It’s certainly no coincidence that the Garden Route boasts three of the country’s national parks – Tsitsikamma, Knysna Lakes and Wilderness – now combined into the Greater Garden Route National Park. Point your nose in any direction and there’s a nature experience waiting to happen. Here are a few of my favourites in the Wilderness–Knysna area.
1. Go birding in Wilderness’s very own Lake District. Try Swartvlei, Langvlei or Rondevlei, where there’s an excellent hide that juts out from the reeds to put you in spitting distance of masses of waders. If you’re lucky you might even spot one of the resident African fish eagles.
2. Hire a two‐man canoe at Ebb & Flow Reserve at Wilderness and paddle up the Touw River, passing yellowwoods and milkwoods and spotting kingfishers along the way. Contact Eden Adventures.
3. Visit the Goukamma Nature Reserve 20km west of Knysna at the Buffalo Bay turnoff and discover endless beaches and huge dune fields. The Goukamma River and estuary are also within the reserve. Southern right whales visit from July to October, and you may spot dolphins playing in the surf at any time of year. Share a hiking trail (four options, from 4km to 16km) with small antelope and birdlife, hire a canoe, go swimming or fishing (permit required).
4. Enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the many tranquil sites in the forests around Knysna. Jubilee Creek is a particular favourite, with a short nature walk along the river. Go up the Rheenendal Road west of Knysna and take the turnoff to Millwood, then follow the signs. Entrance fee payable unless you show a Wild Card.
5. Discover a peaceful oasis in the middle of town – the Pledge Nature Reserve is slap‐bang in the heart of Knysna, just 200m from busy Main Road. A circular route of paths winds through indigenous wetland, forest and fynbos in this 10ha reserve. Rest on a wooden bench next to a lily pond or go in search of the blue‐mantled crested‐flycatcher, olive bush‐shrike or Knysna turaco.
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