Planning to see the Garden Route highlights and go on a safari at Addo Elephant Park on top of it? Here’s why touring with HotSpots2C is your best option.
The Garden Route is a 300 Km (190 mi) stretch of the southeastern coast of South Africa that stretches from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape.
Featuring fresh water lakes, stunning mountains, indigenous forests, golden beaches and vividly colored wild flowers, the Garden Route is one of the most beautiful areas in South Africa and a popular holiday destination for local and international tourists alike.
During my 5-day Garden Route + Addo trip with HotSpots2C, I experienced all the Garden Route highlights (Nature’s Valley, Storms River, Sedgefield, Wilderness, etc), and also jumped from the highest bungy bridge in the world, zip lined over waterfalls, hiked through the lush Tsitsikma Forest, fed and interacted with elephants, did a safari and was amazed by the beauty of the Cango Caves.
There are many reasons to recommend HotSpots2C: we were a small group (only 6 people), I did not have to worry about my Garden Route 5-day itinerary, or where I would sleep and eat, or choosing which one of the Garden Route highlights I could miss and I especially didn’t have to worry about getting lost or driving on the “wrong side” of the road (South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road).
And finally, we had a wonderful guide who explained every single journey of the trip, took us to nice restaurants and was very friendly and courteous.
Whether you’re a solo traveler or couple, have a limited budget and time in South Africa and still want an unforgettable time and a stress-free Garden Route trip, this tour is perfect for you.
Garden Route Highlights + Addo Trip Report
Garden Route Itinerary 5 Days – Day 1: Unveiling the Greatest South Africa Landscape
My Garden Route Highlights + Addo trip started very early in the morning – at 6:45 AM.
We left Cape Tow in the early September rain while Gerard, our 40-something South African tour guide explained our itinerary and activities of the day and gave us some curious facts about the surrounding area.
After 45min, the weather changed completely. The clouds cleared to unveil the most beautiful landscape that I’ve ever seen in South Africa.
Verdant rolling farmlands were surrounded by the colossal mountains that the Western Cape is known for.
Some of the fields were covered with yellow canola flowers and the contrast between the fields and the bright blue sky composed a picture-perfect scenery that was like a daydream.
The landscape was so breathtaking that I couldn’t resist and asked Gerard to stop the car.
We haven’t even arrived at the Garden Route and I was already in love with this trip!
After, a quick stop for coffee in Riviersonderend, where I bought the best passion fruit + peach jam I’ve ever had, we carried on to Mossel Bay, for lunch in a very nice beachfront restaurant. Following lunch, we made our way to Wilderness, a coastal town in the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains, for our first adventure.
After a pleasant 40min of kayaking and taking in a lovely waterfall, we continued our tour through mountains, past lakes and along a beautiful coastline, to arrive at Sedgefield just before sunset.
This charming seaside village, located between George and Knysna, nestles between lakes, sand dunes covered in fynbos, pine plantations, the Swartvlei Estuary and the Indian Ocean.
Our first night’s accommodation was right next to Myoli, a golden sand beach framed with dramatic cliffs that was completely empty when we arrived there. It was so peaceful and the sunset was breathtaking!
Garden Route Highlights – Day 2: The Adrenaline Day
At 8:30 AM we left Sedgefield and drove by beautiful Plettenberg Bay, passing through lavish pine trees and indigenous forests. We saw some monkeys, an antelope and many vivid wild flowers that delighted my eyes.
After 2h, we arrived at one of the most famous Garden Route highlights: Bloukrans Bridge.
The bridge, overlooking Natures Valley and standing at a height of 216m above the Bloukrans River, is known worldwide for being the highest bungy bridge in the world.
I had never bungee jumped before in my life and I wasn’t planning on starting now. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more terrified I became.
Here was a golden opportunity that I would probably never get again and it was the highest bungee jump bridge in the world… I couldn’t believe that I was actually starting to convince myself that I had to do it…
It was the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do, but, after a lot of hesitation and almost giving up, I did it!.
Flying through the air was an incredible sensation and afterwards I couldn’t stop buzzing. I felt like I had won the lottery.
We left the Bloukrans Bridge and drove another 30 min to reach the Tsitsikama National Park.
Tsitsikama, an area of the Garden Route National Park located between the mountains and the sea, is a coastal reserve well known for its indigenous forest and dramatic coastline.
We parked the car in front of the Storms River Mouth, one of my favorite Garden Route highlights and most beautiful places in South Africa.
There are various amenities at Storms River Mouth, including a beach restaurant with a very nice view, chalets, shop, camping site, information center, etc. And there are also three suspension bridges and numerous hike options.
During our free hour, we hiked amongst the lush local vegetation, crossed the bridges and admired the breathtaking scenery.
I adored the Storms River Mouth and genuinely consider it to be one of the unmissable places along the Garden Route!
After lunch we headed to Tsitsikama Falls Adventure where we would go zip lining through an impressive setting.
For 40min, we went on eight slides, including one 211m long, zigzagged across the Kruis River, traversed waterfalls and slid down through a sensational gorge.
It was extraordinary and I had so much fun!
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After the zip line we went to the coastal city of Jeffrey’s Bay.
We arrived towards the end of the day and that night I met other travelers and played Beirut, or beer pong, with them. We had so much fun throwing that ping pong ball across a table trying to land it in a cup of beer!
Day 3 – Excitement, Happiness and Frustration in Just one Day
The next morning I woke up very excited. We were in Jeffrey’s Bay, the most famous surfing spot in the whole of South Africa and a place where I’ve wanted to go and surf ever since I was 16 years old.
But first, we had to get up at 4:00 AM to go to the Addo Elephant Park, the third largest national park in South Africa with an area of 180,000 hectares and home to the densest population of wild elephants on the planet.
Addo is also the world’s first “Big 7” conservation area, home to the traditional Big 5 (rhino, elephant, leopard, buffalo and lion), the great white shark and the southern right whale.
We hopped on a 4×4 open safari vehicle just before dawn and drove along the main game viewing area at Addo Main Camp. It didn’t start well. For the first two hours, we just saw three hyenas, some kudus and zebras. It was very disappointing!!
However, we then took our own vehicle and drove around the park for four more hours and ended up spotting herds of kudus, red hartebeest (first time I saw this animal), warthogs, elephants, flightless dung beetles, a cape buffalo, even a black-backed jackal and a caracal.
Addo has a diversely beautiful landscape and you can get very close to the animals. We drove near zebras and elephants without disturbing them. In fact, more than once we were completely surrounded by elephants of all sizes and ages.
It was exhilarating!
In the end, we left the Addo Elephant Park very happy and pleased to have had the opportunity for a closer look at South African’s wildlife and headed back to Jeffrey’s Bay.
J-Bay is located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa about 75 km southwest of Port Elizabeth, and I couldn’t wait to surf its legendary waves.
Except there were no waved that day. The sea was as flat as a pool and I had to postpone my dream of surfing in J-Bay. What a frustrating end to the day!
That night, Gerard took us to a very good authentic South African restaurant, Awethu, where the food is cooked on wood fire stoves.
The food was very good and made me feel better about this very peculiar day.
Day 4 – Face to face with the World’s Largest Bird
When I woke up the next day, the sea was still flat and the weather very cloudy.
I had breakfast at the hostel with a very special companion: a whale that was resting quietly in the sea.
We had a 4h-drive to Oudtshoorn, a town in the Klein Karoo area of South Africa’s Western Cape, once known as “the ostrich capital of the world”.
In Oudtshoorn, Gerard showed us some “ostrich palaces” from the late 1800’s – early 1900’s, at a time when 1 Kg of feathers equalled 1 Kg of gold, and a pair of really fine ostrich feathers could reach as much as 1000 pounds, a fortune back then.
There are several fascinating attractions within 30min of the city, including the Cango Caves, one of the world’s leading show caves.
But before heading to the caves, we visited an ostrich farm to learn more about the world’s largest bird.
After a brief history of the ostrich industry in South Africa, we headed to the farm to encounter and interact with this funny animal.
To be honest I wasn’t expecting that much from the visit, but by the end I realised it was actually very interesting and fun.
We had some ostrich meat at the restaurant on the farm before heading to the Cango Caves.
The road that connects Oudtshoorn to the Cango Caves is very picturesque and provides spectacular mountain views.
After 40min we arrived at the Cango Caves and had to choose one of the two options for visiting it: the Heritage or the Adventure Tour.
All the tours are led by experienced, accredited Cave guides. The Heritage Tour is slightly easier and the Adventure Tour takes an extra 30 mins and you get to go through tunnels, lower passages, and small chambers, etc.
We opted for the Heritage Tour and delved deep underground into the magnificent Cango Caves’ limestone chambers, like Van Zyl’s Hall, a spacious hall over 90m long, 50m wide at its widest point and between 14 and 18m high.
The caves formed over 4500 million years ago and were discovered in 1780 and I was completely in awe standing inside this geological masterpiece and admiring its majestic rock formations.
Day 5 – Elephant Encounter and Interaction
The last day of our trip started by visiting the Buffelsdrift Game Lodge, a private game reserve located at the Cango Caves Road in Outdshoorn.
We went there not only to see, but also to interact with three special animals. Bulelo, Malaika and Jabari were orphaned when their parents were killed in the Kruger National Park and probably would not be alive if the handlers at Buffelsdrift did not raise them with so much love and affection.
I was really looking forward to walking with elephants for the first time in my life.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t good and a walk along the waterhole wasn’t possible.
But we did meet, interact and feed the lovely gentle giants. And even better, I was hugged by them. A hug of over 3000 thousand muscles.
I learned a lot about elephants’ lives during my visit to Buffelsdrift Game Lodge and my love for those creatures increased even more.
It was definitely one of the most special moments of my Garden Route Highlights + Addo trip.
From Outdshoorn to Cape Town is around 400 km, and we left the city via Meiringspoort, a beautiful road that weaves its way through the steep-walled and sandstone layers of the Cape Fold Mountains.
Our next destination was Boplaas, a family vineyard in operation since 1880.
The Tasting Room, with oak wine barrels scattered around and bottles of handcrafted and award-wining wines, was our stop.
It was a quick visit, but we tasted some good wines, including a Cape Ruby Port, that I loved and bought a bottle of.
It took around five hours from Boplaas to Cape Town and even though the weather wasn’t good, we could appreciate the scenic Route 62, considered the longest wine route and the one of the 10 world’s best road-trip destination by CNN Travel.
I arrived in Cape Town in the beginning of the evening feeling so happy for having had the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa and also get an extra dose of adrenaline!
This 5-Day Garden Route Highlights + Addo trip created memories that will last forever!
Final Considerations of a Garden Route Highlights + Addo Trip with HotSpots2C
This Garden Route trip with HotSpots2C is available all year-round and departs from Cape Town on Mondays and Saturdays.
There is also an option for only three days.
There are different types of accommodation depending on your budget: hostels, guesthouse and even a tented lodge in the Buffelsdrift Game Reserve.
I stayed only in hostels and it was completely fine.
If you don’t want to jump from the Bloukrans Bridge, the guide can take you for a short walk in the forest.
I was really happy to visit the Garden Route with HotSpots2C and whether you’re a solo traveler or a couple, I highly recommend that you book your tour with them. They will take care of everything and you will have more time to enjoy the places you’ll visit.
Safe travels and have fun on the Garden Route.
How to Book Your Garden Route Highlights Trip?
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