For more intimate and off-the-beaten-track experiences when touring another country, travel sellers are spoilt for choice when it comes to the bouquet of accommodation offerings in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.
Kerry Hayes checked out the region, and was blown away by the number of unique facilities hiding there. The region offers everything from coast to mountains, grasslands to sandy dunes. Here are just some of the spots that are waiting to welcome your clients with an unforgettable experience.
Where to stay
Broughton Country Estate offers unique venue options including Nature’s Cathedral – a forest clearing for outdoor events, and beautiful views of the Lady’s Slipper Mountain. It borders The Island Nature Reserve, and guests will have access to 30km of horse-riding trails and be able to see small indigenous game.
Buffelshoek Farm is home to Olive Schreiner’s gravesite – South African author and anti-war campaigner best known for her novel The Story of an African Farm (written in Matjiesfontein). Buffelshoek has hides where guests can sit and view the game and birdlife, and the ‘Karoo Klipkraal’ (enclosed boma) which was built in the late 1800s, which allows guests to enjoy a true Karoo night experience.
Home to the world’s smallest reserve, which protects the Speccy Euphorbia Valida (a bristly, ribbed cactus), Dikkopvlakte Gasteplaas (guest farm) has a rustic farmhouse surrounded by a variety of biomes, including veld (grasslands), mountains, bushveld, spekboom and aloe forests.
If your guests want to submerge themselves in South African history, a visit to the Karoo houses – Die Tuishuise and Victoria Manor – will take them back to the 1840s, where the ‘tuishuise’ were originally home to saddlers, harness makers, wheelwrights and blacksmiths, before being renovated. The Victoria Manor was restored from days of lavishness, when diamonds were discovered in Kimberley in 1869, and Cradock was a bustling town. The venue offers cooking courses in traditional Karoo and Xhosa cuisine.
A visit to Lalibela’s Mills Manor, in the Lalibela Game Reserve, gives guests an exclusive-use five-star villa offering a private safari experience, with a private game ranger and vehicle, chef and housekeeper. Visitors can enjoy alfresco meals beneath the African sky.
Trennery’s Hotel offers sea and lagoon adventures, and cultural and scenic tours – a great place to escape for a romantic weekend away.
In Graaff-Reinet, and near the Camdeboo National Park, travellers can visit the five-star Drostdy Hotel; and in the Samara Private Game Reserve, the four-star Cypress Cottages and Avondrust. For a different experience, a visit to Letskraal for a farm stay is a must – the former homestead of Voortrekker leader, Andries Pretorius; along with the four-star Abbottsbury, the historic Wheatlands, and Langfontein.
Also on the malaria-free Garden Route, Oyster Bay Lodge offers luxury accommodation in four-star Dutch-style chalets and guest rooms.
Hopefield Country House is a house where everything has a story behind it. Situated in the heart of Sundays River Valley, it is near the Addo Elephant National Park, and has an impressive rose garden featuring 50 rose varieties. What makes Hopefield different is its Music Room Restaurant, which doubles up as a concert venue from time to time.
Forest Hall Guest House near Port Elizabeth, has a Romanesque swimming pool, and was named PE Garden of the Year winner in 2008, as well as number-one bed and breakfast spot in PE by TripAdvisor.
Big Five game viewing is on the doorstep of the Happy Jackal, which is also near Addo Elephant National Park, and is a river lodge on the banks of the Sundays River. Visitors can cross the river to see kudu, bushbuck, water mongoose and Cape Clawless otters.
Bordering Addo Elephant Park, Kromrivier Farm Stays offers a more rustic experience, with capacity for 15 guests. A fully equipped kitchen, dining room that seats 20, and patio with under cover braai and lounge area, make for great entertaining spaces.
The Village Lodge is a family-friendly venue with a giant chess set, hammocks and games to keep the whole family occupied.
The Umngazi River Bungalows and Spa offers 69 thatched-roof bungalows in indigenous gardens along the Wild Coast. Trained staff, activity rooms, an elaborate playground, and a large splash pool keep the kids entertained; while the whole family can enjoy games on the grass, fishing expeditions and swimming in the river.
Travelling is hungry work, so Tourism Update found a few places where travellers can stop off for a bite to eat in the beautiful Eastern Cape.
A trip to Graaff-Reinet – the fourth oldest town in South Africa – will bring visitors to an abundance of interesting spots to eat. It is situated in the Camdeboo National Park, and visitors can go to The Blue Magnolia, a favourite amongst locals, along with Our Yard, which roasts its own coffee, and Polka for baked treats. Coldstream is a family favourite with a garden and kids’ play area. For a five-star experience, travellers can visit Drostdy Hotel’s De Camdeboo Restaurant.
The Music Room Restaurant at Hopefield Country House doubles as a concert venue. Classical music soirées bring in local and nationally acclaimed artists to entertain guests while they enjoy seasonal dishes accompanied by SA wines and local craft beverages.
Tangelo Restaurant in the Addo Wildlife Private Game Reserve, brings a contemporary flair to traditional SA fare, with a citrus theme reflecting the area’s farming produce.
Dune Ridge Country House offers meals prepared with home-grown herbs and seasonal vegetables, with cheeses, meat and fish supplied by local entrepreneurs. Dinners are served either under the Milky Way in summer, or in the fire-lit lounge in winter. Menus are changed on a daily basis, and offer vegan-friendly options.
Buried in the township of Nieu Bethesda is a one-of-a-kind restaurant called Auntie Evelyn Se Plek which serves traditional food in a township style. Dishes include boboties, bredies, samp-and-beans, vegetable dishes, soup and a choice of fresh bread and roosterkoek with home-made jam, a seasonal salad, and dessert. Auntie Evelyn also makes vegetarian meals on request.
Have your clients ever attended a calamari tasting? An interesting inclusion on a travel itinerary, Port St Francis is the only privately owned working harbour in SA, and is home to the squid industry. Travellers can combine a beach walk or Betty’s Tour with a calamari tasting, where they can hear about the sustainability of the industry, methods of catching and showing guests the raw product, and then tasting the freshly prepared dish that is often referred to as ‘white gold’.