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HHessequa in the Western Cape is east of the Overberg Mountains that separates the Overberg region from the Little Karoo. Whale-watchers, beach- and nature-lovers and those seeking the relaxed atmosphere and scenic beauty of the Garden Route, sans the crowds, choose Hessequa.
Many of Hessequa’s southern Cape towns fall within the Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site, making them floristic hotspots.
Albertinia, the country’s Aloe Capital, is ablaze with these fiery red blooms between May and June, while Riversdale, the capital of Hessequa, has an abundance of Cape fynbos, specifically Proteas and Ericas, and hosts a flower show in September.
Literally hundreds of migrating southern right whales calve in San Sebastian Bay, earning Witsand the title of South Africa’s whale nursery.
Besides spectacular land-based whale watching between late June and December. Witsand, located close to the Breede River, has white sandy beaches and is popular for canoeing, white water rafting and bird watching.
The coastal town of Stilbaai draws anglers, surfers, birders and archaeology buffs with its ancient fish traps, shell middens, artefacts and rock art reproductions from the Blombos cave.
Stilbaai is full of surprises – like Palinggat Homestead – where a fountain pool is home to several endemic freshwater eels. Here, for over 125 years, the eels are hand-fed daily and accorded minor celebrity status.
Stilbaai includes Jongensfontein, a choice surf spot, and Melkhoutfontein, where local fisher folk offer homestays, area tours and traditional meals.
Other towns in the south Cape coast region of Hessequa include the inland town of Heidelberg, a beautifully preserved parish noted for its historic buildings, scenic setting beneath the Langeberg Mountains and the wilderness areas of Grootvadersbosch and Boosmansbos.
Vermaaklikheid lures eco-adventurers with swimming, canoeing, fishing, nature walks, mountain biking and bird watching, while seaside Gouritsmond reels in anglers and water-sports enthusiasts for deep-sea fishing, rubber-ducking and, on the Gourits River, water skiing.
Said aloud, the name Hessequa, sounds like a huge sigh of relief, and as you explore Hessequa’s hamlets and harbours, you’ll feel your tension melt away and your appetite for adventure reawaken.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Explorer’s Garden Route
Tel: +27 (0)28 713 8000
How to get here
From Cape Town, take the N2 to Somerset West in the direction of Swellendam, then branch off on the R324 to Witsand or continue to follow the N2 through to Heidelberg, Riversand and Albertinia. From Port Elizabeth, follow the coastal N2 road along the Garden Route. Enter the Hessequa region at Albertinia and follow it through to Heidelberg.
Best time to visit
Late July to December is when the whales arrive and the aloes and fynbos bloom. September to April is best for beach and outdoor activities.
Tours to do
Aloe factory tours and game drives in Albertinia, flower farm and fynbos tours in Riversdale, archaeological tours in Stilbaai.
Hire a car or enlist the services of a tour operator.
Where to stay
Accommodation includes hotels, B&Bs, guest farms, backpackers, community homestays, self-catering, caravan, camping and safari resorts.
What to pack
Pack according to the season but always include a light jacket or windbreaker for cooler spring days.
What to eat
Fresh-caught fish, lamb and fynbos-infused dishes.
Witsand hosts an annual baby whale festival, and Albertinia a flower festival.
Aloe products in Albertinia; sheepskin, wool products and wines from the Riversdale region, and olives and olive oil products from Stilbaai.