Let me start by saying that my family and I do not go on holiday very often. Tight budgets, a very busy toddler and the lack of time have contributed to us not travelling at all since being married.
I grew up in a family that traveled South Africa extensively. We never flew, always drove. Every year we would make the annual escape to Jeffrey's Bay. During that time, we would see a lot of the Garden Route and visit Port Elizabeth (Green Acres seemed so big at the time...) We also drove through the Transkei to places as far as Durban and Richard's Bay. We visited Springbok and stayed in a town, where I spent the first few moments of my life, called Ochta (a flourishing diamond mine at one stage). As a child, I feel my life was enriched by exploring my beautiful country. We so often dream of far-off destinations, when South Africa is right here for us to enjoy.
Planning a budget holiday is no easy task. I have recently been introduced to Airbnb and, let me tell you, I had been really impressed with the value for money and hospitality offered. To date, I have only stayed at immaculate, stylish places with the most lovely hosts.
We stayed in a beautiful home RIGHT on the beach. Just a few steps and we were standing on the glorious sands of Wilderness Beach. The beauty of this area is insurmountable and the view is quite something to behold. This was our first stop and I quite literally felt the stress melting away as we played on the beach. The great contrast of lush vegetation against the golden sands is quite dramatic and something you definitely have to experience at least once in your life.
Our next stop was Plettenberg Bay which is a firm favourite for South African families. For me, my most favourite place to be is on the beach with the Beacon Island Resort in the distance. This looming hotel reminds me of a stranded cruise ship that has been left to soak up the sunshine in its retirement. We spent the most wonderful day on the beach. The tide was out so the children were playing in the wet sand and frolicking in the waves. For lunch, we visited the kiosk right on the beach and had fresh calamari, hake and chips. Licking my salty and sandy fingers while listening to the crashing of the waves and the laughter around me made me feel ready for the new school term ahead.
We also really enjoyed our meal at The Lookout Deck. The seafood was fresh and the vibe there is great. You have a great view over the beach and the cocktails are delicious.
Knysna Elephant Park
This is something you will need to do in your lifetime. The prices are slightly high, but it helps if you have children under 5 as they are free. The cost is R320 per adult.
What an incredible experience to be able to walk alongside the elephants and touch their furrowed and wrinkled skin. For R45 a bucket, you are also able to feed these beautiful creatures, and let me just say those guys can run fast when they hear the truck with the food approaching! They were there with great gusto, ready to inhale some fresh fruit and vegetables. Of course we had to first explain to our dear toddler that this in fact was not HIS snack to enjoy which did not go down well.
The tour guides are very knowledgeable and we learnt a lot about the ellies. It is sad the think that these majestic creatures once freely roamed the Knysna Forests. Knysna Elephant Park offers a memorable experience for the whole family.
The Heath, Radical Raptors
Since we were watching our budget closely, we did not go into the Radical Raptors section, but rather visited the lovely little market, play area and restaurant outside.
The play area is divine! There is even a little car roundabout which led us to hang about for longer than we had planned because the toddler was so excited about it.
Quite honestly, I could drive the 6 hours any day of the week to have the Eggs Benedict at The Heath. I regard myself as somewhat of an Eggs Benedict Guru, and their's certainly hit the Top Two.
Dias Museum, Mossel Baai
If you are interested in the historical background of this little town, I suggest you go to the Dias Museum. The entrance fee is only R40 and you can board a replica of a caravel. There is a whole host of historical landmarks in this complex, including the Post Office Tree. This milkwood tree was used by the early Portuguese sailors as a Post Office.
We are hoping to explore more of the Garden Route soon! Top towns on our list are Knysna, Sedgefield, Oudtshoorn and Herold's Bay. But we will need to save a little more first!