Plettenberg Bay / South Africa

Plettenberg Bay was recommended as a cool place to stop en route to Cape Town, and it made for a convenient place to stop for a night, though I could see why people would stay longer.

We crashed at a lovely little guest house in Keurboomstrand, which is actually East of town by a ten minute drive. Keurboomstrand has a pretty beach with some heavy shore break. So much so that the owner of our guest house demanded we take a boogie board in the water should we go swimming (apparently one of her guests died there a year prior).

We checked the break there and given that no one was in the water, and there weren’t any surfers around to ask for tips, and we were kind of close to a rivermouth (#sharky), we opted to head into Plettenberg proper.

There we found a decent town, certainly a bit more upscale and touristy than J Bay, and packed with more people. We asked a local kayak guide about surf spots and he gave us directions to “The Wreck” which I’d seen on a surf forecast app.

“The Wreck” is aptly named for the shipwreck that is visible on clear days from high up on the cliffs, and/or, more simply, at low tide. It’s sort of a hidden spot, tucked away in a corner, and catches swell that bounces off the Robberg Peninsula, then breaks over sand.

Of course, I didn’t know any of this instinctually, I learned it from Paul, who was checking the surf at the same time. Paul is South African, had been living in France for the last twenty years, and is a recovering drug addict, now clean and starting over back in SA. I know all this because he and I were the only ones who paddled out that afternoon. Safety in numbers when it comes to sharks, and signs like this. Annie, very rationally, opted to sit this session out.

You’ve been warned…

What looked from the cliffs use like fun little waist high waves, turned out to be heavy beach break coming in overhead on the sets, especially as the tide dropped.

I caught a few fun ones and Paul ripped on a few good waves too. It’s a beautiful spot, with the peninsula, all parkland, running out to the South. In true buddy-system fashion, we both hopped out at the same time.

I’m that little black speck bottom-turning out of the white wash. Robberg Nature Reserve in the background.

We checked the surf there the next morning but it wasn’t working well and Paul was nowhere in sight. No worries, as Annie and I had an epic “plan B” – hiking/running around the Robberg Nature Reserve.

It was far windier and colder than we had anticipated, so without warm layers, we opted to jog the first trail (shorter option of the two available routes, and our only option given the tides). The peninsula and the trail are beautiful. It’s all rocky, sandy cliff side with some brush along the way. We started out along the Eastern side, ran out to the “Witsand” crossing at the middle and then looped back.

Annie running down Witsand Passage…

The Witsand passage was super cool. Basically, wind from the West whips sand up and over a clearing in the rocky peninsula. We took the chance to run down the dune as fast as one can run down a steep dune. Too fun.

Yeah, we’re weird. Mid-hike/run at Witsand Passage…

… But on the other side of the peninsula the weather turned for the worse. Ahead of us and coming our way was a strong storm front. Wind, then rain, then storm clouds. We picked up our pace and tried to tuck any metal objects away. We scrambled across the beach, the rocky cliffs and back across the trail to the trail’s start in a hurry. All in all, it was only ~5k, but with lightning looming in exposed spots we were happy to get out of there quickly.

Afterward, we rewarded our heroics/stupidity with great coffee and arguably the best croissant (read: stick of butter disguised as a croissant) we’ve ever had at Le Fournil de Plett.

Pure butter, I mean, deliciousness…

We also picked up a loaf of bread for later on, which came in handy on our way out of town, when I saw a bright orange sign that read “RADICAL RAPTORS” and had to stop. We missed their AM show, so we broke bread and cheese and had lunch while we waited for a falconry performance (thank you, Annie, for obliging my nerdiest interests).

Annie holding a cheeky little Barn Owl named Charlie.

Radical Raptors is a sanctuary and rehabilitation center for birds of prey. All but one of their birds were injured in the wild, or abandoned, or former pets, that are trained for hopeful release. We got an awesome display of owls, falcons, and hawks, that fly right over your head, wings grazing your ears. So cool.

Annie in a staring contest with a Harris’ Hawk.

Besides the Radical Raptors, there were cute gift shops, a couple cool little eateries, and a fun little playground for kids (and us). A very cool road-side stop on the Garden Route, and just one of a few like it.

  • Do… hike Robberg Peninsula. Beautiful scenery. Time the tides and do the longer hike and tell us what we missed!
  • Do… plan on coffee and a croissant at Le Fournil.
  • Don’t… skip Radical Raptors. It’s awesome!


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