Thursday, August 15, 2013

I ♥ South Africa : Garden Route Holiday

My husband (Z) and I decided that it’s time we do a ‘local is lekker’ trip and so we decided to finally take that trip down to the Garden Route. We found great deals online which included our accommodation at the luxurious The Plettenberg Hotel and The Conrad Pezula.  We paid a really low rate and both hotels had some great specials because we booked just before the mad December rush.

We flew with SAA and I hated it!  The flight was terrifying as it was a small aeroplane and the weather was really bad.  When we landed in George it was storming and quite miserable.  We just headed straight to the hotel in Plettenberg Bay and pretty much prayed that the weather would improve.  The next morning it was really windy, but at least there was sunshine.  The concierge recommended that we take in other sights, as the conditions on the beach would be too windy and not really safe for swimming.  And so we decided to do the long trek up to The Cango Caves which was outside Oudtshoorn.  First of all, the beautiful mountain terrain had me gasping at every turn as I fell in love with the scenery.  I must admit though, the moment we got over the one side of the Outeniqua mountains, you could just see the difference in climate and vegetation.  It was a lot drier and wasn’t as green.  It is after all the Klein Karoo! After what seemed like hours of driving (it wasn’t) we finally reached The Cango Caves.  These are beautiful caves which have formed in a limestone ridge which runs in the Swartberg mountain.  The stalactites and stalagmites (the rocky ‘daggers’ that have formed in the caves) of the caves created beautiful imagery and designs in the caves.  It’s definitely worth the visit!

On our way back, we stopped at the Cango Wildlife Ranch.  They have some amazing animals there and I was enthralled with the male white lion.  He was such a majestic creature.  The great thing about the Cango Wildife Ranch is that they allow you to touch their resident cheetahs.  However, a thunderstorm quickly put a stop to that.  I did get to see beautiful tiger cubs playing and sleeping so that was a definite highlight.

When we returned to Plettenberg Bay, the weather brightened up and we enjoyed the rest of our stay at Plett just soaking up the sun and enjoying the waves.  The water was a bit cold but nevertheless, we still enjoyed it.  

After a few days in Plettenberg, we headed to our final destination: Knysna.  The Conrad Pezula IS AMAZING!  Upon arrival we were offered a wide selection of coffees and the beauty therapists gave us free hand massages while we relaxed and waited to check it.  I had a wonderful spa treatment and the food and other amenities here were great!  I wish we could have stayed here much longer!  The hotel is not situated on the beach, but there is a shuttle that takes you down to Noetzie Beach.  Noetzie Beach is a bit of schlep to get to if you don’t have access to the Pezula estate.  It’s down a steep incline, which only allows one car at a time to go down.  Fortunately it looks like only residents of the beach and the Pezula hotel are allowed to go down there with a vehicle, so there’s no major risk of an accident.  Once we got there it was absolutely breathtaking.  We felt we were on our own little isolated island.  What I loved about Noetzie Beach were the most incredible ‘castles’.  Some of them were privately owned or leased to the Conrad Pezula for their use for guests.  It’s a sort of relaxing place where you can just chill and read a book or play a few board games – which they supply.  You can even stay there if you wish.  While we were heading down to the beach, and having a tour of the castle, there was a large CRASH in the upstairs bedroom and when we went to investigate, we came face to face with a HUGE baboon!  He quickly sped away but it was a bit shocking.  Our host explained that they sometimes sneak into the castle if there’s an open window or door and try to take food.  They don’t really harass people, but they’re always on the lookout for food.  It was quite hilarious to witness!  The beach itself feels isolated and I loved it. It was so beautiful and I could just sit there and relax all day.

Before we left the Garden Route, we visited the gorgeous Tsitsikamma National Park and went on a few short trails.  It was beautiful and I really enjoyed the scenery and walk over the ocean on a mini-bridge.  I know that the Otter Trail normally goes through this area, so I can imagine what a wonderful and challenging experience that must be!  We went past the Bloukrans Bridge which has the highest bungy jump in the world, but we were too chicken to try it out!

I’ve left the best experience of this trip for the end.  My wonderful Z, knowing how upset I was about missing my session with the cheetahs earlier, booked us a session to WALK with Cheetahs at Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness and Rehabilitation Centre.  And by that I mean,  tie them on a leash and take them for a walk for an hour. I WAS THRILLED! OVER THE MOON!  This has got to be one of my favourite experiences ever! It definitely tops my swimming with dolphins experience (I shall blog about that soon). I practically cried with joy! I turned into Elmyra. I just wanted to hug the cheetah and go all crazy, but of course safety first!  I was the first one taking a hold of the cheetah while others were still terrified.  What a wonderful experience.  The cheetah allowed us to touch him, pet him and to walk next to him.  It was such a privilege to be able to do that.  What a great way to end our holiday.  It was amazing and I’m so glad we got to experience it.

This post has been entered into the  Travelstart Blogger Experience Contest