Our new innovative tour encompassed much of what the Western Cape has to offer – gardens, wild flowers – a coastal conservation reserve and a chance to experience game in a 70,000 hectare private reserve. Based in the vibrant town of Stellenbosch with its charming Cape Dutch architecture, a range of exceptional private gardens were visited. Early summer in a Mediterranean climate is spectacular but in the Cape it is even better! Manor house gardens in the foothills of the Simonsberg mountains, gardens beyond Sir Lowrie’s pass with views to Kogelberg were part of our programme and much enjoyed. Kirstenbosch gardens at the foot of Table Mountain are a must and our knowledgeable guide, Moira, showed some of the huge range of indigenous fynbos flora.
A relatively new garden at the Babylonstoren Wine Estate was designed by Patrice Taravella of Prieurė d’Orsan in France. A feast for the senses, a decorative potager garden on a large scale, a place to stay, to buy home-baked bread and cheese, to treat oneself to a delicious lunch, Babylonstoren is making headlines in the Western Cape.
We headed inland towards the Little Karoo visiting the Worcester Desert Garden to be initiated in desert flora before arriving at our private reserve in the hinterland. A secluded, comfortable lodge in a vast area of wilderness was our base. Game drives at dawn brought the beauty of nature waking up. Herds of springbok were grazing as were the oryx. A spectacular kudu was sighted on a hillside, giraffes ambled while grazing and the young males practiced neck combats. Someone spotted the sleepy lioness we had followed the previous evening at dusk before her kill.
Our final days were spent on a coastal reserve amidst hills of fynbos (local flora); the Protea mimetes were just beautiful together with my favourite Wachendorfia. On the coast the Southern Right Whales – mothers and calves were near the shore blowing and cavorting. Soon to leave for Antarctic, they are a spectacular sight.
We will return to the Western Cape in 2014. Click here to view the tour details for South Africa.