Inventive and understated, Waterford Estate near Stellenbosch, South Africa, produces a superb range of ten, mainly red, wines. Unusually, the estate only gives half its terroir to vines and the rest to nature, arguing that one cannot exist without the other.
When one thinks of South Africa, the kind of animal that springs to mind most readily is probably a lion, giraffe or rhinocerous - probably not donkey!
Uncovering one of Cape Town's best kept secrets means getting out of the city centre and heading south.
Situated at the end of a suburban street is the oasis of Stellenberg Gardens. Originally a 60 acre farm dating back to 1697, it’s now home to wonderfully ornate formal gardens that are a delight to stroll in. Set out in a series of 19 'rooms', the garden actually is the lifework of not one but three professional gardeners who owned and lived in it particulalry over the last 200 years.
When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. This is exactly what Sarah Swanepoel, owner at Dune Ridge Country House has done, turning a little-known guesthouse into an award-winning country lodge, complete with once-a-month fine dining food and wine pairing menus, Sunday lunches, spa treatments, an award-winning wine selection and afternoon teas (on prior request).
We were asked an interesting question by one of our travellers yesterday: what's the difference between a game drive and a game walk? The obvious answer is that one involves a vehicle and the other involves your legs - but the distinction is actually a little more subtle.
Thunzi Bush Lodge manages to achieve something rather special: located not even 20 minutes’ drive from the heart of an industrial city but utterly tranquil, private and 10 minutes from a beautiful unspoilt beach and river mouth.
Rural does not have to mean rustic – if you’re a lover of the countryside and wide open space, but don’t like basic accommodation, Barton Villas in Caledon, South Africa may be just the place for you.
Situated right between the western winelands, the beautiful Overberg coastal region and the Atlantic Ocean, yet under an hour from Cape Town International, you really do get the best of both worlds here.
If it’s your first day back at work today after the Festive Season and you need cheering up, you’ll love the story of Ntombizodwa Mahlangu: with support and encouragement from her family, employer and colleagues, she made the transition despite being a single parent from domestic worker to graduate in under ten years.
That’s a huge achievement in South Africa where educational standards between the rich and poor vary vastly and as such, the gap between school and university for most is a chasm that’s simply too big to cross.
Southern Africa has a habit of playing host to many 'world's biggest', 'world's oldest', 'world's most...'. It's a region of amazing things found nowhere else in the world, one of which is the world's largest evidence of Earth's collision with an object from deep space.
When you name your guesthouse after the Garden of Eden, you'd better be pretty sure it's special. And so, in this case, it is: owned and built by Tony and Sharon, Eden River Lodge on the eastern coast of South Africa, near the city of Durban, are both keen bikers and full of stories from their travels… touring in Scotland for instance, or in Bali, where they have a second home.
Whenever one mentions the word 'secret' in travel writing, one is immediately aware that it's rather self defeating to write about secrets! But in this case, the Magoebaskloof is the secret that Joburgers don't want too many international visitors to know about.
The wonderfully-named Roam is a splendid haven of isolation, wildlife and landscape. The 5,000 hectares farm has only recently been converted in an eco-tourism destination, having been a conventional sheep farm, then a hunting lodge for many years. We don't normally feature establishments that aren't totally independent (this one is managed by Sun Destinations) but here we needed to make an exception.
It sits just south of the town of Beaufort West, famous for not a lot other than that it's a stop off on the road between Johannesberg and Cape Town. However it's also just a couple of hours from the busy Garden Route coast and George Airport and makes such a welcome break at this time of year from the crowds.
Named simply after the street in which it is to be found, Akademie Street has such an unassuming exterior that you’d probably walk right past it on a walk through Franschhoek (filled as it is with pretty Victorian settler cottages almost everywhere you go).
However, this would be an oversight: it’s again and again been listed as one of the Top 25 Boutique Hotels in the world and is showered with praise by TripAdvisor winning Traveller’s Choice Awards every year since the awards started.
Whilst Lady Gaga may have countless millions of hits on YouTube, in her day, Lady Anne Barnard was the 18th century equivalent of a rock star.
This enigmatic lady came to live in Cape Town for just five years in 1797, as the wife of Andrew Barnard, who was 12 years her junior (so it seems she was a cougar too?). She was the one who got him the job of Colonial Secretary to the Cape of Good Hope (so this was definitely not a case of 'with wife in tow') and proceded to wow the society of the Cape at the time with her impressive artistic skill, sharp and erudite conversation, incisive social commentary (much of which took the form of letters to the British government of the time) and lavish society gatherings.
As more and more travellers become aware of the ethical issues surrounding wildlife tourim, and with South Africa still offering some of the best wildlife tourism in the world, so research into the ethics of wildlife tourism is having to up its game to stay ahead of changes on the ground.
One ground-breaking piece of research published recently entitled "Associated with Cruelty" is based on research conducted by Professor Xavier Font of the University of Surrey. It reports that only six out of 62 travel trade associations worldwide provide information on the importance of animal welfare. ABTA (UK) and ANVR (Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators) are the only travel associations to have animal welfare guidelines. By contrast, 16 associations feature pictures of wild animals being used as tourist attractions and interacting with tourists in their literature.
South Africa has a vast range of accommodation types, styles and standards and one of our many roles at Where It All Began is to shine a light on the lesser-known and more imaginative ones.
We were delighted to get an email from a past traveller of ours telling us about research he's doing for his PhD in botany about Khula Dharma.
With a delightfully tongue-in-cheek attitude to life, (e.g.naming your eatery 'Pablo's Egg-Go-Bar'), coupled with a sophisticated design sense and hosting plomb, do yourself a favour and consider Pablo's House for your next stay in Joburg.
Located in the trendy and integrated district of Mellville, it has amazingly views over one of the world's largest man-made forests, Joburg. There are 7 suites to choose from, all delightfully decorated in mid-century modern, minimalist chic, but with plenty of bold colour and texture to make the rooms feel comforting and personal.
One of the fastest-growing reasons for visiting South Africa are the almost permanently excellent cycling conditions: and with that brilliant climate come the events, which seem to get bigger and better and more spectacular every year.
A particularly famous one which is a mass participation event is the Wines To Whales ride: this goes from the Winelands in the north of the Cape down to the Overberg coast, and what an utterly spectacular ride that is! One of the best things about it is that it's very easy for non-cyclists to accompany cyclists along the route as the area abounds with affordable and pleasant places to stay.
One of the most inspiring things about South Africa is how the oppression of apartheid was overthrown to make way for democracy: but this was not just the ANC's or Mandela's achievement.
Across South Africa, the struggle was real and daily, not least in the school classrooms of Cape Town. Students and teaches organised boycotts of the curriculum and mass protests as forced evictions. Some of these schools were so pivotal in the resistance to apartheid that they have now been declared National Heritage sites.
We posted a couple of days ago about farmstalls: small rural shops near big roads traditionally selling produce from a local farm.
These days farmstalls are a massive industry all on their own, some having grown into fine dining establishments replete with boutique hotel rooms and even wedding venues attached. Some remain delightfully tiny, selling literally only one product, e.g. pineapples. But the one thing that unites them is a fetish for exceptionally fresh, exceptionally simple and delish fast food.