Familiarisation Trip to the Western Cape

The purpose of this trip was to explore areas close to Cape Town which make good day trips and short stays which might appeal to guests visiting the Cape Town area as part of their holiday.

Our first stop was Bartholomeus Klip about 90 minutes north of the International Airport. Bartholomeus Klip is a working farm with its own fynbos type nature reserve, home to many species of antelope plus a few other specialized creatures including bat-eared foxes and the quagga, an extinct species of zebra which has been resurrected. The accommodation is in a beautiful restored Victorian farmhouse. The food here was excellent and the service good. In addition to game drives there were bicycles and canoes for complimentary guest use and plenty of walking trails. The farm is close to a number of attractive, historical villages including Tulbagh and Paarl and would make an attractive option to stay for a night or two outside of Cape Town.

Next stop was Montagu a charming, but little known town in the Winelands, the town has a number of nice boutique guesthouses, we stayed at Montague Vines a reasonably priced place inside the town. There are many walking trails in the surrounding mountains and also a number of wineries and some decent restaurants featuring local produce. There is also an Irish bar in the town, handy as our visit coincided with St Patrick’s Day. Montague is a bit far out for a day trip from Cape Town but perfect for guests doing a tour of the winelands or as an overnight stay on the scenic inland road to the Garden Route.

Sanbona Game Reserve was next, about an hour’s drive from Montagu. Sanbona was part of the Shamwari group but has recently changed hands and is now independently owned by a wealthy Swiss lady with an interest in the long term sustainability of Africa’s wild places. The lodge advertises itself as a “Big Five” destination but in my opinion this is misleading as the leopards are rarely if ever seen and buffalo are not well suited to the very dry environment and there are few if any. There are a few elephants but these were not seen by us. Game is really quite sparse and concentrated in a small area of this vast private reserve. On the plus buy acyclovir pills side we did have some excellent cheetah sightings and also saw some white lions, a first for me, and a white rhino. The reserve is starkly beautiful and possibly worth a visit for this reason alone. It is also conveniently located on the inland road to the Garden Route making an interesting stopover only three hours from Cape Town.

Franschhoek in the heart of the winelands was next on our list. I have been here a number of times and always thoroughly enjoy visiting its many excellent galleries featuring South African artists and quaint shops selling local products. Franschhoek styles itself as the gourmet capital of South Africa, a title well justified by a number of superb restaurants both in the town and in the many surrounding wine farms. We stayed at Leeu House, a new boutique hotel in the heart of the town. The hotel was very professionally run with helpful staff. The comfortable rooms and public areas were stylishly decorated and featured some superb local art including some large bronze sculptures. The restaurant here was also excellent. Franschhoek with it stunning setting in the mountains is my favourite winelands town being smaller and more compact than Stellenbosch and Paarl and still an easy day trip from Cape Town.

Hermanus on the whale coast was my final destination. The big attractions for overseas visitors to Hermanus are the southern right whales that visit this area to breed from August to December each year, which are easily observed from the cliff paths in the seaside town and for the great white shark diving at nearby Gansbaai. We were in Hermanus at the wrong time for whales but enjoyed a pleasant walk along the cliff top path through the fynbos from where one can enjoy beautiful views of the Southern Ocean and the chance to watch seals and dolphins at any time of year. We stayed here at the excellent Abalone Guesthouse. The sea view rooms here have spectacular views out to sea and are large comfortable and clean with direct access to the coastal path.

Out trip finished with a 2.5 hour drive back along the scenic coastal road to Cape Town. The road hugs the cliffs, passing through the coastal fynbos and providing a succession of spectacular vistas of the southern Indian Ocean.

March 2016

POSTED BY: on 06/04/2016

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