The Garden Route

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t Turquoise waters and coastal scenery within the Tsitsikamma reserve

EXPERIENCE The Garden Route

Archaeological deposits near Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay indicate that human habitation along the Garden Route goes back 150,000 years, but little is known about the history of these early societies. In 1488, a Portuguese naval expedition led by Bartolomeu Dias landed at Mossel Bay, becoming the first Europeans to set foot on South African soil before being chased away in a hail of stones. Nine years later, Vasco da Gama landed at the same site and bartered goods for cattle with the local Khoi, the first such transaction recorded in South Africa. Settlers started farming the Garden Route in the 1750s and woodcutters arrived in the 1770s. By this time, the region’s traditional Khoi inhabitants had either been killed by settlers or enslaved, with the only trace of their culture left in place names such as Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma. The mountains around George and Knysna were heavily exploited for timber in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and plantation forestry remains an important industry in the region. Today, however, the Garden Route – more, perhaps, than any other part of South Africa – has a strongly tourism-driven economy, though other key activities include agriculture and offshore gas extraction at Mossel Bay.

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