Definitely one of the most beautiful areas in South Africa.
This 70-kilometer-long national park separates the borders of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces in South Africa. Located right in front of the Indian Ocean, and next to the mountains; its surroundings are spectacular and your visit is a must if you want to travel the famous Garden Route.
At Tsitsikamma NP, you will be able to do different walking tours of different levels (from easy ones to expert ones) with incredible views; walk over suspension bridges that cross the mouth of the Storm’s River; do kayaking; camping and unwinding in front of the ocean; and even, if you have it booked many months in advance, start the well-known Otter Trail, a 5-day trek that runs through the entire park amidst stunning waterfalls, rivers and mountains.
Tsitsikamma NP is the first stop on the Garden Route if you go east to west. There, the green forests grow by the sea; rivers reach the ocean through rocky escarpments; and if you’re lucky, you’ll see dolphins and, when is the season, whales. A must stop if you don’t want to miss out on one of nature’s most beautiful gifts you can find in South Africa.
How to get there?
Tsitsikamma NP is your first stop on the Garden Route if you come from the east (Port Elizabeth), or your last stop if you come from the west (Cape Town). It is a national park with stunning ocean views and beautiful landscapes.
To get to the east gate of Storm’s River Mouth, take the N2 and after passing the town of Stormsrivier, turn left after about 3 kilometers. You will then have to drive along this road for about 6 kilometers until you reach the front door where you will have to register and then pay for your entrance fees, if you have not done so before via internet. From Port Elizabeth it is a total of 190 kilometers that you can do in just under two hours.
If, on the other hand, you are coming from the west, you will have to drive on the N2 (and pay the Tsitsikamma toll which is located right in Nature’s Valley and costs 171 Rands per vehicle) and about 20 kilometers after the toll, turn right to drive the 6 kilometers until you reach the front door. From Knysna, there are a total of 90 kilometers that you can drive in an hour.
Permits and prices
Tsitsikamma NP is a national park managed by Sanparks, the organization that manages the vast majority of nature parks in the country. Prices per day to access the park is 272 Rands per adult and international tourist (about 15 euros per person). You can pay by credit card.
In South Africa, however, there is the possibility of buying the Wild Card. The Wild Card is a card that allows you to visit all the parks in South Africa without having to pay for each day you visit them. It’s a great option if you visit a few parks or spend many days in the same park. It lasts one year. From the day of purchase until after 365 days, you can visit more than 80 parks in the country, including Tsitsikamma NP.
You can buy the Wild Card online here and you will receive an email with proof of purchase that you can print and show at the park gates. At the same time, if you book accommodation within a national park, remember to say that you have a Wild Card, so you don’t have to pay conservation fees and only pay for the accommodation you book.
Wild Card prices depend on whether you buy the card for one person, for a couple, or for a family. At the same time, it depends on how many parks you want to get on your card. If you check their website, you will be able to see a list of parks for each option and make the relevant calculations. As we traveled all over South Africa, we bought the ALL PARKS CLUSTER INTERNATIONAL option for a couple, and it cost us 5.100R. It’s a lot of money at once, but once you start doing park calculations and the number of days you’ll be there, it usually pays off. So, before you start the trip, we recommend that you make a list of all the parks you will visit, check the entrance fees and compare it with the Wild Card. In this way, you will see if it really pays off or not for your trip!
What to do in Tsitsikamma NP?
Tstistikamma NP is a natural park right next to the ocean and with amazing scenery. There, you can do many activities, including:
– Kayak from the mouth of the Storm’s River
This is one of the star activities you can do at Tsitsikamma NP. From the mouth of the river, you can kayak across the Indian Ocean and into the Storm’s River under the suspension bridge. Once you enter the river, you can cross the middle of the river around high rocky mountain escarpments and fabulous surroundings. Once you reach a point where you can no longer kayak, you can go a little further along the river with a kind of inflatable mattress called lilo and swim while jumping from a rock.
Organized by Untouched Adventures, this pre-booked excursion starts at the end of the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp car park. It lasts approximately 2-3 hours; you are accompanied by two monitors and the price of this activity is 695 Rands per person. All material is included (kayak, lilo, neoprene, waterproof bags …) except shoes that cost 50 Rands per person (we brought our own swim shoes).
In case of bad weather, the organizing company will notify you one day in advance to inform you that the activity will be canceled. And when it’s a little windy and the waves in the Indian Ocean are considerable, you will start kayaking to the suspension bridge (which you can reach on foot via the River Mouth Trail), which is right at the mouth. There, the water is quieter than the ocean. We were canceled due to weather conditions; but we were able to postpone it for another day, even though we started kayaking from the suspension bridge.
If you enjoy more adventurous activities, this is a great option to complement your visit to Tsitsikamma NP. You can kayak into one of the most important rivers such as the Storm’s River, enjoy its beauty and have a good time.
– Walk along the River Mouth Trail and walk through the suspension bridge that crosses the Storm’s River
From the Storm River Mouth Rest Camp visitor parking lot, and right next to the Untouched Adventures offices, there is a small 2-kilometer path that leads to the mouth of the Storm River. This is one of the most popular routes you can take when visiting Tsitsikamma NP.
The path, which starts just after a small beach, is well signposted and well prepared. Recommended for all ages, at the beginning you will find steps that will go up and you will continue walking along a wooden platform that runs under the leafy trees and by the sea. In between, you will find some informative maps about some species characteristic of this area.
Finally, you will reach a steep staircase that descends to the three suspension bridges (the main one is 77 meters long) that cross the mouth of the Storm’s River. These bridges are wide and safe. From there, you can see the waters of the river meet the Indian Ocean.
This path is easily accessible and takes about an hour at a slow pace to take pictures of the different viewpoints and perspectives of the ocean that you will encounter along the way. A very nice option to enjoy nature in the Garden Route.
– Do some of the walking trails like the Waterfall Trail
One of the other treks we recommend on the Tsitsikamma NP is the Waterfall Trail. This is a 6-kilometer route that starts near the caravan park inside Storm’s River Mouth Rest Camp; and that coincides with the start of the famous Otter Trail that we’ll talk about it in the next point.
This route, unlike the Mouth River Trail, is more difficult. It takes about an hour and a half to get there and an hour and a half to get back. After the first 3 kilometers of this path, you will find a spectacular waterfall that forms a small natural pool where you can swim. Consider the tides (if it is high tide you cannot cross), and bring your swimming clothes and, if you want, a sandwich to eat at the foot of the waterfalls.
When we got there, we found the access to this path closed due to the rain that had fallen the previous days. Anyway, it is said that is one of the most beautiful routes to do in Tsitsikamma NP. Furthermore, you will find other different routes such as The Lourie Trail (1 km – 1 hour) that goes into the forest; or the Blue Duiker Trail (4 kilometers – 2 hours). To find out more about these trekking, you can click here.
– Walk the Otter Trail
The Otter Trail is one of the most impressive walking trails in South Africa. It is managed by Sanparks, and you can only do it following its itineraries which are a total of 5 days and 4 nights, crossing the whole national park and where you will cross rivers on foot (with ropes and water up to the waist); you will pass by waterfalls and follow the line of the Indian Ocean until you reach the end of the route, in the area of Nature’s Valley.
If you are interested in doing this tour, here is more detailed information on the different stages and things you need to take. It is one of the most beautiful activities to do in the Garden Route. We looked at the dates in November, and the first day available was in August of the following year. So, you need to book in very advance.
– Rest and unwind by camping in front of the ocean
Once you enter Tsitsikamma NP, you will arrive at Storm’s River Mouth Rest Camp. Managed by Sanparks, there you will find a fantastic setting to unwind right in front of the ocean. You can feel the waves crashing against the rocks; see different marine animals such as dolphins and whales (when is the time); feeling spied on by the otters that live on the rocks on the beach; and watch the horizon as you drink a beer.
We met a lot of people who came to spend more than a day in the Tsitsikamma NP for the sole purpose of resting and enjoying the surroundings. So, if you have days and want to disconnect, Tsitsikamma NP is one of the best options on the Garden Route.
Where to sleep in Tsitsikamma NP?
Inside Tsitsikamma NP, just a few kilometers from the main gate, we find only one accommodation run by Sanparks. This is the:
– Storm’s River Mouth Rest Camp: This beachfront accommodation offers a variety of sleeping options: bungalows; family cottages; and different camping areas (for vehicles, tents, motorhomes…) right in front of the Indian Ocean. In addition, it has a restaurant, shop, toilet area, swimming pool and a great environment to unwind while looking at the Indian Ocean skyline. With great value for money, this is the only option you will find in Tsitsikamma NP, and is best to book in advance through the Sanparks website here.
This small town is located at one end of the Tsitsikamma NP (on the opposite side of the Storm’s River). It stands out for having one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, with white sand and surrounded by mountains and thick forests. Maybe that’s why you can find many second homes in this town, although it’s not a very touristy destination either.
The road to Nature’s Valley is very beautiful as it descends from the top of the mountains to the sea along a winding road that runs through the forests to the foot of the Indian Ocean. There, you will also find a natural lagoon that flows into the sea. In addition, you can take different routes from where you can get fantastic views of the beach and different rivers.
If you’re taking a tour around the Garden Route, visiting Nature’s Valley is a must if you enjoy hiking; visit semi-desert beaches and enjoy an environment that is still very pristine.
How to get there?
Nature’s Valley is just on the other side of the Storm’s River Mouth from Tsitsikamma NP. Therefore, it will be one of the first stops if you take the Garden Route from east to west; or one of the last if you do the opposite.
To get to Nature’s Valley, you have to go down a winding road to the foot of the beach. This road is the R102 which starts and ends at the N2. Therefore, if you are coming from the east (Port Elizabeth), just after the Tsitsikamma toll (171 Rands per vehicle) you will have to turn left and drive for 9 kilometers until you reach the town of Nature’s Valley. At the entrance to the village, on your left, there is a street that leads to a car park just in front of the beach and next to the lagoon.
If you are coming from the west (Knysna or Cape Town), take the N2 to the Groot River Pass on your right. This junction is 14 km after crossing the N2 bridge over the Keurboomsrivier, and is the start of the R102. From there, you will have to drive for 11 kilometers to reach the bottom of Nature Valley. From Knysna to Nature’s Valley there are about 60 kilometers, approximately you can drive it in less than an hour.
Permits and prices
To access the entire Nature’s Valley area, do the various walks and enjoy the beach, you will not have to pay any concept as an entrance fee. Only if you sleep in some of the accommodation managed by Sanparks in this area, then you will have to pay a conservation fee which in this case is 120 Rands per adult per day (about 7 euros per person).
Therefore, we advise you to visit Nature’s Valley and do the activities suggested below, but at the same time as sleeping, look for accommodation other than that managed by Sanparks, so you save on the conservation fee.
What to do in Nature’s Valley?
The main activities we recommend doing in Nature’s Valley are:
– Walk to The Point Lookout and swim in Nature’s Valley Beach
Nature’s Valley has one of the best beaches in the country in fabulous and virgin surroundings. You can park the car in the parking next to the lagoon, and after crossing a small river that comes out of the lagoon to the sea (being careful not to cross during high tide), enter the fantastic beach of Nature’s Valley, one of the best of the Garden Route.
There, you can swim in the waters of the Indian Ocean, and walk up to The Point Lookout on a cliff. Along the way, you will find a small and beautiful cove where you can go for a swim. From the viewpoint, dolphins are often seen and it is a beautiful walk to look at the beach from another perspective.
The famous Otter Trail (starting at Tsitsikamma NP) ends at Nature’s Valley Beach, coinciding with The Point Lookout. In addition, you can also go for a walk in the natural lagoon where you can see people kayaking and fishing.
– Walk the Salt River Trail
On the other side of the beach, opposite The Point Lookout, begins the Salt River Trail. This circular route, which starts at the entrance to the beach next to the only bar in the village, is one of the most beautiful walks in the area. Keep in mind that the first part of the ocean can only be completed at low tide. Therefore, you will need to check the tide schedule in advance.
The first part of the road runs through steep rocks by the ocean until you reach a point where you can already see the Salt River. To get there, you’ll probably need to take off your shoes and put your feet in the water. Along the way, you’ll find some fishermen approaching the rocks to see if they’re lucky that day.
Once you reach the Salt River, you don’t have to cross the river. You will find another indication that will take you up the second part of the circular route. It passes through the interior, through forests where you are likely to see some very interesting native animals and flora. This route leads to a viewpoint from where you can see a good view of Nature’s Valley beach and its village.
The 5-kilometer circular route takes about 2-3 hours. It is a good option to be able to enjoy nature in its fullness, and discover new places along the Garden route.
– Eat at Nature’s Valley Restaurant&Pub
In Nature’s Valley you will only find a restaurant that is also a pub where you can drink good craft beers and eat good burgers. We ate there for about 8 euros on average per person.
Located near the start of the Salt River Trail, it has a terrace, fireplace, parking and friendly staff. It is a unique place in the village (it is the only bar) where the local people are, making this space the civic center of the town.
– Jump from the highest bridge in the world, the Bloukrans Bridge
13 kilometers west of Nature’s Valley, you will find one of the largest bridges in Africa from where the highest bungy jump in the world is, with its 216 meters high over the Bloukrans River. To get from the place where you have to jump you get there with a zip line. There, different world records have taken place such as that of Veronica Dean, who in 2008 made 19 jumps in one hour; or Scott Hunty, who in 2011 made 107 jumps in 24 hours.
If you love adventure and are a fan of bungy jumping, or if you want it to be your first time, what better place to do it than at Bloukrans Bridge, considered the bridge with the highest bungy jump in the world!
Where to sleep in Nature’s Valley?
There, we slept in a place we do not recommend as they have a serious problem with the large presence of baboons. We stayed at the Nature’s Valley Camp which is run by Sanparks, but we found some pretty aggressive monkeys who were on the lookout to steal your food or get in the car. Therefore, we would not recommend it.
Many people visit Nature’s Valley during the day and sleep in nearby towns such as Plettenberg Bay. However, if you want to stay close to Nature’s Valley, we recommend:
– Wild Spirit Backpackers: This accommodation features bedrooms, double and family rooms, tents and a camping area. Surrounded by native forests and close to the Tsitsikamma NP Mountains, it is a great option to unwind during your visit to the Garden Route. If you want to go to Nature’s Valley, however, you will need the vehicle. At the very least, they ask for a two-night reservation. With a more alternative atmosphere, it is one of the best places you can find in this area and where you can relax in fabulous surroundings. For more information, you can click here.
– Tranquility B&B: This accommodation is located in the village of Nature’s Valley, very close to the beach. It has a swimming pool, garden and double rooms. With very good decor and lots of good reviews, it is an option for higher budgets. For more information, click here.
Knysna is the main city on the Garden Route. It is approximately 270 kilometers from Port Elizabeth, and about 490 kilometers from Cape Town. It is a lively city with a beautiful promenade and a great atmosphere, especially during the summer and Christmas holidays.
It stands out for its large lagoon and the various inland islets that can be reached by boat. In addition, inside you will find some routes through some of the most spectacular forests on the Garden Route. The coast of Knysna is also steep with some cliffs and some beaches such as Brenton on Sea from where you can see some marine animals while you walk and watch the sunset.
In Knysna you will find many activities to do. It is a city that has all the possible comforts and services (gas stations, supermarkets, restaurants, accommodation, car workshops…); so below we will explain some of the activities you can do around this area.
How to get there?
Knysna is one of the most important cities on the Garden Route. The N2, the main road, passes through this city. So, getting there is no loss. If you’re coming from Cape Town, you’ll have to follow the N2 for about 490 kilometers, about a 4–5-hour drive. Before Knysna coming from Cape Town, you can stop at Hermanus, Cap Agulhas or De Hoop Nature Reserve.
Coming from the east, Knysna is about 270 kilometers from Port Elizabeth (about a 3-hour drive). Beforehand, you can visit Tsitsikamma NP, Nature’s Valley and Plettenberg Bay; among others. Think that in Nature’s Valley area, you will have to pay the Tsitsikamma toll fee of 171 Rands per vehicle (paid in cash).
What to do in Knysna?
As one of the most important cities on the Garden Route, there are many activities to do in Knysna. You can spend more than one day there if you have the time, but without forgetting other points of interest such as Tsitsikamma, Nature’s Valley or De Hoop; among others. Among the activities to do, we highlight:
– A cruise on the lagoon
The main activity of this city on the Garden Route is a cruise on its lagoon. There are many different offers for different budgets, but they all have the same goal: to enjoy the views while navigating these calm waters and to visit some islands such as Leisure Island and Featherbed Nature Reserve.
One of the most popular cruises is the John Benn, which offers the opportunity to have lunch on the boat or also to watch the sunset. The boat leaves from the Featherbed Ferry terminal, next to the Cruise Café Restaurant. The cruise takes about 90 minutes. You can try to book the activity by clicking here.
– Visit some of its beaches
Knysna’s beaches are also notable for being one of the most beautiful in the area. Brenton on Sea Beach (5 minutes from Knysna) is one of the best places to swim and watch the amazing sunsets. Also, there, they have one of the best restaurants where we ate, the Butterfly Blu Restaurant. We advise you to eat pizzas (they were spectacular) and/or also seafood. We paid about 23 euros per person for a very good meal with very good views to the sea.
Another well-known beach is Buffalo Bay, a more familiar beach that also has lifeguards. It is one of the busiest beaches during the summer and one of the most beautiful you can see in this area of Knysna, on the Garden Route.
– Stroll through the city and its promenade
The city’s waterfront is the place with the most people, full of restaurants of all kinds, shops selling different products and at the same time, bands or performances by an artist that catches the attention of the public.
Knysna is a city that stands out for its oysters. Therefore, it is a good dish that we recommend you eat here. They also have a 10-day festival called Knysna Oyster Oyster Festival. A great opportunity to delve into this type of seafood!
– Walk through the Diepwalle Forest
This forest is located in the interior of the Garden Route, about 30 minutes from Knysna. There, you can enjoy different hiking trails, observe different species of birds, swim in natural pools, go on bike rides and drive on scenic trails with great views.
They recommend doing what is known as the Elephants Trail, where you will find three different walking options: the Black Route, a 9-kilometer circular path that runs for 3-4 hours; the White Route, an 8-kilometer circular route that can also be done in 3-4 hours; and, finally, the most difficult Red Route, 7 kilometers long and lasting 4 hours. You have the option of staying at Diepwalle Forest Camping.
– Visit some of the animal reserves around Knysna
Around Knysna, you have different activities to do related to animals. Some of the highlights are the Featherbed Nature Reserve, a private reserve that can only be reached by boat. There, you can enjoy fantastic views of the cliffs of the Knysna Heads (where the lagoon joins the Indian Ocean); see the flora and fauna characteristic of this reserve and walk around the different routes available.
In addition, it is also very interesting to visit Knysna Elephant Park, a protected area that houses various orphaned, abandoned and abused elephants. Located 10 km from Knysna, you can walk next to the elephants and see them in a much more natural habitat than in a zoo, for example. However, if the elephant is one of your favorite animals, you can’t miss the Addo Elephant National Park (if you want to read our experience, you can click here).
Finally, about 40 kilometers inland from Knysna, you can visit the Plettenberg Game Reserve, another reserve where you can see different animals such as lions, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, giraffes and wild dogs; among others. If you want to know more about this reserve, you can click here.
Where to sleep in Knysna?
At Knysna you will find plenty of accommodation options for all tastes kind of budgets. We mainly highlight:
– Brenton on the Rocks: We slept here. Located in Brenton on Sea, and close to a great beach, ideal for strolling during the sunset and enjoying the South African coast, this accommodation has spectacular sea views. From there, we could see dolphins jumping, and sometimes whales can be seen. It has different types of rooms (nuptial, family, double…). Nico takes great care of every detail and decoration of this place. Great value for money to enjoy one of the best accommodations on the Garden Route. If we had had time, we would have stayed a whole week! You can find more information about this place here.
– Jembjo’s Knysna Lodge&Backpackers: A cheaper option to stay in the center of Knysna is this hostel, where they offer different types of rooms (doubles, dorms…) with prices covering around 180 Rands per person per night. It has a small parking space, wifi, and is located a few minutes’ walk from the promenade. If you want more information, you can contact them on +27 44 382 2658.
De Hoop Nature Reserve
This nature reserve on the Garden Route (between Mosselbaai and Hermanus) is one of the most unspoiled places you can find in South Africa. There you will see white sand dunes reaching the Indian Ocean; and how the landscape is covered with different curious plants like fynbos. Also, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see some animals like mountain zebras, elands, and antelopes; among others.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is part of the Cape Floristic Region, an area that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004 for its great diversity of flora, with many species that are endemic to the area. Previously, this reserve was private but in 1956 the Cape Province Administration acquired it to cover an area of 36.000 hectares.
In addition, De Hoop Nature Reserve has one of the most spectacular marine reserves in the country and one of the largest in Africa, with an area of 23.000 hectares in the sea and occupies about 5 and a half kilometers of all the coast. 40% of all the southern right whales in the world go there to be bred between July and November approximately. We arrived at the very end of the whale season, but we were lucky to see some jumping through the big waves due to the strong wind blowing in the area.
If you visit De Hoop Nature Reserve, you will be able to enjoy unique landscapes with sand dunes and an area with a very characteristic flora; do different walks (some like the Whale Trail for 5 days on a 55 kilometer route); bicycle routes; see different types of animals and discover a little-visited virgin and natural place on the Garden Route. One of the must-see stops during your trip to South Africa!
How to get there?
De Hoop Nature Reserve is probably the most remote place on the entire Garden Route. Located about 50 km east of Bredasdorp, it is less than a 3-hour drive from Cape Town.
If you are coming from Cape Town, take the N2 to Caledon, then take the R316 and drive for 70 kilometers (about an hour) to Bredasdorp. Once in Bredasdorp, take the R319 towards Swellendam (the opposite direction to Struisbaai and Cap Agulhas); and after about 8 km after Bredasdorp, turn right onto a dirt road towards De Hoop/Malgas/Infanta. Drive for about 35 kilometers until you reach De Hoop Nature Reserve main entrance gate road, which is on your right. After about six kilometers, you will reach the point where you will pay for your tickets and access the Nature Reserve.
If you are coming from the East of the Garden route, the easiest route not to be missed is to reach Swellendam on the N2, and about 14 km after passing this town, turn left to take the R319 to Bredasdorp. About 8 kilometers before Bredasdorp, you will have to turn left towards De Hoop/Malgas/Infanta and drive for about 35 kilometers until the last turn on your right before reaching the main gate of De Hoop Nature Reserve.
Please note that the nature reserve is open from 7am to 6pm, and if you arrive at 5pm you will not be allowed to enter. So, plan your journey and arrive on time to enjoy one of the most spectacular places on the Garden Route.
Permits and prices
Entrance fee to visit De Hoop Nature Reserve is 50 Rands per person (around 3 euros). Although is not managed by Sanparks, if you travel with the Wild Card, entrance is free.
The Wild Card is a card that allows you to visit all the parks in South Africa without having to pay for each day you visit them. It’s a great option if you visit a few parks or spend many days in the same park. It lasts one year. From the day of purchase until after 365 days, you can visit more than 80 parks in the country, including De Hoop Nature Reserve.
You can buy the Wild Card online here and you will receive an email with proof of purchase which you can print and show at the park gates. Wild Card prices depend on whether you buy the card for one person, for a couple, or for a family. At the same time, it depends on how many parks you want to get on your card. If you check their website, you will be able to see a list of parks for each option and make the relevant calculations. As we traveled all over South Africa, we bought the ALL PARKS CLUSTER INTERNATIONAL option for a couple, and it cost us 5.100R. It’s a lot of money at once, but once you start doing park calculations and the number of days you’ll be there, it usually pays off. So, before you start the trip, we recommend that you make a list of all the parks you will visit, check the entrance fees and compare it with the Wild Card. In this way you will see if it really pays off or not for your journey!
What to do in De Hoop Nature Reserve?
At De Hoop Nature Reserve you have a lot of activities to do. The main problem is the accommodation, as the only ones in the reserve are on a high budget, but you can visit the Reserve from one of the surrounding towns such as Hermanus, Struisbaai, Bredasdorp or Swellendam. Among the activities you can do in the reserve, we highlight:
– See southern right whales from the shore
From June to November, you can easily see southern right whales at the De Hoop Nature Reserve, making this area (along with Hermanus) one of the best areas for observing these animals. During these months, many whales approach the protected nature reserve to mate, feed and give birth to their young.
The most accessible place to see these marine mammals is at Koppie Allen, where you will find a walkway that separates the dunes on your right (facing the sea), and the start of the Koppie Allen coastal path on your left. You can climb some of the dunes to see the whales in a very special landscape. But think that if the wind blows, the sand will scatter and it will be quite inconvenient to go to the dunes, both for you and for your camera.
In addition, you can see other marine animals such as dolphins, sea lions or seals swimming next to the beach. Think that you can swim under your own responsibility, but as you are in a protected nature reserve, you will not be able to fish, or remove any marine species, or any shell from the place.
– Walk through the reserve along Koppie Allen’s coastal path
This route, which starts at Koppie Allen, is one of the most spectacular you can do at De Hoop Nature Reserve. This is a 5-kilometer linear path where, through several walkways, you walk along the different pristine and wild beaches of the Reserve; while observing the different marine animals and the different species of flora in the area. You can do this trekking in a few hours. It is best to do this at low tide, as this makes it easier to walk on the sand of the beach. At the entrance to the Reserve, you will find the tide schedule.
Also, from the Potberg area (east of the reserve), you can take a 6-kilometer walk along the so-called De Hoop Klipspringer Trail. It is a circular route that passes through the Potberg mountains, with which you can enjoy good views of the Breede river valley.
– Do a safari through the De Hoop Nature Reserve
It is true that you will not find lions or elephants in De Hoop, but its landscape and location make a safari with your own vehicle or with a private vehicle from the Reserve one of the essential activities to do if you enter the Reserve.
In De Hoop Nature Reserve, you will find up to 86 different species of mammals (terrestrial and marine), such as mountain zebras, elands, bontebok, dolphins, whales, seals, antelopes… In addition, you can find up to 260 species of birds, among which the vultures of the Cape stand out, which you will observe best in the east of the Reserve; and different waterfowl (flamingos, pelicans…) that you will see in some of the wetlands. In addition, during your safari you will also find some of the endemic plants in the area, where the numerous presences of fynbos stand out.
– Walk the Whale Trail for 5 days, a 55-kilometer route
For those who have the time and want to enjoy one of the most spectacular excursions in South Africa (along with the Otter Trail), you can venture to do the Whale Trail, a 5-day tour that crosses the entire De Hoop Nature Reserve. We recommend that you be physically prepared, as you will be walking between the coast and the mountains, enjoying spectacular views and being able to view whales very easily during their breeding season. This route starts in Potberg and ends in Koppie Allen, but must be booked in advance as there are few seats available. If you want to book, you can look here on the web and contact them by email or phone.
– Take a bike route through De Hoop Nature Reserve
For cycling lovers, De Hoop Nature Reserve has different mountain bike circuits. You can bring your own bicycle, or rent it at the accommodation in the Nature Reserve. You will ride between different wild animals (don’t worry there are no predators), mountain landscapes, sandy areas and views of the coast that will not leave you indifferent.
At the entrance you will find information on the four circuits you can do. These are the Dassie Trail (12 km), the Fynbos Trail (13 km) and two more technical and demanding 30 and 55 km routes that run between the mountain and the coast and where you can enjoy the whales and the unique landscapes that this natural reserve offers.
Where to sleep in De Hoop Nature Reserve?
All accommodation and organized activities that you can do within the Nature Reserve are privately managed by De Hoop Collection. To sleep in or near the Reserve, we highlight:
– Morukuru Family De Hoop: This luxury accommodation is located right on Koppie Allen, with amazing views of the ocean, sand dunes and the nature reserve. From there, the main routes such as the coastal path leave, and you have the beach a few meters away to enjoy a swim or the observation of the southern whales. With different types of rooms with all the luxuries, the prices are around 5.800 Rands (330 euros) per person for a double room in low season, and 7.800 Rands (about 450 euros) per person for a double room in high season. For more information, you can click here.
– De Hoop Collection: Located between the entrance to the reserve and Koppie Allen, this accommodation is the focal point of the De Hoop Nature Reserve, from where you can dine at its restaurant (The Fig Tree) and book all organized activities. As accommodation, you will find chalets, rooms and campsites at prices ranging from 95 to 300 euros for two people. For more information, you can click here.
– Die Buitekamer: This accommodation is located between Bredasdorp and the entrance to De Hoop Nature Reserve. It is located on the outskirts of the city (about 15 kilometers), and 35 kilometers from the Reserve. Located in a rural area, it has an apartment for 2-4 people with prices of about 40 euros for two people. For more information, you can click here.
– Taste of Heaven: Located in the center of Bredasdorp, this guest house offers free parking and family rooms to relax in after visiting the De Hoop Nature Reserve. It is located about 45 km from the entrance of the Reserve, so it is a good place to rest if you want to visit De Hoop for more than a day. Prices are around 35 euros for a room for two people. For more information, you can call +27 84 478 2831.
Cape Agulhas is the southernmost point in South Africa. Located next to the town of Struisbaai, this headland is where you will find the official separation between the two oceans: the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. There are the cold streams of Benguela (Atlantic Ocean) and the warm currents of Agulhas (Indian Ocean).
Many people mistakenly think that the southernmost point of the African continent is at Good Hope Cape, south of Cape Town (if you want to know more about our experience on this peninsula you can click here). But the southernmost point in Africa is here, at Cape Agulhas. Discovered by Bartolome Dias, one of the leading Portuguese navigators of the 15th century whose mission was to find a route between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean, he named it Cap Agulhas on 16th May 1488. The name Agulhas, which means needles, it was given because at this point the needle of the compass marked exactly to the north, without any magnetic deviation. Besides, the needles of the steep rocks around the head made the boat trip a real adventure for sailors, and fully justified its name.
Like most capes, you’ll find a lighthouse in operation that you can climb on; and a mythical sign marking the separation between the two oceans. If you follow the coast, you will also find a boat stranded on the rocks of the sea.
The visit to Cape Agulhas, even if it is officially off the Garden Route, is well worth it in order to observe the strength of the oceans and imagine, after the sea on the horizon, Antarctica, the land that lies farthest south of Cape Agulhas.
How to get there?
Cape Agulhas is the southernmost point in Africa. It is located about 7 km from Struisbaai, the main town in this area. To get to Struisbaai, take the R319 for about 30 kilometers from the town of Bredasdorp.
If you come from the west coast (Gansbaai, Hermanus…), you can take a road of about 70 kilometers that leaves just after Gansbaai and reaches just south of Bredasdorp, from where you can connect with the R319 to Struisbaai.
If you are coming from Cape Town, the best option is to follow the N2 to Caledon, and then take the R316 and drive for 70 kilometers (about an hour) to Bredasdorp, from where you can take the R319 to Struisbaai.
If you are coming from the east of the Garden Route, the best option is to follow the N2 and take the start of the R319. The junction is just 14 km after the town of Swellendam. From there to Struisbaai, it is about 90 kilometers (an hour and a short drive) through the town of Bredasdorp.
Finally, if you come, as we did, from De Hoop Nature Reserve, the best option is to get to Bredasdorp via the road from Ouplaas to Bredasdorp (about 40 km). You’ll take this dirt road just after driving the little more than six kilometers from De Hoop Gate to the main road junction. Once in Bredasdorp, take the R319 to Struisbaai, the gateway to Cape Agulhas.
Permits and prices
Cape Agulhas is a national park managed by Sanparks, the organization that manages the vast majority of nature parks in the country. Prices per day to access the park is 200 Rands per adult and international tourist (about 11.50 euros per person).
In South Africa, however, there is the possibility of buying the Wild Card. The Wild Card is a card that allows you to visit all the parks in South Africa without having to pay for each day you visit them. It’s a great option if you visit a few parks or spend many days in the same park. It lasts a year. From the day of purchase until after 365 days, you can visit more than 80 parks in the country, including Cap Agulhas.
You can buy the Wild Card online here and you will receive an email with proof of purchase that you can print and show at the park gates. At the same time, if you book accommodation within a national park, remember to indicate you have a Wild Card, so you don’t have to pay conservation fees and only pay for the accommodation you book.
Wild Card prices depend on whether you buy the card for one person, for a couple, or for a family. At the same time, it depends on how many parks you want to get on your card. If you check their website, you will be able to see a list of parks for each option and make the relevant calculations. As we traveled all over South Africa, we bought the ALL PARKS CLUSTER INTERNATIONAL option for a couple, and it cost us 5.100R. It’s a lot of money at once, but once you start doing park calculations and the number of days you’ll be there, it usually pays off. So, before you start the trip, we recommend that you make a list of all the parks you will visit, check the entrance fees and compare it with the Wild Card. In this way you will see if it really pays off or not for your journey!
When we drove to Cape Agulhas, anyone asked us for the Wild Card, nor did we have to pay a ticket for Joan and Berta, our two friends who came to see us in South Africa. We don’t know if the rangers were on holidays that day or if we really didn’t have to pay.
What to do in Cape Agulhas?
– Walk to the southernmost point of the continent
If you visit Cape Agulhas, just after passing the lighthouse, on the left you will find a car park to leave the car, and a few meters away you will find the sign indicating the separation between the two oceans. This is the southernmost point in Africa.
There, you will see the vastness of the oceans in front of you, and beyond, you can imagine Antarctica, the next piece of land behind this cape. Strolling along Agulhas Beach for breathtaking views and listening to the sound of the waves is a must-see activity when visiting Cape Agulhas.
If you enjoy fishing and want to fish on those rocks, you should ask the Struisbaai Post Office in advance for permission. Think that you are in a national park, so fishing without a permit is legally punishable.
Walking along the coast, you will also find some stranded boats such as the Meisho Maru, a Japanese fishing boat that sank in the waters off Cape Agulhas. Due to the currents in this area, this cape has become a wreck site and a difficult passage for all merchants from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean. The Meisho Maru boat is about a 20-minute walk from the two oceans sign, but you can also take the car if you want, and after a few hundred meters along the main road, you will find it stranded right on the shore.
– Visit the lighthouse next to Cape Agulhas
Built in 1848, Cape Agulhas Lighthouse is the second oldest lighthouse in operation in South Africa. Located a few meters from the point where the two oceans meet, there you can visit a small museum that shows, among other things, different stone tools used by the first Khoisanid tribes to fish.
In addition, you can climb its 71 wooden steps to see a panoramic view of the entire coast from the top of the lighthouse. A great way to take pictures, but think of a strong wind in the area, so be sure not to wear hats and watch out for strong gusts of wind.
– Take a tour of the African continent on a map that is nailed to the ground
Finally, another very interesting activity for all those lovers of geography and Africa is to look at the map of Africa that is nailed to the ground, just before reaching the sign indicating the separation of the two oceans.
This embossed map is a great opportunity to show what you know about this continent, and to move quickly through the different countries and the different geological formations that are marked there. You can navigate the Congo River, walk through the Sahara Desert, cross the Rift Valley, follow the Nile River and climb Kilimanjaro.
Where to sleep in Cape Agulhas?
The main town closest to Cape Agulhas is Struisbaai, a second home town with the main services (restaurants, supermarkets, accommodation, petrol stations…). Among the accommodations, we highlight:
– Struisbaai Caravan Park: For those traveling by caravan or with a car ready to sleep, right next to the main beach of Struisbaai we find this camping area with toilets, electricity and different plots to accommodate different groups. Prices vary depending on the season, but are around 240 Rands for two people and a car (about 14 euros).
– Cape Agulhas Backpackers: This hostel located in the center of Struisbaai has different types of rooms, kitchen, toilets, barbecue area, pool, parking and wifi; among others. The prices for bedrooms are 180 Rands per person (about 10 euros), and you can even put your tent in the garden for 150 Rands per person (about 8.50 euros). For more information, click here.
– Struisbaai Secure Garden Flat: This is where we slept. We booked through Booking and it is a very well-equipped apartment with kitchen, parking and space for 4-6 people. A great option to have your own space and enjoy the surroundings of Cape Agulhas. It is located at the entrance of the town, but close to the main services of Struisbaai. We paid 648 Rands for 4 people per night (about 9 euros per person). It has different apartments, so if you want more information or contact the owner (Janese) directly, you can write a WhatsApp at +27783099221.
Hermanus is a coastal town in the Western Cape Province. It is considered one of the best places in the world to observe southern right whales. From there, different boats come out and you have the opportunity to see these marine mammals up close. In addition to the whales, you will also find an area of wine cellars located in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, with stunning views.
Located about 90 minutes from Cape Town, it is one of the busiest stops on the Garden Route, especially if you visit this area during the whale season (June to October/November). We finally couldn’t go. Despite having a whale tour booking at the end of November to see the whales that had not yet migrated to Antarctica; the weather conditions with strong gusts of wind and very moving waves caused the cancellation for three days of all boat trips to see the whales. Anyway, if the weather is good, we recommend that you go to Hermanus to see these spectacular marine mammals.
How to get there?
If you come from the east on the Garden Route, Hermanus will be your last stop. Located about 120 kilometers from Cape Town, it is often the first or last destination on the Garden Route.
To get there, from Cape Town, take the N2 (the main road on the Garden Route) to the town of Botrivier. There, you will have to take the R43 and drive for about 30 kilometers (where you will cross the Bot River and pass close to different wine cellars) until you reach Hermanus. You also have the option from Cape Town to follow the R44 which runs along the coast (Gordon’s Bay and Betty’s Bay) and ends about 20 kilometers before Hermanus on the R43. With this route, you go around and it is longer (about 80 kilometers) because you go along the coast but you can also enjoy good sea views.
If you come from the east, you also have several options to get to Hermanus. The first is to follow the N2 to the town of Botrivier. The second, if you are coming from Cap Agulhas, is to follow the R316 from Bredasdorp to Caledon, and turn onto the R326 where after 25 kilometers you will find the town of Stanford, on the R43 and 25 kilometers from Hermanus.
What to do in Hermanus?
The main activities you can do in and around Hermanus are:
– See southern right whales
Hermanus is one of the best places in the world to see these animals. During the breeding season (June to November approximately), these animals are located off the coast of Hermanus and the De Hoop Marine Reserve. Therefore, if you wear binoculars (and sometimes without); you can see the whales jumping from the promenade or from one of the village beaches, such as Grotto Beach, a good place to swim even though the water is said to be very cold.
If you haven’t had enough of seeing whales from land, you also have the option of taking a boat trip to see the whales up close. Think that you will have to book in advance, and that sometimes, at the last minute, they can cancel your tour due to the weather conditions (as happened to us three times). If they cancel it, they will refund all the money you paid.
During the boat trip, in addition to seeing whales, you can also see other marine animals such as dolphins. The duration of the tour is usually an hour and a half, and they usually leave at 9 am (the most recommended as there is still little wind); 11am and some companies, also leave at 3pm. The prices of the different companies are about 1.000 Rands per person (about 55-60 euros per person). One of the main companies that does this tour and has a lot of good reviews is Souther Right Charters. You can find more information here.
– Do a wine tour around the main wine cellars in Hermanus
Despite not being in the quintessential wine region of South Africa, such as Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek (if you want to know more about our wine experience we did, you can click here), in Hermanus you will also find different wine cellars located in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley.
These wineries usually offer different tastings, and are sometimes accompanied by chocolate, jam or savory. It all depends on what you prefer. Among the wine cellars we have heard about, we highlight the Whalehaven Wines (wine tastings with chocolate for 75 Rands per person, with tasting of 4 wines); the Sumaridge Estate Wines (with vineyards at the foot of a lake); The Virgin or Newton Johnson; among others.
If you want to do the wine route in Hermanus without having to take a car, there are some local agencies that accompany you to the different wine cellars, so you can drink what you want without having to worry about having to take the car afterwards. Some of these companies are, for example, Hermanus Wine Hoppers.
– Dive on the high seas among white sharks in Gansbaai
40 kilometers south of Hermanus is the town of Gansbaai, known for its white shark diving. The boat ride takes about 20-30 minutes and then fish oil is thrown into the sea to catch the sharks ’attention. Once in the area, you dive into a cage so you can observe them up close, and sometimes even put a tuna on a stick to see the sharks’ tooth.
We were sure that we would not do this activity as we consider it very negative for the environment and the marine environment, as we accustom the sharks to approach humans, change their usual routes and make it a tourist show that, frankly, it is not necessary. In addition, prices are around 1.500 rand (about 90 euros per person); therefore, for all this points, we discard doing this activity.
Where to sleep in Hermanus?
Hermanus is a tourist town with different types of accommodation. These include:
– Hermanus Backpackers: This accommodation has different rooms to relax during your stay in Hermanus. It has a swimming pool, Wi-Fi, a living room, a kitchen and a free toast with jam and coffee in the morning. Prices for a double room with private toilet are 615 Rands per night (35 euros per night); and for a bed in a dorm for 210 Rands per night (12 euros per person). For more information, you can click here.
– 77 on 7th Street: This two-person apartment offers a double room with toilet, wifi, kitchen, TV and mountain views. It has private parking and a garden. It is highly rated on Booking and prices are 35 euros for two people per night.
DAY 1: That day we woke up with Joan and Berta at Addo Elephant National Park. After breakfast and a drive south of the park where we were still lucky to see large herds of elephants bathing in some waterholes in the park, and to be able to find the few specimens of lions in the Addo NP; we reached the town of Colchester.
From there, we drove past the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, following the N2 to our first stop on the Garden Route: the Tsitsikamma NP. There was, however, a problem. Those days (November 2021) had rained heavily in the area, and when we arrived it was still raining. So, we asked to change our booking (we had two tents in front of the ocean), for a cabin for two people and a tent with a car.
After settling this booking issue at the front desk, we entered Storm’s River Mouth Rest Camp on a winding road from where we could already see the ocean and how its waves crashed hard against the rocks and breakwaters of the campsite. We settled into the cabin, and had lunch there. After lunch, and when it seemed like the rain had stopped for a while, we went for a walk in that national park. As it was raining heavily, all paths were closed for safety, so we had to settle for a walk down the main road.
Anyway, that walk was great. Watching the gray day mix with the ocean and created a humid, cold weather, while some of the otters came out of the rocks was also charming. The next day we planned a kayak and lilo excursion to the mouth of the Storm’s River; but it had been canceled due to weather conditions.
So on the first day of the Garden route we took the opportunity to unwind, walk leisurely and play cards while outside there was a storm of wind in front of the sea which, from time to time, splashed us with water (from the sea and also of rain clouds). We would change plans the next day and head to Nature’s Valley, our second stop on the Garden Route, early in the morning.
DAY 2: We woke up with better weather than the day before. At least it wasn’t raining and the clouds were disappearing. However, the remnants of the rain and wind storm were clearly visible. Water coming down some paths and some cut roads from the Garden Route. Luckily, the River Mouth Trail was already open so we took the opportunity to walk to the mouth of Storm’s River Mouth and cross some of its suspension bridges. A beautiful excursion to enjoy good views of the ocean and to see the force with which the water came down from the river and mixed with the strong waves of the ocean.
When we returned, we drove for less than an hour until we reached the foot of one of the most beautiful beaches in South Africa: Nature’s Valley. Nature’s Valley is a quiet second home village just below the mountains. To get there, you have to go down a winding road until you reach the lagoon that at high tide connects with the Indian Ocean.
We parked the car and bravely decided to put on our swimming clothes. The sun was rising and it looked like the gray days were over. We went to the beach, a pristine space with little human presence. This is where the famous Otter Trail ends, a 5-day route that runs through the entire national park. To get to the beach, we crossed the stream that connected the lagoon with the sea: flip-flops outside and rolled up to the other side. Luckily, the water wasn’t very high!
Once we crossed the stream, we walked on the sand watching different marine eggs, and we bathed. Then we went up to a lookout point (The Point) where we had a great panoramic view of Nature’s Valley beach. On the way back, as the path passed by a beautiful cove, we didn’t think about it and went down to swim in natural surroundings. For some of us, it was the first time we had swum in the Indian Ocean! After a photo session on the beach, it was time to get back in the car. But we had a problem: the stream had grown and we could no longer see it safely crossing where we had passed. After looking for different options, the four of us got together holding hands as the water reached almost to our waists and crossed that stream. We don’t know if anyone was watching us from afar, but the scene seemed very adventurous. Luckily, we managed to cross the river and get back in the car to settle in what would be our campsite that night: two cabins at Nature’s Valley Camp.
And, luckily, they were huts… because if they had been tents, the baboons and monkeys would surely have come in! When we arrived at the campsite, we opened the back door to take out the ingredients for cooking a good pasta dish with cheese. After a morning of swimming on the beach, we were really hungry! So, just as Berta and Laia were taking the cheese out of the fridge, a monkey appeared and stole the whole package. Upstairs, there were more who were waiting for their chance to steal anything from us. They were not afraid of humans, and with their looks and movements they looked like they could attack us at any moment! So, we locked ourselves in the kitchen that was fenced off (like a prison), and we were making small trips in the car, making sure that none of the monkeys approached us. Really, in this area they had a serious problem with baboons.
After a more or less leisurely lunch, we picked up and drove to the other side of the beach where a small circular walk began, the Salt River Trail. We started walking on the rocks of the coast, while some fishermen advanced us with their buckets and their fishing rods. After a while, we could see the mouth of the Salt River. After taking off our shoes to reach the path (luckily thanks to Laia, as Esteve wanted to cross by climbing the rocks, a completely unviable path), we were able to observe the Salt River and return inland. In this case, we passed between trees and different very interesting plants; until we reached a lookout point from where we could see the whole village, before reaching the point where we had started: Nature’s Valley beach.
After returning to our accommodation and taking a shower, we returned to the village for dinner at the only place that was open that day. It was the village pub, which also served as a civic center and where the villagers gathered around a fireplace. A place where there were craft beers and burgers. After this traditional dinner, we went back to sleep, making sure we didn’t have any monkeys or baboons in our cabin. Finally, since it hadn’t rained all day, we decided to go back to Tsitsikamma NP the next day to do some kayaking. Let’s see if this time the weather was right…
DAY 3: Today we had to get up early to be before 9 in the morning, again at Storm’s River Mouth Rest Camp, from where the kayak and lilo activity by the river began. We left Nature’s Valley with lunch already cooked, and a few minutes before 9am we were on the other side of the Tsitsikamma NP.
There, we had to wait for two monitors who had gone to see the river conditions to do the activity. We relied heavily on his approval to go kayaking. They came kayaking across the Indian Ocean as they tried to dodge the various large waves. Finally, we could do the activity but we would have to leave from the mouth of the river. So once we were dressed with our neoprene, and accompanied by a couple from Austria, we walked along the River Mouth Trail to the suspension bridges, where we would start driving with our kayak.
With the help of two monitors, we boarded the kayak and started paddling in the opposite direction from where the river flowed. Fortunately, it was no longer going down as hard as it had the day before; so, we were able to enjoy a good route between steep cliffs and some caves. Unfortunately, the water was not completely clean (probably with all the force it had drawn from the mountain). Still, we had a good morning kayaking. We reached some rocks, and there we left our kayaks and took the lilos, a kind of inflatable mattress that you were directing with your hands. We swam for a few meters until we came to some small waterfalls from where we could not go any further.
On the return of the lilo, we took the opportunity to take some pictures, and jump from a rock into the water while some of the monitors were very happy to explain us about the series of La Casa de Papel. When we told him we were from Barcelona, he associated it with this TV-series and told us all his favorite actors.
We returned by kayak quietly enjoying the last paddles of this Tsitsikamma NP activity, until we reached just before the suspension bridge where we returned to the starting point as we crossed paths with other groups starting the activity. After leaving all the material, we took the opportunity to have lunch right in front of the ocean; and then advance to the next point on the Garden Route: Knysna.
Joan and Berta had come to see us in South Africa and we were very excited about their visit. They were on holiday, but they also had a honeymoon pending after getting married in April 2021. So, we gave them a surprise: we gave them a honeymoon room at a very nice accommodation in Brenton on Sea, located in front of the sea and close to the Knysna area.
We got there, and we were able to enjoy the fantastic views of the ocean while watching some dolphins swimming in the distance. The day before, they had seen some whales from there, so we might still be lucky and see this big marine mammal.
We took advantage of the last hours of sunshine to stroll along Brenton On Sea Beach and discover some of the photographic effects on Joan’s cell phone. We enjoyed a good walk while the sun set, and we could see some marine species that were in the sand like jellyfish and eggs; among others. Then, when it got dark, we went to dinner at a restaurant, Butterfly Blu, which had great sea views.
We enjoyed a great meal, with some spectacular Croatian style pizzas and seafood, accompanied by good wine, good desserts and great company. It was time to retire and head back to the hotel, but before this we had to pay… Suddenly we realized we didn’t have any money or credit cards! So, we had to ask the waiter, who already wanted to fold, to wait and Esteve was quick walking (and running when he could, the road was going uphill) to look for the money and drive back to pay the debt we had. Luckily, we didn’t have to clean our dishes, so we headed back to the hotel to rest. The next morning, we will continue our route to De Hoop Nature Reserve.
DAY 4: The day started very early… too. At 05:50 in the morning we received a WhatsApp message from Berta: “If you are awake! Whales or dolphins to see!” We woke up later, but when we saw the message, Esteve hurried out to see if he could see the animals while Laia stayed in bed. There were dolphins, but there were no traces of whales… Berta, on her way to the toilet early in the morning, had seen animals jumping; but the whales let themselves be desired. In principle, we hoped to see them on an excursion we had already booked in Hermanus, one of the places where these mammals can be seen most easily.
We had breakfast at Brenton on the Rocks, where Nico made us a good breakfast; and after enjoying the views of this place, we continued driving along the Garden Route. Our next stop was De Hoop, a nature reserve that was not in the Garden Route but had a unique landscape: dunes that flowed into the sea.
We stopped for lunch at a gas station’s fast-food restaurant, and around 3pm we arrived at the main entrance to De Hoop. To get there, the road had become a dirt road with very long straights and surrounded by agricultural fields. At the entrance, we paid the entrance fee and after a few meters of driving, we could see the dunes and the Indian Ocean in the background. There was a strong wind that day, and as you got closer to Koppie Allen, the starting point of a coastal walk, you noticed that the wind was blowing even harder.
We got to the parking lot and got out of the car. We almost flew out of the wind… With those gusts it would be quite difficult to walk through the dunes! We went down the wooden walkway to a viewpoint, from where we could see the wild sea and the giant waves. Suddenly, we saw something jumping on the horizon. It was too big to be a seal or a dolphin… We rubbed our eyes and looked again. In front of us, we had a whale jumping in the middle of the waves! It was our first whale of the trip! Despite the wind, the cold and the waves, the whale was there jumping and moving east. We continued walking along a stretch of coastal path along the beach as we tried to see more whales. From time to time, some seals were also seen playing with the waves. The landscape of the reserve was very beautiful, with completely pristine beaches and a beautiful natural environment.
As the park closed at 6pm, we went back and walked for a while through the dunes. Unfortunately, the strong wind lifted the grains of sand that hit us hard, so we ventured walking on our back a few more meters until we were surrounded by sand. It looked like a small desert oasis facing the sea.
We returned to the car and drove to the entrance to arrive on time and be able to leave the reserve. Along the way, we saw some wild animals like antelopes resting on an esplanade, and lots of flora that we didn’t have time to discover. We also found some cyclists, as that reserve is known for being able to do very beautiful cycling routes near the sea.
After leaving De Hoop, we headed towards Struisbaai, where we had booked an apartment. This village was located a few kilometers from Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of the African continent. We arrived at the apartment at sunset. It was a cozy house where we could get all the sand out of the dunes. While Laia and Berta were talking on their cell phones with their friends; Esteve and Joan took the opportunity to do a jogging session around Struisbaai. They ran in search of the Cape Agulhas lighthouse, and although they found a miniature sample of the lighthouse, they could see it running from a distance. That lighthouse was the second oldest active lighthouse in South Africa, and tomorrow we’ll see it clearly and up close.
Unfortunately, we had received bad news that afternoon. Our whale watching trip to Hermanus had been canceled due to weather conditions. A strong wind was blowing which made it impossible for boats to leave in search of whales. We couldn’t see them from Hermanus, but at least we were lucky enough to see some of them jumping from a distance from De Hoop Nature Reserve.
DAY 5: We got up early to see one of the iconic points on the Garden Route: Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point in Africa and where the two oceans converge: the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic ocean. We reached the parking lot where no one was there, and we were able to enjoy the mythical sign indicating the separation of the two oceans and the southernmost point of the continent. Next to it, there was a map of Africa lying on the ground through which we could fly our imagination and travel around different parts of this continent.
After taking some joint photographs and immortalizing the southernmost point of the African continent; we walked to the area where there was a stranded fishing boat, the Meisho Maru. It turns out that Cape Agulhas was an area with strong currents and difficult navigation, and therefore was also a place of wreckage. That day, with the force of the wind blowing on the ground, we understood how difficult it must be if a storm like this caught you on the high seas; and we understood that they had canceled the whale watching trip from Hermanus. The sea was really rough.
Anyway, it was incredible to stroll through this coast and think that on the other side of the sea, the Antarctica was there. At Cape Agulhas, the compass marks the north without any magnetic deflection; and the surroundings are beautiful, with small beaches, rocks and paths to stroll through while contemplating the strength of the two oceans at once: the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic.
After a while enjoying the place, we went to the lighthouse that Esteve and Joan had seen lit from a distance the day before. There, we could see the lighthouse from the outside and a wooden figure of a woman who was usually in the bow of most boats in the area between the 16th and 19th centuries.
It was time to head for the South African wine region, and as we were filling our deposit in a petrol station in Bredasdorp, we began to hear the first news that would change in the last days of the trip. We had been traveling for days and no longer thought about Covid, but it turns out that in South Africa there was a new highly contagious variant known as omicron, and some European states were beginning to restrict all flights coming from the South. Africa. This meant that many airlines were canceling their flights and Joan and Berta were flying from Cape Town to Barcelona in 4 days!
So, we decided to change our itinerary and head to Cape Town Airport to find out what was going on and find a solution. It was all breaking news, and no one knew what was going to happen… We were asking all the airlines, there were people paying 3.000 euros for a flight back home, the press was starting to come to the airport, and we waited for a flight to Amsterdam that night to see if there were seats available for Joan and Berta.
After a few hours of nervousness, with people trying to sneak into the queue, passengers who had flights in later days but wanted to get ahead of them to get out as soon as possible, and everyone waiting for the latest mobile news; we were in the queue (we were the first) of those who wanted to change their day ticket and fly to Europe that night. Finally, just a few minutes before check-in and when the plane had landed, the worst news came. That plane would return to Europe but only with airline workers, so many passengers missed the flight, while we tried to find new solutions so they could return.
It was late, so after sharing the phones with some Catalans who were in the same situation, we looked for accommodation near the airport. We had started visiting the southernmost point of Africa that day, but in the afternoon most of the tourists wanted to fly north so as not to get caught in South Africa. We, fortunately, had months of time to go home; but Joan and Berta had to return no later than the following Tuesday.
We spent the next few days in Cape Town, where we were able to enjoy some of its sights such as Table Mountain, Waterfront, Cape of Good Hope, Muizenberg Beach, and Chapman’s Peak; among others. First, nervous and with calls to embassies and airlines to find a way out; and then a little calmer, when Joan and Berta were able to change their flight on Tuesday (which was originally canceled as it was via Paris, and flights from South Africa were banned) to a Monday flight to Amsterdam, who was assured that it was leaving. Finally, our friends were able to fly to Barcelona and we continued our route through Africa.