SOUTH AFRICA - GARDEN ROUTE
depth guide to the seasons, animals, birds and wildlife
habitats of the Garden Route in South Africa
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Garden Route runs along the
Western Cape coast from George to Port Elizabeth,
and is so called because of its perpetual lushness.
Its appeal is further enhanced by the ridge
of folded mountains running along the coast,
whose form and flow often resembles ocean waves.
The diversity of scenery from exquisite empty
beaches to staggering mountain passes, together
with an unlimited choice of hotels, guest houses,
lodges and country houses, makes this one of
the most visited areas in South Africa.
Travelling along the coast road, the lushness
seems to increase with every mile and the area
known as Wilderness, could be mistaken for Switzerland.
It is a charming world of lakes, rivers, fens
and estuaries surrounded by pine forested slopes
dotted with wooden chalets. The only difference
is that in Switzerland you won't find the warm
and inviting Indian Ocean just across the road.
trails wind through densely wooded forests and
along riverbanks and you can canoe through serpentine
channels connecting one lake to another. There
are even overnight canoe and walking trails
in this park.
NATIONAL LAKE AREA
The well-visited town of Knysna, in the heart
of the Garden Route, rests by a warm lagoon
which ebbs and flows with the tides. The lagoon
is dominated by the craggy bastions of the twin
Knysna Heads and the Indian Ocean gushes through
the narrow entrance formed by these rocks. Viewpoints
from the top of the eastern Head give you the
dual vistas, over the entire lagoon or out to
sea. You may also be lucky enough to see a yacht
surf through the narrow channel to the safety
of its lagoon mooring. On the western head is
a nature trail in the privately owned Featherbed
Nature Reserve, accessible only by ferry.
Knysna National lake Area is not a national
park, but is monitored by the Parks Board
to make sure that ongoing development
is environmentally friendly. The lagoon
has borne witness to centuries of trade
in timber, ivory and gold, but nowadays
the shores are lined with residential
areas, a busy waterfront of shops and
restaurants, a yacht basin, boat yards
and the famous Knysna oyster hatchery.
Boat trips of all sorts can be undertaken
and boats can also be hired, but as much
of the lagoon is very shallow, it is essential
to keep to the buoys marking the deep
channel. No inexperienced skipper should
attempt to exit the lagoon by way of the
Heads, as this is a difficult and dangerous
passage strewn with rocks and strong currents.
makes Knysna such an attractive place
is its range of scenery, which includes
inland forests and mountains. Little of
the massive indigenous forests still exist,
and much has been put down to pine forestry,
but there are still some areas of tall
evergreen Outeniqua yellowwoods and stinkwoods,
and deciduous ironwoods, towering over
forest tree ferns.
The exceptionally beautiful
Knysna National Lake Area is home to the endangered
Knysna seahorse, which clings on to plants
with its tail and changes colour to match
its surroundings. The sandbanks and salt marshes
of the lagoon and river mouth, teem with life
and in turn provide food for an immeasurable
number of organisms. Whales and dolphins are
regular visitors along the entire Garden Route
were all but hunted to extinction in the Knysna
area and only one remains. She is a grumpy
old matriarch who turned down the friendship
of some playmates brought in to keep her company.
She now roams the forests alone while the other
elephants have been re-located to a wildlife
reserve. There are a growing number of private
reserves along the Garden Route who have stocked
up with game such as elephants, zebra, wildebeest,
giraffe, buffalo - all of which were indigenous
to the area once upon a time.
of the woodland birds are surprisingly colourful
birds including redbilled woodhoopoe, Knysna
woodpecker, paradise flycatcher, Knysna lourie
and lesser doublecollared sunbird. While at
the lakes, wetlands and lagoon you may see fish
eagles, cormorants, kingfishers, blacksmith
plovers and Egyptian geese.
The Garden Route's temperate weather
falls between two climatic regions of summer
and winter rainfall, consequently it rains whenever
it feels like it, (mostly at night), which keeps
the area perennially green.
Spring: You can feel spring
in the air by the end of August and into September.
October can be quite mixed because just when
you think summer has arrived, another cold front
Summer: The months of November
to March are hotter, with December to February
seeing mid-summer daily temperatures around
Autumn: Temperatures start
cooling down from about April but it can still
be very pleasant until June.
Winter: June, July and August
are mid-winter months but the days may still
be bright and warm, but it gets cold in the
evening and cold fronts pull in.
· Oysters fresh from
· Boating and canoe
· Scenic viewpoints
· Knysna lourie
· Lone Knysna elephant
· Lush forests
· White sandy beaches
Follow the links below to South Africa's premier wildlife
regions and game reserves.
Reserve Index | Wildlife