Escaping our winter to explore South Africa’s southern coast
Imagine the December sun rising quickly and high into a clear sky, warming the air around you to a temperature where you’re comfortable in just shorts and a polo shirt. This happens in Cape Town and all along South Africa’s southern coast, where it’s summer from November through to February and dry, warm weather is the order of the day. South Africa’s “Mother City”, the Winelands, the Garden Route, and safari areas to the east of Port Elizabeth are all enjoyable destinations during the UK winter offering a variety of activities to please every family member.
Cape Town – a cosmopolitan port
Cape Town is where you’ll find the country’s best boutique hotels and restaurants, some of Africa’s finest shopping and all the sophisticated comforts of the Mediterranean. The Victoria and Albert Waterfront has been beautifully restored into a shopping mall paradise of bars and restaurants but the past hasn’t been denied. From here, you hop onto small boats to tour Robben Island, infamous prison of the Apartheid regime. Stroll the tiered, multi-coloured houses of newly fashionable Bo Kaap, touch into local life on the social scene of Long Street or go a step further with a township tour: this is a city that opens easily to visitors.
The natural world is only steps away. Penguins cluster around sunbathers at Boulder’s Beach, seals can be seen in the surrounding waters and sharks are a constant presence in cool waters better known for looking at than bathing in. Over all this, Table Mountain is a constant presence often topped with its ‘tablecloth’ cloud but always inimitably there. The peak is easily reached by cable-car but this is only the start of an adventure that can last all day. Paths thread across the summit amongst sunbathing hyraxes, and various trails, of differing levels of difficulty, descend to the base.
Scenic road touring of the Garden Route and the Cape winelands
With good roads and clear signage the Cape Region is perfect self-driving country, with leisurely touring drives skirting dramatic Chapman’s Peak, heading out through to the vineyards of Constantia or reaching to the fynbos of Cape Point, where the continent extends, tentatively, into the Southern Ocean. Cape Town’s winelands, centred around the towns of Paarl and Stellenbosch, are within easy daytrip range though our favourite is Franschhoek, a smaller, more beautiful and slightly more remote village that is better enjoyed on an overnight stay.
Skirting the very southern flank of the continent, South Africa’s ‘Garden Route’ travels along one of the world’s most spectacular coasts, where a series of mountains drop down to the sea in a succession of fertile valleys and dramatic gorges, reaching a coastline fringed with beaches etched into the shore by endless ocean rollers. As you journey, forests, ostrich farms and caves are interspersed with small, friendly settlements. Activities abound, with shark diving, fishing, scuba diving, bungee jumping, canyoning and abseiling just some of the adventurous options though for many, the opportunity to enjoy wine tasting and gourmet cuisine prove quite strenuous enough.
Smooth roads and light traffic make the Garden Route perfect for self-drive, meandering off the main road, from time to time, to explore the countless sights and experiences along the way. The Garden Route never strays far from the sea. Cape Town’s waters are chilly but by the Garden Route, Pacific currents bring warm waves: the ocean rollers provide world-famous surfing breaks as they thunder onto golden sands. In this temperate, malaria-free zone there’s wildlife too. Addo Elephant Park is a favourite, while private reserves a short drive from the Garden Route give the chance to spot the ‘Big Five’ of lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. This means you can enjoy the full safari experience without needing mosquito repellent or venturing too deep into the bush.
Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape safari areas – Kwandwe
To the east of Port Elizabeth, the final stop for many on the Garden Route, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is in the heart of South Africa’s malaria-free Eastern Cape and houses five separate lodges. It is home to some intriguing habitats and good wildlife, including lion, black and white rhino, buffalo, elephant and cheetah. Predators are often sighted and during a stay here guests can enjoy day and night game drives, guided bush walks, picnics, bush sundowners and fishing on the river, or can simply choose to do nothing and absorb this vast, private wilderness.
All these areas can be joined together in a road trip in either direction, or you can hop between Cape Town and safari by plane to shorten the journey to a matter of hours. Whichever you choose you’ll enjoy fabulous sightseeing and be well looked after.
Any questions on escaping our winter to explore South Africa?
If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.
We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.