Relish the flavors of South Africa's winelands before heading east along the coast for whale watching.
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Day 1-7: Private African Sky Guide and Vehicle.
Guests will be met at any location of their choice in Cape Town, from where we travel to and explore the town of Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch was founded by Simon van der Stel in 1679. He ordered the planting of the oak trees which now line the streets and gardens. The City of Oaks is the second oldest European settlement in South Africa and is home to the University of Stellenbosch. In the early days of the Second Boer War, Stellenbosch was a British military base and was used as a 'remount' camp. The town lies at the foot of the Cape Fold mountain range, which provides soil favorable for viticulture. Grapes grown in this area are primarily used for wine production. After exploring the town of Stellenbosch, we visit two of the fine wine estates in the region. Here guests enjoy wine tasting and gain insight into the production of wine in South Africa.
Guests are met after breakfast from and the day is devoted to visiting the town of Franschhoek and the surrounding wine estates. The Cape Dutch architecture in Franschhoek is untouched, as most of the old buildings have been declared national monuments in order to preserve the spirit of the original settlers to the area. We visit the Huguenot Museum. The three high arches symbolize the Holy Trinity - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The central female figure personifies religious freedom with a Bible in her one hand and broken chain in the other. She is casting off her cloak of oppression and her position on top of the globe shows her spiritual freedom. The fleur de lis on her robe represents a noble spirit and character.
The French Huguenots brought their knowledge of viticulture with them and, upon receiving land from the Dutch East India Company, many vineyards where established. These estates now produce some of the world's finest wines. After exploring the town, visits will be made to three wine estates in the Drakenstein Valley. This area is renowned for the fine quality wines it produces.
After an enjoyable breakfast, the tour makes its way up the Franschhoek Pass. The pass has spectacular views of the Franschhoek Valley. It was originally known as the Olifantspad (elephant's path), used by migrating herds. The road descends to the Du Toits River at the foot of the pass.
Upon descending the pass it is clear that the area lacks the fertility of the Drakenstein Valley and appears arid, even though it is being irrigated from the Theewaterskloof Dam. The road then leads to Grabouw in the Elgin Valley, which is sandwiched between the Hottentots-Holland, Kogelberg and Groenland mountains. The Elgin Valley is the heart of the South African deciduous fruit region, with apples, pears and plums. The countryside road rejoins the main highway before reaching the town of Hermanus. Hermanus is well known as a station to enjoy land-based whale watching. Since August 1992, it has hosted the world's only 'Whale Crier', who sounds his kelp horn to announce the arrival of whales. Guests spend the afternoon at leisure.
During the morning we visit various vantage points from where whales can potentially be spotted splashing about in Walker Bay. Hermanus is regarded as the finest place in South Africa from which to enjoy land based whale watching. The three most common whale types that can be spotted are the Souterh Right whale (July to November), Humback whale (May to December) as Bryde's whales (year round). The town is also renowned for its fishing and perlemoen industry. The perlemoen derives its South African name from the corruption of the Dutch perlemoen, meaning mother-of-pearl, referring to the beautiful pearl-lined interior of its shell. It is known internationally as abalone or Venus ear.
We then visit Hamilton Russell Vineyard, located a stone's throw from Hermanus in the Heaven and Earth Valley. This is one of the most southerly vineyards in the country and it also has the distinction of being one of the closest to the ocean. This fine wine estate is world-renowned for the excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines it produces. Guests attend a discussion highlighting the process by which wine is produced in this region. You’ll also have the opportunity to sip some of the fine wines produced on the estate. A whale watching cruise is also included during the late afternoon, providing you with the opportunity to observe whales at closer quarters. Following the whale cruise we make our way back to the overnight accommodation.
After breakfast the road turns inland with numerous sightings of South Africa's national bird, the blue crane, to be expected. These birds are endangered and are very special to the Xhosa - "Indwe", in the native tongue. When a man distinguished himself by deeds of valor, he would be decorated by the feathers of this bird as a mark of honor. We make our way towards Bredasdorp, a small town established around a Dutch Reformed Church in 1838. Besides sheep farming, the town also boasts other agricultural activities, including wheat, milk, and indigenous fynbos cultivation.
The tour then travels on to Cape Agulhas, which, in its Portuguese form - "Cabo das Agulhas" - translates to "Cape of Needles". It is the geographic southern tip of the African continent. We make a visit to the lighthouse and museum. The overnight destination in Arniston is reached during the afternoon. Arniston was named after a ship that was wrecked on the rocks at Waenhuiskrans. Only six of the 378 souls on board survived. It is a beautiful coastal town with a unique character.
During the morning we explore Arniston and the adjacent Kassiesbaai, the last authentic fishing village in South Africa - a living working village seemingly trapped in a time capsule. Kassiesbaai is a natural heritage site, which was founded in 1850 by coloured fishermen. It's distinct whitewashed, thatched cottages create an idyllic scene next to the clear blue waters of the ocean.
After some time allowed for lunch, we stroll along the seaside to the "Waenhuiskrans Cave" a deep erosion in the coastline sculpted by the ocean. Massive in size, truly unique with spellbinding view out across the ocean from inside the cave. We return to the overnight accommodation shortly before dawn.
The tour returns to Cape Town via a scenic coastal route traversing the town of Betty's Bay and Rooi Els, ending in Gordon's Bay. En route several stops will be made at vantage points from where the Southern Right whale can potentially be spotted. Guests are transferred to Cape Town International Airport or any other location of their choice in the city.
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