The road trip around the Western Cape in South Africa was our maiden road trip. As you would gather from my earlier posts, this was our honeymoon. Ankur says that back then, I sounded more excited about the road trip as compared to the wedding. I am not to blame! Please blame the travel bug that bit me! In all honesty, Ankur likes to travel as much as I do and was equally excited to travel to the Southern Hemisphere – he just does not like to say it out loud.
Between the two of us, planning has always been my job and execution has been Ankur’s. Not planning a trip is taking away half the joy of travelling from me! Considering Ankur likes to relax on any vacation, planning is a task as well. Left to him, we would reach a new destination, plonk ourselves on the beach loungers, continue being there for the entire week and then head back home.
I had packed the South African road trip with quite a few destinations and activities. As this was our honeymoon, Ankur patiently went along with my plan. Things are now a little different – every vacation is divided into two parts – part one has activities that I like to do and the other part is for Ankur, where we dunk ourselves in the pool, sun bathe and load ourselves with delicious food.
I guess I am digressing from the topic. Here is a snapshot of the towns that were our pit stops during the South African Western Cape Road trip.
What a beautiful city! Bathed by the Atlantic Ocean and crowned by the Table Mountain, the city definitely deserves a two day halt. We spent our two days exploring the most talked about sights of the city, which included exploring the Table Mountain, saying a ‘Hello’ to penguins at Sinom’s Town, whispering sweet nothings over dinner at the Waterfront, driving around the Cape of Goodhope and enjoying gorgeous colourful sunsets at Chapman’s Peak drive.
There is much more to do in Cape Town than what we did. You can explore vineyards around the city, visit Robben Island – the island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and sunbathe at Camp’s Bay. The city has enough to keep you occupied for four days as well.
Click here to read our top five picks in Cape Town.
Hermanus is famous world over for land based whale watching. There is a annual whale festival held in the town in September. The town also has an official ‘whale crier’ who blows a horn and shouts out loud each time a whale is sighted – interesting concept, isn’t it?
The whale watching season typically lasts form August to October. We were here in December. The season had come to an end and we had no chance of seeing the marine creatures from the shore. Our best bet was to take a boat trip to see the whales. And we were in luck – we saw a large female with its calf frolicking in the water.
Approximately 35km from Hermanus is a little town called Gansbaai, which is famous for the shark cage diving that it hosts. It is amongst the few places in the world that lets us commoners get this close to the great white sharks.
This was one activity Ankur was really excited about! The water was cold and visibility wasn’t the best, but it was still good enough to take a shot and explore whether the sharks find us attractive enough. Lucky day again! We saw an eight feet long great white shark at a distance of less than 4 feet. I can still close my eyes and relive the moment …see the shark’s little eyes and large teeth …and feel the frigid water!
Click here to to read our story on shark cage diving and whale watching.
After a couple of active days at Hermanus and Gansbaai, it was time to chill out and enjoy some wine with the pleasing green cover of the vineyards at Robertson. The town is as pretty as a postcard in spring. The jacaranda trees bloom and cover the town in a shade of purple. The skies are blue and the breeze carries the sweet smell of fresh flowers.
There are over a dozen vineries to choose from at Robertson. We went around exploring three of four vineyards and enjoyed watching the sun set dramatically into the valley as we munched on a delicious beetroot salad. While we stayed in a bed and breakfast in town, you can stay at the vineyards and enjoy some more peace and quiet.
Click here to read further on our stay at the Robertson Wine Valley.
You will not find any guide book highlighting Stilbaai as a destination in South Africa! I wonder why? The drive from Robertson to Stilbaai is beautiful – through the hills and the valleys. Spending two days in Stilbaai was a great decision. If you love the city life, there really isn’t much for you to do here. But if you love nature and want to be in a place that is not crowded by hordes of tourists, you must come here.
The town has a blue flag beach – clean, not too crowded, with life guards et al. There are olive gardens around where you can sit down to eat the cheesecakes and crepes that you will surely remember for years to come – at least I do! For the little ones, there is a place to watch eel feeding and feed them yourself, if you wish to. To enjoy the day, all you need to do is pack a picnic basket, carry a bottle of wine and simply set out. Oh! Don’t forget your sunhat!
Click here to read further on our stay at Stilbaai.
Any search for images on South Africa tourism will surely throw up at least a couple of pictures of ostriches. It is in Oudtshoorn that you can ride one, provided you weigh less than 75 kgs. You can stand on ostrich eggs, have an omelette made out of one and buy feathers and egg shells as souvenirs.
Oudtshoorn calls for a two day break. There is the Cango Wildlife Rach, which is amongst the best zoos that I have ever seen. You can pay a fee and interact with leopard and tiger cubs. You can also pet Jordan – the adult cheetah, who is neither drugged for chained. Another place to visit in Oudtshoorn are the Cango Caves – stalactites and stalagmites in interesting formations.
Tulbagh (Day 9)
Tulbagh is another pretty town in the wine valley around Cape Town. We spent a day here to experience staying in a tree house in the midst of a vineyard. Interesting experience, especially when the tree house would sway just a little when there was a strong gust of wind.
We were here in the cherry season and went to the Ceres cherry farms. There were over 5000 cherry trees of which at least 60% had fruit. You can pick your own cherries or buy cherry jam, cherries in brandy and the list goes on. Highly recommend this activity! I am sure the place would look picture perfect during the cherry blossom season as well.
Cape Town …again (Day 10)
We ended the trip by getting back to Cape Town and having dinner by the Victoria Waterfront and heading off to the airport!
Two cents from my end… Some tips…
- Renting a car in South Africa is easy. You can arrange for a pick up and drop at the airport itself. Most rental agencies have their rental counter at the airport open for 24 hours.
- A GPS is must have. Traffic between towns is low and there are stretches when you can go on for over 25 km without seeing any signboards. The GPS was very accurate and we recommend paying the extra money to have it.
- Route 62 is the famous wine route in South Africa – very scenic. There is also a brandy trail that you could explore.
- Staying at a vineyard is an experience. Almost all vineyards look similar. Pick a place that works the best for you and spend a day.
- Except for Cape Town and Oudtshoorn, none of the other towns that we stayed in had any hotels. There were plenty of bed and breakfast options, where service and accommodation quality matched any four star hotel standard.
- There were other towns that we passed en route – Montagu and George which seemed good if you want to take a break.
As always…send me an e-mail if you need any further details. Glad to help!