South Africa: A Hiker’s Guide to Another World

With the arrival of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere, outdoor activities are a must and you can’t go past hiking in South Africa. After all, the country boasts some of the most exceptional trails in the world, and there are over 1,000 to choose from.

Taking advantage of the cooler temps, even if you’re not the fittest or most adventurous of naturalists but still crave the wild and free feeling of going on a quest, you’ll have a much better chance of conserving your energy and going that much further or higher. There is lesser risk of bumping into other people too which, let’s face it, is a huge part of the charm of taking the road less travelled (or, in some cases here, completely untravelled).

Experience the magnificent Otter Trail in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Experience the magnificent Otter Trail in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Picture it: just you sporting your hiking boots and backpack, trekking uncharted territory.

If that sounds a little too ‘rough’ for you though, depending on where you’re hiking, and if you’re alone or with a group, you can always hire a guide, have your gear dropped off to the next rest point, and stay in luxury cabins rather than bunk down in a cave or under the massive starry sky. It’s your pick.

One of the most appealing aspects of hiking in South Africa is the varied terrain. You’ll find awesome trails in each of the nine provinces, each of which offers magnificent scenery, challenges and surprises.

The Otter Trail along the Tsitsikamma coast is one of the most popular multi-day hikes you’ll find. Stretching from the Storms River Mouth in the East to Nature’s Valley in the West, you can expect lush forests, rugged shorelines, mountain streams and waterfalls, and fragrant fynbos. It’s 42km long and takes 5 days to complete but, while it’s strenuous, the distances aren’t too great. And you’ll have the sea mist of the Indian Ocean to refresh you the whole time as it’s always within sight.

If you enjoy coastal hiking, maybe also consider the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape that offers similar hiking with dramatically different scenery. Think endless stretches of beach with wave-lashed rocks and intermittent forest.

Exquisite Coffee Bay on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast. Photo credit: www.en.wikipedia.org

Exquisite Coffee Bay on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast. Photo credit: www.en.wikipedia.org

Another un-missable hike in South Africa is the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Although, aptly listed by National Geographic as one of the world’s best “grail trails”, this is one you might want to start training for! Despite being shorter than The Otter Trail (a mere 20-30 kilometres taken over 3 days), it is particularly challenging, and recommended only for seasoned hikers accompanied by a guide. It will take you to the top of the second longest waterfall in the world via ascending chain ladders!

The uKhahlamba peaks (meaning "barrier of spears in Zulu) along the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike. Photo credit: www.flickr.com

The uKhahlamba peaks (meaning “barrier of spears in Zulu) along the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike. Photo credit: www.flickr.com

And if that isn’t enough of a challenge for you, try the Amathole Trail (120km over 6 days) from Madam Dam, about 22km outside of King Williams Town to the Tyume River about 3km outside of Hogsback, an arty eco-village perfect for recovery. The landscape along this hike is so picturesque, it might even give you inspiration to write your own fictional masterpiece as it did J.R.R. Tolkien with The Lord of the Rings!

Hogsback, at the end of the Amatole Trail, transports you to another world. Photo credit: www.getaway.co.za

Hogsback, at the end of the Amatole Trail, transports you to another world. Photo credit: www.getaway.co.za

If all this sounds too strenuous though, don’t be put off. There are many gentler hikes to do too, and some that are guaranteed to heighten all of your senses. Accompanied by experienced rangers, you can join the Kruger Wilderness Trails in the iconic region bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe for about 50km over 2.5 days. You’ll cover some of the two million hectares of grassland, acacia-studded plains, bushveld, mopaneveld and tropical riverine forest inhabited by the Big Five. Depending on where your trail takes you, you could spot hippos and crocodiles at the river (Olifants Trail), or see lions hunting on the thorn-tree savannah (Sweni Trail) and hear them roaring at night.

Feel the hairs on your neck rise as you come across the Big Five on one of the Kruger Wilderness Trails. Photo credit: www.krugerpark.co.za

No matter your experience or fitness levels, South Africa has a hiking trail for you. With registered trails in all nine provinces, facilities, information and guides standing by, you have no excuse for not getting out into the wild on foot and experiencing the beauty of South Africa first hand.

Not for the fainthearted! Photo credit: Ariadne Van Zandenbergen, www.adventure.nationalgeographic.com

Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg… not for the fainthearted! Photo credit: Ariadne Van Zandenbergen, www.adventure.nationalgeographic.com

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

TRAVEL TIPS & PLANNING INFO

WHO TO CONTACT

South African National Parks
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111

The Hiking Organisation of South Africa
Mobile: +27 (0)83 532 5557
Email: hosavosa@gmail.com

Footprint Hiking Club Mobile:
+27 (0)82 456 7020
Email: bookings@footprint.co.za

South Africa: A Hiker’s Guide to Another World

With the arrival of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere, outdoor activities are a must and you can’t go past hiking in South Africa. After all, the country boasts some of the most exceptional trails in the world, and there are over 1,000 to choose from.

Taking advantage of the cooler temps, even if you’re not the fittest or most adventurous of naturalists but still crave the wild and free feeling of going on a quest, you’ll have a much better chance of conserving your energy and going that much further or higher. There is lesser risk of bumping into other people too which, let’s face it, is a huge part of the charm of taking the road less travelled (or, in some cases here, completely untravelled).

Experience the magnificent Otter Trail in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Experience the magnificent Otter Trail in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Picture it: just you sporting your hiking boots and backpack, trekking uncharted territory.

If that sounds a little too ‘rough’ for you though, depending on where you’re hiking, and if you’re alone or with a group, you can always hire a guide, have your gear dropped off to the next rest point, and stay in luxury cabins rather than bunk down in a cave or under the massive starry sky. It’s your pick.

One of the most appealing aspects of hiking in South Africa is the varied terrain. You’ll find awesome trails in each of the nine provinces, each of which offers magnificent scenery, challenges and surprises.

The Otter Trail along the Tsitsikamma coast is one of the most popular multi-day hikes you’ll find. Stretching from the Storms River Mouth in the East to Nature’s Valley in the West, you can expect lush forests, rugged shorelines, mountain streams and waterfalls, and fragrant fynbos. It’s 42km long and takes 5 days to complete but, while it’s strenuous, the distances aren’t too great. And you’ll have the sea mist of the Indian Ocean to refresh you the whole time as it’s always within sight.

If you enjoy coastal hiking, maybe also consider the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape that offers similar hiking with dramatically different scenery. Think endless stretches of beach with wave-lashed rocks and intermittent forest.

Exquisite Coffee Bay on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast. Photo credit: www.en.wikipedia.org

Exquisite Coffee Bay on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast. Photo credit: www.en.wikipedia.org

Another un-missable hike in South Africa is the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Although, aptly listed by National Geographic as one of the world’s best “grail trails”, this is one you might want to start training for! Despite being shorter than The Otter Trail (a mere 20-30 kilometres taken over 3 days), it is particularly challenging, and recommended only for seasoned hikers accompanied by a guide. It will take you to the top of the second longest waterfall in the world via ascending chain ladders!

The uKhahlamba peaks (meaning "barrier of spears in Zulu) along the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike. Photo credit: www.flickr.com

The uKhahlamba peaks (meaning “barrier of spears in Zulu) along the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike. Photo credit: www.flickr.com

And if that isn’t enough of a challenge for you, try the Amathole Trail (120km over 6 days) from Madam Dam, about 22km outside of King Williams Town to the Tyume River about 3km outside of Hogsback, an arty eco-village perfect for recovery. The landscape along this hike is so picturesque, it might even give you inspiration to write your own fictional masterpiece as it did J.R.R. Tolkien with The Lord of the Rings!

Hogsback, at the end of the Amatole Trail, transports you to another world. Photo credit: www.getaway.co.za

Hogsback, at the end of the Amatole Trail, transports you to another world. Photo credit: www.getaway.co.za

If all this sounds too strenuous though, don’t be put off. There are many gentler hikes to do too, and some that are guaranteed to heighten all of your senses. Accompanied by experienced rangers, you can join the Kruger Wilderness Trails in the iconic region bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe for about 50km over 2.5 days. You’ll cover some of the two million hectares of grassland, acacia-studded plains, bushveld, mopaneveld and tropical riverine forest inhabited by the Big Five. Depending on where your trail takes you, you could spot hippos and crocodiles at the river (Olifants Trail), or see lions hunting on the thorn-tree savannah (Sweni Trail) and hear them roaring at night.

Feel the hairs on your neck rise as you come across the Big Five on one of the Kruger Wilderness Trails. Photo credit: www.krugerpark.co.za

No matter your experience or fitness levels, South Africa has a hiking trail for you. With registered trails in all nine provinces, facilities, information and guides standing by, you have no excuse for not getting out into the wild on foot and experiencing the beauty of South Africa first hand.

Not for the fainthearted! Photo credit: Ariadne Van Zandenbergen, www.adventure.nationalgeographic.com

Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg… not for the fainthearted! Photo credit: Ariadne Van Zandenbergen, www.adventure.nationalgeographic.com

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

TRAVEL TIPS & PLANNING INFO

WHO TO CONTACT

South African National Parks
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111

The Hiking Organisation of South Africa
Mobile: +27 (0)83 532 5557
Email: hosavosa@gmail.com

Footprint Hiking Club Mobile:
+27 (0)82 456 7020
Email: bookings@footprint.co.za

Knysna – sheer magnificence!

If you travel 73km from the George Airport along South Africa’s Garden Route, you’ll find Knysna, one of the Western Cape’s most popular coastal attractions. Historically known for its gold mining and wild elephants roaming the forest in the 1800s, it continues to be an area of extreme beauty and versatility today. Arguably, the most famous of its landmarks are the Knysna Heads, two awesome cliff faces that seem to be guarding the mouth of the Knsyna Lagoon.

Majestic Knysna Heads. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Majestic Knysna Heads. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

There are many attractions that centre around the Lagoon including the bustling waterfront precinct where you can sit and watch the drawbridge rise to allow the yachts to moor as you nosh on a delectable meal with matched wines at 34 South. You can also opt to stay on the lagoon in a houseboat which can be equally romantic and adventurous and, either way, create a holiday to remember! And a particularly fun pastime at Knysna Lagoon known mainly to the locals, is to go wading knee-deep in the water at the changing of the tide to look for pansy shells. They’re such a warm bunch, just ask them where to go and what to do and they’ll share their secrets.

Sunset over Knysna waterfront. Photo credit: www.nightjartravel.com

Sunset over Knysna waterfront. Photo credit: www.nightjartravel.com

Knysna is also filled with outdoorsy things to do if you’re the adventurous type. Think bungee jumping, abseiling, quad biking, paragliding, scuba diving, power boating, kloofing (also known as canyoning), mountain biking, canoeing and hiking. There are heaps of non-adventurous outdoorsy things to do too like checking out the castles on Noetzi Beach. This is one of the reasons why Knysna is such popular destination: you can live it up, go wild or just chill. It’s a sublime mix of adventure and relaxation.

Take a heart-thumping ride in the Knysna RIB! Photo credit: www.tripadvisor.co.uk

Take a heart-thumping ride in the Knysna RIB! Photo credit: www.tripadvisor.co.uk

One thing you can definitely expect however, is to indulge in all things foodie. You can’t go past the annual Oyster Festival in July that attracts thousands of people from all over the country as well as overseas. There are other more low-key places to visit like Mitchell’s Brewery where you can sample their natural craft beers and cider, or the quirky and quaint Spookasem Tea Gardens in Rheenendal where you can sip on a cup of traditional roobios tea.

Sample some of the freshest oysters at the annual Oyster Festival in Knysna. Photo credit: www.oysterfestival.co.za

Sample some of the freshest oysters at the annual Oyster Festival in Knysna. Photo credit: www.oysterfestival.co.za

The wonderful thing is that, as rich as Knysna is in things to do and see, your accommodation doesn’t have to break the bank. Yes, you can book in to one of the Milkwood Collection of Resorts, but you can also choose to stay at wonderful guesthouses like Be My Guest, or a backpackers like Knysna Backpackers in a magnificent heritage house. All of them show you a slightly different side of this bustling town.

Knysna Backpackers for those on a budget. Photo credit: www.knysnabackpackers.co.za

Knysna Backpackers for those on a budget. Photo credit: www.knysnabackpackers.co.za

And if you’re someone who likes giving back to the community, join Experience Knysna! through Love Knysna Projects and help unite kids from all local communities through field trips promoting social unity and a sense of belonging.

Knysna boasts some of the oldest forests in the world. Photo credit: www.theapricity.com

Knysna boasts some of the oldest forests in the world. Photo credit: www.theapricity.com

So, if you’re after a stunning holiday destination that offers you a whole range of things to do, or not to do (as the case may be), put Knysna at the top of your list. Join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page for more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday.

Knysna – sheer magnificence!

If you travel 73km from the George Airport along South Africa’s Garden Route, you’ll find Knysna, one of the Western Cape’s most popular coastal attractions. Historically known for its gold mining and wild elephants roaming the forest in the 1800s, it continues to be an area of extreme beauty and versatility today. Arguably, the most famous of its landmarks are the Knysna Heads, two awesome cliff faces that seem to be guarding the mouth of the Knsyna Lagoon.

Majestic Knysna Heads. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Majestic Knysna Heads. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

There are many attractions that centre around the Lagoon including the bustling waterfront precinct where you can sit and watch the drawbridge rise to allow the yachts to moor as you nosh on a delectable meal with matched wines at 34 South. You can also opt to stay on the lagoon in a houseboat which can be equally romantic and adventurous and, either way, create a holiday to remember! And a particularly fun pastime at Knysna Lagoon known mainly to the locals, is to go wading knee-deep in the water at the changing of the tide to look for pansy shells. They’re such a warm bunch, just ask them where to go and what to do and they’ll share their secrets.

Sunset over Knysna waterfront. Photo credit: www.nightjartravel.com

Sunset over Knysna waterfront. Photo credit: www.nightjartravel.com

Knysna is also filled with outdoorsy things to do if you’re the adventurous type. Think bungee jumping, abseiling, quad biking, paragliding, scuba diving, power boating, kloofing (also known as canyoning), mountain biking, canoeing and hiking. There are heaps of non-adventurous outdoorsy things to do too like checking out the castles on Noetzi Beach. This is one of the reasons why Knysna is such popular destination: you can live it up, go wild or just chill. It’s a sublime mix of adventure and relaxation.

Take a heart-thumping ride in the Knysna RIB! Photo credit: www.tripadvisor.co.uk

Take a heart-thumping ride in the Knysna RIB! Photo credit: www.tripadvisor.co.uk

One thing you can definitely expect however, is to indulge in all things foodie. You can’t go past the annual Oyster Festival in July that attracts thousands of people from all over the country as well as overseas. There are other more low-key places to visit like Mitchell’s Brewery where you can sample their natural craft beers and cider, or the quirky and quaint Spookasem Tea Gardens in Rheenendal where you can sip on a cup of traditional roobios tea.

Sample some of the freshest oysters at the annual Oyster Festival in Knysna. Photo credit: www.oysterfestival.co.za

Sample some of the freshest oysters at the annual Oyster Festival in Knysna. Photo credit: www.oysterfestival.co.za

The wonderful thing is that, as rich as Knysna is in things to do and see, your accommodation doesn’t have to break the bank. Yes, you can book in to one of the Milkwood Collection of Resorts, but you can also choose to stay at wonderful guesthouses like Be My Guest, or a backpackers like Knysna Backpackers in a magnificent heritage house. All of them show you a slightly different side of this bustling town.

Knysna Backpackers for those on a budget. Photo credit: www.knysnabackpackers.co.za

Knysna Backpackers for those on a budget. Photo credit: www.knysnabackpackers.co.za

And if you’re someone who likes giving back to the community, join Experience Knysna! through Love Knysna Projects and help unite kids from all local communities through field trips promoting social unity and a sense of belonging.

Knysna boasts some of the oldest forests in the world. Photo credit: www.theapricity.com

Knysna boasts some of the oldest forests in the world. Photo credit: www.theapricity.com

So, if you’re after a stunning holiday destination that offers you a whole range of things to do, or not to do (as the case may be), put Knysna at the top of your list. Join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page for more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday.

Getting quirky: bizarre festivals in South Africa

Did you know that South Africa is home to some of the world’s strangest and most irreverent festivals? It’s true. Where else would you find a festival dedicated to the odd combination of prawns and horse-racing? Or another where you can take part in a race where the rules are that you must wear shoes but you can’t wear clothes?

Spread throughout the year and the country, if unusual get-togethers are your thing, no matter when you visit, you’ll have an absolute ball in versatile South Africa!

Here are some of our favourite festival picks.

Cape Town Prawn Festival

This is the one with the horse-racing. Taking place at the Kenilworth Racecourse in February, you can mix sea and land by tucking into a bucket of prawns while watching the gee-gees gallop down the green. You can also watch the Cape Carnival minstrels perform (which is great if you missed seeing them on New Year’s Day). This is a is very popular festival, and best of all? Entry is free!

Enjoy a plate of peri-peri or lemon butter and garlic butter prawns while you watch the horses thunder past at the Cape Town Prawn Festival.

Enjoy a plate of peri-peri or lemon butter and garlic butter prawns while you watch the horses thunder past at the Cape Town Prawn Festival. Photo credit: www.food-blog.co.za

A couple of other foodie festivals to take note of are the Calvinia Meat Festival and the Ficksburg Cherry Festival. While they might sound quite mainstream and tame, they both have elements that are beyond the norm.

The Calvinia Meat Festival

A visit to the Calvinia Meat Festival (also known as the Hantam Vleisfees) in the Upper Karoo will challenge your tastebuds as well as your sense of adventure. Now in its 25th year, it’s a proud celebration of its local lamb. You can’t go and not try a “smiley” (a roasted sheep’s head, so called because, during the cooking process the lips of the sheep retract to reveal its teeth in a somewhat gruesome smile), skaapstertjies (docked lamb’s tails), kailings (crispy crumbs of fat) and peertjies (testicles). We did warn you it’d be different.

The Calvinia Meat Festival offers a smorgasbord of dishes to whet any carnivore's appetite. Photo credit: www.tasteandliving.com

The Calvinia Meat Festival offers a smorgasbord of dishes to whet any carnivore’s appetite. Photo credit: www.tasteandliving.com

The Ficksburg Cherry Festival
Known as the Cherry Capital of the World (and the sole producer of South Africa’s glacé cherries), this Free State festival has been around since 1968. It’s the oldest crop festival in South Africa and is one of the country’s major tourist attractions. One of the things that makes it stand out so much (other than the magnificent fruit), is the cherry pip spitting contest. You’ll have to try it. It’s a fun activity that the whole family can get involved in although it can get quite competitive.

Try your hand at cherry pip spitting at the Ficksburg Cherry Festival. Photo credit: http://2summers.net

Try your hand at cherry pip spitting at the Ficksburg Cherry Festival. Photo credit: http://2summers.net

If challenging your body strength sounds tempting, you should check out the following festival for sure.

The Lumberjack Festival

Aptly named The Lumber Games, the Lumberjack Festival gives wannabe axe-swingers the opportunity to flex their muscles and maybe even rip through their plaid shirts in the process! It’s not all about chopping trees down though, axe throwing and log hurling are popular competition sports and visitors can also take part in a session on olive tree planting. And if you’re worried about the environmental impact of these manly lumberjack activities, rest assured all’s okay as the wood that’s used is from invasive alien species that are cleared as part of land regeneration programs.

Flex your axe-wielding muscles at the Lumberjack Festival in Stellenbosch. Photo credit: www.travel.nationalgeographic.com

Flex your axe-wielding muscles at the Lumberjack Festival in Stellenbosch. Photo credit: www.travel.nationalgeographic.com

One of the quirkiest of South African festivals in a creative sense has to be Afrika Burn which is based on the US phenomenon, Burning Man. It attracts thousands of participants who take months planning their outrageous costumes (worn as a form of radical self-expression), and wander the desert landscape of the Tankwa Karoo marvelling at awesome mass-scale, purpose-built artistic installations. For seasoned Burners, the idea of Burning Man in South Africa is pretty radical in itself!

Express yourself at Afrika Burn, South Africa's version of 'Burning Man'. Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

Express yourself at Afrika Burn, South Africa’s version of ‘Burning Man’. Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

Another is Oppikoppi.

Not your average music festival by any stretch of the imagination, Oppikoppi is the festival with the nudie run we mentioned earlier. Yes, it might be reminiscent of Glastonbury, and attracts over 20,000 happy campers to the bush to listen to lots of phenomenal South African bands jam in the sticks, but it also prides itself on a range of strange things. In addition to the naked shenanigans, events like the Box Car Races, Running of the Bewilderbeats (the opposite of the naked dash as you have to wear a costume), and the Wil(d)abong Surf Classic where teams pull a member across the dust on a surf board, form part of the lovingly known ‘Dustbowl Olympics’. Reckon it’s worth losing yourself in the moment at this one!

Oppikoppi (meaning 'on the hill') is a wonderful mix of music and shenanigans. Photo credit: www.fest300.com

Oppikoppi (meaning ‘on the hill’) is a wonderful mix of music and shenanigans. Photo credit: www.fest300.com

There are so many other fantastic (and fantastical) South African festivals you could visit. If you like quaint for example, take a look at the Teddy Bear Fair in May in Constantia. Whatever your taste in zany festivals, book your perfect South African holiday today. For more travel inspiration and the latest news and planning tools, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

 

Festival information:

Cape Town Prawn Festival

When: 21 February, 2015
Where: Kenilworth, Cape Town
How to get there: You can fly directly to Cape Town International Airport from most major airports around the world. The city is also linked by rail and air to the rest of South Africa. Public transport in Cape Town is excellent, but hiring your own vehicle allows you to explore at your own pace.
Where to stay: www.capestay.co.za
More information:

Western Cape Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 21 405 4500
Fax: +27 (0) 21 405 4524
Email: info@tourismcapetown.co.za

The Calvinia Meat Festival

When: 29-30 August, 2015
Where: Calvinia, Upper Karoo
How to get there: If flying, your best option is Kimberley which has direct air links to Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Where to stay: www.calvinia.co.za
More information:

Northern Cape Tourism
Tel +27 (0) 53 832 2657
E-mail: northerncapetourism@telkomsa.net
Web: www.northerncape.org.za

The Ficksberg Cherry Festival

When: 20-22 November, 2015
Where: Ficksburg, Free State
How to get there: Fly direct from any of South Africa’s major cities to Bloemfontein Airport. If you’re driving; from Johannesburg and Cape Town take the N1 south and north respectively to Bloemfontein. From Durban, take the N3 out of KwaZulu Natal, and pick up the N5 at Harrismith to Bloemfontein. In order to cover the large stretches of territory required, getting around by car is recommended.
Where to stay: www.wheretostay.co.za/province/free-state/accommodation
More information:

Free State Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 51 411 4300
Email: info@freestatetourism.org
Web: www.freestatetourism.org

The Lumberjack Festival

When: 14-15 April, 2015
Where: Stellenbosch, Cape Town
How to get there: You can fly directly to Cape Town International Airport from most major airports around the world. The city is also linked by rail and air to the rest of South Africa. From Cape Town, hire a car and travel on the N1 via the R304, R44 or R300 and M12, or the N2 via the R44 or R310.
Where to stay: www.stellenbosch.travel/stay-us
More information:

Western Cape Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 21 405 4500
Fax: +27 (0) 21 405 4524
Email: info@tourismcapetown.co.za

Afrika Burn

When: 23 April-3 May, 2015
Where: Karoo, Northern Cape
How to get there: Afrika Burn takes place on Stonehenge Farm approximately 300km north of Cape Town, in the Tankwa Karoo. You can fly directly to Cape Town International Airport from most major airports around the world. The city is also linked by rail and air to the rest of South Africa. From Cape Town, hire a car and travel on the R355, which connects the towns Ceres in the south and Calvinia in the north.
Where to stay: You will be camping onsite at Afrika Burn
More information: www.afrikaburn.com

Oppikoppi

When: 7-9 August, 2015
Where: Gauteng, Limpopo
How to get there: Oppikoppi is held in the veld just north of the small town of Northam in the Waterberg District Municipality in the Limpopo province of South Africa, approximately 50 km south of Thabazimbi.. Fly direct from Johannesburg to Polokwane. If you’re driving, from Johannesburg take the N1 north motorway direct to Polokwane. By road, take the N1 motorway from Johannesburg and continue north to Polokwane. From Durban, either take the N3 motorway to Johannesburg and then pick up the N1 north to Polokwane, or take the N3 to Ladysmith and then pick up the N11 to Polokwane.
Where to stay: You will be camping onsite at Oppikoppi
More information: www.oppikoppi.co.za

Getting quirky: bizarre festivals in South Africa

Did you know that South Africa is home to some of the world’s strangest and most irreverent festivals? It’s true. Where else would you find a festival dedicated to the odd combination of prawns and horse-racing? Or another where you can take part in a race where the rules are that you must wear shoes but you can’t wear clothes?

Spread throughout the year and the country, if unusual get-togethers are your thing, no matter when you visit, you’ll have an absolute ball in versatile South Africa!

Here are some of our favourite festival picks.

Cape Town Prawn Festival

This is the one with the horse-racing. Taking place at the Kenilworth Racecourse in February, you can mix sea and land by tucking into a bucket of prawns while watching the gee-gees gallop down the green. You can also watch the Cape Carnival minstrels perform (which is great if you missed seeing them on New Year’s Day). This is a is very popular festival, and best of all? Entry is free!

Enjoy a plate of peri-peri or lemon butter and garlic butter prawns while you watch the horses thunder past at the Cape Town Prawn Festival.

Enjoy a plate of peri-peri or lemon butter and garlic butter prawns while you watch the horses thunder past at the Cape Town Prawn Festival. Photo credit: www.food-blog.co.za

A couple of other foodie festivals to take note of are the Calvinia Meat Festival and the Ficksburg Cherry Festival. While they might sound quite mainstream and tame, they both have elements that are beyond the norm.

The Calvinia Meat Festival

A visit to the Calvinia Meat Festival (also known as the Hantam Vleisfees) in the Upper Karoo will challenge your tastebuds as well as your sense of adventure. Now in its 25th year, it’s a proud celebration of its local lamb. You can’t go and not try a “smiley” (a roasted sheep’s head, so called because, during the cooking process the lips of the sheep retract to reveal its teeth in a somewhat gruesome smile), skaapstertjies (docked lamb’s tails), kailings (crispy crumbs of fat) and peertjies (testicles). We did warn you it’d be different.

The Calvinia Meat Festival offers a smorgasbord of dishes to whet any carnivore's appetite. Photo credit: www.tasteandliving.com

The Calvinia Meat Festival offers a smorgasbord of dishes to whet any carnivore’s appetite. Photo credit: www.tasteandliving.com

The Ficksburg Cherry Festival
Known as the Cherry Capital of the World (and the sole producer of South Africa’s glacé cherries), this Free State festival has been around since 1968. It’s the oldest crop festival in South Africa and is one of the country’s major tourist attractions. One of the things that makes it stand out so much (other than the magnificent fruit), is the cherry pip spitting contest. You’ll have to try it. It’s a fun activity that the whole family can get involved in although it can get quite competitive.

Try your hand at cherry pip spitting at the Ficksburg Cherry Festival. Photo credit: http://2summers.net

Try your hand at cherry pip spitting at the Ficksburg Cherry Festival. Photo credit: http://2summers.net

If challenging your body strength sounds tempting, you should check out the following festival for sure.

The Lumberjack Festival

Aptly named The Lumber Games, the Lumberjack Festival gives wannabe axe-swingers the opportunity to flex their muscles and maybe even rip through their plaid shirts in the process! It’s not all about chopping trees down though, axe throwing and log hurling are popular competition sports and visitors can also take part in a session on olive tree planting. And if you’re worried about the environmental impact of these manly lumberjack activities, rest assured all’s okay as the wood that’s used is from invasive alien species that are cleared as part of land regeneration programs.

Flex your axe-wielding muscles at the Lumberjack Festival in Stellenbosch. Photo credit: www.travel.nationalgeographic.com

Flex your axe-wielding muscles at the Lumberjack Festival in Stellenbosch. Photo credit: www.travel.nationalgeographic.com

One of the quirkiest of South African festivals in a creative sense has to be Afrika Burn which is based on the US phenomenon, Burning Man. It attracts thousands of participants who take months planning their outrageous costumes (worn as a form of radical self-expression), and wander the desert landscape of the Tankwa Karoo marvelling at awesome mass-scale, purpose-built artistic installations. For seasoned Burners, the idea of Burning Man in South Africa is pretty radical in itself!

Express yourself at Afrika Burn, South Africa's version of 'Burning Man'. Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

Express yourself at Afrika Burn, South Africa’s version of ‘Burning Man’. Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

Another is Oppikoppi.

Not your average music festival by any stretch of the imagination, Oppikoppi is the festival with the nudie run we mentioned earlier. Yes, it might be reminiscent of Glastonbury, and attracts over 20,000 happy campers to the bush to listen to lots of phenomenal South African bands jam in the sticks, but it also prides itself on a range of strange things. In addition to the naked shenanigans, events like the Box Car Races, Running of the Bewilderbeats (the opposite of the naked dash as you have to wear a costume), and the Wil(d)abong Surf Classic where teams pull a member across the dust on a surf board, form part of the lovingly known ‘Dustbowl Olympics’. Reckon it’s worth losing yourself in the moment at this one!

Oppikoppi (meaning 'on the hill') is a wonderful mix of music and shenanigans. Photo credit: www.fest300.com

Oppikoppi (meaning ‘on the hill’) is a wonderful mix of music and shenanigans. Photo credit: www.fest300.com

There are so many other fantastic (and fantastical) South African festivals you could visit. If you like quaint for example, take a look at the Teddy Bear Fair in May in Constantia. Whatever your taste in zany festivals, book your perfect South African holiday today. For more travel inspiration and the latest news and planning tools, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

 

Festival information:

Cape Town Prawn Festival

When: 21 February, 2015
Where: Kenilworth, Cape Town
How to get there: You can fly directly to Cape Town International Airport from most major airports around the world. The city is also linked by rail and air to the rest of South Africa. Public transport in Cape Town is excellent, but hiring your own vehicle allows you to explore at your own pace.
Where to stay: www.capestay.co.za
More information:

Western Cape Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 21 405 4500
Fax: +27 (0) 21 405 4524
Email: info@tourismcapetown.co.za

The Calvinia Meat Festival

When: 29-30 August, 2015
Where: Calvinia, Upper Karoo
How to get there: If flying, your best option is Kimberley which has direct air links to Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Where to stay: www.calvinia.co.za
More information:

Northern Cape Tourism
Tel +27 (0) 53 832 2657
E-mail: northerncapetourism@telkomsa.net
Web: www.northerncape.org.za

The Ficksberg Cherry Festival

When: 20-22 November, 2015
Where: Ficksburg, Free State
How to get there: Fly direct from any of South Africa’s major cities to Bloemfontein Airport. If you’re driving; from Johannesburg and Cape Town take the N1 south and north respectively to Bloemfontein. From Durban, take the N3 out of KwaZulu Natal, and pick up the N5 at Harrismith to Bloemfontein. In order to cover the large stretches of territory required, getting around by car is recommended.
Where to stay: www.wheretostay.co.za/province/free-state/accommodation
More information:

Free State Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 51 411 4300
Email: info@freestatetourism.org
Web: www.freestatetourism.org

The Lumberjack Festival

When: 14-15 April, 2015
Where: Stellenbosch, Cape Town
How to get there: You can fly directly to Cape Town International Airport from most major airports around the world. The city is also linked by rail and air to the rest of South Africa. From Cape Town, hire a car and travel on the N1 via the R304, R44 or R300 and M12, or the N2 via the R44 or R310.
Where to stay: www.stellenbosch.travel/stay-us
More information:

Western Cape Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 21 405 4500
Fax: +27 (0) 21 405 4524
Email: info@tourismcapetown.co.za

Afrika Burn

When: 23 April-3 May, 2015
Where: Karoo, Northern Cape
How to get there: Afrika Burn takes place on Stonehenge Farm approximately 300km north of Cape Town, in the Tankwa Karoo. You can fly directly to Cape Town International Airport from most major airports around the world. The city is also linked by rail and air to the rest of South Africa. From Cape Town, hire a car and travel on the R355, which connects the towns Ceres in the south and Calvinia in the north.
Where to stay: You will be camping onsite at Afrika Burn
More information: www.afrikaburn.com

Oppikoppi

When: 7-9 August, 2015
Where: Gauteng, Limpopo
How to get there: Oppikoppi is held in the veld just north of the small town of Northam in the Waterberg District Municipality in the Limpopo province of South Africa, approximately 50 km south of Thabazimbi.. Fly direct from Johannesburg to Polokwane. If you’re driving, from Johannesburg take the N1 north motorway direct to Polokwane. By road, take the N1 motorway from Johannesburg and continue north to Polokwane. From Durban, either take the N3 motorway to Johannesburg and then pick up the N1 north to Polokwane, or take the N3 to Ladysmith and then pick up the N11 to Polokwane.
Where to stay: You will be camping onsite at Oppikoppi
More information: www.oppikoppi.co.za

South Africa’s most romantic hidden gems

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, scouring the globe for that patch of perfection is top of mind for a lot of people. Now, we all know South Africa has unforgettable sunsets, breathtaking views, magnificent beaches and out-of-this-world cuisine making it the ultimate romantic destination, but did you know about these lesser known winners?

Text: Desiree Haakonsen

1. Paternoster, West Coast

This quiet, laid-back fishing village on the West Coast is filled with Mediterranean charm, and is both romantic and serene. With its traditional, whitewashed cottages and gorgeous beaches, Paternoster makes for a perfect place to leave your footprints behind in the sand. More information…

Traditional fishing village Paternoster has serious 'chill' appeal.

Traditional fishing village Paternoster has serious ‘chill’ appeal.

Credit: www.whatsonincapetown.com

2. Hartbeespoort, Magaliesberg

Are you in Gauteng and wanting something laid back but close by? We’d recommend the Hartbeespoort and its country markets, cafes and restaurants, water sports, mountain trails, golf, wildlife encounters, canopy tours, hot-air balloon rides and the aerial cable way. It’s definitely a getaway with options: choose to keep yourselves busy or simply enjoy doing very little. More information…

It's difficult to beat a Hartebeespoort Dam sunset!

It’s difficult to beat a Hartebeespoort Dam sunset!

Credit: www.functionvenues.co.za

3. Clarens, Eastern Free State Highlands

Clarens is a fairy-tale town waiting to be discovered. It’s known as the ‘Jewel of the Free State’ because of its wildlife, golden mountains, winding rivers and flower-strewn gardens. It’s also an artistic haven with lots of quirky spots to visit. More information…

One of Clarens' enexpected treasures.

One of Clarens’ unexpected treasures.

Credit: www.theclarens.co.za

4. Parys, Northern Free State

As chilled as Clarens is, if your partner’s style is more leaping out of planes, consider Parys! Mind you, although it’s big on adventure, it’s still a small town and you can definitely make equally happy memories there if you are after something more relaxed like chilling on the riverbanks! More information…

Stroll along the Vall River in Parys.

Stroll along the Vaal River in Parys.

Credit: www.getaway.co.za

5. Dullstroom, Mpumalanga

Dullstroom is definitely not dull! It might appeal more to nature lovers than those looking for ritzy holidays though as it’s a slice of paradise with little more to do than relish the mountain and wild-flower vistas. You might have heard about it being a popular trout fishing destination, but given trout fishing is a winter activity, you’re pretty safe that your partner won’t have divided loyalties. More information…

The Critchley Hackle Hotel in Dullstroom.

The Critchley Hackle Hotel in Dullstroom.

Credit: www.tripadvisor.co.za

6. Knysna, Garden Route

Whether you prefer opulence or rustic stays, Knysna is a great option! Take your time getting there by meandering along the stunning Garden Route, and be rewarded with a peaceful lagoon, beautiful beaches, thick mountain forests, good weather and a tangible sense of ‘holiday’. More information…

Knysna lagoon.

Knysna lagoon.

Credit: www.africanbreezeguesthouse.co.za

7. Bela-Bela, Waterberg

Do we need to say more than ‘hot springs’ when it comes to the Limpopo’s Bela-Bela (previously known as Warmbaths)? The perfect spot to soak away any stress from the work week or a long-haul flight. More information…

Bliss out in the warm baths at Bela Bela.

Bliss out in the warm baths at Bela Bela.

Credit: www.roomsforafrica.com

8. Hermanus, Overberg

Hermanus is a wonderful option for the romantic at heart and those who enjoy a little indulgence. If spending a day pottering the Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Route, enjoying a seaside candlelit dinner and then taking a gentle stroll on the beach is your idea of heaven, Hermanus will be your home away from home. More information…

If you can't get in to Hermanus this weekend, definitely make a note to visit during whale season!

If Hermanus isn’t on the cards this weekend, definitely make a note to visit during whale season!

Credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

9. Langebaan, West Coast

Langebaan is a hot favourite. It’s a place to unwind from the whirlwind of everyday busy-ness. The calm lagoon, soothing bird calls and untouched flora of the West Coast National Park make it an idyllic nature haven. But it’s not a completely sleepy town so don’t rest on your laurels. Places like Strandlopers beach restaurant get really busy so make sure you get in early! More information…

Kitesurfing spot at Langebaan.

Kitesurfing spot at Langebaan.

Credit: www.high-five.co.za

10. Margate, Hibiscus Coast

Thinking subtropical, Hawaii-wannabe beach vibes where you only wear a cozzie and flip-flops for your special out-of-town break? Margate will be spot on. And if its palm-speckled beaches and warm Indian Ocean waters become too much for you to bear, there are lots of great shops, art galleries, craft markets, pubs and quaint restaurants to visit. More information…

Margate Beach.

Margate Beach.

Credit: www.booktravel.travel

And if your main squeeze happens to be a foodie, there are so many delicious delights to discover that will make him or her weak at the knees. What about a lazy lunch or dinner at Moyo in Durban? Or The Test Kitchen in Cape Town?

moyo uShaka Pier, Durban.

moyo uShaka Pier, Durban.

Credit: www.planyourholiday.co.za

Whatever your pleasure, head to South Africa and get romantic! For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African getaway, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

South Africa’s most romantic hidden gems

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, scouring the globe for that patch of perfection is top of mind for a lot of people. Now, we all know South Africa has unforgettable sunsets, breathtaking views, magnificent beaches and out-of-this-world cuisine making it the ultimate romantic destination, but did you know about these lesser known winners?

Text: Desiree Haakonsen

1. Paternoster, West Coast

This quiet, laid-back fishing village on the West Coast is filled with Mediterranean charm, and is both romantic and serene. With its traditional, whitewashed cottages and gorgeous beaches, Paternoster makes for a perfect place to leave your footprints behind in the sand. More information…

Traditional fishing village Paternoster has serious 'chill' appeal.

Traditional fishing village Paternoster has serious ‘chill’ appeal.

Credit: www.whatsonincapetown.com

2. Hartbeespoort, Magaliesberg

Are you in Gauteng and wanting something laid back but close by? We’d recommend the Hartbeespoort and its country markets, cafes and restaurants, water sports, mountain trails, golf, wildlife encounters, canopy tours, hot-air balloon rides and the aerial cable way. It’s definitely a getaway with options: choose to keep yourselves busy or simply enjoy doing very little. More information…

It's difficult to beat a Hartebeespoort Dam sunset!

It’s difficult to beat a Hartebeespoort Dam sunset!

Credit: www.functionvenues.co.za

3. Clarens, Eastern Free State Highlands

Clarens is a fairy-tale town waiting to be discovered. It’s known as the ‘Jewel of the Free State’ because of its wildlife, golden mountains, winding rivers and flower-strewn gardens. It’s also an artistic haven with lots of quirky spots to visit. More information…

One of Clarens' enexpected treasures.

One of Clarens’ unexpected treasures.

Credit: www.theclarens.co.za

4. Parys, Northern Free State

As chilled as Clarens is, if your partner’s style is more leaping out of planes, consider Parys! Mind you, although it’s big on adventure, it’s still a small town and you can definitely make equally happy memories there if you are after something more relaxed like chilling on the riverbanks! More information…

Stroll along the Vall River in Parys.

Stroll along the Vaal River in Parys.

Credit: www.getaway.co.za

5. Dullstroom, Mpumalanga

Dullstroom is definitely not dull! It might appeal more to nature lovers than those looking for ritzy holidays though as it’s a slice of paradise with little more to do than relish the mountain and wild-flower vistas. You might have heard about it being a popular trout fishing destination, but given trout fishing is a winter activity, you’re pretty safe that your partner won’t have divided loyalties. More information…

The Critchley Hackle Hotel in Dullstroom.

The Critchley Hackle Hotel in Dullstroom.

Credit: www.tripadvisor.co.za

6. Knysna, Garden Route

Whether you prefer opulence or rustic stays, Knysna is a great option! Take your time getting there by meandering along the stunning Garden Route, and be rewarded with a peaceful lagoon, beautiful beaches, thick mountain forests, good weather and a tangible sense of ‘holiday’. More information…

Knysna lagoon.

Knysna lagoon.

Credit: www.africanbreezeguesthouse.co.za

7. Bela-Bela, Waterberg

Do we need to say more than ‘hot springs’ when it comes to the Limpopo’s Bela-Bela (previously known as Warmbaths)? The perfect spot to soak away any stress from the work week or a long-haul flight. More information…

Bliss out in the warm baths at Bela Bela.

Bliss out in the warm baths at Bela Bela.

Credit: www.roomsforafrica.com

8. Hermanus, Overberg

Hermanus is a wonderful option for the romantic at heart and those who enjoy a little indulgence. If spending a day pottering the Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Route, enjoying a seaside candlelit dinner and then taking a gentle stroll on the beach is your idea of heaven, Hermanus will be your home away from home. More information…

If you can't get in to Hermanus this weekend, definitely make a note to visit during whale season!

If Hermanus isn’t on the cards this weekend, definitely make a note to visit during whale season!

Credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

9. Langebaan, West Coast

Langebaan is a hot favourite. It’s a place to unwind from the whirlwind of everyday busy-ness. The calm lagoon, soothing bird calls and untouched flora of the West Coast National Park make it an idyllic nature haven. But it’s not a completely sleepy town so don’t rest on your laurels. Places like Strandlopers beach restaurant get really busy so make sure you get in early! More information…

Kitesurfing spot at Langebaan.

Kitesurfing spot at Langebaan.

Credit: www.high-five.co.za

10. Margate, Hibiscus Coast

Thinking subtropical, Hawaii-wannabe beach vibes where you only wear a cozzie and flip-flops for your special out-of-town break? Margate will be spot on. And if its palm-speckled beaches and warm Indian Ocean waters become too much for you to bear, there are lots of great shops, art galleries, craft markets, pubs and quaint restaurants to visit. More information…

Margate Beach.

Margate Beach.

Credit: www.booktravel.travel

And if your main squeeze happens to be a foodie, there are so many delicious delights to discover that will make him or her weak at the knees. What about a lazy lunch or dinner at Moyo in Durban? Or The Test Kitchen in Cape Town?

moyo uShaka Pier, Durban.

moyo uShaka Pier, Durban.

Credit: www.planyourholiday.co.za

Whatever your pleasure, head to South Africa and get romantic! For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African getaway, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Feel like you’re flying at Blyde River Canyon

At Blyde River, the world’s third largest canyon, the drops are so extreme that they’ll literally take your breath away. There are few other places in the world where you’ll experience the same exhilarating sense of freedom and expansiveness.

Aptly known as the ‘Panorama Route’, this versatile holiday destination has some of the most dramatic and overwhelming scenery South Africa has to offer like natural wonders God’s Window, the Three Rondavels and Bourke’s Luck Potholes.

Blyde_River_Canyon_three_rondavels_media_1061550790
Credit: www.thewildernesssociety.com
The Three Rondawels, also known as the Three Sisters.

1
The stunning Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
Credit: www.sa-venues.com

It’s no small wonder that some of Tripadvisor’s top contributors have described the region as “Breathtakingly beautiful, a must do!!” and “One of the best views in the world”.

Depending on whether you feel energetic, up for an adventure, or would prefer to amble, there are many ways to experience this awesome landscape. You can hike (for hours or for days), you can take a helicopter or hot air balloon ride, you can do some fly-fishing or white water rafting, you can cycle, you can horse-ride, you can explore in a 4×4 or on a quad bike, you can abseil, or you can just meander.

1 (1)
A gentler way to see the sights.
Credit: www.sa-venues.com

high_five_[640x480](3)
Blyde River Canyon white river rafting for the more adventurous at heart.
Credit: www.south-african-hotels.com

Guests often say that the Blyde River Canyon has a timeless quality about it, and they’d be right. It’s apparently the exact point where, around 200 million years ago, the ancient super continent, Gondwanaland, broke apart and Madagascar and Antarctica separated from Africa!

The Reserve is also close to the Kruger National Park so, if you’re pressed for time or just want to add to your experience, you could combine your trip with some bigger game watching.

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is filled with native flora (over 1,000 species many of which are endemic to the region) and fauna that draws thousands of visitors each year of its own accord. And you might even spot a rare Taita Falcon.

de615e05c85804a04ca9ae252eb0c180Blyde River Canyon Reserve is known for its abundant native flora.
Credit: www.ispotnature.org

If you are inspired by nature and enjoy holidays where you get swept away by magnificent landscapes, make sure Blyde River Canyon Reserve is at the top of your travel list.  Filled with historical, geological and bio-diverse wonders, it definitely won’t disappoint.

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Feel like you’re flying at Blyde River Canyon

At Blyde River, the world’s third largest canyon, the drops are so extreme that they’ll literally take your breath away. There are few other places in the world where you’ll experience the same exhilarating sense of freedom and expansiveness.

Aptly known as the ‘Panorama Route’, this versatile holiday destination has some of the most dramatic and overwhelming scenery South Africa has to offer like natural wonders God’s Window, the Three Rondavels and Bourke’s Luck Potholes.

Blyde_River_Canyon_three_rondavels_media_1061550790
Credit: www.thewildernesssociety.com
The Three Rondawels, also known as the Three Sisters.

1
The stunning Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
Credit: www.sa-venues.com

It’s no small wonder that some of Tripadvisor’s top contributors have described the region as “Breathtakingly beautiful, a must do!!” and “One of the best views in the world”.

Depending on whether you feel energetic, up for an adventure, or would prefer to amble, there are many ways to experience this awesome landscape. You can hike (for hours or for days), you can take a helicopter or hot air balloon ride, you can do some fly-fishing or white water rafting, you can cycle, you can horse-ride, you can explore in a 4×4 or on a quad bike, you can abseil, or you can just meander.

1 (1)
A gentler way to see the sights.
Credit: www.sa-venues.com

high_five_[640x480](3)
Blyde River Canyon white river rafting for the more adventurous at heart.
Credit: www.south-african-hotels.com

Guests often say that the Blyde River Canyon has a timeless quality about it, and they’d be right. It’s apparently the exact point where, around 200 million years ago, the ancient super continent, Gondwanaland, broke apart and Madagascar and Antarctica separated from Africa!

The Reserve is also close to the Kruger National Park so, if you’re pressed for time or just want to add to your experience, you could combine your trip with some bigger game watching.

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is filled with native flora (over 1,000 species many of which are endemic to the region) and fauna that draws thousands of visitors each year of its own accord. And you might even spot a rare Taita Falcon.

de615e05c85804a04ca9ae252eb0c180Blyde River Canyon Reserve is known for its abundant native flora.
Credit: www.ispotnature.org

If you are inspired by nature and enjoy holidays where you get swept away by magnificent landscapes, make sure Blyde River Canyon Reserve is at the top of your travel list.  Filled with historical, geological and bio-diverse wonders, it definitely won’t disappoint.

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Madikwe: Spot the Big 7

There are few game reserves that can boast having seven of Africa’s fiercest wild animals wandering its plains. Madikwe, the fourth largest in the country, is one of them.

Located close to the South Africa-Botswana border, Madikwe is home to lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos as well as cheetahs and very rare, endangered African wild dogs, also known as Cape hunting dogs or painted dogs. In fact the reserve has an active program to ensure the species’ survival. In 1994, it trans-located 6 dogs from a breeding centre near the Kruger National Park, and it continues to monitor the clan’s progress and growth, adding to the numbers when necessary. There are only 3,000-5,000 wild dogs left in the world.

african-wild-dogs_441_600x450
Like human fingerprints, each wild dog has a unique, irregular mottled coat.
Credit: Chris Johns, www.nationalgeographic.com.au

And if you happen to be a budding ornithologist, Madikwe also has an extremely abundant bird life of more than 300 species.

Accommodation falls predominantly into the luxury category at Madikwe, and with this comes open vehicle game drives, night drives and bush walks – opportunities you might not get in other areas.

MadikweHills_Game_Drives
There’s nothing quite like being on an open game drive!
Credit: www.madikweaccommodation.com

It’s consistently in demand as a holiday destination though so you’ll need to be on the ball to get in. Given the properties boast exquisite views, exceptional service, stunning rooms with the finest of detail and mouth-watering cuisine – plus they don’t allow day-trippers – this should come as no surprise. With 16 magnificent lodges from which to choose, like Madikwe Safari Lodge, Jaci’s Lodges and Motswiri Private Safari Lodge, you might have a tough time deciding which one to pick. If those three aren’t confusing enough, there are many more options.

49Stunning Lelapa Lodge lounge where no expense has been spared.
Credit: www.madikwesafarilodge.co.za

jacis-tree-lodge-590
Adventure awaits you at Jaci’s Tree Lodge.
Credit: www.madikwe.safari.co.za

10
Pure indulgence at the opulent Motswiri Private Safari Lodge.
Credit: www.motswiri.com

To top it all off, Madikwe’s sprawling 75,000 hectares lie really close to Jozi so it’s incredibly accessible for a quick safari holiday. Literally a flight into O.R. Tambo International Airport followed by a road transfer.

Madikwe_Safari_Lodge_Boma

Experience an unforgettable lapa dinner around the boma at Madikwe Safari Lodge.
Credit: www.madikweaccommodation.com

And if you needed any more convincing, Madikwe is a mozzie-free zone so no itchy bites to worry about!

So, what are you waiting for? Book your Madikwe bush adventure today!

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Madikwe: Spot the Big 7

There are few game reserves that can boast having seven of Africa’s fiercest wild animals wandering its plains. Madikwe, the fourth largest in the country, is one of them.

Located close to the South Africa-Botswana border, Madikwe is home to lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos as well as cheetahs and very rare, endangered African wild dogs, also known as Cape hunting dogs or painted dogs. In fact the reserve has an active program to ensure the species’ survival. In 1994, it trans-located 6 dogs from a breeding centre near the Kruger National Park, and it continues to monitor the clan’s progress and growth, adding to the numbers when necessary. There are only 3,000-5,000 wild dogs left in the world.

african-wild-dogs_441_600x450
Like human fingerprints, each wild dog has a unique, irregular mottled coat.
Credit: Chris Johns, www.nationalgeographic.com.au

And if you happen to be a budding ornithologist, Madikwe also has an extremely abundant bird life of more than 300 species.

Accommodation falls predominantly into the luxury category at Madikwe, and with this comes open vehicle game drives, night drives and bush walks – opportunities you might not get in other areas.

MadikweHills_Game_Drives
There’s nothing quite like being on an open game drive!
Credit: www.madikweaccommodation.com

It’s consistently in demand as a holiday destination though so you’ll need to be on the ball to get in. Given the properties boast exquisite views, exceptional service, stunning rooms with the finest of detail and mouth-watering cuisine – plus they don’t allow day-trippers – this should come as no surprise. With 16 magnificent lodges from which to choose, like Madikwe Safari Lodge, Jaci’s Lodges and Motswiri Private Safari Lodge, you might have a tough time deciding which one to pick. If those three aren’t confusing enough, there are many more options.

49Stunning Lelapa Lodge lounge where no expense has been spared.
Credit: www.madikwesafarilodge.co.za

jacis-tree-lodge-590
Adventure awaits you at Jaci’s Tree Lodge.
Credit: www.madikwe.safari.co.za

10
Pure indulgence at the opulent Motswiri Private Safari Lodge.
Credit: www.motswiri.com

To top it all off, Madikwe’s sprawling 75,000 hectares lie really close to Jozi so it’s incredibly accessible for a quick safari holiday. Literally a flight into O.R. Tambo International Airport followed by a road transfer.

Madikwe_Safari_Lodge_Boma

Experience an unforgettable lapa dinner around the boma at Madikwe Safari Lodge.
Credit: www.madikweaccommodation.com

And if you needed any more convincing, Madikwe is a mozzie-free zone so no itchy bites to worry about!

So, what are you waiting for? Book your Madikwe bush adventure today!

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Discover the magnificent ‘French Corner’

Nestled in the foothills of the impressive Simonsberg mountain in the Western Cape is a gem you won’t want to miss on your travels to South Africa. Franschhoek, discovered by the Huguenots in 1688, is a little town with an old-world village feeling and the hospitality to match.

And there are so many exciting things to do there!

It’s probably best known for its gourmet food and exceptional wines, so it’s a must-see for any self-respecting foodie (especially since it’s only about 75 kilometres from Cape Town) but there’s so much more to discover.

Here are a few things we think will whet your appetite in other ways.

For the history buff

If you enjoy learning about the past, you really must pay a visit to The Huguenot Memorial Museum and Monument to learn about the early settlers in South Africa, and how their French culture impacted on the area. And while you’re there, check out the spectacular gardens including the protea displays. You could also mix your winetasting with your history at the Museum van de Caab on the Solms Delta wine estate. They have a small museum highlighting the local history from the Stone Age as well as the history of the farm itself and wonderful historical artefacts and recordings.

Huguenot_Monument
Credit: www.commons.wikimedia.org 

Another popular local attraction is Groot Drakenstein Prison, the low risk security prison where former President Nelson Mandela spent his last day in prison and took his momentous “Walk to Freedom”.

For the boys (and girls) who love their toys, definitely don’t miss the Franschhoek Motor Museum on the beautiful L’Ormarins property. Spanning more than 100 years of motoring history, this private collection of over 300 cars, motorcycles, bicycles and motoring memorabilia will transport you to a bygone era.

MercedesBenz540K_main
Credit: www.fmm.co.za (Franschhoek Motor Museum)

Looking for something a little more outdoorsy?

Franschhoek offers some of the most breathtaking walks and hikes in the entire country. The Franschhoek Pass, part of the UNESCO declared Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve, and just a few minutes drive out of the village (or a hike up Cats se Pad trail if you are feeling more adventurous and energetic), boasts the most exceptional views over the whole valley. There are lots of places to stop along the way and take photos, but watch out for the cheeky baboons! You can also head into the Mont Rochelle Mountain Reserve from the top of the Pass and walk through the fynbos. We’d recommend an early morning or dusk adventure to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and stunning lighting.

61490584
Credit: www.panoramio.com

If you’re keen on feeling fit and healthy (or working off a delicious meal) but aren’t quite up for a hike to see the sights, why not hire a bicycle to explore the village or the trails around the Berg River Dam on the 7 kilometre purpose-built track? You can also go horseriding or take a garden tour or visit Franschhoek Medicinal Garden and learn about indigenous medicines.

garden_2
Credit: www.babylonstoren.com

And for the sporty types, if you’re visiting Franschhoek in summer, try to time it for a weekend and catch a cricket match at the Groot Drakenstein Games Club. Apparently it was the first turf cricket pitch laid in South Africa!

After a spot of retail therapy?

After indulging in the local fare, you might want to walk it off by taking a wander through the boutiques and picking up a little something for yourself, whether it’s clothing, antiques, jewellery or art. Franschhoek also has a delightful arts and crafts market from 9am to 2pm each Saturday where you can meet lots of the locals. And there are a number of working art studios you can visit too, including the Franschhoek Live Craft Centre where you can see the potter in residence at work.

2e
Credit: www.franschhoek.co.za

You could, of course, also book in for a spa treatment at one of the day spas instead.

Foodie fun for the family

While Franschhoek boasts wine estates and vineyards that are some of the oldest in the country and produce internationally renowned, award-winning wine that just has to be sampled, there are a few other foodie things to do in the village that will enthrall the whole family. Like taking a course in bread baking or going on a chocolate tour. And then there’s grabbing a picnic basket and simply lazing about, taking in the ambience of this amazingly rich and fertile land. Or going to one of the delicious choices of restaurants (bookings recommended from October-February).

3586893833_af08eac07d_z
Credit: www.flickr.com

Bread_Making_Collage
Credit: www.moreson.co.za

There really is never a dull moment in this exquisite part of the world. Whether you just want to sit on the stoep and sip wine or put on your tekkies and go hiking, Franschhoek caters for it all.

And, depending on when you’re visiting, you might even catch the Harvest Festival in February (and get to stomp on grapes), Franschhoek Literary Festival in May, Bastille Day celebrations in July or the Open Gardens Festival in late October.

6a0162fffe844e970d01a511dc6d4e970c-500wi
Credit: www.franschhoekbastille.co.za

Glitz and glamour

If dressing up to the nines and rubbing shoulders with high society is more your style, you won’t want to miss The Franschhoek ‘Magic of Bubbles’ Cap Classique and Champagne Festival held very late November. It’s the perfect place to sample the bubbles and cuisine from some of the top regional producers, as well as some of France’s best champagnes. Last year’s theme was black and white with an emphasis on parasols and panama hats. Take a look - it’s well worth the effort!

6a0162fffe844e970d01bb07b68069970d-800wi (2)

Credit: http://www.franschhoekmcc.co.za/

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Discover the magnificent ‘French Corner’

Nestled in the foothills of the impressive Simonsberg mountain in the Western Cape is a gem you won’t want to miss on your travels to South Africa. Franschhoek, discovered by the Huguenots in 1688, is a little town with an old-world village feeling and the hospitality to match.

And there are so many exciting things to do there!

It’s probably best known for its gourmet food and exceptional wines, so it’s a must-see for any self-respecting foodie (especially since it’s only about 75 kilometres from Cape Town) but there’s so much more to discover.

Here are a few things we think will whet your appetite in other ways.

For the history buff

If you enjoy learning about the past, you really must pay a visit to The Huguenot Memorial Museum and Monument to learn about the early settlers in South Africa, and how their French culture impacted on the area. And while you’re there, check out the spectacular gardens including the protea displays. You could also mix your winetasting with your history at the Museum van de Caab on the Solms Delta wine estate. They have a small museum highlighting the local history from the Stone Age as well as the history of the farm itself and wonderful historical artefacts and recordings.

Huguenot_Monument
Credit: www.commons.wikimedia.org 

Another popular local attraction is Groot Drakenstein Prison, the low risk security prison where former President Nelson Mandela spent his last day in prison and took his momentous “Walk to Freedom”.

For the boys (and girls) who love their toys, definitely don’t miss the Franschhoek Motor Museum on the beautiful L’Ormarins property. Spanning more than 100 years of motoring history, this private collection of over 300 cars, motorcycles, bicycles and motoring memorabilia will transport you to a bygone era.

MercedesBenz540K_main
Credit: www.fmm.co.za (Franschhoek Motor Museum)

Looking for something a little more outdoorsy?

Franschhoek offers some of the most breathtaking walks and hikes in the entire country. The Franschhoek Pass, part of the UNESCO declared Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve, and just a few minutes drive out of the village (or a hike up Cats se Pad trail if you are feeling more adventurous and energetic), boasts the most exceptional views over the whole valley. There are lots of places to stop along the way and take photos, but watch out for the cheeky baboons! You can also head into the Mont Rochelle Mountain Reserve from the top of the Pass and walk through the fynbos. We’d recommend an early morning or dusk adventure to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and stunning lighting.

61490584
Credit: www.panoramio.com

If you’re keen on feeling fit and healthy (or working off a delicious meal) but aren’t quite up for a hike to see the sights, why not hire a bicycle to explore the village or the trails around the Berg River Dam on the 7 kilometre purpose-built track? You can also go horseriding or take a garden tour or visit Franschhoek Medicinal Garden and learn about indigenous medicines.

garden_2
Credit: www.babylonstoren.com

And for the sporty types, if you’re visiting Franschhoek in summer, try to time it for a weekend and catch a cricket match at the Groot Drakenstein Games Club. Apparently it was the first turf cricket pitch laid in South Africa!

After a spot of retail therapy?

After indulging in the local fare, you might want to walk it off by taking a wander through the boutiques and picking up a little something for yourself, whether it’s clothing, antiques, jewellery or art. Franschhoek also has a delightful arts and crafts market from 9am to 2pm each Saturday where you can meet lots of the locals. And there are a number of working art studios you can visit too, including the Franschhoek Live Craft Centre where you can see the potter in residence at work.

2e
Credit: www.franschhoek.co.za

You could, of course, also book in for a spa treatment at one of the day spas instead.

Foodie fun for the family

While Franschhoek boasts wine estates and vineyards that are some of the oldest in the country and produce internationally renowned, award-winning wine that just has to be sampled, there are a few other foodie things to do in the village that will enthrall the whole family. Like taking a course in bread baking or going on a chocolate tour. And then there’s grabbing a picnic basket and simply lazing about, taking in the ambience of this amazingly rich and fertile land. Or going to one of the delicious choices of restaurants (bookings recommended from October-February).

3586893833_af08eac07d_z
Credit: www.flickr.com

Bread_Making_Collage
Credit: www.moreson.co.za

There really is never a dull moment in this exquisite part of the world. Whether you just want to sit on the stoep and sip wine or put on your tekkies and go hiking, Franschhoek caters for it all.

And, depending on when you’re visiting, you might even catch the Harvest Festival in February (and get to stomp on grapes), Franschhoek Literary Festival in May, Bastille Day celebrations in July or the Open Gardens Festival in late October.

6a0162fffe844e970d01a511dc6d4e970c-500wi
Credit: www.franschhoekbastille.co.za

Glitz and glamour

If dressing up to the nines and rubbing shoulders with high society is more your style, you won’t want to miss The Franschhoek ‘Magic of Bubbles’ Cap Classique and Champagne Festival held very late November. It’s the perfect place to sample the bubbles and cuisine from some of the top regional producers, as well as some of France’s best champagnes. Last year’s theme was black and white with an emphasis on parasols and panama hats. Take a look - it’s well worth the effort!

6a0162fffe844e970d01bb07b68069970d-800wi (2)

Credit: http://www.franschhoekmcc.co.za/

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Sporting events in South Africa in 2015: Something for everyone!

Whether you’re a sports fan and looking to take in the atmosphere at an event in South Africa, or an athlete looking for your next challenge, below are just a few big sporting events and tours to look forward to in 2015.

Cricket

West Indies tour of South Africa

The West Indies are currently touring South Africa, with the tournament consisting of three Test matches, three T-20’s and five ODI’s.

The cricketing year kicked off on January 2, with the third Test between South Africa and the               West Indies. Having won the first Test and drawn the second, South Africa won the Test series 2-0 when they won the third and final Test. In doing so they retain the number 1 position in the global Test rankings.

In the second game of the T-20 series, the West Indies set a new world record for the highest successful run chase in a T-20. The series finished 2-1 to the West Indies, with South Africa winning the 3rd match.

The first of the five ODI games will be played on 16 January in Durban, leading to what should be an exciting ODI series.

Dates: 2 to 29 January

For more information: www.cricket.co.za

203409.3

Cycling

Cape Town Cycle Tour

The name of this event has changed a few times in recent years due to an increase in sponsorship, but for 2015, the event is the Cape Town Cycle Tour. The route is 109 km and includes a range of fantastic viewpoints for spectators. More than 40,000 cyclists from across the globe are expected to take part in the event, the world’s largest individually timed cycle race.

The first tour in 1978 was organised to raise awareness about the lack of bike paths in South Africa. This inaugural tour was a simple ride and drew hundreds of eager riders including the Mayor of Cape Town. While the organisers were impressed with the turn-out, there’s no way they could have anticipated the event’s explosive popularity in years to come.

Date: 8 March

For more information: www.cycletour.co.za

Absa Cape Epic

The Absa Cape Epic is probably the world’s toughest and most widely covered mountain-biking event. First staged in 2004, the race typically covers more than 700 km, and lasts eight days – a prologue and seven stages. The race is made up of 600 teams of two riders, whose skill levels range from amateurs to professionals. The amateurs are required to enter a lottery in order to gain a slot in the race line-up.

The course changes every year, but the race always takes place in the Western Cape.

There are various spectator points throughout the race at different intervals for fans and supporters to watch from. The finish in Somerset West is always worth attending for the atmosphere and various forms of entertainment.

Dates: 15 to 22 March

For more information: www.cape-epic.com

JCP_7525

Image source: John Carson

Running

Two Oceans Marathon

Self-proclaimed as ‘the world’s most beautiful marathon’, the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town is run against a backdrop of spectacular scenery through the Cape Peninsula. The options for runners include a 56 km ultra marathon, as well as a 21 km half marathon.

The stunning coastal views on the course takes in both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The real treat on this Cape Town classic comes at Chapman’s Peak: one of the most beautiful stretches of racing coastline imaginable. The event takes place on the Saturday of Easter weekend every year.

Date: 4 April

For more information: www.twooceansmarathon.co.za

TOM-1

Image source: All Good Things Blog

Comrades Marathon

If you only do one ultra marathon, this iconic South African event should be at the top of your list. The direction of the race alternates each year between the ‘up-run’ (87 km) starting from Durban and the ‘down-run’ (89 km) starting from Pietermaritzburg.

The 2015 Comrades Marathon is an ‘up run’, starting in Durban and finishing in Pietermaritzburg. The field is capped at just 18,000 runners with entrants hailing from 60 countries. In order to qualify to enter, runners over the age of 20 must complete an officially recognised marathon in less than 5 hours.

Date: 31 May

For more information: www.comrades.com

Swimming

Midmar Mile

The Midmar Mile in KwaZulu-Natal is the world’s largest open-water swimming event. Held in February every year, the event attracts thousands of competitors, from genuine international athletes including Olympic medalists to recreational swimmers.

The event gains its name from the location (Midmar Dam) and the distance (approximately one mile). A unique feature of the race is that while the total distance covered is always a mile, depending on rainfall and the water levels in the dam, the distance swum varies from year to year. In years with poor rainfall, competitors are subject to the infamous Midmar sprint start: a crush of entrants sprinting across the muddy shore and through the shallows until the water is deep enough to swim.

In order to handle the vast number of competitors, the competitors swim out in groups over two days.

Dates: 7 to 8 February

For more information: www.midmarmile.co.za

midmar-mile

Image source: Road Travel Africa

Rugby

Super Rugby

Super Rugby is the largest Rugby Union competition in the Southern Hemisphere, with teams from         South Africa, Australia and New Zealand competing. The competition is renowned for attacking, physical rugby and is praised internationally for its flare and spectacular tries.

The 2015 Super Rugby tournament takes place between February and July, with five South African franchises competing. They are the Cheetahs (Bloemfontein), the Stormers (Cape Town), the Sharks (Durban), the Lions (Johannesburg) and the Bulls (Pretoria).

As of 2016, the competition will expand to 18 teams with the addition of teams from Japan and Argentina.

Dates: 13 February to 4 July

For more information: www.superxv.com

Castle Lager Rugby Championship

South Africa hosts two matches in this year’s Rugby Championship, which is shorter than usual because of the IRB Rugby World Cup. This year, the Springboks kick off their campaign against Australia in Brisbane on 18 July.

The intense rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand has risen to new heights in recent years and subsequently, matches between the two teams have evolved into one of sports “must watch” events. The 2014 competition resulted in New Zealand drawing with Australia and losing to South Africa.

Dates: 25 July to 8 August

For more information: www.sarugby.net

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Sporting events in South Africa in 2015: Something for everyone!

Whether you’re a sports fan and looking to take in the atmosphere at an event in South Africa, or an athlete looking for your next challenge, below are just a few big sporting events and tours to look forward to in 2015.

Cricket

West Indies tour of South Africa

The West Indies are currently touring South Africa, with the tournament consisting of three Test matches, three T-20’s and five ODI’s.

The cricketing year kicked off on January 2, with the third Test between South Africa and the               West Indies. Having won the first Test and drawn the second, South Africa won the Test series 2-0 when they won the third and final Test. In doing so they retain the number 1 position in the global Test rankings.

In the second game of the T-20 series, the West Indies set a new world record for the highest successful run chase in a T-20. The series finished 2-1 to the West Indies, with South Africa winning the 3rd match.

The first of the five ODI games will be played on 16 January in Durban, leading to what should be an exciting ODI series.

Dates: 2 to 29 January

For more information: www.cricket.co.za

203409.3

Cycling

Cape Town Cycle Tour

The name of this event has changed a few times in recent years due to an increase in sponsorship, but for 2015, the event is the Cape Town Cycle Tour. The route is 109 km and includes a range of fantastic viewpoints for spectators. More than 40,000 cyclists from across the globe are expected to take part in the event, the world’s largest individually timed cycle race.

The first tour in 1978 was organised to raise awareness about the lack of bike paths in South Africa. This inaugural tour was a simple ride and drew hundreds of eager riders including the Mayor of Cape Town. While the organisers were impressed with the turn-out, there’s no way they could have anticipated the event’s explosive popularity in years to come.

Date: 8 March

For more information: www.cycletour.co.za

Absa Cape Epic

The Absa Cape Epic is probably the world’s toughest and most widely covered mountain-biking event. First staged in 2004, the race typically covers more than 700 km, and lasts eight days – a prologue and seven stages. The race is made up of 600 teams of two riders, whose skill levels range from amateurs to professionals. The amateurs are required to enter a lottery in order to gain a slot in the race line-up.

The course changes every year, but the race always takes place in the Western Cape.

There are various spectator points throughout the race at different intervals for fans and supporters to watch from. The finish in Somerset West is always worth attending for the atmosphere and various forms of entertainment.

Dates: 15 to 22 March

For more information: www.cape-epic.com

JCP_7525

Image source: John Carson

Running

Two Oceans Marathon

Self-proclaimed as ‘the world’s most beautiful marathon’, the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town is run against a backdrop of spectacular scenery through the Cape Peninsula. The options for runners include a 56 km ultra marathon, as well as a 21 km half marathon.

The stunning coastal views on the course takes in both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The real treat on this Cape Town classic comes at Chapman’s Peak: one of the most beautiful stretches of racing coastline imaginable. The event takes place on the Saturday of Easter weekend every year.

Date: 4 April

For more information: www.twooceansmarathon.co.za

TOM-1

Image source: All Good Things Blog

Comrades Marathon

If you only do one ultra marathon, this iconic South African event should be at the top of your list. The direction of the race alternates each year between the ‘up-run’ (87 km) starting from Durban and the ‘down-run’ (89 km) starting from Pietermaritzburg.

The 2015 Comrades Marathon is an ‘up run’, starting in Durban and finishing in Pietermaritzburg. The field is capped at just 18,000 runners with entrants hailing from 60 countries. In order to qualify to enter, runners over the age of 20 must complete an officially recognised marathon in less than 5 hours.

Date: 31 May

For more information: www.comrades.com

Swimming

Midmar Mile

The Midmar Mile in KwaZulu-Natal is the world’s largest open-water swimming event. Held in February every year, the event attracts thousands of competitors, from genuine international athletes including Olympic medalists to recreational swimmers.

The event gains its name from the location (Midmar Dam) and the distance (approximately one mile). A unique feature of the race is that while the total distance covered is always a mile, depending on rainfall and the water levels in the dam, the distance swum varies from year to year. In years with poor rainfall, competitors are subject to the infamous Midmar sprint start: a crush of entrants sprinting across the muddy shore and through the shallows until the water is deep enough to swim.

In order to handle the vast number of competitors, the competitors swim out in groups over two days.

Dates: 7 to 8 February

For more information: www.midmarmile.co.za

midmar-mile

Image source: Road Travel Africa

Rugby

Super Rugby

Super Rugby is the largest Rugby Union competition in the Southern Hemisphere, with teams from         South Africa, Australia and New Zealand competing. The competition is renowned for attacking, physical rugby and is praised internationally for its flare and spectacular tries.

The 2015 Super Rugby tournament takes place between February and July, with five South African franchises competing. They are the Cheetahs (Bloemfontein), the Stormers (Cape Town), the Sharks (Durban), the Lions (Johannesburg) and the Bulls (Pretoria).

As of 2016, the competition will expand to 18 teams with the addition of teams from Japan and Argentina.

Dates: 13 February to 4 July

For more information: www.superxv.com

Castle Lager Rugby Championship

South Africa hosts two matches in this year’s Rugby Championship, which is shorter than usual because of the IRB Rugby World Cup. This year, the Springboks kick off their campaign against Australia in Brisbane on 18 July.

The intense rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand has risen to new heights in recent years and subsequently, matches between the two teams have evolved into one of sports “must watch” events. The 2014 competition resulted in New Zealand drawing with Australia and losing to South Africa.

Dates: 25 July to 8 August

For more information: www.sarugby.net

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Add these experiences to your bucket list

Is your New Year’s resolution to finally tick a South African safari off your bucket list in 2015? But did you know, there’s so much more South Africa has to offer? Here’s our selection of ten hidden gems we think are bucket list worthy!

One – The Garden Route

If you enjoy coastal drives and wine, you will not want to miss the Garden Route, a popular driving route and one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Bramon Wine Estate is the only Wine Estate located in the middle of The Garden Route. The restaurant is set in the vineyards and overlooks the Tsitsikamma Mountains and The Elephant Sanctuary. The wine menu compliments the menu of tapas, local cheeses, oysters, meat and freshly baked homemade bread. If you’re looking for a relaxed, long lunch after driving along the Garden Route – the atmosphere at Bramon Wine Estate is sure to help you unwind.

Bramon Wine Estate

Image source: Silke Marshall Marketing

Two – Matjiesfontein

Do you consider yourself a history buff and nostalgic for years gone by? Matjiesfontein is a tiny Victorian town in the Little Karoo that has been designated a national monument. Take a stroll through the main street and admire the white-washed houses or head to the Lord Milner Hotel for a drink. Rumour has it that the hotel is haunted! The town of Matjiesfontein offers travellers a unique experience and is a well-kept secret, but we predict for not much longer.

Lord_Milner_Hotel_at_Matjiesfontein (1)

Three – Balloon Safari

When you think of Safari, you think of South Africa. But, what if you could experience the magic of safari above the treetops? Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris has been in operation for over 30 years and gives visitors a unique vantage point where they can spot the big five while gliding over Cradle of Humankind and Magaliesberg Mountain range. After the safari, there is an English breakfast in the clubhouse for guests to share stories. The safari is a 45 minute drive from Johannesburg and well worth the journey.

Web-Top-Pic3-080126-088
Image source: Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris

Four – The Otter Trail

South African landscape is truly breathtaking. The Otter Trail in the Garden Route is a must see for anyone who loves hiking or adventure activities. This is a 5 day adventure, spanning 42km of trails on cliff tops along the shorelines; the diverse scenery along the way makes the journey somewhat more bearable. Tip: Take a camera and capture the beauty for your holiday album!

Otter_Trail01

Five – Nature’s Valley

Nature’s Valley in the Western Cape is at the end of the famous five-day Otter Trail, but hikers first have to cross the mouth of the lagoon, which is the dominant feature of this secluded coastal village, before they can call it a day. The town is aptly named as it is completely surrounded by indigenous forest and the Garden Route National Park. A great outing is the coastal walk to the nearby Salt River mouth, where you can enjoy complete privacy and seclusion.

Nature's_Valley_(S._Africa)_2

Six – The Big Five Marathon

The Big Five Marathon is a must if your New Year’s resolution is to get fit and travel more. Highlighted by Forbes Magazine as one the Top 10 marathons worth travelling for, there will be nothing separating you from running alongside the African wildlife. The next Big Five Marathon will take place on 20 June 2015. The 42Km marathon starts and finishes at Lakeside Lodge located on the Garden Route.

SouthAfrica_BigFiveMarathon_RunnersDownHill_039

Seven – Sardine Run

Around June each year, word gets out along the KwaZulu-Natal coast that the sardines have arrived. They’ve swum for more than 30 days from their spawning ground in the Cape to reach South Africa’s east coast. The annual sardine run sees massive shoals of the little silver fish journey from the cold waters of the Cape to the warmer tides of KwaZulu-Natal. The fish attract the attention of whales, dolphins, sharks and sea birds, leading to well-documented feeding frenzies.

Sardines_-_鰯(いわし) (1)

Eight – Zip lining in Drakensberg

Have you ever wanted to experience what it feels like to get a bird’s eye view of the greenest forest? The Drakensberg Canopy Tours runs zip line tours rain, hail or shine in the Blue Grotto Forest. The location is home to over 150 species of birds including the rare Bush Blackcap.

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Image source: Drakensberg Canopy Tours

Nine – The Test Kitchen

The Test Kitchen in Woodstock, Cape Town has taken out first place for the prestigious Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant awards held in November 2014. It is also featured on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants

This dining hot spot is a hit amongst local and international travellers. The menu is South African inspired with a sprinkling of Asian flair. Dishes range from grilled scallop with miso and shiitake to seared springbok in turnip milk and fermented red cabbage. The Test Kitchen has taken out the Eat Out award for the third year in a row. Needless to say, if you want to book a table at this award winning restaurant, be sure to allow for a month’s waiting list.

large31

Ten – Soweto Township

The township of Soweto in Johannesburg was a key point during the struggle against apartheid. Former president Nelson Mandela and Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu both lived in Vilakazi Street in Orlando, making it the only street in the world that was home to two Nobel Peace laureates. The Mandela home is a now museum open to the public. Visitors to Soweto can also go to the Hector Pieterson Museum, a memorial erected to pay homage to students who died during the struggle.

orlando__620_400_80_s
For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Add these experiences to your bucket list

Is your New Year’s resolution to finally tick a South African safari off your bucket list in 2015? But did you know, there’s so much more South Africa has to offer? Here’s our selection of ten hidden gems we think are bucket list worthy!

One – The Garden Route

If you enjoy coastal drives and wine, you will not want to miss the Garden Route, a popular driving route and one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Bramon Wine Estate is the only Wine Estate located in the middle of The Garden Route. The restaurant is set in the vineyards and overlooks the Tsitsikamma Mountains and The Elephant Sanctuary. The wine menu compliments the menu of tapas, local cheeses, oysters, meat and freshly baked homemade bread. If you’re looking for a relaxed, long lunch after driving along the Garden Route – the atmosphere at Bramon Wine Estate is sure to help you unwind.

Bramon Wine Estate

Image source: Silke Marshall Marketing

Two – Matjiesfontein

Do you consider yourself a history buff and nostalgic for years gone by? Matjiesfontein is a tiny Victorian town in the Little Karoo that has been designated a national monument. Take a stroll through the main street and admire the white-washed houses or head to the Lord Milner Hotel for a drink. Rumour has it that the hotel is haunted! The town of Matjiesfontein offers travellers a unique experience and is a well-kept secret, but we predict for not much longer.

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Three – Balloon Safari

When you think of Safari, you think of South Africa. But, what if you could experience the magic of safari above the treetops? Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris has been in operation for over 30 years and gives visitors a unique vantage point where they can spot the big five while gliding over Cradle of Humankind and Magaliesberg Mountain range. After the safari, there is an English breakfast in the clubhouse for guests to share stories. The safari is a 45 minute drive from Johannesburg and well worth the journey.

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Image source: Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris

Four – The Otter Trail

South African landscape is truly breathtaking. The Otter Trail in the Garden Route is a must see for anyone who loves hiking or adventure activities. This is a 5 day adventure, spanning 42km of trails on cliff tops along the shorelines; the diverse scenery along the way makes the journey somewhat more bearable. Tip: Take a camera and capture the beauty for your holiday album!

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Five – Nature’s Valley

Nature’s Valley in the Western Cape is at the end of the famous five-day Otter Trail, but hikers first have to cross the mouth of the lagoon, which is the dominant feature of this secluded coastal village, before they can call it a day. The town is aptly named as it is completely surrounded by indigenous forest and the Garden Route National Park. A great outing is the coastal walk to the nearby Salt River mouth, where you can enjoy complete privacy and seclusion.

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Six – The Big Five Marathon

The Big Five Marathon is a must if your New Year’s resolution is to get fit and travel more. Highlighted by Forbes Magazine as one the Top 10 marathons worth travelling for, there will be nothing separating you from running alongside the African wildlife. The next Big Five Marathon will take place on 20 June 2015. The 42Km marathon starts and finishes at Lakeside Lodge located on the Garden Route.

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Seven – Sardine Run

Around June each year, word gets out along the KwaZulu-Natal coast that the sardines have arrived. They’ve swum for more than 30 days from their spawning ground in the Cape to reach South Africa’s east coast. The annual sardine run sees massive shoals of the little silver fish journey from the cold waters of the Cape to the warmer tides of KwaZulu-Natal. The fish attract the attention of whales, dolphins, sharks and sea birds, leading to well-documented feeding frenzies.

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Eight – Zip lining in Drakensberg

Have you ever wanted to experience what it feels like to get a bird’s eye view of the greenest forest? The Drakensberg Canopy Tours runs zip line tours rain, hail or shine in the Blue Grotto Forest. The location is home to over 150 species of birds including the rare Bush Blackcap.

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Image source: Drakensberg Canopy Tours

Nine – The Test Kitchen

The Test Kitchen in Woodstock, Cape Town has taken out first place for the prestigious Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant awards held in November 2014. It is also featured on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants

This dining hot spot is a hit amongst local and international travellers. The menu is South African inspired with a sprinkling of Asian flair. Dishes range from grilled scallop with miso and shiitake to seared springbok in turnip milk and fermented red cabbage. The Test Kitchen has taken out the Eat Out award for the third year in a row. Needless to say, if you want to book a table at this award winning restaurant, be sure to allow for a month’s waiting list.

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Ten – Soweto Township

The township of Soweto in Johannesburg was a key point during the struggle against apartheid. Former president Nelson Mandela and Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu both lived in Vilakazi Street in Orlando, making it the only street in the world that was home to two Nobel Peace laureates. The Mandela home is a now museum open to the public. Visitors to Soweto can also go to the Hector Pieterson Museum, a memorial erected to pay homage to students who died during the struggle.

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For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Celebrating NYE and NYD in South Africa

New Year’s is an event celebrated around the world. South Africans celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day similar to Australians. Both countries celebrate the last day of the year with parties and fireworks and New Year’s Day is generally spent outdoors.

If you’re spending New Year’s Eve in Cape Town you can ring in the New Year on top of Table Mountain. Pack a picnic and grab some friends and you can party until 12:30 a.m. This vantage point gives an unobstructed view of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront fireworks. The party continues on January 1, with thousands heading to local beaches.

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Image source: A luxury travel blog- Table Mountain Sunset

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Image source: A luxury travel blog – V&A Waterfront

There are many popular nightclubs and areas to watch fireworks in Durban, Johannesburg and Victoria Falls to bring in the New Year.

South Africans love a good ‘jol’ and New Year’s Day is a public holiday in South Africa, making it the perfect opportunity to celebrate the beginning of 2015 and recover from the festivities the night before.

New Year’s Day occurs during the balmy African summer and is often enjoyed outdoors. The many beaches of the Eastern Cape and Western Cape are buzzing with locals and international visitors who want to start the year off with a dip in the ocean and relaxing with friends and family on the sand. This can lead to delays in finding a parking spot or getting a bite to eat along the coast.

2417710541_16e5f8eda0_o (1)Image source: Hobie Beach – Port Elizabeth

Many South Africans spend New Year’s Day having a braai (barbecuing) with friends and families in the gardens, parks and beaches of the country (where permitted). The warm, sunny summers of the country make it a perfect way to celebrate the first day of the New Year.

Braaing-on-the-plains
Image source: Yuppie Chef

Whatever you end up doing on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, South Africa Tourism Australia and New Zealand wish you a happy holiday season.

Celebrating NYE and NYD in South Africa

New Year’s is an event celebrated around the world. South Africans celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day similar to Australians. Both countries celebrate the last day of the year with parties and fireworks and New Year’s Day is generally spent outdoors.

If you’re spending New Year’s Eve in Cape Town you can ring in the New Year on top of Table Mountain. Pack a picnic and grab some friends and you can party until 12:30 a.m. This vantage point gives an unobstructed view of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront fireworks. The party continues on January 1, with thousands heading to local beaches.

5581_gallery
Image source: A luxury travel blog- Table Mountain Sunset

VAWaterfront-capeletting
Image source: A luxury travel blog – V&A Waterfront

There are many popular nightclubs and areas to watch fireworks in Durban, Johannesburg and Victoria Falls to bring in the New Year.

South Africans love a good ‘jol’ and New Year’s Day is a public holiday in South Africa, making it the perfect opportunity to celebrate the beginning of 2015 and recover from the festivities the night before.

New Year’s Day occurs during the balmy African summer and is often enjoyed outdoors. The many beaches of the Eastern Cape and Western Cape are buzzing with locals and international visitors who want to start the year off with a dip in the ocean and relaxing with friends and family on the sand. This can lead to delays in finding a parking spot or getting a bite to eat along the coast.

2417710541_16e5f8eda0_o (1)Image source: Hobie Beach – Port Elizabeth

Many South Africans spend New Year’s Day having a braai (barbecuing) with friends and families in the gardens, parks and beaches of the country (where permitted). The warm, sunny summers of the country make it a perfect way to celebrate the first day of the New Year.

Braaing-on-the-plains
Image source: Yuppie Chef

Whatever you end up doing on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, South Africa Tourism Australia and New Zealand wish you a happy holiday season.