Wednesday , 26 July 2017
South Africa Blog / Attractions and Places

Attractions and Places

Pigeon Valley Park

Pigeon Valley Park

In the heart of the balmy east coast city of Durban, South Africa, is a verdant retreat from the commotion of the city centre, the exquisite Pigeon Valley Park. This has been proclaimed a Natural Heritage Park and a municipal nature reserve, thanks to its natural diversity and its aesthetic loveliness, all within an otherwise urban setting.

Pigeon Valley Park was originally set up in an effort to provide a safe habitat for coastal forest trees, particularly (but not exclusively) the Natal elm and the Natal loquat. The slopes that benefit from their south-facing orientation are covered in canopy forest, while those facing the north are bedecked in thorny brush. This unique positioning, therefore, gives the park so much natural value and lends it an extraordinary biodiversity.

Because it is so diverse, the 11 hectare extent of Pigeon Valley Park is the home of choice to a number of bird species, including rather rare finds. Avid bird watchers love to visit the park and look out for some of the more than 150 recorded species in the area. These include the Narina trogon, spotted thrush, Cape white-eye, African paradise flycatcher, European nightjar, black-throated wattle-eye, buffspotted flufftail and the green twinspot. The spotted ground-thrush is an endangered species that can regularly be found here during the cooler winter months (June to August). Of course, birds are not the only wildlife to make this their home. Visitors should keep an eye out for the red and blue duikers, banded mongooses and water mongooses.

There is a walking or running trail called the Natal Elm Trail, which takes visitors around the reserve. The trail is only some 400 metres long, but promises gorgeous views and plenty of photo-perfect moments. The picnic area and public toilets make this the ideal spot at which to enjoy a day with friends and family during your time in KwaZulu-Natal.

Website Link: Pigeon Valley Nature Reserve
Contact: 031 205 1919
Overnight: See hundreds of options.

A Visit to La Mercy

A Visit to La Mercy

Say ‘La Mercy’ and the obvious connection will be ‘airport’. Anyone who lives in and around Durban knows that La Mercy Airport, known as King Shaka International Airport, lies just north of Umhlanga close to Tongaat. The airport is confusing for those of us who used to live in Durban and caught flights in and out of Durban International Airport, south of Durban. Now we have to remember that it has been replaced, by La Mercy. And it has a different name.

It makes absolute sense to have Durban’s airport so close to Umhlanga, given that this is the new hub of the city. Comparitively, it is rather like having an airport close to Sandton in Johannesburg – good for business.

Despite the airport and the ease it brings visitors to the seaside city, La Mercy is also a little seaside village with a strong Indian heritage. This is a rather obvious link, given its proximity to the large sugar town of Tongaat, the oldest Indian community in South Africa. During the 1860s indentured Indian labourers arrived on our shores to work in the sugar plantations. And stayed.

As its immediate neighbour, La Mercy has a very similar flavour. It is also close to a number of attractions. Surfers regard the beach. The waves break on sandbars and reefs and provide a pretty big swell and a long wave. It’s thus fairly popular as a surfing spot.

But when not on the beach, head a little further north up the coast to favourite seaside villages like Ballito, Salt Rock and Zinkwazi Beach. En route stop off at the Lithuli Museum in Groutville on the R102, dedicated to a man who fought for human rights in this country. Also include a visit to the market in Verulam for spices, fresh produce and a colourful atmosphere.

Church Square and the Slave Lodge

Church Square and the Slave Lodge

The Slave Lodge, now part of the Iziko Musuem Collective, was first constructed in 1679 by the Dutch East India Company with the purpose of housing large numbers (in the thousands) of slaves. When Jan Van Riebeeck came to the Cape in 1652, the Groote Kerk was built as the first Christian place of worship.  Church Square, just outside Groote Kerk, is the place where slaves waited for their owners to return from church. Read More »

Exploring Pietermaritzburg

Exploring Pietermaritzburg

The Natal Midlands of South Africa are unrivalled in their beauty. They are characterised by deep valleys that are blanketed by gorgeous jade-coloured vegetation, dense forests of towering trees, and rolling hills adorned by flowers and greenery. In the heart of this idyll is the city of Pietermaritzburg, where these beautiful surrounds are complemented by an undeniable sense of history and heritage.

The history of Pietermaritzburg dates back to 1837, when the first Voortrekkers arrived in the area and defeated the Zulu king, Dingane, in the Battle of Blood River. It is believed that the city was named after two of the Voortrekker leaders, Piet Retief and Gerrit Maritz. Pietermaritzburg also earned its place on the historical ‘map’ for being the spot at which Mahatma Ghandi was thrown off a train for sitting in the first-class carriage, despite his having a first-class ticket. This was as a result of opposition from a white passenger during the apartheid regime. It was at this train station that a freezing Ghandi decided to stay in South Africa and fight this racial oppression. Read More »

Explore Vosburg

Explore Vosburg

Haven’t heard of Vosberg? No, nor had we. And if it weren’t for the recently tarred R384 that links Carnarvon and Britstown to Vosburg (the peaceful village is also linked by gravel to Prieska and Victoria West) it probably would not have featured on our list of dorpies you should consider visiting. Its former highly corrugated, gravel section of road was fit for the 4×4 community and farmers’ bakkies, not townies’ neat sedans.

Now tar has changed things, placing Vosburg firmly on the Namaqualand flower route and bringing greater tourism to the pretty little Karoo town. Read More »

Explore Pennington

Explore Pennington

The eastern shores of South Africa are not only aesthetically near-perfect, they are also fantastic destinations for summer holidays when families, friends and honeymooning couples want to escape city life and retreat to golden sands and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. On the face of the rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal, with sprawling views of this vast ocean, is the little resort of Pennington.

This was established as a farming community in the latter part of the 1800’s, when an English family (with the surname Pennington) settled here. Later, the sugar magnate, Sir Frank Reynolds, bought a country home here and then built inviting accommodation on the coast for the prime ministers of South Africa. Read More »

Explore Oudtshoorn

Explore Oudtshoorn

The Little Karoo is a place of mysterious allure; where the stark beauty steeps into every part of the vast landscape. This little valley is green and fertile, its vegetation unique and delightful. The mammoth mountains of the Swartberg and Outeniqua loom overhead, erupting from the ancient land to meet the clear, crisp blue of the African sky.

Oudtshoorn is the main town of the Little Karoo and is best known for the ostrich feathers and products that come from this small, but productive region. There was a feather boom from 1865 to 1870, and again from 1900 to 1914; and these brought influxes of those in search of their fortunes, establishing what is today a vibrant town and farming community. In fact, even modern-day Oudtshoorn relies on the ostrich industry as its major source of income. Visitors are assured of excellent shopping opportunities and can look out for ostrich leather products (such as bags, wallets, belts and shoes), meat (this lean meat is known for its delicious beefy flavour), feather products (ornaments, dusters, clothing and accessories), and eggs (used for eating or as ornately decorated ornaments). Read More »

Explore Marloth Park

Explore Marloth Park

Marloth Park promises visitors to South Africa an exquisitely raw bushveld experience. It celebrates the serenity of the landscapes, the diversity of its fauna and flora, and the rhythmic heartbeat of a true South African destination. Marloth Park is a wildlife sanctuary and a fantastic holiday spot, thanks to the many accommodation options on offer here. What sets it apart even more is its convenient locale – right on the southern border of the Kruger National Park, which is one of Africa’s most significant tourist attractions.

Visitors to Marloth Park love taking a walk or drive to the Crocodile River to watch some of the country’s beautiful and exciting species congregate there. These species include four of the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros and buffalo), as well as hundreds of birds and other animals. Sipping on a hot coffee or a cool cocktail and drinking in these magnificent scenes is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Read More »

Explore Margate

Explore Margate

Margate is fun and vibey, but still manages to retain a kind of seaside village charm. This town is on South Africa’s east coast, at the southern tip of the KwaZulu-Natal Province. In fact, it is more of a seaside resort, as the vast majority of the homes are holiday homes and accommodation for the tourists that flood here every year to make the most of the gorgeous weather, serene coastal forests, and spectacular beaches.

It is these beaches that are the main attraction to Margate. A number of these have qualified as Blue Flag Beaches, which means that they adhere to very strict criteria. These include safe swimming conditions, educational information provided, an excellent code of conduct at all times, lifeguards, safe access, and more. These and the other beaches make Margate a hotspot for water sports; including stand-up paddling (SUP), kayaking, body-boarding, surfing, kite surfing, hydrofoiling, snorkelling and SCUBA diving. There are coral reefs that are occupied by beautiful tropical fish, making snorkelling particularly rewarding. Read More »

Exploring Hoedspruit

Exploring Hoedspruit

The farming town of Hoedspruit may be small, but it is an important little hub for those wanting to explore the province of Limpopo and the nearby Kruger National Park. In fact, it is less than an hour’s drive from this world-acclaimed reserve, where a massive variety of South Africa’s most beautiful fauna and flora can be seen within their natural habitat.

The countryside around Hoedspruit is some of Limpopo’s prettiest. It is littered by incredible game reserves, and has earned its place on the map for its mango and citrus products. These landscapes are part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, which is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the largest of three biosphere reserves in South Africa, and is the third-largest in the world.  It is made up of beautiful forests, savannahs and grasslands; and Hoedspruit is at its heart. Read More »

Lets Go Jeffreys Bay!

Lets Go Jeffreys Bay!

J-Bay (as it is commonly known) may be a small seaside town nestled away in the Eastern Cape but it has a big reputation around the world for the excellent surfing on offer. In fact, Jeffreys Bay is one of the top spots for surfing champions from various countries to test their skills and take full advantage of the best waves and the stunning weather. It has long been one of the legs for the annual Billabong Pro; where sportsmen like Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning compete for the coveted title of the best surfer in the world.

Of course, the beaches of J-Bay are also inviting for other watersports enthusiasts, as well as families that want to spend the day on the warm, white sands or splashing about in the waters of the Indian Ocean. This is a fabulous spot for kitesurfing, deep-sea fishing, hydrofoiling, surfing, kayaking, and stand-up paddling. The long stretches of sandy shores and rolling sand dunes are absolutely amazing to explore on horseback. The powerful, responsive horses love breaking into a gallop (if and when the rider is ready) and splashing in the sea. Read More »

Exploring Hazyview

Exploring Hazyview

The charming little town of Hazyview is idyllically positioned in some of Mpumalanga’s prettiest countryside and is characterised by banana plantations and dramatic mountain ranges that stretch towards the horizon. To add to its allure, Hazyview is only five kilometres from the Phabeni Gate of the Kruger National Park, which is undoubtedly one of Africa’s top safari destinations.

This farming town is a fabulous choice for those that want a pretty base from which to explore some of South Africa’s most exquisite scenery, natural attractions and best known game reserves. But, it is also a gorgeous destination in its own right. It is home to many different restaurants, coffee shops and bars, where locals meet and visitors get to sample authentic South African cuisine. The Windmill Wine Shop offers visitors the opportunity to sample some popular wines from the acclaimed Cape Winelands, as well as to experience the unique flavours of locally brewed craft beers and coffees. Read More »

Explore Centurion

Explore Centurion

The Gauteng Province may be the smallest in South Africa but it is certainly home to some of the busiest and most exciting destinations. Centurion is part of the Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, and has fewer than 300 000 inhabitants. It is situated between the two hubs of Pretoria and Johannesburg and has somewhat of a cosmopolitan look and feel to it.

Centurion is known for estate living, and these gated communities provide a safe, exclusive neighbourhood for families, couples and up-and-coming youngsters that love the vibe of city living but the security of a quiet suburb. It retains a sort of romantic, village kind of feel that the locals just love. Still, Centurion is also a commercial hotspot, the hub of a number of economic resources and initiatives, which earn it much respect amongst businessmen and women all over the world. Read More »

Exploring Hartbeespoort Dam

Exploring Hartbeespoort Dam

The Hartbeespoort Dam is a majestic retreat from the hubbub of the nearby urban metropolises of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Thanks to its close proximity to these hubs, though, it is a great weekend getaway for locals and a popular holiday spot for international tourists.

Hartbeespoort Dam is a favourite amongst travellers with a sense of adventure. The dam itself promises a world of excitement in the way of water sports. These include tubing, water-skiing, sailing, swimming, kitesurfing, hydrofoiling, parasailing, jet-skiing, and indulging in a restful sunset cruise. The scenery is spectacular and the cool waters are inviting on a hot South African summer day. Just north of the dam is the open-cast chrome mine at Miracle Waters, which is a magnificent dive site that plunges 33 metres into the earth. It has fabulous visibility and divers can expect to see an aeroplane and a bus among the objects that saw their demise at the bottom. Read More »

Exploring Umdloti

Exploring Umdloti

The idyllic resort town of Umdloti is part of the scenically magnificent Umhlanga Coast, just 26 kilometres away from the city centre of Durban and its King Shaka International Airport. Although it is a village, Umdloti can get very busy over the summer holidays, as travellers from all over South Africa and the world descend on its scenic beaches for the South African getaway of a lifetime.

The beach is, undoubtedly, the most popular drawcard to Umdloti. There are rock pools, which are fantastic for little ones, as well as stretches of sand on which to play, picnic or suntan. There are shark nets in place and the waters of the Indian Ocean are considerably warmer than those of the Atlantic, making this an ideal spot for swimming, surfing, kitesurfing, stand-up paddling (SUP-ping), kayaking, snorkelling and SCUBA diving. The marine life is impressive and a dive is always rewarding.  Rivermouth Reef, just 18 kilometres from the Umdloti River’s mouth, has massive caves and a pinnacle in which stunning reef fish can be discovered as they feed off and explore the natural vegetation. Read More »