Exploring the South African East Coast

25 Apr

Regardless of whether you are a nature lover or history enthusiast, for sheer variety there is probably very little which beats a trip from Cape Town to Durban via the famous Garden Route. The scenery is amazing and there are ample opportunities to enjoy splendid beaches along the way (such as at Jeffrey’s Bay, which is a renowned site for surfers) and also to take in natural indigenous forests. Indeed, one of the highlights of any such trip must be the Tsitsikamma and Storm’s River region of the Eastern Cape. Adventurous travellers are sure to enjoy doing the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour or, for the brave, there is the Bloukrans Bridge Bungy Jump which is listed by Guinness World Records as “the highest commercially operated Bungy Jump in the world”.

ElephantsCopyright South African Tourism

For the more laid-back traveller a visit to the Addo Elephant National Park is very highly recommended, as is a visit to the Cango Wildlife Ranch and, of course, the Cango Caves in the Oudtshoorn vicinity. The opportunity to visit an Ostrich Farm and ride one of these feathered beauties is also available.

Further north you will pass through what was formerly known as the Transkei and encounter rural habitats and relaxed coastal villages such as Coffee Bay and Port St. Johns. The latter is a small, typical Third World town which attracts many European tourists due to its spectacular natural surroundings and relaxed, friendly atmosphere. PSJ is also the (unofficial) South African capital of “ganja” (marijuana), which probably accounts for the myriads of backpackers who pass through the region. And, of course, home to the eccentric and much publicized Ben Decker (artist/actor and ex-politician wannabee) who lives in a cave with a stunning 180 degree sea view.

Located at the mouth of the Umzimvubu River, the town combines virgin forests with stunning ocean views and is pure paradise for any nature lover who wishes to explore its many hiking trails, discover secluded waterfalls and awesome views from the top of Mount Thesiger. I’ve been privileged to spend a few years as a “local” (before returning to my Cape Town roots) and can highly recommend a stay at the Umzimvubu Retreat Guest House.

Second Beach, Port St Johns

Second Beach, Port St Johns

For those who prefer to add some bright lights to their itinerary, major cities en route such as East London, Port Elizabeth and, of course, both Durban and Cape Town offer everything you may desire. In brief, no matter whether you are seeking natural splendor, historical highlights, an adrenalin rush or sophisticated city life, the Garden Route combines it all in a breathtakingly beautiful package. A large selection of guided tours are available, including various packages from African Sky.

The following from Open Africa :

Background information on the Garden Route Sea Kayaking Trails:

These trails are situated along the famous Garden Route. This stretch of coastline runs from Mossel Bay in the south to Port Elizabeth in the north and is served by the N2 national road. The Garden Route offers the visitor a mild climate, long stretches of beach, lakes, mountains and lush indigenous forests.

But it is severely threatened by over-development and unless substantial controls are put in place, it will be overwhelmed by its own popularity and South Africa will lose a unique and irreplaceable part of its heritage.

The Garden Route offers visitors a huge selection of accommodation options, from camping to luxury lodges and a myriad guesthouses and bed and breakfasts. There is also an endless variety of activities, from gentle hikes in the forests to adrenaline-pumping abseils, steam train excursions and visits to cultural sites such as the rock shelters of the Khoisan (the original inhabitants of the area).
Nature is the real drawcard here and there are a number of stunning private, municipal, provincial and national nature reserves. From a paddling perspective, this area offers warm-water sea paddling with its associated marine life, as well as numerous opportunities for exploring the many lakes and estuaries.

South African Tourism : Heritage, Ocean Views and Wildlife
The Eastern Cape coastline, which stretches from beyond Port Shepstone on the south-east coast to Cape St Francis in the south, is the ideal destination for those who like to holiday in peace and quiet. Holidaymakers who favour home comforts are advised to choose from among the many beach hotels with their idyllic lagoon and beachfront settings. Party animals, surfers and young backpackers find their own in places like the ocean-facing city of Port Elizabeth, the river port of East London and the surf havens of Jeffrey’s Bay (or J Bay) and Cape St. Francis.

Further reading:

Cape Garden Route & Klein Karoo


Eastern Cape Tourism

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Posted by on April 25, 2009 in Eastern Cape, South Africa


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