28.03.2011 - 03.04.2011 20 °C
We were on the road early and continued our journey through the Eastern Cape, passing through King William’s Town and Grahamstown, arriving in Jeffrey’s Bay, our stop for the night, at about lunchtime. ‘J-Bay’ is SA’s top surfing destination and while the best waves are from June to September, we still enjoyed watching surfers catching waves at Supertubes, one of the most well-known beaches.
We started the Garden Route proper, driving through the Tsitsikamma Mountains, and Nature’s Valley before stopping at the Crags, just outside Plettenberg Bay. We stayed at the Wild Spirit Backpackers, which was very nice with fantastic views of the mountains, except that we seemed to be the only people there who didn’t believe in fairies! There was much excitement when we arrived because there was going to be a concert that night. We nervously enquired whether it was going to be noisy, but it turned out to be an amazing acoustic guitarist called Gary Thomas, who did a set in the main room with us and all the hippies sitting round listening!
Wednesday to Friday
We realised we were feeling a little travel weary so when we reached Plettenberg Bay and liked it, we found somewhere to stay for a few nights.
Nearby, is the Robberg Peninsula which is a national marine reserve, and we had a lovely walk one morning round the rugged coastal path of the peninsula, spotting a colony of cape fur seals in the water.
In the other direction, the next day, we had a walk on Keurbooms Beach. We had a wonderful moment when we both spotted a fin in the water, and then realised there were lots of others with it. It was a school of more than 50 dolphins, gently swimming along very close to the shore. As we watched, they reached a patch of surf and we saw them riding inside the waves and then throwing their whole bodies up in the air to get back out to sea. They split into two large groups, and we watched their progress along the shore for about 10 minutes. It was Nick’s first ever wild dolphin spot, and Claire’s best ever, so it was a bit of an unexpected wildlife highlight.
That afternoon, we visited Monkeyland, a sanctuary for primates who have spent their lives living in captivity or as pets. It is a 12 hectare area of forest with a 7 metre fence around it, to keep baboons and other predators out. Some of the smaller monkeys can get out through the fence, but always go back at mealtimes. While we were in the car park, a squirrel monkey climbed into the boot of our car, but we resisted the urge to slam the door shut and bring it home!! When monkeys first go there, they have to be rehabilitated and taught how to live in the wild. They have 9 different species there, and over 400 animals in total. We really enjoyed walking round and seeing them up to their monkey business!
We spent most of the day on the beach in Plett, making the most of the last of the South African summer before heading along the coast. We stopped in Knysna for a couple of hours, visiting the Heads, the notorious passage from the sea into the lagoon thought to be one of the most dangerous in the world. We continued along the coast to Wilderness where we are staying for our last two nights before driving back to Cape Town. We had dinner in an organic restaurant, and both enjoyed eating springbok for the first time (Nick had a burger, Claire had meatballs!) – we think our trip has made us more carnivorous!!
We had a gentle day exploring the Wilderness area. We walked on the beach, and then drove inland to the ‘big tree’ (a yellowwood tree, 33m high and 800 years old) where we had a walk through the forest before driving back to our accommodation along the side of 3 lakes. It’s a lovely area, and we’re happy with our choice of location for our last stop before Cape Town