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The Restaurant in the Sky
11 Jan 2014
 
     

Start the year on top of the world at Waterkloof Estate’s ‘restaurant in the sky’

The sense of occasion started as soon as we entered the estate, driving through rolling vineyards towards the Hottentots-Holland Mountains, with the restaurant perched high up on a ridge on our left, like a fort. The spectacular location afforded breath-taking vistas of mountains and ocean, and half way through the meal, virtually the entire restaurant abandoned their tables to go out onto the deck and watch the sunset over Cape Point. 

Waterkloof’s not just about the views, however, with chef Grégory Czarnecki priding himself on creating bold, innovative fare from fresh local ingredients. The menu is relatively short (on our visit there were six starters and five main dishes), but there was still sufficient variety to require some difficult choices. My partner and I both started with the Cured Fizantakraal Trout with pickled oysters. Then, while he chose the Farmed Mulloway Cob with squid ink and smoked potato, I opted for the freshwater crayfish with scallop, which was simply divine, though I also was tempted by the signature Karan beef fillet with braised beef croquette. Next time. All the dishes came simply yet artfully presented, and they surprised us by having more constituents and flavours than described on the menu, although you should bear in mind that with modern haute cuisine the portions aren’t gargantuan. We made the elementary mistake of coming here straight after a six-hour hike, but a potential crisis was averted by our attentive waiter bringing us a triple portion of bread!

It being the festive season we started with a Steenberg Cap Classique then moved onto the estate’s own Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah, which were excellent and very well priced. All the still wines come from the estate and are available by the glass, which I always appreciate. There’s nothing worse than drooling over a wonderful wine list only to find that there’s only an unexciting house wine should you not want to share a bottle!  And with half the wine list below R145 per bottle - and several wines under R100  - the drinks bill is surprisingly reasonable even if you do go mad. (An added bonus is that if you order before 8pm you can also buy wines at cellar prices to take home.)

The restaurant’s interior is light and spacious, with modern yet elegant décor and a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere. Needless to say, you should try and nab one of the tables next to the full-length glass windows, even if that means spending most of the meal admiring the vista rather than your partner. Meanwhile, the staff were excellent: welcoming, helpful, well-informed and attentive without being intrusive.

Not surprisingly the accolades have rolled in. Waterkloof was nominated in the prestigious 2013 Eat Out Top 10 Awards then crowned culinary king in the Best Gourmet Restaurant at the Cellar Door Category of the 2013 Klink Wine Tourism Awards - lauded for its cutting-edge cuisine, attention to detail, awe-inspiring location, sterling service and strong focus on natural local produce showcased in seasonal dishes that bear the chef’s hallmarks of simplicity and finesse.

At R260 for two courses and R340 for three (with only one dish attracting a supplement), Waterkloof is favourably-priced for a restaurant of this quality, especially given the spectacular and memorable location. When I feel I’ve deserved a special treat I’ll be back to sample the Degustation Menu of six mouthful-portions paired with estate wines. (R600 per person with wine or R500 per person without.)

To book phone 021 858 1491 or email [email protected]

www.waterkloofwines.co.za

- Fiona McIntosh

Segwati Quad Bike Safari Trails
10 Jan 2014
 
     

Segwati Quad Bike Safari Trails

Segwati Ranch encompasses 650ha of Highveld terrain, with a range of animals. There are giraffe, blue wildebeest, zebra and ostriches. As far as antelopes go, there are blesbok, eland, impala, kudu, mountain reedbuck, nyala, red hartebeest, waterbuck, springbok, gemsbok, steenbok, duiker and bushbuck.

These quad bike trails are not for boy racers and Hells Angels wannabes. They are relaxed, gentle trails with responsible, eco-friendly game viewing as the main aim, but that doesn’t mean they’re boring. The trails meander up the Witwatersberg Mountains offering some fun and relatively challenging terrain and views over the whole of the Cradle of Humankind and the Magaliesberg...

(GPS coordinates: -25.858343, 27.735122)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/activities/segwati-quad-bike-safari-trails

Lebanon Forest MTB Trail
10 Jan 2014
 
     

Lebanon Forest MTB Trail

The Lebanon Forest has something to offer all types of mountain bikers. Take it easy on a family trail through scenic valley farms or ride into the Lebanon Forest Reserve to carve your way down pine slopes on kilometres of thumping single track. These trails offer unique riding, combining undulating orchards, forested pine ridges and mountain fynbos with breathtaking views over the Elgin Valley and surrounds...

(GPS coordinates: -34.198351, 19.077845)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/mountain-biking/lebanon-forest-mtb-trail

Wind over False Bay
10 Jan 2014
 
     

Wind over False Bay.

Blue Cranes Courting
9 Jan 2014
 
     

Blue cranes courting.

Goegap Hiking Trail
9 Jan 2014
 
     

Goegap Hiking Trail

Although best known for its extraordinary displays of flowers during August and September, this well-managed reserve offers hikers a year-round opportunity to walk around typical Namaqualand granite koppies.

The trail starts behind the office, where you are issued with a map and information brochure. There are also some interesting display boards from which you can learn more about the geology and history of the area before you set out. Spend a few minutes familiarising yourself with the local flora at the Hester Malan Wild Flower Garden then take the dirt road to a rocky path that heads up the hill...

(GPS coordinates: -29.66484, 17.99687)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/goegap-hiking-trail

Arend Dieperink Museum
8 Jan 2014
 
     

Arend Dieperink Museum

The Arend Dieperink Museum in Mokopane is located in a 1917 stone building that originally served as the Old Klip School. It holds a valuable collection of cultural history, notably made up of Sotho and Voortrekker artefacts. Agricultural implements feature strongly in its displays, and there’s a replica of a bosveldhuis, the type of house in which white farmers resided. There are displays on rock art and more recent historical events, such as the Anglo-Boer War.

The museum also has a palaeontological exhibit with the earliest evidence of “ape men” found in the area. Fossils of Australopithecus africanus, an early ancestor of culturally modern man, were found at the caves in the Makapan Valley...

(GPS coordinates: -24.186681, 29.009791)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/cultural/arend-dieperink-museum

Howick MTB Trails
8 Jan 2014
 
     

Howick MTB Trails

This is a single-track delight, where some big climbs will reward you with awesome views over Midmar Dam and the foothills of the Drakensberg. It is a network of flowing single-track routes with some technical challenges, such as rock gardens, drop-offs and biking bridges.

The Howick Mountain-Bike Club does most of its riding in the plantations between Howick and the Karkloof Nature Reserve. It has laid out about 30 kilometres of tracks varying from gentle, tree- and fern-lined paths to attention-grabbing sections with names such as Suicide Slide, The Face, Rushalot and Pines...

(GPS coordinates: -29.476895, 30.218824)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/mountain-biking/howick-mtb-trails

The Amazing Trail
7 Jan 2014
 
     

The Amazing Trail

This educational bush trail on a banana and macadamia farm close to the gates of the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve near Port Edward is a heap of fun for kids, who can toss their shoes and go wild as they race off to do a little "game-viewing" on foot. The masterminds behind the project have hand-painted a hundred life-size cutouts of various animals and colourful birds and strategically placed them in appropriate habitats in the surrounding area, allowing visitors to see wildlife that they wouldn't normally see in context.

Youngsters are handed a check list and set free to run off and search for the hidden creatures. The easy circular walk starts 20 metres from the centre and winds its way through forest and rocky grassland with Charlie Chameleon, the trail mascot, acting as a trail marker. It's fun for adults too, particularly when you see the sheer delight on the little faces of the treasure hunters as they turn a corner and spot a bushbuck camouflaged in a bush, a ground hornbill in the grassland or a large spotted genet in a tree...

(GPS coordinates: -31.046123, 30.169106)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/amazing-trail

Bushbuck Hills Trail
7 Jan 2014
 
     

Bushbuck Hills Trail

Bushbuck Hills is a beautiful game farm nestled in the hills outside Swartruggens, about two hours’ drive from Johannesburg. The Pilanesberg Mountains and reserve are visible to the north and, should you want to combine hiking with more hedonistic adventures, Sun City is only 60 kilometres away.

With plenty of birds and approachable plains game but no dangerous animals, the farm is a paradise for nature lovers and offers a variety of easy walking trails from a four-kilometre circular loop to a strenuous 18-kilometre overnight trail...

(GPS coordinates: -25.537243, 26.804666)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/bushbuck-hills-trail

Harvesting Mussels
7 Jan 2014
 
     

Harvesting mussels, Elephant Coast, KZN.

Cape Point
7 Jan 2014
 
     

A Nature Lover at Cape Point

To experience Mother nature in the mother city, I go to Cape Point. Nothing beats spending the day watching wild waves leap against rocky mountain cliffs, spotting lazy seals, (or even a breaching Southern Right whale in winter) and breathing in salty clean air while the wind tangles my tresses and sings through my ears. 

Containing more than 11000 plant species, Cape Point (Table Mountain National Park) is the smallest but richest of the Worlds six floral kingdoms. The unique merging of two ocean currents, the Cold Benguela and the Agulhas current, has resulted in an extraordinarily rich marine life – a third of all marine species in Southern Africa occur here. It’s also home to a large chattering array of birds (250 different species), Cape mountain zebra, eland, and the only shellfish-foraging baboon population in the world. 

Cape Point’s famous lighthouse, built in 1859, standing 249 metres above sea level, is surrounded by beautiful greenery and meandering rocky paths. There are many places to picnic and marvel at the magnificent views, but don't forget to bring along an extra layer as it's known to get very windy.  Also take some time to explore little rock pools – underwater gardens where sea anemones show off, swaying their colourful clown heads. If you're feeling brave then join them,  the icy water is exhilarating! 

It's pure delight for a nature-lover.

Guest Blog by Rachel Lang

www.bushboundgirl.com

Knysna Elephant Park
6 Jan 2014
 
     

Knysna Elephant Park

The surrounding indigenous forests are well known for their mysterious Knysna elephants, and it is these elusive mammals that inspired the Knysna Elephant Park. If you want to be "touched by an elephant", as their logo states, you’re going to love this experience.  It’s a project that provides welfare to a number of elephants that have special needs for various reasons, and the aim is to rehabilitate these animals to allow them to be released.

Those that cannot be released are given a very comfortable home here. It’s a controlled free-range environment and management system that allows the breeding herd to roam freely over 60 hectares and interact with visitors only on their – the elephants’ - terms. However, lucky for us humans, the elephants are keen to interact, and there are jumbos big and small to feed and stroke or just take a stroll with…

(GPS coordinates: -34.044028, 23.265567)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/animals-nature/knysna-elephant-park

Dovehouse Organics
6 Jan 2014
 
     

Dovehouse Organics

Healthy living is more in fashion now than perhaps ever before. Dovehouse Organics in the beautiful Karkloof on the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander is the strongest advocate of organic training in the area. It offers a host of workshops and demonstrations on every topic relating to organic living. This ranges from exposing the local community to organic produce, to developing skills for farmers to sustain these methods on a long-term basis.

The Live Restaurant prepares delectable, healthy meals while you wait – from its own organically-farmed produce. Enjoy your meal at your leisure, whilst taking in the country atmosphere. The recently refurbished shop has a vast array of products available, including both alternative and conventional (but environmentally sound) make-up, skincare and household goods...

(GPS coordinates: -29.422853, 30.24343)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/food-wine/dovehouse-organics

Lighthouse, Pringle Bay
6 Jan 2014
 
     

Lighthouse near Pringle Bay in the Western Cape.

Policeman's Helmet
6 Jan 2014
 
     

Policeman's Helmet, Royal Natal National Park.

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