Monday , 27 March 2017
South Africa Blog / Attractions and Places

Attractions and Places

Explore Melville Koppies Nature Reserve

Explore Melville Koppies Nature Reserve

In the heart of the Johannesburg area of Emmarentia is the picturesque Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, which combines natural abundance with a fascinating insight into prehistoric South Africa. While the Gauteng Province is most often thought of in terms of its commercial, industrial and retail wealth, it is also home to a number of natural treasures, and Melville Koppies is certainly one of these.

Melville Koppies comprises the last conserved remains of the Johannesburg ridges, the rest of which were destroyed by mining for gold in the late 19th century. The reserve occupies about 150 hectares of unspoiled, even wild, countryside. The rock formations are estimated to be three billion years old and stone tools that were found here indicate that mankind occupied the region some 500 000 years ago. This gives the entire area a poignant ambience that is deeply haunting and special. Melville Koppies Central has been declared a Heritage Site.

Today, the area is sensitive, and it is essential that it is conserved carefully and responsibly. As a result, visitors are invited to experience its splendour without leaving their mark. Therefore, no braais, picnics, vehicles, generators, electricity, shops or sound systems are permitted. These restrictions go a long way in maintaining the integrity and tranquillity of Melville Koppies Nature Reserve.

There are hiking trails through the reserve, which are fantastic ways to see the beauty without impacting too much on the surrounds. The hikes are fairly strenuous, though, and require that hikers are fairly fit and have some experience. They are certainly not suitable for little ones, the elderly, or those with physical pain or challenges. No mountain biking is permitted in Melville Koppies Nature Reserve.

All of the flora found in the reserve is indigenous to South Africa, and testifies to the magnificent variety to be found within the borders of this glorious country. There are trees and Highveld grasses, as well as flowers. Some of the wild flowers bloom only in spring, creating a rug of colours, textures and scents.

The geology of the region is, undoubtedly, one of its major appeals. The Kaapvaal Craton, upon which the reserve lies, is about 3.5 billion years old and extends for about 1.2 million square kilometres under Southern Africa. It is one of the earliest parts of Earth’s crust. As the mountains weathered over millions of years, they broke down into massive river deltas. These sediments built up in layers and eventually became different kind stone; including shale, quartzite and siltstone. It is at the base of these solidified sediments that Melville Koppies lies.

Thanks to its variety, which makes for a range of habitats, the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve is also home to many different animal species, including an impressive selection of birds. In fact, bird ringers frequent this reserve to conduct their work in quiet, peaceful surrounds. Some of the bird species found here include the crowned plover, pipit, warbler, wailing cisticola, malachite kingfisher, tawny flanked prinia, Cape longclaw, crimson breasted shrike, eagle owl and laughing dove. In fact, there are about 185 species that can be enjoyed by avid bird-watchers. In addition, there are a number of other animals in the nature reserve. Some of these are the African hedgehog, slender mongoose, African civet, rock elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, lesser spotted genet, scrub hare and Jameson’s red rock rabbit, as well as a number of snakes.

Thanks to such abundance and diversity, the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve is an idyllic spot for nature lovers, corporate groups and photographers to immerse themselves in the unspoilt, wild face of Africa.

Website: http://www.mk.org.za/

Visiting Somerset West

Visiting Somerset West

Just about 50 kilometres from Cape Town and its world-famous attractions (including Table Mountain, the V & A Waterfront and Robben Island) is the ever-growing historical town of Somerset West. As an integral part of the Helderberg, Somerset West is, technically, part of the municipality of Cape Town, but has an entirely different vibe and atmosphere to the Mother City. Somerset West remains quiet and community-oriented; home to retirees, young families and regular holiday-makers. It exudes the air of being a vacation hotspot.

Surrounded by the magnificent Helderberg Mountain Range, Somerset West boasts breath-taking views of the some of the most beautiful part of the Western Cape. In the clear, warm air of the South African summers, these mountains and the extensive coastline of this part of the country really are nothing short of spectacular.

Somerset West has a number of exciting attractions, many of which take advantage of the natural splendour around the town. Some of the most popular of these include:

The Cape Winelands and the Helderberg Wine Route

The Cape Winelands lure people from all over the world to visit the Western Cape and sample its superior wines. The Helderberg Wine Route is part of the greater Winelands and represents the wines that come from this unique soil and climate. Stroll through the vineyards, take formal tours of the cellars, learn about the wine-making process and taste some of the finest wines in the country, even the world. These include reds, whites and rosés, as well as sparkling wines. Most of the wine farms are suited to families with children, as there are restaurants and beautiful areas in which to be relaxed and refreshed. The Vergelegen Wine Estate is an opulent one that is situated on the cusp of the Somerset West’s town boundaries. The original farm house remains as a museum, and the wines are exquisite.

The Helderberg Nature Reserve

The gorgeous flora of the Western Cape is showcased to perfection in this 402-hectare reserve. The natural abundance makes for the ideal habitat for well over 100 different bird species, which attract bird-watchers from all over the world.  This is also a fabulous attraction for those that enjoy hiking and walking trails, and self-guided paths that invite them to explore the area, savour the scents and feel the warm air on their faces. Significantly, of the more than 600 plant species in the Helderberg Nature Reserve, 13 are threatened. The picnic area means that, after completing one of the local rails, experiencing the fauna and flora, and taking great pictures, families and friends can relax and enjoy delicious treats in gorgeous surrounds.

Somerset Mall

With more than 200 different shops, this sizeable mall promises endless shopping opportunities and plenty of entertainment. This is one of the largest shopping centres in the province and includes eight movie houses, a large bowling alley, games arcade, boutiques stores, popular chains, and an extensive variety of food. The facilities are fantastic, and this mall is close to both Cape Town and Somerset West. It is suited to those using wheelchairs.

Exploring Nelspruit

Exploring Nelspruit

The Mpumalanga Province is home to scenic Nelspruit, which has been renamed Mbombela. The city may only have a total area of less than 73 square kilometres, but it is a popular holiday destination, particularly for its close proximity to the world-famous Kruger National Park. In fact, it has been dubbed the official gateway to this renowned reserve, which showcases an enormous array of some of Africa’s most intriguing fauna and flora.

Being situated in the north-east of South Africa, Nelspruit has a subtropical climate. This means that its rolling hills and endless landscapes are verdant and idyllic. The deep valleys are laden in dense vegetation that is home to many birds and other animals. Nelspruit truly is a naturally scenic gem, and the combination of an excellent tourism infrastructure, a wide range of accommodation in Nelspruit and plenty to see and do makes the city the ideal platform from which to explore the Mpumalanga province. Read More »

Exploring Bloubergstrand

Exploring Bloubergstrand

Known for its breath-taking views of Table Mountain across Table Bay, Bloubergstrand is a suburb of Cape Town that has taken on an identity of its own, almost being recognised as a little town in its own right. It is mainly a residential area, with plenty of holiday accommodation. Its long stretch of beach is very popular for watersports and kiting.

This area was once inhabited by the Goringhaikona people during the 16th and 17th centuries. As Southern Africa began to be colonised by the Europeans, Bloubergstrand also came under the control of various other powers, no longer occupied by the traditional tribes; who were enslaved, killed or moved by the colonisers in a series of sometimes-bloody encounters. As a result of the rich, sometimes very sad history of the area, there are a number of monuments and historical attractions in BloubergstrandRead More »

What Sandton has to Offer

What Sandton has to Offer

Sandton is known as Africa’s richest square mile and is, without a doubt, Johannesburg’s shopping and commercial epicentre. Since the 1980’s, Sandton has experienced an exponential growth and development to become one of today’s most vibrant and exciting destinations – not only in Johannesburg, but in Gauteng as a province. It is centrally situated, and is accessible from all major centres, including OR Tambo International Airport; the launching pad of the vast majority of tourists to South Africa.

There are a number of facets to the allure and popularity of Sandton’s Attractions. It has so much to offer, no matter what visitors prefer. Here are some of the features that modern Sandton has to offer locals and tourists alike … Read More »

Exploring Constantia

Exploring Constantia

The verdant suburb of Constantia is Cape Town’s own little wineland, characterised by rolling hills and deep valleys, all occupied by rows and rows of fertile vineyards. Still, it is a residential suburb, occupied by beautiful homes, some of which are the original farm houses of yesteryear. It is about 15 kilometres from the City Bowl of Cape Town, Table Mountain and the V&A Waterfront.

It is situated in the very heart of the Peninsula, and the Constantia Valley is flanked by the Table Mountain National Park, which is one of the world’s best known Heritage Sites. The whole of Constantia is nestled in the foothills of the Constantiaberg Mountain and the valley below, making for breath-taking views from just about anywhere. Read More »

5 Things to Do in Bloemfontein

5 Things to Do in Bloemfontein

In the heart of the beautiful Free State is the growing, popular holiday and residential city of Bloemfontein. It is practically in the middle of the province, surrounded by nothing but scenic, unspoilt landscapes as far as the eye can see. These landscapes are known for their somewhat arid, sparse appeal, with white rolling hills meeting the cornflower-blue skies.

As the sixth largest city in the country, Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of South Africa, and is situated between Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Bloemfontein is also widely known as the City of Roses and, upon your visit there, it is not hard to see why. The streets, neighbourhoods and gardens are speckled by thousands of rose bushes and in excess of 4 000 rose trees were planted in Kings Park’s rose gardens alone. This creates a colourful city that continues to grow, offering local travellers and international tourists wonderful accommodation and a host of things to do in Bloemfontein.

Here are the top five attractions or activities in Bloemfontein … Read More »

Explore Langebaan

Explore Langebaan

Just over an hour’s drive north of the Mother City of Cape Town, Langebaan is a quiet little town that is known for its peaceful white beaches, multitude of bird species, and the colourful wild flowers that blanket the region over August and September of every year. It is surrounded by other West Coast favourites like Saldanha Bay, Vredenburg and Geelbek.

Significantly, the Langebaan Lagoon is acclaimed for being home to more than 300 different bird species, which invite bird-lovers to relax on the lagoon’s banks with a pair of binoculars and indulge in the avian display that rolls out before them. Resident species include flamingos and the largest breeding colony of black harriers in the world. Read More »

The Beaches of Camps Bay

The Beaches of Camps Bay

Camps Bay is an affluent neighbourhood at the foot of the 12 Apostles Mountain Range, behind Table Mountain. It is famous for its exquisite variety of restaurants, pavement cafés, champagne bars, clubs, boutiques, galleries and more. However, it is, perhaps, even better known for its gorgeous beaches, which stretch the entire length of the neighbourhood and beyond.

White sands are tickled and lapped by the turquoise and blues of the icy Atlantic Ocean, and many of the beaches are lined by palm trees or rocky mountain faces, giving the beaches a tropical, impressive appeal that is quite unique. Being situated so close to the hub of Camps Bay, and only a 10-minute drive from the City Bowl of the Mother City, the beaches of Camps Bay are easy to access, and make for the perfect day out in the South African summer sun.

Camps Bay, as a whole, is home to several beaches. These include … Read More »

Exploring Soweto

Exploring Soweto

Soweto (a shortened version of South Western Townships) has recently become an urban suburb of the City of Johannesburg. Although previously a separate municipality, Soweto has always played a major role in the history, identity and character of Johannesburg and Gauteng. Today, it is still a hub of excitement and a veritable tourist hotspot, representing much of the colour and diversity of South Africa as a nation.

Soweto was one of the first of the segregationist planning processes in Gauteng, and was positioned about 20 kilometres from the City of Johannesburg. These homes were established to accommodate the black labourers that worked mainly in the local mines. These ones were not permitted to live in the city centre or formal neighbourhoods, and all non-white folk were forced to occupy the informal settlements further afield. Forced removals in the 1950’s meant that many non-white folk lost their family homes and were sent with nothing to the outlying regions of the city. Soon, these communities grew and grew, and eventually developed their own culture and society. A large part of this new social norm was based on the political and societal upheavals experienced. Today, there are well over one million residents in Soweto. Read More »

Exploring Swellendam

Exploring Swellendam

Swellendam is a beautiful little town that, while small and quiet, offers tourists and local residents plenty to see and do during their time here. Whether you are interested in the historical sites, natural resources or adventure sports, Swellendam is the ideal escape from city life. There is a distinctive buzz and a sense of community that is established by the locals; who are made up of artists, musicians, authors and all who savour the beautiful things in life.

Within the immediate surrounds of Swellendam are the other little towns of Barrydale, Stormsvlei, and Malgas. Cape Town and all of its famous attractions, is about 240 kilometres away. The locals are friendly, and the whole town has an air of being peaceful and safe. Being situated at the foot of the beautiful Langeberg Mountain Range, the views are spectacular from just about anywhere.

Swellendam is known for its thriving hospitality industry. The cuisine is as varied as the folk themselves, and is of a very impressive quality. The nearby Winelands as well as a few local vineyards produce world-class wines to complement the savoury and sweet flavours produced by resident chefs. Read More »

Reasons to Visit Addo

Reasons to Visit Addo

Deep within the unspoilt bushveld of the Eastern Cape is the little village of Addo, along with the world-renowned Addo Elephant National Park. This is the third-largest national park in the country and covers about 180 000 hectares of the Zuurberg Mountain Range, Sundays River Valley and Bushmans River area. Because it boasts such rich biodiversity, Addo is home to an intriguing variety of plants and animals, including a seemingly endless array of bird species. It continues to be the main attraction to the area, welcoming hordes of national and international tourists every year.

The little town of Addo is situated within the Cacadu District Municipality and is only about 4.3 square kilometres in area. It is surrounded by well-known towns and villages of a similar size or larger. These include Colchester, Kirkwood, Canonville and Paterson. Addo and these towns are, generally, small and quiet. However, they do have facilities for tourists coming to get a real taste of the Eastern Cape countryside. They are charming in their own rights. Some are rural, others pastoral, and still others comprise mainly of vibrant townships. Read More »

Spending a Day in East London

Spending a Day in East London

East London is one of the main cities and industrial areas of the Eastern Cape, also known as Buffalo City. It continues to grow and develop at an impressive pace.

East London is a popular destination for those wanting a real beach holiday, thanks to its warm waters and extensive stretches of coastline. It is also a common stop for those on business travel or en route between the larger metropolises (such as Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg).

For those that will be spending limited time in East London, here are some activities that can be combined to fill up a free day here and there … Read More »

Robben Island

Robben Island

One of Cape Town’s most historically relevant, culturally intriguing and naturally beautiful attractions is Robben Island. This is best known as being the location of the Robben Island Prison, which held some of South Africa’s most significant politicians and struggle activists. Not least of all are former President Nelson Mandela, current President Jacob Zuma, Dennis Brutus, Tokyo Sexwale, and Govan Mbeki. Robben Island was recognised as a place of banishment from as early as the 1600’s. Nelson Mandela served 18 years of his sentence here, and brought to life what had been kept a dark secret for so many years when he was released and told his story of life on Robben Island. The prison was eventually closed in 1996. Read More »

Exploring the Cape Town City Bowl

Exploring the Cape Town City Bowl

Cape Town, known also as the Mother City, is one of South Africa’s chief tourist hotspots. The City Bowl is, as its name implies, the main part of the buzzing city centre of Cape Town with a distinctive amphitheatre shape to it. This lends it an air of being exclusive, while it is surrounded by the gorgeous mountains of the Western Cape; namely, Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Signal Hill and Devil’s Peak.

The Cape Town City Bowl comprises some of the city’s most popular suburbs. District Six and the Bo Kaap are known for their political and historical relevance. Oranjezicht, De Waterkant and Higgovale have earned acclaim for their unique homes and character-filled streets, and Tamboerskloof and the Company Gardens are hives of activity with restaurants, tourist attractions and plenty of shops. Read More »