South Africa is a land of contrasts and nowhere is this more apparent than a stunning stretch of the south-eastern coastline that is known for its ecological diversity and jaw-dropping scenery – the Garden Route. Spliced by exotically named mountain ranges: Outeniqua, Tsitsikamma and Swartberg, it’s no wonder this Garden Route loop (or Tuinroete in Afrikaans) has become THE must-do on any Cape Town holiday.
South Africa’s very own ‘Garden of Eden’ forms part of the Cape Floral region – a World Heritage-listed site dedicated to the conservation of more than 8500 species of fynbos and vegetation endemic to the region. In fact, much of the route is controlled by South African National Parks in an effort to ensure the area’s long-term sustainability. Due to relatively mild climates, the region’s indigenous forests are made up of Cape fynbos (fine bushland) and temperate jungles that are home to more than 300 species of birds - including the rare Knsyna loerie and the African fish eagle. Around 85 types of mammals including elephants, savannah baboons, elands and cape zebras also roam in the area.
On the water, migrating southern right whale mums and newborn calves can be spotted between July to December in various whale nurseries along the coastal belt. The Garden Route’s wetlands reserve boasts five stunning lakes fringed with fynbos and is every bit as lovely as its coastal cousins. The exotic-sounding freshwater lakes – Groenvlei, Swartvlei, Rondevlei, Langevlei and Eilandvlei - form what’s known as the Lakes District and were created by the natural damming of water in the valley between two ridges.
HOT TIP: For the culinary adventurer, oysters are a must-do when in Knysna and the Garden Route’s climate produces some of the best wines in the country.