South Africa is often described as the ‘Rainbow Nation’, due to its many diverse cultures and lifestyles. It has something to offer everybody with great weather, stunning scenery, outstanding wildlife, delicious food, fine wines and a vast range of adventurous activities. On my flying visit last November I visited Cape Town and the Wine Region before embarking on the famous ‘Garden Route’. I then ended my stay with a one night stay at Pumba Private Game Reserve. This was my first taste of a safari and I can only say that it has left me hungry for more! Cape Town and Surrounds Consistently ranked amongst the world’s top cities, Cape Town is South Africa’s most culturally and visually diverse city.
Spreading out below Table Mountain, its attractions include the designer shopping malls of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, flower and craft markets, a wealth of museums, excursions to Robben Island and the revolving cable car to Table Mountain. Relax on the magnificent beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton, visit Penguins at Boulders Beach, or explore the nature trails of Cape Point and the vineyards of Constantia Valley. The Winelands Situated just an hour’s drive from Cape Town, the Cape Winelands provides magnificent wine farms, stunning scenery, attractive towns rich in South African history and the title of ‘Culinary region of South Africa’. The two main towns are Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Stellenbosch, South Africa’s oldest university town has a Dutch influence, offering quaint shops and art galleries. Franschhoek is known as the gourmet capital of South Africa. Each of the towns has developed a series of wine routes which encompass the best vineyards each region has to offer and will help you appreciate the beauty of this area. Day tours can be arranged so that you are able to enjoy the wine tasting experience to the full!
The Western Cape Not only are the areas around Gansbaai and Hermanus populated with wine estates, they are also famed for being the ‘Great White Shark Capital of the World’, with shark cage diving a popular pursuit. From July to November there is an opportunity to see Southern Right whales as they gather to give birth to their young just offshore. The Garden Route Stretching from Mossel Bay to Tsitsikamma Forests, the Garden Route got its name from the surrounding lush vegetation and scenery. Featuring lakes, mountains, indigenous forests and golden beaches all interspersed by some of South Africa’s most charming towns. George is the gateway town and a golfer’s paradise. Knysna is one of the Southern Cape’s best known holiday destinations. It is an attractive town with a range of shops, fine restaurants serving locally grown fresh-water oysters and a good selection of quality accommodation. It is also known for ‘Knysna Head’ – two great sandstone cliffs that guard the mouth of the beautiful Knysna Lagoon. Nearby you will find Plettenburg Bay
‘Jewel of the Garden Route’. Aside from the three beaches, Central, Robberg and Keurbooms, there are many other activities on offer such as deep sea fishing, dolphin cruises, diving and horse riding. The Tsitsikmma National Park has ancient forests stretching down to one of the largest and oldest Marine National Parks in Africa. A range of activities are available, including tree top walks, zip wiring, mountain biking or the highest bungy jump in the world at 216 metres.
Pumba – Eastern Cape (Malaria Free) Pumba Private Game Reserve is set in an area that covers 6,000 hectares of savannah, grassland, fynbos, thicket and forest. This variety of vegetation supports an abundance of wildlife, including the Big 5.
The reserve has two lodges and Msenge Bush Lodge is where I stayed in a spacious glass walled chalet that naturally fitted into the African bush. The luxury bedroom opened onto a private timber deck compete with plunge pool and outdoor shower. I had a stunning view over the waterhole and plain. Game viewing was with a knowledgeable ranger and we got to see 4 of the big 5.
A self-drive tour is one of the best ways to see this wonderful country. As in the UK driving is on the left hand side. The majority of the roads are wide and in good condition. Road signs are in English and the attractions are well signposted. South Africa offers a whole range of accommodation from boutique bed and breakfast to luxury resort style hotels.
My personal preference was for the boutique bed and breakfast style accommodation.
My top 5 reasons to visit South Africa (in no particular order!)
1. The beauty
2. The wildlife
3. The people/culture
4. The food & wine
5. Affordability – good value for money.
Remember: – South Africa is only a night flight away!