The Garden Route’s official borders end at Mossel Bay in the Western Cape and Storms River in the Eastern Cape and, between these two gems, lies a world of adventure. This area is known for being unabashedly beautiful. It has forests, mountains, valleys, vineyards, quaint towns and vast stretches of gorgeous beaches.
Until a few years ago, I didn’t want to have much more to do with the sea than look at it, jump over knee-high waves, and lie next to it in the sun. Then, I married someone who has salt water running through his veins. The ocean is part of who he is. I wouldn’t be surprised if we found some dorado DNA in his brush. So, in addition to experiencing the water in a different way, I’ve actually found that the whole of the Garden Route holds different promise for travellers. I may not be able to speak dolphin yet, but I’m certainly more aware of all the wonder and adventure that the gorgeous Indian Ocean has in store for visitors to this magnificent part of South Africa.
So, here is a list of water sports and the best spots along the Garden Route in which to indulge your inner Kai Lenny:
South African locals know that the hottest surfing spot is Jeffrey’s Bay, which is nicknamed ‘gateway to the Garden Route’ as it lies just outside its borders. But, there are a number of awesome spots within this route’s borders too; with good swell, warm waters and a fair amount of challenge. These spots include the scenic coastal village of Vleesbaai, Mossel Bay (The Point has great peeling waves, which make it ideal for newbies and experienced surfers alike), Vic Bay (just outside George, this right point break is surrounded by beautiful views), and Nature’s Valley (a quiet spot frequented by dolphins and, sometimes, whales).
While the Eastern Cape is definitely windier than its neighbour, the Garden Route has a number of fantastic places for kiters to do their thing. Myoli Beach at Sedgefield is incredible for its cross-shore winds and great waves with a fresh south-easterly in summer, while Buffalo Bay and Brenton on Lake also promise excellent kiting on windy days.
The hydrofoiling craze has hit Cape Town and the Garden Route in a big way. It’s been described as flying above water and can be enjoyed at Buffalo Bay, Brenton on Lake, Plett, and on the Knysna Lagoon. The best thing about hydrofoiling is that it’s not confined to one sport. A hydrofoil can be added to SUP boards, surfboards, kiteboards and wakeboards.
Stand-Up Paddling (SUP-ing)
I love SUP-ing because it’s easy enough for never-been-watersports-people to tackle, it still gives you the opportunity to be on the water and in the spray, and you can advance from paddling on your knees to standing to catching waves. The quiet waters of the Knysna Lagoon or the vleis around Sedgefield are perfect for a gentle SUP, but any of the beaches that dot the coast are lovely in the right conditions.
The Indian Ocean is teeming with incredible fish species and deep-sea fishing excursions are a real hit for anyone wanting a little adrenalin in the midst of really beautiful surrounds. Spend a day on the water and look forward to catching red Roman, santer, black musselcracker, yellowtail, Cape salmon, Miss Lucy (or red stumpnose), cob, and tuna. These are delicious for eating and will make for excellent fishing tales around the braai.
The Garden Route’s waters are actually ideal for just about any water sport. There are fantastic sailing opportunities all along the coast, while Mossel Bay offers excellent shark cage diving, and Knysna charters take folk out on awesome whale- and dolphin-watching adventures. SCUBA diving and snorkelling are fantastic in many spots along this stretch and divers can look forward to seeing a stunning variety of fish, anemones, sponges, nudibranches and more.
The Garden Route is a wonderland for just about any traveller – whether you’re a family looking for summer holiday fun, a honeymooning couple wanting a romantic retreat, or adventurers looking to test your limits.
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