Wilderness (Garden Route National Park)

South Africa’s Garden Route is a 300km stretch of diverse and exceptionally scenic coastline between Mossel Bay in the west and the Storms River in the east, sandwiched between the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains and the Indian Ocean. The process of protecting the Garden Route from exploitation and human encroachment has been a long one, and is still ongoing. From the 1960’s various small pieces of the area east of the small holiday town of Wilderness received formal protection, culminating in these being amalgamated into the newly proclaimed Wilderness National Park in 1987 and the years thereafter. In March 2009, the erstwhile Wilderness National Park became an integral part of the expanded Garden Route National Park (covering a total of over 1,500km²), when it was joined with the Knysna National Lake Area and Tsitsikamma National Park through the proclamation of enormous tracts of state-owned land joining them.

The Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park is centered on South Africa’s very own “Lakes District”. The original area encompassed by the Park straddles six lakes (Groenvlei, Bo-Langvlei, Langvlei, Rondevlei, Swartvlei and Island Lake), the Wilderness Lagoon, Serpentine and Touw Rivers, indigenous forests, and both rocky and sandy beaches along the coastline.

Before the Wilderness National Park was proclaimed, the area where the Garden Route National Park’s Ebb-and-Flow Rest Camp is situated today was the Ebb-and-Flow Nature Reserve (administered by the George municipality and today Ebb-and-Flow North) and the private Siesta Caravan Park (today Ebb-and-Flow South).

Birdwatchers and photographers are in for a treat when visiting any of the three hides next to the lakes in the Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Parks. We had time to visit two of them in December – Malachite (on Langvlei) and Rondevlei, and could easily have spent all day at either.

Given the amazing diversity of habitats in the park, it is no surprise that the Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park abounds with a wide variety of birdspecies, and while the area doesn’t support much in the way of large mammals apart from shy bushbuck, bushpigs and very seldomly seen leopards, it does give visitors the opportunity to walk around unhindered looking for the smaller fry.

Ebb-and-Flow Rest Camp is the Wilderness section’s main visitor node. Here there are accommodation and two expansive camping areas for overnight guests, a newly opened picnic area for day visitors, and canoes for hire to explore the Touw and Serpentine Rivers. A network of walking trails of varying length traverse the area, many of them starting at or near Ebb-and-Flow. The Park also has several beaches for sun-seekers and bathers. Privately-run accommodation establishments and camping sites, shops, restaurants, fuel stations and more are available in the nearby towns of Wilderness and Sedgefield.

The Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park is easily accessible along the N2 highway running from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, and is just a few minutes’ drive from the airport at George. We recently spent three nights camping in the lovely Ebb-and-Flow North camp, the fifth stop on our 2017 summer holidays in eight of South Africa’s national parks.

31 thoughts on “Wilderness (Garden Route National Park)

  1. Pingback: Summertide Diary: Departing Wilderness | de Wets Wild

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  3. Pingback: Summertide Diary: Arriving at Wilderness | de Wets Wild

  4. rxfrazier

    Great post. Got me to look up ‘vlei’ which, if Google translate hasn’t lead me astray, is marsh. 🙂 Also, regarding Malachite Hide, do they have the mineral there (hence the name)?


  5. John

    Incredibly beautiful photos you’ve taken!😊 The photos of the birds are so beautiful, and the only one I have seen is the great crested grebe. It is also here in Sweden in the summer. The snake remind of ours viper we have here, common European adder. Your posts and pictures get me in a good mood and I long for spring and summer, winter here in the north, most birds do not like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. kim blades, writer

    Really wonderful photos of a stunningly beautiful part of our country. I have a pair of Purple Louries that live in the hibiscus forest that borders one side of my garden. They are lovely parrot-like birds. Unfortunately the Knysna Lourie doesn’t live this far east.


    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      As is to be expected around any waterbody in South Africa there are definitely mosquitoes in attendance around unprotected ankles as soon as the sun sets, Teresa, but thankfully they’re not disease carrying mosquitoes so if you are going to get bitten you wouldn’t have to contend with anything worse than an itch!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Penne Cole

    I’ve heard so many good things about the Garden Route but unfortunately didn’t leave enough time to see it when I was there. Sigh. Thanks for sharing your lovely pictures.



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