A 100% ethical African journey, self-driving the length of the south coast from Cape Town to Addo
The Garden Route, which traverses the south coast of South Africa from Cape Town to Addo, is arguably one of the most splendid road trips you can do anywhere on the planet. Whilst it can in theory be driven in a day (under 12 hours, as it's around 1 000km long), in reality the massive variety of biome, the number of experiences and places along the route mean that an absolute minimum is really five days.
So we've deliberately kept the pace of this journey sedate to allow you to fully experience the unique identity of each place along the route: the Garden Route is often touted as a 'drive along the N2' (that's the name of the main highway that connects the larger towns) and whilst this is to an extent true, getting off the highway and getting to the more remote locations makes this into a truly magical trip.
This trip is 100% ethical; every supplier has made a commitment - and has been independently audited in the fulfillment of that commitment - to placing people and planet first in every aspect of their business practice. Rest assured then that everything you will see and do on this trip makes a positive impact on the places and people you visit, not the opposite. This is a self-drive route but we can just as easily make this into a guided and chauffered route if you like. Contact us for a price.
You'll be collected from Cape Town International Airport by Chris Hannival - of Hannival's Tours - and taken to Parker Cottage, your home for the next three nights.
During your time in Cape Town, you'll go on two tours, the first of which is a walking tour of the City Bowl area. Chris Hannival will take you on foot through the area formally known as District Six, now renamed Zonnebloem, which is where he himself grew up. The history of the area is very controversial, with some claiming it was a racially motivated gentrification policy, others claiming it was a slum and needed to be demolished anyway. Whichever way you see it, the reconstruction of the district and the resettlement of former residents is still ongoing and is in itself controversial. To begin to understand the history of District Six is to begin to understand the history of South Africa.
On the same walk, if there is time, Chris will take you through the Company’s Garden, along Spin Street and past the Slave Lodge, areas very rich in history and significance and also beautiful to visit.
On your last day in Cape Town, Chris will collect you early from Parker Cottage and you'll be taken for a tour of the Cape Peninsula. This simply stunning trip will take you south from Cape Town to Muizenberg (surfing town with lots of beautiful Victorian beach houses), through Kalk Bay (bo-ho seaside town full of antique shops and hippy culture) and then on to the Cape Point Nature Reserve.
3 Carstens Street, Tamboerskloof
Tel +27 21 424 6445
After enjoying the delights of Cape Town for three days, you start your Garden Route road trip in earnest! You'll collect your rental car on the morning of Day 4 and drive the two hours to Swellendam.
The fastest route is simply to take the N2 highway out of town (which is perfectly pleasant and climbs over the Sir Lowry's Pass, through the small towns of Caledon and Grabouw). However you can also make more of the day either by driving through the Winelands, stopping for lunch at one of the numerous wine estates (we particularly like the offering at Vergelegen just outside Somerset West, Fyndraai at Solms Delta just outside Franschhoek or The Postcard Cafe at Stark Conde just outside Stellenbosch).
Another option is to take a detour through Gordon's Bay, along Clarence Drive and into Hermanus, before rejoining the N2 at Caledon. This will add another 2 hours to the drive (so four hours in total) but there are ample interesting stops along the way and excellent dining for lunch either in Hermanus itself.
Your lodging for the next two nights is Augusta de Mist, an utterly baffling and totally charming place: you eye cannot ever rest on just one thing as each turn reveals another interesting object or new place to sit or look at. The owner, Michel, is Canadian by birth and just happens to be chef, so the standard of food here is simply outstanding.
Swellendam, where Augusta de Mist is located, is an old town by South African standards, officially separated from the Cape colony in 1743. For a long time, it represented the ‘final’ town between the rapidly advancing colonial influence on the Cape and the rest of the ‘dark continent’ to the east. The town made most of its money through the cunning business interests of brothers Barry and Nephew who were the first to exploit the Breede Rivier (which runs close to the town) as a mode of transport for goods back in 1822. Their small shipping company was so successful that they even set up a private bank in their names!
3 Human St, Swellendam, 6740
Tel 028 514 2425
Hog Hollow Country Lodge
This is place to relax totally and utterly, yet surrounded by many things to see and do. As the owners quote: “If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.” Lin Yutang (1895 –1976).
Expect views far and wide of the valleys & Tsitsikamma Mountains and a complimentary sunset every evening from the veranda. Couple this with outstanding cuisine, comfortable accommodation & friendly hospitality. Hog Hollow is intimate but not overly so, with just sixteen uniquely-styled rooms, most of which have private decks and fireplaces and all of which have king-sized beds.
If you're travelling with a group, consider the Villa at Hog Hollow which is 400m from the main Lodge. It hosts a games room, swimming pool, barbeque facilities and a central eating area as well as three en-suite bedrooms.
During your first day here, you'll be learning how to fly through the trees with the greatest of ease: Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours offer a unique way to access the sights and sounds of ths most splendid of indigenous African forests. Built high up in the tree canopies are a series of wooden platforms, connected by wire cables. You're given a full induction and safety briefly and then, after climbing into the trees, you're connected to the cable network and glide from tree to tree.
On your second day in the area, we recommend a visit to the Tenikwa which is a genuine wildlife rehabilitation centre. Almost everywhere one goes in South Africa, one comes across 'wildlife rescue' or 'animal orphanages' or 'rehabilitation centres'. Sadly many of these places are not in fact what they purport to be and are often simply breeding farms for wild animals which are then sold at auction and used in hunting or to stock game farms. Tenikwa is completely different to this. Every component of your visit is precisely built and constantly evaluated to ensure that community and wildlife is placed first and human interaction second. For this reason, whilst some of the animals being rehabilitated are held captive, there is absolutely no human-animal interaction permitted by visitors. The funding model is a genuine conservation one, not a window dressing exercise.
Askop Road, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay, 6602
Tel 044 534 8879
Oyster Bay Lodge
Remote in its location and therefore actually a destination in itself, Oyster Bay Lodge offers a virtually private 4km long beachfront behind which you’ll find only fourteen rooms centered around the main building.
The buildings are the only human constructions in a reserve of over 230 hectares of dune, beach and coastal bush. Within this area you’ll come across small river deltas, beautiful shallow lagoons and masses of indigenous bird life.
They offer four Luxury Chalets (separate detached buildings) which are inspired by Cape Dutch architecture and then another ten Comfortable Rooms which are terraced together.
You can choose from a full-board rate (all meals included) or select which meals you’d like and can also pick and choose from a great range of activities right from your front door. You might expect horse riding and sandboarding in such a location but you probably wouldn’t expect the opportunity to try your hand at cheese making in the on-site dairy or river kayaking or ‘geo-caching’ (which is a form of treasure hunt).
Woodbury Lodge - a private lodge set in the Amakhala Game Reserve - is a particularly special place. The reserve was started by a group of six farmers who are all descended from the original 1820 Settlers (a group of British people who were exported from Britain and unceremoniously dumped in the African bush as a buffer zone between Cape Town on the one hand and the Xhosa people on the other). As such, despite being a large reserve, Amakhala has very much the feeling of being run by a large family. There is a total absence of the atmosphere of a corporate hotel here.
The setting of Woodbury is truly spectacular, set against a cliff above the Bushmans River valley. It offers an intimate and tranquil experience of the Eastern Cape riverine bushveld at its best. It is the ideal place for couples or families to relax and enjoy the bush together.
Guests are accommodated in seven comfortably-appointed stone-and-thatch sleeping lodges, each with air-conditioning and en-suite bathroom. The secluded lodges are designed with individual outdoor relaxation areas that enable visitors to enjoy our unique and breath-taking views at their leisure. Guests are often thrilled by late afternoon sightings of an elephant herd passing by.
There are a range of activities to participate in that include game viewing, a river cruise, bush walks and horse trails. For those interested in soaking up the African sun, recline around the pool and enjoy some quiet bird watching.
N2 between Port Elizabeth & Grahamstown, 6130
Tel 041 502 9400
All accommodation choices are either Fair Trade in Tourism accredited or have a written commitment to ethicality with Where It All Began