The Garden Route of South Africa – Port Elizabeth to Knysna

The Garden Route of South Africa – Port Elizabeth to Knysna

Jeffries Bay Beach
Jeffreys Bay Beach

Our first stop after Port Elizabeth was the vibrant town of Jeffreys Bay, otherwise know as J Bay. The beach was long and flat and made for a great place to stretch the legs on the drive. We both got jealous of all the other people walking dogs on the beach, and couldn’t wait for our sit in Capetown to begin.

After J Bay we took a little detour to Cape St Francis where we visited the famous lighthouse and penguin rehabilitation center. This town really displayed the wealth gap in South Africa to perfection. One of the most amazing housing developments I have ever seen was located there, with all houses having there own private jetty on the ocean blue canals that they were built on, and residents out stand up paddle boarding or water skiing out of there back yards. Yet minutes away, all the people who work for these homeowners and service there everyday needs, were living in metal huts (if they were lucky) and trash strewn dirt streets with no running water or sewage. You don’t have to guess what color skin you have to have to live in which neighborhood.

 We arrive in Knysna and had booked 3 nights at the Protea Knysna Quays Hotel using only 2500 SPG points per night, and were immediately upgraded to a harbor view room. This is what most people would consider to be a nice hotel,  but after house sitting for so long now, no hotels really appeal to us anymore.

 Robberg Nature Reserve
 Robberg Nature Reserve

 We had passed through Plettenburg Bay the day before on our way to Knysna but ran out of time to visit the Robberg Nature Reserve. After a leisurely stroll around Knysna and a quick breakfast, we headed back to “Plet” for a hike in the reserve. The entry fee was $3 per person, which turned out to be an absolute bargain, working out to around 60c per hour.

 For your hike there is a choice of three circular routes of increasing distance and difficulty. 
1. Walk to The Gap and back to the car park, around about 2km.
2. Walk to The Witsand sand dune and down to The Island and back round about 4km.
3. The round trip via The Point is 11km and takes four hours or more. Not recommended for young children.

We (I chose) chose number 3!

Robberg Nature Reserve

The path to The Point climbs the steep rocky slope which has a sheer drop from the path. Take care not to go too close to the edge of the cliff.
Take heed of the sign warning of the extreme danger of unstable sand on the north side of Robberg. You will probably hear the Cape fur seals barking before you spot them. Envy their lifestyle as they don’t seem to do much more than laze on the rocks, float in the water and have their barking conversations. Look out for dassies as they scurry for cover under rocks. Other animal life includes grey buck, duiker and bushbuck. Cape claw-less otters and mongooses are occasionally seen. Robberg is the ideal vantage point for whales and dolphins. Even orcas, also known as killer whales, have been spotted in the Bay. There are also numerous bird species like Cape Robins, Cape white-eyes, red-winged starlings and orange-breasted Sunbirds to name but a few. Stop for a moment and admire the majestic Tsitsikamma Mountains. The Point is the ideal place to stop for eats and watch the large numbers of Swift Terns and Kelp Gulls. This must be their favorite roosting place as the rocks are white with their droppings. Check out the magnificent anemone in the rock pools if you happen to be there at low tide.

Past the shack ruin is arguably the most beautiful section of the trail. The huge sandstone boulders are brightly colored by orange lichens and form a stark contrast with the blue-green sea. Along this section you have to negotiate a narrow ledge on a vertical rock face above the sea with the help of a fixed chain. If you find this daunting, choose the high route which takes you over and above this section. From here you pass The Fountain Shack and then onto the beach connecting Robberg with The Island. 

The Island

With a boardwalk around it’s perimeter The Island is well worth a visit. The breeding success of Kelp Gulls has improved greatly since the introduction of this inviting boardwalk, along with the chances of getting pooped on. The views down to the pools and the rock formations are magnificent. All that remains after The Island is a walk along the beach back to the mainland where the trail takes you back to the parking area. Before you climb up to the peninsula on the southside of The Gap, take the steps down to the secluded little Gap Beach and marvel at the conglomerate rock of rounded pebbles set in sandstone to the right of this beach.

Seriously, what an awesome hike, $3 well spent, the rest of South Africa is going to have to be pretty impressive to match this place.

The Island in the distance

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