Locals will tell you there’s no bad time to visit South Africa’s famous Garden Route. But then, they would say that. Others will tell you that better weather in the summer makes that the perfect time to visit. Whale spotting peaks in September, there is an abundance of flowers and colour in the spring and festivals and events pop up in December and January, when South Africans flock to the region for their own holidays. Everyone has an opinion about when you should go.
That it’s one of the world’s greatest coastal drives is not disputed though – no matter who you ask. At this time of year (September - October), as spring takes over from the wetter winter months you will be rewarded with a profusion of both flora and fauna all over South Africa.
For whale watching, try Hermanus in Walker Bay, reputed to provide the best land-based whale-watching in the world. Here, humpbacks, southern right whales complete with their calves, dolphins, and even killer whales frolic close to shore. It’s so good here, they even have a whale watching festival each September. In truth though, whales can be spotted from most cliffs and coastal paths along the route from July to October. Watching these animals breach so close to the oceanfront is a sight that will remain with you for a lifetime.
Spring also heralds the start of the bird breeding season, when migrant species come south from northern climes. Some 300 species of bird can be spotted throughout the diverse habitats of the Western Cape and the national parks on The Garden Route. Colourful sunbirds, the African rock pipit, the chorister robin (whose local name translates as racket-maker), the crowned eagle and Knysna Lourie (a Garden Route icon) are but a few that will be visible.
Mimosa Lodge is situated in the pretty town of Montagu on the famous Route 62 – thought to be the longest wine route in the world, but close to Twistniet, Montagu Mountain and Witbosrivier nature reserves.
The other great draw to South Africa in the spring time is the arrival of baby animals in the game parks. For an African version of Bambi, see if you can spot a baby impala, tottering and frolicking on impossibly long, spindly legs. How about the robust Cape buffalo, a calf of which starred in a famous video? The film showed this tough baby suffering consecutive attacks from a pride of lions before being stolen away by a crocodile, retaken by the lions and then being rescued by its herd and eventually wandering away from both sets of predators. (The Battle of Kruger). Also arriving in spring are hyena and warthogs – see them while they’re cute, as both become markedly less so as they grow up.
For Kruger stays, guests can expect a warm welcome at the luxurious yet homely boutique-style Lion Sands – River Lodge. It sits in the award-winning Lion Sands Game Reserve on the banks of the Sabie River, bordering Kruger National Park. Alternatively, Gomo Gomo Game Lodge is a private and intimate camp situated in the prestigious Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, giving guests the best chance of viewing the animals. The Klaserie forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park and offers varied landscapes with an excellent possibility of coming face-to-face with the Big Five.
For a perfect view of everything, the Grand Tour of South Africa is the ultimate South Africa adventure. This fabulous two-week escorted tour takes in the best that the Rainbow Nation has to offer in the way of scenery, wildlife and culture between Johannesburg and Cape Town and includes both Kruger and The Garden Route.
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