You simply must visit South Africa

By Philip Wagenaar

by Philip Wagenaar, third of three parts

Last month I talked about my travel on the Blue Train and hopefully intrigued you with the idea of visiting Cape Town. This month I will discuss additional areas you may want to explore.

Wine country

To get away from the bustle of Cape Town, visit the picturesque wineries nestled in the magnificent rolling hills around Stellenbosch, the second-oldest town in South Africa, and the village of Franschhoek. Each community features numerous samples of the typical Cape Dutch architecture, consisting of a gabled section around the front door with symmetrical wings to either side plus thatch roofs and whitewashed walls.

With a good climate, even in winter, you can luxuriate in one of the attractive small inns or B&Bs in the area. You might try, in Franschhoek, Le Quartier Français (Wilhelmina Street, Franschhoek 7690, Western Cape, South Africa; phone 011/27/21 876-2151 or 011/27/21 876- 3105, e-mail or visit, which offers accommodations with large rooms and provided us a superb lunch in its prize-winning restaurant.

The Garden Route

After visiting Cape Town and the wine country, head for the lovely seaside resort of Hermanus where, in season, you can watch whales breach.

From there, you simply must continue on the N2, the scenic Garden Route, the littoral stretching from Still Bay to just beyond Plettenberg Bay. Its attractive beaches will keep you spellbound and its forests and nature reserves will entice you to go hiking on one of the many verdant trails where myriad gorgeous, multicolored flowers and typical South African fynbos bloom in the spring. The word fynbos (fine bush) is derived from the bushy appearance of the attractive, narrow-leaved, small flowers.

This spectacular area is also known for water sports and bungee jumping. Accommodations in the area vary from attractive and reasonable B&Bs to neat hotels.

Take a detour to Oudtshoorn to visit its ostrich farms, where birds are bred for meat as well as leather, and to explore the Cango Caves, where you can elect to crawl through some of its narrow passages.

Just beyond Plettenberg Bay, after you pass the border between the Western and Eastern Cape provinces, take time to enjoy the lovely trails of Tsitsikamma National Park.

Continue via the famous surfing areas of Cape St. Francis and Jeffrey’s Bay to Port Elizabeth, 785 kilometers from Cape Town. Farther east, the road will lead you via the unspoilt Shipwreck Coast (the name speaks for itself) to East London through an area that during apartheid was part of the Xhosa homeland of Ciskei.

You may want to stop in East London, which fronts a spectacular bay and has marvelous surfing. The beaches around there are among the finest in the world, with many seeming to extend forever.

After East London, you will relish the subtropical coast of the former homeland of the Transkei, while inland, in the hills, you will discover villages where life has not changed for centuries.

Just before Port Edward, you enter KwaZulu-Natal Province. In the southwest, near Lesotho, is the spectacular Drakensberg (Dragon Mountain) range, a series of sheer and jagged mountain cliffs, where people have lived for centuries. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2000 and has been renamed Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park.

In the east, a succession of subtropical beaches leads you to the city of Durban, where shark nets placed in the Indian Ocean protect the city’s Golden Mile warm-water beaches.

North of Durban, travel through Zululand, dominated by the African Zulu tribe with their own customs and culture, and enjoy the parks and reserves of wild Maputaland. Alternatively, take the N2 to enter Swaziland, an absolute monarchy with friendly people, lots of wildlife and beautiful scenery.

Game reserves

From northern Swaziland it is not very far to Kruger National Park, the beautiful, popular and vast (about the size of Wales) game reserve adjacent to the Mozambique border. As you drive through the park in the comfort of your car, you may spot impalas, buffaloes, zebras, wildebeests, waterbucks, baboons, leopards and other, smaller animals. You can overnight in one of the rest camps.

To have the best chance of seeing lions, leopards and rhinos, take a 5 a.m. wildlife drive, when the animals are most active. It is available at any of the rest camps. You also might consider taking a hike with an armed ranger.

For an upscale experience, visit one of the many private game reserves just west of Kruger.

Note that malaria prevention is essential in the wildlife parks.

Well, after all this travel, it is time to return to Johannesburg or Cape Town for your flight back on SAA to the U.S., unless you have decided to visit Botswana on one of South African Express Airways’ flights.


The Lonely Planet guide offers travelers a warning about ATM swindles, common in South Africa. Scam artists jam the machine, resulting in your being unable to retrieve your card after you have entered your PIN. When you go inside the bank to complain, the rascals quickly withdraw money from your account.

Lonely Planet offers the following advice: use machines only at banks and then only during business hours. After inserting your card and before you enter your PIN, press the CANCEL button. If your card is returned, the machine works fine. I suggest that these precautions could easily apply elsewhere.

I read in ITN (May ’03, pg. 2) that the thieves insert a thin plastic sleeve in the slot of the machine with which to retrieve your card. This sleeve has prongs, which you can feel when you run your finger over the slot.


If you would like to see South Africa with the help of a guide, I can highly recommend two: Joop de Vente (phone/fax 011/27/21 976-4844, cell phone 011/27/83 448-1530, e-mail or visit the website, in Dutch, www., whom we used during our visit of South Africa in 2002, and Denise Dick (home phone 011/27/21 438-9425, cell phone 011/27/82 457-2334, fax 011/27/21 438-9425 or e-mail denised@yebo.

I want to thank South African Tourism and South African Airways for the wonderful trip they provided through lovely South Africa.