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10 Things to do this spring

As Mother Nature awakens this spring, it’s a cue for lovers of the great outdoors to find inspiration in her new take on life. The Cape Winelands invite you to experience nature at its best while making memories with loved ones.

#1: A view seen by few

Conrad van Wyk, hot-air balloon pilot at Ballooning Cape Town, has been flying these colourful and enchanting spheres for the past 26 years, in places from Cape Town to Scotland and even Thailand. After he watched his dad fly hot-air balloons, Conrad’s passion for the skies took form and today he designs and builds new balloon concepts every chance he gets. Situated at Klein Joostenberg on the R304, Ballooning Cape Town welcomes guests for mesmerising one-hour journeys over the Cape Winelands at sunrise. The cost (R3,900 per person on a weekend and R3,200 per person during the week) includes pre-flight coffee or tea, a post-landing celebration drink, transport back to the launch site at Klein Joostenberg and a set-menu breakfast at Joostenberg Bistro. As they say, the sky’s the limit! 

Good to know: Guests are advised to wear comfortable clothing, flat shoes and have a light jacket handy for that early morning breeze. Passengers should be at least 1.2m tall and not weigh more than 130kg.

#2: Kruger on the rails

Stationed on the historical Selati Bridge over the Sabie River in the Kruger National Park, and adjacent to Skukuza Rest Camp, is a luxurious hotel named Kruger Shalati: The Train on the Bridge. Today, this re-envisaged train pays homage to Kruger visitors of nearly 100 years ago. Here, in the 1920s, the train would park overnight in the exact same spot for passengers to take in the landscape’s sights and sounds. With a total of 31 luxurious rooms, complemented by bespoke experiences, Kruger Shalati presents guests with a chance to experience nature in the most extraordinary way imaginable. On offer is an enthralling overhanging pool and lounge deck, a boutique gift store, African-inspired dining at Bridge House Restaurant, butler service and complimentary airport transfers to and from Skukuza Airport. Rates include all meals, house drinks and two game drives daily. Accommodation options include luxury carriage suites, Bridge House land-based rooms, suites with a private pool and garden, a sunset suite and a family suite. Simply put, Kruger Shalati is one for the books. 

Good to know: The train’s name was inspired by an African warrior queen called Shalati. “The origins of Shalati’s rule go back to the 19th century. Oral tradition has it that Shalati was one of the first female warrior chiefs of the small Tebula clan, part of the Tsonga tribe that lived in the bush around the Murchison Range in present-day Limpopo Province,” according to Shalati Kruger.

#3: Garden Town Stellenbosch 2022

The City of Oaks is once again pulling out all the stops for gardeners and flower enthusiasts for the annual Garden Town Stellenbosch. Spanning 10 days filled with garden and nature inspiration, the festival promises to transform the town’s streets and the surrounding countryside from 20 to 30 October this year. Garden Town Stellenbosch, inspired by the world-famous flower festival of Girona in Spain, encompasses everything from horticultural tours to flower art, dining, hiking, specialist guests and music in majestic settings. In addition to a host of highlights for flora fans and lovers of Mother Nature, a flower parade on 20 October serves as the week’s official launch, followed by a floral version of the ever-popular summer pop-up wine festival in the form of a flower soirée hosted at Voorgelegen’s newly landscaped gardens. Other highlights include tours of private gardens (Friday, 21 and 28 October, and Saturday, 22 and 29 October); flower club activities in Stellenbosch Town Hall and workshops and flower arranging classes (22–29 October); and Paul Roos Gymnasium’s Spring Festival. For more information, call 021 886 4310.

Good to know: The week-long festival is an initiative of Visit Stellenbosch, a destination marketing organisation comprising the region’s tourism stakeholders and partners, including Stellenbosch Municipality and Stellenbosch Wine Routes, with the objective of growing Stellenbosch’s tourism and experience economy for the benefit of all communities.

#4: Flower power

Picture by Scott Ramsay

The flower season in the Western Cape, home to the Cape Floristic Region, is an experience to remember for young and old alike. CapeNature’s Cederberg Wilderness Area and Rocherpan Nature Reserve are two must-see destinations this spring, when thousands of wild flowers take centre stage in a spectacle of colour and floral beauty. At Cederberg Wilderness Area, pitch a tent at one of the reserve’s campsites or spend the night at one of the many self-catering cottages. During the day, treat the kids to a donkey cart adventure, go rock climbing or hike to a crystal-clear mountain pool. Whatever the activity, the surrounding yellow daisies and purple vygies are sure to delight. For the more adventurous at heart, Rocherpan Nature Reserve will not disappoint. Enjoy a day on the beach, pack a picnic basket, go in search of southern right whales or bring a fishing permit (available at your nearest post office) for a memorable afternoon of shore angling. For hikers, hit the trails or take in the landscape’s impressive floral display on a mountain bike.

Good to know: Flowers open during the warmest hours of the day, between 11am and 3pm. Note that flowers remain closed in over-cast or rainy weather, so be sure to travel on a sunny day. Most flowers face the sun – remember this when trying to capture that perfect selfie. And most importantly: watch your step and ensure that you don’t flatten the plants – and resist the temptation to pick the flowers.

#5: Connect with nature

Just outside Kleinmond, where the Palmiet River tumbles through the fynbos-covered mountains of the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, thrilling adventure awaits. Come spring – and post-winter rains – the pristine Palmiet River turns into an adventure-filled playground for white-water and tubing enthusiasts. Gravity Adventures has been pioneering the Palmiet River for more than 25 years and offers unforgettable rafting (June to September) and tubing (October to April) experiences with its team of qualified and experienced guides. At medium- and high-water levels, white-water rafters can conquer five main rapids – Handstands Up, Bubble & Squeak, Itchy & Scratchy, Waterfall and Judgement Day – in self-steered two-person inflatable ‘crocodiles’ or four-person rafts. Starting in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve and ending just above the bridge on Clarence Drive before Kleinmond, adventurers will cover a distance of some 5km. For the less brave, tubing trips with inflatable ‘geckos’, specially developed for the Palmiet River, provide a somewhat calmer experience while drifting lazily along river pools and channels. For minimum age requirements, group sizes, tariffs, duration, wetsuit hire and more, call 021 683 3698 or email adventure@gravity.co.za.

#6: Luxury vineyard stay in Constantia

Steenberg Farm promises the epitome of luxury this spring. Not only does the farm have a blissful wellness spa, but it also boasts two locally inspired restaurants, a tasting room, a challenging 18-hole golf course and 300ha of vineyards for outdoor wandering and exploration. A stay at Steenberg bundles up the best of Constantia scenery, fine dining and award-winning wine. The five-star Steenberg Hotel and original manor house offer a choice of 24 spacious, elegant and well-appointed rooms, including three luxury suites and two private villas, all with vineyard and mountain views. Steenberg Spa is on hand for restorative treatments or guests may relax by simply idling next to the pool or strolling on sprawling lawns and in gardens filled with salvias, gardenias, pennyroyal, viburnum and lavender. But there’s more … Tucked away, you’ll find a hidden treasure: Steenberg’s scented garden, a secluded spot for outdoor spa treatments set among the foliage. Nearby, herb gardens supply ingredients for memorable meals at the farm’s restaurants, Tryn and Bistro Sixteen82.

#7: For the love of succulents

From 16 to 18 September this year, succulent enthusiasts will have the chance to immerse themselves in the world of South African succulent species. Presented by the Calitzdorp Succulent Society, the 2022 Succulent Festival showcases various indigenous and rare succulents in their natural habitat of the Little Karoo. More than that, festival-goers can buy specimens that are not available in nurseries and get advice on how to propagate, grow and care for succulents in their own gardens. This year’s festival takes place at the Calitzdorp Station and offers walks in the veld led by local guides, a potted plant market hosted by growers, educational talks by succulent experts, how-to workshops, a succulent display, an exhibition of botanical art, activities for youngsters, an auction of rare succulent plants and dinner with keynote speaker Captain Karel du Toit, commander of SAPS Namakwa Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit. For more information, email info@vetplant.co.za.

Did you know? With more than 4,700 species, southern Africa is home to the richest and most diverse succulent flora in the world.

#8: Want to fly?

Ever imagined a bird’s-eye view of the Cape Winelands? With Winelands Paragliding, this dream can become reality. Started in 2013 with a focus on adventure tourism, the company offers paragliding adventures and training. And with some 20 years of paragliding experience covering more than 6,000 flights, owner Mias de Klerk is at the leading edge of the industry. “Our focus is to showcase the best paragliding has to offer and the only way to do this is safely and responsibly. Our activities are mainly in the geographical area where we have developed, established and continue to maintain many paragliding sites and free-flying activities alongside the Kaapse Buitepos Klub (KBK),” says Mias. “Almost anyone can experience the thrill of free flight by flying tandem with an instructor. It takes just a few minutes to prepare and you’re off, gliding through the air in search of waves of lift with a qualified tandem flight instructor.” Other adventures include the Winelands Hike & Fly Experience, Cape Town Tandem Paragliding and the Winelands Cross-Country Tandem Paragliding Experience. For bookings, rates and more information, send an email to bookings@winelandsparagliding.co.za or call 082 758 5845.

#9: A whale of a time

The 30th Hermanus Whale Festival, the first and only eco-marine festival in the world, is taking place from 30 September to 2 October 2022. From June until early December every year, southern right whales migrate from their icy feeding grounds off Antarctica to warmer climates such as South Africa’s Whale Coast, attracting more than 100,000 visitors annually to Hermanus, where they are easily seen from the shore. The gentle giants mate, calve and rear their young, giving whale-watchers spectacular displays of power and elegant water acrobatics. During the festival, the coastal town is alive with festivities that range from live music performed by various local artists to food stalls, kiddies’ activities, a wide range of eco- and marine-related environmental exhibitions, a street parade, an orchid show and the Whales and Wheels Classic Car Show, to mention but a few. 

Did you know? The Hermanus Whale Festival is a tribute to the legacy left to the town by Wendy the Whale, whose story, based on oral history from the 1930s, is about man’s ability to live in harmony with nature as well as people’s ability to come together as communities valuing the environment.

#10: In aid of rhino conservation

Picture by Marcus Westberg

Tswalu, South Africa’s largest private game reserve, recently introduced a conservation experience that focuses on collecting data relating to the population of endangered rhinos in the southern Kalahari. Until the end of September this year, guests are invited to experience Tswalu’s rhino-notching initiative that analyses and supports the genetic integrity of protected rhino populations across South Africa. During this wildlife experience, trained trackers and veterinarians set out across the Kalahari to dart young rhinos, ideally between two and three years old. After marking and associating the rhino with a recorded number, team members plant a small microchip under the skin and in the horn for future identity and security purposes. DNA samples are then collected and later added to a global DNA database. Guests will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help monitor the rhino’s body temperature and breathing during the procedure. The private rhino-notching experience covers the costs of a wildlife veterinarian, specialised drugs in the darts and flying expenses.

Good to know: Tswalu practises low-impact, high-value approaches to sustainable ecotourism to help fund critical conservation work for future generations. The reserve’s conservation goals focus on restoring the natural environment, re-establishing and protecting biodiversity and maintaining the Kalahari’s characteristic ecological processes, all carried out through environmental research supported by the Tswalu Foundation. The Tswalu Foundation is a world leader in the field of environmental research within the southern Kalahari.

Get in touch

Want to be included in our THINGS TO DO line-up?  Send an email to digital@stellenboschvisio.co.za.