SA Blog is exploring South Africa on the Baz Bus, following the adventures of intrepid Baz Blogger Kathy - a.k.a. "Trekker".
Playing with Fire
Welcome back, fearless travelers, and strap yourselves in, because the next 10 Baz Bus stops promise hair-raising adventure and nature galore!
Continuing with Leg One of the Baz Bus route, and picking up where we left off (in Oudtshoorn, I believe it was), we probe deeper into the Garden Route.
BAZ STOP: WILDERNESS
The start of South Africa's Lake District, and right in the heart of the Garden Route, Wilderness is as beautiful as its name suggests.
Approaching with the Baz Bus from the west, the first thing you see are stunning beaches, breaking waves, lagoons and rolling hills. From surfing, abseiling, canoeing and kloofing to just sunbathing on the beach, there is much to do in Wilderness.
BAZ STOP: SEDGEFIELD
A relatively new stop on the Baz schedule (not even on its maps yet - but you can pick it out on this Garden Route map), Sedgefield is a must-stop for anyone and everyone.
Here you can leap off a cliff into crytal clear waters, tandem paraglide, and, if you have enough time, stay for a week or two and become a paraglider pilot yourself.
On the banks of the Swartvlei estuary - where you can search for the rare Knysna Seahorse - this little town is a well-kept secret. But its not only hi-flying and lakes, there are also FOUR fantastic beaches where surfing is a must!
- Where to stay in Sedgefield: Upendi Backpackers. An amazing stop and brand new. The only double-story thatch-roofed building in town, it's the perfect place to relax before flying or canoeing. Sancheo, the owner, will teach you how to poi, fire dance, and - as she's a paraglider pilot herself - can answer any questions you might have on that. Close to town and only a 2min walk from the lagoon, Upendi is the place to be!
- SIDE NOTE: For Sedgefield and Buffalo Bay, Baz Bus had a bit of a mental block. In their files Sedgefield is listed under Knysna and so a booking to go from Sedgefield to Buffalo Bay or vice versa is impossible - even though, geographically, coming from Cape Town, the stops would run Sedgefield, Buffalo Bay, Knysna. But don’t let this deter you, I think I argued enough for them to have fixed this little glitch.
BAZ STOP: BUFFALO BAY Where to stay in Buffalo Bay: Wildside Backpackers. Take a walk on the wildside, where the beach literally comes into the hostel. With a lively bar and fantastic staff, Wildside is the perfect place to base yourself for trips to Knysna.
If you like surfing, but don't like the idea of congested beaches, Buffalo Bay is the place for you. Enjoy a day of surfing, swimming and general relaxation.
BAZ STOP: KNYSNA
Taking its name from the river that runs by the town, Knysna has become a tourist Mecca. It is home to several endangered species, notably the Knysna Seahorse, the rare Pansy Shell and the Brenton Blue Butterfly. Many years ago, elephants used to grace the surrounding forests, but they are no more, though some tell it differently (a good book about these majestic creatures is: Circles in the Forest by Dalene Matthee; and see below for elephants nearby).
- Trekker's Opinion: Knysna used to be an amazing place to stop, and I have fond memories of it from my childhood. However, these days it has become VERY touristy, so if you are going to visit Knysna I suggest you use Buffalo Bay or Sedgefield as your base.
BAZ STOP: PLETTENBERG BAY
Overlooking the picturesque Keurbooms Lagoon and home to the Robberg Nature Reserve, Plettenberg Bay is truly spectacular. I know it took my breath away.
Lemur at Monkeyland
It's essential to go for a walk through the MonkeyLand Primate Sanctuary (23 hectares of indigenous forest, home to over 10 species of monkey, all free roaming, so be sure to hold onto your cameras, glasses, hats). Follow that with a trek through the Birds of Eden Sanctuary or the Knysna Elephant Park. All three are within walking distance of each other - book through your hostel.
The bay itself is home to dolphins, whales and seals too numerous to count. Go scuba diving or on a whale watching tour - you might even catch a glimpse of the rare Narwhal. In short, come to Plett prepared to play and play hard!
- Where to stay in Plett: Albergo Backpackers. I actually stayed with family while I was in Plett, but did make a stop in at Albergo Backpackers and was very impressed.
BAZ STOP: NATURE’S VALLEY
Situated in the heart of one of only two rain forests in South Africa, Nature’s Valley truly lives up to its name. It is a haven for anyone and everyone who requires a break from the city, or the constant get-up-and-go lifestyle of a backpacker. Here is where you can rejuvenate and relax, on beaches or in age-old forests (Tsitsikamma National Park is the highlight of highlights on the Garden Route; the name derives from a Khoisan word meaning "much water").
- SIDE NOTE: Remember though, there is not much here as far as banks or restaurants go, so come prepared with a few supplies and cash.
BAZ STOP: STORMS RIVER
Whether its taking a zipline through the Tsitsikamma forest or throwing yourself off the highest bungee jump in the world at Bloukrans Bridge (216m / 720ft of pure DOWN), Storms River is non-stop adventure action center.
But don’t think this beautiful part of the world is just for adrenaline junkies - there are some breathtaking hikes and bike trails, including the famous Otter Trail, on offer.
The Otter Trail is usually booked up a year in advance, but if you’re lucky there might be a cancellation and you can scoot in. Otherwise, enjoy the start of the trail, which is open to everyone.
- Where to stay in Storms River: Tube ‘n Axe Backpackers. Stayed here for a night, and though it was not as busy as I thought it would be - a party got on the Baz Bus just as I got off - I had a fun time and that’s all that counts. The only down side is that their shuttle to various tourist attractions was rather expensive, which might place a limit on some activities.
We'll complete our Leg One journey in the next post. Till then, keep trekkin'!