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Garden Route National Park

Source: Southern Africa’s top 21 parks taken from the April 2010 Issue of Getaway Magazine.

Author: Don Pinnock.

Last year the bits and pieces of protected wilderness along the Garden Route were gathered together into what is now one of South Africa’s most interesting and diverse parks.
Garden Route National Park

The magnificent Knysna forest with its huge, ancient trees and the park’s thundering shores are the backdrop to many of Dalene Matthee’s lyrical novels.

The forest never gives up its secrets.

You can be born in it, you can live in it every day, sleep in it every night. You can fell its trees, shoot its animals, burn it down, kill it – but the unknown will die within it.’

So says Saul Barnard, the central character in Dalene Matthee’s extraordinary novel, Circles in a Forest. It’s a book about a woodcutter who .tries to save the Knysna Forest and its creatures, especially the big feet – its elephants.

Plett Activities

Fishing, birding and hiking galore

It has taken a painfully long time, but last year the Garden Route National Park was proclaimed, to be protected for all time. And at least nine elephants still remain. The new park includes the formerly separate national parks of Wilderness and Tsitsikamma, the Knysna Lakes area and other land under Sanparks management, as well as about 52 500 hectares of newly proclaimed land.

Tsitsikamma National Park

Tsitsikamma area

As parks go, it has a lot going for it: the largest continuous forest in the country, a range of mountains on one side and the sea on the other, lagoons, estuaries, lakes, a marine reserve and a sophisticated infrastructure catering for tourists.

Southern Right breaching in the bay

Whales, dolphins and marine life which can be enjoyed up close and personal

Its diverse biomes include the Knysna estuary, the Wilderness lake areas, lowland fynbos and mountain catchment areas. After the Cape Peninsula and Kruger Park, it’s the third most preferred tourist destination in South Africa.

Within the park, new chalets and camping decks are being planned. The area already has a wide range of tourist attractions.

It’s also an adventurer’s paradise, with a choice of many mountain biking, hiking, horseriding and canoe trails, superb snorkelling, whale watching, diving and fishing, plus a range of more extreme activities such as abseiling, bungi jumping, kloofing, skydiving and paragliding.

The Garden Route Park is one of the most complex proclaimed wilderness areas in South Africa, with more than 1000 private landowners on its borders, all of whom are expected to do their bit to conserve the area’s natural heritage.

There will be no additional fences erected. Sanparks former chief operating officer, Sydney Soundy, refers to the new park as ‘conservation without boundaries’.

Animal Sanctuaries

Animal Sanctuaries give insight and a great day out for the kids.

For more on this park, go on-line and search

Travel Adviser

Where to stay

$ to $$$$ Tree Top Forest Chalet in Harkerville is a romantic, luxury forest hideaway up in the canopy. It costs from R1150 a night for two people and R250 for each extra person. Deep in the forest are Diepwalle Guest House plus camping decks.

The guesthouse is R400 for two people a night and each person thereafter pays R145 (sleeps up to five). The camping decks accommodate a three-person tent and cost R150 a night. There are overnight huts on the Outeniqua and Harkerville Hiking Trails. The Outeniqua Trail costs R60 a person a night and the Harkerville Trail costs R150.

How to book

Contact Sanparks on 044-302-5606, e-mail, website.

The park in words

Wilderness Lakes are a paradise for birders

The writer who captured the heart and soul of the Knysna area is undoubtedly Dalene Matthee. Her books are a starter kit for anyone visiting the area. They’re available in both English and Afrikaans, and include Circles in a Forest, Fiela’s Child, The Mulberry Forest and Dreamforest. There’s a monument to Dalene at the Big Tree at Krisjan se Nek picnic site in the Goud-veld section of the forest outside Knysna.

Books about the Knysna elephants include The Secret Elephants by Gareth Patterson, The Knysna Elephants and Their Forest Home by Margo Mackay and The Elephants of Knysna by Nick Carter.

Take along the Getaway Guide to the Garden Route by Steve Moseley and Brent Naude-Moseley.

More info on the town of Plettenberg Bay More info on the Garden Route area

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