Garden Route fun with forests, boats and ostriches

EVERYONE knows about Birds of Eden and Monkeyland but there are many more things to do and places to go when visiting the Garden Route. Here are just a few suggestions:

1. The Garden of Edenis an enchanting wet forest near Knysna. This is one of the most lush and beautiful parts of the Knysna forest. This part of the Garden Route is characterised by fairytale forests, serene lakes, breathtaking golden beaches and marvellous rivers – making this the perfect place for a variety of outdoor activities.

The entrance to the Garden of Eden is well marked from the road, so just follow the signs from Knysna and you will locate it easily. A small entrance fee is required.

The garden is only open during certain hours and this is dependent on seasonal factors, so be sure to check with the local tourism office before setting off.

There are various walking trails and information boards are very helpful in identifying plant, bird and small animal life.

There are also some wooden paths to make the walk easier, making this the perfect activity for elderly visitors and families with small children.

Except for the entrance gate and the walking trails, this garden is virtually untouched.

2. The Knysna Waterfrontis alive with water activity, including a host of boats, catamarans, paddle-cruisers, yachts and even a floating restaurant, which make up the famous Knysna Ferries. These vessels are the only boats able to navigate upstream and some are allowed to enter the Knysna Heads. These beautiful natural geographic outcrops that separate sea from lagoon provide breathtaking scenery. The ultimate experience is to visit them aboard a catamaran such as the Zakat, which cruises through the Heads and offers oysters and champagne. 3. Meeting ostriches in Oudtshoorn:Ostriches are the biggest birds in the world and in Oudtshoorn you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures.

Most of the farms will offer guided tours and are disabled and child friendly. Visitors will be given interesting information about the ostrich industry in South Africa. They will also be able to come into direct contact with the ostriches, with a lot of the farms giving them the opportunity to touch the ostriches. At some of the farms, you will even be able to sit on the ostriches, or ride them!

Adult ostriches can weigh anything from 90kg to 130kg. Mating generally occurs between May and September. After the male has made a sufficiently deep hole in the ground, the female will lay one egg each day until she has laid 10 to 15 eggs. Ostrich eggs are the biggest eggs in the world – an average egg is about 15cm long, 12cm wide and weighs about 1.5kg.

There are many other ostrich products, in addition to ostrich eggs, that are popular with tourists and locals. Ostrich feathers are used in fashion and domestic products like dust busters.

Ostrich meat is a healthy alternative to red meat, with the colour and flavour being similar to red meat, but having fewer calories. Ostrich leather is used to make various items like shoes, jackets and bags because of its supple yet strong quality.

4. Hike in the Robberg Nature Reserve:

A nice scenic walk is always enjoyable, especially when it’s not too steep

The Robberg Nature Reserve is open from 7am to 5pm, except in season when the gates will close at 8pm.

Luckily for those of us who vary in fitness levels there are three circular routes, with difficulty increasing as the distance progresses.

You must be warned that if you choose to do the trip via the Point it can be dangerous at high tide and is not recommended for children. It takes four hours to complete.

Always take the essentials – water, hiking shoes, hat and sunscreen – as well as food for those with inconsistent sugar levels.

The ecology of the Robberg Peninsula is similar to that of other rocky headlands on the coastline.

5. Boating at Keurbooms. One of the main attractions in the area is the Keurbooms River Nature Reserve, near Plettenberg Bay. Take a cruise on the Keurbooms River and feel the passing of time as you sit back and take in the wonderful natural surroundings.

There are various ways to take one of these wonderful boat cruises. You can either take a ferry trip that usually lasts about two-and-a-half hours or you can hire a boat and organise the trip yourself.

The advantages of hiring a boat is that you can spend the whole day checking out the various sites, including the little white beaches and enchanting picnic spots. You will also be able to stop anywhere along the river bank and go for a short walk, try to catch some fish, work on your tan or take some fantastic family or nature photographs.

This river cruise is something the whole family can enjoy and afterwards you can take part in any of the other exciting activities the river has to offer.

Keurbooms River is also perfect for canoeing. You can hire your canoe at the entrance to the Keurbooms Nature Reserve at the N2 bridge. Canoes can be hired per hour or for a full day.

Another option is doing the two-day canoe trail that stretches for about 14 kilometres up the river. You will then sleep over in the overnight hut. This trip can be booked for 10 people and is especially suitable for big families, companies or a group of friends.

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