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Moafrika Tours partners with Springbok Atlas Tours to offer guests 6 exciting days discovering the delights of The Garden Route in South Africa. It’s a visual feast of scenic wonder as you travel from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth along the spectacular Route 62.
The Garden Route Discovered Tour starts in Cape Town (or Stellenbosch by special request) and takes you to the Little Karoo farming village of Prince Albert. The second day is a scenic drive from Prince Albert to the ostrich capital of South Africa, Oudtshoorn, and a visit to the famous Cango Caves.
The third day takes you from the Little Karoo to the spectacular coastal town of Knysna with a lagoon cruise to Featherbed Nature Reserve. The fourth and fifth day is spent exploring Knysna and the magical Tsitsikamma National Park. On the last day, you bid farewell to your tour guide and are driven along the spectacular N2 highway to the friendly city of Port Elizabeth.
Accommodation options on the Garden Route Splendour Tour include:
- Comfortable option; establishments offering guests comfortable accommodation in standard rooms with double or twin beds
- Cut Above option; establishments offering guests slightly more luxury than standard hotel rooms
- Premium option; upmarket establishments offering guests luxury accommodation
Accommodation used of the Garden Route Splendour Tour:
- Swartberg Hotel
- La Plume Guest House
- Rex Hotel
- Tsitsikamma Village Inn
CAPE TOWN – PRINCE ALBERT (392 kilometres/ 4 hours 40 minutes travelling time)
The tour starts off in Cape Town and travels on the iconic Route 62 through Hex River Valley to Prince Albert. The first stop is the historic town of Matjiesfontein to see the local hotel which once served as a convalescent hospital for British officers during the Anglo-Boer War. The entire village was declared a National Heritage Site in 1975 and has been restored to reflect the character of the former Victorian era.
The journey continues to the beautiful Little Karoo town of Prince Albert which is known for its sun-ripened fresh and dried fruit, vineyards, olives and delicious cheese.
Overnight in Prince Albert.
PRINCE ALBERT – OUDTSHOORN (100 kilometres/ 1 hour 30 minutes travelling time)
The day starts early with a delicious breakfast and a chance to sample Prince Albert’s famous local produce. The journey starts with a scenic drive through the Meiringsport Pass which falls within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The road winds through the magical Swartberg Mountains to the quaint Little Karoo town of De Rust.
Then it is onto the ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn. The day is broken with a light lunch at a wine estate and the chance to sample fine wines of the Little Karoo. After lunch, guests are taken on a magical tour of the Cango Caves which is a spectacular grouping of limestone caves and one of the great wonders of the world. The last part of the day is spent at a working ostrich farm.
Overnight in Oudtshoorn (breakfast and dinner included in the rate)
OUDTSHOORN – KNYSNA (134 kilometres/ 1 hour 45 minutes travelling time)
An early start and a hearty breakfast before setting off on a scenic journey over the incredible Outeniqua Pass to George which is the sixth oldest town in South Africa. Visit the town’s famous historical landmarks which include the Slave Tree and King Edward VII Library building. Continue on to Knysna travelling via Wilderness.
Once in Knysna, guests join a lagoon cruise to the Featherbed Nature Reserve and take a trailer ride to the top of the Western Head. Enjoy panoramic views of the Indian Ocean and the seaside town which sprawls on both sides of the Knysna Lagoon. A light lunch under ancient milkwood trees is enjoyed at a popular quayside restaurant in Knysna. Guests are then free to explore the charming town which is set around a natural harbour lagoon.
Overnight in Knysna (breakfast and lunch included in the rate)
The fourth day is spent exploring the beautiful town of Knysna and visiting its popular attractions. This includes a trip to the Garden of Eden which is a botanical garden set in the lush Knysna Forest. Demarcated paths take visitors on a scenic walk under the canopy of ironwood, stinkwood, yellowwoods and array of other indigenous trees. The Knysna Forests spans some 565 square kilometres and stretches from the Krom River and Mossel Bay to the southern slopes of the Outeniqua Mountains.
Guests carry onto Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary which is a safe haven for primates that have been rescued from life in cages; followed by a walk to the famous Eastern Head and a trip to Brenton on Sea. Both attractions are a feast of spectacular views, beautiful natural landscapes, unspoilt beaches and tranquil surroundings. The afternoon is spent at your own leisure in Knysna.
Overnight in Knysna (breakfast including in the rate)
KNYSNA – TSITSIKAMMA (40 kilometres/ 20-minute travelling time)
The half-hour scenic drive from Knysna to the Tsitsikamma National Park takes you firstly to Plettenberg Bay which is the jewel of the Garden; and the Birds of Eden Sanctuary which is the biggest single free-flight aviary in the world. The journey continues to Bloukrans Bridge which is the highest single-span bridge in the world and offers the highest bungy jump in the world.
The rest of Friday is spent exploring the Tsitsikamma National Park and the magical world of inter-tidal life and reefs in a marine reserves as well as the mystical forests which are home to the Outeniqua yellowwood tree.
Overnight in the Tsitsikamma area (breakfast included in the rate)
KNYSNA – PORT ELIZABETH (275 kilometres/ almost 3 hours travelling time)
After a hearty breakfast you say goodbye to your tour guide and are driven to Port Elizabeth, travelling on the magnificent N2 to South Africa’s ‘Friendly City’. Guests can be dropped off at Port Elizabeth Airport.
Breakfast included in the rate.
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Route 62 is a magical scenic route that takes tourists on a spectacular route from Cape Town along the Garden Route and ends in Port Elizabeth. It is a stunning alternative to the N2 highway, flanked on one side by the Indian Ocean and on the other side by beautiful mountain ranges.
Route 62 is also known as the Cape Winelands Route and takes tourists to the wonderful wine-growing towns of Wellington, Tulbagh, Worcester and Robertson to Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo. It is regarded as one of the longest wine routes in the world and offers visitors an incredible choice of wine tours, safari tours, cultural tours, museums, hiking trails, mountain passes and outdoor activities such as riding horses, mountain bikes and ostriches and diving with sharks or adrenalin-pumping bridge jumps.
Route 62 spans a distance of 850 kilometres from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.
The Garden Route
The world-famous Garden Route is a 300-kilometre route on the south-western coastline of South Africa which extends from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The route is named after the verdant and ecologically-diverse vegetation of the region and the numerous lagoons and lakes dotted along the coastline.
The Garden Route includes popular holiday destinations such as Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Mossel Bay, Little Brak River, Wilderness, Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley. The beautiful historic Tsitsikamma Forest is a particularly beautiful destination along the Garden Route.
The Garden Route is sandwiched between the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains which lie just inland of the coast and the warm Indian Ocean. The mountain ranges boast a unique mix of Cape Fynbos (fine bush) and Temperate Forest. Nearly 300 bird species are found in a variety of habitats in the region which range from fynbos and forests to wetlands and marine estuaries.
There are ten nature reserves along the Garden Route as well as protected marine reserves which are home to soft coral reefs, dolphins, seals, whales and a host of vulnerable marine life. Various bays along the Garden Route are nurseries to the endangered Southern Right Whale who arrive in the bays to calve in the winter and spring months (July to December).
The historic town of Matjiesfontein was founded in 1884 by the legendary Scottish railway man, James Douglas Logan. The village established itself as a fashionable Victorian health spa and many of the historical buildings reflect beautiful architecture from that Victorian era.
James Logan built a double-storey hotel in 1899 called the Milner Hotel. It was opened to the public in the early stages of the South African War and later used as a military hospital for British soldiers. The hotel turret was used as a lookout post and some 10 000 troops camped around the village during this time.
The hotel was taken over by David Rawdon in 1968; a renowned hotelier who lays claim to establishing some of the finest country hotels in South Africa, including Rawdon’s Hotel at Nottingham Road in KwaZulu Natal, Lanzerac Hotel in Stellenbosch and the Marine Hotel in Hermanus.
Milner Hotel was reopened to the public in 1970 after undergoing extensive renovations which saw it restored to its former glory. The entire village of Matjiesfontein was preserved as a National Heritage Site in 1975.
Prince Albert is a picturesque town at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains in the Klein (Little) Karoo. It is famed for its lush vineyards, tropical fruit and olive farms and delicious cheese. The Fransie Pienaar Museum showcases fossils found in the area and a working moonshine distillery.
The route from Prince Albert to Oudtshoorn takes over the 19th-century Swartberg Pass which runs through the Swartberg Nature Reserve. The drive winds through an incredible mountain pass before dropping down into the lush valley of Oudtshoorn.
Meiringspoort Pass runs between the town of Klaarstroom in the north and the town of De Rust in the south, connecting the Little Karoo with the Great Karoo. It crosses the vast Great Swartberg mountain range which previously formed an impenetrable barrier separating the two regions until a farmer, Petrus Johannes Meiring, from De Rust made the first successful recorded crossing in 1800. The pass is named in his honour.
The Swartberg (black mountain) is the best exposed fold mountain chain in the world and the mountain pass slices through fascinating geological formations. The Swartberg chain runs roughly east-west along the northern edge of a semi-arid region called the Little Karoo, and the Great Karoo lies to the north of the Swartberg. The majestic mountain range forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Oudtshoorn is a fascinating town in the Little Karoo and regarded as the ‘Ostrich Capital’ of the world. An interesting attraction in the town is the CP Nel Museum which showcases the history of ostrich farming in the region and the boom and bust years.
Pioneering farmers arrived in this region of the Little Karoo in the 1750s and made a living rearing livestock, growing wheat, barley and tobacco and making wine and brandy from grapes grown in the area. The ostrich era dates back to 1864 when a demand for ostrich feathers among European nobility prompted farmers in Oudtshoorn to try their luck at ostrich farming. The intrepid businessmen hit potluck when the market for feathers boomed in the mid-1860s.
Overproduction within the ostrich industry saw fortunes slump in 1885, in the same year the town was nearly washed away by severe flooding. The market for feathers recovered at the end of World War II and new markets opened up for ostrich leather and meat. Ostrich farming in Oudtshoorn has experienced its fair share of boom and bust years but the market for ostrich products is stable for the time being.
The production of specialised agricultural seed is the biggest contributor to the region’s economy today but ostrich farming is an important revenue source and one of many reasons to visit the quaint farming village of Oudtshoorn.
The Cango Caves are located in Precambrian limestone at the foothills of the Swartberg close to the town of Oudtshoorn. The principle cave was discovered in 1780 by a local farmer named Jacobus van Zyl although there is evidence of the caves being inhabited as far back as the Middle and Later Stone Ages.
Van Zyl lowered himself down into the cave and found an underground cavern which is as long as a football field. It was named Van Zyl Hall in his honour. A second chamber was discovered in 1782. The Cango Caves are made up of an extensive system of tunnels and chambers that span some 4 kilometres; however, only a quarter of the underground cave system is open to the public.
The first European explorer to penetrate the dense indigenous forests of Outeniqualand was Hieronymous Cruse, who made the perilous journey in 1668. Cruse’s exhibition was impressive considering the highest peak in the Outeniquas is Cradock Peak standing 1 578 metres high and the prominent George Peak at 1 337 metres high.
The name Outeniqua comes from the Khoi word meaning “man laden with honey”. According to early travellers, the slopes of the emerald-green Outeniqua mountains were covered with heather and swarming with bees. It remains home to an incredibly beautiful and diverse biosphere and boasts vulnerable plant species such as the rare George lily which is found near water in deep mountain ravines and a variety of ericas and proteas which thrive on the fern-clothed slopes. Carpets of pink watsonias are a common sight during summer.
George is the administrative capital of the Garden Route and a popular holiday destination for South Africans. It is situated halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth on a 10 kilometre plateau between the Outeniqua Mountains to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south.
The town of George established itself in the 18th and 19th century to meet the growing demand for timber and wood which was used by the Dutch East India Company for building material, transport and furniture. The indigenous forests around George were nearly wiped out by relentless timber logging operations and only saved when the natural forests received state protection.
Today George is a busy town with modern infrastructure. It’s also widely popular as a golfing destination, made famous by Ernie Els’ Fancourt Golf Estate which hosted the President’s Cup in 2003 on top of regular high-profile golf tournaments.
Knysna is a beautiful harbour town on the Garden Route and home to the third oldest harbour in Africa and the second largest wetland in southern Africa. Over the years, Knysna has transformed from a sleepy ‘retirement village’ to a bustling tourist destination, boasting an array of excellent restaurants and quayside shopping centres and a wide selection of hotels, B&Bs and guest houses.
The steep cliffs of the famous Heads form a barrier between the turbulent Indian Ocean and the tranquil waters of the lagoon estuary. Much of the town is positioned along the length of the Knysna Lagoon which exits at the base of the Heads into the Indian Ocean. The Heads at Knysna are just as famous for the tragic loss of boats and fisherman who have tried to pass through their treacherous and unpredictable waters.
Featherbed Nature Reserve
Featherbed Nature Reserve is a privately-owned reserve and a South African Heritage Site. It is located on a protected portion of Knysna’s Western Heads and only accessible by ferry.
Featherbed Nature Reserve is home to a breeding programme for the Knysna Loerie, the endangered Knysna Sea Horse, and the rare Blue Duiker which is one of the smallest antelope species in the world (roughly 30cm tall). Visitors to the reserve also have a chance of spotting the Black African Oyster Catcher, one of South Africa’s rarest coastal birds.
The Knysna Forest is one of only a handful of sheltered, remote pockets of Afromontane forest which are all that remain of the massive tracts of ancient forests that once covered large parts of the continent. The dense forest is a visual feast of ironwood, stinkwood, Outeniqua yellowwood, real yellowwood, Cape holly, white pear, wild fig, milkwood, Cape beech, bastard saffron, assegai and kamassi trees.
The Knysna Forest spans some 570 square kilometres and stretches from the Krom River and Mossel Bay to the southern slopes of the Outeniqua Mountains. Demarcated pathways take visitors on long walks or hiking trails through the mystical forest but some places are so dense it borders on impenetrable. The forest is thick with tree ferns, creepers and indigenous forest flowers and is home to an array of birds including the elusive Knysna loerie.
Timber logging came close to completely destroying the Knysna forests and some 1 900 square kilometres of the original natural forest was destroyed by the historic building trade’s hunger for more and more wood. Large populations of buffalo and elephants once roamed the ancient forests of Knysna but were wiped out by unchecked hunting and the loss of habitat.
The last buffalo was shot in the forest in 1883 and by 1990 only 4 Knysna elephants remained in the area. Today there are no large mammals living in the Knysna Forest despite many attempts to re-introduce the animals. Their migration passage no longer exists as it has been destroyed by human development.
Tsitsikamma National Park
The Tsitsikamma National Park is a remote mountainous region and renowned for its spectacular sea and landscapes. It is made up of secluded valleys covered in mountain fynbos (fine bush) and temperate high forests with deep river gorges leading down to the sea. In 1964, Tsitsikamma National Park was proclaimed the first Marine National Park in Africa.
Tsitsikamma National Park is a wilderness sanctuary that protects inter-tidal and marine life. It is one of the largest single unit ‘no take’ (including fishing) Marine Protected Areas in the world, conserving 11% of South Africa’s Temperate South Coast rocky shoreline. It also serves as a ‘laboratory’ for fisheries baseline research on endangered species.
Plettenberg Bay, or Plett as the locals call it, is one of the most popular holiday destinations in South Africa and ranked one of the top 10 places to visit in South Africa. It lies almost on the border of the Western and Eastern Cape and is renowned for its spectacular landscapes and ocean views as well as excellent accommodation, a wide choice of restaurants and fun attractions for outdoor enthusiasts.
Plett has a relatively long history as a South African town. It was regularly visited by Portuguese explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries and signs of their visits are everywhere, including the remains of the Gonzales shipwreck. Early European settlers arrived in the late 1700s and historical landmarks from these excursions include the Old Rectory which was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1776 and Forest Hall which is a privately-owned stately mansion, built by William Henry Newdgate in 1864.
There is so much to do and see on a trip to Plettenberg; from throwing yourself off the Bloukrans Bridge for the longest bungy jump in the world or visiting furry and feathered friends at Monkey World, Jukani and Birds of Eden to long walks on white, sandy beaches and humpback and Southern Right whale encounters. That’s before or after you spend leisurely hours eating, drinking and having fun in town.
Port Elizabeth is a popular coastal town on the Garden Route and falls under the Nelson Mandela Metro, which also includes Uitenhage and Despatch. It is the gateway to the Eastern Cape region and an important commercial hub for the agricultural and tourism sectors in the region.
Port Elizabeth Airport serves the broader coastal region and the harbour links South Africa to national and international destinations. Port Elizabeth is affectionately known as the ‘Friendly City’ and mostly visited by local South Africans who go there for fun-filled beach holidays. International tourists mostly pass through Port Elizabeth enroute to the airport.