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Adelaide

 

The small town of Adelaide lies on the R73 between Bedford and Fort Beaufort, and nestles in the foothills of the majestic Winterberg Mountain range in the heart of the Eastern Cape Midlands.

The history of Adelaide is reflected in a number of historic homes, graceful churches and monuments, while the large square with its trees, gardens and the municipal offices, makes a fine center piece to the town. The town museum, once the parsonage of the Dutch Reformed Church, is a fine example of a two story colonial era house. It is a national monument and has been finished in period style. It houses collections of textiles and clothes, glass, porcelain, Wedgwood and silver.

In an attempt to stabilize the border, the British introduced settlers into the region in the 1820s, and in 1834, a Captain Armstrong established a large military encampment in the area, which he named Fort Adelaide after the wife of King William IV. Many Scottish settlers established themselves in the Adelaide area, especially in the Mankanzana River valley. It was they who erected the first church in the district, at Glen Thorn. In recent years Adelaide has prospered and has become a prime beef, mutton, wool and citrus farming area.

 

Augrabies

 

Near to the far northwest border of the Northern Cape with Namibia and about 120 kilometers to the west of Upington lies the peaceful little village of Augrabies, named after the nearby spectacular Augrabies (the noisy one in Khoi) Falls, where the Orange River plunges some 200 meters in spectacular fashion after cutting through a nine kilometer long granite gorge. The Augrabies Falls are, without doubt, the most stunning falls on the mighty Orange River. There are several secondary falls at Augrabies, one where the water disappears underground only to emerge from a sheer cliff wall as the Bridal Falls.

The Augrabies Falls lie in the 28,000hectare Augrabies National Park, home to Eland, Springbok, Klipspringer, Giraffe and Black Rhino. More energetic visitors will enjoy the three-day 40 kilometer Klipspringer Hiking Trail, which traverses all the major landmarks in the southern section of the park, including some amazing rock formations. For the less energetic there are three separate hour long hikes. Augrabies is a natural wonder that is off the beaten track, but to those that have the time it is well worth
the detour.

 

Cape Winelands

 

To the East of Cape Town, surrounded by a semicircle of picturesque Boland mountains, are the Cape Winelands. Dotted about in the fertile lush green valleys of the region are the vineyards of the Western Cape, the towns and villages everyday words to wine connoisseurs throughout the world. Here you will find Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch and many other world famous names. French Huguenots brought the art of wine-making to the Cape in the late 17th Century and it was here that the first experiments into finding out the best cultivars were carried out. 

There are a number of tours that have been set up for the visitor to sample the superb wines of the Cape Winelands, to view the homesteads that have been handed down from generation to generation and to witness the wine-making process. The Cape Winelands are bordered by the Hottentots Holland mountains, the Franschhoek mountains and in the North by the Wemmershoekberg. The former two mountain ranges form part of the Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserve and the only way to see this reserve is to hike through it on the Boland Hiking Trail. This mountain reserve harbors one of the richest and most diverse populations of indigenous wildflowers in the world, and it is known that there are more than 35 threatened species in the region. The dominant vegetation in the reserve is fynbbos with patches of the original forest dotted about on the
upper slopes. Leopard, caracal and genet have been seen in the area.

Franschhoek was originally known as the French Quarter or le Quartier Francais, as it was in this region that the original Huguenots settled to escape religious persecution in Europe. The town has now become known as the food and wine capital of the Western Cape, and visitors flock here from all over the world to sample its products. The town houses a Huguenot Monument and museum.

Paarl in the Cape Winelands is known as the Pearl of South Africa and gets its name from the vast round granite rocks at the summit of the mountain overlooking the town. The name Peerleberg or pearly mountain was given to the berg by Abraham Gabbema in 1657 because of the way the mountain glittered in the sunlight after a shower. The town was established in 1720 with the building of the first church.

The Cape Winelands town of Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town, and was founded in 1679. The town is famous for its wines, its university and its Cape Dutch architecture, which can be seen in its many historic buildings. The town is also known as Eikestad (Oak Town) because of its numerous oak trees. The university has produced six South African prime ministers and several Springbok rugby captains. Stellenbosch houses a Brandy Museum where many examples of old brandy stills can be seen. A food and wine festival is held here in the last week of October each year.

The town of Wellington in the Cape Winelands region lies in a valley known as Val du Charron, or Valley of the Wagon Makers after the trade of many of the early French Huguenots who settled in the area at the end of the 17th Century. There are several excellent wine cellars in the Wellington area where the visitor can enjoy wine tasting. Wellington offers the visitor a magical and captivating atmosphere and friendly people. Wellington was originally named Limiet Vallei or the Frontier Valley, but the name was changed in 1840 in honor of the Duke of Wellington and his defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo. There are several cellars in the area that offer wine tasting.

 

South African Ocean Safaris

 

When you hear about safaris in South Africa, the first thing that comes to mind is “The Big Five” – Lion, Buffalo, Rhino, Leopard and Elephant. But South Africa is fast becoming the number one tourist destination for Ocean Safaris, and you will find some pretty big “game” there also, in fact, some of the world’s largest mammals. Scattered along South Africa’s south and southeast coasts are a numerous seaside resorts where you can find cruise companies offering Ocean Safaris. These ocean cruises offer the eco-tourist a unique opportunity to view a wide range of marine species, many of them endangered, of birds, fish and mammals.

The South African coastline is a congregating area for the Southern Right Whale, the Humpback Whale and Bryde’s Whales. The Southern Right Whale can be seen in numbers between June and December and the Humpback from April right through to January when they visit the shallow waters to mater and calve. Licensed boats are permitted to approach to within 50 meters of the whales, whose natural curiosity often brings them alongside. Other mammalian species that can be seen on these tours are dolphins – the Common Dolphin outnumbering the Bottlenose and Dusky Dolphins, and seals, especially the Cape Fur Seal. You will find excellent safaris can be joined in resorts such as Plettenberg Bay.

Gansbaai, about 100 miles to the east of Cape Town, is one of the resorts where you can take an ocean safari to experience the Great White Shark – close up! The resort has earned itself the title Great White Shark Capital of the World because of its huge Great White Shark population. Sharks in the bay can reach up to six meters in length and patrol the area looking for Cape Fur Seals and large fish. Enjoy the awesome experience of going down in a protective cage to view the Great White really close up. Experienced shark handlers are naturally on hand to guide you.

Some of Africa’s southernmost coral reefs can be found off the east coast of South Africa by Sodwana Bay and shelter more than 90 species of coral and more than 1200 species of fish. Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles come ashore here to lay their eggs between October and January, the hatchlings making their first venture into the sea in January and February. There are frequent boat safaris to the reefs in this area, which offers some of the world’s finest snorkeling and scuba diving.

If you are venturing out to sea off the South African coast – be prepared. Most tourists, especially those from northern climes, do not realize just how powerful the sun can be in South Africa, and it is especially powerful when you are out at sea. Make sure that you are well protected before you even get into a boat. You should have a hat, sun cream, dark glasses – preferably Polaroid, and something to keep out the chilly wind. A waterproof of some kind is also useful, for you can get very wet if a sudden squall comes along or if a humpback decides to give a slap on the water with its tail! Lifejackets are always provided on ocean safaris.

 

South Africa’s Mountains

South Africa’s Mountains were formed over many millions of years. The whole country comprises a large upland plain that is edged on its southern and round to its eastern sides by large mountains just inland from the coastal plain. The Drakensberg (Dragons’ Mountain) Range of Mountains stretches some 200 kilometers and is capped with volcanic lava that formed in the Mesozoic Era between 248 and 65 million years ago. This coincided with the breakup of the supercontinent of Gondwanaland 135 million years ago. The African name for the Drakensberg is uKhahlamba (the Barrier of Spears) on account of the vertical basalt columns on many of the peaks.

One of the most photographed mountains in Africa, if not the world, is Table Mountain in the Western Cape. Table Mountain provides an outstanding backdrop to the city of Cape Town. Towering 3,500 feet above the city, this flat-topped mountain of sedimentary sandstone was formed some 600 million years ago, and became an inspiration to Nelson Mandela and other prisoners when imprisoned on Robben Island. Occasionally a south-easterly wind known as the Cape Doctor drapes the mountain with a white tablecloth of cloud, clearing the city of pollution when it arrives.

The mountains of the Western Cape are a paradise for botanists and climbers alike. The whole of the Cape region is defined as one of the world’s six botanical cables, the Fynbos Biome. More than 8 500 plant species are found in the fynbos, of which 6 000 are endemic to specific areas of the Cape. The Overberg Mountains just to the east of Cape Town offer a number of different hikes and climbs, and there are dozens of small clusters of picturesque mountains scattered about from the Cederberg Range to the north of Cape Town to the ranges that separate the Karoo from the coastal plains. The Groot and the Klein Swartberg, home of the snow proteas, lead to the forested Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains and the Grootriviersberg of the Eastern Cape. The mountains of the western and eastern Cape, along with the Drakensberg, are scattered with numerous climbing routes. For a listing of all of the recognized and catalogued climbing routes throughout South Africa, climbers should visit the web page of saclimb.

There are other scattered groups of mountains throughout South Africa, prominent groups being the Soutpansberg Mountains just to the North of Louis Trichardt, the Waterberg Mountains to the west of Potgietersrus and the Magaliesberg, favorite of many hundreds of Gauteng weekenders. The Northern Cape Province is mostly flat but has scattered groups of mountains such as the Asbesberg, the Langberg and the Korannaberg.

 

South African Golfing Tours

 

South Africa is blessed by having an abundance of excellent golf courses. Scattered throughout the country there are more than 500 courses, and many of them meet international standards. Today there are a number of tour operators who will organize a complete golfing holiday for you, from start to finish. A typical fifteen-day golfing tour might be structured as follows:

 

1. Transport from Johannesburg International Airport to Sun City, check in and an afternoon accompanied tour of the Pilansberg Game Reserve.

2. A game at the Gary Player Country Club.

3. A morning game at the Lost City Golf Course, transport to a hotel in Pretoria with a tour of the city.

4. A game at the Royal Johannesburg Golf Club – this course has the longest back-to-back par four holes in the world.

5. Drive to and tour the Kruger National Park – game viewing in the park.

6. A game at the Leopard Creek championship course on the Crocodile River, where you may have to wait for zebra or giraffe to cross the fairway

7. Tour of the Kruger National Park – see the Big Five.

8. Fly to Cape Town – day off to explore the city.

9. A game at Erinvale Golf Course – designed by Gary Player this championship course has hosted the World Cup.

10. A round at the Royal Cape Golf Club – South Africa’s oldest course.

11. A tour along the coast with whale spotting

12. Play at the Outeniqua Course – another Gary Player course at Fancourt on South Africa’s Garden Route

13. Golf at one of South Africa’s finest courses in George.

14. Drive to Knysna with an afternoon game at Pezula

15. Fly back to Johannesburg.

 

Of course this is just one example of the many different tours that are available, and most tour operators are flexible enough to be able to accommodate your special needs, possibly at a little extra cost. At present, though, visitors from Europe and the United States enjoy excellent foreign exchange rates against the South African Rand, making South Africa one of the most cost-effective countries in the world in which to vacation. In addition many of our golf courses have been built in locations that have a dramatically beautiful backdrop of natural scenery. If you are one of those golfers who prefer to have your time less organized, most tour operators also offer the opportunity of having the whole or part of your golfing holiday with self-drive cars, enabling you to take your time and see something of the beautiful South African countryside.

 

A South African golfing tour will be an experience that you will remember for the rest of your life, and you’ll have plenty of tales to tell at the nineteenth when you are back on home ground. 

 

© Michael J Mason 2016

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