This past weekend I went on a spur of the moment trip along the Garden Route to discover some of the hidden gems along the journey. I arrived in Mossel Bay and went straight to the tourism department to find out what this beautiful coastal town has to offer.
My first stop was at The Santos Express, known simply as “The Train” by locals, and situated at Blue Flag Santos Beach. It consists of a restaurant called Fork and Train with a cosy pub and a deck with a magnificent view of the bay and distant Outeniqua Mountains, as well as five sleeper coaches and a private, self contained caboose.
I was blown away by this unique and romantic experience of staying on a real train only 30 metres from the sea on the Indian Ocean side of Cape Town. Their restaurant offers great seafood, traditional meals and also serve your standards like burgers, ribs, pizzas, steaks, breakfasts and pub-lunches. I enjoyed a lovely meal of Waterblommetjiebredie. (The name, derived from Afrikaans, literally means “small water flower stew”.)
My next stop was The Shark Lab, operated by Oceans Aware (a division of Oceans, an organization dedicated to the exploration, discovery, understanding and conservation of marine life in Africa). The Shark Lab aims to enlighten children and adults about the wonders of Africa’s Sharks.
I was invited to swim with smooth-hound sharks, which I initially thought was a joke, but it turned out not to be, as I climbed into a tank with four beautiful, over a metre long sharks. Smooth-hound sharks often aggregate in large numbers, like a pack of dogs. This is why they are called hounds. I must admit, I was very nervous but once I was in the water, and amongst these beautiful creatures, I couldn’t help but relax and enjoy this magical experience.
The Shark Lab Aquarium and Research Facility is open every day from 9am until 5.30pm and only costs R20 per adult and R10 per child. By Visiting the Shark Lab, you are contributing to the conservation and research of sharks in South Africa.
This was an incredible weekend for me, exploring this town that is only 400km from Cape Town. So next time you’re planning a weekend away, be sure to explore some of the secrets that lie along the garden route