A Travellerspoint blog

November 2017

South Africa - Part 2 - Garden Route

Route: Route [Wildness NP – Knysna – Harkerville Forest – Storm River Mouth]

semi-overcast 24 °C

From Mossel Bay it was onwards east once again. We were now entering a part of South Africa known as the Garden Route, where we were to stay, at various locations, for the next two weeks. The Garden Route got its name from the “Garden of Eden” because of the lushness of its vegetation. It is in fact a strip of land, much of which is designated as the Garden Route National Park (see below), between the ocean and mountains, and stretching from George (Western Cape) to Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape) – about 300km.

The first stop was in the Wilderness section, at the Ebb & Flow Rest Camp. A small camp on the Touw River, where our lovely stilted log cabin gave us a great view over Wilderness wetland. We were here for three nights and two full days, both of which were spent on local hikes. The first took us up a gorge and deep into the indigenous forest, and included a self-propelled pontoon to get us across the river at one point. The second guided us through the wetlands, along the rivers edge, before emerging onto Wilderness Beach, then back to the rest camp. Both were very enjoyable walks and provided lots of bird life to watch.

large_SA_Cape_184.jpgKnysna Lourie

Knysna Lourie

Pontoon

Pontoon

Pontoon

Pontoon

Knysna Forest

Knysna Forest

Cape Boulboul

Cape Boulboul

Green Snake

Green Snake

red knobbed coot

red knobbed coot

Red Bishop

Red Bishop

Greater doubled collared Sunbird

Greater doubled collared Sunbird

The second stop was in the town of Knysna, and an apartment in its centre. The few days in Knysna were to be a bit different. We relaxed, watched TV (we had loads of channels to watch), did some shopping, wrote postcards and dined out every night. Each of the restaurants were good, but one stood out above the rest. The Anchorage on Grey Street, not only had great food and drink it had a very efficient and entertaining waiter called Benjamin. Highly recommended for anyone visiting Knysna.
www.anchoragerestaurant.co.za/
Knysna Head

Knysna Head

Knysna Head

Knysna Head

rock Pool

rock Pool

The third location was very different once again, and not quite what we were expecting (but in a good way). We were expecting one of a cluster of cabins in a bit of the Harkerville National Forest. What we got was an amazing cabin, in its own private forest section, perched on the edge of a valley with forest canopy views from our balcony, incredible.

Cabin in Harkerville National Forest

Cabin in Harkerville National Forest

Because our forest did not have any hiking trails of its own, we looked further afield for our activities. We therefore ventured up into the mountain for our first hike. This was the Diepwalle State Forest, accessed by gravel road and high in the coastal mountain range. Diepwalle is also one of the few forests that the critically endangered Knysna Forest Elephant (see below) still lives, estimated to be only around 12 remaining (although the population is growing) but it was extremely unlikely that we would see any. However, we did see one, but only the skeleton in the local museum.
The forest offered three hikes, I, II, & III, or as we discovered on arrival black, white or red elephant trails. Before leaving home we had decided to do the easiest, hike I, however, due the change in designation we ended up on the most difficult. Not a problem, we are seasoned hikers and embraced the challenge. That was until it started to rain, now we were less keen, and when it started to pour, getting back to the car was then the only goal.

Forest

Forest

Forest Walk

Forest Walk

SA_Cape_233.jpgSA_Cape_231.jpgSA_Cape_230.jpgSA_Cape_229.jpgSA_Cape_228.jpgFungi

Fungi

The weather on our next day looked much brighter, after the thunderstorm the night before. So we planned to take a boat trip up the Keurboom River and explore the Keurboom Nature Reserve. Unfortunately, when we arrived we found that the boat was not running that day, so we booked for the next. Instead, we had a look around Plettenberg Bay, did the coast walk, a bit of shopping, lunch, then back to the cabin.

Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay

The next day we reluctantly left our forest retreat and headed off further down the Garden Route. But before our next location, we had our boat trip, or maybe not, on arrival we found that the wind was too strong and the trip had been cancelled, not having a lot of luck with our organised activities.
Our next location was Storm River Mouth, part of the Tsitsikamma National Park and one of the combined parks forming the Garden Route National Park. The location lived up to its billing as one of the most beautiful parks in South Africa, right on the sea with thickly forested cliffs behind. What made it even better was the position of our cabin, right on the rocky shore with nothing to obscure our view of the sea (both from the balcony and our bedroom). This was particularly impressive on a first afternoon and evening, when a storm was brewing up.

Cabin

Cabin

Storm River Mouth

Storm River Mouth

Sunset at Storm River Mouth

Sunset at Storm River Mouth

On the morning of our first day we were up and out early, to avoid the crowds and to visit Storm River Mouth’s main attraction, its suspension bridge. The bridge crosses the river just before it enters the sea, quite a feat of engineering.
In the afternoon we ventured into the forest behind the cabin for a strenuous but very enjoyable hike.

Storm River Suspension Bridge

Storm River Suspension Bridge

Storm River Suspension Bridge

Storm River Suspension Bridge

Blue Duiker Trail

Blue Duiker Trail

Flower

Flower

Tsitsikamma National Park waterfall trail

Tsitsikamma National Park waterfall trail

Day two saw us out of the cabin in good time, because we new we had quite a challenging hike ahead of us. This one would take us along the coast, partly on narrow forest trails and partly on the beach clambering over some serious boulders, to finally arrive at a waterfall. The result was some beautiful scenery and some aching limbs. Well worth it though.

Waterfall Trail

Waterfall Trail

Waterfall Trail

Waterfall Trail


Tsitsikama National Park

Tsitsikama National Park

On our final day we took it a bit easier and had a walk in the Big Tree Forest. This indigenous forest is also part of the Garden Route National Park, and unsurprisingly contained many big old trees (one of which is estimated to be over 1500 years old).

the BIG tree

the BIG tree

Finally, I forgot to say that we had planned to take a boat cruise up the Storm River, but couldn’t because the boat was in for repair. Well what a surprise, another activity that eludes us.

So that ended our time in the Garden Route and we headed northeast for a whole new adventure.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Hayley Croc
The reason for adding this item now, is that on 10 November 2017 Hayley Croc suffered her first accident. She fell from a viewing platform down on to the rocks below. Thankfully she suffered no serious injury and was helped to safety by Anne. Hayley Croc has been travelling with us since the beginning of 2016 and has never suffered any mishap until now. Although shocked from the fall she insisted on continuing to travel with us, and we were pleased to oblige. For those that don’t know, Hayley Croc is a mascot that travels with is. Our good friend Hayley, who manages the Croc shop in Brighton, gave us Hayley Croc. As she couldn’t travel with us, she said it would be the next best thing. What we try and do is take a photo of Hayley Croc at special places on our travels and then send them to Hayley. She in turn posts the photos on an Instagram so the world can follow Hayley Croc travels.

Hayley Croc

Hayley Croc

Hayley Croc

Hayley Croc

Garden Route National Park
At one time a large track of land along the coast and up into the mountains, of what is now Western and Eastern Cape, was thick forest. With the arrival of Europeans, and around the 18th century, this all started to change. Extensive logging for timber to satisfy the industrial revolution going on in Europe decimated much of the forest and with it a lot of the wildlife. This continued in to the 20th century and was made worse by the farming and urbanisation that followed the forest destruction. Fortunately, logging did stop before all was lost and today there are still large areas of indigenous forest remaining. These forests are now protected by a number of national parks, state parks and forest reserves, all combining to form the Garden Route National Park.

Knysna Forest Elephant
The Knysna Forest Elephant is the same species as the Savannah Elephant but has adapted over time to be better suited to its forest environment. Therefore it more closely resembles the Forest Elephant of Central Africa. It lives in what is left of the protected indigenous coastal forests of the Western and Eastern Cape. Back in 1876, its numbers were estimated to be several hundred, but by 1908 this had dropped to between 20 and 30, the result of ivory hunters. By the 1970’s, when their protection was taken seriously, only around 11 remained. An experimental introduction of 3 Savannah Elephant from Kruger failed, so extinction looked like the most likely outcome. However, detailed studies using modern DNA technology and camera traps now believe the population is slowly recovering. The latest population estimate is at least 5 females, 1 male and several calves, circa 12, an improvement but still critically endangered.
Skeleton of Knysna Elephant

Skeleton of Knysna Elephant

Posted by MAd4travel 08:40 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

South Africa 2017 Part 1 - Western Cape

Cape Town – Hermanus – De Hoop Nature Reserve – Bontebok National Park – Mossel Bay -

sunny 23 °C

Since 2003, our good friend Rob has managed to travel with us at least once a year, and this was one of those occasions. In fact this was going to be a special occasion for him, because, instead of the usual three weeks he had been able to extend it to six.
After a bit of hassle picking up the hire car, we were soon on our way to our first destination of Hermanus. Hermanus is situated on the coast about 100 kilometres from Cape Town. It’s an attractive town, famous for the Southern Right Whales that congregate in the adjacent bay. In fact, it was the Whales that had drawn us here.
Broadly speaking, the South Right Whales congregate here between July and November. Mostly mothers that give birth to carves and then care for them in the safety of the bay, until they are strong enough to venture further afield. The cliffs around the bay provide an excellent vantage point to view the Whales, plus a big pod of Bottlenosed Dolphin, which kept us entertained for two of the three days we were there. But, Hermanus has more to offer than just the whales, the coastline is stunning and the flora is quite unique.

Smily Whale

Smily Whale

Southern Right Whale with Calf

Southern Right Whale with Calf

Blow Hole

Blow Hole

Atlantic Surf

Atlantic Surf

Southern Right whale

Southern Right whale

Hermanus

Hermanus

Hermanus

Hermanus

Hermanus

Hermanus

The other day in Hermanus found us in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, a beautiful area just outside of town. Here we trekked up to a summit with amazing views all over Walker Bay (the bay that Hermanus sits in) and circled around a mountain ridge before arriving back at the car park. The reserve is famous for its flora and this time of year a lot of it was in bloom, a real picture. We did see some fauna as well, one of the local wild Tortoise’s, a Brown House Snake and a few birds.

Lizard

Lizard

Fernkloof Nature Reserve

Fernkloof Nature Reserve

Very Pretty Flower

Very Pretty Flower

Pink Flower

Pink Flower

White Flower

White Flower

Yellow Flower

Yellow Flower

Pretty Flowers

Pretty Flowers

Beautiful white flowers

Beautiful white flowers

Protea

Protea

Lizard

Lizard

Fernkloof Nature Reserve

Fernkloof Nature Reserve

Fernkloof Nature Reserve

Fernkloof Nature Reserve

From Hermanus our route was east, via a very windy but spectacular Danger Point, and on to our next destination, De Hoop Nature Reserve. Danger Point is just south of Ganbaai and one of the most southerly points in Africa. It is also infamous for the worst shipwreck in South Africa’s history, when the Birkenhead went down on hidden rocks in 1852, with the loss of several hundred lives. A few years later a lighthouse was erected at this point which still stands today.

Danger Point

Danger Point

Danger Point Light House

Danger Point Light House

Nursery

Nursery

Danger Point sea

Danger Point sea

Wild Sea

Wild Sea

The De Hoop Nature Reserve is in the Overberg area of the Western Cape. The 36,000 hectares of De Hoop conservation area is a World Heritage Site comprising rich biodiversity and over 70 kilometres of pristine coastline. After checking into out cottage on arrival, we still had enough light for a short walking safari. The next day dawned wet and windy so our planned guided marine walk was postponed until the next day. The rain persisted all day, finally relenting in the late afternoon for short lakeside walk. Unfortunately the next day dawned no better, so the marine walk was cancelled yet again, and we headed of to pastures new. We left feeling rather disappointed as the De Hoop Nature Reserve was a beautiful place and we would have liked to explore it more. However, on the bright side, the rain did hold off enough for a pleasant drive away from De Hoop and provided some nice sightings of Blue Crane.

Cooking by Flashlight

Cooking by Flashlight

Bontebok

Bontebok

Bontebok

Bontebok

Blue Crane

Blue Crane

Blue Crane

Blue Crane

Our next destination was the Bontebok National Park, about 60klm north of De Hoop. The sun was shining by the time we arrived and our chalet balcony had views over the Breede River and on to the mountains in the distance. This put a smile back on our faces, after the disappointments in De Hoop. A short afternoon walk was followed by G&T’s and Whisky & Coke on the balcony, watching numerous birds and the sun going down. The next day was sunny and warm, so we spent most it exploring the trails along the rivers edge. The scenery was beautiful once again, and there seemed to be a different bird to identify almost every few meters. What was also unusual about this park was the number of wild Tortoises, the Angulate species.

Tortoise

Tortoise

Bontebok National Park

Bontebok National Park

Red Bishop

Red Bishop

Masked Weaver

Masked Weaver

Malachite Sunbird

Malachite Sunbird

Mousebird

Mousebird

After two days in the Bontebok park we continued our journey east along the N2, to our next stop, Mossel Bay. We had an apartment high above the town but with good views over the bay. Our prime goal whilst in Mossel Bay was to walk some of the St Blaize Cliff Walk, this we achieved in two sections, one starting in town and the other from our apartment. The walk(s) were amazing. The walk takes you along a path high on the cliff edge and gives you a stunning view of the waves crashing on the rocks below. It also provides a good vantage point to watch the marine life, these included Cape Fur Seals, Southern Right Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins.

St Blaize Cliff Walk

St Blaize Cliff Walk

View of St Blaize Trail

View of St Blaize Trail

Pregnant Lizard

Pregnant Lizard

Egyptian Geese

Egyptian Geese

Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose Dolphin

Mussel Bay St Blaize Cliff Walk

Mussel Bay St Blaize Cliff Walk

Our last day in Mossel Bay was a bit more sedate, but no less enjoyable. We first visited the Bartholomew Dias Museum complex, which not only housed a replica of Bart’s ship and facts surrounding his discovery of Mossel Bay, but also Africa’s largest shell museum. Both the history of Mossel Bay and the shell museum turned out to be more interesting than I think any of us was expecting. And in addition to all this excitement, the complex also had a 500-year-old Milkwood tree in its grounds, which has been doubling up as a post box right up until the present today. Elated by our museum visit we retired to the Blue Shed for a coffee (tea for Anne) and cake lunch.

Bartholomew Dias Museum

Bartholomew Dias Museum

The Blue Shed

The Blue Shed

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Southern Right Whales weigh the equivalent of 10 adult male elephants, and got their name from Whalers who considered them the right whales to hunt because they floated once dead and all the parts of the whales were useable.

The Milkwood Tree is protected in South Africa. If you have one in your garden, you need a permit even to trim it. The Milkwood is very hardy and versatile, and has been the first choice wood for construction for many years in South Africa. Unfortunately, because of this it is now rare, hence its protection.

Posted by MAd4travel 02:20 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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