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You’re travelling from Cape Town along the famous Garden Route, and when you reach the turnoff to Victoria Bay, the hairpin bends wind their way down into a majestic forest-covered gorge. You see a bubbling river flowing below the highway and an elevated railway bridge over the divide, far in the distance. You wonder how the occupants of the few homes built practically on the river’s edge are able to reach their properties. The route begins to climb and at the peak, the railway bridge and river mouth now lies below you, and ahead is the vast Indian Ocean occupying your view. The road levels out, parallel to the sandy coastline that seems to stretch for miles. This is the magnificent approach into the pretty seaside village of Wilderness.
Wilderness is also the start of the lakes district area that stretches eastward to the town of Knysna, 45km away. Wilderness village, along with the accompanying beach, peaceful estuary and lake has a sense of timeless, natural beauty, it’s a true paradise and the perfect romantic getaway.
Top 6 reasons to visit Wilderness
1. Take a stroll along the boardwalk that has been laid out from the Wilderness Hotel (the site of the original farmhouse) along the Touws River estuary, the peaceful surroundings broken only by the croaking of frogs and birds active amongst the reeds.
2. Black Horse Trails offers various horse riding options through the indigenous forests around Wilderness. Certain rides include a swim in rock pools and a picnic alongside a waterfall. All guides are experienced horsemen.
3. For those with a head for heights, the disused railway line that straddles the Kaaimans River mouth is traversable (take care!) to walk along the tracks via several tunnels to reach Victoria Bay. Be sure to take a costume along for a dip in the sea before returning along the same route.
4. Hike the Giant Kingfisher trail that passes through a charming forest teeming with birdlife, to reach an attractive waterfall. Along the way, the river is crossed by a hand-drawn pont. Keep a sharp eye out for a fish eagle or the colourful Knysna turaco.
5. Visit the area known as the Map of Africa where the river course has shaped the outline of the African continent, best viewed on a tandem paragliding flight.
6. Take a guided tour on the Kaaimans River via canoe, your destination the Kaaimans waterfall and the opportunity to abseil (rappel) from two landings 45m above the river. The challenge is to land safely in a canoe stationed in the river!
The nearest airport is George Airport, located 23km outside of Wilderness. Several car rental agencies are based at the George airport to hire a vehicle, or you could order a rental online. There are a number of metered taxi companies in George. Shuttle service operators transport visitors between George Airport and Wilderness.
Did you know?
Be aware of the speed limits at the entrance to Wilderness. This winding route is a regular accident zone partly due to drivers being distracted by the magnificent scenery and the roads zigzagging down steeply into a gorge.
There are 5 species of kingfisher found in the Wilderness area. These birds hunt by dropping like arrows into water to capture fish within a split second. The smallest kingfisher, the pied kingfisher, hovers high above the water while the giant kingfisher sits on branches hanging over water and waits for their prey to pass.