Joan and Randy are great friends from Los Angeles in the USA who travelled to Uganda to view the total eclipse in November 2013. They then decided to also pay a visit to South Africa through Anastasia’s Africa who contacted us to help with a Garden Route adventure leg of their visit. They enjoyed a few nights exploring Cape Town and the Cape Winelands where they spent a night in Stellenbosch at Coopmanhuijs Boutique Hotel. We had arranged with them to depart Stellenbosch on their first day in the Garden Route close to mid day to allow them some time to explore the beautiful town of Stellenbosch.
We travelled up the Huguenot’s Pass and through the Huguenot’s Tunnel and into the Overberg region. We travelled through the town of Worcester which is the major commercial centre for this region before travelling to Robertson where we were scheduled to enjoy lunch. I opted to stop at the Small Robertson Hotel which is home to one of the Ruben Restaurants. Here we enjoyed a fantastic lunch in a fantastic setting under some trees in warm clear weather. Our hostess at the restaurant and hotel had a larger than life personality who was fun with a fantastic sense of humour. After lunch we took the short drive along the famous R72 and turned off just before Barrydale onto the Tradouw Pass, rated as on of the top scenic passes in South Africa. We stopped and enjoyed some of the scenery before travelling to our first overnight stop in Swellendam where we stayed at the very popular Roosje Van de Kaap Bed & Breakfast. Dinner included some wine and a good meal at the Drostdy Restaurant in the Drostdy Museum Complex in Swellendam. After some wine enjoying the late afternoon we headed to our table inside the restaurant to enjoy the menu. After dinner a short walk back to the guest house and we retired for the night for the drive to Knysna the next day.
The next morning we enjoyed the breakfast which was served in the guest houses restaurant, a full English breakfast set us up for our journey to Knysna. Joan and Randy had not experienced the Garden Route before so I suggested a short break in Mossel Bay known for the Portuguese explored museum, the Diaz Museum complex and great white shark diving off their island. We stopped at the point area for a cup of coffee and refreshments and to allow Randy & Joan to stretch their legs and enjoy this beautiful coast line. After this we travelled into Wilderness where we stopped at the view point overlooking this adventure and nature region, some paragliders flew over us while we were stopped and sailed very close to the edge of the hill. we continued on through this incredibly scenic area and through Sedgefield and into Knysna where we went straight to the Featherbed terminal where we all enjoyed some fresh sea food lunch before departing on the featherbed nature reserve excursion. Enjoy the short boat trip across the Knysna estuary , or as the locals call it the Lagoon, the guide explained the history of the Islands which partly make up the residential area of Knysna and the two geological formations, The Heads. On the other side of the lagoon everyone jumps off the boat and onto the trailers which are towed by a slow moving diesel Unimog vehicle. While the vehicle travels up onto the top of the Western Head the guide gives a running commentary of the fauna and flora and history of the Featherbed Nature Reserve. At the top everyone got onto foot and took the short 2km walk down and back to the restaurant. Randy took the walk while Joan and I took the ride back and enjoyed a cup of tea while waiting for the group to return to the restaurant. When the group returned everyone enjoyed a refreshment or a beer and we returned on the boat to the featherbed terminal. From here we checked in at the St James guest house and had a bit of time to relax and enjoy the facilities before dinner at the guest house restaurant.
The St James Guest House in Knysna offers a fine dinning experience, Joan, Randy and myself enjoyed Oysters for starters while Joan introduced me to a really tasty sauce for oysters, some Tomato sauce and horse radish mix, this mix went very well with the oysters. The mains were fantastic as was the desert. We then retired to the luxury of the bedrooms to get a good nights rest for the long drive to Kwandwe Private Game Reserve the next day.
An early start for Joan & Randy as they wanted to enjoy the fantastic scenery on offer from St James guest house. after the leisurely start and breakfast we departed for Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. En route we stopped at the Bloukrans Bridge where the highest Bridge Bungee is conducted. 216 metres of pure adrenalin? Randy was pretty nervous with a slight fear of heights but managed the view and a few good pictures of the brave soles taking the plunge. After this short stop we continued on through to the “Big Tree” located in the Tsitsikamma National Park which is an Old yellowwood tree that survived the woodcutters 80 years ago.
From here we travelled through to Nanaga Farm Stall where we enjoyed a fantastic lunch on the road and then took the last leg of our journey to Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. Kwandwe was no disappointment and from the fantastic and friendly welcome Joan and Randy received I know they were going to have a lifetime experience at this luxury reserve in the Eastern Cape. Being welcomed with fresh hand towels and a refreshing fruit cocktail Randy & Joan checked in. Joan wanted to wait to meet an old friend who was in the neighbourhood, and after this brief catching up of old friends they departed to the Great Fish River Lodge, which they did not make it to until that evening as they met the Game viewing vehicle on the road and jumped on to enjoy the first evening wildlife Safari which was packed with wildlife. Having three of the big 5 in the first evening was a great start to their stay, Buffalo and then Rhino and then a large herd of Elephant before we stopped to enjoy sundowners snacks and drinks in the middle of the reserve. When the safari ended Randy & Joan freshened up and enjoyed the excellent dinner with a few glasses of wine from Kwandwe’s on wine label.
The next morning is a standard early morning on Reserves when guests get up at 05:00 and ready to depart at 05:45 for there morning safari. It must have been one of the hottest days since summer arriving as one could easily have spent the day in the private plunge pool offered by each chalet. The wildlife safari was spent searching for the elusive leopard which eluded Joan & Randy the whole trip. During the evening safari randy & Joan were treated to enjoying the entrées of dinner in the bush. When the safari stopped to allow guests to stretch and enjoy a sundowners drink, they were welcomed by the lodge staff with some warm soup and entrees. Then they returned to the lodge for the main meal, not before getting a puncture 150 metres out from the lodge in the dark.
The last morning again was spent on safari visiting another section of the reserve where we found Lion in the thick Eastern Cape bush. It was a fantastic sighting and spent some time there enjoying these magnificent animals. We then left them in peace and went in search of the leopard again but unsuccessful. we did however come across the scarce Black Rhino which was a fantastic send off. with less then a few thousand of these incredible animals left it was a real treat for Joan to see a mother and calf. From here breakfast was served at the lodge and then check out at the main reception area where Joan and randy enjoyed the short trip back to Port Elizabeth airport. I bid them farewell on their onward journey and it was fantastic to get to know them and hopefully meet in the future again, whether here in South Africa or in the States.
Thanks for the great company and trip Joan & Randy!! Safe travels in the future!
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