Backpacking the Garden Route: Top 5 things to do in Wilderness

Blink and you might miss it. The tiny town of Wilderness, situated next to the N2 just outside of George, has much more to offer than merely a river, a beach and a couple of trees. This breathtaking village with its friendly inhabitants and laid-back vibe is the perfect escape for any type of traveler. If you are planning a trip up the Garden Route, Wilderness should definitely be on your itinerary. Here are my top 5 things to see and do around Wilderness.

5. Chill with the ancient tree in Woodville A short drive up the hill from Wilderness, in an area called Woodville, grows a Yellowwood tree that is truly one of nature’s treasures. This “Big Tree” is an 850-year-old piece of history that proudly towers over everything around it. The park has a beautiful picnic area complete with a short 2km circular trail through thick indigenous forest, perfect for an afternoon stroll. Tip: On your way there stop at the Hoekwil Country Café Restaurant to taste SA’s best cheese cake.DSC05882DSC058884. Take a picture of the Map of Africa This spectacular natural phenomenon is really an unusual sight. The outline of the Kaaimansriver, flowing towards the ocean, forms the unmistakable outline of Africa. Although it has been slightly overgrown lately, one can still clearly see the outline of the African continent. Not the most exciting attraction but definitely worth seeing if you have the time. Tip: To get the best photo opportunity, be sure to be visit the Map of Africa before the sun starts setting to avoid direct sunlight coming from the West. DSC05493

DSC054823. Hike the Brown Hooded Kingfisher trail This trail does not get as much foot traffic as the popular Half-collared Kingfisher trail but it is just as beautiful. The route is about 5km there and back and takes roughly about 2 hours to complete. You will find a small waterfall at the turning point with a nice swimming hole to cool off in. Tip: Pack a picnic basket and maybe even a book to make the most out of this tranquil and scenic hike. DSC05908

DSC059152. Visit Clifford the cave dweller This is one of the most surreal things that you’ll experience in Wilderness, it’s your chance to go “down the rabbit hole” into a dreamlike world where anything is possible, think Alice in Wonderland meets Pirates of the Caribbean. Even getting there is like a supernatural adventure. Follow the abandoned railway tracks, heading west out of town, until you reach a dark deserted train tunnel. Don’t be disheartened by its ominous appearance because what you’ll find on the other side will amaze you and maybe even change you in a way.DSC05808What used to be a restaurant in a cave is now the home of Clifford the Cave man. The outside deck is scattered with charming patio tables and chairs against a backdrop of hundreds of ornate chandeliers made from seashells and pieces of driftwood decorating the cave wall. You’ll quickly see that Clifford is very proud of his work because he will, without saying much, beckon you to follow him inside. Now I’m pretty sure your mother taught you not to go into caves with strange homeless people- but I can assure you this is one of the very few exceptions to the rule.DSC05823The inside is even more surreal than the outside. A labyrinth of dark rooms and corridors, each decorated more elaborate than the previous, form part of what Clifford calls home. According to him “Father” led him there and instructed him to create a safe haven for those who have nothing. It is definitely worth a visit. Tip: Even though this cave tour is free of charge, an opportunity to make a donation is given at the end. Some handcrafted items are also for sale sometimes so be sure to bring some extra cash.DSC05826DSC05828DSC058411. Canoe up the Touw River and take a plunge in the waterfall The Half-collared Kingfisher trail is the most popular trail in the area and can be explored with or without canoes, both leading to the newly constructed boardwalk which is about 2km long. The boardwalk makes it easy for hikers to soak in the beauty of the surroundings, regardless of their fitness levels. If you wish to embark on this journey without the canoes, the starting point can be found on the western bank of the Touw River at the Ebb & Flow Railway and Road Bridge. If you feel a bit more adventurous, hire some canoes (and get your hiking permit) from Eden Adventures at the Fairy Knowe Hotel to enjoy a stunning paddle (with spectacular views) up the river. TIP: Remember to bring enough water & snacks. A brisk, early winter’s morning will deliver some beautiful photo ops as the mist still hangs over the river so be sure to  bring your camera. Remember your swimsuits & enjoy a refreshing dip at the waterfall.DSC05598DSC05611DSC05580DSC05602

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