Garden Route – dream road on the Indian Ocean
Along the south coast, on the national road N2, runs from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, the famous Garden Route. The classic Garden Route stretches from Mossel Bay to the Paul Sauer Bridge and is around 300 km long. Mountains alternate with cliffs, lonely beaches, forests and semi-deserts and again and again you come across a dreamy seaside resort or a pretty little town. In autumn, whales come to give birth to their young off the coast of the Garden Route and are excellent for watching. Extensive primeval forest stands can be found on the slopes of the coastal mountains near Knysna, which slope towards the sea, and in the area of the Natures Valley.
According to computerannals, Stellenbosch is the second oldest European colony in the Western Cape after Cape Town. The city was founded in 1679 by the governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel. He named the city after himself – Stellenbosch means “(van der) Stel’s forest”. The first settlers were encouraged to plant oak trees, which is why the city was also known as the “oak city” (in Afrikaans “Eikestad”). Stellenbosch is located on the banks of the Eerste Rivier River. The river was called “Eerste” because it was the first river that Simon van der Stel found and followed from Cape Town through the Cape Flats to the region that today forms the Stellenbosch region. The Dutch were skilled hydraulic engineers and built moats from the Eerste Rivier through town to Mill Street, where a mill was built.
Oudtshoorn – the ostrich metropolis of the world
Oudtshoorn is known as the ostrich metropolis of South Africa. The city was founded in 1847 and is 300 m above sea level, bounded in the north by the Swartberg mountain range and in the south by the Outeniqua mountains. Before the First World War, ostrich feathers were an indispensable fashion must. The feather boom began around 1870. At its peak, around 750,000 ostriches and around 450,000 kg of feathers were exported each year. Then World War I came and many farmers went bankrupt. Years later the industry picked up again and the demand for feathers, biltong, eggs and leather rose again. Today there are around 90,000 ostriches in the area called Little Karoo.
It has been proven that the caves were used by the San people as early as the Stone Age. In the 19th century, entry into the caves cost 5 rix dollars – the equivalent of ZAR 500 – but this still did not prevent some tourists from breaking off parts of the beautiful stalactites and stalagmites and taking them home or carving their names on the walls. In response to the destruction of the caves, the Governor of the Cape Colony, Lord Charles Somerset, enacted the first laws to preserve the caves in 1820. It was the first laws to protect natural resources in South Africa, banning souvenir collecting and setting penalties and entrance fees. The entry fee had to be paid to the district officer, who was also responsible for compliance with the law.
Some of the most significant discoveries were made by the first official cave guide, Johnnie van Wassenaar, who worked here for 43 years, from 1891 until his retirement in 1934. He opened many of the side chambers and led thousands of visitors to Cango 1, which is still the only chamber open to the public to this day. The caves Cango 2, 3, 4 and 5 were only discovered and explored between 1972 and 1975, although they are now closed for reasons of protection.
The Knysna Lagoon is an excellent place for all kinds of activities or just to relax and enjoy the beauty of the so-called Knysna Heads. The lagoon is framed by two steep rocky slopes known as “The Heads”. Especially from the east side of the Heads you have a fantastic view.
The Knysna Lagoon has an oyster farm, one of the few in the world. In addition to its oysters, the city is also known for its beer, which is made in Mitchell’s brewery. The city’s museums are also well worth a visit, the Milwood House Museum and the Angling Museum in the Old Gaol complex. Other attractions include the dense rainforest, the nearby Buffalo Valley Game Farm, the Featherbed Nature Reserve and Noetzie Beach, as well as the numerous restaurants and local art markets. The Knysna Forest is one of the largest virgin forest areas in South Africa and is so densely overgrown that it is inaccessible in some parts.
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park
Recently renamed Isimangaliso Wetland Park, this subtropical paradise covers an area of 240,000 hectares and is the largest estuary system in Africa. The park encompasses the southernmost foothills of coral reefs on the African continent and extends over 220 km along the east coast from St. Lucia to the border with Mozambique. Isimangaliso encompasses a wide variety of biotopes, dunes, bog and coastal forests to rocky coasts and beaches, coral reefs and underwater canyons, mangroves, savannas, grasslands, bushes and forests. It is the largest protected wetland in southern Africa with a large number of breeding turtles on the beach and a large number of whales, dolphins and whale sharks near the coast.