Province & Region
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The Western Cape is one of South Africa’s most popular holiday destinations. Its plethora of national parks is testimony to its natural beauty and hints at a world of promise for the outdoor enthusiast. Its cities are as lively as its country towns relaxed. Its culture reflects the richness of its history, both long past and more recent.
It has one of the world’s most famous mountains, right in the middle of the Mother City – a city that is often a finalist when lists of ‘most beautiful cities in the world’ are compiled. Cape Town is rich in history. And although laid-back, it also has a very active night life.
Extending south from Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula forms a spectacular knife edge that runs out to sea for miles. Naturally, this coast is rich in maritime history. Much of this is fraught with tragedy – it is not called the Cape of Storms for nothing.
On wild, stormy days its seas pulsate with unrestrained energy. You would hardly recognise it from days of cobalt skies and blond beaches when the weather gods are on their best behaviour.
The southernmost tip of the African continent is just a few hours’ travel to the east of Cape Town at L'Agulhas.
This coastline is probably the best place in the country to spot southern right and humpback whales at close quarters. Mid-August to mid-November is the best time for this.
From here the gentle corn lands of the Overberg gradually give way to the temperate ridges and valleys of the Garden Route.
This region is well known for its beaches, estuaries and freshwater dams, for its coastal cliffs, and for its green mountain ranges covered in indigenous forests and fynbos.
Crossing the first range of mountains to the interior – via a collection of ragged mountain passes or ‘poorts’ (a chasm through the mountains, usually following a river bed) – brings you to the plains of the Klein (Little) Karoo and its fortified wine and ostrich farms.
Here summers are unforgiving and the climate dry, but still nothing in comparison to the plains of the Central Karoo. This you reach by crossing yet another range of mountains. Go for early morning walks, go tortoise spotting in the late afternoon or arrange your own sundowners. The landscape is big and the skies vast. Most of all, appreciate the solitude.
To complete the ‘arid circle’, you have to head back to the coast again. Travel west until you reach the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
In contrast to the southern coastline the Cape West Coast is arid, but makes up for this austerity with a rich bloom of flowers in spring. The flowers only open when the sun is high in the sky, making for lazy mornings. They are also polite enough to close in time for you to get back to your front porch to watch the sunset with a smoky single malt.
Returning to Cape Town - and heading out north-east from the city this time - brings you to the Cape Winelands. Here the valleys of the Cape fold mountains give shelter to stately vineyards. Some of them have been around since the early 1800s.
Spoilt for choice, the best way to make the most of the Western Cape is to plan your second trip even before you set out on the first.
Articles & Blogs
AfricanX Trailrun 2018Valda 4:15pm 16 Jan
As part of its 10th anniversary celebrations event organisers are excited to announce that the AfricanX Trailrun presented by ASICS will also boast a new Festival Village in 2018 with the picturesque Boschendal Wine Estate stepping up to the plate as the new home of South Africa’s premier three day stage trail run.
“2018 will be a big celebratory year for the AfricanX Trailrun,” says Michael Meyer, Managing Director of Stillwater Sports. “Not only will we celebrate the event’s 10th anniversary, but after five action-packed years in Grabouw we’re excited to move venue for a...
Coming Together to Effect Positive Change in PaarlValda 2:37pm 7 Jan
Paarl in the Western Cape came alive with the spirit of hope and opportunity at a recent distribution of 175 bicycles by non-profit organisation Qhubeka in collaboration with Nederburg and Team Dimension Data, Africa’s only pro-cycling World Tour team.
The majority of the bicycles, 150 of these funded by Team Dimension Data and its partners, were given to learners of the Charleston Hill Secondary School, while 25 bicycles sponsored by Nederburg were donated to Paarl East Neighbourhood Watch volunteers to better equip them to carry out their role in fighting crime and promoting...
Fairtree Simonsberg Contour 2018Valda 9:55pm 26 Dec
Entries are now open for the 2018 Fairtree Simonsberg Contour Mountain Bike and Trail Run Stage Race events taking place 3 to 4 February and 10 to 11 February 2018 respectively. Keen trail runners and mountain bikers will once again have the opportunity to race in this unique conservation area right at the start of the annual stage race season.
A total purse of R40 000 will be up for grabs in 2018 with equal prize money to be awarded for the ladies’ and men’s overall winners over two days.
Land Rover Discovery - Seven PassesValda 5:38pm 12 Dec
Words Elise Kirsten, pics Elise Kirsten and Grace Kirsten
Luxurious, sumptuous and lavish are words that spring to mind when you ease yourself into the cabin of this all-new, three-row, seven-seat Discovery SUV.
I have driven and been seated in plenty of very plush vehicles, such as top-of-the-line Lexus models, German luxury brands and most notably the Rolls Royce Wraith Black Badge. Excluding this last example of ultimate opulence (and perhaps those customised gold-plated, diamond-studded OTT vehicles belonging to princes of oil rich, human rights poor nations), the Land...
Delvera Full Moon HikesValda 2:48pm 28 Nov
Pics Chris Hitchcock
If you love the outdoors, sunsets and moonrises the Falke Full Moon Hike at Delvera should be on your December diary with hikes offered on 2, 3 and 31 December.
The scenic 9.75km trail takes you on a 523 climb through the Greater Simonsberg Conservancy to the top of Klapmutskop with breathtaking panoramic views of the Winelands and Cape Town.
Starting from the Dirtopia Trail Centre, it takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach the top, but a shuttle service is available to transport children...
The 2018 Absa Cape EpicValda 3:14pm 19 Nov
From the majestic slopes of Table Mountain to the magnificence of the Grand Finale at Val de Vie Estate with a manic time trial in between – the 2018 Absa Cape Epic route has been created to be balanced and bold.
The total distance of 658km with 13 530m of climbing will include four consecutive days of 100km, a final stage that is far from an easy roll to the line and a race of truth with a Stage 5 time trial that could shake up the race amongst the elites.
“The last Absa Cape Epic to feature a time trial was in 2010,” said Race Director Kati Csak of the 39km (1430m of climbing...
Otter Run 2017Valda 4:14pm 12 Nov
Words Bryony McCormick, pics Jacques Marais Media http://otter.run/gallery-2017/
Sunny skies and a cool ocean breeze welcomed 234 trail runners to the start of the 2017 Otter African Trail Run at Storms River on 28 October. The Abangeni AKA the Challengers, a group decided by the fastest 24 men and eight female prologue times, took off at 07:00, followed by the rest of the field in smaller groups of four at 30-second intervals. At the start the route favours technical runners, and Kane Reilly used the opportunity to gain as much of a...
Hope for Hottentot ButtonquailValda 6:36pm 17 Oct
By Dale Wright
It seems Agulhas National Park may be a stronghold for the enigmatic Hottentot buttonquail, an endangered species hardly ever seen by anyone.
The Hottentot buttonquail Turnix hottentottus is one of the least frequently recorded resident and breeding terrestrial birds in the country. Birders will likely know very well how difficult it is to find this species, which prefers skulking through the undergrowth rather than flitting around for all to see.
Expedition Africa 2018Valda 2:59pm 8 Oct
Preparations for one of the world’s most prominent adventure races coming to South Africa’s Namaqua West Coast have moved into overdrive following the event’s official launch in the village of Vanrhynsdorp this week. The epic challenge to take place in May next year puts global attention on a region known for its magnificent wilderness and incomparable hospitality when competitors line up for the thrilling start.
Adventure Racing World Series’ Expedition Africa will see teams of athletes at their peak race unsupported across more than 500km of arduous terrain, using disciplines...
Adam Tas at the Groot PlaasproeValda 4:41pm 3 Oct
The popular Afrikaans singer Adam Tas is to perform at the Groot Plaasproe on Saturday 14 October 2017 at Sandringham Farm outside Stellenbosch. Farmies as well as Townies will enjoy this brand new experience of all things farm. Tas, also a farmer and nature lover, will be on stage from 16:30 to 18:15. He will sing songs from his latest album, “Patatas & Pyptabak”, as well as from his Johnny Cash tribute album. Nic Stevens, solo singer also known as one of “Die Broers”, will perform from 14:30 to 16:30 and Die Wildberries from 12:00 to 14:30. From 10:00 to 14:30, line dancers...
Natural HighValda 4:01pm 20 Aug
Words and pics Romi Boom
We saw the two snakes not half an hour apart. Some folks in the group were apprehensive, others curious. Everyone was happy that guide Werner Titus was walking in front.
The first was a common slug-eater, or tabakrolletjie in Afrikaans, a non-venomous endemic usually found in damp areas. The second was venomous, a leaf-green and bright boomslang, camouflaged in a tree. Though small, we treated it with the respect due to a rear-fanged species.
Enveloped by the Tsitsikamma forest, our group of nine hikers and two guides...
Tour de BraaiValda 8:00pm 25 Jun
Pics Craig Kolesky
For five days in May 2017, 20 cyclists with a taste for the finer things in life rode through the Klein Karoo, making their way from George to Swellendam via the most scenic district roads and mountain passes in the Western Cape.
The five-day ride was the inaugural Tour de Braai, an antidote to South Africa’s obsession with gruelling mountain bike stage races, tents and smelly communal toilets. The Tour is the brainchild of Jan Braai, the man behind the National Braai Day initiative and the National Braai Tour. Riders on the first Tour came from...
The Art Of Losing Control: ‘Mad’ Mike WhiddettValda 6:18pm 21 May
Words Jazz Kuschke, pics Craig Kolesky & Tyrone Bradley/Red Bull Content Pool
‘Mad’ Mike Whiddett, the Kiwi risk-taker who tore around the Franschhoek Pass at speeds approaching 250kph, understands focus. To maintain it while drifting at such insane speeds, he says, you need see the car you’re driving as an extension of your body.
Drifting is hard – you always need to be thinking about the next corner, because you set the car up for the turn on the previous one
Drifting may look like a sport that requires the driver to lose...
Remains of the DayValda 5:03pm 14 May
Words and pics Romi Boom
Going into and out of Die Hel is really slow. It takes two hours to cover the 37km distance.
The mountain reedbuck stood stock still in the road ahead of us. Travelling slowly, we were negotiating the hairpin bends, s-turns and switchbacks of the Otto du Plessis road, the legendary Swartberg Pass now merely a dim memory. The antelope did not budge. Nor did we.
So remote is this World Heritage site that the reedbuck felt completely unthreatened. Descending into the fertile Gamkaskloof valley with its many streams and fountains, the...
A Cederberg AmbleValda 6:47pm 7 May
Words Matthew Holt, pics Matthew Holt & Fiona Mcintosh
I tiptoed along the ridge, mindful of the fresh air either side. The summit beacon was now in view, which should have been uplifting, but instead my gaze was drawn to the imposing rock fortress some 12km across the valley, which was our next destination.
This was all Don Hartley’s fault. A visionary of a particular sort, Don opened climbing routes on Table...
Hi-Tec Garden Route Walking FestivalValda 5:22pm 4 Apr
Words Fiona McIntosh, pics Shaen Adey
The Easter weekend sees the second edition of the Hi-Tec Garden Route Walking Festival, during which time hikers from around the country will gather to stride out on the area’s myriad trails with knowledgeable guides. Some hikes are well-known and iconic. Others are only well-kept secrets, open only during the festival, specialty walks or guided by celebrities.
Stretching from Mossel Bay to the lush indigenous forest of the Tsitsikamma, the Garden Route is a hiker’s paradise. There are high peaks to scale if you’re in need of a...
In Your StrideValda 6:11pm 28 Mar
By Fiona McIntosh
The sheer cliffs of Kasteels Buttress glow in the late, golden light. Below me the sun glints off the Camps Bay houses. I’m at one of my favourite viewpoints in the whole world. The ruin of the old cableway on Postern Buttress was used to carry passengers and supplies during the construction of the Woodhead Reservoir in 1893.
Having hiked up Oudekraal Ravine and along the 12 Apostles Path, I’ll now descend Kasteelspoort, take in the sunset from Breakfast...
The Garden Route’s MTB MeccaValda 3:43pm 21 Mar
Words Fiona McIntosh, pics Shaen Adey
Knysna is #TrailTownSA for a very good reason. It is the mountain-biking hub of the Garden Route, that glorious area novices and veteran dirt hounds call MTB Mecca.
“Bend ze knees,” says Tony Cook as I nervously approach a bump in the well-groomed path. “Then straighten your legs in the dip and your momentum will carry you over.”
I’m riding the Mad Cow route at the Garden Route Trail Park, at Barrington just west of Knysna. It’s graded as...
Celebrate April Fool’s Day in Style at Paul CluverValda 6:59pm 19 Mar
Less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town this celebration on Saturday 1 April 2017 promises to be a fun day out for young and old. Choose to self-drive or, even better, embark on a scenic train trip from Cape Town to Elgin.
The train departs from Cape Town Station at 9am, with a second collection point in Somerset West. The journey should last no more than two hours, and a few treats along the way will make for a fun and memorable journey. Upon arrival in Elgin you’ll be met by a fleet of John Deere tractors ready...
Last Minute Tips for ABSA Cape EpicValda 8:18pm 12 Mar
Pics Emma Hill and Mark Sampson
So the Absa Cape Epic is only days away and the butterflies are starting to flutter around your stomach.
Who best to turn to for a bit of advice than four very unique individuals who have finished every edition of the race since it launched in 2004? Yes, that’s an incredible 13 editions of the race in which even the best-prepared of the professionals is not guaranteed a finish.
How on earth have they – the Last Lions – avoided all the calamities that riders can...