Winter in the Eastern Cape

A snowy greeting on entering the Eastern Cape

The splendour of the Eastern Highlands

Travelling home to the Eastern Cape from Natal last week we journeyed through a winter wonderland.  The Drakensberg skirting the R56 Matatiele/Mount Fletcher/Maclear route was covered in snow – a scene very different from what a tourist to South Africa would expect – even though it was mid-winter.   This route makes a change from the East London/Umtata one normally taken by folk travelling between the two Provinces.  The scenery is spectacular, the road is less travelled and the condition of the road is good.   Just a very short 2 km patch going through Lady Frere is concrete and a bit uneven – but otherwise it is a joy to drive.   Elliot, Ugie and Maclear offer good stopping off points for a coffee and a break.   These areas all offer wonderful fly fishing, great hiking, plenty of rock art sites, lots of accommodation options and hopefully when Tiffindell re-opens next year a variety of winter sports.

Festival time in the Eastern Cape

Whether you’re looking for something literary, something flowery or even just a great day out in celebration of nature’s abundance there are some wonderful of events to diarise in the upcoming months.   The economies and communities of these Eastern Cape ‘dorpies’ benefit hugely from attendances at these Shows and a huge amount of work goes into their organisation.  Let’s all get out there, support their initiatives and have fun in the process

  • Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival 9 -12 August 2012 (www.tuishuisie.co.za/olive_schreiner_festival.htm)
  • Hogsback Spring Festival 21-24 September 2012
  • Naartjie Festival, Loerie 24 September 2012
  • Shell Festival , Jeffreys Bay 28 – 30 September 2012
  • Grahamstown Flower Festival 6-7 October 2012
  • The Addo Rose and Garden Show 12-14 October 2012 (www.addorose.co.za)
  • Bedford Garden Festival 26-28 October 2012

 

 

Have you a love of the great outdoors? Do canoeing and hiking interest you?

The Eastern Cape offers plenty of opportunity for hiking and canoeing enthusiasts – but an offering that has caught my eye recently are the three trails marketed by a company called Shipwreck Hiking and Canoe Trails (www.shipwreckhiking.co.za).   The Kleinemonde West River Canoe Trail features a 9km paddle up river and a 2km hike through the Nyala Valley Game Reserve where you will overnight at the delightfully named Lily Pad hut. The other two hiking options are a 5 day, 4 night option or a 6 day, 5 night option, the latter which will include the Kleinemonde West River Canoe Trail described above.  The coastal hikes are from Port Alfred to the Fish River Mouth – hiking along the beach, over dunes, through farmlands and riverine forest.  Your nights will be spent at Milkwood hut, Tree House, Three Sisters hut and Stone Cottage.   Check out their website and contact Dave Marais for more information.   With Spring and Summer just round the corner – why not plan a fun few days with family and friends in the great outdoors.   Its birdlife, its wildlife, its history, its exercise, its comraderie……

Tiffindell to re-open – good news for Eastern Cape tourism

Tiffindell, South Africa’s only ski resort is set to re-open next year again after being sold on auction to Lew Campbell, the owner of the Ski Deck Snow Skiing Centre in Johannesburg.This is great news as it represents a unique offering (found nowhere else in South Africa) and adds to the diversity of tourism experiences that our Province offers.  It will also serve as a job creation opportunity for the locals in this very impoverished area.  Adventure sport is a fast growing tourist category and in the Eastern Cape we offer plenty of that.  This is a very welcome addition.  We salute Lew Campbell’s vision and positive investment.

The National Arts Festival reveals some amazing Eastern Cape craft talent

Every year I go up to the Arts Festival to enjoy the theatre, the music and the art and usually spend a morning wandering around the Village Market.    This year I was ‘knocked’ out by the high standard of the work of some our own local home-grown talent. Some of those that really impressed are: Thobelani Crafts in Tarkastad with their outstanding useable and decorative works (www.winterberg.co.za/Thobelani), Karoo Kwezi in Somerset West  (www.karookwezi.co.za) for their quirky upcycled lights made from re-cycled bottles, Elizwe Ceramics from Cookhouse for their beautiful creations (www.elizwe.co.za), the gorgeous exclusive range of children’s clothes branded Nasty and Nice by Jessica Hornby (www.nastyandnice.co.za), the wonderful Uthando dolls being made by the Siyakhula Doll Cooperative under the auspices of the the Angus Gillis Foundation at Kwande,( www.angusgillisfoundation.co.za) the fresh and innovative functional and fashion items made with sishweshe prints made by Bright Sewing Ideas in Pewuleni Village in Debe Nek and the magnificent wood carving by Zolani Mpente,  a Port St. John’s artist.  Last but certainly not least the artistic talent of the little company Pewter-it (www.pewter.webs.com).   These products and many other high quality items that I am sure are being made in our midst deserve exposure in our Tourism offices, in our local gift shops and via our local press.   So much great work is being done to help people lift themselves out of the poverty trap but they need access to the marketplace. It gives me an idea for a tourism venture in the making!

 

 

 

The Eastern Cape coastline has something to shout about….

Whether you’re into the great Billabong Surf Pro at Jeffreys, the world famous Sardine Run along the Transkei Coast, the numerous coastal hiking Trails in the Tsistikamma and in the Alexandria area or are interested in a simple old-fashioned bucket and spade family holiday, the Eastern Cape is the place to be in July.   Our beaches are some of the best in South Africa and the least crowded in the world, our winter climate is temperate and whilst we have experienced some of the Cape winter rains this year and some cold, particularly this weekend, generally the sun shines and the wind does not blow too hard.  With loads of accommodation options available  along this 2954km coastline (almost a third of the entire country’s coastline!) this in an area that should be on everyone’s’ bucket list.  A new Getaway Guide just published by Sunbird Publisher called Eastern Cape & Wild Coast by Michael Brett (ISBN 978-1-920289-21-8) would be a  valuable addition to your holiday research.

Is there some good rhino news – oh yes there is..

It may be small but it is all good.   Sibuya Game Reserve, near the village of Kenton on Sea unique especially because of it’s river approach has just had a new addition.  A baby rhino brought into the world safely some time last month.   The rhino close-up sightings that I experienced on my stays at the Reserve are some of the best I have ever had….and with the scourge that rhino poaching has become this member of the BIG 5 has to be on everyone’s ‘bucket list’.   The birding at the moment also appears to be fantastic with recent sightings of a pair of young bataleurs, a pair of barn owls and especially exciting the Narina Trogon.

When last have you seen a sable antelope?

I’m not sure when I last had a sighting of a beautiful sable antelope, so it was with interest that I’ve read that Mount Camdeboo Reserve in the Karoo, one of the ‘experiences’, featured on the Isiko Tours website, has recently acquired a new Sable breeding bull.  He will join a group of breeding heifers and will help to expand the genetic diversity of the group.  Winter is a wonderful time to visit the Karoo with clear days that show off the magnificent landscape at its best and fantastic night skies that glisten with a million stars. Mount Camdeboo is reaching out this winter to customers who would prefer a self-catering option, which is a really great idea.  Check out www.isikotours.co.za for details

Mining possibly ‘on the cards’ again for the Xolobeni area of the Wild Coast

The threat of mining on the Wild Coast just cannot be laid to rest it would seem.   Only last year the Minister of Mineral Resources withdrew mining rights from Transworld on the basis that there were outstanding environmental issues that needed to be addressed. Now it seems as if the Ministry may have been convinced that environmental damage will be minimised and mining should go ahead.  This is a real blow to the local Amadiba community who are putting a lot of effort into fledgling tourism ventures which will, if managed carefully, provide them with a sustainable future.  Fortunately there are groups, the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) and Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC) who are actively campaigning to have this decision changed.  Our voices need to be added to their call.

Great Addo news in their fight against rhino poaching

Last year a sponsorship agreement was reached between the SANParks Honorary Rangers and Unitrans, Volkswagen and Audi.   As part of this agreement, the Rangers at Addo Elephant National Park have received equipment worth more than R500,000 from Unitrans in the form of tents, sleeping bags, binoculars and backpacks to help them in fighting in day and night patrols, the rhino poaching war.  To-date almost 230 rhinos have been slaughtered in South Africa this year….so every little bit of help from whatever source is good news.  Unitrans must be commended for this generous donation.

Port Elizabeth Food, Cheese and Wine Show

Visited this Show briefly yesterday – a bit of a disappointment….The opening date was given as 29 March – but by early afternoon it was still looking far from ready which was a ‘let down’.   I’m not sure where all the 150 stall holders were either. The main tent featured a significant number of wine companies (with an abundance of wine tasting going on), a couple of commercial Cheese manufacturers with olives and figs featuring quite prominently too. Continue reading

Responsible tourism – a deciding factor in choosing a holiday destination?

Increasingly the concept of responsible tourism is an aspect that tourists regard as important when making destination decisions. I was reminded of this fact recently by a UK operator whose portfolio of Southern African properties is aimed at the European market.  Many of her clients are looking for experiences that enable them to get closer to the real ‘living culture’ of the country they are visiting – but much more broadly they want to be sure that their visit will result in sustainable development for the broad community. Economic growth, environmental integrity and social justice must be the tangible outcomes of the operations they choose to visit.

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