Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Garden Route to Cape Town. with Plettenberg Bay swimming with seals. January 2015.

Plettenberg bay is a popular destination for South Africans from Johannesburg over the Christmas holiday. It is about 30 KM east of Knysna.
We travelled there to meet the Offshore Adventures team, to go swimming with wild Seals.
It was a professional set up, providing all the wet suites, flippers and snorkels.
Offshore Adventures, Get Wet in Plett
The inflatable boat took the group out to where the Seals are on the rocks. Then you get in the water and see if they will let you swim with them. The photos show it all very well.

It was a great mornings activity.
Plettenberg Bay was a pleasant place, it has a 1970s hotel on a sand bar called Beacon Island that looks rather odd. Beacon Island was once a whaling station, built by the Norwegians who left in 1920.
There are three safe beaches, a lagoon and the river mouth. All backed by mountains. It had a holiday buzz about it and I preferred it to the rather stuffy and sleepy Knysna.
Cape Town
We left Kynsna and drove to Cape Town, I am really glad we did the Garden Route this way round.  As Cape Town is so fantastic and the Garden Rout so underwhelming at least we finished on a high note!
Jump for you cos you in Cape Town and you love it!

I am not going to blogg on about Cape Town, it is as described in all the guide books beautiful and captivating. It is South Africa's most visited city and I will just add photos as to why.
The accommodation I booked through Trip Advisor was 129 on Kloof Nek. It was great, but please read the reviews on Trip carefully as you experience will be very different if you get one of the lower ground floor apartments.
View from 129 0n Kloof Nek, Cape Town. South Africa  

View from 129 0n Kloof Nek, Cape Town. South Africa

Penguins at Boulders Beach, Cape Town, South Africa

Boulders Beach, Cape Town, South Africa.

Fish & Chips

Emirates Cabin Crew have been to them all !

Cape of Good Hope

Cable car to the top of Table Mountain

Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain

Bo- Kapp Houses

Cecil John Rhodes in the Company Gardens, Cape Town in 2015. How much longer do you think????

Stellenbosh Winelands

Stellenbosh Winelands

Winelands South Africa

Castel of Good Hope

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa.

The Garden Route with Oudtshoorn; The Ostrich and Feather capital of the world. Cango Caves and Storms River. Jan 2015

The difference a day makes. The drive from Jeffreys Bay to Knysna was a totally different experience without the rain. The day before, the rain was so intense and there was so much spray coming up from the road surface that we did not even see the bridge over the Storms River, looking at the bridge and the river today, that hardly seemed possible.
Storms River Bridge...didn't see it due to the rain!
We had set off early  from Jefferys Bay and stopped at the bridge to watch the Bungee Jumping, and then went on to the Tsitsikamma National Park.
The Van Stadens George and its Storms River Bridge
In the Tsitsikamma National Park, the rest camp run is by the South African Parks Board.  The walk from the car park at the storms river Rest Camp was spectacular, the huts that you can stay in can be booked direct with the Parks Board and have one of the best views in the world.
Tsitsikamma National Park
We had lunch at the restaurant, the service was slow but the food was good. the only problem was it was so windy the food got cold very quickly. Then we walked along to the river mouth admiring the wild seas, rocky coast and forested cliffs all along the route.
Wild Seas at Tsitsikamma National Park

Tsitsikamma National Park

Tsitsikamma National Park at the mouth of the Storms River
In the afternoon we drove on to the town of Knysna. When we lived near to Durban, people would go on holiday to Knysna, and come back with tales of a glorious lagoon, spectacular scenery, oysters and a steam locomotive that ran from the town of George to Knysna. so I had high hopes for this place.


Laguna Grove, Knysna
We had booked in at Laguna Grove. this was a three bedded apartment that slept 6. It had parking and the apartment was located on the lagoon and was really well equipped. It was a perfect place to stay as you could walk to  the train station and the waterfront development, the Knysna Quays where a lot of  the restaurants were located.
As we had arrived in good time we took a trip across the lagoon to the Featherbed Nature Reserve. from here you had great views of the Knysna Heads; two high sandstone cliffs providing and entrance to the lagoon. The tour company took you up to the top in a tractor pulling a wagon, you then walked back down to the bar / eating area. then got the small ferry back across the lagoon. It was a good trip.

The train station looked overgrown and in disrepair, it was. this was due to the rail infrastructure suffering from flood damage in 2006. The train has not run since.
The next day we set of early heading up to the self styled Ostrich Capital of the World, the town of Oudtshoorn. It was a dull rainy day when we left Knysna. heading towards the town of George on the N2 highway. Soon we climbed up from the coastal lowlands and into the sun. We were in the Little Karoo and saw farms with Ostriches in the fields, and Zebra. the landscape was yellow, dry, and African and I loved it.
Oudtshoorn was a small village that when the late Victorian fascination for large feathers turned into high fashion, turned from a sleepy village into  the feather capital of the world. The farmers became  rich feather barons and built elaborate mansions, known as Ostrich Palaces. Large Victorian styled houses.  Many of the mansions have been restored and now, the boom days long gone the farms supply feathers, meat, Ostrich leather and eggs to all parts of the world.
The first port of call was past the town of Oudtshoorn, the Cango Caves. The caves are one of South Africas top attractions. The caves have been used as a home for Man since prehistoric times. the entrance to the caves is in the foothills of the Swartberg mountains, it was very hot. the entrance its self is a 1970 style tourist complex, this is a large concrete building. A guide takes you down into the caves where you admire the Stalagmites and Stalactites lit with lights, all with names such as 'the hanging shawl', 'Cango candle' and 'Angels Wing'. I found it a bit boaring, but I have been in caves before and there are only so many formations of rock you can turn into art.
Driving back towards Oudtshoorn we saw the entrance to the Cango Wildlife Ranch,

Cango Wildlife Ranch
here a guide escorted us around the ranch ( a Zoo really) and gave the option to be photographed with the white tigers, cheetahs and other creatures, many of the rescued, housed by the ranch. You could even cage dive with a crocodile if you wanted to. It was a bit of fun.

Cango Wildlife Ranch

Next we stopped at one of the many Ostrich farms. we were late for lunch but the kind ladies extended the lunch hours and served us. We were on the last tour of the farm of the day and started with the Eggs.

Ostrich farm
then the Ostrich chicks, amazing birds that looked like the eggs on legs.

Ostrich chicks
Ostrich chicks
Finally the tour ended in the shop selling all thing Ostrich, I got some amazing feather dusters. they are the best I have ever used. also a change to feed the male birds.



It had been a really windy day and there had been no Ostrich racing, I was really disappointed as I wanted to see the jockeys racing the birds. the wind dropped as we finished the farm tour and our guide decided that the birds could race.
we crossed the road and walked to the pen with the ostrich in, the jockeys said it was to hot for the birds to race, I did agree it was hot. but the jockeys said we could ride the birds....I wasn't expecting that! so we did, took it in turns and tried to cling on.
Ostrich in the racing pen

Riding an Ostrich

Some of us did better than others, I fell off straight away, but as I had been instructed to keep a firm grip I did, and pulled out loads of feathers as the jockeys tried to get me to the ground safety, there was also a lot of underwear on daughters were mortified! revenge at last!
I had debated and questioned the need to drive out to what I had imagined to be a dusty little a town in the Little Karoo, but I absolutely loved the town of Oudtshoorn, with its Victorian architecture, odd activity list and feathers, I highly recommend a trip to this town even if like me its just a day out. for me and my family this was one of our highlights on the much fabled Garden Route.