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Posted on: Friday, 20 September 2013

6 Garden Route Nature Reserves for Wildlife, Aquatic And Birder Fanatics

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For an unforgettable getaway with multitudes of leisure activities and things to do, stunning accommodation, exquisite scenery, a wildlife safari and more, visit the Garden Route.

The Garden Route has such a varied ecosystem and here you can find anything from rivers, forests, beaches, wetlands, dunes, mountain scenery, fynbos and more. This breathtaking area also has some fabulous game and nature reserves, with various hiking trails and birding opportunities, as well as the chance to see some large game, smaller animals and marine life.

The Garden route has everything you are looking for from a free roaming primate sanctuary, a fairyland of giant trees at the Tsitsikamma Forest and the most outstanding coastline. The Route stretches from George, through the Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and the Tsitsikamma for a whopping 200km. Here are a few wonderful reserves to visit while here, just some of the many marvelous reserves in the area:

For a Glimpse At the Big 5:


Garden Route Game Reserve


Knysna Elephant Park
If you are looking for a face to face experience with the largest land mammal, then this is the reserve to visit. The African Elephants here are orphans and were rescued from culling operations. They have a large area to roam in where they can rub up against trees and splash in the dams.  This controlled environment offers them safety but free range to do as they please. While here, the guides will tell you fascinating tales about the Knysna elephants and you will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these gentle giants. The babies here are fed on formula and each one has a minder who watches over them day and night. A trip here is a once in a life time experience and not one to be missed.

Gondwana Private Game Reserve
This 11000 hectare reserve is filled with a vast variety of Fynbos and the much anticipated Big 5, wandering free. The Gondwana Game Reserve is home to the Black Rhinoceros, Red Hartebeest, Springbok, Cape Mountain Zebra, Elephants, Kudu, Hippo’s, Cheetahs and Lions as well as many others. The stretches of grasslands and Fynbos here are undoubtedly the most beautiful in the world. Many of the wildflowers you see are endemic to the Western Cape making them a unique sighting. The reserve is malaria free and offers a stunning mountain backdrop. Book a Game drives and prepare yourself for an experience of a lifetime.

For a whale of a time:


Garden Route Game Reserve


Robberg Nature Reserve
Situated on the outskirts of Plettenberg Bay, this fabulous reserve is the ideal spot for some outside activity. The rocky peninsula makes for a great hike with spectacular views and the varied terrain invites a diverse range of plants, animal and birdlife. Trails vary in length with the longest being 5 hours long. This marine reserve is home to a large Cape Fur Seal colony and is an ideal place to spot Whales and Dolphins in season. If you prefer not to take the rocky road you can appreciate the reserve with a guide via a sea kayak. This is a fun and interesting way to explore and will allow for close encounters with the marine life that have made Robberg Nature Reserve their home.

Goukamma Nature and Marine Reserve
This fairly unknown reserve is a wonderland right next to the Goukamma River Mouth. It consists of a 14km coastline and boasts a protected stretch of beach, a vast dune field flourishing in vegetation and a coastal forest filled with Yellowwood, Candlewood and Milkwood trees. The estuary attracts many small animals, birds and marine life and it is rather fun to go canoeing here. This protected marine area is home to a number of common and bottle-nose dolphins who take pleasure in surfing the incoming waves. Rock pools in the area are teaming with a variety of species from whelks, starfish, anemones and more. During whale season you get a fabulous view of these gentle giants from the shore or you take a boat out for a closer peak. The lakes offer fabulous fishing opportunities and swimming in the sea, estuary or lake is delightful.

For the Feather Fanatics:


Garden Route Game Reserve


Birds of Eden Bird Sanctuary
If you are a fan of our feathered friends, then you will be thoroughly impressed with this sanctuary. Just East of Plett, this single span aviary is the largest in the world and allows the birds to fly free and enjoy a fulfilled life rather than being cooped up in a cage as they previously were.  There are roughly 100 different species of bird here, some of which are endangered. The wooden walkways allow you to watch the birds in a natural environment and enjoy an experience that you will never forget. This exquisite dome emulates stormy weather, with bursts of rainfall and rolling thunder, making the sanctuary feel as natural as possible for the birdlife within … it also makes your visit very exciting.

Formosa Nature Reserve
This is an exceptionally large reserve, spanning 50000 hectares and including the Tsitsikamma Mountains within it. One of the main attractions within the reserve is the Formosa peak which is the highest peak in the Tsitsikamma Mountain range. There are no set hiking routes but hikers and visitors to the area make their own way through the reserve through the forest and wet Fynbos areas.  The ecosystem here attracts a vast variety of birds and is the ideal spot for bird watching, where you can get the chance to catch a glimpse of some rare and exquisite species such as the Protea Seedeater, Cape Sugarbird, Warblers, Hottentot Buttonquail and so much more.

Destination Info:

Michelle Rawlinson


Michelle has a huge love for all things aquatic, particularly marine life. Her main passion lies with Great White Sharks, although she is interested in all marine species and their well-being. She volunteers at the Two Oceans Aquarium in her spare time and would spend all her time by the sea or surrounded by nature if possible. After spending 7 years in the United Kingdom, she has returned back home to Cape Town to be nearer to her family and to her ‘favourite place in the world’. She enjoys camping, fishing, watching rugby and going out with her friends and family to try out new restaurants and bars.

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