The University of Iowa

A trip down The Garden Route in South Africa

June 26th, 2014

By Brooke Axness*

We had a three-day weekend here in SA because of the national holiday called Youth Day being commemorated Monday. Due to this my friends and I decided to pack up and head out to see the scenic Garden Route. This, by definition, is the beautiful stretch on the southeastern coast of South Africa. It hails numerous stunning towns and countless attractions all along the way. By 6:15 a.m. Saturday, we were on the road heading towards our next adventure!

Cape Agulhas

Our first stop along the way was in the beautiful town of Cape Agulhas. This town is especially famous because it is situated on the southernmost tip of the African continent. 

southern tip of africa

In addition, it is also the location where the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean meet. A monument is set up right on the beach indicating which side is the Atlantic and which is the Indian. We only stopped for about an hour because in the winter (it’s actually winter here), the township is basically dead due to the fact that over sixty percent of the houses there are vacation homes. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful view and definitely a cool addition to our trip!

indian ocean atlantic ocean divide


Next we moved our way inland to the cool little city of Oudtshoorn where we stayed the night in a hostel. Situated by the mountains, it was definitely a sweet place to explore what they call the Cango Caves. These huge caves have been around since the Bushmen, and are still quite a sight! I also definitely got my workout in going there due to the insane amount of stairs. Absolutely worth the sweat though! While in town, we also went to the Cango Wildlife Ranch where we got to get up close and personal with some of Africa’s most notorious animals! My friends and I even got the chance to pet the cheetahs that lived there. It was a frightening but no doubt amazing experience! 

cheetah south africa


elephant selfie

The third township we entered was called Knysna. It is a coastal town with views unlike anything I have ever seen. There are two “heads” where many houses (more like mansions) are situated overlooking the downright breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. I do not think I have ever seen anything so beautiful! Where do I sign up for one of those fancy beach houses?! We also got the chance to go to the Knysna Elephant Park, where many orphaned elephants reside. While here we got to feed and touch these gentle giants. Besides the elephant slobber, I was pretty much in heaven. Totally envious of the people that get to hang out with those elephants all day!

Plettenberg Bay

The final city we explored was Plettenberg Bay. We were lucky enough to stay on a private island there where zebras were, believe it or not, hanging out on our doorstep as we got there. 

zebras hotel South Africa

Now you definitely can’t get that anywhere in the States!

In the morning we travelled to Bloukrans Bridge to bungee jump off the highest bungee jump point in the world.

About to jump off a bridge!

I was basically crying on the drive there, but once I actually did the jump I would do it again in a heartbeat! Probably the scariest thing I’ve done yet in my life. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone scared of heights though! On our way back to Cape Town, we stopped at the Garden Route Game Lodge for a safari. You can’t come to Africa and not go on a safari right?! It was definitely one of my favorite parts of our trip despite the fact that our truck broke down in the middle of the fenced in area where the animals are!

We look like safari professionals in our ponchos right?

By the time we arrived home in Cape Town Monday night, I was completely exhausted but definitely satisfied with the awesome weekend I had. It was jam-packed with everything I could have wanted to do. I know I probably sound like a travel advertisement but seriously this little trip was definitely one for the books! 

*Brooke Axness, a native of Fort Dodge, IA, is a sophomore majoring in biology and global health studies at the University of Iowa. This summer she is interning abroad at a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa on the Connect-123 program.