The Garden Route had been on my bucket list for many years – and I was excited to finally embark on this awesome adventure!
While enjoying a lovely house sit in Simon’s Town on the Cape Peninsula with stunning views of the bay….
….I planned my epic road trip all over South Africa:
Garden Route to Port Elizabeth, Inland through the Mountains to Aliwal North, continuing through the Mountains to Durban and then via Midlands Meander and Golden Gate National Park to JoBurg – quite a journey!
I love the ocean, so driving along the coast was a no brainer, especially with the beautiful Garden Route awaiting.
The Whale Coast Route
I had planned to stop in Hermanus along the way, the “whale capital of the world”, and was delighted to find that the road that led there was aptly named “Whale Coast Route“.
What a lovely name…
During whale season, this region is abundant with whale sightings – everywhere – and I will definitely return some day to repeat this journey in September/October, the height of whale season.
Even without whales though, this region is stunning and I couldn’t wait to get on the road.
The Zen of Road Tripping
I LOVE road trips. It’s my favorite way of traveling. The freedom, the adventure, the meditative quiet of driving through beautiful scenery – and the sheer joy of blasting a fun tune and singing along, ideally in a convertible….;-)
I call it the “Zen of Road Tripping”. It’s very calming and I get my best ideas that way.
The Whale Coast Route……. – lets have a look at the map:
More Penguins at Betty’s Bay
The route first passes through the lovely coastal town of Gordon’s Bay before snaking around the coast towards Betty’s Bay with another famous penguin colony.
walkway to the penguins:
A nice spot to have lunch, there is a small restaurant here.
Hermanus – Whale Capital of the World
Continuing along the stunning coastline for another hour or so, I arrived in the picturesque little town of Hermanus. During whale season you can sit on terraces and cafes along the bay, sip your coffee and watch whales all the day long.
Bientang’s Cave is a popular spot for this activity…
and there are many others……
also for kayaking in the Bay…. (if you don’t mind whales and sharks all around you…)
An interesting place to visit that is not usually found in guide books is the Shark Conservancy right on the water. They run research and volunteer projects and you can get a short tour and meet a baby shark.
Hermanus is a lovely little town and definitely worth spending a few days, especially during whale season.
Next along the way is Gansbaai, also known as “Shark Alley“ and THE spot to see Great Whites up close on a shark cage diving trip.
After watching “Shark Week” for years, this was a big one on my list, but strangely when I arrived the sharks had disappeared for a few weeks and noone knew why (I doubt I had anything to do with it….;-) – all the shark cage diving outfits were down and noone could explain it.
I went instead to interview a few of the shark people, in particular “Shark Lady“ herself, Kim Maclean who was the first 20 years ago to offer shark diving tours in this region and has since taken Princes Harry and William, Brad Pitt and thousands of others to meet a Great White up close.
Kim is definitely a character and a very interesting one. She also works as a DJ at the Hermanus Marina restaurant and found that the whales particularly enjoyed “Buddha Bar”….;-)
I will definitely be back and go on a shark cage dive with her!
The abundance of Great Whites stems from the abundance of seals who make their home on nearby Dyer Island. A wonderful organization is Dyer Island Conservation Trust who perform extensive marine research in the region (in collaboration with the Shark Conservancy) run a clinic to nurse sick animals back to health (like this little guy below) and run a very popular volunteer program.
You can also tour the clinic.
Visitors to Gansbaai usually stay in Hermanus, there are no accommodations in this tiny village, and the tours also offer pick up from Cape Town as a day trip.
The (real) Southernmost Point of Africa
Gansbaai is the last stop on the Whale Coast Route, but there are two more major highlights before reaching the Garden Route:
First, the Southernmost point of Africa – Cape L’Agulhas – also the point where Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet (no, that’s not the Cape of Good Hope…..)
It’s a bit of a detour and partially on unpaved roads, but definitely worth it:
An Aloe Farm in Albertinia
The other major attraction before the Garden Route is Albertinia, the premier Aloe produce region in South Africa and famous world wide.
I made a lovely discovery here – a working Aloe farm in the back lands that also offered a B&B.
Run by a South African couple and their 2 sons, Gorits River Guest Farm is a delight and will give you a nice introduction into the growth and produce of Aloe.
It’s a beautiful spot along a creek with lovely, warm people and a real country vibe. See for yourself.
this is how you get there: on a couple of dirt roads along sheep paddocks – absolutely wonderful….
This concludes the journey along the Whale Coast Route and Cape L’Agulhas, a wonderful and lesser known part of this amazing country. Next we are heading to: