Tag - south africa

South Africa Travels: What makes it world’s finest dining destinations

Most tourists who visit South Africa come (at least in part) for the wildlife. They want to take a safari, and see some of the “big 5” wild animals that make their home in this region. While seeing these magnificent creatures in their native habitat is a thrilling experience, South Africa is also a fine dining destination. The vineyards are some of the finest wine producing spots on Earth. Constantia Valley, Paarl, Elgin, Stellenbosch, Franschoek and others, attract thousands of wine aficionados from around the world. Here are some places of interest you cannot miss out while wining and dining in South Africa.

Cape of Good Hope

You can get an inexpensive tour that covers a lot of the Cape Peninsula and Cape Town. Bus tours run frequently, with 14 stops around the area. You get to see top highlights, as well as some lesser known spots. Along the way, you will find some breathtaking scenes, fascinating locations, and delicious wine tasting. If you stop off at Hout Bay, you can have fish and chips for lunch, as you look out over the beautiful bay. Depending on how many stops you get off at, you can finish the tour in a couple of hours, or take all day.image001

Discover traditional African life

On the Eastern Cape, you can experience the traditional life in South Africa for yourself. At the Bulungula Eco Lodge, you can stay in a hut with no electricity. You can relax during the day and go fishing, or you can “go local”, leaning the old ways of doing things. Try gathering firewood and carrying it back on your head. Take a turn at grinding your own corn and cooking an African meal. It is a unique, eye-opening opportunity.

Discover the Valley of Desolation

Located on the Eastern Cape, in Camdeboo National Park, the Valley of Desolation is an area of amazing rock formations. Huge rocks, 360 feet high, create a unique landscape. There are hiking trails so you can explore this rocky park, which in spite of its name, is full of wildlife and far from desolate. You can also drive to the highest point, and get a sweeping view of the area. Pack a picnic to enjoy from a panoramic view point.

Visit a fishing village

If you drive 100 miles from Cape Town, you can reach Paternoster, a tiny fishing village. The name names “Our Father”, which was taken from words in a prayer said by Portuguese sailors who were shipwrecked. Homes in the town are converted fishing cottages, over a hundred years old, with whitewashed walls and tin roofs. Colorful boats lie scattered on the beach around the large crescent-shaped bay. It’s a lovely place to stroll barefoot on the beach, or just relax with a glass of wine, a nice meal, and a surreal view.image003

Dining on the beach

Die Strandloper (which means “the beachcomber”) is a unique restaurant along the west coast road from Cape Town. People drive over an hour to get here, just for a meal at this unusual spot. The restaurant is unlike anything you’ve seen before. The kitchen is really a fire pit on the beach. Seafood, such as mussels and crayfish, is as fresh as it gets, and other dishes include a traditional mutton stew. Dinner is served on paper plates, and you use mussel shells for spoons. Bring flip flops, your own beer or wine, and a sense of adventure.image005

Franschhoek Kitchen

One of Cape Town’s funkiest and most high-end wine estates, Franschhoek, invites tourists to dinner at the Franschhoek Kitchen. Are you ready to be amazed? The restaurant’s international cuisine, modern decor, and soothing ambiance will delight all your senses. The menu includes home-made dishes inspired from the South Africa’s traditions, too. Choose your wine, and if you’re not really a connoisseur, ask for advice and someone will recommend you the best assortment to pair with your meal.

South Africa is an incredible travel destination. The beautiful wine estates, the unbelievable landscapes, the wildlife, and the attractions will make your adventure become a memorable, unforgettable experience. Taste the delicious food varieties, know more about the fruity, delicate wines, and get to know more about the welcoming, happy people of this varied and diversified country.

Things to Do in Cape Town, South Africa

by Elizabeth Hansen,

Beautiful Cape Town is easily my favorite city in South Africa. It may be that I just feel comfortable here because the climate and the vibe are so similar to my hometown – San Diego, California – but I think relative safety and natural attributes are also factors.

South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize winners on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize winners on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

The best way to see this sprawling city’s sights is with a private guide from a reliable company such as Jarat Tours. They will personalize your experience, transport you safely from place to play, and provide informative commentary.

If I only had one day in Cape Town, I’d spend it all at Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden – but, admittedly, I’m more passionate about gardening than most visitors. The first time I went to South Africa I traveled with my friend Sue from Durban. The second time (several years later), I was with my husband – and neither of them wanted to spend as much time at Kirstenbosch as I did.

Having said that, these Cape Town gardens are world famous for a good reason. The spectacular plantings of southern Africa natives sprawl up the eastern slope of Table Mountain in dramatic fashion. Of these, the protea gardens are by far my favorites. It took my husband and our guide pleading in unison to finally convince me it was time to move on.

A couple of tips:

The gardens are more crowded on the weekends when Cape Town families come for the day; it isn’t safe to wander around alone in isolated areas; wear comfortable shoes because some of the paths are steep.


Many visitors (including Barack Obama) consider Robben Island the top attraction in Cape Town. The island is almost synonymous with Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned here for 27 years. Robben Island has been a museum and a World Heritage site since 1997.


Make a reservation for one of the high-speed ferries to Robben Island before you arrive in Cape Town  because they are often booked out a week or more ahead of time.  Peak season is mid-December to mid-January. Take sunglasses and a hat.

Table Mountain:

Table mountain, reached via an aerial cableway, is another top Cape Town attraction. The view from the top, where there are native animals and wildflowers, is broad and glorious. However, be forewarned that “take the cablecar to the top of Table Mountain” is on every visitor’s list and, if you don’t like being surrounded by tourists, you might want to spend your time elsewhere.

On our last trip to Cape Town, the parking lot at the base of the cableway was full of tour buses and the wait to go up to the top was four hours. We enjoyed the view from part way up the mountain and then continued on to the scenic…


Table mountain, Cr-travelcie.com

Victoria & Alfred waterfront, where a high-energy African dance troupe was performing. We also lucked out and stumbled upon a small jazz band playing near the wonderful line-up of statues of South African Nobel Peace Prize winners. Some scenes from the movie Blood Diamonds were shot on the V&A waterfront.

I loved the drive down to the Cape of Good Hope because we saw Southern Right Whales offshore and had up close views of baboons, ostriches, zebras, antelopes and yes – gorgeous yellow protea – along the road.800px-Cape_of_good_hope

A short detour took us to Boulders Beach, where there is a colony of tiny penguins, and then we arrived at the southwestern tip of the African continent. The Cape of Good Hope is a beautiful, windy spot – just remember to bring a jacket.

Boulders beach, cr-go2africa.com

Boulders beach, cr-go2africa.com

I’ve already recommended staying at the luxurious Steenberg Hotel in the Constantia Valley wine region, 20 minutes outside of Cape Town, but you can also just go there for a meal, wine tasting, to enjoy the spa, or to play golf. The estate – where low mountains shelter vineyards, a winery, and picturesque whitewashed Cape Dutch buildings – is well worth a visit. My favorite meal at the Steenberg is Sunday brunch – and I’m not alone. Lots of well-heeled Capetonians also enjoy the picturesque setting, abundant buffet, and local wines. Just be sure to book in advance.

For more information, please visit –authenticluxurytravel.net

Mandela Capture Site, Howick Falls and Midlands Meander in South Africa

Mandela, Falls, and Meandering in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa

The author poses in front of the amazing sculpture of Nelson Mandela's face

The author poses in front of the amazing sculpture of Nelson Mandela’s face

About an hour’s drive north from Durban, the world’s only monument to a criminal arrest—that of Nelson Mandela—can be found near the village of Howick. The village is also famous for its waterfall, one of the highest in Africa. Both are free, although there have been rumors about charging an entrance fee for the Mandela Capture Site.

While en route to the Southern Drakensberg Mountains for a family getaway, you can visit both the falls and the monument, plus the Midlands Meander, a special driving route in the Natal Midlands (see here for the Mandela Capture Site:

Howick Falls on the Umgeni River: The gorge of the falls is very deep and rocky (with many rock climbers and abseilers) and lined with green bushes. The actual falls are very long, but narrow, and can be disappointing if you go in winter when the volume of water is low. They are not so impressive if compared to other falls in the world.  But, they are pretty anyway, and the legends surrounding them are interesting.

Howick Falls

Howick Falls

The Legend of the Falls gives a fascinating glimpse into Zulu culture. These falls, known to the Zulus as kwaNogqaza (the tall one), are one of the major tourist attractions of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands. Local Zulus believe the Falls to be the abode of spirits and a giant, eel-like creature known as inkanyamba. Zulu sangomas (witch doctors or diviners) come to the falls to pray and offer sacrifices of chickens and goats to inkulunkulu (the Great God), to the amathongo (spirits of the ancestors), and to the inkanyamba.

The falls viewing platform can get quite crowded, especially at weekends, and buskers may entertain you (the Sunday we were there, two young men were playing violins). Just above the falls, a black lady was doing her laundry in the river, seemingly unconcerned by all the people ogling her. It was fascinating to witness this one example of local life continuing in spite of modern development.

Some of the lovely outdoor craft stalls

Some of the lovely outdoor craft stalls

The falls are special too because they are so close to the center of Howick town—a few minutes walk at most. Along the road behind the falls are many craft shops, simple craft stalls, people selling big bowls of mangoes and lychees, a couple of restaurants and tea shops, and a well-stocked Tourist Information Office. The selection of crafts is reasonably good (just check that they are made in South Africa!), and prices are not bad, especially for the cloths and wall hangings with traditional African patterns and motifs. Note the shell shop, which has all kinds of shell articles, plus you can buy shells to make your own necklaces or craft items.

When we were there, Yellowwood Café was a nice place to stop for a snack lunch, sitting outside under a huge flamboyant tree, soothed by the sound of falling water.

Bright African craft work

Bright African craft work

The Midlands Meander is a well-organized system of drives in this pretty countryside, its symbol the Butler butterfly, found only in the Karkloof region. It extends about 80 km between Pietermaritzburg and Mooi River and can be approached from many different points. It began in 1985 when several potters and weavers came together to create an arts and crafts route through the region. Today, the roads meander between small towns, with a focus on around 150 special craft shops, tearooms, restaurants, craft and potters’ stalls, art galleries and studios. For example, we noted a goat farm that makes goat cheese, called Swissland Cheese; and a German restaurant, called Bierfassl. But, shops come and go so check with the Tourist Information Office first. The Midlands Meander also offers active outdoor activities, like horse riding, hiking, tubing, swimming, biking, canopy tours, and fishing.

This is a pleasant gentle way to see a bit of this countryside—green, rolling, soft, pastoral, which some liken to parts of England. The names of the towns even sound a bit English—Tweedie, Lidgetton, Balgowan, Nottingham Road.

You can get a map either in Pietermaritzburg or Howick, and then follow the brown road signs. (But, note that the map isn’t 100% accurate and doesn’t mark all the small roads).


Iconic Cape Town Landmarks

Cape Town is the second most populated city of South Africa and is renowned for its harbors, natural beauty and urban splendor. It is also known as the Mother City, the oldest and arguably the most stunning city of South Africa. This is the reason why many international film and documentary makers have chosen some of the Cape Town’s timeless landmarks to complement the story of their movies.

Cape Town

Cape Town- South Africa

A Cape Town travel guide can assist you during the tour of the city, highlighting the major tourist hot spots.

Following are some landmarks that draw casual tourists, Nature and film enthusiasts alike-

Table Mountain

Table Mountain is one of the oldest mountains in the world, a visitor’s paradise and anicon of the Mother City. Filmed in movies like Rendition (2007), Catch a Fire (2006), Safe House (2012), etc, the location is unusual in magnificence.. Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most visited and photographed site , making it the centre of the city’s scenic landscape.

It has been named one of the new 7 Wonders of Natureand is the home to the world’srichest albeit smallest floral kingdom- “The Cape Floristic Region”. The cable car ride to the top of the mountain offers a 360 degreepanoramic view of the city and its surrounding areas. Table Mountain offersthe perfect view of the following – 12 Apostles Mountain Range, Robben Island, Mitchell’s Plain and the Cape Flats.

Boulders Beach

The Boulders Beach is so named after the inlets formed between boulders of granite,known to be 540 million years old. Located near Simon’s town in the Table Mountain National Park, it is famed for its colonies of African Penguin birds.

The beach has been a popular tourist spot for observing the penguins as well as enjoying beach-activities. However, to specifically view penguins,Foxy Beach is a better option.

Cape Town Stadium

The Cape Town stadium is located between Signal Hill and Atlantic Ocean. It is close to the city centre and popular tourist and shopping spots that make for a funand leisure time.It was also the venue for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

This landmark is well-known for luring hordes of foreign tourists, as it is an important entertainment hub. The harbor allows tourists to take boat and helicopter rides for an awe-inspiring view of Cape Town. It is a paradise for shopaholics and foodies due to the presence of umpteen numbers of restaurants and shops.

Other places of interest in and around the waterfront are: Maritime museum, an aquarium (famous for sharks), Observation Wheel and the Robben Island Exhibition and Information Centre.

Rhodes Memorial

The memorial (part of the Table Mountain National park) is a national landmark built in the memory of Cecil John Rhodes at his favourite viewing point. This place is the starting point for trekking on devil’s peak. A tea room situated behind the memorial offers students, residents and tourists a gala time.Another intriguing site is a small forest of the famous native silver-tree situated on the upper side of the slope of Rhode’s memorial.

One is sure to fall in love with Cape Town’s natural beauty, cultural heritage and creative spirit.

Cape Agulhas—As Far South As You Can Go In South Africa

 The famous Cape Agulhas lighthouse

The famous Cape Agulhas lighthouse

Cape Point Agulhas on the Overberg Peninsula, about a 3-hour drive SE of Cape Town, has many lovely places to visit. But, the highlight has got to be the actual southernmost tip of Africa.

L’Agulhas is a small town, the southernmost town in Africa, stretched along the rocky coast before the famous lighthouse—a very distinctive landmark. Early Portuguese seafarers rounding the dangerous cape christened it Golfo de Agulhas (Gulf of Needles). Later, due to French influence it became know as L’Agulhas. This refers to the jagged rocks of the coastline and to the fact that, in the 1400s, a compass needle showed very little deviation (6 degrees) at the spot between true north and magnetic north.

Agulhas National Park is part of the windswept, ruggedly beautiful plain of Agulhas, which has thousands of indigenous plants, including about 100 that are only found here. So, it’s an important part of the Cape Floral Kingdom (the smallest and richest of the world’s six plant kingdoms). The coastline supports a rich marine and inter-tidal life, with some rare birds like the African Black Oystercatcher. In the right season (June-November) you can usually see Southern Right whales from the shore line. The waters are generally quite shallow and this area is known as a good fishing ground in South Africa. The catch of the day was Yellowtail when we were there—delicious.

The Cape Agulhas lighthouse is South Africa’s third oldest, built in 1848, and the second oldest working lighthouse (after Green Point). Completed in  December 1848, the light was first lit on March 1, 1849. We learn interesting snippets, such as that originally it was fueled by tail-fat of sheep, but in 1905 an oil-burning lantern was installed.  Later this was replaced by a petroleum vapor burner, and then in 1936 by an electric lamp powered by a diesel generator. In 1968 the lighthouse was taken out of service due to crumbling walls and was condemned for demolition. However, many groups came together to save it and it was declared a national monument in 1973.  The Bredasdorp Shipwreck Museum and local council did the restoration and it was recommissioned in 1988. More restorations are ongoing. It is part of the Cape Agulhas National Park.

 The author and her husband at the plaque where two oceans meet

The author & her husband at the plaque where two oceans meet

The lighthouse has a round tower, 88 ft (27 m) high, painted with red and white bands, indicating that it is a land-based lighthouse. The range of the light is 30 nautical miles (35 miles, 56 km). It rotates, giving off one white flash every 5 seconds.

Visitors can go up the lighthouse (R10 per person), although we feel that the park organizers should not allow small children to go up. It’s interesting with a great view but not easy to get up, with narrow stairs, and steep ladders at some points and definitely not suitable for small kids (or adults with vertigo!).

From the lighthouse you can walk a bit (about 1km) to the southernmost tip of Africa, where there is a small monument with a plaque that straddles the point where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet. But otherwise there is no great fanfare, which we found rather pleasant. How awesome to stand on a spot that’s the most southerly tip of the continent. Next stop, Antartica!

It’s also amazing to stand at the point of the meeting of two great oceans. It’s a very sensory experience at the point: The waves crash onto the rocks around, seagulls wheel and cry and the sun beats down (in the summer). There’s sparse vegetation, but some gorgeous bright flowers grow bravely in between the stones. If you walk around a bit you’ll find pebble bays and rock pools.

 The Meisho Maru shipwreck

The Meisho Maru shipwreck

The meeting point of the two oceans was officially mapped in 1921 by the International Hydrographic Organization. But, the meeting point of the two major currents can sometimes vary, depending on wind and other factors. In general, the warm Mozambique/Agulhas Current brings warm water from the tropics down the east coast of Africa. Parts of it can drift even as far as Cape Point. The cool Benguela Current in the Atlantic comes up from Antartica and brushes the west coast of Africa below the equator.  The two currents meet and mingle to the south of Cape Agulhas and Cape Point, which often causes wild waters and fierce cross currents.

A short drive a little further on the dirt road takes you to the shipwreck of the Meisho Maru in 1982—one of the stark reminders of how treacherous this coast can be. This coast line is notorious for shipwrecks and is dotted with hundreds of shipwrecks.

South Africa: Uva Mira Wine Estate

    Uva Mira Winery with Helderberg mountains in the background

Uva Mira Winery with Helderberg mountains in the background

Their catch phrase “A Celebration of Elevation”

The first time we went here, we’d never heard of this winery but it’s one of our hostesses favorites and we can see why. Gorgeous setting with stunning views of vineyards and mountains.

This boutique winery, in the Stellenbosch wine growing district,  is situated at the end of the road, up on the slopes behind the Helderberg mountains. Unlike Blaauwklippen and some other wine estates, which have many activities besides wine tasting, you go there for the magnificent view—up to the mountains and down to the sea and the beaches. You go there to experience the highest wine estate and the highest vineyards in South Africa (although Delheim also claims to have the highest vineyards). You go there to experience the servers with their practiced humorous patter. And of course for the wonderful wines. They tend to be rather more expensive than some others, but the total experience is worth it. Their chardonnay is reputedly the best in the world!

It’s a very pleasant tasting room next to a cellar with huge oak barrels. The tasting room is all in wood, with an outside deck too and an enclosed sun-room with window ‘walls’. It’s decorated with huge vases of proteas, which they also grow (and sell) on the estate. The entrance steps are decorated with bird tiles, many roosters, a whimsical touch.

    The sign directs us to the tasting room

The sign directs us to the tasting room

The altitude of the vineyards ranges from 420-620m (1,335-2,015 ft) above sea level, providing a cooler climate that helps to produce great wine in South Africa.

The tasting room manager is a local woman—Audrey Olckers— who is a real character with a story. She was a vineyard laborer and rose up the ranks to manager, due to her personality and ability to grasp and explain things, and after she was recommended by some German tourists when she stepped in to help the tasting room one day. Her story adds something extra to the whole tasting experience, as she explains all the wines and their characteristics to the visitors.

There are no real gardens for visitors to walk in and no café per se, although you can order a cheese plate or a meat platter.

We bought the Sauvignon blanc 2012 for R75 (about $8.80 at the exchange rate then) and found it excellent; and one of our party  bought the Uva Mira special blended red. It was R200 ($23.50) on the estate but she really liked it at the tasting and decided to buy it. It was good, I must admit, but way over our usual price range.

R40 pp to taste (about $4.70).

Located off Annandale Road, off R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch. It’s at the end of the road, past a number of other wineries, such as Ernie Els and Guardian Peak.

Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4pm


Maximizing a Trip to Trendy Johannesburg

    Courtesy of flickr.com/thomas_sly

Courtesy of flickr.com/thomas_sly

The large South African city of Johannesburg is a bustling metropolis and an African economic juggernaut. Known in the local language as Joburg, the city embraces an eclectic mix of African, European, and Asian cultures.

Its rich history, together with its progressive outlook, makes it a hip destination for tourists from around the world. There are numerous attractions Johannesburg is known for, but these hip attractions are the city’s staple and will definitely maximize your trip.

Market on Main

Nestled at 245 Main Street, it is the number one ranked food and design market. A must see location if you are visiting or either you’re from Johannesburg, it offers a wide range of interesting items that you can find in other parts of the world.  Something you can bargain for while letting you have a taste of other cultures. In Market on Main, you can also find sumptuous, inexpensive and healthy ethnic food. The outside area is also quite refreshing with all the awesome bars and cozy coffee shops. Market on Main is definitely a place where you can best spend your Sunday mornings.

Gold Reef City

Another place where you can experience extreme fun is South Africa’s premiere theme park, the Gold Reef City. This place offers different kinds of attractions that cater to all ages. Adults enjoy their trip to the mine tour which gives them the experience of how gold-mining feels like. This is one of the highlights that this theme park offers along with the thrill rides and the famous 4D cinema that are both enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Visitors would surely love to indulge with various selections of restaurants, while others can spend their day watching the featured show at the Theatre. Gold Reef City is indeed full of awesome memorabilia of South Africa.

Apartheid Museum

Apartheid Museum is situated in Northern Parkway. Constructed with a budget of approximately 80 million South Africa Rands and is recognized as the pre-eminent museum when it opened in 2001. The museum exhibits South Africa’s 20th century rise and fall during the Apartheid Era. The architectural design is impressive along with their excellent exhibit that explains all about the Apartheid movement. Extraordinary stories unfold right before your very eyes. Paying a visit to this place is a good way to know and experience South African history.

Lion Park

If you want to have a perfect outdoor activity for the weekend, consider visiting The Lion Park. It is an amazing park that is considered home to some herbivores and carnivores. You will truly enjoy your interaction with the animals as you get the amazing chance to get up close- and-personal with them. The park is divided into two areas. Herbivores like giraffe, zebra and other grass-eating animals were separated from the prides of lions, cheetahs, along with some wild dogs and hyenas which are located at the carnivore’s area. This is a great chance for visitors to pet these wild animals and at the same time feed them. The whole family can surely enjoy this trip.

Origins Centre

Anyone, whose interest is the story of humankind and its origins in Africa, should consider having a day of visit in the Origins Center. To provide visitors with Africa’s rich and complicated heritage is their main goal in building the museum. The range of audience that the museum caters are from school kids as well as the ones whose interest is all about Africa’s celebration of history. You can enjoy the wonderful exhibition because of its well done presentation that is both fun and educational.

Author Bio:

Geraldine Mills is a Luxury safari enthusiast and writes travel tips and guidelines for tourists looking for a South African safari experience. She is also a Community Outreach Coordinator for www.andbeyondafrica.com. Follow her on Twitter @geraldinewalks.


Travel to the Southernmost Tip of Africa

Cape Agulhas, Credit-wikitravel

Cape Agulhas, Credit-wikitravel

Exploring Where the Indian and Atlantic Meet at Cape Agulhas

Barely distinguishable from neighboring Struisbaai, the tiny town of L’Agulhas was named by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century and sprung up around the L’Agulhas lighthouse. Surrounded by nearly 9000 species of fynbos (indigenous flora), the town is nestled on the sea’s edge and offers visitors an unhurried, unique South African experience of sea, sky and wilderness.

Contrary to popular belief, the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet here at the southernmost point of Africa, not at Cape Point, which is closer to Cape Town. These dangerous waters around the tip of the continent have been the downfall of many a ship over the centuries, sparking rumours of ghosts in the area, and necessitating the building of the lighthouse in 1848. This is the second oldest working lighthouse in South Africa and visitors can climb the steep stairs to the top for spectacular views of the rough seas where the oceans meet, and then climb back down to enjoy a meal, and a glance at the lighthouse museum.

What to See and Do in Cape Agulhas

South of the lighthouse is an unobtrusive marker that shows the point where the Atlantic and Indian oceans blend. Beach combers will find countless rock pools to explore and plenty of shells to collect, including the paper-thin, delicate Nautilus shells that litter the area. There is also an abundance of birdlife, tortoises, and smaller mammals like mongooses and caracal to spot. Between June and November, the area offers ample opportunities to see calving Southern Right, Humpback and Bryde’s whales breach. There are also dolphins, porpoises and Cape Fur seals that inhabit the area.

East of the lighthouse, one can still see evidence of tidal fish traps made by the area’s original inhabitants thousands of years ago, constructed of layers of rock around natural pools. To the west of the lighthouse is the exposed wreck of a Taiwanese fishing vessel, now home to roosting cormorants and seagulls.

Nearby Struisbaai offers roughly 25km of uninterrupted, pristine beach, with warm Indian Ocean swimming and excellent walking and fishing opportunities. Some of the area’s original thatched fishermen’s cottages are close by and there are 4×4 beach safaris, nature reserves, hikes and horse rides to enjoy.

Where to Stay in Cape Agulhas

There are plenty of bed and breakfasts and guesthouses in the area, including the Agulhas Country Lodge which offers superb three course meals and incredible views. There are campsites in both L’Agulhas and Struisbaai (which get very full on long weekends and school holidays) and a backpacker’s lodge in Struisbaai. There are restaurants, shops and a gas station in both towns, so there is everything the traveller needs to enjoy a relaxed, out of the way stop where the Indian and the Atlantic oceans meet at the tip of Africa.

For more information, see the Agulhas National Park website.

Cruising on the MSC Sinfonia: Total bliss from Durban to Cape Town

 Cruising on the MSC Sinfonia: Total bliss from Durban to Cape Town

Cruising on the MSC Sinfonia: Total bliss from Durban to Cape Town

By Helen Ueckermann,

“I am on a ski holiday,” announced my fellow passenger, an elderly Durban gentleman, balancing his walking stick between his knees.

Ski holiday, I repeated incredulously; we are on an ocean liner, after all…

Yes, he grinned, Spend the Kid’s Inheritance. He laughed a merry laugh while his sixty something girlfriend of 16 years offered a happy smile.

So, this is what my ocean cruise is going to be, I wondered. Filled with funny geriatrics sunning themselves on decks?

I am all for peace and quiet, but maybe not quite on their level, I mused, squinting out over the ocean swells.

I need not have worried. It became clear enough that a cruise on the MSC Sinfonia is a fun filled experience for all.

We embarked in Durban the afternoon before for a four night cruise to Cape Town. The old man forgotten for a moment (I was to encounter the pair several times during the journey, always cracking jokes and having the time of their lives) I azed out over seemingly never ending waters, the warm sun on my skin, a cooling breeze in my hair, a continuous supply of lovely food, combined with friendly, unhurried people in a holiday atmosphere.

No wonder passenger ships have grown increasingly popular as a holiday destination in itself, it is the ultimate getaway from the rat race and related stresses. And here’s the secret – once on the ship, you can go absolutely nowhere. Internet connection is limited and you are effectively cut off from deadlines, clients, pressing assignments.

And so I soon found myself lounging on a deck chair, drink in hand, completely relaxed, all rat race related stress forgotten for now, all left behind in Durban’s busy harbour. Forgetting where the ship was taking me, just being in the moment, floating on the wide open ocean and letting it all go. Luxurious bliss.

Boarding a passenger ship can be a long and quite exhausting process. It entails waiting in queues, lots of stamping of documents, organising of luggage. Be prepared to spend a few hours in administrative hell before you start your long-awaited cruise. This should be no surprise, taking into account that the Sinfonia can accommodate over 2100 passengers who have to be boarded within three hours, and is also home to 730 crew.

My companion and I opted for priority boarding at an extra R500, which made the process much shorter and more pleasant.

We also opted for a spacious balcony suite featuring a double bed, spacious wardrobe, bathroom with bath and shower, television (which we never even switched on), telephone, availability of internet connection by your own laptop (on payment), a mini bar and safe and air conditioning. We were going to enjoy this journey to its very limit, an escape in luxury and style!

The best part of an ocean cruise must be the food, and on the Sinfonia you get great value for money. Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be enjoyed buffet style, or you can join your fellow passengers in the dining rooms, which we, as true gastronomes, preferred: now queues and the meals are indefinitely better than at the buffet counter.

Fine dining can be enjoyed in the Il Galeone and Il Covo restaurants, while casual meals can be enjoyed at the Caffe de Mare out on deck and the La Terrazza Buffet.

If that is not to your liking, you can visit any of the seven indoor cafes and bars, among them Shelagh’s House Irish Pub, the Sinfonia Karaoke Bar and the Buddha Piano Bar. Outside, on the pool deck, you will find the Capri Bar.

Add to this the traditional afternoon teas, fresh fruit carving demonstrations, an evening pizzeria and Chocolate Bar and the captain’s famous gala dinner. Enough about the food already, except to mention that most of it is included in your ticket price, so no worrying about mounting expenses once on board.

For those travelling with children, an ocean cruise is the ideal destination. Not only do kids under 18 who share a cabin with two adults, come along for free, but there is ample entertainment to keep the young ones occupied.

Fore children aged between 4 and 12 years there are special programmes every full day at sea from 09h00 – 12h00 & 14h00 – 17h00, including treasure hunts, fun sports, creative activities and games. An evening activity programme is available from 20h00 until 23h00.

A children’s play area is available for children aged 2 – 4 years of age, however a supervising parent must be present at all time. There are no babysitting facilities on board due to insurance regulations.

Teenagers have their own get-togethers, including supervised disco’s, a video game arcade and a special teen area. While the youngsters are being entertained, you can do as little or as much as you like.

I could choose to spend a lazy day on the pool deck, or get active enjoying lecture presentations, creativity classes, fun activities on the deck and indoor game shows. Daily crosswords, Sudoku, brainteasers and word search puzzles are also available. Other facilities include jacuzzis, a gymnasium, a jogging track, casino, duty free shops and in-cabin movies. After sunset you can choose from live bands, the disco and deck parties.

As for me, I chose to spend lazy days reading on deck and some entertainment in the evenings – live cabaret shows and Bingo. I preferred the decks right at the back of the ship where few people hang out and you can have uninterrupted peace and quiet with the ocean whispering its secrets in the background. Truth be told, I couldn’t even get myself to read, I was so spaced out!

After only four nights on board the MSC Sinfonia, I found myself in another world. In fact, it took me another three days at home to recover and get myself into action mode again. Small wonder I felt a wee bit green towards the few who were continuing their cruise from Cape Town towards the Mediterranean. Another 18 days of blissful relaxation awaited them.

For us it was back to the grinding mill of deadlines and assignments, but not we made a firm promise to ourselves: We will be back!

What to remember: Your ticket, passport, spending money, camera, sun cream, essential medication, and something for motion sickness if you are prone.

How much money do you need: Meals and entertainment are included in your cruise fare. You will need spending money for drinks (15% Bar service charge is levied on all bar and on all restaurant bills), duty free shopping, photos, gambling (including Bingo), your laundry, visits to the beauty salon and optional shore excursions.

Find out more about ocean cruises on the MSC Sinfonia at www.msccruises.co.za.