The Magic of the Garden Route

From Mossel Bay to the Storms River is a necklace of bays, beaches, cliffs and rocky capes strung together along a line of pounding white surf. The mountain ranges crowd close to the shoreline and, with a rainfall of around 2 500 millimetres on the peaks, bring a plentiful water supply to the narrow coastal terrace. Here every square metre of soil seems to nourish jumble of trees and flowering plants that a cultivated garden would pale into insignificance in comparison.

The 227 kilometres of this coastline is the Garden Route, a region of eternal freshness and greenery.

The climate is mild and equable. Rainfall is scattered throughout the year, most of it falling at night. A blight of most of the African continent is thus avoided – rainfall concentrated into a short season of floods followed by months so dry that rivers become sand and the vegetation so dead that it is simply a fire waiting to be started.

From the time of its first discovery by man this coastal terrace has delighted visitors. The French explorer, François Le Vaillant, passed this way in the 1780s, and the description he has left might well apply today: “The land bears the name Outeniqua, which in the Hottentot tongue means ‘a man laden with honey’. The flowers grow there in millions, the mixture of pleasant scents which arises from them, their colour, their variety, the pure an fresh air which on breathers there, all make one stop and think nature has made an enchanted abode of this beautiful place.”

Seldom cooler than 20°C, the coastal waters teem with game fish. Divers find a magic world of brilliantly coloured sea plants, molluscs and vast shoals of little fish. Suddenly, a rocky shoreline will give way to a secluded, sandy beach. Victoria Bay is renowned as one of the world’s best surfing beaches. The rivers, deeply stained with the amber colour of the soil have lovely stretches navigable by small boats; the wild flowers and the high forests offer long, cool drives down tunnels of shade beneath the trees; there is a mining ghost town to explore, and gold still to be panned in several steams.

Along the Garden Route is little to harm man other than his own folly. For the continent of Africa this is indeed a rare pleasure. There are no malarial mosquitoes, no bilharzia worms in the rivers, no crocodiles or other predatory animals and save leopards which keep to themselves in the mountains. A few elephants still survive in the depths of the Knysna Forest, but are seldom seen.

At some time or another, nearly every South African with the means to go on holiday spends some time on this coast. For visitors to the country it is one of the highlights of a complete tour. The region is excellently served by roads and has a delightful branch railway from George to Knysna still (and it is hoped for years to come) worked by steam locomotives. The region has numerous places of accommodation, caravan parks and camping grounds.

In the heart of the Garden Route is a quaint little town called Brenton-on-Sea. This small town lies on the edge of the shoreline a few kilometres from Knysna. For more information to buy vacant land or a house, please call Sophie Joubert on 082 572 2729.