Last year the girls and I escaped with Chantelle’s folks to Gouritz (better known by its more common Afrikaans name, Gouritsmond) for a couple of days, ending off 2016 and ringing in 2017 with a proper little December Holidays getaway.
Gouritz is a small coastal holiday town situated at the Gourits River mouth, about 30 km away from Mossel Bay and on the same stretch of coastline as nearby Vleesbaai, Boggoms Bay, and a particular favourite of mine, Pinnacle Point.
Thanks to its access to both the Indian Ocean and Gourits River, Gouritz is a mecca for fishing, boating, and other water sports, and given its relatively remote setting, is a popular area for nature lovers to gather.
Also, come the December holidays, it gets packed to the rafters with people escaping to the coast!
After an enjoyable drive up with loads of short stops in between, the girls and I eventually reached the tiny town and joined up with Oupa and Ouma at our house for the next couple of days, the peculiarly named Drie Plekke Lekker.
(Sadly, Drie Plekke Lekker is rather… lacking on the maintenance front, meaning that despite the nice space, for now it is difficult to wholeheartedly recommend until someone steps in and fixes it up a little).
Over the next couple of days we enjoyed milktart pancakes, walks around the town, drives along the coast, swims in the river, lunch in the middle of nowhere, a trip on a train to Hartenbos, and a massive New Year’s Eve lamb spit braai in the caravan park with Bernard and the rest of Monty and Cheryl’s friends!
Jessica flew her kite, the girls played non-stop with their Oupa, and pretty much every morning kicked off with multiple games of Snakes and Ladders. (Oh, and as a bonus surprise, Chantelle managed to slip away from the guest house in order to drive up and join us for a day or two!)
So. Pretty impossible to say that we didn’t have a good time then.
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A great little off the beaten path holiday spot.
The last day of our long weekend away in the Garden Route had finally arrived, and as luck would have it, the good weather that we had been enjoying up until now finally gave way to some rain, making the last morning of hotel breakfast and packing up a bit of a grey, overcast and wet affair!
While Evan and Natasha opted to stick around and spend some more time in George, the rest of us decided to call it a day and head back home via the N2 – but not before making a scheduled stop at the Alcare Aloe shop in Albertinia,to pick up some supplies that Monty and Cheryl had ordered before they had left for the weekend.
Pleasingly, the shop has attached to it a great little coffee stop in the form of the Giant Aloe Cafe, which was exactly what the doctor ordered on such a cold and wet day.
Featuring a centrally placed fireplace and loads of home made nibbles to choose from, we quickly settled in for a nice warming cup of coffee and a small treat for the girls.
(Also, it gave Chantelle and Cheryl an excuse to do a bit of browsing through the multitude of aloe products on display!)
Of more interest to me however was the giant, super realistic aloe statue erected outside. Naturally, a closer inspection was called for!
Unveiled in 2010, this 9 metre tall statue of a Cape Aloe plant (Aloe ferox) features individually sculpted leaves, flowers and thorns, weighing in at approximately 2,500 kg!
This beautiful piece of art (designed by George-based sculptors) took approximately 8,800 man hours to complete and now stands as a beautiful and eye-catching landmark for the small town of Albertinia (which is already kind of known as “Aloe Country “anyways!).
In other words, you can’t miss it.
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The Pied Kingfisher Trail is situated in Wilderness in the Western Cape, South Africa. The 11 km long trail is popular with birdwatchers and makes for an ideal morning hike that should take about 3-4 hours to complete. It is an easy going flat circular trail that begins at the Ebb and Flow South Rest Camp in the Wilderness National Park.
However, with two little girls, one toddler and a baby, we weren’t really interested in all that, now were we?
Instead, with our hunger and thirst now satisfied, we next struck out for the popular boardwalk section of the greater Pied Kingfisher Trail, a pleasant walk all along the edge of the Touwsrivier.
Access is easy enough (you can jump on the boardwalk directly from Waterside road), and the result is an easy, pleasant stroll along the water’s edge and through the reeds – affording you some great bird-watching opportunities in the process!
The views are great and for the kids it is a big adventure, meaning that this little stroll definitely has something for everyone!
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(And from there, it was back to Far Hills Country Hotel for a bit of a rest break following the day’s activities, before we once again headed out for some well deserved supper and play time at the classic George Geronimo Spur!)
Related Link: Pied Kingfisher Trail
Having enjoyed all the stunning coastal scenery afforded to us by first Victoria Bay and then Herolds Bay, we next headed into Wilderness, with the intent to go for a stroll along the Touwsrivier boardwalk with Evan and Natasha. However, it quickly became apparent that by this stage the kids were more than a tad hungry, forcing us to redirect and find a place to grab a bite.
Luckily for us, Monty came up with a brilliant suggestion in the form of Cocomo Restaurant, situated literally right in the heart of the Wilderness Village!
If you love music then you’ve definitely come to the right place, as this laid-back restaurant goes all out with the musical theme, with old vinyl records as placemats and featuring live music sessions 7 days a week!
They are known for their great pizza (which the girls thoroughly enjoyed), but like any South African restaurant, their food selection covers pretty much everything that you might want.
Also, I enjoyed one of the best tasting craft beers that I’ve ever drunk in South Africa, the Mossel Bay produced Glenhoff Lager (from South Cape Breweries)!
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Related Link: Cocomo Restaurant
The second day of our Garden Route weekend away at the Far Hills Country Hotel was off to a good start. Having enjoyed looking at the beautiful scenery and surfers of Victoria Bay, we hopped back into our car and followed Monty and Cheryl out towards Herolds Bay, a small coastal village that is popular with George residents as a holiday camping destination.
Originally known as Sandstrand, the village of Herolds Bay took its name from the first Dutch Reformed minister (and avid angler) who held office in George in 1823, Tobias Herold. (The first permanent known Herolds Bay resident was a Mr. Thompson, who survived a shipwreck in 1920, and took refuge and permanent residence in a cave for a period of eight years!)
Situated in a sheltered rocky coastal cove, Herolds Bay is a popular holiday destination for the locals, and has managed to retain a quaint sense of still being a small coastal hamlet. It features a beautiful flat beach with some great waves for swimming, and of course some stunning scenery to go along with it!
Lush indigenous coastal Fynbos create a natural haven for birding enthusiasts and nature lovers, there are plenty of hikes and walks to be attempted, and oh yes, the tidal pool is a pretty popular spot too! (Plus, if you are into golf then it is worth noting that Herolds Bay is also home to the Ernie Els Signature Golf Course at the adjacent Oubaai golf resort.)
Despite the slightly overcast sky, we decided that some ice cream would be the perfect beach treat, and judging by the lines surrounding the multitude of ice cream vendors next to the beach, we certainly weren’t the only ones with this thought!
Naturally, the girls raced through their ice creams in order to head down for some play time in the sand, which was perfectly okay with us as it gave us even more time to just sit and admire the view of this picturesque little Garden Route coastal stop!
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Also, a map if you are also looking to get there someday:
Related Link: Herolds Bay
Having enjoyed a brilliant first day out that saw us do a lot of driving and sightseeing, the second day of our Far Hills Country Hotel long weekend getaway got off to a much more relaxed start, with us enjoying some coffee on our private balcony while watching thousands of white egrets fly through the valley down below.
After an okay breakfast (the hotel was rather understaffed for the amount of people currently visiting), the whole lot of us (Monty, Cheryl, Evan, Natasha, Chantelle and all the kids) headed out towards to the nearby surfers’ paradise, Victoria Bay – perhaps better known by its other more colloquial name, Vic Bay.
This beautiful small cove is situated on the Garden Route between George and Wilderness, and is a particularly popular beach for surfers, consisting of a right hand reef-like wave which rolls over small boulder-like rocks for about 200m. Both district and national surf competitions are held here, so you are pretty much guaranteed to always find someone in the water – no matter what time of year you get there!
It is an absolutely stunning piece of Garden Route scenery and well worth the stop, even if it is just to go for an amble past all the quaint houses lining the one side of the cove, wander down the pier, or just hunker down and enjoy watching the surfers and bodyboarders at play.
We took our time strolling around, and yes, lots of photos were taken.
After spending a decent amount of time taking in all the sights and scenery, we decided to take our leave of Victoria Bay, splitting off from Evan and Natasha who opted to spend the rest of the day there instead. (There is a small restaurant next to the beach in case you didn’t think of packing in a picnic or braai supplies!)
We did have a good reason though – ice cream at Herolds Bay was beckoning!
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Related Link: Victoria Bay
So far our roadtrip through to The Crags for the first day of our Garden Route getaway to the Far Hills Country Hotel in George was going pretty well. Having spent the morning walking among the birds at the splendid Birds of Eden bird sanctuary, followed by a bite to eat and game time at the Plett Puzzle Park, we next stepped into the world of big cats with a trip to Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary.
Primarily a big cat sanctuary, the award winning Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary has been running in one form or another since 2005, originally started by Jurg and Karen Olsen in George. We’re familiar with the facility from its Mossel Bay stint between 2007 and 2013, but this was our first time visiting them at their new home in The Crags.
(Because they are now a part of the South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA), which consists of Monkeyland, Birds of Eden and now Jukani, it made sense for them to move closer to the other two – despite the logistical nightmare such a move must have been!)
First off, I have to say that the new premises for the cats is fantastic! Massive enclosures, with plenty of grass and trees makes for a stunning environment in which to watch these magnificent predators go about their daily lives.
We had an excellent guide in the form of Elvis, who took our group for a lengthy tour around the sanctuary, showing off Jukani’s massive collection of lions, tigers, jaguars, mountain lions, wild dogs, cheetah, hyena, and of course… their snakes. (The only thing that we didn’t get a close up view of on the day were the leopards, mainly because they didn’t seem too keen on coming up close to us!)
For me the stars of the show were the massive tigers right at the start of the tour, but without a doubt the stand out moment of the trip was right at the end, when a massive male lion, having just finished chewing up his donkey leg, started vocalizing to let everyone know that he was now done.
Literally shivers down my spine!
Tickets are a bit on the pricey side, but this sanctuary is definitely one of the best big cat sanctuaries that I’ve ever been to, so it really is well worth a visit.
Of course, my phone camera didn’t do well with all the tree shadows and fencing to contend with, so the photos are quite poor for the most part, but hey, at least you get a good idea of what is on offer at Jukani:
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(Amazingly, the girls literally just had enough energy to finish this one off, rounding off what had been quite a day of walking for the two!)
P.S. Jukani is of course also famous for its legendary and well documented black leopard story, which essentially has a bad tempered leopard named Diablo completely transform his personality through little more than a name change to Spirit on recommendation of animal whisperer Anna Breytenbach:
Oh, and a map just in case you want to know where Jukani is now situated:
Related Link: Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary
Day 1 of our weekend away at the Far Hills Country Hotel saw us undertake a lengthy roadtrip through to The Crags, an activity-rich area just outside of Plettenberg Bay. Having spent most of the morning exploring the wonderful Birds of Eden bird sanctuary, we decided to grab a bite to eat at the Plett Puzzle Park, a quirky little find (right next to Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary) whose claim to fame is their life size wooden 3D maze, not to mention their unique Forest Puzzle Walk.
The kids are still too small to tackle the two above mentioned attractions (or the kiddie maze for that matter), but they had plenty of fun messing about with Plett Puzzle Park’s oversized garden games, thus giving Monty, Cheryl, Chantelle and myself more than enough time to browse the interesting little shop (filled to the brim with puzzles and other ingenious games) and then grab a light lunch from the onsite cafe.
There is a lot of bird life in the garden (and a handy identification chart as well), but the cherry on top was definitely all the little games attached to the tables – especially the naughts and crosses battlefield carved right into the table itself!
Definitely a great spot to relax and refill your energy levels (not to mention get that brain working), and I can easily see myself returning there in the future once the girls are old enough to tackle the maze with me!
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Related Link: Plett Puzzle Park
The first day of our long weekend away at Far Hills Country Hotel, just outside of George, saw us hit the N2 (and by hit, I mean travel slowly, thanks to the multitude of speed cameras and restrictive speed limits in the area!) and travel along the Garden Route all the way past Plettenberg Bay, until we reached the activity-rich area known as The Crags.
Our first activity scheduled for the day was a visit to the famous Birds of Eden sanctuary, touted as being the world’s largest free flight aviary and bird sanctuary.
Now Chantelle and I have visited the bird sanctuary previously back in 2009 as part of our honeymoon roadtrip, and as such, were rather eager to introduce this great place to our little girls.
Monty and Cheryl opted to join us on this outing, and pleasingly, the weather turned out to be perfect for the day, allowing us to take our time and wander about the lush and overgrown aviary without a care in the world.
Thanks to the cool weather as well as being in the middle of breeding season, the aviary wasn’t exactly overflowing with birds out in the open, which was a bit of a pity because it meant that we strolled the boardwalks for relatively long sections without so much as a single sighting!
Despite that though, there was in the end more than enough birds available for spotting by our eager little girls, and despite the length of the walk (there’s 1.2 km of walkways covering the length and breadth of the 2.3 hectare large aviary) the girls seemed to thoroughly enjoy the adventure!
(However, the novelty of a 1.2 km walk does wear off after a couple of hours when you’re little, so we did travel the last few meters with two rather grumbly and tired little girls!)
I thoroughly enjoyed the outing, and we had some great sightings of some unusual birds, with the trip being rounded off by the hilarious addition of people preparing for a wedding procession whilst being watched by a troop of baboons outside.
I did snap a lot of photos with my Huawei P8 phone as per usual, but unfortunately the varying light conditions caused by all the foliage meant that the picture quality came out pretty uneven to say the least! Still, it should give you some idea as to what to expect if you yourself ever make the trip down there…
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Related Link: Birds of Eden