Plettenberg Bay - The Garden Route, Part 2
Updated: Dec 12, 2021
After some nautical adventures and a great stay in Knysna, we continued east along the Garden Route. For the next few days, we’d post up in the quaint Plettenberg Bay community, or, as locals call it, “Plett Bay.”
A Taxi Ride to Plettenberg Bay
We checked out of our Knysna place late morning but couldn’t check into our Plett Bay apartment for a few hours. Fortunately, there happened to be an outstanding brewery right next door to kill some time!
Still lacking a car (to be resolved shortly), we took a taxi the 30ish minutes through the wooded, coastal hills to our new spot. Plett Bay’s broken into two main parts. The downtown sits on top of an escarpment to the north - a Southern-California-San-Clemente-esque stretch of shops, cafes, and bars. To the south, a river and lagoon separate this area from the more residential side of Plett Bay.
During our stay, we’d rent an apartment in a garden-style building on the southern, more residential side of town. But, it’s not completely residential. After the taxi driver dropped us off at our building, we strolled a couple blocks over to a Plett Bay institution - Barrington’s Brewery. Replete with beautiful gardens, delicious beer, and great food, Barrington’s was just the place to post up for a few hours on a Sunday morning until we could move into our new spot.
Our Introduction to South African Driving
Up until this point in our South African travels, we could get by without a car. Moving forward on our trip to Durban, this lack of transport became impractical - both in terms of moving from place to place and ease of doing activities in different spots. So, in Plett Bay, we rented a car for the next month-ish. Plan would be to drive it northeast, roughly paralleling the coast, until Durban, where we’d return it at the airport before flying to Namibia.
Couple things. First, you get significant discounts when you rent a car A) for over a month, and B) with a manual instead of automatic transmission. Works for us. Chipp can drive a stick-shift, so why not, right?
Turns out, using a stick-shift with your left hand on the left side of the road takes a little focus. At least the clutch, brake, and gas are in the right (i.e. correct) place, though! Naturally, we had to tackle a bit of a learning curve. The first day driving our new ride, we had the following interaction:
Jenna: “Um, I think you’re supposed to be on the other side of the road…”
Chipp, swurves the car from the right lane into the left: “Yep - thanks for the heads up!”
Thankfully we were on an empty, country road!
Hiking Robberg Peninsula Washed Down with an Emily Moon Dinner
Aside from the right-side/left-side struggles, having our own wheels opened up tons of day trips. In Plett Bay, one such excursion visitors absolutely need to do is hiking the Robberg Peninsula.
On a narrow spit of land jutting out into the Indian Ocean, the Robberg Nature Reserve is a protected area of stunning beauty. With rocky cliffs, massive sand dunes, tons of wildlife, and incredible views, the 11 kilometer hike around the Robberg Peninsula exposes you to South African nature at its coastal best.
For the better part of a day, we hiked along rugged trails, boardwalks carved into cliff sides, and wide sandy beaches. In the process, we were introduced to hyraxes (a funny-looking creature somewhat like a groundhog), a massive colony of seals (the smell is downright foul), and a couple of guys who implemented their own nude beach rules (we didn’t join…).
Thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day, we went home, cleaned up, and rewarded ourselves with another Plett Bay must - dinner at Emily Moon. We could describe it, but we’d sell the place short - better to use their own words:
Emily’s is the most exquisite of dining halls. The spirit of Africa is in every archway, every antique table and in the collectors’ items which adorn every nook and cranny… At Emily Moon we use only the freshest homegrown and local produce to prepare our mouthwatering home-style menu… Enjoy a fresh cocktail or a beautiful bottle of wine from the boutique estate wine list while appreciating spectacular riverside views, unforgettable sunsets and a large log fire.
As a slightly irrational rule, Chipp doesn’t like when people tell him what he’s going to like (e.g. “You’re going to absolutely love this!”) - preferring instead to make his own judgments. But, Emily Moon lived up to the hype - panoramic views, delicious dinner, and cocktails that make you wish you didn’t have your own rental car.
An AfriCanyon Adventure
We mentioned it in our initial description, but the Garden Route is an outdoor adventure mecca. During our time there, we’d do a few of these adrenaline-pumping activities (bungee jumping, ziplining, and ocean kayaking, in particular). But, in Plett Bay, we’d get our literal and figurative feet wet with a South African activity known as kloofing.
Directly, kloof translates to gorge, but that doesn’t do it justice. The Oxford definition more aptly grasps the spirit: a steep-sided, wooded ravine or valley. Through a company called AfriCanyon, we’d intimately experience these terrain features.
First, you show up at the company’s headquarters, where they outfit you in wetsuits, helmets, and harnesses. Then, you hop in a van, drive to the top of a narrow, impossibly deep gorge in the middle of the woods, and stroll out to the ledge of this drop. For the next hour, we rappelled (abseiled, to the South African folks), cliff jumped, and swam our way through narrow, high-walled canyons, waterfalls, and shaded pools. Fearing lost phones, we left ours back in the car. Anyway, the AfriCanyon promotional video does a better job recording this adventure than we ever could:
Our guides - Warren and Puna - absolutely killed it. Consummate professionals, they kept us safe while keeping it light and making sure we had an unbelievable experience. Over drinks and pizza at the incredible Peppermill Cafe right next to the AfriCanyon headquarters, we dried off and warmed up, asking ourselves: Liability-wise, would anyone in the US actually insure such a crazy tour? Bottom line, take advantage of kloofing where and when you can!