Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Birth of Elephant Calf at Lion Sands - Kruger

"Lion Sands guests witness the birth of an elephant calf!

Truly amazing, this past week Lion Sands (Sabie Sand Wildtuin - neighbouring the Kruger National Park) witnessed an elephant mother giving birth to a healthy calf which is a very private affair.

African elephants breed throughout the year, with most births in early summer (September - November). Females, otherwise known as cows, are in oestrus for 3 to 6 days, with gestation approximately 22 months.

At the time of birth females will seek a shady secluded retreat often near water and may clear the ground prior to giving birth. At this time other females who act as guards may accompany the female who is in labour and help clean the membranes off the baby once it is born. Calves can stand and walk within an hour of birth. Calves at birth stand about 900 mm at the shoulder and have an average body mass of 120 kg. They are pinkish in colour and have more hair on their bodies than the adults. At this stage their eyesight is poor and they maintain contact
with the females by feeling with their trunks. They suckle with their mouths not their trunks and may continue to suckle for two or three years, up to the age of eight years. Females will also rarely allow calves other than their own to suckle.

Young elephants are subject to predation by lions and spotted hyaenas and remain close to their mothers, rarely moving more than a few meters from her side during the first few months of life. A very young elephant calf walks under its mother’s belly between her legs and the mothers and other females in the herd will defend the calves vigorously at this stage."

This extract can be found on the Lion Sands website http://www.lionsands.com/journals/?cat=1

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wellington Wine Harvest Festival

Wellington Wine Harvest Festival this weekend!

21 & 22 March 2009

Just less than a sneaky hours drive from Cape Town, the charming town of Wellington is celebrating its 3rd annual Wine Harvest Festival. Live entertainment, various activities, and of course, the opportunity to sniff, swill and swig most of the Val du Charron's finest wines, over the two-days will be on offer. Click on this link for the programme

An access pass can be purchased for R40.00 at your first port of call (any participating wine cellar or Tourism Office). This includes a tasting glass, programme and map. By producing your access pass and glass you are entitled to free wine tasting at any of the participating cellars.

There will be a free shuttle service, which will be departing at designated times from the parking lot next to the Tourism Office to the respective areas.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Easter Weekend Special

Easter Extravaganza at Spier

Only R 5 499 for a family of 4!

  • 3 nights accommodation at the Spier Hotel, B&B
  • Extensive Easter Egghunt, exciting games & activities for kids.
  • Saturday night braai and movie under the stars.
  • Scrumptious Sunday buffet lunch.

For bookings call 021 809 1100 or email reservations@spier.co.za http://spier.co.za

Early bird special: 10% discount if booked and paid before 26 March 2009

Not bad value at all, if you consider what you are getting for only R 458.25 per person per night!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Battle at the Kruger

Kasteel Valley

The Riebeek Valley is about one hour drive north of Cape Town. Take the N7 north to Malmesbury, then through the town following R45/R46 signs and follow the Riebeek Kasteel sign. After 15km turn left to reach the Bothmaskloof Pass. Riebeek West is on the R311, 5km from Riebeek Kasteel.

About the destination
Hugging the slopes of Kasteelberg, surrounded by undulating farmland, two villages display an odd mix of cultures that seem to work.

Descending from Bothmaskloof Pass, the Riebeek Valley is spread below, swathed in olive groves and vineyards. Across the valley are the Groot Winterhoek Mountains with the higher Witzenberg behind. Riebeek Kasteel is the first village, with a mere 6km separating it from Riebeek West.

In days gone by Riebeek Kasteel was described as mossienes with the layout of the town resembling an untidy sparrow’s nest. It was where the poorer people lived. Riebeek West on the other hand was referred to as vinknes – tidy weaver’s nest – because it was properly laid out and affluent farmers retired there.

Nowadays, the Riebeek Valley is primarily known for its olives, wheat and wine, with vines cascading from the mountain in regimental rows.

What to see and do
We set off to do some serious wine tasting, starting at Pulpit Rock, named after the rock formation above Riebeek West.
Another place, known for its wine and olives is Kloovenburg. The farm recently produced its first sparkling wine, pink-tinged and made from Shiraz grapes. But their flagship wine is Eight Feet, a blend of Cabernet Merlot inspired by Anneline and Pieter du Toit’s four sons, Pieter-Steph, Johan, Anton and Daniel, who stomped the grapes. Riebeek Cellars is one of few wine producers to be open on Sunday. The cooperative is known for its A Few Good Men label, where winemakers and producers are honoured with the label each year.

Riebeek West is celebrated as the birthplace of two of South Africa’s most important statesmen, Jan Christian Smuts and Daniel F Malan. We stopped at Allesverloren, the birthplace of the latter in 1874. Bovenplaas, near to the PPC Cement Factory, is the birthplace of Smuts in 1870. We listened to Mercia Bester regale us with stories of this amazing man, born way before his time.

Het Vlock Kasteel is a good place to stop for olives and olive oil-tasting. Three olive cultivars are promoted in every imaginable guise – dried, relishes and jams – all designed by BSc food technologist, Ansie Vlok in her “playground” behind the tasting area.

On the first Saturday of every month visit the local market outside Kasteelberg Trading Centre in Riebeek West, where local crafters and artists, fruit, vegetable, plants, country food, home-baked bread and much more are on sale.

The popular annual Olive Festival is held on the first weekend in May and the Riebeek Valley Art and Shiraz Weekend is held every September.

Food and Entertainment
We enjoyed muffins and coffee at the trendy Café Oppie Square in Riebeek Kasteel. Surrounding Café Oppie Square are trendy art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, guest houses and antique shops, owned by “intrekkers” – someone who moves in and is English-speaking.

At the Kasteelberg Country Inn and Bistro, hosted by Allan Barnard and Julien Debray, we enjoyed delicious pasta followed by a light, flaky fruit concoction.

Where to stay
We checked into The Olive Grove where Sandy Moolman revealed cosy, immaculate accommodation with stunning views across the valley and mountains. Having spent the past eight years managing accommodation in the valley she now owns her own place. The next day, we were enticed downstairs by freshly brewed coffee and a scrumptious breakfast.
There are four double rooms and the rates are: R300 per person sharing and R400 single, including breakfast.

It was sad to end our weekend exploring the area with its mix of farmers with vineyards, wheat-fields, sheep, pigs and olive groves, keeping the valley thriving and its “intrekkers” who draw visitors with their eclecticism. With its laid-back atmosphere, diverse selection of locally produced wine, port, olives, fruit and meat, the Riebeek Valley is a wonderful destination at any time of year.

This Sneaky Weekender was recommended by: Karen Watkins from Cape Town

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the Sneaky Weekender articles on this website, do not necessarily reflect the views of Finding Africa


Bonnievale is an approximate two hours drive from Cape Town. Travel along the N1 towards Worcester and take the Robertson turn off. Take the R317 into Robertson then 10min on to Bonnievale.

About the destination
Bonnievale is situated on the banks of the Breede River, surrounded by the Langeberg Mountain Range in the north-east, and the Riviersonderend mountains in the south-west. The town is approximately 180km from Cape Town and 100km from the southernmost tip of Africa at Cape
Agulhus. The roadside is lined with a variety of beautiful flowers and bushes, all planted by the farmers to demarcate their vineyards. There are two cheese factories in Bonnievale, Parmalat and Mooivallei Suiwel.

What to see and do
We all went for the Wine on the River Festival which is held annually towards the end of October. All the local Cheese and Wine farms bring their wares to the beautiful Goudmyn Farm situated on the river. A complementary shuttle service is available all day to shuttle you there and back. So no one has to drink and drive.

There are two festivals in the area, which are a real treat. “The Wine on the River Festival” in late October and “The Wacky Wine Weekend” in early June. I enjoyed playing golf at the
Bonnievale Golf Club and enjoyed a hearty breakfast at the club house. The course is maintained in top condition and the layout is level and very user-friendly. Golfers used to playing on very busy courses are particularly struck by the relaxed and unhurried atmosphere to be found there.

Food and entertainment

We did most of our eating and drinking at the festival but also had a self catering place that we cooked our own food at. We did have breakfast at “Into Africa” and it was delicious.

Where to stay
We stayed in a very well appointed self catering double story house that we hired for the whole weekend. It was spotless and could sleep 10 people (5 rooms – 2 queen and 6 single beds) 4 bathrooms (2 en-suite) there was a Large LCD TV with satellite and surround sound, outdoor fireplace and huge garden with rolling lawns. We paid R140.00 per person per night

The whole area is stunning and Montague, Ashton and Robertson are a stones throw away and also deserve a visit!

This Sneaky Weekender was recommended by: Mark Boonzaier

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the Sneaky Weekender articles on this website, do not necessarily reflect the views of Finding Africa http://findingafrica.com/.