Category Archives: My Life

Sighting of Slangkop Point Lighthouse in Kommetjie (2017-02-18) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 MAR 2017

Gah, another lighthouse tour opportunity missed – I really should look up the operating hours for these things! We were in the Kommetjie area (near Noordhoek) courtesy of a very successful visit to the nearby Imhoff Farm, following which, despite the VERY threatening clouds that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, I manage to convince Chantelle that we NEEDED to drive into Kommetjie in order to visit the Instagram famous Slangkop Point Lighthouse – the tallest cast-iron lighthouse along South African shores.

Sadly for me and my excited expectations though, the barb wire topped gates were firmly shut on our arrival, with the nearby noticeboard taunting me with the normal operating hours for the lighthouse tours. Damn it.

Still, not completely deterred, I ushered the ladies out of the car for a quick stroll up the nearby boardwalk to get a better look at this magnificent 34 meter tall cast-iron beast!

Mind you, this didn’t really work for the girls, as they were pretty much back in the car almost as soon as they left it (too cold for their little shaved legs I would imagine), meaning it was up to me to amble along, snapping some quickfire pictures as the slight rain started to descend in the area.

Designed by the Chance Brothers, the Slangkop Lighthouse (or Slangkoppunt Lighthouse as it is officially known) was originally scheduled to be opened in 1914, but thanks to the commencement of World War I, it only officially launched in 1919.

The lighthouse derives its name from the Slangkop (Snake Head) hill directly behind it, and despite being fully automated in 1979, it remains one of the few lighthouses in the world to be manned by a light-keeper, better known as a lighthouse officer these days.

The particular piece of coastline that Slangkop Lighthouse protects has many reefs and headlands that stretch far out into the ocean, resulting in massive waves that have caused more than a few ships to be wrecked there over time.

Included among these shipwrecks of the area is the 1900 beaching of SS Kakapo, the 1905 wrecking of SS Clan Munroe, the 1906 sinking of the Oakburn, the 1909 destruction of SS Maori, and the more recent 2001 running aground of the Ikan Tanda.

Right. So as I mentioned, the weather wasn’t exactly the greatest and my timing in terms of visiting hours off, which then I guess simply means I’ll need to make another turn out that way sometime in the near future…

Note. Back home, we enjoyed a rather good braai. Also, a map:

Related Link: Slangkop Point Lighthouse | Transnet Ports Authority | Wikipedia

A Boardwalk down to the River Mouth at Gouritz (2016-12-31) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 18 MAR 2017

The girls and I had the pleasure of spending some time down at the fishing/holiday coastal town of Gouritz (or Gouritsmond depending on who you ask) last December, with the trip being sweetened even further after learning that Chantelle could also come down to spend a few days with us on our holiday.  (December holidays are of course peak season in the Guest House industry, meaning that while the rest of us play, she has to stay!)

Gouritz’s main beach carries an official Blue Flag status (meaning that it is a very well looked after beach in terms of water quality and facilities), and while that itself is great fun in terms of waves, a lot of the families with smaller kids prefer the sheltered tranquility of the Gouritz river mouth – which is honestly just as great, thanks to its soft white sand and calm, warm waters!

Very recently the Gouritsmond committee decided to have a beautiful wooden boardwalk installed in order to make access to the river mouth easier for elderly and young alike.

The project was pretty expensive (around R160,000 apparently), but the result is spectacular – a snaking, raised wooden walkway that lifts you above the sand and gives you a great view of the underlying dune ecology, while at the same time making access to the river itself a breeze.

For anyone that knows us, you’ll know that my girls aren’t at all fond of getting near water that might have living things in it, meaning that for the most part swimming in rivers and the sea is a complete no no.

However, with mommy on hand we did half manage to get these two little drama queens wet!

It didn’t last very long though.

So while the girls played on the sand with their Ouma, Chantelle and I got to spend some alone time in the water – which really wasn’t that bad a way to spend the last day of the year really.

(Especially if you knew that the night was going to be rounded off with a spit roasted lamb!)

Also, handy tip. Keep your slip-slops at hand when visiting the river. That walkway and surrounding white sand gets seriously hot in the middle of summer! :)

Plus, a map – just in case you feel in need of a fishing holiday too:

Related Link: Gouritz | Wikipedia

Wine Tasting at Waverley Hills in Wolseley (2016-12-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 17 MAR 2017

Situated between Tulbagh and Ceres, close to Wolseley and at the foothills of the Witzenberg Mountain Range, is Waverley Hills, an organic estate known for three things – it’s role in nature conservation, organic farming, and perhaps the most export worthy of them all – organic wines.

An official WWF Conservation Champion, Waverley Hills champions biodiversity and as such sets aside about 20% of the estate for conservation, land containing critically endangered veld types such as Breede Shale Renosterveld, Breede Alluvium Fynbos and Breede Shale Fynbos.

Indigenous plants and animals are protected, alien vegetation kept at bay, and of course as you might expect from a setup such as this, natural predators are used to keep the vineyards clear of pests. (For example, snails are almost exclusively the domain of their lovable family of white ducks!)

So sustainable, organic farming is quite a big thing for them in other words, which translates into actions like fertilizing with composts and manures, the use of cover crops for soil improvement, irrigation with pure spring water, and obviously a complete shy away from toxic chemicals.

Interestingly enough, the very fact that the naturally diverse fynbos flora is so welcome here means that Waverley Hill’s wines often take on quite a unique herbaceous characteristic!

Anyway, last year December saw Chantelle and I leave the kids with the grandparents and slip away for a weekend in the stunning wine region that is Tulbagh, and it was on our Sunday roundabout route home that we decided to pop in at the wonderful, purpose-built Waverley Hills Estate Tasting Room for impromptu wine tasting session!

The tasting area itself is actually really nice, as is the selection of wines to taste – which makes perfect sense then when you look at all the award stickers littered about.

So definitely a worthy stop on any wine tour of the area then.

(Also, it is well worth sticking around for their restaurant if you can. Apparently the food is really good, but for me that view from the balcony just looks amazing! )

Bonus: A handy map, just in case you have need of organic wine and find yourself in the area one day:

Related Link: Waverley Hills

The Beach, Ice Cream and a Festival at Surfers Corner in Muizenberg (2016-10-16) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 16 MAR 2017

It is difficult to deny that the South Peninsula is a particularly beautiful stretch of Cape Town’s surrounds, and in fact, South Africa in general. If you are a surfer or are looking to become one, then Muizenberg Beach’s Surfer’s Corner is probably the spot that you should be – that is if you don’t mind all the sharks in the water!

Funnily enough, despite my main work office being out in nearby Westlake, I hardly ever make the effort of visiting out in that area, so it was thus particularly pleasurable to find myself putting aside some time to visit the Muizenberg beach stretch with my girls for the first time come October last year.

So I guess I had better blog about it then.

As luck would have it, for their very first visit to the famous Muizenberg Beach, Jessica and Emily got to watch some good surfing action, courtesy of a surf competition that was currently on the go.

Also, they got to see a blue bottle (Portuguese man o’ war) for the very first time, which on learning that these things sting and that it hurts when that happens, immediately added it to their ever growing list of reasons not to EVER swim in the sea!

The little coloured changing huts/storage units were of course a big hit, as was the very messy (but delicious) softserve ice cream grabbed from the venerable (and super interesting in terms of vintage decor) Majestic Cafe.

Which just by the way, happens to be the oldest shop in Muizenberg – having opened its doors way back in 1937!

Ice cream. Cones. Sun. Small kids.

Right. As you might imagine then, I was very, VERY grateful for the (architecturally quite beautiful mind you) public amenities that allowed me to get rid of some of that sticky residue that the girls seem to literally manage to get everywhere!

And then the bonus: What we didn’t know was that the day that we had decided to visit this part of Cape Town also happened to be the start of the 2016 Muizenberg Festival – which kicked off right in front of us with a loud parade lead by a giant silver fish puppet being accompanied by a large costumed crowd, and some VERY enthusiastic drummers.

In other words, quite the loud affair.

So, a great vibe and colourful sight indeed, but unfortunately also a completely overwhelming in terms of noise experience for the girls (Emily in particular) – all of which meant that we had to quickly cut our visit short, hightail it out of ground zero, jump into the car, and try and navigate our way to nearby Kalk Bay before the route closed because of the ever approaching parade!

A pity, but I guess then the perfect excuse for another visit in the nearby future – especially since I would love to take Chantelle to the brilliant seafood restaurant Live Bait (which I’ve had the pleasure of eating at for a business lunch before).

She would appreciate that I think.

Also, if you do decide to visit, take your camera along (if you are not going to surf). There is plenty of nice photogenic things to snap away at…

Also, just in case you can’t quite pinpoint where I am talking about on the map – a map:

Related Link: Muizenberg | Wikipedia | Muizenberg Festival

Birdwatching at Intaka Island in Century City, Cape Town (2016-09-18) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 15 MAR 2017

It is not exactly hidden, but if you only ever travel to Century City for the Canal Walk mall, Virgin Active gym, or Ratanga Junction theme park, then you may have missed the incredibly enjoyable nature experience lurking within its boundaries – Intaka Island.

Situated in the heart of Century City (which is about 7 km away from Cape Town CBD), Intaka Island is a large 16 ha wetland and bird sanctuary conservation area.

Intaka, which means bird in Xhosa, was actually setup by the main Century City developer Rabie – in response to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) which preceded whole area development – with the result being the creation of this sublime multi-purpose nature reserve.

In terms of credentials and recognition, well Intaka Island did receive the Voluntary Conservation Status from Cape Nature in October 2006, and to further their newly entrusted mission, the Intaka Trust followed up with the construction of a modern Environmental Education Centre, opening its doors to the public in 2010.

The site contains numerous paths for exploration (the longer round trip is 2 km in length) and bird watching (essentially it is littered with viewing platforms and bird hides wherever you look) – well worth it if you consider that over 120 different bird species call this unique area home!

Paradise for birders, photographers and nature lovers then.

Funnily enough, despite visiting the adjacent Central Park for many a year prior, I had never set foot on Intaka Island before last year September, when I decided to convince Chantelle that the girls would love a trip out that way.

Naturally, I was completely wrong.

It was hot, the girls weren’t interested in the surroundings, the path was too long, and basically they moaned for most of the walk.

Charming.

(Thankfully, they both loved the boat ride on the Canal that followed our little walkabout – meaning that all was soon forgiven!)

In other words, I need to make a plan on going back out there on my own, without the little ones in tow. So in summary then: Intaka Island is well worth a visit, though you may wish to give it a skip if you have little ones with a strong aversion to walking!

Also, if you have a camera, be sure not to leave it at home.

Also, just in case you want to got and do some birdwatching yourself, here’s a handy map:

Related Link: Intaka Island | Century City

Lunch at the Old Gaol on Church Square in Swellendam (2016-09-22) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 13 MAR 2017

Sadly, Swellendam’s Old Gaol Restaurant is no longer situated in the historic Old Gaol building (Jail for those of you who prefer the more commonly used spelling these days), but luckily it lives on, now branded as Old Gaol on Church Square, and happily housed on an equally old historic property, right across from Swellendam’s magnificent, unusually lavish NG Moederkerk (church).

The story behind this restaurant which started life, and in fact continues to live on, as an empowerment venture has always been a good one, meaning that a trip here for some traditional breads or Cape Malay dishes is well worth it because it makes you feel good for having done so in the first place.

Unfortunately for us this time around though, our experience was that the food is a bit average and the service a little slow, but thankfully the setting is good and the old house in which the eatery is situated does provide a lot of substance for some good conversation to be had around it.

That said, the traditionally prepared milk tart is fantastic!!

Sadly the weather gods weren’t quite behind us for this particular day of Swellendam exploration (we were spending a couple of nights in nearby Buffeljagsrivier), with the rain putting paid to our excursion plans for the most part.

Mind you, the girls did get to see the slightly disappointing (to me) Faerie Sanctuary, so they were reasonably satisfied at least.

Anyway.

We did buy a lot of good tasting chocolate from the local Chocolat Etc. chocolatier (situated in the Bontebok Tourist Centre near the museum in Swellengrebel Street), so that alone is often usually enough to save pretty much any day!

Plus, a few pictures of the outing.

Also, a map.

Related Link: Old Gaol on Church Square | Facebook

Touching Owls from Eagle Encounters at Spier in Stellenbosch (2016-09-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 12 MAR 2017

I’m not massively fond of animals in captivity. However, there is most of the time a sound argument for this to be a thing (and necessary at that), so okay, I’ll go with it. Plus, when you have kids, nothing beats a trip to see some really interesting feathered/furry/scaly creatures – which is a lot easier when they are conveniently all in one place.

Now, if birds of prey is your thing and you find yourself in the Stellenbosch winelands, then you are definitely in luck, because Eagle Encounters, situated on land donated by the renowned Spier wine estate, is definitely worth a stop.

Founded in 2001, Eagle Encounters is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, education and eco-tourism centre.

Birds of prey, raptors are their speciality, and scattered all about their premises you will encounter a wide variety of eagles, hawks, falcons, kites, buzzards, vultures, owls and all other manner of feathered hunters.

With funding coming primarily from their eco-tourism slant, Eagle Encounters makes sure that there is enough on the go to keep visitors interested, with various interactive shows throughout the day, including falconry demonstrations, secretary bird stomp displays, and mock hunts for their varied selection of raptors.

The birds are for the most part out in the open, tethered to their perches, which is apparently the currently most accepted way of keeping these big birds safe and sound, as it helps in preventing them from injuring themselves whilst in captivity.

(Like I said, I’m not overly fond of animals in captivity, though birds have always been the worst for me. Nothing sadder than seeing a bird in a tiny cage. I honestly don’t know why anyone keeps birds as pets. Very maddening for me. Strangely enough though, fish are alright. I have no idea why I have such a lower opinion of the little swimming fellas out there..)

Anyway, the kids always seem to enjoy the outing – though I suspect that is almost entirely based on the fact that they are allowed to touch owls, and better still, coax them to come and sit on their arms.

Which so far has worked out pretty well for us.

In other words, I’m still waiting for the day one of the owls decides to make a sudden poo!

(Mind you, this particular visit of ours was pretty cool. I got to hold a Cape Vulture aloft – man, those birds are much lighter than what their size suggests! Sadly though, Chantelle didn’t get a photo of this. A lot better than the last time I was called up during an interactive show – the guys at Giraffe House put a tarantula on my face!)

Right. So in short, an interesting visit if you are into your birds of prey. Photo opportunities as with any bird sanctuary is a bit of a hit and miss – I know that I certainly never get anything good on my little old phone camera whenever we pop in for a visit to a place with creatures behind fencing/netting…

Naturally, here’s a map if you want to go and touch some soft fluffy owls for yourself one day:

Related Link: Eagle Encounters | Facebook | Spier

Seals and Fishing Boats at Kalk Bay Harbour (2016-10-16) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 11 MAR 2017

It is no surprise really that the working fishing harbour of Kalk Bay, itself a small fishing village,  is as big a tourist attraction as what it is. Situated on a beautiful stretch of the False Bay coastline, the small harbour is home to a handful of eateries, sidewalk artists selling their crafts and wares, seals, and of course, most important of all, a host of colourfully painted fishing vessels.

The fishing community is very active, meaning that the harbour itself is always a hive of fishing-related activity, which then acts as a great tourist attraction (because it is interesting to all us non-fishing and probably hard labour averse people), meaning that one gets the feeling that Kalk Bay Harbour is almost always overrun with people!

The informal fish and chips eatery Kalky’s is somewhat of an institution, but in reality, all the little eateries dotted around the harbour are worth checking out, precisely because of the fact that you are guaranteed in getting some very good, very fresh fish served on a plate.

The girls and I were in the Southern Suburbs for a visit last year October, and seizing the opportunity, I decided to take them for their very first visit to Kalk Bay harbour. As I thought they might, the two of them rather enjoyed the experience, marvelling at the boats, the seals, the actual fishing, and the spectacle of watching seagulls and seals fight for fish. (Very entertaining).

(We also stopped in for a bit at the Imperial Yacht Club  on the west shore of Zandvlei to watch some of the sailboats on the water, but that didn’t last too long thanks to some hastening inclement weather!)

In summary then – If you don’t live near the sea, then a visit to Kalk Bay harbour is well worth the drive. The drive itself to get there is great (that whole stretch past Muizenberg and St James is fantastic (the views, not the roadworks-caused traffic), and the harbour itself is a bustling, tourist friendly (but not overly so), visual spectacle – with the promise of good fish and chips thrown in for good measure!

Bonus tip: don’t do it tomorrow though. Sunday is the Cape Town Cycle Tour, and unless you are really big into bikes and the associated traffic thanks to all the closed roads, I would highly recommend skipping the entire Cape Town region just to be safe! ;)

Also, a handy map if you too want to go and watch the colourful fishing boats go about their business one day:

Related Link: Kalk Bay

Flower Gazing at the Durbanville Rose Garden (2017-02-12) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 10 MAR 2017

First opened in 1979, the award-winning Durbanville Rose Garden stands as one of only three trial rose gardens in the Southern Hemisphere. Jointly cared for by the Friends of the Rose Garden society and the Durbanville Municipality, this lovely garden stands at 3.5 hectares big, with around 4,500 bushes representing about 500 rose varietals!

Situated along one of the main arteries into Durbanville, the R302, it is impossible to miss this colourful, open patch of green land with its distinctive white entrance building standing proudly out front and center.

The rose garden itself is partly planted on land from the original Old Eversdal Estate, donated to the town by the Schabort family. Notably the Schabort family burial ground and memorial are in fact situated in the rose garden as well, a slightly somber addition to this otherwise brightly coloured affair.

Entry to the garden is free, with the occasional Sunday afternoon tea being served in the clubhouse from October through to May (often hosted by different groups and societies).

Naturally, picking of the roses is strictly prohibited!

Although the surrounding Durbanville vineyards have slowly given way to housing and other commercial developments over the years, this particular patch of green has become quite popular with the locals, and you will often find full-on wedding shoots happening in among the roses come just about every other weekend!

Funnily enough, I lived most of my life in the Northern Suburbs without once ever stopping to stroll about these fragrant pathways, a mistake that I at long last rectified by making the drive through and dropping in with the girls one quiet Sunday morning in the middle of February.

Beautiful flowers, a well cared for garden, fantastic views of the mountains in the distance, and of course a tranquil atmosphere makes this a particularly charming and slightly unexpected little stop in the middle of Durbanville suburbia.

Especially if you are into your roses!

Also, a map to the rose garden, just in case you don’t know where Durbanville actually is:

Related Link: Durbanville Rose Garden | Facebook (Unofficial)