Welcome To South Africa
| Cape Town
Situated right at the tip of the country, the Western Cape is different from the rest of South Africa. The climate is unique, with hot, dry summers and rainy winters. Sparkling white beaches go on forever and sheer mountains tower over the towns and villages. But that’s only the coastal region.
The Cape's towering mountains do more than just add interest to an already scenic view - they separate the green east coast from the high-lying, brown and dusty interior, and they capture all the rain that is swept in from the ocean so there's little left for the Little and Great Karoo, which lie inland from the escarpment.
Complementing the mountain's natural beauty is Cape Town's eye-catching way with design and color, evident in everything from the brightly painted façades of the Bo-Kaap and the Victorian bathing chalets of Muizenberg, to the contemporary Afro-chic décor of the many excellent guesthouses, restaurants and bars. The city, named the Design Capital of the World for the year 2014, is crammed with galleries displaying amazing artworks and shops selling wonderfully inventive craftwork.
Cape Town, affectionately known as the “Mother City”, is the cultural, business and political hub of the province. Having served as a replenishment station for seafaring vessels for centuries, welcoming settlers from France, Holland, Britain, Germany and other diverse countries, Cape Town is rich in history and a melting pot of cultural diversity which is most appealing. With the iconic Table Mountain as its backdrop, Cape Town is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Some must see attractions are:
Rising up from the sea, and stretching all the way to Cape Point, the world famous Table Mountain creates a magnificent backdrop to the city. With the highest point at 3 563 feet and over 2 200 species of plants and 1 470 floral species, it’s officially one of the New7Wonder of Nature, and the only one to be located in an urban area. The main feature of Table Mountain is the level plateau approximately 2 miles from side to side, edged by impressive cliffs. The plateau, flanked by Devil's Peak to the east and by Lion's Head to the west, forms a dramatic backdrop to Cape Town. This broad sweep of mountainous heights, together with Signal Hill, forms the natural amphitheater of the City Bowl and Table Bay harbor.
Signal Hill and Lion's Head
Signal Hill is the Northern-most tip of Table Mountain National Park, and forms the “lion’s body” for the adjacent Lion’s Head mountaintop. It offers excellent views across Table Bay harbor, the central city and the Atlantic Ocean. It is from here that the noon day gun (cannon, actually) is fired each day except for Sundays and public holidays.
Lion's Head is the peak to the right of Table Mountain when facing it head on. Rising 2 195 feet above sea level, Lion's Head is unmistakably part of Cape Town's skyline.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Kirstenbosch is a famous botanical garden nestled at the eastern foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town. The garden is one of nine National Botanical Gardens covering five of South Africa's six different biomes. When Kirstenbosch, the most famous of the gardens, was founded in 1913 to preserve the country's unique flora, it was the first botanical garden in the world with this ethos. Kirstenbosch places a strong emphasis on the cultivation of indigenous plants. Founded in 1913, the garden is home to about 7 000 species in an area of 1300 acres (of which 89 acres is cultivated) including a unique conservatory with plants from different parts of the world.
The Tree Canopy Walkway gives you a different perspective on the trees and spectacular panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains, Garden and Cape Flats. This walkway is 142 yards long, narrow and slender, with a few wider view-point areas, and lightly snakes its way through the canopy, in a discreet, almost invisible way. The walkway is crescent-shaped and takes advantage of the sloping ground; it touches the forest floor in two places, and raises you to 40 feet above ground. It is more than just a traditional boardwalk - like a snake, it winds and dips.
At the tip of the Cape Peninsula, 37 miles south-west of Cape Town and within a 19 150 acre nature reserve lies Cape Point. A spectacular sight and home to breathtaking bays, beaches and rolling green hills and valleys. Cape Point is often mistakenly thought to be where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, but this in fact takes place at Cape Agulhas.
Named the ‘Cape of Storms’ by Bartolomeu Dias in 1488; the ‘Point’ was treated with respect by sailors for centuries. By day, it was a navigational lanmark and by night, and in fog, it was a menace beset by violent storms and dangerous rocks that over the centuries littered shipwrecks around the coastline.
In 1859 the first lighthouse was completed; it still stands at 817 feet above sea-level on the highest section of the peak and is now used as the centralized monitoring point for all the lighthouses on the coast of South Africa. Access to this historical building is by an exhilarating 3 minute ride in the wheelchair accessible Flying Dutchman funicular that transfers visitors from the lower station at 417 feet above sea level, to the upper station at 938 feet above sea level.
Castle of Good Hope
Cape Town's Castle of Good Hope boasts to being South Africa's oldest standing building - and it’s still in use. A fascinating structure with a grand history, the Castle of Good Hope is one of the top attractions in Cape Town.
In 1652 Commander Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company, built a simple clay and timber fort at the Cape of Good Hope during the time that he was establishing the area as an important maritime replenishment station. Between the years 1666 and 1679 this small fort was replaced by a new pentagonal fortification named the Castle of Good Hope. In April 1679 the Castle of Good Hope's 5 bastions were given names honoring Willem, the Prince of Orange, namely Leerdam, Buuren, Orange, Catzenellenbogen and Nassau. These strong bastions are typical of 17th century European fortifications. Also guarding the Castle was a moat which fell into disuse, but has largely been restored. The Entrance and bell tower of the impressive castle are distinctly designed in the 17th century Dutch classicism style. The bell itself was created by Claude Fremy in 1697.
The Castle of Good Hope was named a South African National Monument in 1936 and during the 1980's a project of conservation and restoration was started to preserve this noteworthy monument to South Africa's history. Today the South African Army's regional office of the Western Cape is located here along with ceremonial facilities for Cape Regiments. Within the Castle Military Museum visitors will discover the history of the Cape in general, the Cape Regiments and of course the Castle itself. Also located at the Castle of Good Hope is the William Fehr Collection. In this fascinating art collection are various works depicting the Cape's cultural life in the past.
Church Square and Slave Lodge
Church Square and Slave Lodge, at the top corner of Adderley Street, bear witness to the turbulent past of the Cape of Good Hope. Located at the entrance of the Gothic-style Groote Kerk, Cape Town’s historical Church Square was the place where slaves would wait under a “slave tree” while their owners attended church.
In 1920 a statue of the parliamentarian Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr was erected in Church Square in recognition of his efforts to have Dutch recognized as a language (on the same footing with English) in the Constitution of 1910.
The Slave Lodge was built in 1679 on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. It housed thousands of slaves during its time, when slavery meant big business for the Cape Colony. In its day the lodge also gained the reputation of being the Cape Colony’s biggest brothel. In 1810, after the British had taken over (and had auctioned off all the slaves), the building became the Supreme Court (until 1914). Slave Lodge was then used as government offices until 1966, when it became a museum.
Slavery was officially abolished in the Cape in 1838.
The Company’s Garden is situated in Queen Victoria Street, at the top of Adderley Street, and adjacent to the South African Parliament. It takes its name from the Dutch East India Company who first started the garden in 1652 for the victualing of their ships that plied the spice trade route between Europe and the East Indies, via The Cape of Good Hope.
The Company’s Garden is abutted by numerous important landmarks, including the lodge house for the slaves who built large parts of the historic city, the present day Houses of Parliament, the Iziko South African Museum and Planetarium, St George's Cathedral (which is the seat of the Anglican church in South Africa), the National Library of South Africa, the South African National Gallery, the Great Synagogue and Holocaust Centre as well as Tuynhuys, which is used by the President on state occasions.
The public section of the garden has been enjoyed by visitors for the sheer beauty of its flora and the allure of its historic setting since it was proclaimed for public use in 1848.
The Parliament Buildings
South Africa has a fascinating political history that has captured the world’s attention for generations. Not only in recent times, but historically too, this much-prized piece of the “Dark Continent” has been a place of great political significance. Home to South African Politics is just adjacent to the Company Gardens at the top of Adderly Street, in the Parliament Buildings.
District Six Museum
The District Six Museum revives the history of a vibrant community that was forcibly removed to the city’s periphery during apartheid. In 1966 the National Party government declared District Six a “white group area” and moved thousands of residents (mostly colored and black people) to the Cape Flats, where they had few facilities or means of making a living. All buildings except religious ones were demolished. Nowadays, former residents and their descendants are rebuilding their memories and cultural heritage once again in this area.
Boulders Beach Penguin Colony
Boulders Beach Penguin Colony in Simons Town, is home to a unique and endangered breeding colony of over 2 000 African Penguins. This colony is one of only a few in the world, and the site has become famous and a popular international tourist destination. The Boulders consists of 3 pristine beaches, 1 penguin viewing area and 3 boardwalks. The boardwalks were built as a measure to allow for viewing of these wonderful birds, whilst keeping them safe.
Robben Island needs no introduction with regards to the significance of its place in South Africa’s and indeed the world’s history. As “home” to one of the world’s most famous prisoners, statesmen and leader’s in Nelson Mandela, Robben Island is quite possibly most well-known island prison on the planet.
The island, a World Heritage Site some 5.5miles offshore from Cape Town, was dubbed “Robben” (the Dutch word for seal) Island by early settlers in reference to the seal population at the time. Over the centuries, the island has housed a prison, hospital, mental institution, leper colony and a military base. The afore mentioned Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of the 27 years of his incarceration imprisoned on the island.
Known for its brightly colored houses and situated at the foot of Signal Hill, Bo-Kaap is the spiritual home of the Cape’s Muslim community. Bo-Kaap has a fascinating history. Many of the residents are descendants of slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia and various African countries, who were imported to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The slaves were known as “Cape Malays” (which is not essentially true as most of the residents are not entirely of Malaysian descent). However the term has stuck and Bo-Kaap is also known today as the Cape Malay Quarter. The quaint Bo-Kaap Museum building dates back to the 1760s and is the oldest house in the area that is still in its original form.
Chapman’s Peak Drive
Chapman’s Peak Drive winds its way between Noordhoek and Hout Bay and is touted as one of the most spectacular marine drives in the world.Chapman’s Peak is the 1 945 foot high southerly extension of the Constantiaberg, and the 5.6mile long Chapman’s Peak Drive offers stunning 180-degree views over the Atlantic Ocean. The route below the peak was initially constructed during World War I and traverses 114 curves along the rocky coastline. Starting in picturesque Hout Bay, the road winds steeply up to Chapman’s Peak point revealing exquisite views of the sandy beaches and aquamarine ocean below, before heading down towards Noordhoek.
| Cape Winelands
Wine connoisseur or not, a visit to the Cape Winelands is an absolute must. The region is one of breathtaking scenery, majestic mountain backdrops, as well as being rich in culture and history
Wine connoisseur or not, when referring to the Cape Winelands, most think of cellars and vineyards around Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington and Franschhoek. There is however so much more. The Cape winelands stretch from the rugged mountains and multi-directional slopes of the coastal region to the open plains of the Klein Karoo where viticulture takes place mainly in the riverine valleys. South Africa's vineyards are mostly situated in the Western Cape near the coast. Rainfall on the coastal side, where fynbos and renosterveld vegetation flourish, measures up to 40 inches per year. Travel over the mountains into the hinterland and the rainfall decreases dramatically with the vegetation dominated by hardy succulents, cycads and aloes.
Currently around 245 778 acres of vines producing wine grapes are under cultivation over an area some 500 miles in length. Under the auspices of the Wine of Origin Scheme, production zones in the Cape winelands are divided into officially demarcated regions, districts and wards. There are six regions of the Western Cape are Breede River Valley, Cape South Coast, Coastal Region, Klein Karoo, Olifants River and Boberg (for use in respect of fortified wines from Paarl, Franschhoek, Wellington and Tulbagh), which encompass 26 diverse districts and some 67 smaller wards
The Paarl wine district lies to the north of Stellenbosch, and is bordered by the town of Wellington to the north-east, and the mountains of the Groot and Klein Drakenstein and Franschhoek ranges to the south-east. The Berg River, flanked by the majestic Groot Drakenstein and Wemmershoek Mountains, runs through Paarl and is the life-giving artery of this wine-producing area. The valley land requires supplementary irrigation in the hot growing season before the harvest, but vineyards on the eastern slopes, having better water retention, frequently need none at all.
A large variety of grapes are grown in Paarl, of which Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc have the best potential. The Paarl district includes the wards of Simonsberg-Paarl, on the prime foothills of the Simonsberg, and Voor Paardeberg.
If there’s one wine route everyone knows, it’s this one. The historical town of Stellenbosch, which features some of the finest examples of Cape Dutch architecture, boasts a winemaking tradition which stretches back to the end of the 17th-century. The mountainous terrain, good rainfall, deep well-drained soils and diversity of terroirs make this a sought-after viticultural area. The rapidly increasing number of wine estates and producers (some 150) includes some of the most famous names in Cape wine. The district, with its mix of historic estates and contemporary wineries, produces excellent examples of almost all the noble grape varieties and is known for the quality of its blended reds.
Stellenbosch, the 'town of oaks', is also the educational and research center of the winelands. Stellenbosch University is the only university in South Africa which offers a degree in viticulture and oenology, and it has many of the country’s most successful winemakers as alumni. The Elsenburg School of Agriculture is also near Stellenbosch, as is the Nietvoorbij Institute of Viticulture and Oenology. This organization has one of the most modern experimental wineries in the world and, at its experimental farms (situated in several winegrowing districts), important research into new varietals, clones and rootstocks is undertaken.
The intensively farmed Stellenbosch district has been divided up into several smaller viticultural pockets including Banghoek, Bottelary, Devon Valley, Jonkershoek Valley, Papegaaiberg, Polkadraai Hills and Simonsberg-Stellenbosch.
*Stellenbosch Wine Route, the oldest in the country and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Western Cape, has created five manageable sub-routes for tourists: Bottelary Hills, Greater Simonsberg, Helderberg, Stellenbosch Berg and Stellenbosch Valley.
Some of the wineries in this burgeoning district, which is a mere 45-minutes from Cape Town, stretch over alluvial terraces towards the Swartland's rolling hills and wheat fields, while others are found in the foothills of the towering Hawequa Mountains, where folds and valleys create unique mesoclimates. Wellington, which supplies over 85% of the South African wine industry with cuttings, also boasts some 30 wine producers ranging from historical estates to boutique wineries. In winter, snow sometimes covers the mountain tops and night temperatures are generally cooler than at the coast some 38 miles away.
The district of Franschhoek has retained its distinct French Huguenot character. Regarded as the 'culinary capital' of the Cape, Franschhoek is a member of The Délice Network of Good Food Cities of the World. The Franschhoek valley lies to the southeast of Paarl and is enclosed on three sides by towering mountains: the Groot Drakenstein and Franschhoek Mountains which meet at the top of the valley and the Klein Drakenstein and Simonsberg Mountains, found further down towards Paarl. Streams from the higher peaks flow down to the valley floor where they converge to form the Berg River, fast-flowing in winter when snow caps the peaks and a mere stream in summer, fed by the Wemmershoek Dam.
Traditionally a grain-producing area, in summer the Swartland district is marked by green pockets of vineyards clambering up the foothills of the mountains (Piketberg, Porterville, Riebeek, Perdeberg) and along the banks of the Berg River. In the past, the region was planted mainly to bush vines but trellising is increasingly being adopted due to advances in management strategies and quality considerations.
The Swartland literally translated means ‘the black land’ and the area takes its name from the now endangered indigenous renosterbos (rhino bush) which once turned the landscape a dark color at certain times of the year. The district was traditionally a source of robust, full-bodied red wines and high quality, fortified wines.
In recent times, some exciting award-winning wines have emerged, both red and white, and the area continues to produce top port-style wines. Increasing percentages of Pinotage, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are being grown here, as well as Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. It has two designated wards, Malmesbury and Riebeekberg. The district of Swartland borders Piketberg to the north, which is not dissimilar in both geography and climate. The district also includes the ward of St Helena Bay.
Dubbed the 'valley of vines and roses', the Robertson district's lime-rich soils make the area eminently suitable for racehorse stud farming and also, of course, wine growing. Situated in the Breede River valley, the river is the lifeblood of this lower rainfall region. Although summer temperatures can be high, cooling south-easterly winds channel moisture-laden air into the valley.
Robertson is renowned for the quality of its wines and while traditionally considered white wine territory and known mainly for its Chardonnays and more recently for the quality of its Sauvignon Blanc, it is also the source of some of the Cape's finest red wines, particularly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, while the distinctive fortified dessert wines for which it was originally famed continue to be produced. The district of Robertson incorporates several wards including Agterkliphoogte, Bonnievale, Boesmansrivier, Eilandia, Hoopsrivier, Klaasvoogds, Le Chasseur, McGregor, and Vinkrivier.
Surrounded on three sides by the Groot Winterhoek, Witsenberg and Obiekwaberg Mountains, the vineyards of the Tulbagh district grow alongside orchards and fields of wheat. Soils in the valley are extremely variable. The area is characterized by extreme differences in day and night temperatures. Mountainous terrain creates numerous different mesoclimates which can be used to great advantage.
Unique to the valley's geographical composition is the 'cold trap', a phenomenon which occurs as a result of the encapsulating mountains, shaped like a horseshoe, with Tulbagh situated at the north of the 'bowl'. Within this bowl, once a prehistoric lake, the cold air of the previous night lies undisturbed. With no air movement from the sides, this cold bubble is trapped under the warming air above as the sun makes its way from east to west. The result is relatively cool average daily temperatures.
The town of Tulbagh boasts 32 national monuments on one street, and here history and tradition work hand-in-hand with innovation. With today's high-tech water management and advanced viticultural practices, the true potential of this area is starting to be realized. At present there are some 18 wineries - several of them relative newcomers making acclaimed wines, notably Shiraz and Méthode Cap Classique – in this secluded valley.
The Breedekloof district is characterized by vineyards which flourish on alluvial valley soils with adequate drainage as they rest on a bed of river stones. It covers a large proportion of the Breede River Valley and its tributaries. There are marked variations between the soils and mesoclimates in the different river valleys. There are some 21 wineries on the Breedekloof Wine Route covering the wards of Goudini and Slanghoek.
CAPE AGULHAS DISTRICT
Most of these maritime vineyards are situated in the ward of Elim near Africa's southernmost point, Cape Agulhas. The entire picturesque village of Elim, a Moravian mission settlement founded in 1824, is a national monument. Strong, cooling winds are prevalent in summer, ensuring a very cool ripening season, perfect for Sauvignon Blanc and also promising for Semillon and Shiraz. Generating much interest in the winelands, the still small acerage of this coastal district shows great potential. The ward of Elim is found here.
The most northerly winegrowing area in the Cape comprises an area of some 9 885 acres, which stretch in close proximity to the Orange River. Predominantly a white grape area, reds are being increasingly planted. The wine grape varieties grown here are Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Chardonnay, Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Muscadel (both red and white) and Muscat d'Alexandrie.
Large trellising systems are employed in this region of which the hut, gable and T-trellises are the most in use. These create special microclimates which protect the grapes, allowing them to ripen away from exposure to the direct rays of the sun. Specific mesoclimates are created within vineyards located on the islands between the different streams of the Orange River where the close proximity to the water cools down the grapes to a considerable degree. The conditions contribute to creating climate pockets which are conducive to production of better quality wines.
The styles of wine produced by the various wineries along the 218 mile stretch of river differ singularly in style and flavor from the eastern to the western wineries. The soil types also vary greatly. The wines of the more eastern cellars are characterized by higher natural acids and lower pH readings, resulting in quite delicate sensory profiles.
Darling, which is just an hour’s drive away from Cape Town, features several tourist attractions. The Darling district incorporates the Groenekloof ward, which benefits from being one of the closest to the cooling Atlantic and is known for the exceptional quality of its Sauvignon Blanc, the variety which initially spearheaded the viticultural progress of this area. Now wines with exceptional flavor expressions are also being produced from other cultivars.
The vineyards of Durbanville, like those of Constantia, lie very close to Cape Town and border on the northern suburbs. Several estates and wineries, situated mainly on the rolling hill slopes with their various aspects and altitudes, continue to make a wide variety of wine styles. Some of the vineyards grow at altitudes as high as 1,247 feet above sea level. Wines from this ward attracting attention are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep soils, cooling sea breezes, night-time mists and close proximity to the ocean are beneficial factors when it comes to the quality of the grapes. The district include the Durbanville and the newer Philadelphia ward. This newer ward also benefits from cooling Atlantic influences. The hilly terrain of this area means some of the vineyards are higher than usual, up to 853 feet above sea level. This facilitates a significant difference in day-night temperature and results in slower ripening. Some highly regarded Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and red blends have already emerged from this promising appellation.
Only an hour east of Cape Town, the high-lying cool-climate Elgin district, cradled in the ancient sandstone Hottentots Holland Mountains, was traditionally an apple-growing region. Now award-winning wine showing exceptional fruit and elegance are produced here, with Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Shiraz doing particularly well in this later-ripening, cooler terroir.
KLEIN KAROO REGION
This semi-arid, elongated region stretches from Montagu, via higher-lying Barrydale towards Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn and the Langkloof. It's known for relative extremes when it comes to soils and climate. Viticulture takes place mainly in kloofs, valleys and riverine sites in a rugged mountainous landscape. Muscat varieties flourish here and the area is known for its sweet wines. Today, there is an increasing focus on reds like Merlot made in an easy-drinking style. The region incorporates Montagu, Outeniqua, Tradouw, Tradouw Highlands and Upperkloof wards.
Calitzdorp district is famous for its port-style wines and here you'll find plantings of Tinta Barocca, Touriga Nacional and, on a small scale, Souzao. More recently, red wines made from the varieties typically used to make port are creating new interest here. The Klein Karoo is renowned for the quality of its pot still brandies which have brought home international accolades.
The most recently proclaimed district in the region is Langeberg-Garcia which is situated north of the Langeberg Mountain range between the Brand River in the west and the Gourits River in the east, it encompasses the scenic Garcia Pass.
The Worcester district, in conjunction with the Breedekloof district, is the largest in terms of winegrowing area and volume, with the historical town of Worcester the hub of the valley. With around 48 334 acres planted, it accounts for nearly 20% of the national vineyards and produces close on 27% of South Africa's total volume of wine and spirits. It's also the most important brandy producing area and home to the KWV Brandy Cellar, the largest of its kind in the world. Several of the cellars here are bottling quality wines under their own labels. This district comprises the Hex River Valley, Nuy and Scherpenheuvel wards.
Newer viticultural areas have opened up in the southerly Overberg district, with award-winning wines emerging from the Klein River ward near Stanford, as well as Elandskloof, Greyton and Theewater wards.
PLETTENBERG BAY DISTRICT
The first vines were planted in 2000 in this pioneering district, the newest and furthest appellation up the east coast, in mountainous terrain some 12 miles east of Plettenberg Bay, with its wealth of natural beauty, unspoilt beaches and excellent whale watching in season. The cool coastal climate – vineyards are some 2 miles from the sea – and high carbon content of the soils are proving ideal for Sauvignon Blanc.
WALKER BAY DISTRICT
This district, surrounding the seaside town of Hermanus, is reputed for the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines which emanate from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, which encompasses the wards of Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Sunday’s Glen and Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.
The Bot River ward is the gateway to Walker Bay and encompasses the Bot River village and valley, stretching from the Bot River lagoon up into the foothills of the Groenlandberg and Babylonstoren Mountain ranges, and bordering the Kogelberg Biosphere. The area is renowned for its cool maritime microclimate, which is influenced by its proximity to the lagoon and Walker Bay – cooling afternoon winds blow up the valley off the sea. Soils are mainly homogenous Bokkeveld shale (predominantly Glen Rosa and Klapmuts) and Table Mountain sandstone. Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage, Shiraz and other Rhône varietals fare particularly well here. Bot River is home to an eclectic mix of handcrafted wineries and its rustic charm lies in its quirky character. The area is also being noticed for the outstanding and consistent quality of its Pinotage. Fine examples of Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Shiraz are also being produced here. The cool climate is the sought-after attribute in this area where vineyards benefit from persistent cooling winds from the nearby ocean. The soils, predominantly weathered shales, and terroir are also ideal for cool-climate loving varieties. Additional wards included are Stanford Hills, Herbertsdale, Napier and Stilbaai East.
CAPE PENINSULA DISTRICT
This district is home to the Constantia and Hout Bay Wards. On the southern slopes of the Table Mountain range and its world-renowned floral kingdom lies the historic Constantia valley, the cradle of winemaking in the Cape. The valley was the site of Simon van der Stel's 17th-century wine farm and the origin of the Constantia dessert wines which became famous throughout Europe during the 18th century. Rooted in ancient soils, the vineyards climb up the east-facing slopes of the Constantiaberg, where the vines benefit from the cool sea breezes blowing in from False Bay. The Constantia ward receives about 40 inches of rain annually, making irrigation unnecessary, and has a mean February temperature of 69.08°F. There are only a handful of cellars in this premier ward, where the cool climate favors the production of white wines, notably Sauvignon Blanc, and where the tradition of producing remarkable wines since 1685 continues.
The district includes the Hout Bay ward.
OLIFANTS RIVER REGION
This region stretches in a belt from north to south along the broad valley of the Olifants River. The summers in this valley range from relatively warm to cool compared with some of South Africa's other wine areas and rainfall is low. Soils vary from sandy to red clay loams. With careful canopy management, which ensures grapes are shaded by the vines' leaves, combined with modern winemaking techniques, the Olifants River is proving to be a source of quality, affordable wines. The region incorporates the wards of Koekenaap, Vredendal and Spruitdrift as well as Bamboes Bay on the West Coast, which is generating some excitement, especially when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc.
The predominantly citrus-producing Citrusdal Valley district lies in the southern reaches of the Olifants River Valley. The soils are mainly sandy alluvial soils from the surrounding Table Mountain in the southern part of the valley up until Clanwilliam. Irrigation is obtained from the Clanwilliam dam where the water is of an excellent quality. The area incorporates the higher-lying ward of Piekenierskloof.
Some exciting wines are emanating from the cooler, high-altitude vineyards of the stand-alone Cederberg ward which borders on the Olifants River region.
This is a small district with the historic town of Swellendam dating back to 1743 at its center. The overall climate of the area can be classified as Mediterranean, with long summer days and mild winters, although the Langeberg Mountain range has an effect on vineyard growing conditions. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the main white varieties grown here, while Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are the prominent reds. The wards within the district are Buffeljags, Malgas and Stormsvlei.
| The Garden Route
GARDEN ROUTE & LITTLE KAROO
The Garden Route region is a world class tourist destination and together with the Little Karoo, offers a diverse range of exciting and unique experiences.
Straddling the beautiful stretches of coastlines of the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces, from Heidelberg to the Tsitsikamma Forest and Storms River, the 125 miles long stretch of Garden Route derives its name from the stunning natural beauty and unique, ecologically diverse vegetation that typify the region, including grasslands, wetlands, forests and mountainous regions, and the numerous lagoons, lakes and rivers that dot the coastline. Along the way, every kind of adventure activity is possible; scuba diving, golf, abseiling, fishing and more. The Tsitsikamma National Park, perched on a tumultuous Indian Ocean shore is one of South Africa’s most dramatic protected areas, combining marine and land attractions. Its indigenous forests are a haven for birdlife.
Traveling north over the Outeniqua mountains we find the Little Karoo, a semi-arid region and one of the most geologically interesting parts of South Africa. Oudtshoorn, capital of the Klein Karoo, is set in a semi-arid valley, and provides an ideal habitat for farming ostriches. It also features the unique Cango Caves.
The Garden Route is an excellent year round destination with a mild Mediterranean-like climate. Mild to warm summers and mild to cool winters make for ideal holiday weather. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Garden Route has the mildest climate in South Africa and the 2nd mildest climate in the world, after Hawaii.
Temperatures rarely fall below 50°F in winter and rarely climb beyond 83°F in summer. It is also one of the country's richest rainfall regions, with rain (brought by the humid sea-winds from the Indian Ocean rising and releasing their precipitation along the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains just inland of the coast) occurring year-round.
More than 38 miles of beaches - and warm, beach-going weather throughout the year (with at least 300 days of sunshine in every 365!); The riches of the Indian Ocean, the Cape fynbos, and the Outeniqua Mountains; Culture that stretches back over 164,000 years; 21st century infrastructure; and accommodation for every budget.
Mossel Bay is situated exactly half way between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. A major attraction is Pinnacle Point Golf Course - a truly unique experience for the discerning golfer.
George in the Western Cape has a rich historical legacy, evident in many of the town’s attractions. Its prime location between the Outeniqua Mountains and Indian Ocean, surrounded by forests and lakes, gives rise to a compelling mix of outdoor pursuits, not to mention its collection of world-class golf courses.
George in the Western Cape is a popular destination in, and a key access point to, the southern Cape.
The town was established in the late 1700s as an outpost for the provision of timber and gave rise to a small community of woodcutters. It was only after the second British occupation in the early 1800s that the town was officially proclaimed and named after the reigning British monarch, King George III.
Given its location surrounded by mountains, forests and lakes, it's not surprising that outdoor leisure pursuits rank highly among George's key attractions. Nature walks, birdwatching, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking and horse riding are all within a stone's throw of the town, capitalizing on the area's natural beauty.
George is also renowned as the Western Cape's golf capital, with numerous world-class courses – tee off at The Links, Montagu or Outeniqua courses at Fancourt; Kingswood Golf Estate; or Oubaai Golf Club course for your most picturesque game yet.
Knysna is one of the Southern Cape coast's best known holiday destinations, situated between lush forests and the shores of the peaceful lagoon - it offers many activities and attractions of a wide variety. The most well-known attraction being the heads - two great sandstone cliffs guarding the mouth of the 11 mile long lagoon which connects the estuary with the sea. A lookout has been erected on the Eastern Head, commanding spectacular views of the lagoon, Leisure Isle and Knysna. The Western Head is a privately owned nature Reserve - Featherbed Bay. The Knysna Lagoon is one of the few places along the coast and in the world that supports an oyster hatchery. And the Knysna oysters are reputedly among the tastiest in the world.
Knysna has many attractions in the surrounding area as well, one of the most spectacular being the Knysna Forest, which is still evident in many places within the town as well. It is the largest indigenous forest in South Africa comprising of tall and ancient trees of local and exotic species, including stinkwood, yellowwood, blackwood, ironwood, white alders and Cape chestnut. Not forgetting the ferns, creepers and wild flowers which add color to this endless green collage. The forest is vast and extremely dense in places making it impenetrable. Animal life is limited to a few small antelope and a large variety of birds, such as the famous Knysna Loerie.
Home to Pezula Championship course as well as Simola Country Club, both courses offer awe-inspiring views.
Plettenberg Bay is a premier holiday destination situated on the Southern Cape coast. Plett, as it is popularly known, has sweeping golden beaches, the famously imposing Robberg Peninsula, intriguing lagoons and estuaries, towering indigenous forests and unpolluted rivers. Most recently, Plett is home to a growing number of vineyards and wine estates to showcase one of the newest “Wine of Origin Region” in South Africa. It’s also an adrenaline junky “haven” for those craving outdoor adventure!
From Keurboomstrand to the Robberg Peninsula there are 12 miles of beaches punctuated by the river mouth and an island. The river, lagoon, bay and beaches are frequented by fishing and boating enthusiasts and offer the best shore based whale watching of the area.
The Crags is situated 12 miles from Plett central and has become one of the must see areas, with polo fields, wildlife sanctuaries, theatre and an abundance of art and craft offerings along its vibrant Cruise the Crags route. Nearby, is Nature’s Valley with its untouched indigenous trees, forest and beautiful pristine coastline.
Garden Route (Tsitsikamma, Knysna, Wilderness) National Park
Along the South Coast of South Africa lies one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world, home to the Garden Route National Park.
A mosaic of ecosystems, it encompasses the world renowned Tsitsikamma and Wilderness sections, the Knysna Lake section, a variety of mountain catchment, Southern Cape indigenous forest and associated Fynbos areas. These areas resemble a montage of landscapes and seascapes, from ocean to mountain areas, and are renowned for its diverse natural and cultural heritage resources.
The Tsitsikamma Section of the Garden Route National Park is situated at the heart of the picturesque tourist region known as the Garden Route, found in the Southern Cape of South Africa. Tsitsikamma is a Khoisan (early inhabitants of the area) word meaning "place of much water". The Park incorporates 80 km of rocky coastline with spectacular sea and landscapes, a remote mountainous region with secluded valleys covered in mountain Fynbos and temperate high forests with deep river gorges leading down to the sea.
Inland from the Cape’s famous Garden Route, over breathtakingly beautiful mountain passes, magnificent red rocks and the wide open spaces, you’ll find the towns of Oudtshoorn and De Rust are in the Klein Karoo between the Swartberg and Outeniqua Mountains. Oudtshoorn is the ostrich capital of the world. The world's biggest bird is just one of the many attractions in this area of exceptional contrasts and natural beauty. The region is home to the spectacular Cango Caves, Africa's largest show cave system; an ecological hotspot where three distinct plant biomes (succulent karoo, cape thicket and fynbos) converge; and the Swartberg Mountain range, which is part of the Cape Floral World Heritage Site.
| Kruger Region
Generally accepted to be the safari capital of South Africa, Mpumalanga is best known for the Kruger National Park and the many private game reserves on its border that offer a more exclusive alternative to staying in the park.
The province has a colorful history, particularly its gold rush era, when lawlessness was the order of the day and brave pioneers wandered through lion-infested bush to reach their claims. Many historical sites, battlefields and small museums document the era when this area was of such strategic importance during the wars between the Transvaal Republic and Britain. Paul Kruger fled South Africa through this province, and many people believe he left a fortune in gold bullion and coins buried here somewhere.
For tourism purposes, Mpumalanga is divided into seven routes, or sections. The Cultural Heartland and Cosmos Country are closer to Johannesburg, and are quite urbanized with a heavy reliance on mining and industry, albeit with some scenic pockets of interest. Despite the official divisions, the province is usually divided into the Lowveld and the escarpment. The Lowveld is hot and humid with long grass and broad-leaved trees including such iconic ones as the marula and baobab. And, of course, it has spectacular game.
Many people visit this lovely province just for sightseeing and, when they do, it’s usually the spectacular Panorama Route. One breathtaking view after another where you'll experience mountains, sky, forests and the truly impressive Blyde River Canyon, one of the world's largest canyons.
THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa. It covers 7,332 mi² and extends 217 miles from north to south and 37 miles from east to west. Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld, this national park covers nearly 5 million acres.
To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.
THE GREATER KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
The Greater Kruger National Park refers to the over twenty private reserves to the west of the Kruger National Park which add 445 000 acres to the reserve. In total, the whole area covers over 5 million acres of unfenced, wild reserve with free movement of game across this spectacular land.
The area of the Kruger National Park was first declared a game reserve way back in 1898. First called the Government Wildlife Park, then the Sabi Game Reserve, it was finally called the Kruger National Park in 1926.
Many of the surrounding farms were also game farms, but privately owned. Over twenty of them got together and established the Associated Private Nature Reserves, a non-profit organization to uphold the principles and values of conservation, sustainable land use and local community development. In the early 1990's, the Kruger National Park and Associated Private Nature Reserves dropped their fences (after ensuring the outer borders were adequately fenced), effectively adding 445 000 acres of land.
This addition to the park increases grazing area for the animals, extends their potential gene pool and - for us - increases the chances of sighting all of the wildlife we go on safari to see!
The game reserves that make up the Greater Kruger, sees many of them incorporating smaller reserves. There are no fences between any of them and each one offers spectacular scenery and a chance to see not only the Big Five, but a huge array of other wild animals and birds!
Sabi Sand Reserve
Sabi Sand is the oldest of all the private reserves in South Africa, and incorporates the Djuma Game Private Reserve, Idube Private Game Reserve, Inyati Private Game Reserve, Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve, Lion Sands Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Londolozi Private Game Reserve, Singita Game Reserve and Ulusaba Private Game Reserve. Sharing a 32 mile unfenced border with the Kruger National Park, Sabi Sand covers 153 000 acres. The Sabi River and Sand River run through the area providing diverse habitats for the huge range of animals. The area is known especially for its big cat sightings, most notably of the elusive leopard.
Timbavati Game Reserve
Covering over 123 000 acres of prime game-filled savannah, Timbavati includes the Motswari, Ngala, Tanda Tula and Umlani Game Reserve. The area is known most famously for its white lions which, besides a plethora of other wildlife.
Balule Nature Reserve
Balule consists of 99 000 acres of prime game reserve. The park is home not only to the much sought after Big Five, but also an incredible variety of other wildlife – antelope, big cats, wild dogs, giraffe, zebra to name a few – and birdlife. With the perennial Olifants River flowing through it, Balule is a prime game- and bird-watching area. Balule incorporates a number of smaller privately owned reserves including Olifants River, Olifants River Eastern Conservancy, Olifants West, York, Parsons, Olifants North, Grietjie and Jejane Game Reserves.
Kapama Game Reserve
Kapama comprises 32 125 acres of sweeping wilderness. Both the Kapama River and the Klaserie River flow through the reserve, creating an area of riverine forest amidst sweeping savannah. These serve as natural water sources for the resident wildlife, of which there is a wide array!
Klaserie Nature Reserve
One of the largest privately owned reserves in South Africa, Klaserie covers 148 000 acres of land along the Klaserie River. The owners are deeply committed to conservation and the park hosts three amazing projects: the Ground Hornbill Project, Rhino Protection and The Elephant Project.
Thornybush Nature Reserve
Thornybush Private Nature Reserve comprises 35 000 acres of pristine bush, filled with animals and birds.
Makalali Game Reserve
Once an old cattle farm, in the early 1990’s this 26 000 hectare property has successfully reintroduced animals such as lion, cheetah, leopard, rhino and elephant.
Selati Game Reserve
Selati Game Reserve lies on roughly 64 000 acres of land west of the Kruger National Park, between the towns of Gravelotte and Mica, north of Nelspruit. Proclaimed as a conservancy in 2003, Selati is a partnership between neighboring families who have pooled former farm land to preserve and sustain the biodiversity of this region in the heart of the bushveld, characterized by six different veld types and a rich variety of animals, including lion, white rhino and elephant.
Umbabat Game Reserve
Umbabat is approximately 37 000 acres in size, and includes reserves such at N’tsiri, Ndlopfu and Ingwelala. Umbabat’s mopane bushveld, watering holes and river beds attract a huge variety of game including the elephant, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, kudu and several other antelope. These plains game in turn attract a number of predators, particularly hyena and lions.
Manyeleti Game Reserve
This 57 000 acre private reserve is situated on the eastern side of Kruger NP, between the Sabi Sand and Timbavati. Tourism in general is less developed than its renowned neighbors, but it’s still home to the Big Five. Manyeleti is owned and managed by the local Mnisi tribe. They successfully claimed the land as they have been living in the area for many generations.
On the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga, with its breathtaking vistas around every mountain corner, waterfalls plunging down faces of sheer rock, memories of the gold rush following you as you meander down an endless river canyon, and eagles hovering above your head – you can't help walking with your head in the clouds.
Blyde River Canyon
Blyde River Canyon is the site of Natural Phenomena. It is the largest Green Canyon in the world and stretches over 16 miles and is over 2 625 feet deep.
The Pinnacle a freestanding quartzite buttress which stands 30m above the indigenous forest below.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes
The magnificent rock features called “Bourke’s Luck Potholes”. These enormous potholes have been carved by pebbles swirling around in the pools where the Blyde and Treur River meet and become one.
At the northern end of the mighty Drakensberg Range, and standing sentry at one end of the Blyde River Canyon is the most famous and photographed attraction in the region, the Three Rondavels. The harder rock layers on top eroded slower than the underlying softer layers of stone, which resulted in rock formations which resemble African rondavels.
The Zenith of the Panorama Route, this is such a picturesque view point that it has been called “God’s Window”, due to the sheer natural beauty contained in one view. Uniquely located North of Graskop, while standing at this view point you get a beautiful view of the panoramic Lowveld and the magnificent Blyde River Canyon.
Lisbon & Berlin Falls
The Lisbon Falls are just 2 miles to the south of the Berlin Falls on the Lisbon River. The Lisbon River plunges down in a double stream, 295 feet high, over a semicircular rock face.
The mighty Berlin Falls are close to God's Window, north of Graskop. A special observation platform has been built to view this natural wonder, one of the most spectacular along the Panorama Route. The Watervalspruit plunges down a cliff, 263 feet high into a huge green pool.
KwaZulu-Natal province is situated on South Africa’s eastern seaboard, on the edge of the Indian Ocean. In the local isiZulu language, KwaZulu means ‘Place of the Zulu people’.
Although there are 11 municipal districts in KwaZulu-Natal, for travel purposes it is more comfortably divided into eight regions, namely Durban, the South Coast, the North Coast, Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands, the Drakensberg, the Battlefields, the, Zululand and the Maputaland or Elephant Coast. Each of these areas has its own unique characteristics and attractions and you will find you are spoilt for choice.
KwaZulu-Natal is a traveler’s dream and with the seemingly perpetual summer of our subtropical climate, it is not surprising that we are famous for our outdoor activities, beaches, natural environment, sporting events and the variety of adventure activities. The Indian Ocean is warm and with relatively stable sea temperatures averaging 70°F, it provides opportunities to swim, surf, fish, sail, snorkel and scuba dive or just hang out on our numerous beautiful beaches throughout the year. In addition to all the water related activities, in KwaZulu-Natal adrenaline junkies can abseil the world’s highest gorge, bungee jump, go mountain biking, white-water rafting, dive with sharks or even do some ice-climbing in the snowy mountains in the winter.
Historically, the battles fought in the beautiful hills and valleys of northern KwaZulu-Natal at the turn of the 19th century, changed the course of South African history and the sites of famous skirmishes that rocked the British Empire, weakened the Boers and broke the mighty Zulu nation, draw visitors from throughout the world. Some of the more famous battlefields are at Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana in Zululand.
Some of South Africa’s premier game and marine reserves are situated in KwaZulu-Natal and we are very proud that two of the country’s eight magnificent World Heritage sites, namely iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the Elephant coast, and the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park in the mountains to the west of the province are here. Another important game reserve is Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, world famous for the role it has played in preserving Africa’s white rhino populations.
The Natural Environment
No other province in South Africa is home to such a diversity of natural features as KwaZulu-Natal. There are beautiful grassy plains, cascading rivers, snow covered mountains, rolling hills, forests, beaches, the warm Indian Ocean and coral reefs. All this gives rise to a rich diversity of plants and animals, many of which are of immense social and economic value. Numerous private and state game reserves, marine reserves, conservation areas and botanic gardens provide opportunities for visitors to KwaZulu-Natal to experience and enjoy our rich diversity of plants and animals.
You can observe the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros), zebra, giraffe, cheetah, numerous antelope species from the enormous eland and kudu to the tiny suni and duiker, hippos, crocodiles, baboons and monkeys and much more as well as hundreds of species of bird. There are sea-turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks, and many species of fish, reptiles and fascinating insects. In addition the flora includes beautiful grasslands, protea bushes, yellow-woods, teak and many species of acacia to name but a few.
There are two world heritage sites, the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park which protects unique natural resources and globally significant biodiversity as well as a rich cultural heritage of rock art, while iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first World Heritage site, includes about a third of the entire KwaZulu-Nata coast. It’s the largest estuarine system in Africa and includes five different ecosystems (eight if you include the surrounding areas) with a lake system made up of two estuarine-linked lakes and four large freshwater lakes with several bird-rich islands.
South Africa is one of the most geographically varied countries of the African continent, comprising territory that ranges from the rolling, fertile plains of the highveld and the wide open savanna of the Eastern Transvaal to the Kalahari Desert and the peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains.
Roughly the size of Spain and France combined, or Texas, South Africa is situated at the very southern tip of Africa. The Atlantic and the Indian Oceans wash its shores and meet at Cape Agulhas – one of the only places in the world where a person can watch two oceans meet.
South Africa may be at the bottom of Africa, but it’s widely regarded as being top in terms of its superb infrastructure, its legendary sunny climate, and its incredible geographic diversity – expect superb beaches, dramatic mountain ranges, sophisticated cities, quaint villages, historic battlefields, oceans, valleys, bushveld teeming with game, hundreds of species of birds, great and small semi-deserts, wide open spaces … and much more.
South Africa has nine provinces. Probably the best known to international visitors are the Western Cape, home of Cape Town and the Cape Winelands; Mpumalanga, famous for its spectacular scenery and the Kruger National Park; and KwaZulu-Natal, with its capital city, Durban, historic battlefields and wonderful beaches. The other six provinces – the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo, North West and Free State – also offer their own unique sights and experiences, and you’ll find out about them later on when you study the different province modules.
South Africa, since its first democratic election in 1994 after which Nelson Mandela became president, is a fully integrated society of more than 50-million people with a rich, fascinating mix of cultures ranging from Zulu and Xhosa (pronounced koh-sa), to Afrikaans and English and many, many more.
South Africa at a Glance
|Location:||The country lies between 22° and 35° south, flanked on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the east by the Indian Ocean, whose waters meet at the country's and Africa's most southern tip, Cape Agulhas. The coastline stretches 1 739 miles from the desert border with Namibia on the Atlantic coast, southwards around the tip of Africa, then north to the border with subtropical Mozambique on the Indian Ocean.|
|Borders:||On dry land, going from west to east, South Africa shares long borders with Namibia and Botswana, touches Zimbabwe, has a longitudinal strip of border with Mozambique to the east, and lastly curves in around Swaziland before rejoining Mozambique's southern border. In the interior, nestled in the curve of the bean-shaped Free State, is the small mountainous country of Lesotho, completely surrounded by South African territory.|
|Country Size:||470 693 mi²|
|Capital:||Pretoria (administrative), Cape Town (legislative), Bloemfontein (judicial)|
|Provinces:||9 provinces which vary considerably in size - Eastern Cape 13.9%, Free State 10.6%, Gauteng 1.4%, KwaZulu-Natal 7.6%, Limpopo 10.2%, Mpumalanga 6.5%, Northern Cape 29.7%, North West 9.5%, Western Cape 10.6%.|
|Freedom Day:||27 April - Freedom Day commemorates the first democratic elections held in South Africa on 27 April 1994.|
|Head of State:||President Jacob Zuma|
|Official Language:||11 official languages – English, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga|
|Currency:||Rand (ZAR) - 100 cents equals one rand|
|Ethnic groups:||Ethnic groups: African 79.2%, Colored 8.9%, White 8.9%, Indian/Asian 2.5%|
|Key Industries:||Mining (world's largest producer of platinum, chromium), automobile assembly, metal- working, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer’s, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair.|
|Value Added Tax:||Levied at 14%. Tourists may apply for tax refunds on purchased items taken out of the country when the total valued exceeds R250.|
|Electricity:||220/230 volts AC 50 HZ|