Finding solace in Nature's Valley
It’s like dropping off the edge of the planet ...
The Garden Route is deserving of all the praise it receives for providing views of some of South Africa’s most humbling landscapes and seascapes. But veering off it and taking the road less travelled makes more difference than one hackneyed verse could possibly contain.
The sign directing you on to the R102 road to Nature’s Valley – some 30km east of Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape – is inconspicuous, likely to catch the attention only of those looking for it.
Taking this gentle invitation, however, is like dropping off the edge of the planet. In an instant, you leave behind the signs of commerce that any national road holds – trucks and travellers, petrol stations, sites of interest, cities and towns – and enter a world that predates these things. Immediately, automatically, you reduce your speed. Inevitably, you place your head on a swivel, the better to take in what surrounds you.
An unexpected jungle – humming in its greenery, and abuzz with the birds and baboons that call it home – borders the road that ambles to the coast. Views of a lagoon, a beach, an ocean draw you onwards. After 12km, the road runs out, and you find yourself in a patch of the world that seems to have been forgotten by the rest.
Nature’s Valley is nestled at the mouth of the Groot River and forms part of the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park and the De Vasselot Nature Reserve. The village itself comprises about 400 homes and a small convenience store. That’s it. The beach, which achieved Blue Flag status in 2013, is pristine and so enormous as to give the impression of always being virtually empty. Sinking your toes into its sand grounds you in more ways than one.
Nature’s Valley offers that forever-chased-rarely-caught experience: the sheer joy of simply being able to be.
Of course, if you’re looking for adventure, hiking trails abound – especially the famous and spectacular Otter Trail – as do biking, birding and fishing opportunities. For those who wish to balance serenity with an overdose of adrenalin, the world’s highest commercial bridge bungee jump off the Bloukrans Bridge is just hop, skip and a jump (off a very high bridge) away.
Visit the Nature’s Valley website for more information; or, better yet, visit the place itself.