South Africa #1 – The Garden Route

It’s actually been 2 weeks since I came back from South Africa, but I was so busy apartment hunting I didn’t find the time to do anything more than work out, go to the office and… hunt.

So, in a short delay, a couple of hours after a new rent agreement was signed. I found the inner peace to type my top recommendations for South Africa future visitors – Kruger to Cape Town!

South Africa Trip

Who should read this?

  • Food lovers
  • Those who like to hike at day & have a hot bath at night (Those who like nature but aren’t crazy for tents)
  • Young 20-ish folks as I
  • Families with teen-aged kiddos

Who should not?

  • Those who love trekking (the ones crazy for the thing)
  • Meat lovers – sorry, I traveled among them, but I can’t tell about the experience first hand.

Meet the team:

Traveling South Africa

At the crocodile bridge, Kruger

From Right to Left: brother, father, brother, mother, myself and my boyfriend.

A diverse group: 2 extreme lovers, 1 extremely interested in wine, 1 surfer, 1 vegetarian and 1 book worm. In total, we were more than 25 meters tall, yet somehow managed to fit into one car.

Why South Africa?

This is South Africa round 2 for me.
Last February the travel team included myself, a big bag, and friends I met on the way. A classic backpackers trip. It was fun.
In 3 months I totally fell in love, determined to come back and bring my family along.

Cocktail

It worked, though traveling with my family was totally different… They aren’t as keen on food, fashion or international friend as I. So – I decided to include recommendations from my last trip as well.

When?

First time I was here in the South African summer – February to April, this year we visited in July. I think summer is much nicer in Cape Town & The Garden Route, but for Safari’s – “wintery” July. South Africa’s dry winter season is great for animal spotting, the weather in Addo and Kruger (both safaris) was just divine!

The Route

  • One week from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town (AKA The Garden Route)
  • Another week in Cape Town
  • And last, a week in Blyde River Canyon and Kruger National park

Ok, ready?
Let’s start with week #1:

Garden Route Top Picks

Accommodation

For Families –
  • Harbour House in Leisure Isle Knysna – A beautiful air b&b apartment on the lagoon, perfect for a big family like ours. It included a great host, big kitchen, on-the-lagoon location and… 4 bicycle pairs!
  • Swallow’s nest in Storms River – Another accommodation well built for families! Continental breakfast included!

    Storm River accomedetion

    Nice & Cozy, fit perfectly with the stormy weather that hit the area while we were there

For youngsters –
  • Wild Spirit in Nature Valley – A whole new experience. The place is some kind of magical farm I can’t explain in words. This would be my top recommendation for backpackers.
    Tree house
  • Dijembe Backpackers in Storm River – Stayed there last year and enchanted by the rustic homey feel & comfy log beds…  They also have a wonder-goat named Buzz, who was enchanting himself:
    Goat

    that is, till I found out he ate one of my tops when it was drying outside.

    They also have a free breakfast pancake stand & a wall filled with visitor illustrations! Try to find mine if you visit!

    Wall sketch

    An art piece my new friend Simona & I left on the wall after kayaking in Tsitsikamma

  • Albergo For Backpackers in Plettenberg – Clean, well designed and located perfectly.
    A good place to stay if you’re planning a couple of calm days by the beach.

    Seagle bird

    I haven’t got any pictures from the backpackers, just from the time I spent at the beach!

Things to do

  • Addo – The Garden Route safari option, highly recommended to anyone who likes elephants (and that’s everyone, right?).
    Addo, Elephants
  • Tsitsikamma – A beautiful nature reserve with a bunch of trails, stay till sunset and you’ll be breathless.
    tsitsikamma at sunset

  • Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour – I was skeptical but went with my brother’s flow and it turns out sliding from one tree to another is quite cool when your 30+ meters high! Worth booking ahead.

    Tsitsikamma Canopy tours

    Brothers & Father time

  • Robberg trail –  This would be my top recommendation for a day hike. It’s a beautiful half island, home for many (apparently very stinky) seals, birds and, if you’re lucky, whales!

    Robberg Trail

    Imagine this through a whole island surrounded by swimming whales and seals

  • Rent bicycles in Knysna – I am a known bicycle lover, but this was far from my usual urban-rides. We went through half flouted meadows, ocean beaches, and beautiful houses. Absolutely magical.

    Lagoon cycling

    Don’t let the pic fool you, it wasn’t all nice and flat. I started with 4 layers and finished with 1.

Resturants & Café’s
  • Marilyn’s 60’s Diner Not for the food, but for the vibe! Go there, put on a wig and an Elvis costume and you’ll understand.

    Afro Wigs

    Costumes & 50’s music is a good recipe for fun!

  • Tsitrus Café This was the perfect place to eat pumpkin soup on a rainy night. Filled with crafts and a super friendly crew, this is a great place for a non-pretentious dinner/ lunch.

  • Wu’s Chinese and Sushi – As mediterraneans, we’re not used to the South African amounts of butter and cream. Wo’s really gave us a relieving break from those two, being an authentic butter-free Asian. We dined there twice and I highly recommend their bean curd soup! 

  • Bella de Karoo – A magical farm in the karoo, right on the beginning of Route 62. They served the best farm bread I tasted, hands down.

    Bella de Karoo

    The hosts mentioned they also have accommodation, worth a check if you’re heading to route 62! (Oudtshoorn isn’t so pleasant at night)

General tips

  • Long drives – be prepared and Have books & snacks in hand. If you’re traveling alone or in a small group consider taking the buzbus, I used it when I was backpacking, it’s a good way to travel without a car.
  • Many supermarkets – except storms river, we never had a problem stocking up. If you want to cook your own food, buy snacks, or have picnics outdoors you won’t have a problem.
  • Poverty –There are a lot of baggers and street salesmen. South Africa is still a 3rd world country, though it hard to believe when you’re traveling in the modern, beautiful Garden Route. This shouldn’t scare you, but you should come prepared, meaning – don’t be overwhelmed by it. (I wish I emphasized it more to my mom before we took off, she wasn’t prepared for visiting a 3rd world country at all, she thought South Africa is similar to Europe.)
  • Affordable Traveling– The other half of the poverty coin. South Africa is very budget friendly for both families and backpacks! You can dine in fancy restaurants & enjoy attractions for a funny amount. Theirs something nice about having a guilt free vacation in that sense.

That’s it for South Africa #1!
Next week an all Cape Town post will be coming up, alongside with a post about the cute Origem café I’m currently sitting at.

Stay tuned and don’t be shy to shoot me South Africa questions through the contact page & socials!
Kisses,
Rotem

 

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