Western Cape, South Africa


Picture Gallery

Perched right at the tip of the continent, straddling 2 oceans, the Western Cape is completely unlike anywhere else in Africa - probably the world. With its hot summers and cool rainy winters, it's just perfect for the production of fruit, grain and - most importantly - wine.

Yes, this is wine country. Rippling green vineyards stretch out towards distant purple mountains while ancient oaks guard, sleepy homesteads. Time moves to the rhythm of the grape - slow in ripening and frenetic in picking season. There are so many wine farms to choose from.

The pleasure continues with shopping sprees at the scenic V&A (Victoria and Alfred) Waterfront in Cape Town or you could go wild on seafood or eat oysters in Knysna. There's more than food and wine, though. Adventurous visitors could head off to the beach, or hike in the mountains. Walk among the daisies, catch fish or paddle a kayak off Cape Town to see the seals.

You can learn to surf, jump off a mountain or out of a plane, fly upside down in a Harvard Trainer, ride a horse through a vineyard, stopping for a quick taste, or climb up Table Mountain and watch the sun set. You could also hire a mountain bike and explore the pine plantations - or De Hoop Nature Reserve, where whale watching is the highlight.

But if you are really keen on whale watching, plan a walk along the cliff top in Hermanus or go boating in Plettenberg Bay. Curious visitors could go to Cape Point and decide for themselves if they can see the line where the two oceans allegedly meet or go further east to Cape Agulhas to the official meeting point.

But appearances can be deceiving. This 100 km stretch of coastline is among the most hazardous in the country. Popular wisdom has it that the needle-sharp reefs that graze the shallows gave L'Agulhas its name. The truth is more prosaic. Early Portuguese explorers to the area found that their compass readings showed no deviation from true north and magnetic north and thus the Cape of the Needle was christened.

On a summer Sunday afternoon, locals and visitors pack a picnic and hang out with their friends on the lawns at the world famous Kirstenbosch gardens waiting for the sunset concert to begin. You could also hire a car and drive up Route 62 to the Garden Route and you still would not have seen half of what this lovely province has to offer.

Cape Town, the major urban centre in the Western Province is a magical city and, of course, a major tourist attraction. Further up the coast, the small city of George is the de facto capital of the Garden Route and a veritable magnet for golfers.

Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are the most popular destinations on this scenic coast. Further inland, the Karoo town of Oudtshoorn offers visitors the wonderful Cango Caves and a chance to see ostriches.