Relish exceptional star-gazing in the Karoo along with the pristine beauty of the De Hoop Nature Reserve.
Guests are met and welcomed at a location of their choice in Cape Town by their private African Sky guide. After taking care of a few formalities, your guided tour of South Africa’s Overberg and Karoo begins. A forty-minute drive leads us into the heart of South Africa’s wine-producing region, where the stark contrast between vineyards and rugged mountains makes the perfect backdrop for a tour of the region.
Stellenbosch, the oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town, is also one of the most historically well-preserved. Water furrows along oak-lined streets complement the many fine examples of Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian architecture - all part of this unique ‘Town of Oaks’. The Stellenbosch Wine Route is the oldest and probably the most visited of the Western Cape’s wine routes. Many of the estates are very old, their gabled, whitewashed Cape Dutch homesteads, rolling vineyards and shade-dappled grounds lovely beyond measure. The nearby village of Franschhoek – ‘French Corner’ - owes its existence to a small group of French Huguenots who were settled here in the latter half of the 17th century and began working the Drakenstein Valley. Many of the settlers named their new farms after the regions in France from which they originated. La Motte, La Cotte, Cabriere, Provence, Chamonix, Dieu Donne and La Dauphine were among some of the first established farms, most of which still retain their original buildings to this day. While in the winelands, you’ll visit several fine estates in the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek districts. Many noble cultivars and classic styles are on show here, from superb whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Chenin Blanc, to rich reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot. A visit to the Huguenot Museum is also included. The region, and particularly Franschhoek, is also home to several of South Africa’s best restaurants.
After breakfast your tour climbs the Franschhoek Pass, famous for its views across the valley. Originally known as ‘die olifantspad’ - literally ‘the elephant’s path’ - the pass was created by migrating elephant herds in times past. After summiting the mountain and stopping for a moment to enjoy the scenic view, the road descends into the valley beyond. Once we pass the Theewaterskloof Dam, our route takes us east. En route, we’ll make a stop in the historic village of Genadendal. The first mission station in South Africa, dating back to 1737, is located here. Georg Schmidt, the founder, fell out of favor with the Cape Dutch Reformed Church clergy when he began to baptize his converts. According to them, Schmidt was not an ordained minister and as such, was not permitted to administer the sacraments. Schmidt was forced to abandon his work and, in 1744, after seven years, returned to Europe. Our route also takes us via Bonnievale, located in an area often referred to as The Valley of Cheese and Wine. Here you’ll enjoy a light lunch at Cafe on Weltevrede, located on the family-owned Weltevrede Estate in the Robertson Valley. Your lunch platter includes all sorts of local cheeses, olives, breads, spreads and cured meats, paired with fine Weltevrede wines and a breathtaking view over the vineyards. Before departing Bonnievale, we’ll make a quick stop at the Myrtle Rigg Memorial Church. The church was built in 1921 in the Norman-style by Christopher Forrest Rigg, in memory of his daughter Mary Myrtle, who died in 1911 after contracting meningitis. Later, we’ll arrive at our accommodations at Orange Grove, a working wine and olive farm below the scenic Langeberg Mountains. Activities at Orange Grove include hiking trails (self-guided and guided) in their fynbos environment, mountain biking, 4x4 nature drives and birdwatching, with more than 200 species recorded in the region, including Verreaux's, Fish and Booted Eagles.
Today your tour treks northwards into South Africa’s Great Karoo and the remote village of Sutherland, your home for the next two nights. Before reaching our destination, we’ll make a stop at Matjiesfontein, founded in 1884 by the Scottish railwayman James Douglas Logan. During the Victorian era, the village was a fashionable health spa. Today, it’s well-known for its historical buildings and its peace and timelessness - rare in modern-day South Africa. Once in Sutherland, the remainder of the day is spent at leisure. The following day, we’ll visit the famous SALT - the Southern African Large Telescope. SALT is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and amongst the largest in the world. The telescope has a hexagonal primary mirror array, eleven meters across, comprising ninety-one individual hexagonal mirrors. Your tour begins with a walk-through of the Visitors Center and is followed by a guided tour of selected research telescopes – including SALT. During the evening, we head out to Sterland Farm a kilometer outside of town for a more personal, in-depth stargazing experience. Following an indoor presentation on a three-meter screen, the group will head out to the Muisbos Amphitheater, where visitors will observe the spectacular night sky through Celestron Go-To telescopes. Remember to dress warmly – Sutherland also happens to be the coldest town in South Africa!
After breakfast, we make our way southwards again, passing through Laingsburg and Barrydale before reaching Swellendam. The town boasts over fifty national monuments, most built in the Cape Dutch architectural style. In 1743, Swellendam was declared a magisterial district, and we take some time to visit the very well-preserved Drostdy buildings, including the slave quarters which were common at that time in the Cape Colony. Swellendam was once considered the very eastern extremity of the Colony, beyond which lay a wild and unexplored Africa, and many famous explorers and travelers, including François Le Vaillant, Lady Anne Barnard, and William John Burchell, passed through here. Later, we’ll travel the short distance to the De Hoop Nature Reserve. De Hoop is a 34,000-hectare World Heritage Site, which includes a protected marine reserve stretching three miles out to sea. A wide variety of activities are available to enjoy at De Hoop, from a guided interpretative marine walk exploring the coastal rock pools during low tide, to a morning bird watching hike with one of De Hoop’s qualified field guides. A guided mountain biking trail is also available, offering spectacular views and potential encounters with the reserve’s myriad wildlife, like eland, baboons and ostriches, as well as rare species like the Cape mountain zebra and bontebok. Alternatively, head out of the reserve for an exploration of the tiny Elim Wine Route, visit the shipwreck museum in Bredasdorp, or spend your time just unwinding in this tranquil environment.
Note: Activities mentioned are optional and at an additional expense.
Today we’ll pay a visit to Cape Agulhas, the southern-most tip of the African continent. Cape Agulhas or the ‘Cape of Needles’ (because of the many rocks and reefs in the area), was so named by the Portuguese as ‘Cabo das Agulhas’ around the year 1500, and is the geographical southern tip of the African continent and the official meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. The area is set in undulating fynbos-covered hills in a kaleidoscope of gold, green and brown, and with endless beaches and dunes. Fragrances of fynbos merge with mountain and sea air. Our visit here includes a stop at the museum and lighthouse. Later, your tour winds its way through the rolling Overberg countryside to the seaside village of Hermanus. Hermanus has since August 1992 had the world’s only whale crier, who sounds his kelp horn to announce when whales have been sighted. Guests spend the afternoon at leisure making use of the walkways running alongside the coast with views of the ocean and from where the whales can be seen, sometimes at very close quarters.
Note: The whale season starts around mid-June and continues through to November.
After your last breakfast of the tour, we’ll head out towards Cape Town. Our route takes us past the Botrivier Lagoon and Arabella Country Estate towards Betty's Bay, where we’ll visit the Stony Point Penguin Nature Reserve and a resident colony of African penguins. Later, we’ll pass Pringle Bay and Rooi Els, with the imposing Hottentots-Holland Mountains to your right. This mountain route is arguably the most scenic of the Western Cape, with spectacular views across False Bay. After passing through Gordon's Bay, the tour travels to a location of your choice in Cape Town, bringing to an end a memorable tour of South Africa’s Overberg and Karoo regions.
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