South Africa is a spectacularly large and diverse country and yet so many people overlook areas outside the Western Cape and Kwa Zulu Natal. We are pleased to showcase here 5 different inspiring ideas for travel to different regions within South Africa.
SPRING FLOWERS – NORTHERN CAPE
Every year, between July and September the desert areas of the Northern Cape come to life with the most amazing array of flowers On the Northern Cape's Wild Flower Route, you can literally see flowering plants from horizon to horizon when weather conditions are right. From spreads of the legendary Namaqualand daisies to thousands of other floral species in every shape and colour, you need to experience this at least once in your lifetime. More than 3 500 floral species emerge in spring and all this is found just three hours north of Cape Town.
You can already see evidence of flowers even in Cape Town, and Postberg, a small section of the West Coast National Park close to Langebaan, gets the juices flowing, but the real flower show belongs to a series of drives that centre on the towns of Garies, Springbok, Kamieskroon and Port Nolloth, way up the N7. Included in the wild flower route are the Richtersveld National Park, Goegap Nature Reserve, and Skilpad Wild Flower Reserve. The floral displays are weather dependent and to stand the very best chance, we recommend mid to end of August as the best month for travel. Do plan to allow at least three nights – there is plenty to see and do!
The name Kalahari is derived from the Tswana work “Kgala”, meaning the great thirst, or “Kgalagadi”, meaning the waterless place. It has been inhabited by the Bushman for 20 000 years as hunter-gatherers, who lived in a harmonious relationship with the environment until the influx of African and European man. In the south of the Kalahari – often known as the Green Kalahari, the luxury wilderness resort of TSWALU is to be found. Tswalu is situated in the heart of the Northern Cape Province, some 300 kilometres north-west of Kimberley and 270 kilometres north-east of Upington. Johannesburg lies 560 kilometres to the east and Cape Town some 850 kilometres to the south.
Where is Tswalu?
The nearest town is Kuruman, famous for the Kuruman Eye and Moffat Mission from which Dr Livingstone set off into what was then deepest Africa. Tswalu is close to the border with Botswana and within easy driving distance of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. As such, Tswalu represents the gateway to the splendour of the Kalahari.
Why should I go?
- Tswalu Kalahari, owned by the Oppenheimer family, is South Africa’s largest private game reserve, covering an area of over 100,000 hectares (1000 sq km or almost a quarter of a million acres). For comparison, this is twice the size of Pilanesberg National Park and bigger than the entire Madikwe reserve
- No other game reserve offers such flexibility. Your dedicated compliment of field guides and butlers allow you to choose how you would like to spend your day – from breakfast in bed to a leisurely spa treatment in the comfort of your own deck overlooking the magnificence of the Kalahari. Thereafter enjoy a leisurely game drive, and indulge in a private gourmet picnic savouring the essence of Africa.
- Tswalu is MALARIA FREE and has superlative game and offers sightings of some of South Africa’s rarest and most extraordinary wildlife, including:
- Desert black rhino (Diceros bicornis). Tswalu’s population represents one third of South Africa’s entire remaining desert black rhino
- Black-maned Kalahari lions
- Cheetah. Easily viewed in the open savannah
- Rare antelope such as roan, sable and tsessebe; Tswalu has significant populations of all three
- Diversity. Over 70 species of mammal and 230 species of birds (including endangered raptors). Other sightings may include the elusive aardvark, aardwolf, pangolin and porcupine
- The Kalahari is the ancestral home of the San people (Bushman). Some of their ancient engravings can be seen at Tswalu; current research suggests these may be amongst the oldest art on Earth
- At maximum capacity Tswalu will take only 30 guests in total. This represents the lowest imaginable density of visitors. The emphasis here is on privacy and exclusivity – your own private Kalahari
- Tswalu is located in a malaria-free area, welcomes families and actively encourages children to participate fully in the safari experience
- Because of its unique landscape, wildlife and experience, Tswalu combines perfectly into any itinerary and provides the ideal partnership with both the intensity of the lowveld or the glamour of Cape Town
What might I see that is special?
Of course the big game is great – Lion, Rhino and Cheetah…… but Tswalu offers an incredibly good chance to view aardvark, aardwolf, porcupine or brown hyena at close range.
Can I take children?
Tswalu Kalahari is very family friendly. Tswalu’s Junior Ranger programme has been carefully designed to meet the enthusiasms of a broad age range. Activities include archery (where you will make your own bow and arrow), spoor identification and casting, as well as tracking on foot. Children’s bush walks are hugely educational without ever feeling like it (adults can come too). Every child is welcomed with a backpack full of guides and tools, as well as their own opportunity to chat with our hospitality staff about what they would like to do.
Other special opportunities
Horseback safaris - The horseback safaris take place across grassy plains and rolling Kalahari dunes with spectacular views across the desert. The Korannaberg mountains, pink and mauve in the late afternoon sun, provide the backdrop.
Tswalu’s horses meet the needs of absolute beginner to advanced equestrian alike. Both trail and English saddles are available. Every piece of necessary equipment is provided, in every imaginable size.
CRADLE OF HUMANKIND
Located 50km north west of Johannesburg. The Cradle of Humankind is one of eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa. Here, the landscape is dotted with subterranean limestone caves that have turned up a rich fossil record for human evolutionary studies, which lend credence to the 'Out of Africa' theory of where our ancestors came from. Archaeological finds within the Cradle of Humankind include two-million-year-old stone tools. It’s a place that draws visitors from around the world for the fossil record that lies in the network of limestone caves beneath the surface. Here you’ll find the Sterkfontein Caves, Swartkrans and Kromdraai, among other fossil sites, all places that tell the story of what the world was like when our human ancestors were evolving some two to three million years ago.
WATERBERG NATURE RESERVE – AND SO MUCH MORE!
Night Sky Safaris Horse Riding Bush Running Mountain Biking
The Waterberg mountain range is situated in the Limpopo province of South Africa and is one of the more pristine, scenic and wildlife rich areas in South Africa. Positioned on the Eastern side of the Waterberg range the Waterberg Wilderness reserve is only 5 hours from Johannesburg and conveniently positioned half way to Botswana.
It’s size is equivalent to 80% of the Kruger National park and approximately 70% has already been designated a conservation area and home to the Big 5 and more, Sable and Roan antelope (rarely seen anywhere else today) are an iconic species of the area and a must see!
The Waterberg is also home to the incredibly beautiful Marakele National Park which today hosts one of the world’s largest breeding colonies of the endangered Cape Vulture. These magnificent birds nest on the cliffs of the Santech towers which is the highest point in the Waterberg and boasts some of the best vistas imaginable.
An absolutely FABULOUS place to be based is the quaintly named ANT`S HILL or ANT`S NEST – both owned and run by Ant and Tessa Baber. The Baber family were one of the earliest pioneers in the area, settling here in 1886. Of English and Irish descent, they carry with them a love for Africa’s wide-open spaces, adventure and a passion for its wildlife
Ant`s Hill and Ant`s Nest are two bush homes – managed to an exceptional standard that provide families, individuals, small groups – with the “holiday of a lifetime”.
- Swimming with the horses
- Mountain biking
- Elephant back safaris
- Rhino tracking
- Big 5 game drives
- Night sky safaris
- Camp outs
- Visit to our local children’s home
Amongst the huge number of things to see and do are :
- Game drives
- Guided walks / walking safaris
- Led pony rides for beginners or under 4
- Bug and spoor walks / learn to become a ranger
- Horse riding lessons
- Horse riding safaris / full day rides
- Snake and reptile talks / handling
NIGH SKY SAFARIS – These are exceptional!
See the night sky as you have never done before. With the advanced telescopes, astronomical video cameras and talented astronomers, let yourselves be introduced you to the wonders of the universe – live and in colour. The experience is designed for those with no previous knowledge of astronomy and the aim is to take you on a tour of the wonders of the amazing African night sky. A live feed is displayed from the telescopes of whichever of the planets are visible. See the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn or the phases of Venus. Understand the myths and extraordinary science of the planets. Follow the life story of a star from its stunning birth to its dramatic and beautiful death. Then go deeper into the universe to see an amazing glimpse of clusters and galaxies so far away that light itself has taken millions of years to reach us from them. Watch the craters and seas of our very own moon, and understand its amazing secrets. Get a personal tour of the constellations of the night sky, and learn their fascinating myths and facts.
THE 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. Scores of fishermen join the sharks, game fish, marine mammals and birds that gorge themselves on the shimmering band of silver fish.
Sardine-run shoals are usually 15km long, 4km wide and approximately 40m deep – an awesome sight to see!
By the end of July they’re gone – disappeared just as suddenly as they arrived, vanishing into the great blue beyond.
Like whale watching in Hermanus or travelling to Namaqualand to see the wildflowers in bloom, South Africa’s famed sardine run is a seasonal peculiarity that is popular among local and international visitors. It’s a phenomenon certainly worth watching – from land, the ocean surface or underwater. Schools of sharks, follow the shimmering path of prey, feasting on the fish. Marine mammals and game fish follow in hot pursuit. Cape fur seals, humpback and minke whales, and thousands of dolphins are joined by shoals of shad, garrick and ‘geelbek’ (a type of kob) as they dive, snap and feed on what appears to be an unlimited supply of sardines.
As the sardines move closer to the surface of the water, birds plummet out of the sky to pillage from above. Cape gannets, cormorants, terns and gulls all dive-bomb the coast in an unrelenting aerial assault. In areas where the sardines swim very close to the coast, game fishermen and local sardine lovers wade into the water and secure their share. This is a marine spectacle at its best – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view creatures of the earth, sky and water taking part in one of nature’s unexplained mysteries. Opportunities abound for those looking to observe the great sardine-run phenomenon, whether it be from the coast, from the deck of a boat, underwater or with a snorkel.
These are just a few of the many special things The Independent Traveller can do to make your South African Adventure special. For more information and travel inspirations, contact us.