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A short drive east of Cape Town, the wine region in considered the gastronomic hub of Africa, acclaimed not only for its world-class wines, but also its outstanding cuisine influenced by both French and Dutch origins. While the tastes delight, the history of the area fascinates, with the oldest Dutch wine estate dating back more than three centuries and still producing award-winning wines today. The Cape Dutch architecture is also a draw, with ornate whitewashed gables and thatched roofs.
The Safari Experience
The Cape Winelands region comprises an assortment of rolling hills, mountain passes and romantic, hidden valleys draped in grapevines. The town of Stellenbosch is a historic Dutch settlement with charming shops purveying antiques, fine art, coffee and souvenirs, and superb wine estates such as Rustenberg, producing wine for more than 330 years. Stellenbosch is known as the City of Oaks for all the majestic oak trees planted in the late 1600s that shade its streets. Nearby Franshhoek, originally settled by French Huguenots in 1688, rests in a fertile valley with a quaint main street filled with fine dining establishments and artisan chocolate and cheese shops. And one cannot overlook the 48 Vignerons de Franschhoek, or acclaimed wineries. Some of South Africa’s finest golf courses are also found here. In the wine region, guests may enjoy picnics, chocolate and olive tastings, horseback riding and cycling.
Cheetah Outreach is an educational research and conservation awareness program based near Stellenbosch in Paardevlei. In addition to cheetah, guests may also see small predators such as serval, caracal, black-backed jackal, meerkat and bat-eared fox. Children are welcome at the facility, and educational programs are conducted at local schools with the cheetahs as ambassadors. The cheetahs are a mix of hand-reared, docile cats that guests can pet inside an enclosure, and others that can be viewed but with which guests do not interact. The former home of Cheetah Outreach, the Spier Estate, is also home to Eagle Encounters, a project focused on rehabilitation and conservation of birds of prey. The birds are often rescued from injury, poisoning and illegal removal from their nests, and the facility re-releases as many healthy birds as possible back into the wild so long as they are able to hunt and breed on their own.
How to Include the Cape Winelands in Your Safari Itinerary
Recommended Number of Nights
Nature Travelers: 1 night if there is an interest in cuisine, wine, history or wildlife encounters
Photographers: 1 night for the scenery, architecture and wildlife encounters
Families: Daytrip from Cape Town to visit Cheetah Outreach and Eagle Encounters
Active Travelers: 1 night for cycling, golf and/or horseback riding
Other Regions to Include
The Cape Winelands can be done as simply a daytrip from Cape Town or a 1- to 2- night stay to add variety to any trip. Just 45 minutes farther from Cape Town, driving eastward, the Cape Coast towns of Hermanus or Gansbaai are about two hours’ drive from the Winelands, each situated at an opposite end of Walker Bay, where Southern right whales come to calf for seven months of the year. Hermanus offers some of the world’s best land-based whale watching, and Gansbaai is the ideal spot to cage-dive with great white sharks. A flight from Cape Town will send you farther down the coast to the Eastern Cape, a malaria-free safari haven for spotting the “Big Five” or concentrating on cheetah in a private wildlife reserve. For extended malaria-free options, the Southern Kalahari is South Africa’s largest private game reserve, and Madikwe offers a classic “Big Five” safari experience in varied terrain.