At this time of year, many South Africans descend on the coast, and the Garden Route is no exception. Finding a quiet spot is seemingly impossible, but actually it isn’t. Why find a quiet spot? To truly experience the magnificence of this area, you need to see it in its raw beauty. It’s an area that keeps attracting many locals and foreigners alike. Its tannin rivers develop in the mountains which form the backdrop of the coast. These rivers flow through patchworks of remaining indigenous forest, some making their way into lakes, estuaries and finally cutting across the golden beach sands to meet the Indian Ocean.
This past weekend I found that peace in two spots – amongst the giant yellowwoods in the forest along the Touw River at Wilderness, and at the wild and scenic Robberg peninsula outside of Plettenberg Bay.
The forest walk is accessed from Ebb and Flow camp, the heart of the Wilderness section of the mega Garden Route National Park. The Half-collared Kingfisher walk is one of many beautiful walks here. After leaving the camp, the trail skirts the Touw River, providing a bird’s eye view. It descends to the Milkwood picnic site on the river bank – a lovely spot for a picnic, even if you’re not attempting the full trail. It is around a river bend from the camp site, so expect to see canoeists and kids swimming in the shallows of the river.The trail goes deeper beneath a canopy of indigenous trees, and you’ll be surrounded by the soothing cacophony of bird song. Keep your eye out for the scarlet underwings and vibrant green plumage of fluttering Knysna turacos. Cross the river by means of a pont (and return via stepping stones further upstream). The trail continues to a roaring waterfall that has carved some rock pools. It is popular so don’t expect to be alone, but walking through the forest there and back can provide a sense of calm.
Further east, the Robberg peninsula juts out into the sea. Exposed to the elements, it’s been battered to form interesting rock and sand formations. Its cliffs peer down to seal colonies playing gracefully in clear waters. At The Island, waves crash from two sides creating a pretty beach surrounded by fynbos covered cliffs. There are three trails to choose from, ranging in length. Be prepared for the peninsula’s own micro-climate. Despite being within minutes of the busy tourist hub of Pletternberg Bay, Robberg has the feel of being worlds apart. It’s easy to get absorbed by the views.