Journal of a 5 day nature walk through the Garden Route

Entering the forest by canoe is both unique and enchanting.

GRT : Day 1, forest and canoe stage along the Touw River. Genius of place, the ultimate biomimicry classroom. As we passed under the railway bridge and drifted between the forest shrouded slopes of the river valley, a sense of tranquility emanated from the lush green canopy.

A lucky find for both the Chameleon and ourselves.

Beaching the canoes, we found a minute Knysna Dwarf Chameleon which was nearly crushed because of it’s flawless camouflage on the sandy beach. As we ambled to the waterfall, it was the ‘structure’ of the forest that stuck out.

The forest and tree structure along the Giant Kingfisher Trail offer many insights into biomimicry.

The layers of vegetation, each interdependent on the others, positioned to harvest the maximum light. Buttress roots, towering tree trunks. And back at the rest camp, exquisite March Lillys.

Despite the unpopulated beaches, the dramatic dune cliffs and the perpetual surf, it is the remoteness of the walk that is most memorable.

GRT day 2 – Turtle Diaries. A 19km beach walk from Kleinkrans to Myoli beach. As always, the walk was a scenic delight along barren beaches flanked by golden dune cliffs and a lively Indian Ocean.

The aged skull of a Humpback Whale washed up in October 2013 acts as an open air museum exhibit.

While I expected to find lots of marine specimens washed up after the recent upwelling, there was surprisingly very little to see.

With the effects of a recent upwelling, some interesting marine specimens washed on the Sedgefield beach.

The highlight however was finding a Loggerhead Turtle hatchling on Swartvlei beach. Here is hoping that in a few years it will return to lay eggs of future generations of turtles.

The ever efficient Mingo ferried us across the Kingfisher Creek.

As always, the row boat crossing of Kingfisher Creek was the ‘adventure’ component of the day.

Setting out on Myoli beach.

GRT – Day 3 : Goukamma transit. Beach and dunes. 15km.Today the weather was perfect, rock formations mesmerizing and the surf monstrous. We started off in a shoreline haze that promised to burn off into a still sunny day.

First find was a juvenile Cape Gannet resting on the beach. Next was a first in a decade of conducting our coastal trail, a Moonshell washed up near the fossil footprints.

Then an Osprey searching the surf for fish near Oysterbeds. Finally a message in a bottle. Perfection on foot in the Garden Route.

Birding along the Goukamma River offers sightings of a pair of an African Fish-Eagle that have nested on the banks for 36 years.

GRT D4 – birders paradise. Coffee at dawn as we watched an Osprey hunting. The local male Africa Fish-Eagle then landed on the beach and flushed over 1000 Terns from their roost. Later, canoeing, we saw a Giant Kingfisher which brought our trail tally to a full house of 5 Kingfisher species for the region.

On the Bushpig Trail, the Candelabra Lilies are starting to dry out and there were some delicious looking mushrooms.

To finish off we walked past the Fish-Eagle pair roosting 170m away. Now for a fish braai.


GRT D5 – cycle of life. A fitting end to another wonderful five day coastal hike. Last week, the beach between Buffalo Bay and Brenton on Sea had over thirty Hammerhead Sharks wash up due to thermal shock caused by upwelling.

As we walked along the beach today, there were mussels and red bait washed up, while the Kelp Gulls were feasting on the shark carcasses. image

Driving back to our point of departure, the true extent of the distance covered in the five days set in and the group felt a sense of accomplishment over and above what they learnt. Unanimously they all decided that I was a ‘kind’ sadist for making them walk further than they were accustomed to.

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