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The Garden Route and the Little Karoo Travel Guide

  • Photo: Andrea Willmore/Shutterstock

Plan Your Garden Route and the Little Karoo Vacation

This region is a study in contrasts. The Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains, forested ranges that shadow the coastline, trap moist ocean breezes, which then fall as rain on the verdant area known as the Garden Route. Meanwhile, these same mountains rob the interior of water, creating the arid semideserts of the Little and Great Karoo. Even within these areas, however, there is significant


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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Cetacean Central Some of the best boat-based whale- and dolphin-watching in the world can be found at Plettenberg Bay. And although Plett is the best, there are also good trips to be had at Mossel Bay. You can often watch these friendly cetaceans frolicking from the shore, as well. If you really want to feel part of the ocean, your best bet is a kayaking trip in Plett, which might let you get up close and personal with these fascinating creatures.
  2. Turning Wheels One unique way to enjoy the striking scenery of the Garden Route is to take a trip on the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe, an authentic narrow-gauge steam train that runs between the Transport Museum in George and the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex in Mossel Bay. This is the last scheduled passenger steam train still operating in South Africa.
  3. Animal Crackers The Crags area, just outside Plettenberg Bay, is a great place to spend the day with the animals. Visit with rescued primates at Monkeyland, amble through the world's largest free-flight aviary next door at Birds of Eden, and finish off the day interacting with an elephant—and perhaps taking a ride on one—at the Elephant Sanctuary just down the road. Other spots for animal watching include the ostrich farms and Cango Wildlife Ranch at Oudtshoorn and—for big game—the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve.
  4. Soar Through the Air If you just can't keep your feet on the ground, you've come to the right place. Start off with a leap of faith via a bungee cord at the Gouritz Bridge at Mossel Bay, or try a bridge swing instead. If those prove too tame for you, move on to the highest bungee jump in the world (at 700 feet) at Bloukrans Bridge. If you must go higher, leap out of a plane with Skydive Plett. For something a little bit closer to the ground, nothing beats the canopy tour at Tsitsikamma, where you fly through the trees (via cables and a harness) with the greatest of ease.
  5. Hike in Style Enjoy the best of nature in comfort on an escorted, guided, portered, and catered hike, locally called "slackpacking." Try the Dolphin Trail in the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park for remote and rugged coastal terrain and indulgent accommodation. The Oystercatcher Trail in Mossel Bay lets you explore a wide range of coastal scenery, from cliff-top paths to long beaches, and the food emphasizes traditionally cooked local seafood. The Garden Route Trail combines long and short day hikes with some paddling through the wonderful wetlands of the Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park.

When To Go

When to Go

There's no best time to visit the Garden Route, although the water and weather are warmest November through March. From mid-December to mid-Janua...

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Travel Tips

The Garden Route and the Little Karoo Travel Tips

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