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Paddling the Bitou River

December 12th, 2016

The canoe bobs lightly as you reach for the paddle.

In seconds you’re hidden from the Lodge.

You could almost be in Botswana – the paddle leaves sparkling swirls behind you and the canoe slides softly between banks of reeds. It’s just you, the water and the sky. No other human trace in sight. A pair of African Fish Eagles call overhead, on the hunt. Moorhens run across lily pads in front of you. Dragonflies flit lazily from blue lily to green reed. Mmmmm…. Botswana….

No wait. This is better than Botswana! No guide with a gun for a start. You can do this canoe trip totally alone. There are no hippos. No crocodiles. No elephants. This is a huge bonus. You can relax. Nothing wants to chase you, or even worse, eat you. All is peaceful. So quiet.

Paddling the Bitou River

Until suddenly a pair of Egyptian Geese spots you and shouts at you to keep away from their fluffy little goslings. You glide, fascinated. They huff off, disappearing round the bend.

Usually, though, birds don’t mind the canoes. The Little Bittern, the Squacco Heron and the White-backed Night Heron have all been spotted here, unconcerned. Less rare but more beautiful, Knysna Touracos float overhead from tree to tree. Cape Weavers build their nests in the reeds and Yellow and Red Bishop Birds perch brightly amongst them. Shy Black Crakes hide in those reeds, their chicks tiny black balls of down – a perfect Plettenberg Bay birding experience.

Beautiful photo of a Black Crake taken by one of our guests, Frank Bos.

Beautiful photo of a Black Crake taken by one of our guests, Frank Bos.

How far can you go? Well, all the way to the sea, but that’s a long trip. It’s fun to paddle to Emily Moon, have a drink or even lunch and paddle back again. It’s fun to paddle just as far as you feel like and paddle back again, seeing if you can spot the Malachite Kingfishers. It’s fun just to paddle. To enjoy the river.

If you need more of an adrenaline rush, well, there’s always Botswana….

Important information:

  • Unfortunately Bitou River Lodge’s canoes are only for the use of the guests staying there.
  • Canoes can be hired from Emily Moon depending on availability. It’s best to phone first.
  • Do you have your own canoe? You can put it in the water at the start of the R340  to Wittedrif, but be considerate of the fishermen.

 

Top 5 Beach Walks in Plett

March 25th, 2016

Hi – I’m Jessie. I’ve been asked to guest blog for Bitou River Lodge. Why me? I’m a local. I’m the daughter of two “old Plett” locals, so I’m the real deal. I’ve grown up bouncing about on the beach or in the sea, and I’ve learnt a thing or two along the way.

These days, I actually live in Cape Town. And as soon as Capetonians find out that I’m a Plett local – they demand info on Plett’s best-kept beaches. I’m here to make sure that you don’t miss them when you visit!

Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m on holiday I want to eat anything, drink G&Ts, and laze about with my book. If there’s a hammock close by, you’ll probably find me in it. The only trouble with me is once I laze about too much I get itchy feet. I suddenly, urgently, need to work off my breakfast – but not at the gym like I usually do in my 8-5.

My favourite lazy activity is a good old beach walk (just as well I grew up in Plett!). Plett, as I’m sure you know, is home to the most beautiful beaches. I’m here to tell you which are my top 5.

Plett-Beaches

#5 Robberg Beach

This is the obvious beach that you should have found by now. If you’re looking at the sea, Robberg is to the right of the giant hotel on the beach (Beacon Isle, or BI if you’re a local). It’s a 6km stretch of beach and is great for when you want to be social. This is the ultimate beach to walk if you’re a family with teens (this is a popular beach to walk), and also if you’d like to have a lot of spots from which to swim. Usually, there are lifeguards on the beach to make sure you swim safely.

If you’re being more energetic, it’s a great 12km run too!

#4 Lookout Beach

Lookout Beach is on the river mouth – and is one of those beaches which is affected when the river mouth moves. Most of the time, it’s there. Sometimes, it’s not. But mostly is. It’s a beach where I spent most of my time growing up. It’s a fun and relatively safe beach for kids, and there’s a restaurant (Lookout Deck…notice the trend?) right on the rocks. It’s perfect for a short walk, maybe a swim or a boogie board, and then a sundowner or fish and chips at the wooden, laid-back restaurant.

#3 Nature’s Valley

If you’ve never been to Nature’s, you should go. It’s a tiny, tucked away village of holiday homes in the middle of this forest. It’s wild, and simple. People windsurf, paddle, swim, and ride their bikes here. It’s got a very relaxed, small town feeling.

This beach, I must warn you, is exceptionally dangerous to swim at for tourists. If you’re not great at the sea, and you’re not a pro, really don’t take the chance. The water, like the land, is wild. The beach itself is beautiful. It’s stark and has big black rocks, and it’s a perfect place to get an ice cream from the shop and then walk it (and you) down the beach.

zinzi-at-lagoon

#2 Lagoon

I love the lagoon. Access it from Susan Street. This is a place where young families and dog walkers generally hang out. You’ll also find some paddlers and fishermen. The beach depends on the tide, but has no waves and is quite safe. I’ve had many a crab-race here, as well as walked our dogs on the hard sand. Often. It’s my favourite beach for winter, in particular.

#1 Keurbooms

This is my top of the list, and for those of you who don’t know it, lucky you! Keurbooms beach is a massive beach – and has many entry points and routes. My personal favourite is the route from the Keurbooms Hotel (close to Strandmeer), You walk through extensive fynbos on this winding path through the dunes on the way to the beach. When you get there, you’re often the only one there. It’s perfect for a run, for finding pansies, and for spending some time in nature. It’s a place I go to unwind.

Now that you know my favourites, try them out, and let me know which are yours!

Keurbooms

My top 5 hikes in Plett

March 17th, 2016

This is a tough one. How does one choose one’s favourite Plettenberg Bay hikes … beach…? forest….? river….? mountain….? In Plett we have them all!

But these are probably my top five:

1. The Robberg Half ( type: fynbos peninsula)

Robberg-Hike

From the safe parking area on Robberg itself, you take the left path. Enjoy the views over Robberg Beach as you walk to The Gap. Then keep going on the left side. The path gets steeper until you pop out on top. Then it’s a gentle meander through fynbos until you get to Witsand, a huge sand dune. You could choose to go straight here, to The Point, but I prefer to turn right & go down to the beach. The tradition is to run the last bit. And scream. Then swim. Or walk round The Island first. Then swim. Turn your back to The Island & complete the half-circuit of Robberg, ending back at your car. It should take you 1 – 2 hours.
• Wear closed shoes (there are ants) & take water.

2. The Salt River Trail, Natures Valley (type: coastal forest)

salt river 2016

From the shop at Natures Valley, walk onto the beach & turn right. You’ll find a path over the rocks, which is not for the faint-hearted, be careful. There’s also been a small landslip but it seems stable & well walked. The path climbs from the pebble beach into the coastal forest & then down to Salt River Mouth, where you can swim. The path then goes uphill through the forest for quite a way before you turn left to the Lookout Point & then back down to Natures Valley. It should take you 1 – 2 hours.
• Only go at low tide. Ask at the shop if you’re unsure.

3. The Perdekop Trail, Harkerville (type: indigenous forest)

Harkerville forest hike

Park opposite the Harkerville Forestry office, issue yourself a permit & take a map. The trail is signposted with a horse-head logo. It’s an 8 km hike through wonderful indigenous forest. It should take you 1 – 2 hours.
• It can be unpleasantly muddy after heavy rain.

4. The Kranshoek Trail, Harkerville (type: coastal fynbos)

Kranshoek Coastal Walk

To get to the start of this trail you need to drive through the Harkerville forest to the picnic site. Leave nothing visible in your car. Cross the little river above the waterfall & follow the path down to the sea, enjoying the views as you go. The forest ends where the rocky beach begins – go left. There are two paths back up the cliff: the shorter, steeper fishermen’s path which you’ll see first, or the longer route further down the beach. Footprints mark the trail. It should take you 2 hours or 4 -5 hours depending on the route you choose.
• Wear good shoes as the beach is rocky. Take water.

5. The Garden of Eden Mini-Hike (type: forest boardwalk)

Boardwalk Plett

This is a perfect family hike if you have littlies or oldies, or if you’re pushing a pram or a wheelchair. The boardwalk winds through lovely indigenous forest & ferns, crosses the river several times & has bench-&-table areas to stop off at along the way. The mossy trunks make good places for children (& fairies) to hide. Bring an umbrella & walk here in the rain. The boardwalk saves you from the mud & the trees keep the worst of the wet away. It will only take you 20 – 30 mins.
• The boardwalk can be slippery when wet.

Contact us at Bitou River Lodge for more information or to book your accommodation in Plett. www.bitou.co.za or info@bitou.co.za