Who could resist a last walk to catch the dying rays of the setting sun on the beach? Pictures: Nokuthula Mbatha.
To say I had an epic  time on the Garden  Route would be an  understatement. I spent  eight glorious days in the most  beautiful place in the world and had  the adventure of a lifetime with five  women.  If you are planning to holiday  in one of the natural wonders of  South Africa, here are my three  recommendations:

KNYSNA
The view as we depart the Storms River Mouth rest camp. Pictures: Nokuthula Mbatha.


One thing you must try out in  the Knysna area is mountain  biking in the Harkerville Forest.  Harkerville is considered the  capital of mountain biking in the  country with at least five routes for  moderate to advanced riders.

We were all beginners but gave  the 5km ride to the viewing point  our best.  Knysna is rated number one in  biodiversity conservation.  It’s picturesque and home to the  Knysna seahorse, the Knysna gobi  and many other species.  The mountain bike ride can be  followed by a relaxing afternoon boat cruise along the rich Thesen  Island shores.  The boat docks at the  Featherbed Nature reserve, which  recently burnt down in the much- publicised fires.

A hike up the Western Head  will take you to a lookout with  breathtaking views of the lagoon,  Leisure Isle and Knysna.
This side of the head is privately  owned. At the foot of it are  dramatic caves which lead to the  lagoon.  Cocktails and dinner at the Whet  restaurant along the estuary is the  perfect way to end your day.  If the weather is good, an  outside table is ideal to take in as  much as possible and enjoy the the  fresh sea breeze.

TSITSIKAMMA
A lilo is the ideal craft for crossing narrow sections of the gorge.
Adventure segways

The Storms River Rest Camp in  the Tsitsikamma is undergoing  a R17 million facelift to ensure  entrance to the national park is  done efficiently. The project is  expected to be completed in the first  half of next year.

Once inside, the waves crashing  against the rocky coastline provide  a magnificent scene for day and  overnight visitors.  Home to the famous Otter hiking  trail, the Tsitsikamma section of  the Garden Route National Park  is the only one in Africa with 12  green-flag status hiking trails.  Beachfront log cabins line the  coastline. The sound of breaking  waves in the middle of the night  will have you feeling like you are in  heaven on earth.

Enjoy an early morning cup of  tea on the balcony or go for an early  morning jog or walk.  Meals are self-catering and it’s  a short drive to the Cattle Baron  Restaurant on site.
Day activities include a hike up  the mountain to the spectacular  suspension bridge which hangs  over the Storms River Mouth,  spanning 77m.

It remains one of the most  popular tourist attractions of the  Tsitsikamma region of the Eastern  Cape.  Situated within the  Tsitsikamma National Park, it was  originally built in 1969, but has  since been rebuilt by SA National  Parks to ensure its stability and  safety. It hangs just 7m above the  churning waters of the river as it  enters the foamy Indian Ocean.

Kayaking and Lillo  Kayaking from the harbour directly  onto the ocean seemed daunting  at first but our guide calmed our  nerves.
Normally, if sea conditions don’t  allow for ocean paddling, many  take a short guided hike through  the Tsitsikamma forest and start  the kayak trip from inside the river
mouth.  But the sea looked calm enough  for us to paddle to the flowing  river to the beautiful Storms River  Mouth suspension bridge.

Apparently this is where the  true kayaking adventure began  – paddling the Storms River but  my arms were so tired. I was also  having a spiritual moment because  of the splendour of the whole  experience.
We paddled into the Bat Cave  and spent time gazing up at the  magnificent and spectacular cliffs  around us, all from the comfort of  our kayaks.
At the low-water point we  disembarked from the kayaks and  jumped onto lilo-like inflatable  craft, specially designed to access  the narrow sections of the gorge.  From there, we waded and  floated over a short section of  rocks, and then further up the river  on the lilos. The views, while lying  on a lilo and gazing up to cliffs that  touch the sky, are stunning. Below  the water is dark brown because of  the tannin.

This is an experience I would  recommend trying once in your life.

Before heading back to shore we  had the the opportunity to leap off  the overhanging cliff walls of the  gorge into deep pools.
The cliff jump gives you a  good dose of adrenalin for the trip  back, as well as some good laughs,  friendly encouragement and one-  of-a-kind photograph opportunities so you can brag to all your buddies  about it when you return home.

Ziplining
Don’t miss out on ziplining at Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour in  the magnificent Tsitsikamma
indigenous rainforest.  The platforms are built around  giant Outeniqua yellowwood trees  that are up to 700 years old.
Standing within the crown  of these giant trees and looking  down at the lush forest floor which  is about 30 metres below is an  experience of a lifetime.

WILDERNESS  NATIONAL PARK
Who could resist a last walk to catch the dying rays of the setting sun on the beach? Pictures: Nokuthula Mbatha.

The Wilderness, like Knysna and  the Tsitsikamma forest, has a water  area. It is famous for its Wilderness  lakes.  There are water birds galore and  dedicated bird hides to view some  of the most fascinating birds such  as the malachite kingfisher.
Log cabins, similar to those at  the Storms River Mouth, are used  for accommodation and overlook a  wetland, especially for twitchers.  More adventure awaited. My
favourite was the Segway through a  nature trail.  I have been on one in Durban  but certainly not in the bush on  uneven ground. It was a bit tricky  to negotiate but also added to the  adrenalin rush.  Make sure you take the 5km hike  to the waterfalls.  The Segway adventure adds to  the value of the trip.  For breakfast try The Green  Shed Coffee Roastery and for  dinner, the Pomodoro restaurant.  I was told about their  mouthwatering award-winning  cheese cake before I left Joburg.
The Waterfalls in the Wilderness National Park.

Don’t forget a romantic stroll on  the pristine beaches at sunset.  It usually gets quite full on
weekends but it is well maintained.  And all the best of luck with  spotting those elusive Knysna  elephants.