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As with most trips, the start always reveals some environmental hazard just to welcome you to your new home!
I met the team in Port Elizabeth, 2 South Africans and 8 very excited Americans from Atlanta – nicknamed Team Guinea Fowl – arrived off the plane from an incredible 4 day safari at Thornybush. There was already a cooler box with ice cold beers and chilled champagne waiting for them in the ‘van’ – our stead that would take us across the Western Cape – and after a few u-turns and nervous gear changes, we were on the road to our first stop, Plettenberg Bay.
Now, as I mentioned above, our start was met with driving rain, mist and wind all the way along the forest covered road to Plett. Thankfully, there were enough drinks to make the slow journey seem slightly shorter for the team.
Plettenberg Bay is home to gorgeous beaches, houses, and ocean views, and is arguably one of the most beautiful seaside gems in the Western Cape! Sadly, our first morning was met with clouds, drizzle and wind, but we were hopeful that it would clear by lunchtime. After much praying to the weather Gods and a healthy portion of calamari, the clouds started to lift and the sun peaked out, and it wasn’t long before we set off for the Robberg Peninsula… a beautiful nature reserve jotting out into the ocean in front of Plett. The walk was 5km+ along the peninsulas edge and we saw seals, seals and more seals. Even though the Sabine’s Gull, great white sharks, and resident pod of dolphins eluded us, the views were exquisite… and our stroll ended off beautifully with a sunset over breaking waves and sundowners!
Day 3 was our much awaited road trip along the beautiful Garden Route to Hermanus – a whale watchers paradise about an hour from Cape Town. This included stops in the quaint seaside and beach towns of Knysna and Wilderness. The drive has sweeping views of the ocean, lagoons, forests and mountains that hug the coastal road. We spent some time walking on the platforms and viewing decks at the picturesque Knysna Heads, before shopping at the local craft markets in the town. We lunched on the beautiful Wilderness Beach and had an incredible afternoon drive through the farms of Caledon and Napier to Hermanus. The views from the van were something off an oil painting as the sun set and old classic tunes played over this quiet yet gorgeous part of South Africa.
After an amazing dinner at Burgundy Restaurant in Hermanus the night before, and some lucky whale spotting by the gang early that morning, we set out along another ocean road, this time through Onrus, Betty’s Bay and on to Camps Bay in Cape Town.
It’s hard to believe you’re not in the South of Spain when driving this road as sheer drops, vineyards and blue seas pass you by. We opted for an ‘unscheduled’ stop at one of the oldest wine estates in the region, Vergelegen.
Meaning “Far Away”, the Vergelehen Estate was established in 1700 and the old homestead still exists in the even older gardens, which are surrounded by 300 year old camphor trees. Even though the lunch, wine, and historical views were out-of-this-world, the resident cat sleeping on antique furniture was the true highlight of the visit 🙂
Regrettably, the Cape Town weather was not kind to us, and although we had sun shining every day we were there, the Cape Doctor blew to no end! Our planned trips up Table Mountain and to Robben Island were unfortunately cancelled because of the high winds, but this did not dampen our spirits. We had a great visit to Kirstenbocsh Gardens with a few great birds recorded, topped off with an ‘off-the-book’ liquid lunch at an old Constantia institution – The Forester Arms Pub.
Although very windy, we still had a great drive down the coast up the famous Chapmans Peak to Cape Point Nature Reserve, as well as seeing the penguins at Boulders Beach, and lunch at the old seafood mecca in Kalk Bay, The Brass Bell.
Our last night in windy Cape Town was spent doing what South African’s do best… braai! And ended off spontaneously with some traditional dancing by the ABS guides Cam and Cal. 😀
The heart of South Africa’s wine production, Stellenbosch is the 2nd oldest town in the country and boosted a vibey cauldron of university students, festivals, events, food and of course, WINE!
We spent 3 nights at the friendly boutique hotel, River Manor, which was to be our base to the surrounding well known wine estates, or where ever Platters Wine Guide took us. We visited a number of farms and had tastings at most: Beau Constantia, Meerlust, Rust-en-Vrede, Rustenberg, Muratie, and Grand Provence to name a few. The highlight for everyone however, was being superbly hosted for the morning by the Cellarmaster of Kleine Zalze, Alistair Rimmer. Not only did Al give us a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the estates wine production, but gave us an in-depth and passionate view on wine production in South Africa and internationally. This was topped off with tasting some of their award winning wines, and a delicious lunch at their restaurant!
We concluded our last day in the Cape winelands gliding through the beautiful Franschhoek valley, another popular wine area. We spent some time browsing the orchids at Babylonstoren, topped off with lunch and some insane valley vineyard views at Haute Cabriere.
It was such a pleasure guiding such a great, fun group of guests, and even more rewarding that they enjoyed every aspect of our beautiful country.
“Stop it South Africa, you’re showing off!”🙂
“Just over a week into my safari and I wonder how I’ve changed, if at all. Certainly the experiences I’ve had and things I’ve seen have shaped me in someway. But then, as if by some ancient, unspeakable memory, I remember… it’s in my blood.”