Exploring Paradise: An 11-Day Tour of the Garden Route in South Africa"
Incredibly diverse in terms of its landscapes, cultures, and experiences is South Africa. A trip along the Garden Route is among the most enthralling excursions you can do in this beautiful country! For anyone looking for natural beauty, adventure, or cultural immersion, this 300-kilometer length of coastal splendor along the southeast coast is a must-visit.
As lovely as the country is, it is terrible that many of the structures and activities are not accessible to a wide variety of people due to previous building methods, depriving many of the opportunity to fully appreciate the beauty of our nation.
Due to this, Able2Travel Accessible Travel Concierge and Southern Africa 360 Luxury Holidays, our tour fulfillment partners, set out to locate the finest accessible travel experiences in South Africa.
In this blog article, we'll begin our exploration of the Garden Route and take you on an 11-day tour of some amazing and accessible locations that anybody can enjoy regardless of size, age, or physical condition. Ready to take a trip along the Garden Route?
Day 1-5: Mossel Bay
Our adventure began at what is considered to be the start of the Garden Route, in the iconic town of Mossel Bay. This coastal town, though previously joked to be a retirement village, has shaken up its image and with so many things to do and see we were spoiled for choice!
We spent five days in the area soaking up nature, the sights and the sounds, there truly is something for everyone. Let’s start with something for the adrenaline junkies like me! If you are into adrenaline sports, why not go on a high-speed trip out to Seal Island? It will have your adrenaline pumping in no time.
Though not suitable for many persons with ambulatory disabilities, if you have enough upper body strength and stability to ‘hold on!’ , the team will be more than happy to assist you onto the speedboat. After a freaking fast and fun trip out to Seal Island we had the privilege of seeing whales and seals in their natural habitat, having a whale of a time.
If you prefer the calmer and dryer side of life, you should make your way for lunch at Cafe Gannet for mouth watering treats, the property is accessible as is Cape St. Blaize Artisanal Distillery for some gin tasting. The distillery looks like an old apothecary, in which you are able to blend your own gins. These delicious gins can be bought in the most unusual clay bottles, great to keep for olive oil or balsamic vinegar, or to give away as a gift.
We visited wine farms and also spent some time at Kanon Private Reserve, a 187 hectare protected nature reserve with 3.2 kilometers of coastline. The area boasts pristine wild beaches with rocks and pools and expanses of open beach and natural sand dunes and wild protected fynbos. With a rich history we learned all about the Khoe-San, the arrival of the Portuguese and how this stretch of land became their meeting and bartering place known as Cape Vacca.
Day 6 - 7: Knysna
Continuing our journey to the coastal town of Knysna, nestled between lush forests and a picturesque lagoon. Visit the iconic Knysna Heads for breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean, and don't forget to sample some of the area's famous oysters. Knysna’s roads are very accessible and so I could freely ride around with my scooter down to the marina for oysters. It was so refreshing to see such an accessible destination!
This picturesque little harbor town with its waterways is an explorers paradise. If you have access to a mobility scooter I would definitely recommend experiencing the freedom of self-exploration.
Day 8: Nature's Valley
A hidden gem along the Garden Route, Nature's Valley is a pristine coastal village surrounded by ancient forests. I spent my day visiting Monkeyland, the worlds’ first free roaming multi-specie primate sanctuary in Plettenberg Bay. Though the reserve has dedicated accessible parking bays, ramps to main areas and walkways in the forest are mostly even and free from tree roots, there are a few changes that will be made in the future by the owners to make it more accessible.
The property just next door is “Birds of Eden the garden routes only free flight aviary. This unique two hectare dome (the world’s largest) spans over a gorge of indigenous forest, home to over 3, 500 birds from over 220 species.
The walkways inside though accessible are at some points steep so I would advise either using a scooter if you have mobility challenges or having someone push you if you use a wheelchair.
Day 9: Gqeberha
On our way to safari we stayed over a night in Gqeberha, formally known as Port Elizabeth. It was my first time and we stayed at a beautiful hotel just across the road from the ocean. I am not sure what I was expecting from Gqeberha but I found the area we stayed in so interesting and breathtakingly beautiful. The town had so much character, I look forward to going back.
Day 10: Kuzuko Lodge
As our Garden Route adventure came close to an end, we made our way to Kuzuko Safari Lodge. An accessible safari lodge where you can see all of the Big Five! Spend a few days soaking in the incredible wildlife and natural beauty that South Africa is known for. We had an early morning game drive and were lucky enough to see lions, giraffes, buck, zebra and smaller animals too. We were then treated to a massage and enjoyed a delectable brunch. It was a quintessential safari experience.
Day 11: Klein Karoo and Oudtshoorn
The next day we headed to Oudtshoorn and drove through the Karoo, which I had envisioned to be a dull and dry place, but boy was I wrong. I ran out of words an hour into the journey and spent most of the drive with my mouth open, gasping at the incredible and intense beauty of the Karoo. We then stopped in a little town called Barrydale, I was enticed by a board on the side of the road advertising freshly baked homemade pies. After all that gasping and panting at the beautiful landscapes, I was thirsty and hungry.
We found a spot to park on the hill taking in all the things that made this space feel so special, like the white Dutch reformed church with its steeple pointing to the sky and the rows of vineyards on rolling hills and mountains all around. I bit into the crispy and warm pie, crumbs falling from my face and thought, “ I could get used to this country lifestyle, it’s captivating, even for a city girl.”
After a day of exploring we arrived to spend our last night in Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world.
Though we didn’t have enough time to explore the Cango Caves, it is highly recommended. Though a popular attraction, the Cango Caves tours are not accessible to persons with ambulatory difficulties. Please note that though the entrance building of the Cango Caves and the exhibitions are accessible the Cango Cave tours are not. Remember to always call ahead and ask the questions you need to know about the accessible features of the properties.
An 11-day tour of the Garden Route in South Africa is a journey that will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deep appreciation for the country's natural and cultural riches. From the bustling city of Cape Town to the pristine wilderness of Klein Karoo, each stop along the route offers a unique experience that will capture your heart and soul. So, pack your bags, pump your wheels and embark on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure through one of the world's most breathtaking landscapes.
South Africa's Garden Route is waiting to be explored, and it promises to be an experience you'll cherish forever.