Category Archives: Photo Gallery

Arts and Crafts at the Mosaic Village and Outdoor Market in Sedgefield (2020-01-04) Markets | Photo Gallery 15 APR 2020

Sedgefield. After purchasing all your fresh farm produce from the excellent (and famous) Wild Oats Community Farmers Market on a Saturday morning, your next step would undoubtedly be to simply cross the road and mosey in among the craft stalls of sister markets, the Mosaic Outdoor Market and the Scarab Village Craft Market.

The Mosaic Outdoor Market forms part of the Mosaic Village complex, a space mostly dedicated to art and sculpture businesses and its Saturday morning market offering strongly reflects this, with a large portion of the stallholders presenting the results of their artistic endeavours for sale.

Of course, all the other little odds and ends that you would expect from a market are also on sale, and to round off the offering, there are a few interesting food options as well. There’s a spacious space in the middle to sit down and enjoy a beer or two, and of course, given the general buzz of this part of Sedgefield on a Saturday morning, the vibe and bustle make for a great morning outing.

Right next door to the Mosaic Village (separated this time by an Engen garage) is the Scarab Art and Craft Village with its Saturday morning craft market, which is equally filled with a wide range of interesting art and textile products. Of course, the elephant dung paper, wooden owl boxes and the all important Sedgefield Craft Brewery all put on a strong show, and as with the Mosaic market, there is plenty of seating available for you to sit down and enjoy the hustle, as well as a small area to let the kids get rid of some of their pent up energy. (After all, it’s pretty boring going stall hopping if you’re a kid. Or at least that is what my two girls tell me!)

The Sedgefield market scene is incredibly strong and vibrant and the amount of visitors it attracts on a Saturday morning is truly something to behold. Something for literally everyone and you can easily lose yourself for an entire morning here among all the stalls. We kind of did.

Bunnies and Decor at Root 44 in Stellenbosch (2019-11-10) Markets | Photo Gallery 11 APR 2020

Having already wrapped up some stall browsing and pancake snacking at the always vibey Winelands Markets at Blaauwklippen (aka the old Blaauwklippen Family Market), we decided to also pop our heads in at the equally enjoyable Root44 market more or less just down the road, pretty much only because it had been quite a while since Chantelle had last visited there.

Situated on the Audacia Wines estate (right next to the big Mooiberge strawberry farm with all its crazy colourful scarecrows), Root44 is a sprawling market space with its ample food and craft traders operating out of big sturdy marquee tents, absolute loads of seating for visitors (both covered and uncovered), space for the kids to get rid of their energy, and constant music to entertain the seemingly never ending stream of people paying them a visit every Saturday and Sunday from 09:00 all the way to 16:00 in the afternoon!

Lots of beer and wine swirl together with all manner of prepared foods across a variety cuisine styles, all mixing it up with a wide variety of crafters showing off their wares. Simply put, there is usually a little something for pretty much everyone that visits. In addition to all of that, the fact that the market is situated in the Stellenbosch winelands also means then that the experience comes with some pretty spectacular mountain and vineyard views, thus making it a particularly perfect spot for groups of friends or families to congregate and enjoy a lazy day outside in each other’s company.

Chantelle, the girls, and I enjoyed a leisurely explorative stroll through all the big tents, managed to gather a small helping of various snacks from the food stall section, and amazingly found a table to claim and hunker down around. Also, as expected, I took a lot of photos.

And yes, those are indeed giant wooden bunnies in the picture above.

Wild Flower Watching in the West Coast National Park near Langebaan (2019-09-01) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 10 APR 2020

With the start of each Spring, the months of August and September see our West Coast region bursting with colorful carpets of wild flowers, instantly transforming this laid back and generally quiet part of South Africa into a total tourist mecca. With people streaming in from all over Cape Town and its surrounds, the West Coast and its sister Namaqualand are simply put, the places to be if you want to go flower watching.

The West Coast National Park (one of the few national parks that I’m actually older than seeing as it was only officially proclaimed in 1985, a full 5 years after I was born) is a 36,000 hectare strong nature reserve centered around the Langebaan Lagoon. Lying 120 km north of Cape Town, the park is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the R27 coastal road, and stretches from Yzerfontein in the south right up to Langebaan and its lagoon in the north. (It also has a few islands in Saldanha Bay attached as well).

The park is home to a number of antelope species, including eland, red hartebeest, bontebok, kudu, gemsbok, steenbok, and duiker, as well as ostriches and a host of smaller animals like the bat-eared fox, caracal, and Cape gray mongoose. Bird life is of course abundant (a bird watcher’s dream to be sure) and many Palearctic migrants spend their winter months around the Langebaan Lagoon. The coastal islands at the mouth of the lagoon are important breeding colonies for Cape and Hartlaub’s gull, Cape gannet, cormorants, terns and even the African penguin.

Then there is the flora of course, and coastal fynbos and scrub aside, the Postberg Flower Reserve (privately owned land situated within the national park’s bounds and which is included as a “contractual national park”) is the site where the majority of the annual Spring wild flowers bloom, making it the focal point come flower season.

The lack of big predators means that much of the park is open for human outdoor activities like walking, hiking, mountain bike riding, and jogging. There are a number braai facilities scattered around at sites like Tsaarsbank and Preekstoel (named after a large uniquely shaped rock found there), as well as spots to cool down on both the banks of the lagoon and the ocean. (The lagoon is also home to house boats that you can rent as accommodation).

I took Chantelle and the girls out for a flower watching jaunt last Spring, and as expected (due to the lengthy period of drought that the Western Cape had just emerged from), the flower bloom really wasn’t nearly as good as what we’ve encountered before, with many previously blanketed swathes of fields and koppies devoid of any of the characteristic carpets of colour that we’ve come to associate them with.

Nevertheless, it was a delightful drive through nature, and the lack of large crowds (because of the decreased amount of flowers on display) meant that it was slightly less stressful and we had a lot more opportunity to stop and explore than what we have had before.

We ended off our day of flower watching with a slightly overpriced lunch at the onsite Geelbek Restaurant (love its historic Cape Dutch building though!), before heading back out of the park to hit the long road home – but only because by this point Chantelle had had enough viewing for the day and wouldn’t let me traipse over to the bird hide on the lagoon!

I’ve mentioned before that the West Coast National Park is probably not the most exciting of our national parks to take a self drive through if you are interested in actual game watching, but regardless of that, the wide open space, the fresh air, and the long empty views do make for an excellent break from city/suburban life. Plus, if you go there during flower season (on a good year and somehow manage to miss the big crowd that comes along with it), it truly is an amazing natural sight to behold!

Wood Cabins and Warm Water at Warmwaterberg Spa near Barrydale (2019-07-01) Accommodation | Photo Gallery 09 APR 2020

Lying some 26 km above Barrydale on the famous Route 62 tourist route (and sitting literally across the road from the famous Ronnie’s Sex Shop pub in case that helps you pinpoint it on the map), is Warmwaterberg Spa, one of the oldest hot spring resorts in South Africa, having opened all the way back in 1887!

Blessed with a natural warm water mineral hot spring and the tranquil landscape views of the Klein Karoo, Warmwaterberg Spa is a fantastic family friendly get away in the literal middle of nowhere, but with enough amenities that you don’t actually feel like you are in fact stranded in the middle of nowhere.

From its historic bath houses first built in 1886, its modern studio bath houses completed in 2015, the timber chalets, to the caravan and camping sites, the resort caters to all levels of budget and its wide open spaces, lawns and of course relaxing pool complex all come together to make for a perfect getaway where you can let the kids run amok while you soak up those warm mineral waters.

Given that you are more than 26 km from the nearest town (the resort sits somewhat between Barrydale and Ladismith), there is a simple restaurant and bar on the premises, as well as a small shop stocking some basic essentials (and of course a snack treat or two). There is also a big lapa which makes under roof gatherings possible should you need it. (Additionally, there are also two walking/hiking routes on the property, but truth be told, I have only ever been there to relax, not build up a sweat by waltzing around in the in Klein Karoo heat!)

For this particular holiday stay, we joined Chantelle’s folks Monty and Cheryl for a stay in one of the rustic timber chalets among all the peacocks, and in addition to the many trips to the always interesting little town of Barrydale, enjoyed many a swim, braai, and game of Jenga over the course of our stay in the resort. (Oh, and savoured a drink or two of course!)

Hunting for Proteas at the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West (2019-07-27) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 08 APR 2020

Sometimes it just doesn’t work. I can’t convince, bribe or coerce my wife or either of my girls to head out for a walk with me. Mind you, not that it bothers me in the slightest – it is their loss after all and in any event, it just gives me an even greater opportunity to randomly stop and take a picture or three!

Residents of Somerset West are really fortunate to have a very nice, accessible and well run City of Cape Town managed and operated (with support from the local Friends of Helderberg Nature Reserve NPO) nature reserve right on their doorstep in the form of the Helderberg Nature Reserve.

Situated on the southern slopes of the Helderberg mountains (the peaks of which remain under the protection of Cape Nature), the Helderberg Nature Reserve originally came to be as a wildflower garden (and to protect the water resources in Somerset West) in 1960, following a period of lobbying by the local Rotary Club of Somerset West. Since then the area has morphed into a proper nature reserve with the now 402-hectare reserve protecting a swathe of Swartland shale renosterveld, Kogelberg sandstone fynbos, Cape Winelands shale fynbos and Southern afro-temperate forest pockets.

The lower reaches of the park is home to large tree shaded lawns, popular with families and perfect for the hosting of picnics, birthday parties and the occasional music concert, as well a small coffee shop and the Maskew Miller Educational/Visitors Centre. As you would expect, there are walking and hiking paths scattered around the reserve, catering to nature lovers of all fitness levels (and particularly popular with those who like jogging up mountains for exercise).

Surrounded by all manner protea species and birds galore, there is tranquility, majestic mountain landscapes and a sweeping view over False Bay below – what more could one looking for a break from suburban living possibly still need?

Spinning Cotton into Clothes with the Barrydale Hand Weavers (2019-07-02) Photo Gallery | Shopping 07 APR 2020

There aren’t that many commercial hand weaving ventures left in South Africa, but if you ever find yourself in the delightful little town of Barrydale on the border of the Overberg and Klein Karoo regions (and which is known for mixing farmers and artisans), you’ll stumble across one such venture that is very much thriving – and has a pretty feel good story to boot!

The brainchild of Carol Morris and German-trained weaver Tivane Mavuma (who come from running running a knitwear operation in Swaziland), Barrydale Hand Weavers was established to create quality hand-loomed products while also serving as a way to uplift the local community through upskill and opportunity.

Spun by members of the community itself, the finest high-grade cotton is then transformed by a group of trained local weavers into all manner of homeware products including bathmats, cushion covers, rugs, table runners, and their famous flat-weave towels – all on rickety age old wooden hand looms.

In addition to their local storefront in Barrydale itself, Barrydale Hand Weavers already supply boutiques and shops across South Africa, while also having found moderate success in exporting their woven products to countries such as Canada, the United States, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK.

Once you are done perusing their wares, browsing the art, and maybe sipping a warm coffee in the unique brick courtyard of their main shop, you also have the option of taking a drive down the road to the actual factory itself – a nondescript building tucked away in Barrydale’s small industrial area that houses all of Barrydale Hand Weaver’s prized looms and weaving staff.

It is super interesting to watch how this centuries old craft works and how incredibly beautiful pieces of patterned cloth are able to emerge through such not quite as simple as what they first seem looms. (And yes, as you can see from the picture above, if you’re cute or ask nicely enough, they might even given you the chance to have a spin on the loom!)

Well worth a stop and look see then.

Blooms, Buds and Bridges in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (2019-03-17) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 06 APR 2020

As one of Cape Town’s premiere Big 6 tourist attractions, the magnificent Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is celebrated as one of Africa’s most beautiful gardens and is an absolute must do excursion if you are looking for a tranquil green escape from the bustling city bowl.

Nestled at the eastern foot of Table Mountain and administered by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Kirstenbosch estate covers an area of 528 hectares with its 36 hectare large cultivated garden placing a strong emphasis on the cultivation of indigenous plants only. Its main conservatory exhibits plants taken from across a number of South Africa’s biomes (like savanna, fynbos and Karoo), while the extensive outdoor garden places its focus on plants native to the Cape floral region.

Established in 1913 on land bequeathed to the Cape Colony by Cecil John Rhodes, the more than a century old Kirstenbosch garden is criss-crossed by a large number of different paths and walkways, each leading you to a different collection of plants and each patiently waiting to take your breath away as you traipse around the foot of the mountain.

In addition to flowers, tree and bird watching, there are of course the expansive lawns beckoning families to sit down and enjoy a picnic, the metal dinosaur sculptures looking to whisk you away to another age, the hauntingly beautiful African stone sculptures dotted around the gardens, the exquisite collections of Proteas (king of our floral kingdom), the twisted metal and wood of the snaking Boomslang foot bridge that takes you above the forest canopy, Moyo restaurant as well as the tea room for those not wanting to eat sandwiches from a basket on a blanket, an art exhibition space, a main exhibition hall, and of course come Summer, the annual (and incredibly popular) Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset music concerts which are an absolute sublime way to experience some of your favourite (both local and international) performing artists.

As for this particular visit of ours in March of last year, we struck it lucky in that the weather was a bit overcast on the day, making for much more pleasant walking conditions up and down the slopes of this magical green space. Not great for photos of course, but certainly very helpful in keeping the moaning of two little girls tired from all the walking slightly in check!

As always, a magical experience and certainly an absolute must do excursion for any visitor to our beautiful city of Cape Town.

Cape Agulhas Lighthouse and the Southernmost Tip of Africa (2019-03-23) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 APR 2020

In March of last year I decided to drag the family out on a spur of the moment day trip to the see the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse and visit the southernmost tip of Africa marker in the Agulhas National Park. Of course, seeing as we were headed out that way anyway, I also managed to throw in a visit to the Bredasdorp Shipwreck Museum – but only in exchange for a light breakfast in Bredasdorp first. (Chantelle and the girls drive a hard bargain!)

Much like say Strand and Gordon’s Bay, the two small coastal holiday towns or settlements of Struisbaai and L’Agulhas have pretty much merged into one another these days (i.e. you can just about get away with using either name synonymously), and is a particularly popular coastal holiday destination for many Afrikaans speaking families.

Built around a natural harbour and with some of the best fishing waters on offer, the area has done well to maintain a very laid back, undeveloped charm and it is quite easy to see just why this is such an attractive weekend getaway destination for a lot of Western Cape folks.

Operated by Transnet National Ports Authority and sitting at the entrance of the SANParks-operated Agulhas National Park, the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse holds the honour of being the third ever lighthouse to be built in South Africa and is the second-oldest still operating (after the Green Point Lighthouse in Cape Town).

Built in 1848 and operated until 1968 before being taken out of service due to its crumbling sandstone walls, the lighthouse (with its design inspiration taken from the Pharos of Alexandria) was declared a national monument as well as a Western Cape provincial heritage site in 1973, leading to a restoration and reconstruction effort lead by the Bredasdorp Shipwreck Museum and local council that resulted in its recommission in 1988.

The red and white banded lighthouse welcomes visitors and as such has become a popular tourist destination, a fact made quite apparent by the number of people squeezed into the small building on the day of our visit. That said, I don’t exactly have the body circumference conducive to climbing up lighthouse tower stairs, so I did give this one a skip.

SANParks and the Department of Tourism have put a lot of effort into making the Southern Tip of Africa (and the official meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans) as tourist friendly as possible, going so far as to lay out a boardwalk that you can follow just about all the way from the lighthouse to the official (and photo famous) marker.

Last year also saw the unveiling of a large 3D relief map of Africa known as the Iconic Map of Africa Monument. Part of a project funded to the tune of R15 million, this monument pays homage to the African continent. The map is aligned with the earth compass (with the tip of Africa pointing to the south) and to represent the differing landscapes across the continent, the map has been sprayed with various metal powders that over time will react with chemicals in the environment and atmosphere to change color and represent the different biomes and vegetation across different regions of Africa. (Bonus, this makes climbing Mount Kilimanjaro a heck of a lot easier than what it would normally be!)

The open access Agulhas National Park itself isn’t one of South Africa’s largest national parks, covering an area of around 20,959 hectares. That said, it does boast some 2,000 native plant species (hello fynbos) and a wetland that provides refuge to birds and amphibians.

The waters are of course teeming with Southern Right whales over the November to January whale watching season and there are plenty of sea birds like the Damara tern and African Black oystercatcher for birders to tag.

Apart from all the scenic rocks, crashing waves and fynbos, the treacherous, fish rich waters of Cape Agulhas is of course infamous for its many shipwrecks over the years (aka the reason for a lighthouse in the first place), with names like De Zoetendal, HMS Birkenhead, and HMS Arniston all counted among its victims. (This is also then why we have a shipwreck museum in Bredasdorp of all places).

In fact, just a short drive into the park (or about a 20 minute walk from the southern tip marker) will lead you to a rusted prow resting on the rocks, the final remains of the Meisho Maru No. 38, a small Japanese fishing trawler that met its end at Cape Agulhas in 1982.

Picture perfect, untouched, rugged, unbridled coastal views that stretch out in every direction that you look. Tranquil, fresh sea air and fynbos everywhere. Can’t say then that I didn’t love our visit to this most southernmost tip of Africa.

Traipsing about Rooi-Els Nature Reserve (2019-01-19) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 04 APR 2020

At the start of last year I managed the unusual in that on a rare weekend morning without Helderberg Cake Company orders to fulfill, I got Chantelle to agree to come out for a nature walk with me and the girls – my destination of choice being the quiet little settlement of Rooi-Els. Of course getting there means tackling all 77 potentially nausea inducing twists and turns of the extremely scenic Clarence Drive as well, something Chantelle is not overly fond of on the best of days either!

Known for its fishing and diving opportunities, not to mention the fact that it is constantly being bashed by the sea winds and raided by the local Chacma baboon troop, the mostly holiday home littered little settlement of Rooi-Els is pretty quiet, has only a handful of tarred roads, and thus very little in terms of commercial ventures. (Mind you, they do have a popular bikers’ pub and two rather nice restaurants all of a sudden).

One of its claims to fame is that Rooi-Els falls within the vaunted Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, the 100,000 hectare UNESCO designated area whose landscape is home to one of the most complex biodiversity regions on our planet – featuring more than 1,880 different plant species, 77 of which occur nowhere else on earth. This sweeping sea of fynbos and mountains is home to a variety of animal species like leopard, caracal, baboon and antelope, as well a particularly rich selection of bird life.

As a conservancy, there are no fences around Rooi-Els to keep people out or nature in – instead it is the commitment of the local communities, farmers, conservation agencies and local government to protect and nurture the land and its biodiversity.

(For reference, the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, which interestingly enough was South Africa’s first ever registered biosphere reserve, encompasses the entire area from Gordon’s Bay to the Bot River Statuary and inland to Grabouw and the Groenland Mountain.)

As for our little excursion, we found ourselves first picking our way through the fynbos over the small picturesque area marked as the Rooi-Els Nature Reserve, before extending our trip with a drive out to Betty’s Bay in order to take in the devastation of the recent fires that had ripped through the town, devouring anything and everything in its path, after which we turned back and stopped for some coffee and a light lunch at Pringle Bay’s always pleasant Bistro 365 & Simple Coffee eatery.

So a proper mix of an excursion then. The tranquil quiet beauty of nature in the fynbos rich area of Rooi-Els, the sobering reality of the fire risk that comes from living so close to the mountain in Betty’s Bay, and then the mad vibe of people enjoying the weeked at a bustling Pringle Bay town center.