South Africa

The Western Cape – Exceptional Gardens and Private Reserves

tour deferred to 2025

10 - 23 November 2024

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Our Western Cape tour combines beautiful gardens in springtime with the flora and wildlife in the spectacular hinterland of the Little Karoo and the mountainous coastline.

The region has a Mediterranean climate, abundant sources of water, mostly acid soil and above all a rich indigenous flora. We visit exceptional gardens, of which a number surround delightful Cape Dutch manor houses, while others are extensive plant collectors’ gardens, and yet others feature contemporary designs. Among the highlights are Kirstenbosch gardens, with a remarkable collection of indigenous plants laid out in a stunning location at the foot of the Table Mountain Range; and the recently created Babylonstoren, spectacular in both design and concept.

Our base for the first part of the tour is Eendracht Hotel in the centre of the Winelands town of Stellenbosch. Home to a university, and with eye-catching Cape Dutch architecture, Stellenbosch has good shops, and many street cafes and restaurants.

We continue to the remote Little Karoo hinterland to stay at the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. With an area of 58,000 hectares, the reserve focuses on the re-introduction and conservation of wildlife eradicated over a century ago, and the protection of a rich diversity of wild flora. From here, we head over the mountains to the coastal region and the superb private nature reserve lodge at Grootbos, surrounded by a milkwood forest and wonderful coastal fynbos (wild flora endemic to this part of South Africa). We are joined by Beat Fischer, the botanist who leads our tour to the gardens of the Italian Lakes and accompanied throughout by Susan.


Overnight flight from London Heathrow with British Airways arriving in Cape Town airport the following morning. (upgrades can be arranged: Premium Economy or Business).


Morning arrival in Cape Town where you will be met by Susan. Short transfer to Hotel Eendracht situated in the historic centre of Stellenbosch with its streets lined with oak trees and jacaranda bursting into flower. We walk to the Stellenbosch University Botanic Gardens where we enjoy lunch outdoors followed by an introduction to the flora of the Cape region and time to explore the collections. Early evening we meet in the garden for an aperitif and a short talk on the programme before enjoying dinner together.


We begin with a morning visit to the Barlow family’s wine estate, Rustenberg. Rozanne Barlow shows us their private Manor House garden, renovated with the help of the head gardener Pietman Diener. It is a sheer delight and beautifully designed, with the recent addition of a potager garden. We continue to the wine estate, with its stunning garden with views to the Hottentot Holland Mountains, where there is an opportunity to taste the estate wines along with a picnic lunch.
The afternoon visit is to a richly planted private garden on the Helsgroote Pass in the mountains above Stellenbosch. It is surrounded with plantations of olive trees and vines, and has a well-developed vegetable garden supplying their own restaurant nearby with fresh produce. Evening at leisure.


Kirstenbosch, at the foot of Table Mountain, is a magical garden with exclusively indigenous flora, except for the avenue of camphor trees. We are given a guided tour of the main sections of the garden, and go on to discover the treetop walkway. Lunchtime is in the garden. Our afternoon visit is to Stellenberg, Sandy Ovenstone’s outstanding garden created around her Cape Dutch manor house near Cape Town. David Hicks was involved in some of the design and the Ovenstones’ recent restoration along the stream is inspiring. We return to the hotel and enjoy dinner together at a nearby restaurant.


We begin the day with a visit to the superb terraced gardens at Old Nectar in the attractive Jonkershoek Valley. Created by the late Una van der Spuy, a renowned rose grower, they have been recently restored and extended by her son.
We spend most of the afternoon in the Elgin district with its many apple orchards. A highlight is our visit to a private garden of great plant collectors and propagators, where the woodland area is a profusion of climbing roses. The indigenous Wachendorfia and tall blue Aristea are particularly striking. We take the road over the fynbos-covered mountains descending through Franschhoek to return to Stellenbosch.


The exceptional gardens at the Babylonstoren wine estate in the Drakenstein Valley were designed principally as a decorative potager garden by Patrice Taravella of Prieuré d’Orsan fame and, more recently, The Newt garden in Somerset. Liesl van der Welt, head gardener/curator, will welcome us. We enjoy lunch in the farm’s wine tasting restaurant with dishes made from their garden produce.
We go on to discover Dylan Lewis’s garden in the hills above Stellenbosch, beautifully planted with indigenous fynbos as the context in which to display his sculptures of mountain leopards inspired by the hinterland of the mountains. Evening at leisure.


Depart Stellenbosch (with luggage) across the mountains. Continue along the Route 62 to Montagu and to the entrance of Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, where we transfer to Land Cruiser vehicles to drive to our lodge. Lunch on arrival. A late afternoon game drive to experience the rich variety of game and wilderness, stopping for a sundowner, is followed by a return to the lodge for dinner.


Early morning game drive before returning for breakfast, followed by time to relax. Possible sightings include elephants, a pride of lions, giraffe, springbok, kudu; and white rhinos, which were re-introduced after well over a century’s absence to this vast conservation reserve. Late afternoon drive in the amazing Little Karoo fynbos to the dam where hippos can be seen. Dinner in the lodge.


Early morning we discover on a nature walk both fynbos plants endemic to the Little Karoo, and the ancient rock art of San people (Bushman) who are indigenous to the area. Return for lunch and time to relax. Afternoon game drive with a sundowner, before enjoying dinner together.


Depart from Sanbona by Landcruiser, transferring to our minibus as we leave the reserve. We traverse the spectacular Tradouws Pass in the Langeberge Mountains and travel on across a landscape of vast cereal farms during this harvest season. There is a chance to bird-watch, with possible sightings of blue cranes and francolin. Arrive in the afternoon at Grootbos Reserve above Gansbaai on the coast. We meet our specialist guide for an introductory walk in the fynbos and the milkwood forest. Sundowner on the terrace overlooking Walker Bay before enjoying dinner together.


After breakfast we drive into the hills with our guide to discover the profuse coastal fynbos, and perhaps some springbok and baboons. In the afternoon we go down to the coast where we will hopefully spot Southern Right whales just off the cliffs. Time to relax or walk in the milkwood forest before dinner.


We board a riverboat to explore the lagoon with our guide, spotting a multitude of birds and seasonal flora. Return to the lodge for a light lunch. Afternoon walk on the pristine beach, discovering ancient caves.


A relaxed morning visit is to the Grootbos Reserve farm, where local villagers grow seasonal produce. We depart after lunch (with luggage) along the coast to see the indigenous penguins at Betty’s Bay. We then take the scenic coastal road to Cape Town airport for the return overnight flight arriving early morning at London Heathrow on 23 November.


Rooms at the Hotel and Lodges are luxurious with all modern conveniences ensuite with stylish furnishings and a comfortable bed.

Hotel Eendracht, Stellenbosch
Sanbona Wildlife Conservation Reserve – Gondwana Lodge
Grootbos Nature Reserve – Forest Lodge
Activity Level

Mostly level paths in gardens, some steps. Nature and game drives in open Landcruisers.


£7,200 per person sharing

Single occupation of double room supplement £1,700

What's included

Airflights in Economy Class (upgrades can be arranged), all land transport, accommodation in high quality hotel/lodges, delicious meals where shown. Sundowner drinks on reserves. All National Park entrance fees, garden entrance fees and local guides.

What's NOT included

Alcoholic and soft drinks, driver’s tip, tips at hotel/lodges, game drive ranger tips, items of a personal nature. Travel insurance to include full Covid cover and to be taken out on payment of the deposit.


The climate is delightful, November being late spring/early summer. The days are warm at about 24ºC and the evenings are pleasant. Insects and mosquitoes are not evident, but insect repellent is recommended. Sunscreen and a sun hat are essential. A waterproof jacket is suggested in case of rain. Sturdy shoes and a fleece are a must for early morning game drives. Neutral colours are preferable for the game drives.

Meals included are shown as B breakfast, L lunch, Picnic and D dinner.

Wi-Fi is efficient throughout the Cape. The areas we visit are safe, and the local people are friendly. Afrikaans is spoken widely but everyone also speaks English very well.
The tour has been well researched personally by Susan Worner. This is an alternative itinerary to the Garden Route, a misnomer, as the superb gardens are in the Cape Town area.
The reserves are chosen as the best in the region; they both prioritise the conservation of indigenous flora and wildlife, and give an insight into the wild, beautiful hinterland of this region of South Africa.