Owls, Kites and Vultures in Eagle Encounters at Spier, Stellenbosch (2017-09-16) Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 19 MAR 2019

Eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, kites, buzzards, secretary birds and vultures – if birds of prey interest you then a visit to Eagle Encounters at Spier in Stellenbosch should probably very firmly be on your cards.

Founded in 2001, Eagle Encounters is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, education and eco-tourism center. It is home to numerous types of rescued raptors, has a number of interactive touch points, and their flying demonstrations are always both informative and entertaining.

The girls always love visiting there (touching and interacting with the owls is by far their favourite bit), and honestly, the institution always makes for an interesting outing. Easy to recommend really.

And as a bonus, a visit to Eagle Encounters is also a visit to the delightful Spier wine estate, itself a brilliant adventure packed with food, art, activities, wine and endless views.

Related Link: Eagle Encounters | Spier | Stellenbosch

Snakes and Dinosaurs in the Port Elizabeth Museum at Bayworld (2017-07-09) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 18 MAR 2019

Although the Bayworld complex doesn’t necessarily shine quite as brightly as what it used to in the past, it still remains a place well worth visiting, with it currently being home to the now reduced Oceanarium, a Snake Park, the Port Elizabeth Museum, and Number 7 Castle (an offsite extension).

Housed in a magnificent three-storey building within Bayworld’s grounds, the Port Elizabeth Museum is interestingly enough recognized as South Africa’s third oldest museum – with current exhibitions including the Dinosaur Hall, the Maritime History Hall, the Marine Hall, Curiosity Corner, the Xhosa Gallery, the First People of the Bay Exhibition, the Costume Hall, and the History of Algoa Bay Exhibition.

Having already spent some time among the marine life, we next ventured over to the museum and snake park part of the complex where we first played around a bit with a boa constrictor, before moving on to admire the impressive Africa’s Lost World dinosaur exhibition (their rubber dinosaurs are huge!), and then the actual museum itself.

In all honesty, I walked away from the Port Elizabeth Museum suitably impressed. The displays are well presented and very informative, the museum is laid out well with a fun use of colour that makes everything visually appealing.

Plus, we spent far longer browsing the halls that what I thought we would and as such can highly recommend the experience to anyone with even the slightest of interest in natural history or with kids that they want to expose to some of the more interesting aspects of the bay area’s past.

Oh, and they have the 15 meter long skeleton of the last Southern Right Whale harpooned in Nelson Mandela Bay hanging around. Naturally, many photos were taken.

Plus, as mentioned before – it has dinosaurs.

Related Link: Bayworld Oceanarium | Port Elizabeth | #JuneHolidays2017

Tracking Zebras and Warthogs in Addo Elephant Park (2017-07-06) Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 16 MAR 2019

The Addo Elephant National Park is somewhat a story of people coming to their senses in the absolute nick of time. In the early centuries, great herds of wild animals roamed the Addo region, living alongside a handful of native clans. However by the late 1700s, most herds of elephants and other species had been all but decimated thanks to overzealous hunting activities. Fast forward to the 1800s and farmers being to colonize the area around the park, leading to even more flash points with the remaining elephants (due to competition over water and land). By 1919 this conflict had come to a head when the government agreed to help exterminate the problematic elephants, leading to the death of around 144 animals between 1919 and 1920.

Luckily though, public sentiment had finally begun to change, and in 1931 the Addo Elephant National Park was proclaimed, set up to protect the last remaining 11 Addo elephant!

Now the third largest South African National Park (after Kruger National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park), the Addo Elephant National Park has come a long way in terms of animal population, with it currently being home to around 600 elephants, 400 Cape buffalo, lions, spotted hyenas, leopard, Burchell’s zebra, and a LOT of warthogs. There are also plenty of antelope species roaming about, including red hartebeest, eland, kudu and bushbuck.

In addition to the mammals, given the excellent habitat contrasts between dense thickets of spekboom interspersed with open grassy areas and wooded kloofs, Addo also presents a fantastic opportunity for birding, with the park being home to an extensive number of bird species. (Consequently, there are thus a LOT of lizards, snakes and tortoises too to be found as well!)

And then of course there is Addo’s famous rare flightless dung beetle, who is recognized as the king of the local roads thanks to the plethora of road signs posted in the park reminding visitors that this super recycling machine has the right of way!

We travelled to Addo as part of our June holiday back in 2017, making our way from Oudtshoorn via a weirdly unsettling strip of concrete road past the blink and you’ll miss them towns of Willowmore and Steytlerville. We overnighted in the very comfortable SANParks’ accommodation (staying inside a park is always fun), and completely ignoring the kids moaning, Chantelle and I then proceeded to spend as much time as possible out on the tracks taking in the wildlife around us.

And while Addo isn’t necessarily my favourite park to visit, it is easily one of the best when it comes to elephant watching and we were blessed with some fantastic viewings (despite the region’s dryness) to go along with the great weather conditions.

Of course, given the fact that neither one of us is a photographer and thus there is not a single piece of decent camera equipment between us, you’ll just have to take our word (and slightly grainy cellphone footage) as proof of this!

(Pro Tip: The Hapoor Dam waterhole is amazing for elephant watching!)

It is always good to get out and about in nature, and as South Africans we really are spoiled for choice. Something to make sure we treasure then.

Related Link: Addo Elephant National Park | Wikipedia#JuneHolidays2017

The Old Harbour Museum in Hermanus (2018-08-25) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 15 MAR 2019

Hermanus is just such a lovely coastal town to visit. The allure of the visiting whales during whale season, the excellent beaches, the surrounding mountains, the breathtaking cliff path – it really isn’t difficult to understand just why Hermanus has exploded into the tourist friendly hub that it now finds itself being. Of course, the historic and stories of old shouldn’t be lost, and one such place attempting to preserve some of this former fishing town’s history is the Old Harbour Museum.

The museum consists primarily of two sections, the historical Old Fishing Harbour and Fisherman’s Village, the latter being home to De Wet’s Huis Photographic Museum and the Whale House Museum.

The old harbour itself (or “Visbaai” as it was known back in the day) is preserved as an open air museum, with a couple of relics from a bygone era still visible along the stone and concrete walls of the structure. There is also the War Memorial at its entrance, and tucked into one of the old fisherman’s shacks is the Old Harbour Indoor Museum which displays an eclectic mix of items used by the local fishing industry both present and past, as well as some items from the Selkirk Collection.

That said, in all honesty I would have to say that the indoor museum has obviously seen much better days and is probably very much in need of better funding – though nevertheless makes for an interesting enough stop if you have some time to kill and nothing else left to see. (Admittedly, the kids don’t agree with me on this one).

So, hard to recommend as a must stop then, but interesting enough for anyone who is into fishing and has a slight love for all things historical.

Related Link: Old Harbour Museum | Wikipedia | Hermanus

Feeding Squirrels in the Company’s Garden in Cape Town (2017-08-20) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 14 MAR 2019

The historic Company’s Garden in the heart of Cape Town is always worth a visit. A hearty breakfast or light lunch at the now renovated (and very family friendly) Company’s Garden Restaurant is a must, a stroll around the beautifully cultivated gardens a pleasure, and the buying of bags of peanuts from the local vendors to feed the abundant squirrels and pigeons a necessity.

Originally created in the 1650s as a resource from which fresh produce for ships rounding the Cape could be harvested, these days the Company’s Garden enjoys a role of providing a much visited lush and tranquil green space for city dwellers to escape the nearby bustle of the Mother City.

Centrally located, the Company’s Garden is bordered by Parliament and Tuynhuys, the National Library of South Africa, St George’s Cathedral, the Iziko Slave Lodge, Centre for the Book, the South African Jewish Museum, the South African National Gallery, and the Iziko South African Museum – basically a heap of really good tourist options for any visiting history enthusiast.

The garden itself is home to a number of interesting artifacts, plants, war memorials and monuments. For example, the oldest cultivated pear tree in South Africa (circa 1652) calls the Company’s Garden home, as does a rose garden that was designed and build in 1929. Then there’s also the Dellville Wood Memorial (1932), a small aviary, a towering statue of Cecil John Rhodes (1910), an Artillery Memorial, a Japanese Lantern Monument (1932), and a striking figure of Jan Smuts (1964) to name but a few.

As for my kids – well, they’re just there for the squirrels and pigeons of course!

Refreshing.

Related Link: Company’s Garden | Company’s Garden Restaurant | Cape Town

Ending a Touchwork year at Groot Constantia and Pastis, Cape Town (2018-12-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 26 FEB 2019

Following the last year-end function at Monkey Valley in Noordhoek, 2018’s Touchwork/Hypenica year-end function moved a little closer to home with a delightful session of wine tasting at the granddaddy of Cape wine estates, Groot Constantia, followed by a delectable French-themed lunch at nearby Pastis Brasserie.

Now a provincial heritage site, Groot Constantia is recognised as being the oldest wine estate in South Africa, with this age old winery having been established in 1685 after the land was first granted to Simon van der Stel, the then VOC Governor of the Cape of Good Hope.

These days, in addition to the production of excellent wine, Groot Constantia is also a major Cape Town tourist attraction (a member of Cape Town’s Big 6 to be exact), with the grounds being home to the Cape Dutch Manor House, the famed Cloete Cellar, two restaurants, a wine tasting centre, wine and cultural history museums, and walking tours of the vineyards and modern-day production cellar.

As for us on the day, we were there to taste wine, and taste wine we did.

Next up, a short stroll down the road lead the French-themed team to the Pastis Brasserie, a French inspired eatery that has been around since 2004. More wine was drunk, speeches had, Mystery Santa played, and lunch tucked into.

Great way to end off another good year for both sister companies really.

Merveilleux.

Related Link: Groot Constantia | Wikipedia | Pastis Brasserie | Cape Town

The Farmers Kitchen at the Mooiberge Farm Stall in Stellenbosch (2018-12-12) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 25 FEB 2019

The Zetler owned Mooiberge strawberry farm and farm stall is impossible to miss, thanks to its plethora of brightly hued scarecrows that proudly stand tall all scattered about the strawberry fields. The farm stall with its strawberry liqueur and strawberry picking activities already makes for a popular roadside stop, but it is the restaurant/bar additions in the form of The Farmers Kitchen and Thirsty Scarecrow (honestly, I don’t know where the one starts and the other stops) that really pulls in the big crowds.

Blessed with a magnificent view of Stellenbosch’s beautiful mountains (hence the name Mooiberge), The Farmers Kitchen/Thirsty Scarecrow also caters for the little ones with a neat little outdoor play area, perfect to keep the kids out of the way as you tuck into what is a particularly good menu.

Strawberries abound, the view is good, and the general vibe is live and bustling – to be honest, it really isn’t that hard to understand just why this spot is as popular as what it is.

For our first ever visit we met up with Retha and Miguel who had flitted into the country for a visit, and as meet ups go, this one was pretty nice. The weather good, the food excellent, and the milk pouring cow hilarious.

Well worth a stop in other words.

Related Link: The Farmers Kitchen | Thirsty Scarecrow | Mooiberge

Surfers and Breakfast at Delfino’s Restaurant in Mossel Bay (2019-01-07) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 24 FEB 2019

We ended off the last December holidays (which were really more January holidays than anything else) by dragging Mom and Dad with us for a goodbye breakfast at Delfino’s, the popular beach-facing restaurant at the Point in Mossel Bay.

I hadn’t been there in years, and to be honest, I rather enjoyed being back. All the old brown colour scheme has now been switched out to beach friendly blue (with a LOT of Flying Fish sponsorship), the restaurant is as well staffed (and popular) as ever, and it was a rather nice surprise to find out that over season they offer a proper breakfast buffet as part of their menu – which most of our party actually opted for on this particular morning outing. (I of course was going to be difficult.)

Plus, lazily watching the surfers hit the waves while your kids play on the lawn and beach out in front of you makes for a pretty chill breakfast expedition. A pretty decent start to the day then.

Too bad the literal next step was getting in the car and then driving the 4.5 hour route back home. Still, not the worst way to cap off what had been a thoroughly relaxing holiday with the family.

Related Link: Delfino’s | Mossel Bay

Drive up Signal Hill, Cape Town (2018-11-17) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 23 FEB 2019

While the Noon Gun still merrily continues its daily midday pigeon onslaught from the slopes of Signal Hill, the signal flags from which this Cape Town landmark derives its name have long since left, leaving behind the perfect viewpoint for those of us who don’t always feel like physically climbing up Lion’s Head just to experience the stunning views out over our Mother City.

I took the girls up the hill for a quick jaunt towards the end of last year, their first time up, and they immediately super excitedly fell into tourist mode by demanding to take photos of everyone and everything around them.

So my phone was obligingly passed around, lots of photos of pretty much everything around us were snapped, and then we did some strolling whilst successfully avoiding the various vendors and picnicking crowds on the other side of the hill.

As always, one of the best and easiest ways to get a great close-up view of Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain!

Related Link: Signal Hill | Cape Town