If you've been guilty of labeling the Garden Route as an elongated seaside stretch of retirement village along the N2 - you're about to be surprised.
The Garden Route offers an easy winter escape, away from the crowds and masses - but with some kick-ass adventures on offer too.
It's obvious really... what can you expect when you put together a magical forest, the world's highest bungee, an enormous concentration of Great White sharks (right on the coastline) and some adventure wanderlust!?
Here are 4 Epic Garden Route adventures to try this winter:
The Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour is built on platforms in magnificent Tsitsikamma indigenous rainforest.
Many of these platforms are built around giant Outeniqua Yellowwood trees that are up to 700 years old. So, harnessed in for safety, standing right within the crowns of these giants you get to look down at the forest floor 30m below, and see the world from the Yellowwood giants' perspective. And what a view it is!
The scenery and birdlife are spectacular. And the professional guides that glide with you through the forest ensure not only your safety - they also keep you informed about interesting features of the forest ecology.
If you are fortunate enough, you will spot a pair of Knysna Loeries or the brilliant red plumage of the elusive Narina Trogon!
This adventure is one of our favourites because of its accessibility and family-friendliness.
Forest Driving & Hiking
The Knysna Forest is arguably the most magical place in the country.
Here, despite dense human populations and agriculture, elusive creatures of the bush still dominate the woods.
The five elephants believed to live in the forest today are but an echo of the elephant herds that used to roam the forest. In 1876, there were an estimated 400 elephants walking the Knysna forest, the Garden Route National Park says.
Looking at the dense overgrowth in the Knysna forest, it's strange to imagine that there were once so many elephants living here. And if the Knysna forest can hide 400 elephants, what other secrets can those trees tell?
Now, you can find out for yourself.
The GRNP team, along with the Knysna Historical Society and other stakeholders have launched a historical route in one of SA’s largest individual forests.
By using this self-drive route, visitors to the Garden Route can drive to 10 marked historically significant locations in the Knysna forest. The route comes with a map of the 10 areas dubbed "rooted in time".
SEE: Forest Fairy: New historical route launched in the Knysna forest
Shark Cage Diving
We're sceptical of companies that portray the sharks in SA's waters as aggressive, blood-thirsty predators that want to kill everything they see... this is not the truth. Luckily, the shark cage diving operators in SA understand that sharks are the main focus of their industry, and that shark conservation is the ultimate goal.
Sharks, and the Great White Sharks that frequent the waters around Mossel Bay, are apex predators, yes. But they're also some of the most gracious and magnificent oceanic creatures.
South Africans are so blessed to be living in such close proximities to the creatures. So if you're in the Garden Route, you need to make time to see the enormous concentrations of Great Whites around Seal Island, 2km from the harbour.
And even though shark cage diving puts divers behind steel bars to protect them when diving with Great Whites, it's still one of the most heart-racing adventures on the Garden Route.
Take note, however: you might never go back to swimming in those awesome Mossel Bay beaches after seeing the sharks' proximity to the shallows...
Recognised as the 'highest bungee from a bridge' in the world, Bloukrans Bungy is the ultimate Garden Route thrill.
Look, we might not easily trust anyone who is willing to Jump off a bridge for fun... but if we can do it, anybody can.
SEE: Who jumps off a bridge for fun?
If you need more convincing, check this out:
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Forest Fairy: New historical route launched in the Knysna forest
- The complete guide to a Knysna winter escape
- PICS: The very best camping spots this side of the Sahara – according to you