Black Rock, Elephant Coast, KZN.
I must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, because my first thought when I saw this sunset in Betty’s Bay was not of its beauty. I immediately pondered at the common belief that polluted heavens make for a picturesque sunset. Am I just bearing witness to the never-ending war between nature and the gases from aerosol cans and those damned taxis? No. Even though I am seeing light deflected by molecules in the air, these are primarily oxygen and nitrogen. Overly dirtied air would have made as drab a sunset as perfectly clean air. I am still observing the full glory of South African skies, and how uplifting that realisation is.
- Nightjar Junior
Iziko South African National Gallery
The South African National Gallery began with a presentation of about 45 paintings by Thomas Butterworth Bayley in 1871. It has since grown to become a gallery of international stature with wonderful examples of South African, African and western European art, including an extensive collection of African bead art, one of the most significant forms of cultural expression for women living on the continent.
The size of the collection means the museum has a full programme of temporary exhibitions throughout the year, ranging from paintings, works on paper and photography, to sculpture, beadwork, textiles and architecture...
(GPS coordinates: -33.928922, 18.417104)
Leshiba T1 Trail
The stunningly beautiful peaks and valleys of the Soutpansberg mountain range have long been a popular destination for hikers. The T1 trail forms part of a network of trails that is designed to open up the diversity of the Leshiba Wilderness, which consists of nearly 3 000 hectares of beautiful savannah bordered by awesome mountains with rocky gorges that have been carved out solid rock over millions of years.
Starting from the Venda Village camp, the trail, which is marked with yellow spoor, soon takes to the rocky mountain side, offering magnificent views across the plains where wild animals such as giraffe are usually seen. The trail continues through lush bush, slowly but relentlessly ascending towards the edge of the plateau. Then, out of nowhere, the window opens up onto the southern panorama far below...
(GPS coordinates: -23.010589, 29.598099)
Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/leshiba-t1-trail
As we started climbing the ominous stairs that stretched ahead of us and into the dark, we could only just make out the vague outline of Borobodur temple around us. The chatter of tourists mingled with the chanting of monks in the pre-dawn dark as we settled down leaning against Buddha statues waiting for the sun to rise over the horizon. There was something surreal about sitting there in this ancient site, the sun slowly lighting our surroundings, that stirred my soul and changed something in me forever. The temple appearing out of dark, Buddhas, statues and carved stone taking shape before our eyes and the melodious chanting of the monks sitting round the top pyre.
The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome, located at the centre of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside a perforated stupa. It is a work of art!
It's hard to describe the feeling of being there, the emotions that run through you as you become a part of this historic spiritual place but it should be at the top of your bucket list so you can experience it too.
- Shan Routledge
Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club
Steeped in tradition, the 130 year old Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club has two exceptional 18 hole layouts, both ranked within the top 40 courses of South Africa. Regarded as one of the best Championship courses in the country, the East Course is placed at number 8 on the Golf Digest Rankings, with its typical Metropolitan Parkland layout a regular host of European Tour events.
The picturesque course is characterised by mature trees, wetlands and water hazards. Golfers who walk the pristine kikuyu fairways of this classic course can expect a relatively challenging round, mainly due to the course’s length, which plays at over 6 700 metres...
(GPS coordinates: -26.15518, 28.108064)
History of Bloemfontein
Bloemfontein abounds with old buildings and all are worth a visit for their well-preserved period architecture and historical value. The Supreme Court of Appeal dates back to 1910 when four British colonies, namely the Cape, Transvaal, Natal, and the Orange Free State joined to form a single country, the Union of South Africa. Built using sandstone from Ladybrand and Ficksburg, the judicial chambers are an elegant example of free Renaissance style architecture.
The Eerste Raadsaal (first parliament building), a modest thatched-roof building erected in 1849, is the oldest remaining building in Bloemfontein. Having served as a church, conference chamber, parliament house and a school, today the heritage site is a satellite of the National Museum. Its exhibits depict the history of the establishment of the Free State and outside there is a Wagon Museum that’s also worth a visit...
Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/cultural/history-bloemfontein
Ruins on the road between Struisbaai and Witsand.
Throughout South Africa, there are so many little towns that face the same challenge. Pest control. From the romantic coastal towns of the Western Cape to the dramatic mountain towns of the Overberg, baboons are the most frustrating, albeit the sweetest, thieves and looters of all. You think cockroaches are bad? How about a 30kg ‘cockroach’ that ravages an entire Strelitzia just for the stamen?! On the other hand, when I am watching these vagabonds prancing and playing in the local park, it is just too difficult to hold a grudge against their curious nature. Just like I would ogle them at the zoo, from a distance I know they are eyeing me too.
- Nightjar Junior
Howick Falls Rock Climbing
Howick Falls is a great, easily accessible sports-climbing venue in a very spectacular setting next to a thundering 100-metre-high waterfall.
The climbing is on vertical to slightly overhanging dolerite, with about 20 routes across the grades. “Stagefright” (20) is the must-do route here, while other classics include “Encore” (23) and “Every Inch a Synch” (25). “Touchstone” (27) follows a super 27-metre line and should be on your list if you’re climbing that grade...
(GPS coordinates: -29.485321, 30.238047)
The Lydenburg Museum
Some years back, the Lydenburg Museum swopped its downtown location for a spot at the entrance to the Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve outside town. It now shares its home with small mammals and birds in a grassland habitat. For the visitor, that means you can kill two birds (not literally, the park officials won’t like it) with one stone.
The museum delves into the cultural, historical, archaeological and ethnographic history of the area. It showcases items related to the Pedi, Ndebele and Afrikaner, all of whom have left their mark in the area. They also look at the history of agriculture in the region and builders of the Late Iron Age. Its prize display, however, are replicas of the famous Lydenburg Heads, which were found by a young boy on a farm outside Lydenburg in 1957...
Photo: Chris Marais/Mainline Media
(GPS coordinates: -25.103622, 30.486138)
Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/cultural/lydenburg-museum
Two Provinces MTB Trail
Positioned on 27 hectares of landscaped gardens and natural bushveld, Mokoya is an oasis of adventures and nature activities, with several mountain-biking trails waiting to be explored. For the long-distance rider, the epic Two Provinces circuit of about 82 kilometres is perfect and a brilliant endurance preparation for any MTB Classic...
(GPS coordinates: -25.84855, 27.660922)
Pinnacle Gorge Rock Climbing
Pinnacle Gorge is set in an excellent location. It offers single and multi-pitch sport and trad climbing on a variety of sandstone and quartzite crags in an open gorge. There are 29 bolted lines and 397 trad routes across the grade range, most of which are crack climbs.
There are paths to all the crags and access is completely open, but there is a fee to camp and climb in the gorge. There are various lovely wild camping spots in the gorge (with no facilities). The Rudmans also hire out a very comfortable cottage...
(GPS coordinates: -33.534867, 24.807521)
Mkambati – a place untouched
Walking alone in a beautiful place makes me feel so happy, I thought, negotiating the next landing place for my foot as I leapt from rock to rock. My attention was split between the roaring Indian ocean beside me, and the magical dainty flowers at my feet.
Mkambati Nature Reserve in the Wild Coast of Pondoland has twelve kilometres of pristine coastline between the Mtentu and Msikaba rivers. The ocean spills out onto rocky sandstone ridges and undulating grasslands, dotted with African plains game such as wildebeest, blesbok and eland. There are small patches of indigenous forest, home to shy and endangered species such as the Knysna Lourie, mangrove kingfisher, Narina Trogon, samango monkeys and a colony of about 100 Cape griffon vultures nesting along the steep standstone cliffs.
I wanted to be there forever, jumping joyously along the rocky shore. But I was brought back to reality by a sudden large wave wetting my feet through my shoes. I squelched my way home as the sun went down, grateful for this little taste of a world unharmed by man.
Guest Blog by Rachel Lang
Island Vibe Surfing
If you’re into surfing, the legendary ‘J-Bay’ will be top of your wave destination list. Jeffreys is Africa's surf capital and boasts a number of superb year-round surf breaks for any level of surfer. 'Supertubes' is arguably the most famous of the lot, but you need to have both the skill and the ‘stoke’ to take on the sets rolling in from the Indian Ocean here.
If you’re a bit of a grommet, or ‘newbie’, check out 'Kitchen Windows' just below the restaurant with the same name. It offers a clean right-hand beach break and, at around 2 - 4ft, it’s loads of fun and not too intimidating either. Seal Point in St Francis is worth a trip as well if you’re into a stand-uppish reef break. Or you could follow in the footsteps of legends at ‘Bruce’s’, the famous break from the movie 'Endless Summer'...
(GPS coordinates: -34.060526, 24.924932)