Oudtshoorn. (Night 7)
Approximate driving time: 5 hours
Location: Western Cape province
Accommodation: Paradise Backpackers
Accommodation Review: Oudtshoorn is the ostrich capital of the world. Naturally, this little home away from home hosts a nightly ostrich braai. Just make sure you sign up for it when you check in; it’s delicious and it doesn’t taste like chicken. Think red meat.
Paradise Backpackers also does their own daily joyrides down Swartberg Pass. From the hostel you are driven up to the top of Swartberg Mountain and from there you mountain bike back down at your leisure. This is something I wish we could have done. Many travel books said the trip to Swartberg Pass was worth it and based on all the other passes we drove through I’m sure this one would not disappoint, especially on a mountain bike. Do it if you have the time.
The other ‘to do’ activity here is the Cango Caves. We opted out of this because we were short on time, we wanted to go play with ostriches, and we knew we’d be running into more caves in cooler locations later on in our trip. The adventure tour is supposed to be fun but possibly horrifying for those with claustrophobia.
On to the main attraction: the ostrich! Like I said before, this is the ostrich capital of the world. All the boas and feather hats of the late 1800s and early 1900s along with the original version of the Swiffer duster most likely came from Oudtshoorn. Even though the demand for ostrich feathers has lessened over the years there are still plenty of breeding farms here that you can tour around. We chose Highgate Ostrich Show Farm and were happy with our pick. For a tour here all you have to do is show up. Tours happen every hour on the hour from 8AM until 5PM and last a little over an hour. The guide we had was very knowledgable. We were able to feed the big ones, hold the small ones, and ride the wild ones.
Knysna. (Night 8)
Approximate driving time: 1.5 hours
Location: Western Cape province
Accommodation Review: This was a very peaceful spot. Nice clean rooms, really short walk to the waterfront, really nice owner. The town in a whole was some place I wish we could have stayed longer.
Unfortunately, the only thing we managed to sneak in here was a sunset cruise through Southern Cape Ocean Experience. Although it was very windy that day the cruise was very enjoyable. It was really small (only 7 of us total) which I like and you are able to bring something to drink as well. Karl was our skipper and was very welcoming to all of us. He had a lot of stories to tell and was very helpful if we had any questions about our stay in Knysna. We caught a rare glimpse of the endangered Black African Oyster Catcher bird and Karl even swung the boat around in a hurry so we could watch a seal catch and eat his dinner!
A word of note: Our sunset cruise took place in the Knysna lagoon. In order to get from the lagoon into the ocean you must go through what is called The Heads. Karl told us that The Heads are the 2nd most dangerous passage into the ocean in the world so please make sure you choose a reputable and safe charter if you go out looking for dolphins or some such.
Here in Knysna you have another opportunity to take a township tour if you missed it in Cape Town.
If you’re looking for something up close and personal but a little . . . cuter . . . slip on your fins and go snorkeling with seahorses! Knysna is home to these endangered little creatures that only live in certain estuaries on South Africa’s southern coastline. I don’t know how this could not be amazing. Please do it and send me pictures.
Storms River. (Night 9)
Approximate driving time: 30-45 minutes
Location: Eastern Cape province
Accommodation: Dijembe Backpackers
Accommodation Review: This place was probably one of my least favorites. It was way too hippie for me, so if you’re into the that, go here. That being said, several staff members went out of their way to get to know us while we were there which was really nice. The accommodations were fine as well, it just wasn’t our scene. The owner did ride a horse into the bar the night we were there and I’ve never seen a horse in a bar so that was cool/weird.
I think Storms River as a whole was a let down, but there’s a reason. Our original plans were going to take us to Hogsback which is a 5.5 hour drive from Knysna. As we were short on time, we received some recommendations that Storms River would offer the same nature we were looking for at a fraction of the distance, making it a more manageable option for us. Even though I haven’t seen Hogsback, I just don’t think the two are comparable. Hogsback is supposed to be the inspiration for the Lord of the Rings, fairies in forests, more forests, and more forests. Well, our hike at Storms River which is in Tsitsikamma National Park took us up a beautiful trail overlooking the ocean, but we just couldn’t find a forest. There were many forests around that were manmade, but not the mythical, enchanted forest I was dreaming about. I think we were just set up for a let down from the beginning. Or perhaps we just couldn’t find the trail we were looking for. Maybe you can find the forests in Storms River.
If you’re looking for more of an adventure you can go jump off a bridge. I mean with a bungee attached to you of course. Nick toyed with the idea of doing this; I knew exactly where I stood: H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS-N-O! I mean it is the highest bungee jump in the world, right? Well, it was. There just always have to be a one-upper (or 3) in the crowd doesn’t there? But who’s counting meters when you’re plunging headfirst into the earth, especially is you’re American? That’s what I thought. Either way, we didn’t pull the trigger this time.
Jeffreys Bay. (Night 10)
Approximate driving time: just about an hour
Location: Eastern Cape province
Accommodation: Island Vibe (also in Knysna and Port Elizabeth)
Accommodation Review: This place is like a compound. I’m not sure how many buildings they own but they seem to have their own section of the beach. The room we stayed in had a wonderful view of the beach but it did not have a lock. Make sure you bring your own lock if you want to stay here. Conveniently, they do have ones you can buy. Jeffreys Bay Surf School is also located at Island Vibe. They offer daily classes or a surf camp if you’re feeling extra surf-y.
So what do you do in Jeffrey’s Bay? Surf. Home of the Supertubes, this is one of the best places in the world to catch a wave. Nick’s been wanting to learn how to surf for a while and for the lack of something better to do I thought I’d give sandboarding a whirl so we signed up for lessons at Surf-JBay Surf School. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating that day. Rain and sand don’t go well together for sandboarding so my part of the day was a wash. Nick was still able to get tossed around by the ocean for a few hours and despite being a bit of soreness in the following days it was a fun experience. Much more practice is needed.
If you’re not really into physical activity, but you like the look of it, then head to the outlet stores. Billabong, Quicksilver, and Ripcurl are all in the line up.
And if you’re not into shopping, then go sit on the beach and start planning the next leg of your trip so you’re not pressed for time like we were!
It took us about 11.5 hours to get from Jeffrey’s Bay to Joburg. We left with the sun a little before 5AM. It was important that we didn’t get into Joburg after dark. It was our only option, as our flight for Bangkok was leaving the next day. But we were rewarded for our early morning start- after feeling really let down that I didn’t see any giraffes roaming under African skies during our entire safari, low and behold, there they were- right off of R75 eating their breakfast. It was a sign: we could finally leave Africa. And we did just that. Until next time, giraffes.