Nature’s Valley had been on our ‘bucket list’ of places to go to in South Africa for quite some time so it was with great excitement when we sent off this weekend for a last minute getaway. We left Port Alfredat about 13h00 and drove the 360 km in just over 4 hours which included a short stop off at the garage at Storms River. There is only one toll road on this route which you pay R38 for just as you turn off the N2 down to Nature’s Valley. Strangely when you go back home the toll road costs R40 – don’t ask me why there is a difference I have no idea.
From the N2 you drive down a winding road which leads you directly to Nature’s Valley. There are quite a number of homes, holiday homes, self-catering venues and B&B’s to choose from and we had hired a self-catering house which was ideally situated very close to the only shop and bar/restaurant in the whole of Nature’s Valley. The house was also just a short 2 minute walk onto the beach.
That evening we decided to relax and enjoy a braai in the garden while making plans for the next day.
After a good nights sleep we felt refreshed and ready for the day. We drove off to the Natures Valley Rest Camp where there is a small information hut to pick up information on the hikes in the area. We picked up a small map and were recommended to try the Salt River Hiking Trail. After studying the map we decided to drop our car back off at our self-catering cottage and walk from there as it was just around the corner.
Our walk took us along the beach for a short while before a sign-post guided us up and into the forests. The path is clearly well-used and we found it easy to follow. At the first junction we saw a sign for the Nature’s Valley Lookout which we decided would be a good place to head to. The path heads upwards and is fairly steady climb. We reached the Lookout point which had views right the way across Nature’s Valley Village, the coastline and the mountains in the distance. This was a good spot to rest for a few minutes before heading on. At the next junction we headed left to Brak River. At this point the path heads downwards for a long time before opening out onto an estuary and stunning river mouth. There was none there apart form a few birds pecking at the remains of some fish that had washed up on the beach. We tucked into our sandwiches and drinks knowing that there was quite a trek uphill on the way back. The whole hike there and back probably took us 3 to 3.5 hours.
The next day we decided to visit Birds of Eden, Monkeyland and Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary. We were up early again and followed the R102 route headed to Plettenberg Bay before we saw the signs for Birds of Eden off to the left. It is probably only a 20 minute drive from Nature’s Valley. We had arrived at 09h30 and this seemed and ideal time as it was quiet and we were lucky enough to get a 1 hour guided tour through the forest to see the monkeys. Visitors get to walk through a 6 hectare portion of what is a 12 hectare monkey sanctuary. Our guide was excellent and answered all our questions. I think our favourite monkeys were the Howlers, the Lemurs and the White Handed Gibbon. If you come in the morning then you will get to hear the constant calling of the White Handed Monkey which is something quite extraordinary.
A short walk across the car park and we were entering Birds of Eden. A massive netted enclosure that is home to all sorts of birds. This s a self-guided tour but if you pick up the glossy Identification Guide at reception (only R20) it is a great help in identifying all the different birds you will see. The tour takes you along wooden walkways, past waterfalls, streams, feeding centres and benches for you to sit and relax on . We sent a good 2 hours here and enjoyed every minute. The highlight was probably the birds that came to sit on us! Visitors are told not to touch the birds but they don’t seem to have any problem in coming to land on you.
It was now about 13h00 and we were both hungry so we headed off on a short drive (headed towards Crags) to stop at the Bramon Wine Estate restaurant for lunch. Set on a wine estate this ‘popular’ restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating although the seats outside get snapped up quickly. Lunch comprised a choice of Mezze dishes washed own with a couple of glasses of their Cabernet Sauvignon Bubbly. The food was excellent and we bought a couple of bottles at the wine shop on the way out.
Next we headed onto Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary which was just a few kilometres down the road headed in Plettenberg Bay direction. We only had to wait 30 minutes for the next guided tour and we used the spare time to grab a cappuccino in their cafe. Our guide ‘Melody’ then took us on a walking tour of the animals they have there which included Siberian Tigers, Bengal Tigers, Cougars, White Lions, Cheetah, Lynx and lots more. Melody was very knowledgeable telling us all about the animals they have rescued or been donated by zoos. Our tour started about 15h30 and feeding time for the animals was about 16h00 which they clearly knew as most of the animals were waiting around the edges of their enclosures for their food to arrive.
All in all we had a super 3 nights in Nature’s Valley and will definitely come back to maybe try a section of the infamous Otter Trail.