Garden Route National Park, between the mountains and the Indian Ocean, is a playground for adventure lovers. When people think of the Garden Route, certain things come to mind: the world-famous Otter Trail, crystal-clear oceans, ancient forest giants, the woodcutters of yesteryear and soft green carpets of moss. Oh, and elephants of course! Apart from those, there is the well-known arched Bloukrans Bridge stretching over the Bloukrans River below. At 216m, this is the world’s highest commercial bungee bridge. Give it a try and the mix of energy and adrenaline might even make jumping head first into the abyss seem normal for a moment.
It’s also the only spot in the country where you can dangle from a bungee rope over a river catchment that is protected by a national park. The ocean you’ll see in the distance forms part of the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area. If the thought of jumping from a bridge is enough to raise your blood pressure, rather opt for something more laid-back. A quick two-wheel adventure departing from Thesen Island in Knysna, ideal for exploring the surrounding forests, might be just the ticket. Scootours entails a series of exhilarating downhill and curvy rides on a Monster Mountain Scooter through the indigenous forests of Goudveld. The scooter does not have an engine, but if it’s speed you’re after, you’ll get it. It’s ideal for the more timid adventurer, as you determine your own pace and can slow down at any time. This section of forest is also home to the Dalene Matthee Memorial and Big Tree, one of five large tree attractions in the park. From the memorial, you can do the Kringe in ’n Bos hike and wander deeper into the forest. Not only will you have the opportunity to spot the occasional bushbuck, the birdlife within the green canopy is prolific too. You may even spot a Narina trogon or hear Knysna turacos making a racket above.
If speed and height are not for you and your legs have done enough walking, opt to spend time in the Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park. Wilderness River Safaris offer eco-friendly boat rides for up to eight people at a time. The most popular cruises are those on the Touw River, but there are trips to Island Lake too. To round things off, the sunset birding cruises are the perfect end to any adventure on the Garden Route.
Garden Route National Park: Don’t miss out
While the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp is extremely popular with tourists due to the large amount of activities and the suspension bridge, don’t forget to explore Nature’s Valley. Apart from the hiking trails, a beautiful estuary, beach and canoeing, it is also a wonderful birding spot.
Garden Route National Park: Know before you go
Travel: The easiest way to get there from Johannesburg is via George Airport or even Port Elizabeth International Airport, depending on where you want to start your journey. You can explore much of the area with a sedan.
Remember: You’ll need at least a week if you intend to see the majority of this protected area and even then you won’t get around to everything. There is just too much to do.
Stay: A night or two in the Tree-top Forest Chalet in Knysna is highly recommended for an isolated experience far from the crowds. Big enough for four, it offers a touch of luxury away from home. R1 615 for the first two people per night. Contact: https://www.safari.com Face Adrenalin for bungee jumping: aScootours and Wilderness River Safaris
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