Garden Route and Wildlife in the semi-desert Great Karoo
This 5-day guided tour departs daily from Cape Town via a scenic coastal route to Hermanus, arguably the best land-based whale watching spot from July through December. Afterwards we continue into the scenic Garden Route. Visit Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, the Tsitsikamma National Park, Storms River mouth and continue to the Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo for visits to an ostrich farm and the famous Cango Caves. Day 4 we traverse over the Swartberg Mountains into the great Karoo and enter the Karoo National Park for some wildlife viewing and overnight. The last day’s drive gets exceptionally scenic descending down Hax River Valley into the Cape’s wine-making areas.
DAY 1. Mossel Bay – Garden Route – Knysna (Garden Route and Karoo)
The Garden Route and Karoo contrasts is highlighted in this tour! Depart from Cape Town and drive eastwards via Sir Lowry’s Pass and the famous apple country of Grabouw to Swellendam and Mossel Bay on the edge of the Garden Route. Here you visit arguably the oldest post office in Africa, the Post Office Tree. Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias made a landfall here in 1488. From here you truly enter the Garden Route and travel past George via the Wilderness Lakelands to Knysna. Overnight at Augusta Bay Lodge (Dinner included)
DAY 2. Plettenberg Bay – Tsitsikamma National Park – Knysna
You explore Knysna and travel further to Plettenberg Bay for a short visit. Then you traverse through magnificent scenic river valley passes. You visit the Tsitsikamma National Park (Khoisan for ‘The place of much water’) stretching over 100 km kilometres of wild and rocky coastline characterised by massive cliffs, narrow isolated beaches and shady indigenous forests along the river valleys. Your next stop is Storms River with the impressive Paul Sauer Bridge across the valley, towering 139 m above the river. Return to Knysna via the “Big Tree” and spend the last part of the afternoon exploring the Heads at Knysna. You join a Dinner/sundowner cruise (weather permitting) on the lagoon to end this day. Overnight at Augusta Bay Lodge. (Breakfast and dinner included)
DAY 3. Garden Route – George – Oudtshoorn
You depart after breakfast and travel via the scenic Outeniqua Pass to Oudtshoorn, also known as the ‘Feather Capital’ of the world. One finds the largest concentration of ostrich farms in the world here. You visit an ostrich show farm for some unique experiences and on to the Cango Wildlife Ranch for a visit. Overnight at La Plume Guest Lodge. (Breakfast and dinner included)
DAY 4. Cango Caves – Swartberg Mountains – Beaufort West – Karoo National Park
You visit the Cango Caves, regarded as one of South Africa’s foremost natural wonders. The fascinating calcite caves comprise an underground wonderland of stalactites and stalagmites. Depending on weather conditions, you either take on the Swartberg Mountain Pass, where you will experience some of South Africa’s most exciting drives and scenery or through the Meiringspoort Gorge, the gateway between the Garden Route and Karoo, where the rock formations will leave you in awe!
Then you travel to Beaufort West through the semi desert of the Great Karoo. The lunar-like landscape with its blue skies and vast clear distances is truly impressive. See springbok and sheep across the open planes.
A short visit of Beaufort West takes us to the birthplace of Chris Barnard who performed the world’s first successful heart transplant, and some of the old colonial buildings in the town.
The Karoo National Park is renowned for its impressive landscapes and large variety of plants, mostly succulents, and animals that have adapted to this harsh climate. You travel through the park and have an opportunity to spot animals such as lion, black rhino, springbok, eland, mountain reedbuck, kudu, gemsbok, and a variety of bird species. We may see the rare Black Eagle. The area has one of the largest concentrations of this bird. It is also home to some 59 species of reptiles, including five species of tortoises. Overnight in the Karoo National Park chalets at the foothills of the Nieuwveld Mountains. (Breakfast and dinner included)
DAY 5. Matjiesfontein – Hex River Valley – Cape Town
After an early morning game walk in the park, enjoy the wide open spaces of this semi-desert area where one can sometimes see a mountain up to 80 kilometres away as you travel through the village of Laingsburg that was almost completely washed away by a freak flash flood in the mid nineteen seventies.
Matjiesfontein appears over the horizon as another green oasis in the barren valley with eerie rocky mountains in the background. The well-preserved and isolated Victorian village was established as a health resort in the 19th century. You stop for lunch in the Lord Millner Hotel. Further on you travel over the summit of the Hex River Pass with great views of the Hex River Valley. As you descend into the valley, the vegetation changes abruptly from the semi-desert Karoo to a colourful patchwork of vineyards. Then westwards via Worcester, nestled in the wine-growing region of the Breede River Valley. The Huguenot Tunnel through the Drakenstein Mountains takes you on the final route via Paarl back to Cape Town. We arrive late afternoon which concludes the show of a stark contrast between the Garden Route and Karoo. (Breakfast included)
OTHER TOURS YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN
4 Day Garden Route Tour – Cape Town to Cape Town
6 Day Garden Route, Wildlife and Semi-Desert Karoo Tour – Cape Town to Cape Town