Because of work commitments many people cannot go away from home for too long periods and therefore there is a need for shorter safaris and long weekend events. We also cannot only offer events up in Gauteng as there are quite a substantial number of readers and members in the Western, Southern and Eastern Cape.
We recently went to the Southern Cape, starting at Stormsriver and ending our recce trip in Prince Albert. This is the Itinerary that we came up with……
Storms River, Tsitsikamma.
We spend our first night at At the Woods Guesthouse, in Storms River Village in the Tsitsikamma, a very interesting and up market property. The rooms all have en-suite bathrooms with a large walk in shower. The downstairs rooms have French doors opening out onto verandas facing the garden, and upstairs rooms have their own private decks, offering superb views of the Tsitsikamma Mountains and Storms River Village . All rooms have tea/coffee making facilities, TV with select DSTV channels, bar fridges, wall safes and ceiling fans.
Knysna Elephant Park – Plettenberg Bay
After breakfast we left for the activity centre of Stormsriver Adventures with whom we went on a Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour.
The Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour is a unique eco-wilderness adventure that takes place in the magnificent Tsitsikamma indigenous rainforest.
The first of its kind in Africa, the canopy tour involves traversing from one platform to another along a steel cable suspended up to 30 meters above the forest floor… The tour begins with a detailed safety briefing followed by a ‘kitting up’ session where full body harness, pulleys and climbing equipment is issued and checked. Tours conducted in all weather conditions, but can be cancelled in the interest of safety. Ages from 7years to 70years. Most platforms are located in giant Outeniqua Yellowwood trees. The scenery and bird life is spectacular and professional guides provide interesting facts about the forest ecology during the 2½ to 3 hours.
On our return, we were involved in a community project supporting the elderly people in need in the Storms River community. From here we drove down to Stormsriver Mouth in the Tsitsikamma National Park where we had a light lunch in a lovely little restaurant overlooking the mouth and the coastline.
We drove further through the lovely town of Plettenberg Bay before heading for our overnight destination at the Knysna Elephant Park, a mere 10 km’s west of Plettenberg Bay.
The Elephant Lodge affords you the unique experience of sharing the elephants’ accommodation with them. Knysna Elephant Park’s orphaned elephants end their day by heading to their world-class boma for the night – here they enjoy some rest and pampering, with a bed of soft sawdust and a mountain of branches to keep them busy munching the night away!
The unique Elephant Lounge forms the central relaxation area overlooking the elephants’ sleeping quarters. Here you are able to relax and watch the elephants enjoying their evening meal. You will be privy to their every sound and movement, and after a night in the Elephant Lodge, you’ll also be able to answer the question – do elephants lie down when they are sleeping…
After checking in, we went to the exquisite five star Zinzi restaurant, literally across the road where we relaxed with a sun downer, and watched the sun settle behind the forest canopy. Zinzi means “abundance”, an abundance of fun and feasting, exciting, hip and happening.
Born out of the struggle of the elephants of the Knysna forest, Knysna Elephant Park’s aim has been to provide the best home possible to other elephants in need of one. Consequently they have created a free-range controlled environment, which means that the elephants get to walk and browse in the fields as they would do in the wild; however they do need handlers and guides with them constantly as they are living amongst and interacting with humans every day. Your experience of the elephants is therefore as natural as possible. We went on the 7h00 daily walk which includes meeting, feeding and interacting with the gentle giants.
After breakfast we continued our journey on the picturesque Garden Route drive and on our arrival in Knysna, we visited The Heads before reporting at the Featherbed Company’s offices (11h30) at The Cruise Café situated on the well known Knysna Waterfront.
The Featherbed Company gives visitors to the Garden Route an unforgettable experience on the Knysna Lagoon’. The Lagoon, more accurately defined as an estuary, has five fresh water rivers flowing in from the surrounding Outeniqua Mountains meeting with the surge of sea water from the Indian Ocean through the mighty headlands – known as the ‘Knysna Heads’ – the grand sandstone cliffs towering above the entrance to the Knysna Lagoon.
We spend the remainder of the day at The Featherbed Nature Reserve, situated on the Western Head. It is a premier eco-experience and included the following:
Return ferry trip the Western Head with the river cat ferry, “Spirit of Knysna”
4×4 vehicle & trailer drive up the headland onto the Reserve, stopping at spectacular viewpoints.
Specialist guide giving information on history, fauna & flora.
Guided 2.2km walk through coastal forest and fynbos into ancient sea caves.
It also included a world renowned buffet lunch, at an outdoor restaurant setting, under a canopy of Milk wood trees.
At 3h30 we were back and had some leisure time to shop at the Waterfront and Thessen Island before we booked into the boutique hotel, The Lofts, overlooking the Knysna Lagoon.
Buffelsdrift – Oudshoorn
After breakfast we left via Wilderness and Sedgefield for the Paradise 4X4 Route, 10 kilo’s west of Sedgefield. The route stretches over 9 kilometers and features from easy to difficult (but by-passable) challenges. It is mostly sand and dunes with some fynbos and nature forest in between. On the route we discovered some breathtaking mountain, ocean and lake views on various points which will definitely left us feeling spoilt by all the beauty that surrounded us. We stopped at a Lapa high above the coastline where we had something cold for the thirst and delicious homemade pizzas.
After lunch we left for the four stars Buffelsdrift Game Lodge outside Oudshoorn where we spend the night in unique, understated elegance in luxury tent accommodation. With mountains as backdrop and a magnificent dam at your doorstep, it’s the closest you’ll get to the wild of the Klein Karoo. Just off the famous Route 62, Buffelsdrift Game Lodge offers you an escape to something spectacular. The evening we socialized with sundowners on the wooden deck overlooking the watering hole. Specializing in authentic Karoo cuisine, the Buffelsdrift Restaurant offers guests a delicious a la carte menu of homemade foods and local fresh produce.
After breakfast we visited the Cango Ostrich Farm. Tours are comprehensive and are not only interesting but also great fun. Visitors are allowed to sit or ride on birds (weight limit 75kg). The guys at Cango believe in a quality ostrich experience. The tour is an easy walk through the farm and visitors are taken out in small groups by professional guides.
From here we drove a little bit further for a visit to the Cango Caves. Situated in a limestone ridge parallel to the well known Swartberg Mountains, you find the finest dripstone caverns, with their vast halls and towering formations. The Cango Caves is the only show cave in Africa which offers a choice of Standard (easy) or Adventure Tours. All tours are lead by experienced, knowledgeable and accredited Caves Guides. All tours are offered in English and Afrikaans. After the caving we had lunch in the restaurant at the caves before leaving for Prins Albert via the Swartberg Pass.
Climbing 1.000 meters in 12 kilometers, the Swartberg Pass is one of the steepest passes in South Africa. Running between Prince Albert in the north and Oudtshoorn in the south, the route offers spectacular views over the Little and Great Karoo. The road is not tarred and can be tricky in wet weather but you certainly don’t need a big 4×4 for the pass. Along with striking warped and twisted rock formations and interesting plant life, we saw some amazing dry stone work supporting the picturesque hairpin bends. Master pass engineer Thomas Baines and his team of convict laborers took five years to build it in the late 1800s. Today it is a National Monument and largely unchanged.
Prince Albert had its origins in 1762 when a loan farm named Kweeckvalleij “the valley of cultivation and plenty” was established in a green and fertile valley at the foot of the awesome Swartberg Mountains. Today, the town is one of the prettiest in the country – a place of great serenity and charm, with beautiful architecture, fascinating flora and fauna and great Karoo hospitality. We overnight in the well renowned Prins Albert hotel and had our farewell dinner in the old world dining room full of character.