Friday, 15 April 2016

South Africa - Cape Town to Port Elizabeth via The Winelands and The Garden Route.

Africa - I had visions of elephants, giraffes, lions and zebras loping across the veldt, silhouetted against the setting sun, David and I giving chase from the back of a jeep, binoculars in one hand, long lens camera in the other.

As it turned out my 'wind in the hair, communing with wildlife' dream didn't quite match up with D's idealised view of the dark continent. Did you know they make wine in Africa - on picture-postcard estates with beautiful views, magnificent Cape Dutch architecture and flowering yellow rose bushes at the end of each row of vines? I didn't! Did you know they have modern cities with orderly traffic where driving a car is no more fraught than Sydney in peak hour? I didn't. Well they do and it turns out that this little corner of very bucolic and European Africa is the bit David brought me to.

I am talking, of course, about South Africa - the Cape and the Garden Route in particular - from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. The name is a bit of a give away really. How much wilderness would you expect to find on a road called 'The Garden Route'.

The Winelands, Sth Africa
The Winelands, near Cape Town. Not really darkest Africa, is it!

All however is not lost. This part of the planet is one of the great neglected tourist destinations - especially by my fellow countrymen, which given the number of South Africans who have made their homes in Australia, is quite inexplicable. After two jet-lagged and groggy days exploring the delights of Cape Town and its surrounds I can say with confidence that, the lack of wild animals notwithstanding, this is a beautiful country.

We have three weeks of road tripping ahead of us. See the map below for our route and follow along with us as I update our journey on this blog every Friday or Saturday.





Here is an outline of our schedule with a rough idea of what we hope to see and do at each stop along the way.

Cape Town - 3 nights. Click  here  and  here  for my posts on Capetown and the Cape of Good Hope.

  • It turned out three nights wasn't nearly enough time. We knew we would be a bit rushed but we could easily have kept ourselves amused for another two days. My next blog post will be on Cape Town.

Colonial building, Capetown
Colonial buildings in central Capetown - Not really darkest Africa is it!


Stellenbosch and The Winelands - 2 nights.

  • Just an hour's drive from Cape  Town, the Winelands around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Somerset West have some of the loveliest wineries we have ever seen. The countryside is gorgeous and nothing in the world surpasses Cape Dutch Architecture for beautiful buildings. 

Vergeleglen, The Winelands, South Africa
Vergeleglen, The winelands. Not really darkest Africa is it!
Click here for my post on The Winelands.


Botlierskop Private Game Reserve  - 3 nights.

  • David may not be interested in seeing animals himself but he isn't mean, and besides I flatly refused to come to Africa unless I saw at least a few animals. The private game reserves in the Cape have been re-stocked with animals which once roamed the landscape. The experience is less authentic than visiting one of the big natural game reserves elsewhere in Africa but the there are some advantages. You can almost guarantee a close up view of most of the big five - elephants, lions, giraffes, buffalo and hippopotamus - and the Cape is safe and malaria-free.

  • Addo Elephant Park, near Port Elizabeth, is the best known South African National park in the Cape. I chose not to include Addo in the game parks we visited because, as is David's way, he had our trip to South Africa booked within 24 hours of first floating the idea. I wrongly thought Addo was just about elephants. I am sure this won't be our last visit to South Africa and Addo will be top of the list for our next visit.

Mother and baby rhinoceros
Mother and baby rhinoceros at Botlierskop Game Reserve. The baby is only a week old.

Click here for my post on Botlierskop Game Reserve.


Port Elizabeth - 3 nights.

  • I have no idea why we are going to Port Elizabeth, other than the fact that David has found a nice hotel there. Have I told you D is partial to five star luxury?
  • We have been warned that unlike much of this part of South Africa, Port Elizabeth is not safe at night. Don't expect any posts about after-dark activities. We intend to be safely ensconced in our hotel by sunset each day.

The Sun Boardwalk, Port Elizabeth.
The Sun Boardwalk - our very nice hotel in Port Elizabeth.

Shamwari Game Reserve - 3 nights.

  • Our guide book says Shamwari is where the rich and famous go. We are going for the animals, the luxury, and a bit of rock-star spotting in that order. I'll let you know whether it lives up to its price tag.
cheetah at Shamwari Game Reserve
Cheetah at Shamwari



Click - here - for my post on Shamwari Game Reserve.

Kynsna - 3 nights.

  • David found another nice hotel here. We will be staying at The Conrad.
  • Knysna is Garden Route central, known for its forests and scenic beauty. Once home to herds of elephants and other wildlife Knysna has a few remaining indigenous elephants. Sadly, the current estimate of their numbers seems to be three so our chances of seeing an elephant in the wild are close to zero.

Swellendam - 2 nights

  • Swellendam will make a convenient stop on our return route to Capetown. Dating from 1745 it is South Africa's third oldest white settlement. 
  • Until late in the 18th Century European South Africa was owned and administered by The Dutch East India Company. Settlers paid the company for the right to hold land.  Swellendam was established by an official from the Dutch East India Company who was concerned that the Company was losing control of settlers trekking out from Capetown and more especially that they were fiddling their tax returns to the company. 


Asara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch  - 2 nights.

  • Asara was a late change to our itinerary. David was so taken by the winelands he has ditched our last night in Cape Town, trimmed a night from Swellendam, and booked two nights at Asara.

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40 comments:

  1. This is perfect! I am hoping to go to South Africa this summer. Looks like it might fall apart though - 50/50 :(

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    1. I hope you get here. Will you be visiting the Cape?

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  2. Oh, I've always wanted to visit South Africa, but I simply cannot convince my husband to go. Perhaps he will change his mind if I show him your luxurious hotels, although I'll leave out the parts about not going out at night for safety reasons. While I am tempted by an authentic African safari out in the wild, I realistically would prefer a sanctuary where I won't have to bounce around in a jeep for hours without guarantee of spotting anything. I can't wait to read more about your trip.

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    1. We have made it as far as Port Elizabeth so far and not felt unsafe at all. Port Elizabeth is the only place we were warned about not going out at night and I think that probably only applies to the centre of town. As it turns out the ANC has its campaign launch tomorrow for the upcoming elections and quite a few of the ANC heavies are staying at our hotel. The place is absolutely crawling with police and security. I think it would be impossible to be the subject of petty crime here right now.

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  3. Looks like a great itinerary! We spent a day in Stellenbosch visiting the wineries and were blown away by the gorgeous surroundings! We can't wait to get back to Cape Town someday. The furthest outside of Cape Town we traveled was Hermanas. I'm with D, love to go where you can find 5-star luxury! Thanks for linking up with #WeekendWanderlust

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    1. You can certainly find luxury around Stellenbosch. WE have picked out nice accommodation all the way to Port Elizabeth, where we are saying in the Casino Hotel. It is huge but has all the facilities you would expect from 5 stars.

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  4. Hello great to read. The ASTW AGM is in Cape Town in August. I'd say my chances of getting there are slim but I'm so enjoying reading about it.

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    1. Does the A stand for Australian - as in 'Australian Society of Travel Writers'. Holding this outside Australia seems an odd choice. Do they always do that? If you do go it would be hard not to like Capetown.

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  5. You have some pretty amazing stops planned in here! I am eager to read all the details. For what I have heard, well travel people say South Africa is one of the most beautiful places they have visited.

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    1. We are now about halfway through our trip and I absolutely agree. Everywhere we have been is stunning.

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  6. Looks like a lovely trip to South Africa - one of the countries I'm most wanting to go to! The baby rhino is adorable too! #WeekendWanderlust

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    1. It is amazing how all babies are beautiful. Even the baby warthogs are cute.

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  7. I always wanted to go to South Africa, but people keep telling us it's not safe. I'm really curious to read about your experience because I hope to convince my husband to go there. It looks so beautiful and peaceful! Please keep posting, I'm really curious. Thanks for joining me for #TheWeeklyPostcard, Lyn.

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    1. We put this trip off for many years because of safety concerns but the Western Cape is as safe as anywhere we have been in the world. We had one slight issue travelling to the Eastern Cape when we came across a protest and the road was closed. It was a bit of a hassle but at no time did we feel unsafe.

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  8. So glad you made it to Cape Town and the Wine Country. Really beautiful country, for sure. I didn't think I liked mountains until I visited SA. Hope you go to Durban and see the Drakensburg Mountains. Did you visit Table Mountain and Robben Island?

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    1. We went to Table Mountain but not on the cable car. We drove as far as the road went and got stunning views. We didn't have time for Robben Island but I am reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography right now so I have got a feel for how bleak it must have been there. No Durban or Drakensburg Mountains either but we are already planning a return visit.

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  9. Wow, that is all really lovely and not the usual South Africa you are used to seeing photos of at all. can't wait to hear more!

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    1. I am hoping to put up a new post each week but the internet is a bit patchy here and we are having such a great time I'm a bit distracted - lol.

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  10. I haven't visited South Africa, but I have heard it is different than mid-Africa. The buildings look lovelier than I imagined. Looking forward to seeing more.

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    1. Apart from Egypt this is the only part of Africa we have visited but it is quite different from what I imagine the rest of Africa is like. It has retained many of its beautiful colonial buildings and the Cape Dutch architecture in the winelands is just lovely.

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  11. I spent many years in some of these never-to-be forgotten areas. Your initial reaction reminded me of a friend who was sent to set up banking systems in Lilonge, Malawi - a LONG way from the SA Garden Route, of course. When he got back to Canada his 4-year-old son asked him if he had seen any lions. His dad said he hadn't. The little guy's annoyed response was: "Well, Dad! Didn't you look out the window?!"

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    1. Haha - great story. As it turns out I have seen lions, lots of them, and they were just fantastic.

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  12. That baby rhino is so precious! Animals is the only reason I want to go to South Africa.

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    1. That was my reason for going and it was just fantastic.

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  13. Another post about Africa on #TravelTuesday - solidarity, my friend! I hope you've been able to see more animals than you thought you would. South Africa is a very underrated destination, and I'm happy to see you highlighting it. Thanks for linking up with us!

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    1. I saw your post but only had time to glance at it so far. I love the title. It is on my list to go back, read properly and leave a comment. I have some great video of hippos thrashing around when they got disturbed.

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  14. what a great trip! #travel tuesday

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    1. It was. We arrived home a few days ago but we had a ball and are already planning a return visit.

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  15. I've heard and read great things about SA, and your post just confirms it! and @ursula's comment made me laugh!

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    1. It is a beautiful place, especially The Cape which is where we were.

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  16. What a fantastic itinerary! Looking forward to reading about your trip.

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    1. Thank you. I am writing it up and publishing a new post each Friday/Saturday.

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  17. Amazing! I've heard Cape Town is particularly stunning, and similar to bits of Australia in some ways - do you think that's true?

    Everything looks beautiful and I can't wait to read more about your adventures. And that baby rhino! So cute!!

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    1. Some of the countryside we drove through could easily have been in Australia. I can see why so many South Africans have come here.

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  18. South Africa is my favorite country as it has it all: wildlife, beaches, mountains, bush - and all to favorable prices unlike in Kenya and Tanzania. South Africa is twice the size of Texas or France which means you will have totally different climate conditions from North to South or West to East. That said, you'll have to plan where to go to see the best wildlife (my choice: Kruger National Park or Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park). You see plenty travel tips and stories on our blog www.travelbug.co. #traveltuesday

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    1. David isn't really a wildlife person so he wanted game parks which weren't too far away and were easy to get to. I have never heard of Kgalagadi Trasnfrontier Park. I must google it and have a look for our next trip to South Africa. I agree with you about the prices. The airfare from Sydney wasn't cheap but nearly everything else was really good value.

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  19. I'm not sure if I have become a baby mush ball recently with our own arrival here but that baby rhino is SO adorable. I mean really not pretty but what an incredible sight to see. This trip of yours to South Africa really has my feet itching to go!

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    1. You have been putting up some pretty adorable baby photos yourself lately. There is obviously a bit of grandmotherly cluckiness going on but the rhino is gorgeous.

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    2. Looks like a lot of fun. Wish I could afford a couple trips to Africa a year. 😀

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    3. I am the first to admit, I am very fortunate.

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