Dear Partners in Travel,
I had the opportunity to take one of our Nordic agents on a site inspection trip at the end of January. We focussed on some of the more ‘off the beaten track’ areas around the Cape. I’m sure many of you would have a keen interest in our journey around the Cederberg and West Coast Region.
Some of you might have followed our trip through social media on Facebook and Instagram (follow us on these platforms for instant and quick updates if you are not already doing so). I’m however including a more detailed report with opinions and insights for your benefit.
Montagu is a quaint little town worth a visit and a stay – and only 2 hours from Cape Town. Filled with guesthouses, restaurants and quirky shops, it has long been a weekend getaway destination for the domestic market – but also for many repeat international tourists. For those looking for wide open spaces, spectacular scenery and a taste for some active enjoyment it is ideal with many hiking and mountain bike trails. The town is also in an area of fruit orchards and vineyards which allows for additional sightseeing options including wine tasting. Montagu is an hour from Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, but is also the gateway to the scenic Route 62 towards Oudsthoorn and also the Garden Route.
We stayed at Montagu Country Hotel – with its distinctly Art Deco design and décor. The hotel underwent a spruce-up in 2020 on their public areas to add a refreshed and modern touch to the Art Deco theme. The hotel also offers local tours in a 1950’s Cadillac which would delight vintage car lovers but also be a treat for the average Joe looking for a slightly quirky experience.
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve:
Sanbona is 58000 hectares of vast open wilderness bordered by spectacular mountains and punctuated by intriguing rock formations. It is movingly beautiful in its arid harshness.
Although a Big 5 reserve, it will not be one to send first time safari guests with a ‘ticklist’ of animals they would like to see. Repeat visitors looking for a unique safari experience or guests that would appreciate the natural scenery in this nearly semi-desert environment. Let your soul breathe the openness, stillness and strangely soothing palate of this arid landscape.
We stayed at the flagship Dwyka Tented Camp cocooned in the end of a valley and surrounded by steep rock cliffs with its fascinating formations. The 9 well-appointed 5 star tents are placed to take full advantage of the dramatic effect of the rock cliffs. Food, service and style hits the mark to compliment this unique setting.
Unfortunately we were unable to view the other accommodation options, Gondwana and Tilney Manor.
Kagga Kamma is situated in the Koue Bokkeveld region of the Cederberg – about 4 hours from Cape Town. To reach this truly unique destination there is an roughly 35km stretch of dirt road at the end of the journey that is stunningly beautiful but might be a bit harrowing for the average international city dweller (and those prone to motion sickness). Steep inclines and needle-pin corners on loose gravel might be everyday for someone from Bhutan, not so much for those from Singapore or Copenhagen.
But it is worth it if you’d like to experience a landscape that you might think is from another planet. Photographers (and the Instagram crowd) will have a blast and possibly OD on unique formation pics.
The accommodation in cave inspired rooms might not be for everybody but adds to the experience. Millennials, active and outdoor seekers and those who like to push the boundaries of their comfort levels for a unique experience will appreciate this product.
Besides Instagram Nirvana, Kagga Kamma offers scenic hikes, quadbike excursions, 4×4 nature drives and stargazing tutorials. Their rock art tour will offer you insight into the San people, their culture and rock painting – some that date back thousands of years.
Kagga Kamma also offers the opportunity to spend the night under the skies in either their Star Suite or Sky Suite. Located a few kilometres from the lodge, you will dine and sleep under the stars with the expanse of the Cederberg, your open air room.
Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve
At the northern end of the Cederberg, about 45 min outside the town of Clanwilliam, nestled in the Biedow Valley lies the Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve. After hours of arid, stark and rugged landscapes the main lodge location is an oasis of green, shade and tranquillity.
As a member of Relais & Chateaux you can expect only the best in terms of food, service, ambiance and style at Bushmans Kloof. I would describe the style as classic farmstead Colonial.
Thatched roofs, shaded verandas, lush gardens and sprawling lawns create the impression of an oasis. A retreat not only from the arid landscape but the rat-race, the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life, the fast-paced rush of modern living and the dread of pandemic restrictions everybody experienced. The contrast from the arid Cederberg accentuates the value of and ability to replenish, refresh and rejuvenate in this environment. For the mind. For the body. For the soul.
For those who prefer to get the blood pumping a bit while in this environment, there are numerous hikes from the lodge and canoeing or fly-fishing on the nearby dam. 4×4 nature excursions will get you close to the fauna and flora of the region and if you are lucky you could spot scarce species such as Cape Mountain Zebra, Black Wildebeest and Eland.
Rock art tours to a variety of sites on the property will give you insights into the lives of the San, the Khoi and the Khoisan people who inhabited this area in earlier millennia.
The small fishing village of Paternoster In the West Coast of South Africa hit the headlines in 2019 when Wolfgat Restaurant won acclaim as the top restaurant in the world from a travel channel. But Paternoster was on the map for many already – small, charming, authentic and typically West Coast, it already had a following (mostly domestically but increasingly internationally too).
With seating for only 20 diners and limited days of operation, Wolfgat is notoriously difficult to get in – but don’t despair, the town has a number of great restaurants that will delight you with local fare and especially seafood. Wolfgat is naturally one of a kind, but shouldn’t be the sole reason for your visit. Browse the local craft shops and galleries, take long walks on the beaches, breathe the fresh Atlantic Ocean air or just stare out to the ocean while enjoying a glass of chilled wine. This is a destination less about doing and more about just being.
There are a variety of guesthouses in the little town – from slightly monastic to the sublime. Our preferred choices of accommodation would be Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel and Abalone House. Detailed feedback on these are available on request.
Grand Dedale is located on the Doolhof Wine estate outside Wellington. Slightly off the beaten track in terms of the winelands but still close enough for easy excursions to Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.
The wine estate is nestled in a secluded valley below the Bainskloof Pass and an ideal base for hiking and mountain biking excursions from the hotel. Naturally tasting the wine of the estate is a suitable activity too!
The hotel occupies the Manor House of the estate and incorporates classical French and Italian design décor elements. A wraparound veranda with breath-taking views of the valley is popular all day long – breakfast, lunch and dinner or just while savouring a glass of wine and enjoying the view.
With only 7 rooms it is small, intimate and personalised with onsite involvement of the owners and their team. If the traditional Cape Winelands area is getting a tad too busy for you, this is the place to be.
During our travels we also managed to look at Bushmans Kloof Koro Lodge, Cederberg Ridge , Gonana Guesthouse in Paternoster and Grande Roche in Paarl. I’d gladly share my comments on these on request basis.
South Africa’s borders are open for International tourists. Our Covid-19 positive cases have dropped significantly since the peak of our second wave in early January. Daily new numbers are now below those prior to the start of the second wave in mid-December. Lockdown regulations have been relaxed.
Our trip is an indication that travel is still possible in a safe, responsible yet fulfilling & enjoyable way.
We understand the lockdown restrictions in many countries makes travel virtually impossible for the residents of those countries, but we’re ready for those who can travel. And await the rest when lockdown restrictions allow all to travel.
We continue to work towards a recovery in travel.
Yours in travel,