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Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route, South Africa - Page 12
After 3 days exploring Knysna, it was time to move to Plettenberg Bay, where Percy had booked me to stay at the fabulous Backpacker Hostel of Nothando. To be honest, to describe this amazing establishment as a Backpacker Hostel is an incorrect title and doesn’t do the place the justice it deserves, as it has to be one of the best hostels in the world. As it is more in line with a 2 or 3 star B&B, with fluffy towels at the end of your bed, hair dryers, kettles and coffee/tea making facilities in each room and my room had the luxury of an en-suite and TV. The comfy bar, with pool table, pretty garden, cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs each morning and the ever attentive staff just made my stay an utter pleasure. All for the extremely reasonable price of R260 per night – an utter bargain I thought!
Monkeyland, (the Crags), Garden Route -
Monkeyland, Garden Route
For our first full day in Plettenberg Bay we were off to visit Monkeyland, which is described as the world's first free roaming multi-species primate sanctuary.
Monkeyland turned out to be fairly educational, as we were taken on a “monkey safari”, that's a walk to you and me, through an area of indigenous forest by a very soft spoken and knowledgeable guide.
The majority of the monkeys run free, so it is therefore fairly hit and miss what you are going to see although I suspect that some of the species are a little less timid than others and the food trays are there to ensure they don't wander off to the four corners of the 23 hectare enclosure.
There is something slightly ironic with South Africa being so rich in indigenous wild life that none of the monkeys at Monkeyland were indigenous to South Africa as they had been rescued from captive conditions from elsewhere around the world.
Monkeyland is part of a larger project that they refer to as the Eden project and as a phase two they had just opened the Birds of Eden sanctuary next door to Monkeyland.
Birds Of Eden, (the Crags), Garden Route -
Birds of Eden, Garden Route
The bird sanctuary was similar to the Monkeyland sanctuary but whereas you visit Monkeyland as part of a conducted tour, we were free to roam the bird sanctuary.
The promotional literature amusingly describes the sanctuary as the worlds largest aviary and the size of the UK Millennium Dome, I'm not sure that it is a great idea to compare yourself to such a white elephant.
If you like birds you will not fail to be impressed with the variety on show, over 100 different species and if you only have a passing interest with our feathered friends, you will probably be impressed with the whole setting and beauty of the bird sanctuary and at least be amused with the free roaming miniature monkeys that also share the bird sanctuary, such as cotton-top and golden-handed tamarins.
The Elephant Sanctuary, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay -
After monkeys and birds we didn't have to travel far to the next item on the agenda that being the Elephant Sanctuary. I was prepared to forgive Monkeyland and Birds of Eden for describing themselves as sanctuaries and I guess that a dictionary definition of sanctuary would just be that it is a safe place for animals to protect them from being hunted by mankind.
If you are happy with the dictionary definition, then the Elephant Sanctuary is indeed a sanctuary too.
I totally enjoyed walking with a baby elephant’s trunk in my hand (even if it was a bit slobbery) and thank goodness they are small-ish, because just standing next to one you know that you really wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of one. Each elephant had a keeper, although the keepers rotate daily between the elephants. I felt privileged at being able to touch and feel the elephants. I was certainly surprised to find that depending on where on the elephant you touch, the texture differs from rough to smooth. Try touching behind their ears, fabulous!
What had attracted me to the Elephant Sanctuary was the flyer that said “Walk, ride and experience elephants as never before”. I did walk and experience the elephants as never before, declining a ride. Not only was it a lovely and humbling encounter to be with these elephants, but the rangers told me many new and fascinating facts about these gentle giants.
Keurbooms River, Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route -
After a leisurely start to the day we headed off out of Plettenberg Bay for a mid-day river boat trip down the Keurbooms River.
The view from the river is beautiful from the moment the boat sails under the bridge that marks the start of the conservation area.
Russell the boats skipper and guide was full of knowledge, not just with what must be his regular patter but his ability to respond to questions from those on board, be they on the local bird species, including pointing out the nesting of the rarest of birds, to the current price of yellow wood tree timber rarely extracted from the reserve.
You can take a river tour on our own just by renting a boat for a couple of hours and you won't be disappointed as the scenery was stunning, but the river tour was well worth the extra, as the information disseminated by Russell was an experience in itself. The peace and quiet of nature just doing its thing was very relaxing.
Dolphin and Whale Trip, Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route -
After the leisurely river trip, the afternoon activity was to take another boat trip and hopefully to get up close and personal with some whales and dolphins.
The boat trip gets off to a great start with a high speed dolly launch from the beach, this is basically a 4x4 jeep pushing the boat at full speed into the sea and then instantly stopping by hitting its breaks, thus allowing us to fly off the dolly wheels of the trailer and splash into the sea. Yeeehaaaa!!!!
Once launched it was a case of leaving it up to the skipper's experience to locate some whales and it wasn't long before we were rewarded with not one but a mother and her calf.
To see a whale from the shore or close up while in a boat are certainly sights both worth seeing. Throughout our 2 hour boat trip we constantly viewed Southern Right whales, mothers and babies, Bryde whale, African Penguin, a few Cape Fur seals and many pods of majestic dolphin.
While we were heading off to find more whales we were joined by a number of dolphins who kept us and themselves amused by criss-crossing the boat's bow.
You take your chances with nature and I guess we were fairly lucky that we saw a number of whales and dolphins, although there were some twenty minute interludes where it was looking like we may be out of luck. Only to be suddenly rewarded again by more large swimming and playing creatures of the deep.
Rhino Base Camp -
Louise with Rhinos on Safari
Not labelled a sanctuary this one and although “base camp” was a little misleading in my book it was quite an impressive game reserve that had over 800 animals, across some 30 species. The guide was also very entertaining and knowledgeable as he played a never ending game of “what do you call a group of ...”.
As you would expect we saw - a crash of Rhino and in addition a bloat of hippopotamus, a journey of giraffes, a dazzle of zebra, a bunch of impala and many more collections of animals. I'd like to say a pride of lions, but there were just two of them.
I wasn't too sure about the two lions, it is strange being a few feet away in an open top vehicle from these potential man killers. Luckily they looked well feed and relaxed and we didn’t appear on their menu today, thankfully.
Robberg Peninsula, Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route -
Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route
To the south of Plettenberg Bay is the Robberg Peninsular and an open invitation to take the Robberg Peninsula walk.
There is a 2 or 4 hour walk on offer, fortunately the longer walk is an extension of the shorter one, so you get to decide half-way if you wish to carry on and do the full 4 hours or cut across to catch the return route.
It was a hot day and hard work and although the trail was not exactly extreme sports territory it did have some precarious parts and would not be for the faint hearted or the wobbly footed person.
The views are well worth all the effort, at one point there was a magnificent spot where we were able to look straight down over a seal colony as they played in the water and clambered up on the rocks.
Where there are seals there is always the threat of a Great White Shark lurking and if I was honest there was a part of me that wanted to see one appear but I am not too sure I would have wanted to see it at the expense of the seemingly playful seals, although I guess they were in turn having a good time catching their own food.
After an hour of walking, almost to the minute, we arrived at the half-way point. Although to carry on to the very end would have been a worthwhile experience, the heat of the mid-afternoon sun and the lack of shade made it an easy decision to take the 2 hour option.
Taking the shorter route, we were required to traverse across a massive sand dune to the other side of the peninsular, where the sand dune majestically faded away to form two perfect and secluded beaches, separated by a rocky outcrop island. It would have been nice to while away a few hours on the beach soaking up the sun, to the sound of the sea crashing onto the shore but we only lingered a while, as we were wary of it being late afternoon and certainly didn't want to be caught trying to climb back in fading light.
The walk back was just as precarious in places as the walk there but once again well worth the exertion and once we were back on the starting plateau, I felt that I had achieved what serious walkers would have called a walk in the park but I was happy to call an epic adventure.
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