‘Wilderness’ and ‘Garden Route’ – the names say it all: Wild indigenous forests. Mountains. Rivers. Lakes. Nature reserves. And of course warm waters, and rolling waves, and pristine beaches… And all this right on the doorstep of Villa Sol. So there’s hiking; climbing; running; cycling; fishing; surfing; swimming; kayaking. And bird-watching and dolphin-and whale-spotting… and sun-tanning and yoga retreats… and we haven’t even started on the iconic little restaurants… the dinky little shops…
Having lived in and explored the area for many years, it always gives us great pleasure to help guests find those diverse and exciting things to see and do that may not always find their way into the ‘Tourist Top 10 Attraction’ list – those locally guarded little secrets… Our suggestions are of course based on duration of stay, time of year and, naturally, the weather.
In the meantime though, here’s an overview:
Wilderness National Park, situated in the very heart of the Garden Route, is an exhilarating world of lakes, rivers, inland marshes, estuaries and beaches, set against a backdrop of lush forest and lofty mountains. Nature trails wind through densely wooded forests and along tranquil rivers, where the brilliantly feathered Knysna Lourie and a number of Kingfisher species make frequent appearances.
Rivers & Lakes
The nearby series of lakes (Eilandvlei, Langvlei and Rondevlei), connected by the Touws River, host a variety of aquatic species and have been cited as an internationally proclaimed Ramsar site by UNESCO. Canoeing the rivers and waterways is one of the best ways to experience the amazing local ecosystem, and is a must for photographers and bird watchers alike.
Beach & Surf
The area is blessed with kilometres of pristine beaches, good surf and excellent fishing. Victoria Bay, five kilometres from The Wilderness, is an iconic surf destination, and is ‘home’ to a number of national and professionally-represented surfers.
World class golf courses are on the doorstep of Villa Sol; the best known, within a 15min drive, include The Links; Fancourt; George Golf Club and Oubaai. Other highly rated golf courses, within a 45min drive, are Pezula and Simola in Knysna and Pinnacle Point Golf Estate in Mossel Bay.
Each year Southern Right whales migrate to the coastal waters of the Garden Route to calve and nurse their young. These animals, often meters from the shore, provide unsurpassed whale-watching opportunities in the calving months between June and November. The Wilderness (Dolphin’s Point on the Kaaiman’s Pass) as well as Still Bay and Plettenberg Bay, all offer exceptionally good viewing sites. In Plettenberg Bay, licensed operators will also take visitors out by boat for close encounters of the majestic kind.
This primate sanctuary, and the adjacent Birds of Eden, the largest free-flight bird aviary in the world, are top eco-tourism attractions in the Garden Route, and are only an hour’s leisurely (and scenic) drive from Villa Sol.
White Shark Cage Diving
For the strong at heart, white shark cage diving (for a close encounter of the terrifying kind!) is available off Mossel Bay, a 40-minute drive from Villa Sol.
Knysna with its annual oyster festival; historic Mossel Bay with its casino; and Oudtshoorn with it world-renowned Cango Caves and ostrich farms, are all within an hour’s drive from Villa Sol.
The Road Less Travelled
The mountains of the Southern Cape Region are a part of the scenic beauty of the Garden Route, and are accessed, on tar and rustic gravel roads alike, via stunning mountain passes en route to the Klein Karoo. The Swartberg Pass in particular is considered to be one of the most spectacular and breathtaking passes in Africa.
The road to Gamkaskloof, “The Hell”, is accessed from the peak of the Swartberg Pass. Gamkaskloof was for more than a century home to a self-sufficient farming community, and today visitors can still experience its unique cultural heritage, protected over the years by the imposing cliffs of the Swartberg.
Then there’s Meiringspoort, a hamlet deep in the Swartberge between the Central and Klein Karoo, and accessed via a breathtaking route that snakes along a river valley, closely guarded by towering red rock cliffs.
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