10-Day Luxury Garden Route Tour
Port Elizabeth to Cape Town
Day 1, 2 - Gorah Elephant Camp
(Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
We collect you from your overnight accommodation or from the airport in Port Elizabeth and transfer to the Gorah Elephant Camp. The first private concession in a National Park, this is a premier lodge set in the heart of the malaria-free, Big 5 Addo Elephant National Park, home to the densest elephant population on earth. The Gorah House has been restored to it's 19th century colonial splendour and period furnished, the main house reflects a noble opulence and delivers the meticulous service and attention to detail that characterises Hunter's properties. Explore the bush with experienced rangers, in open vehicles, on foot or horseback, or simply relax by the pool till the animals begin stirring at dusk. Whether experiencing the majesty of elephant herds gathering by the waterhole, or encounters at matchlessly close range, the Gorah experience is totally unique. With arguably the best elephant viewing in South Africa, Addo is also the domain of the Big 5, numerous antelope species and a wealth of birdlife. The romantic atmosphere of the eleven spacious and luxurious tented suites, recalls the golden era of safari in the early 1900's; yet with the comfort and excellence associated with Africa's finest game lodges.
Day 3 - Plettenberg Bay
After your morning game drive we depart Gorah and travel westwards to the town of Plettenberg Bay, where we overnight at The Plettenberg. The Plettenberg, a 5 star Relais & Chateaux Hotel, built on a rocky headland with breathtaking vistas of the sea, mountains and miles of golden sand in one of the most spectacular resorts in Africa. Their 38 luxury rooms and suites are all air-conditioned and offer a truly idyllic and indulgent experience. They have two swimming pools, one of which is heated, and both visually flow into the ocean below. Experience fabulous sightings of dolphins and whales in the bay from the hotel terraces. For the more adventurous there are numerous excursions and activities within close proximity to the hotel. Other hotel facilities include an award winning wine cellar, stocked with a selection of the best local wines and available for special occasion private dining, and a gift shop - offering a unique selection of specialty items and clothing from the area.
En route we will stop off at the Paul Sauer Bridge over the Storms River to take a stroll onto the bridge and for a refreshment break. We will also head to the Bloukrantz Bridge. Here you have the opportunity to bungee jump at this, the highest commercial bungee jump in the world at 216-metres! (own account).
Day 4 – Knysna
After breakfast we make our way down to the beach-front to board a launch for a 2-hour cruise. Their Ecological adventure leaves from Central Beach with an exciting beach launch and heads east past the bird sanctuary and Keurbooms beach to Arch Rock. Here they usually encounter Bottlenose and the rare Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins as well as some shark species. From Arch Rock they head into the middle of the Bay where pelagic seabirds are normally to be found some 7km from the shore. Out there resident Bryde's whales may be seen, as well as Common Dolphins or Southern Right and Humpback whales during their season - and October is within the season. They then traverse the Bay to the point of Robberg Peninsula and out to the Wild side, often seeing groups of whales and pods of dolphins. Cruising back along the inside of Robberg, one can see the unique geology from this unusual viewpoint and can observe the growing Cape Fur Seal Colony. Finally they head back along the Robberg beach, while a brief rundown on the history of the area is given. After passing the Beacon Island Hotel, built on the site of an original Whaling Station, they end the experience with an exhilarating landing, again on Central Beach. Please note that this is only possible with weather permitting.
From Plettenberg Bay we then make our way westwards to the Tsitsikamma National Park for a short visit to the suspension bridge over the Storms River mouth. From here we make our way to the town of Knysna, where we overnight at the St. James of Knysna. The St. James of Knysna is an exclusive, owner run, five star Country House Hotel uniquely situated directly on the shores of the famous Knysna Lagoon. The luxuriously appointed Suites & Rooms offer spectacular views across this peaceful lagoon to the dramatic Knysna Heads or over the magnificent 3 acre gardens. Whether you stay in the Manor or the Courtyard, all the rooms and suites feature en-suite bathrooms, mini bars, tea/coffee making facilities, satellite (DSTV), television, safes, irons & ironing boards, direct-dial telephones, bath robes and hairdryers. Should you require adaptor units, all international adaptors can be requested from reception. The magnificent gardens offer peaceful walks, large Koi pond, 2 swimming pools, croquet, and angling off the private jetty. We offer a powerboat for water skiing and sightseeing cruises and canoes for those who wish to explore this fascinating eco-system on their own.
Day 5 – Knysna
This morning after breakfast we go on a tour to the “Featherbed Nature Reserve”. This spectacular four-hour eco-experience includes a return ferry, walk and lunch and a 25-minute ferry trip on the Knysna Lagoon to the Western head (The Reserve is only accessible by ferry.) Upon arrival, guests board a Unimog drawn trailer and drive up to the top of the Reserve. While stopping at a scenic lookout point, our specialist guides will share with you some fascinating tales about Knysna and the surrounding area while you enjoy the panoramic views. An optional 2,2 km guided nature walk takes you through the forest, onto the cliffs, into the caves and along the scenic coast. Once back in the Food Forest, a unique outdoor restaurant situated under the Milkwood Trees, guests can enjoy a spectacular 12 dish buffet lunch. This afternoon you are at leisure to enjoy some free time - your guide will be able to advise you. Overnight at St. James of Knysna.
Day 6 – Oudtshoorn
After a relaxed breakfast we make our way up the Outeniqua Pass to the town of Oudtshoorn where we visit a working ostrich farm where one can learn more about these fascinating birds. Commercial ostrich farming started during the late 1880's in South Africa; this was also the start of the ostrich industry worldwide. The fashion demand in Europe for ostrich feathers inspired the growth of the industry, with the Oudtshoorn district quickly being established as the Ostrich capital of the world. During the first decade of the previous century, ostrich feathers gained record prices on foreign markets, ranking 4th on the list of South African exports, after gold, diamonds and wool. The consequence of this newly found opulence meant that ostrich farmers were able to build beautiful sandstone mansions. A unique feature of the Safari experience is a visit to the Ostrich Palace "Welgeluk" which was built at the height of the feather boom in 1910. The homestead is a National Monument and a superb example of the type of architecture that was used at the time. Lunch is included here and consists of arguably the best ostrich steak in South Africa.
After lunch we visit the Cango Caves near Oudtshoorn, which are among the biggest stalagmite formations in the world. One can go for extensive subterranean walks in the widely branching caves. Some of the sandstone formations are even colourfully illuminated. The bizarre shapes in the caves are mainly composed of calcium carbonate. They develop as limewater drips from the stones and evaporates. The structures growing down from the cave ceiling are called stalactites, while those that grow from the ground to the top are called stalagmites.
We will overnight at Rosenhof Country House, which is situated on the outskirts of Oudtshoorn en route to the Cango Caves and Ostrich Farms. The carefully renovated homestead (Circa 1852), with its yellowwood beams and ceilings and a tasteful collection of antique furniture, exudes an aura of authenticity. The lovely rose garden, which gave Rosenhof its name, leads to stylishly decorated bedrooms, each individually furnished. All rooms provide air-conditioning, satellite television, telephone, mini bar and tea trays. Rosenhof has a cosy pub and several luxury lounges with fireplaces where visitors can relax and admire works from well-known South African artists. In summer, cool down in the pool or take tea in the manicured gardens. The Wellness Center offers a fully equipped gym, Jacuzzi, sauna and a beauty clinic. With its luxurious facilities and excellent service, Rosenhof is recognized as one of the finest establishments in the region.
Day 7 – Oudtshoorn
After a superb breakfast we go on the 27 km Swartberg Pass, which is considered one of the most impressive mountain passes in the world: an untarred road that winds to the summit 1583 meters above sea level in steep zigzags and sudden switchbacks with breathtaking views at every turn. The road is supported in places by hand-packed stone walls, a trademark of Thomas Charles Bain, the brilliant road engineer of the 19th Century. Along the way there are relics of old prisons, tollhouses, and Way stations that bear historic testimony to past adventures. Often covered with snow in winter, the mountain's microclimate supports fynbos and a rich bird life, in contrast with the arid-zone flora and fauna outside its cool shady kloofs. The Swartberg Pass was declared a National Monument in its Centenary year, 1988. Those who have crossed the pass will never forget it. Once we have summitted the Pass, we do a short stop at the quaint little town of Prince Albert and then go onto Meiringspoort.
Meiringspoort is a deep cleft through the seemingly impenetrable Swartberg Mountain range. This natural passage forms a convenient link between the Great and Little Karoo. Soaring cliff walls with spectacular rock formations line the 25 km tarred road, which winds along the floor of the gorge, crossing the Groot River 25 times. Entry to the Poort is via Klaarstroom, 55 kms east of Prince Albert, en route to Oudtshoorn and the coast. Hardy plants, including indigenous pelargoniums, cling to the precarious rock faces while birds, baboons and smaller fauna abound in the protected kloofs & crevices. Among the most scenic spots is the waterfall tumbling into a dark pool that, according to legend, is bottomless. In Meiringspoort one feels insignificant against the overwhelming grandeur of the surroundings. Driving through this Poort with its winding road, the traveller is enchanted by the scenery with a kaleidoscope of every changing colour. The richness of the vegetation along the river will intrigue plant lovers and birdwatchers will be amazed at the bird life. Meiringspoort was originally opened to traffic on the 3rd March 1858. Please note that this trip is only possible if the pass has not been closed. This usually happens when there has been heavy snowfall or very heavy rain, making the road dangerous.
Once we are back in Oudtshoorn, the remainder of the day is yours to enjoy as you wish.
Overnight at Rosenhof Country Manor.
Day 8 – Hermanus
This morning we make our way to the nearby town of Mossel Bay where we visit the Diaz Museum. Of the five National Monuments on the museum grounds, 4 are buildings dating between 1830 and 1902. The museum grounds themselves, situated on the shores of the Indian Ocean, are a magnificent historical setting. They are situated at the very site where European explorers came ashore and made contact with the indigenous people. Information about the Khoi-Khoi and explorers can be seen in the Maritime Museum.
From here we make our way to the town of Hermanus, arguably one of the best venues for land-based whale watching in the world. Here we will overnight at The Marine. Perched on top of the cliffs at Hermanus, The Marine has one of the southern hemisphere's most spectacular seascapes. The Marine has 42 individually decorated bedrooms and suites, each with its own private facilities. Commanding views extend across Walker Bay or over the beautiful internal courtyard, finely manicured gardens and the Overberg Mountains. Stroll along the cliff-hugging path and take in the breath taking views of the Hermanus Bay. The sparkling, heated courtyard pool might beckon, perfect for catching some African sun or sip a glass of local wine in The Sun Lounge with nothing between you and the South Pole, other than 3,000 miles of ocean. Hermanus offers some of the best land-based whale watching in the world and at The Marine you don't even have to get out of bed to experience these amazing creatures!
Day 9 – Hermanus
Today is yours to enjoy - land and boat-based whale watching, kayakking, boat-based Great White shark excursions, shark-cage diving, shopping and more! Whichever option or activity you choose is for your own account, but your guide will be available with the vehicle to take you where you wish and to advise you. (Land-based whale watching has of course no charge!). If this is out of season, the suggested alternative is one of either shark-cage diving, or simply accompanying the diving boat in search of the ever-present Great White sharks in this, the most densely inhabited area in the world of these prime predators. Dyer and Geyser Islands, just off the coast, are home to a large colony of over fifty thousand seals and are thus a favourite feeding ground for the Great White shark. The deep channel between these two islands is known as Shark Alley and is acknowledged as one of the best places in the world to view the Great White.
Overnight The Marine.
Day - Cape Town
This morning after a leisurely breakfast (and more whale watching?) we make our way along any number of scenic drives to Cape Town, arriving early afternoon, where we drop you off at your accommodation or at the Cape Town Airport.