National Parks are fast becoming a haven for visitors, making travelling both fun and informative: Fun for the collection of activities on offer, and informative for the wealth of both indigenous flora and fauna. The Garden Route National Park (GRNP) is a picture-perfect open access Park with approximately 155, 000 hectares of land including indigenous forests, lakes, rivers, wetlands and the sea.
‘Adventure is in our nature’ is the GRNP’s motto. Desktop market research indicates visitors head to the Garden Route for an adventure of sorts’ explains General Manager of the GRNP, Jill Bunding-Venter. ‘For sports lovers and adrenalin junkies, the Garden Route offers a wide selection of activities, ranging from gentle and moderate to fast-paced and extreme…’
Such include the recently re-launched Otter trail hike, a 42-km nature walk. The trail which is in the Tsitsikamma section of the Park recently turned 46 and was a brainchild of the Park. The 42kms can be travelled in 5 days:
Day 1 – 4.8 km (± 2 hours) Storms River Mouth – Ngubu
Day 2 – 7.9 km (± 4 hours) Ngubu – Oakhurst
Day 3 – 7.7 km (± 4 hours) Oakhurst – Scott
Day 4 – 13.8 km (± 6 hours) Scott – André
Day 5 – 6.8 km (± 3 hours) André – Nature’s Valley
The age restrictions of 12 (minimum age) and 65 (maximum age) years are used as an indicative ages, due to the level of physical demands of the Otter Trail.
In the words of Area Manager for the Tsitsikamma section of the GRNP, Lesley Ann Meyer ‘re-launching the Otter trail hike will make it easier to present the hike to both locals and international visitors.’ Adventure tourism is currently one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry in the world. It is tourism that combines physical activity, cultural exchange or interaction and an engagement with nature. It may involve some kind of risk, real or perceived.
‘The research we have indicates globally adventure travelers are more likely to be single or married; less than 10% are divorced or separated. They are also more highly educated than other types of travelers, with 70% of hard adventures having post -secondary education and 63% of soft adventurers having post-secondary education. 47% of other travelers have a two year degree or higher. Considering these demographic trends, it is unsurprising that adventure travelers also have higher levels of household income.’
There are various day hikes ranging from 5km and more. Water activities including snorkelling, stand up paddling, kayaking and lilo are more popular in Tsitsikamma and canoeing and swimming are enjoyable in the Knysna and Wilderness sections of the Park especially in summer. Those hoping to escape the rush (gentle adventurers) find the GRNP equally exciting for its diverse bird life especially water and sea species. The Wilderness section of the Park is home to a Ramsar site (wetlands of global ecological significance and a priority for the conservation of biodiversity).
A recorded 169, 367 people visited the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park last year (2013), 34% more than in 2012.
Through SA National Parks Week, an annual campaign to encourage local travellers to visit the GRNP (Wilderness, Knysna and Tsitsikamma), 1, 500 people visited last year (2013) and 4, 037 this year (2014). Locals are provided free access to the Park. ‘We would like to thank everyone who visited the GRNP this year and hope you will return to enjoy the Park and various activities on offer’ according to Bunding-Venter.
During the last campaign, the most visited areas of the Park include the Storms River Rest Camp and Natures Valley in Tsitsikamma, Goudveld and Ebb & Flow (Wilderness). In the Knysna section of the GRNP, popular spots include the Knysna estuary, the Forest Legends museum in Diepwalle Knysna Forest and the Garden of Eden (Harkerville, Knysna forest).
Those wishing to explore the Park can visit www.sanparks.org for more information or contact 044 30 5633.