Continuing from the previous post in the Garden route itinerary, the next step was continuing on the N1 and driving to Hermanus with a stop in Oudsthoorn.
Day 5: Plettenberg Bay to Oudtshoorn
Alas, after three nights at our wonderful accommodation in Plettenberg Bay, the Milkwood manor, it was time to depart and continue on our way to Cape Town. Oudtshoorn was our destination for the night out in the Karoo mountain range of South Africa but before we got there, there were still many places to see. Upon departing our hotel at 8am, we head towards Knysna first.
Knysna Elephant Park
Having already been here once, I decided to come back as it is unique and is a good place to take someone from abroad. The park is just outside of Plett off the N2 with signs clearly marked. The park is home to 20 or so Elephants and the great thing about this place is that you can get up close and personal with them. For 250R, you can spend an hour with them, and get a bucket of food to feed the Elephants. They are properly trained to be grab food from your hands with their trunks and to be gentle around humans.
We touched, pet, and hugged these giant creatures and that is an experience no zoo can give us. These elephants don’t mind humans at all because at the end of the day, they are huge and all they want to do is just eat. The biggest elephant here is a female elephant 25 years old (Elephants don’t stop growing until they’re 40), weighing about 3.5 tons and stands almost 3m tall. They have a few bull elephants that are far bigger which would have been cool to play with but it was the mating season apparently so it was not a good time to play with the bull elephants.
Upon departure of the Knysna Elephant Park around 10am, we were originally scheduled to go on a lunch boat cruise around Knysna which came highly recommended from just about every South African that’s ever been to Knsyna. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy and looking like it would rain so we canceled it last second. Instead, we decided to mix it up a bit and go to a brewery for some beer tasting.
SA is not known for its beers but Mitchell’s is the oldest and one of the only craft breweries in the country. You can find Mitchell’s beers everywhere and they produce some quality beers. Located on the outskirts of Knysna, we went for a tasting at 11am, lasting about 1 hour as they give you a short tour and then let you try all their beers. For 80R, we got six tastings and they pour them liberally here. These guys have a real passion for their beers and they make sure you experience it fully. I was feeling a bit tipsy at this point as we leave and head towards Knysna.
Knysna for the day
Yet another beautiful city along the Garden Route, Knysna is a town on the water sandwiched between Plett and George. Just like Plett, this city attracts many tourists, and even more South Africans. It is one of the most beautiful places in this country in my opinion. I was debating whether to stay in Plett or Knysna and ultimately chose Plett because there’s more to do during the holiday season. Especially over Christmas, almost everything in Knysna is closed. Nevertheless, one cannot go wrong staying in either city. Sadly, we could only spend a few hours here as we needed to get to Oudtshoorn.
A trip to Knysna Heads is a prerequisite for anyone with time visiting Knynsa. Two dramatic sea cliffs guard the entrance to the Knysna lagoon from the surging ocean.
The Eastern Head has a lookout with spectacular views of the lagoon, Leisure Isle and Knysna. The Western Head is primarily a privately owned nature reserve reached only by ferry – Featherbed Nature Reserve. This was the tour that we had booked but ultimately canceled because of the weather. For 400R a person, this boat tour would have taken us all around the lagoons and let us walk around one of the heads that you cannot reach by car (only ferry). Word to the wise, do not trust weather forecasts for this part of the country as it didn’t rain at all that day and it was completely sunny by the time we arrived at Knysna.
East Head Cafe for Lunch
We stopped in Knysna for lunch and our first choice that came highly recommended to us was Ile De Pain (also highly rated on TA). It was closed unfortunately as it was boxing day so we went to the next option which was East Head Cafe, located on the water. Without a doubt, we’d been to many restaurants at this point and every one was a jackpot. This place was no different. There’s an outdoor deck that looks out on the Knysna lagoons providing breathtaking scenery. The food is amazing but then again, who can really dislike seafood for cheap?
Alas, we had no time left in the day as we needed to drive 1.5 hours to Oudtshoorn and it was already 3pm. Wilderness is in my opinion the most stunning of all the beaches along the Garden Route. It is so straight that the beach seriously doesn’t end when you look at it from the viewing point in that picture. Sadly, we couldn’t stop here to enjoy the beach but highly recommended.
Day 5-6: Oudtshoorn
Oudtshoorn, pronounced “Oats-hoor-en”, is not actually on the Garden Route but about 1.5 hours from the coast inland. It is a popular destination for people doing the Garden Route as it is famous for its caves and ostriches. The drive here changes scenery almost immediately as you start passing through the Karoo, a semi desert area of SA filled with beautiful mountains.
The drive is up and down a mountain so expect a lot of turning but once we got to Oudtshoorn, it’s hard to believe that we were near the ocean and at a beautiful beach not more than an hour ago. There’s nothing to do in this town besides go to the Ostrich farms, the caves, and some animal parks. So with that being said, we went straight to Ostrich farms as soon as we got here.
Cango Ostrich Farm
We came here around 5pm, just in time for the last tour of the day. For 80r (no bookings required), they showed us around their farm, taught us things we would have never known about Ostriches and best of all, let us ride one. Oudtshoorn is famous because it has the world’s largest Ostrich population. The main Ostrich products are actually feathers and leather. Ostrich feathers are used all over the world and apparently the dusters created with their feathers are top notch. Their leather is also the second strongest leather next to kangaroos. The main thing I knew about Ostriches before this was it is the leanest red meat, and is pretty tasty. In fact, Ostrich meat is a very small business of Ostrich farming.
Ostriches are incredibly goofy animals in my opinion and this was the first time I got close to one. They are a lot bigger than I thought, with males standing well over 2m and weighing over 100kg. Their beaks are scary looking and they have HUGE claws that our guide told us could rip a human being open. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable but unfortunately, this tour just oozed of tourist trap. I think part of it has to do with it being the first thing that comes up when you google “Ostrich Riding Oudtshoorn”.
We heard from the locals that there are many farms that are less commercialized than this place. Nevertheless, you get to ride a f’ing ostrich and that is cool anywhere you go. Unfortunately for me, the weight limit is 75kg and I’m just over so I was only able to sit on one to get my picture taken. Erica, however, did ride one and here is the video evidence!
The Cango Caves are well known throughout South Africa and is a hugely popular destination for the locals and foreign tourists alike. We came here the morning after the Ostrich riding and it was packed. There are two tours you can here, “The standard tour” (80r), and “Adventure Tour” (100r). Naturally, being the adventurous type that we are, we straight away book the Adventure tour. It lasts about 1.5-2 hours depending on how many people are on the trip and because it was peak season, this place was packed.
Both tours started at the same time with a tour guide giving us some history and facts about the caves before we split up into our separate tours with another tour guide. Ok, word to the wise, the adventure tour is REALLY adventurous. We didn’t know what to expect when we bought the tour but holy shit, this was quite the surprise for us. We ended up climbing through the narrowest crevices, climbing up a cave version of a chimney, getting on our stomachs to climb through tight area and many other things. I thought it was very fun but if you’re claustrophobic at all, this is likely not the tour for you. It would have been far more fun if there were less people so we could do the activities quicker.
Staying in Oudtshoorn
Being a much smaller and residential town, Oudtshoorn has less hotels and more bed and breakfasts type accommodations, as well as expensive luxury lodges near the Ostrich farms. We ended up going a Bed and breakfast named Terra Bianca that is someone’s house where he added a separate building for guests. It was incredibly nice, the host was very friendly, and the breakfast this guy cooked for us here was the best I had the entire trip. We were only here for one night to see the Ostriches and Caves but it was a great place fro that one night.
He also had great restaurant recommendations for us and we ended up going to a restaurant called Jemima as most other restaurants were closed. Kalinka was #1 on TripAdvisor and everyone told us to go here but it was closed. Nevertheless, almost all the restaurants here will serve Ostrich meat. I’ve heard of the saying, “eat what you kill”, but what this would be the first time I would “eat what you ride”. As they always say, when in Rome do as the Romans do. When in Oudtshoorn, eat Ostrich because there’s a shitload of them here.
Day 6-7: Hermanus
After visiting the Cango caves, it was already 1pm and we had a 3.5 hour drive to Hermanus. Originally, I was hoping to finish the Cango Caves before 11 so we could go have lunch at Wilderness but absolutely no time now. We left Oudtshoorn in a hurry and went drove straight to Hermanus. After you leave Mossel Bay, the Garden Route technically ends and I could see why as the scenery was farmland until you got near Hermanus and the uniquely South African mountains start to appear. We got to Hermanus around 6pm and we were only staying the night.
Hermanus is about 1.5 hours outside of Cape Town and is famous for its whale watching. People from all over the world flock here to go on whale watching tours of the huge Southern Right Whale migrations. I would have absolutely killed to do this but it was out of season. Prime time whale watching time is April-November. I’ll likely come to Cape Town during the winter just to do the whale watching.
Well what do you know? Yet another stunning beach in South Africa. Hermanus was one without a doubt one of our favorite cities along the Garden Route. Something about it was just very inviting. This beach certainly didn’t hurt with that view and we walked along the beach at sunset. Amazing. Also this place is a kitesurfer’s paradise as it can get very windy.
Shark Diving Round 2
One thing that will never get old for me while I’m here is going shark cage diving. After doing this a month ago, I was ready for more. While not cheap, at 1400R per dive (we paid a holiday special of 1000R), it is exhilarating and it’s something that can’t be easily done elsewhere. For my second venture, I decided to try out another company, sharkcagediving.net, as I saw their boat one my first dive and was impressed at how big it looked.
It was far colder out this time around and we all got orange ponchos before boarding the boat as apparently sharks are drawn to the color. Unlike the last time I went, the weather was cloudy and rainy. It had just rained so water visibility was terrible. It was much harder to see the sharks this time around.
These guys really know their shit. They’ve been doing it for ages and it really showed. They were experts at getting the sharks to come close to the cage and we had more than a few instances where the shark actually ran into the cage head first. One got so close to me while I was diving that I actually reached out and touched the tail (not recommended). We saw ten sharks during this trip and it was a better experience than my first go. I’d highly recommend these guys for any shark cage goers.
Shark Breaching on our dive
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