The Garden Route

The Garden Route South Africa

The Garden Route is another of South Africa's most popular tourist attractions. It is a 780-kilometer (485 mile) stretch of the N2 highway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The highlight of this route is the 227 kilometers (155 miles) that spans from the Great Brak River (just east of Mossel Bay) to Humansdorp, near Port Elizabeth.

This paradise of trees, flowers and forests includes the city of George and seaside Knysna; where a steam train linking the two cities winds through spectacular scenery. Rich in marine life, secluded beaches and blue lagoons, the Garden Route is a favorite destination for local and overseas holidaymakers.

The Tsitsikamma area has dense, cool and quite forests. Elephants were once hunted for tier ivory in great numbers; now those that are left live in the depths of the forest and are elusive and seldom seen. The name for this area was derived from the Khoikhoi word for the sound of running water. This is a very apt description; as the region, extending across the 160 km (99 miles) of coastal countryside is notable for it's high rainfall and for the numerous perennial streams (see more about the KhoiKhoi here).

Plettenberg Bay is probably the most fashionable of this region's coastal resort centers, well known for it's sun-drenched, golden beaches. The area is blessed with 320 days of sunshine a year. Knysna is also a most attractive and popular resort town. Their motto is 'This fair land is the gift of God', a fitting testament to the beauty of lagoon, forest and coastal countryside.

Average temperatures (minimum - maximum): January: 17 - 24 Celsius / 63 - 74 Fahrenheit; July: 10 - 16 Celsius / 50 - 62 Fahrenheit.

The Great Karoo

The Great Karoo covers about 400,000 km2 (154,440 square miles) of the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and some of the Free State. This represents about one-third of the area of South Africa. It extends from the Southern rim of the Great Escarpment (the mountain ranges of the coastal region in the Eastern Cape) northwards to the Orange River, and westwards to Namaqualand.

It is a huge semi-arid country whose name, once again derived from the Khoisan, means 'thirst'. Bisecting the Karoo is the N1 national highway that links Cape Town with Johannesburg. Approximately a quarter of the way along travelling north is Beaufort West, the capital of the region. There are very few towns or villages, those that have been established are isolated from each other. Due north from the Eastern Cape part of the Karoo, beyond the wide reaches of the Orange River, are the great diamond fields of the Northern Cape, their focus the historic city of Kimberly. To the west lies the Gordonia region, also vast and dry, whose principal town is Upington. The northern limit is the Kalahari desert and Botswana, its western being Namibia.

Other attractions is this vast region include Graaf Reinet in the Eastern Cape, national parks like the Karoo and Kalahari Gemsbok and the Augrabies Falls west of Upington. In the Kalahari some San bushmen still live in total harmony with nature and much as their ancestors did many, many years ago.

Average temperatures (minimum - maximum): January: 17 - 36 Celsius / 65 - 96 Fahrenheit / July: 4 - 20 Celsius / 40 - 68 Fahrenheit.