The Garden Route is a 300 km stretch of coast running from Mossel Bay to Storms River in South Africa. The route winds through a series of astonishingly beautiful lagoons, beaches, forests, and mountains making it one of South Africa’s most iconic road trips. Besides the spectacular scenery, the Garden Route is part of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Thanks to the diverse vegetation, nearly 300 species of bird can be found along the route – including the iconic Knysna turaco.
Part of the route is also designated as the Garden Route National Park. The park covers around 1,200 km2 of native forest and dramatic coastline as well as the famous Otter Trail. Named after the African clawless otter which can be found in the area, this five-day trail crosses coastal mountains, dense forests, and spectacular beaches – and has been said to be one of the best treks in the world!
Average rating: 5.0 (very good)
Average cost: most trips along the Garden Route are self-drives and costs depend on the type of accommodation, transport, and food and drink you choose. This guide provides a handy budget breakdown.
Best time to visit: you can visit the Garden Route year round. Temperatures are highest in the summer months (November to April) and it can get extremely busy during the Christmas holidays. If you want to catch the Fynbos in bloom, spring is the best time to visit (September to November). July to October is an excellent time to look out for pods of migrating whales off the coast of Hermanus. FYI it can rain year round so take a jacket!
How to get there: there are a number of ways to get to Mossel Bay – the starting point of the Garden Route. The most accessible point is the nearby town of George (around a 45 km drive) which has an airport and good links to the major cities such as Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town. Once you’re there it’s an easy task to hire a car and drive along the route.
Typical activities: camping, driving, hiking
Number of reports: 1
WILDLIFE IN Garden Route
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:
African Clawless Otter – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Despite having a whole trail named after them, African (or Cape) clawless otters can be quite difficult to spot along the route. They live in dense vegetation above the high-water mark of rivers and look for food along beaches and shallow surf. Otters tend to be skittish around humans and hide in reeds or undergrowth until they judge its safe to be out in the open. So if you’re looking out for them try sitting quietly near to areas of fresh or sea water. The Otter Trail is a good place to look or you could try Kariega Game Reserve. Otters are most active at dawn and dusk when they hunt for crabs and fish. Their behaviour is also influenced by the tides and reports suggest a low tide at dawn provides the best chance to see one.
Knysna turaco – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
The Knysna turaco (known in South Africa as the Knysna lourie) is a large green bird with brilliant red wings. They are only found in southern Africa, particularly in the Knysna area of the Garden Route. Turacos are most often seen flying between forest trees or hopping along the branches. Check out Knysna and Tsitsikamma forests for a chance to see these fantastic birds. Alternatively, reports on TripAdvisor suggest there is a good chance of seeing them in the garden of Kingfisher Country House.
Photo credit: ADD under a Creative Commons licence from Pixabay