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South Africa From thrilling safaris and luxurious lodges, to chic cities and enchanting wineries
Television chef Brian Turner samples the culinary masterpieces of the Western Cape p4-5
Here’s where to find them: from the Big Five to ‘the Serengeti of the sea’ p6-7
Gardeners’ World’s Joe Swift picks the gardens that make South Africa blooming marvellous p11
Cape Town 8
Welcome to South Africa
ILLUSTRATION: SIMON JUGOVIC FINK
wildlife wonderland set in a dramatic landscape, sophisticated cities offering rich culture and world-class cuisine, framed by 2,500km of beautiful beaches and lush rolling winelands... Welcome to South Africa. When it comes to sheer variety, few countries can rival it. From the arid Kalahari Desert in the north to sub-tropical KwaZulu-Natal in the east and the spectacular mountain ranges and grass plains of the Western Cape. But where can you spot the celebrated Big Five – and when? And how can you experience Cape Town and Johannesburg’s thriving cultural and culinary scene? Read on…
Franschhoek Discover why the TV chef Brian Turner savours the flavours of this charming stop, and book to join him on an exclusive Sunday Times gourmet tour to the Cape Cape crusader, page 4
Kruger National Park Bucket list dream to tick off the Big Five? There’s a year-round opportunity to spot elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard in South Africa Call of the wild, page 6
Cradle of Humankind One of SA’s eight World Heritage sites, this rich vein of pre-humanity has around 40 per cent of the world’s human ancestor fossils Jo’burg’s time to shine, page 8
KwaZulu-Natal This sub-tropical province offers some of South Africa’s best game reserves, hiking trails, surfing beaches and historic battlegrounds The road less travelled, page 9
Grootbos Nature Reserve Discover why Gardeners’ World’s Joe Swift loves this glorious nature reserve (hint: it’s all about the “fynbos”) Blooming marvellous, page 11
Stellenbosch Another popular Winelands (and university) town with a thriving food scene of its own – as well as the producers of some of the world’s best wines Cape crusader, page 4
Neighbourgoods Market, Jo’burg Discover this vibrant gourmet food hall and cocktail quaff spot, complete with drop in DJs and pop-up foodie events Jo’burg’s time to shine, page 8
Namaqua National Park Immerse yourself in a floral wonderland – vibrant, colourful carpets of wild flowers stretching across the Northern Cape The road less travelled, page 9
Zeitz Mocaa From historic grain silo to super-hot art house – this unmissable super-gallery of contemporary African art is now open to the public Ten fresh takes on South Africa, page 10
10 Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden There’s a bunch of reasons to visit one of the world’s greatest botanical gardens, so sign up and join our exclusive Sunday Times tour Blooming marvellous, page 11
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of British Airways, and an appointed agent of all the major carriers to Africa More than 30 years in business have allowed Africa Travel to negotiate the very best available rates in the marketplace
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imply put, Africa Travel knows and loves Africa – and wants you to know and love it, too. The team at Africa Travel offer unparalleled knowledge: they have more than 250 combined years of experience and work with a trusted network of on-the-ground contacts. Africa Travel offers unbiased tailormade advice, recommending the holiday experience that’s right for you (if you’re trying to cram in too much, they’ll tell you). The team also offer an extensive product range suitable for every budget and taste – from safari lodges, country house hotels and guest houses, to private villas, luxury trains and five-star hotels.
Africa Travel offers packages to suit every taste, including exciting safari experiences, below
s the only airline that offers direct non-stop flights from the UK to both Johannesburg and Cape Town, British Airways is the obvious choice for those wanting to travel to South Africa. Johannesburg is served with two flights per day from Heathrow, while Cape Town enjoys a daily flight yearround from Heathrow, boosted in the UK winter months by a second daily Heathrow service and a three-times per week flight from Gatwick. One of the newest additions to the British Airways fleet, the double-decked Airbus A380 aircraft operates as the first evening departure in both directions on the London to Johannesburg route and, as with BA’s Heathrow to Cape Town service, it offers four different classes of travel. The First cabin boasts a new design that provides increased privacy and personal space, while new enhancements to the Club World cabin – better quality food, more personalised service and brand new bedding and amenity kits – are due to be introduced over the coming months. The World Traveller Plus and World Traveller
services continue to be market-leaders in their respective classes. With convenient departure times from London Heathrow, these services dovetail perfectly with the airline’s domestic services from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds Bradford, Aberdeen, Inverness and Belfast and, once in South Africa, onward domestic services are offered to Durban and Port Elizabeth and further afield to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mauritius. British Airways also offers services from London to Nairobi, Mauritius and the Seychelles, offering the perfect opportunity for the traveller to combine their South African stay with an Indian Ocean beach break.
THE JOYS OF JO’BURG – THE CITY’S BEST HOTELS For the ultimate in character and/or luxury, these are the names to know
Fairlawns Boutique Hotel and Spa The classically furnished suites of this former luxury private residence are set in acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. The food is renowned, and the two dining options have recently been joined by the Muse Champagne Room, the perfect spot to enjoy a pre-dinner glass. From £170pp per night, B&B
The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa The Saxon was built as a private home and has morphed into the favourite place for passing princes, superstars and presidents, including Nelson Mandela. Offering immaculate five-star service, the property has a selection of suites and villas within its six acres of landscaped gardens. From £260pp per night, B&B
Jo’burg’s time to shine There’s never been a better time to stop for a while in the City of Gold, says Wendy Gomersall
ibrant, cosmopolitan, endlessly exciting… Johannesburg, Jozi or Jo’burg as it’s known, is a sensational destination. It’s a shame, then, that so many travellers pass through on their way to countries such as Botswana and Zambia without staying to enjoy it. With a brilliant mix of world-class museums, fascinating culture and wonderful food and wine (at incredible prices, thanks to the favourable exchange rate with sterling) there’s never been a better time to visit the City of Gold.
Peermont D’oreale Grande Hotel Connecting the short distance to the airport by a complimentary, round-theclock shuttle service, this is the perfect pit-stop for those just passing through, with its pool, gardens, 24-hour gym and spa with its unique mud pool. The hotel is also linked to Caesars, a complex containing a casino, restaurants and bars. From £90pp per night, B&B All of the above can be booked with Africa Travel, which offers a best-price guarantee (020 7843 3583, africatravel.com)
You can learn more about Johannesburg’s history in its excellent museums. The Rainbow Nation is now proud of its racial diversity, but darker days are explored at the Apartheid Museum, which has films, photographs, text panels and artefacts. During a tour of Soweto Township you’ll visit the Hector Pieterson Museum, which commemorates the anti-apartheid uprising of 1976 during which the 12-year-old student Hector Pieterson was among the first to be killed. You can discover the origins of us all at the Cradle of Humankind, a Unesco World Heritage site 50km from Jo’burg. Here, the remains of the first hominid, Australopithecus, were found in 1924.
ART AND CRAFTS
Johannesburg celebrates and cultivates art in many glorious forms, as you’ll see everywhere from its world-class galleries to its vibrant street art. The Maboneng
This July marks the centenary of Mandela’s birth and will be a fantastic time to visit
Precinct is an impressive example of the city’s energetic regeneration, and is home to studios, galleries, exhibition spaces, cinemas and theatres galore. A recent and notable addition to the Revolution House area is the MoAD (the Museum of African Design). The art collection at the Saxon Hotel, Sandhurst,meanwhile, includes sketches by the artist Dean Simon. Among them is Foresight and Hindsight – The Five Faces of Mandela. Mandela wrote his biography, Long Walk to Freedom, here after his 1990 release from prison. This July marks the centenary of his birth and will be a fantastic time to visit.
A tour of Soweto Township includes the brightly painted chimneys; at Mosaic restaurant, Chantel Dartnell has been named the world’s best female chef
The Maslow Hotel Situated in the heart of Sandton, The Maslow offers some of the best facilities in the city. The luxury rooms are complemented by a techno gym, outdoor swimming pool, a wonderful spa and a chic bar, which becomes a hot al fresco meeting spot during the summer months. From £80pp per night, B&B
Johannesburg is a city that loves to eat out, and as a result there’s a thriving mix of food and wine experiences to be found. DW Eleven - 13, in Dunkfeld West, for example, is among the top 50 restaurants in the world. And with the current exchange rate its six-course tasting menu can be enjoyed for less than £50. Chantel Dartnall at Restaurant Mosaic, Elandsfontein, was named the world’s best female chef in October Meanwhile, Fairlawns Boutique Hotel and Spa, Sandton, has opened the elegant Muse Champagne Room and The Maslow, Sandton, has Lacuna Bistro, one of Jo’burg’s finest eateries. And don’t miss Braamfontein’s Saturday Neighbourgoods Market, offering every cuisine imaginable from oysters and champagne to must-try South African yummies such as biltong and milk tart.
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The road less travelled Flights and accommodation up to 40 per cent cheaper, sightseeing without the crowds… visit this fascinating country between April and November, and you’ll enjoy some serious off-peak perks, says Charlie Pengelley
NICE WEATHER FOR IT
South Africa’s autumn (April/May) is a delightful time to visit and explore the country, when crisp evenings, clear mornings and warm days are the norm. Winter in Cape Province (Cape Town/ Garden Route) can be rainy but the inland areas remain sunny and dry.
ATTRACTIONS WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS A trip to Cape Town is never complete without a visit to Table Mountain (the city’s famous flat-top landmark), Robben Island (Nelson Mandela’s prison for 18 years), Kirstenbosch (one of the world’s most beautiful botanical gardens) and the V&A Waterfront (home to many of the best shops, hotels, eateries and entertainment in town). Discover these top attractions crowd-free in the winter months.
The chances of wildlife spotting are actually much higher in low season. As rainfall decreases after the summer rains, the undergrowth dies back and the animals gather around the waterholes in search of a drink. The result is excellent game viewing, especially in parks such as the Kruger, where by September the long savannah grasses have died right back.
WHALE OF A TIME
From June to November southern right whales appear along the south coast of the Cape. Peak calving season, above, is in July and August, with some of the best acrobatic displays of blowing and breaching around Plettenberg Bay and Hermanus during September. Huge pods of dolphins can also be seen year-round.
THE BEST TABLES
World-class cuisine is one of the many joys of visiting South Africa. But it can be difficult booking a table in many of Cape Town’s, Franschhoek’s or Stellenbosch’s internationally renowned restaurants. Luke Dale-Roberts’ The Test Kitchen in Cape Town, for example, is frequently booked months in advance. You’ll have a much better chance in low season.
STAY AND SAVE
There are serious savings to be made at South Africa’s top hotels in low season, with multi-night deals saving you up to 40 per cent on the high-season price.
The east coast, sub-tropical province of KwaZulu-Natal is warm even in August and has many of South Africa’s top visitor attractions. These include some of the best game reserves and wildlife parks (Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park/iSimangaliso Wetland Park), pristine beaches (Durban’s surfing beaches are among the best in Africa), the Drakensberg mountains (best for hiking in April and May), historic battlegrounds (Rorke’s Drift & Isandlwana) and the rolling pastoral beauty of the Midlands region.
PARTY LIKE A LOCAL
Many of South Africa’s best festivals are held outside the peak tourist season. For example, in April, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival features a host of fantastic artists from around the world (capetownjazzfest.com); July celebrates seafood and sport at the big, family friendly Knysna Oyster Festival (oysterfestival.co.za) and September is the eco-marine celebration Hermanus Whale Festival (whalefestival.co.za).
The Winelands of the Western Cape (Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Tulbagh and Wellington) are worldfamous both for their wines and their vineyards which have some of the best restaurants in the country. In peak season, though, they can get very busy. So if you’re looking for a quiet cellar tour and leisurely tasting then low season is the perfect time.
BLOOMING FLOWER ROUTE
Namaqualand in the Northern Cape (five hours north of Cape Town) is famous for the explosion of colour from the wildflowers which bloom in this semi-desert landscape between August and early October, centred on the towns of Garies, Springbok, Kamieskroon and Port Nolloth. Africa Travel (020 7843 3583, africatravel.com) is a specialist luxury tour operator which handcrafts the most authentic African holiday itineraries throughout the continent. A best-price guarantee is offered for any like-for-like itinerary
Ten fresh takes on South Africa
1. ZEITZ MOCAA
Fancy something a bit out of the ordinary? Suzanne King shares some experiences that will show you the country in a whole new light
The striking interior of the Zeitz Mocaa, left; Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, right; abseiling down Table Mountain, below right
London has the Tate, Paris has the Centre Pompidou – and now Cape Town has Zeitz Mocaa, a major new showcase for contemporary African art. The building itself is extraordinary - converted from a 1920s grain silo - but just as impressive is the inside, which includes a photography centre, costume institute and more than 100 galleries. And topping it all, a rooftop sculpture garden with stunning views of Table Mountain. Admission £10 per person
2. ABSEIL TABLE MOUNTAIN
Everyone goes up Table Mountain, of course, but most content themselves with strolling the summit and admiring the amazing views. For an extra dash of adventure, though, Abseil Africa gives you the chance to rope up and step backwards off the top for a dramatic 112m descent down a sheer cliff. Abseil from £55 per person
3. STONY POINT NATURE RESERVE
When it comes to penguin-spotting, Stony Point Nature Reserve has two big advantages over the better-known Boulders Beach: more birds and fewer people. A wooden boardwalk around the rocky shoreline puts you right in the heart of the Western Cape’s largest breeding colony of African penguins, a joy to watch as they waddle across the sand to swoop and streak through the water. Admission £1.20 per person
4. DYLAN LEWIS SCULPTURE GARDEN
Just south of Stellenbosch, this sculpture garden is the creation of local artist Dylan Lewis and acts as a showcase for his own pieces and those of sculptors he admires. The dramatic setting in the foothills of the Hottentots Holland mountains provides the perfect backdrop for the artworks - powerful animal and human forms, inspired by Lewis’s passion for wilderness. Admission £5.50 per person
by beach buggy. With driver-guide Deon at the wheel, you can sit back, wind in your hair, and enjoy the adrenaline rush as you bounce through coastal dunes and bushland, watching out for whales and dolphins. Two-hour tour from £90
For most of the year the Tankwa Karoo is deserted, wide-open spaces. Every spring, though, this wilderness plays host to AfrikaBurn, South Africa’s version of the USA’s Burning Man festival (this year it’s taking place from April 23-29 and the theme is “Working Title”, with visitors encouraged to help build a new, temporary city from scratch). Expect a wild week of creative, engaging artistic installations, performance art, creatively customised vehicles and colourful costumes – all culminating in a bonfire, where a huge effigy goes up in flames. Tickets from £130 per person
8. SIDECAR TOURS
You could drive yourself round the beautiful Cape coast and winelands – but how much more exciting to let a local biker do the work for you, while all you have to do is soak up the scenery from the pillion or sidecar? Cape Sidecar Adventures supplies the gear (helmet, leather jacket, goggles and a free bandana) and you can choose your route, from magical two-hour, half-day and full-day tours. Half-day tours from £220 per person
9. HORSEBACK WINE TASTING
Touring the Cape’s wine estates has become a classic must-do but, for something a bit different, try wine tasting on horseback. Paradise Cottages and Stables runs half-day scenic rides that allow you to soak up the beauty of the Franschhoek valley at a leisurely pace, stopping off at local wineries to sample the viniculture. Four-hour tours from £55 per person
5. FIRST THURSDAYS
If you visit the arty quarters of Cape Town or Johannesburg at the start of any month, you’ll find them even more animated than normal. Welcome to First Thursdays, where galleries and museums stay open late, offering visitors the chance to stroll from one to the next, enjoying the exhibitions and refuelling en route at the bars, cafés and food trucks that join in the fun. Free admission
6. BEACH BUGGY TOUR
The west-coast village of Paternoster has glorious beaches, and one exhilarating way to explore them is
10. MEERKAT WALK meerkatadventures.co.za
hy do we love meerkats so much? “I think it’s the fact that they can stand on two legs,” says JD Glinister, of Meerkat Adventures in Oudtshoorn. “It’s a humanlike feature that people love.” JD should know: every morning he leads small groups of early-rising meerkat-lovers out into the semi-desert landscapes of the Klein Karoo for some really close encounters with these shy animals. “Usually in the wild you don’t get closer than about
200m,” says JD, “So we spent more than a year habituating them and earning their trust. We’d go out early in the morning and sit at a distance from the burrows, gradually moving a few steps closer each day. And we’d talk a lot, telling them random stories, so they’d get used to human voices.” Now, the meerkats are happy for groups to sit just 5m-7m away, with a grandstand view of their morning routines. “The first
THE FIRST MEERKAT POPS UP TO MAKE SURE THE COAST IS CLEAR AND THE WEATHER IS FINE
meerkat pops up to make sure the coast is clear and the weather is fine,” says JD. “Then the rest of the family will emerge and start warming up in the sun, and scent-marking each other. After that, they leave the burrows to go foraging – and we head off to get some breakfast of our own.” From £35 per person All of the above can be booked as part of a South African holiday with Africa Travel: 020 7843 3583
Sit back and enjoy the rush as you bounce through the coastal dunes and bushland
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The South Africa floral tour
I N C LU D E S R E TU R N FLI G HT S AN D TR AN S FE R S
14 DAYS FROM
£3,795 PER PERSON
Services of a specialist horticultural tour manager
Luxury five-star accommodation
Gardeners’ World presenter Joe Swift picks his favourites among South Africa’s gardens, admiring the lush landscapes and unique plant life before there is the opportunity to see them for yourself on a unique Sunday Times tour
KIRSTENBOSCH BOTANICAL GARDEN
Set at the foot of Table Mountain, the range, diversity and beauty in this incredible garden is a great introduction to South Africa’s plant life. The Cape is one of six “floral kingdoms”, containing the world’s highest concentration of plant species. More remarkable is that 70 per cent of the Cape’s 9,600 species grow nowhere else on earth, so visiting the Botanical Garden offers a once-in-alifetime opportunity. I really enjoyed the tree canopy walkway, which brings you level with the birds and has great views.
GROOTBOS NATURE RESERVE
This glorious nature reserve and hotel offers “plant safaris”, which give visitors a chance to get a real feel for South
Africa’s flora and fauna. The region is famed for its “fynbos”; a Dutch word, meaning “fine leaved”, which defines the shrubby heathland vegetation native to the Cape Region. Fynbos is made up of plants such as heathers, protea and luecadendron (beautiful silver trees). I was lucky enough to be taken out into the fynbos by one of Grootbos’s expert guides, who introduced me to the medicinal uses of many of the plants.
HAROLD PORTER NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDEN
First gardened in the 1950s, this area between Cape Town and Grootbos is where the fynbos is richest, with scatterings of vibrant Disa orchids, daisies and irises, bringing colour to the more manicured areas of the garden. There are ten acres to explore, with a vast range of plants, and beyond the estate there are several kilometres of nature trails. We took a hike along the river and had an unforgettable encounter with some baboons, who were, thankfully, unaggressive.
I loved this relatively new garden in the hamlet of Simondium, built on the site of one of the oldest Dutch farms. The central 8 acres are formally laid out and produce more than 300 varieties of fruit
and vegetables, while beyond the formal areas, there are meandering paths through the fabulous plant collection. The shaded walk beneath olive trees and oak, with around 700 clivia carpeting the ground, was a highlight for me, but the whole place is beautifully laid out. Stunning.
This is another favourite: a very classy, beautifully balanced garden in Cape Town, which surrounds one of the most beautiful Dutch-style houses in the Cape. Stellenberg is divided into 12 distinct areas, including the White Garden, the Garden of Paradise, the Herb Garden, the Garden of Reflection and a slightly more contemporary, ultra-formal walled garden. The latter was simply magical – the day I visited, it was full of perfume.
STELLENBOSCH UNIVERSITY BOTANICAL GARDENS
Located right in the middle of the charming old-world town, I really enjoyed my visit, as the gardens are filled with an eclectic mix of plants, including dramatic palms and exotics. It feels more like a botanical park than a formal garden; there are interesting ponds and water features, and the lawns were dotted with families.
Private guided tours of three National Botanical Gardens
o place on earth can beat South Africa for its flowers and gardens. Discover them at their very best while staying at luxury accommodation on this exclusive 14-day group tour.
Wildflower visits to the West Coast National Park, Kokerboom Nursery and Ramskop Wildflower Nature Reserve Includes direct return flights and all transfers Departure August 16, 2018.
0330 160 8517 quote RA457 thetimes.co.uk/deals
Price based on two people sharing a room. Single rooms available at a supplement. Travel insurance is not included, but is highly recommended. This holiday is operated by and subject to the booking conditions of Africa Travel ATOL 3384. RA457.
Published on Jan 28, 2018
Published on Jan 28, 2018
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