April 04, 2018

The Garden Route will bewilder you with its mosaic of ecosystems and natural beauty, stretching across over 200km of coast from the town of Mossel Bay to the adventure hamlet of Storms River Village, encapsulating indigenous forests, coastal dunes, lakes, fynbos covered mountains, estuaries and lagoons.

This Easter at the HI-TEC Garden Route Walking Festival, we connected with this picturesque destination and learned more of its beauty and renowned cultural and heritage resources. We also got the chance to meet amazing new fellow nature-lovers!

DAY 1: Let the adventure begin! 

Ingwe Forest Hike - guided by Mark Jones - is a beautiful indigenous forest hike off the N2 about 20 minutes from Plettenberg Bay central. We explored the secrets of the forest valley, bending under orb spider webs, picking up porcupine quills - all while learning about all the different types of lichen. 

Secret Elephants Forest Experience - Walk leader, Gareth Patterson, offered a highly personalised hike where he takes only 1 group at a time (min of 2 and max of 4 people per hike). Walkers meet Gareth on edge of forest and then drive and walk for 4 and a half hours seeing elephant trails, spoor, droppings and destruction. It was a highly informative, quite surreal and inspirational experience.

River Adventure Trailwas also led by Mark Jones. We adventured for 3 and a half hours down to the river and then along the river (with numerous crossings to explore all the critters in the forest). One thing is certain: Mark really knows his stuff!

Township Discovery Walk - A truly fun experience that’s very popular under foreigners. We were guided by Beaty, a Nekkies local and manager at the Mad About Art Community Centre. She took us on an eye-opening journey through the streets and heritage of the community.

DAY 2: Can it get any better? 

Nature’s Valley to Keurboomstrand - Galeo Saintz was our enthusiastic walk leader (and festival owner). The walk was filled with an abundance of bird-life and breathtaking scenery. We got secret access to trails on private property which is not accessible, if you don’t join the festival. The trail starts at Nature Valley’s beach to the Salt River mouth where we stopped for a moment to close our eyes (and listen to our surroundings). We took off our boots as we crossed the river and silently climbed for 15 min up the hill, overlooking the river mouth. The trail continues through the forest, to the beach between Nature’s Valley and Keurboomstrand. The last stretch on the beach led us to the most beautiful rock formations.

*A special thanks to Freewalkers SA who joined our diary entries at the festival. Visit their website, see what other special adventures they offer. 

Thesen Island Heritage Walk - If you are looking for something a little more relaxed (especially after a walk like Nature’s Valley to Keurbooms), then this lovely guided stroll in Thesen Island offers a unique opportunity to learn more about the infamous Knysna Seahorse.  

Attention Nature Lovers - What an interesting walk-ponder this was! A guided focus walk lead by Matt who has his PHD in nature and neuroscience. We learnt how to trigger and champion our focus, and about our overt and covert attention. After the 2 hours spent in nature - talking and focusing on sounds, sensations and sight - you felt connected and at peace.

The Coastal Clean-Up in Walk Knysna – Lead by Knysna local, Andy Muir. The Knysna Clean Up happened on Brenton Beach towards Buffalo Bay. A great initiative, with Love Our Trails as partners, to give walkers a chance to give back to nature. 

That's a wrap for Part 1. Part 2 will cover our next couple of days at the HI-TEC Garden Route Walking Festival

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