A vacation to Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, is the perfect getaway for any animal and wildlife enthusiast. Known as “The Jewel of the Garden Route,” Plettenberg Bay is a rare spot where wildlife is protected and their habitats unspoiled.

Early Portuguese explorers originally called Plettenberg Bay “Bahia Formosa,” meaning beautiful bay, and this is a name that suits it well. The landscape features miles of golden beaches, mysterious lagoons and estuaries, clear blue rivers, and cool, dark forests. The combination of the ideal climate and the scenery unhindered by human interference makes the area particularly breathtaking.

The Garden Route itself is a small strip of South African coastline that often surprises many visitors. While some may expect a pretty, narrow manicured garden path, this is not at all what you will find. Instead you’ll see a rugged, wind-swept and wave-battered coastline outlined by the majestic Outeniqua mountains.

The Garden Route is quite famous for its long stretches of smooth, sandy beaches, which are the perfect spot for dolphin and whale watching. The warm waters of the bay attract bottlenose dolphins quite close to the shoreline.

To feel the salty sea spray on your face and sun on your skin, try taking a boat ride out into the water. Speeding past shaded coves towards the misty Tsitsikamma mountains in the distance is an experience nothing less than exhilarating.

As you cruise along, you can spot humpback whales, which migrate here in the winter, playing in the waves. Also make sure to keep your eyes peeled for tiger sharks and seals hunting for their dinners and gliding through the crystalline waters.

If you’d like to get even more up close and personal with some of Plettenberg Bay’s animal inhabitants, you will love visiting the Crags Elephant Sanctuary. The focus at the sanctuary is on interaction with these gentle giants. So you will not just get to see them but you can also have the opportunity to touch, feed, walk with, and even ride these beautiful creatures.

While the legendary Knysna elephants once roamed among the ancient, towering trees of the indigenous forests of the Garden Route, now it is quite unlikely that you will see them in the wild. It is rumored that some elephants still roam in the very depths of the forest. But the fact is that they have not been seen in the wild for years as the Knysna were hunted to extinction along the Garden Route.

Today the Crags Elephant Sanctuary works to protect the African elephants, while educating visitors about these gracious creatures. The elephants that inhabit the sanctuary are those that have been rescued from poachers’ traps in Botswana and are currently being rehabilitated. Sadly, African elephants are still hunted in many parts of Africa for their ivory tusks.

Crags Elephant Sanctuary offers a close-up experience with elephants you are unable to find elsewhere. With just one look into these gentle creatures’ eyes, I know you will be won over.

Stuart