16 Nov

Cape Town consistently heads list of World’s Top cities

That Cape Town is recognised by international travelers as one of the most beautiful and desirable cities to visit has been borne out by the many accolades that have been bestowed upon our unique city. Visitors, whether from overseas or upcountry, always remark that they have never been able to experience or see all that Cape Town has to offer during their Cape Town holiday because of the tremendous scope and range of attractions and activities available.  Over the millennia this remarkable city often known as the “Tavern of the Seas” nestling under the iconic Table Mountain has welcomed visitors from every corner of the globe and many have stayed and contributed to the eclectic and exciting mixture that makes up our population.

In the 25 th century the King of Portugal named it the “ Cape of Good Hope”, a name that endures until today. Sir Francis Drake, during his circumnavigation of the world, called it “the most stately thing, and the Fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.” Cape Town is loved for its amazing scenic beauty that starts with Table Mountain and Signal Hill offering spectacular views across the city and the Bay and continues along the peninsula on both the Atlantic and False Bay coasts to Cape point, along some of the truly most beautiful coastal scenic drives to be found anywhere in the world. The beaches of Cape Town with their clean white sand and beautiful blue waters, many of which now have international Blue Flag quality status, the popular Victoria and Alfred waterfront, an almost unending choice of restaurants and interesting things to eat as well as a range of affordable, quality wines and people with an enviable reputation for warmth and friendliness are just some of what keeps visitors returning and keeps Cape Town on the top of so many lists of “bests”. To this must be added the fact that visitors feel safe when visiting Cape Town thanks to a city that takes care of its tourists and makes the city safe to walk even late at night.

World’s best City : The most recent accolade bestowed on the city during November came from 17,000 readers of the prestigious UK Telegraph, who were polled about their favourite travel companies and destinations. Cape Town was chosen as the favourite city in the world, with South Africa coming in 3rd as the favourite country to visit; after New Zealand and the Maldives. That British tourists like visiting South Africa is well-known,  but it is not only the British that have elevated our city with their votes. One of the top international travel websites in the world is TripAdvisor, with the bulk of their readers and members coming from the USA.  45-million TripAdvisor subscribers voted in 2011 to declare Cape Town as their choice as the world’s No.1 destination.  TripAdvisor spokesperson, Emma O’Boyle, was quoted as saying, “Cape Town is clearly the destination to beat. With beautiful scenery, great wine and gorgeous weather, it’s easy to see why Cape Town, which also played host to last year’s World Cup, has topped this year’s list.”

Another widely respected Website, the travel wing of CNN International; CNNGo this year listed Cape Town as one of the 10 most loved cities in the world. The CNNGo website explains how the top 10 cities were decided: “We’ve trawled the Internet for media ‘best of’ praise, solicited recommendations from local correspondents, bloggers and travellers, scraped the bottom of every Internet and press barrel we could find and  came up with what we think is a definitive list of the world’s most loved cities.”. Cape Town was rated no2 city in the whole world and No. 1 city in Africa  at the Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Awards 2012  , with an overall Readers’ Choice Rating of  84.8,.  It is worth looking at how the overall ranking was made up :

Ambience: 92.3

Friendliness: 86.6

Lodging: 89.3

Restaurants: 86.0

Table Mountain voted as one of the World’s 7 Natural Wonders. Cape Town rejoiced when,  11/11/11, Table Mountain was chosen among the New7Wonders of Nature, following a lengthy international public voting process during which Table Mountain received more than 100 million votes from 220 countries, beating even  the Great Barrier Reef, Kilimanjaro National Park and the Grand Canyon. The official inauguration ceremony will be held on December 1 and 2  at the foot of Table Mountain  to inaugurate Cape Town’s iconic mountain to the list of seven wonders of the world.

Tourism growth results from this recognition, and the arrivals figures bear out the view that the country remains a hit with tourists, despite the global dip in travel numbers in the face of the global economic downturn. According to Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk  tourist arrivals to South Africa grew by 10.5% for the first six months of 2012, more than double the global average of 5% for the same period. Cape Town Tourism has commissioned Horwath HTL to conduct monthly surveys of its members, to determine occupancy, growth and pricing trends.  These surveys have shown that tourism in Cape Town has grown by 10% in the first 9 months of 2012 although room rates have increased only marginally. Perhaps the answer to continued growth as the holiday season approaches is to ensure that our visitors continue to perceive that they are getting good value for money.

By : Affordable self catering Cape Town accommodation

8 Oct

Hermanus Whales Festival dissappoints

The 21 st annual Whale festival was held in Hermanus on the last weekend of September. Normally this is combined with the annual classic and vintage car show “Whales and Wheels” but the format was changed for 2012, with certain sports events and the classic car show being moved out by another week in order to reduce the traffic into the popular coastal town. Fortunately the weather played along and everything should have been set for a riproaring success for the Festival.

Unfortunately this new arrangement did not turn out as planned for the organisers, businesses and shopkeepers or for the participants. Could it have been the current state of the economy or could it have been as a result of dividing the attractions? By all accounts there was an excellent  turnout for the Whale Festival itself but businesses and shopkeepers did not enjoy the annual bonanza that the Festival brings, with some saying that it was no better than usual weekend in the town. Whilst there were many visitors during the festival, the average spend was very low and it seems that people came to spectate rather than to participate and at the same time spend.

The classic car show on the weekend of 6 October which aims to raise money for improvement of the Hermanus primary school could also not have been deemed a great success.  Unlike previous years, the number of participating cars was significantly reduced and more than half of the school playing fields, which are usually full, left empty. Although some motoring clubs; notably the Triumph Sports car club, the Sunbeam Club, GSM Dart/Flamingo club and a few others put on a good showing there was little vintage or exotic material to be seen. A nice Jowett Jupiter sports car and a very rare 1930’s Jensen were about the only unusual attractions.  The number of paying spectators from the public seemed very thin in comparison with previous years so one may assume that the funds raised for the school would also have been somewhat disappointing. An entertaining Elvis impersonator did his best to keep the small numbers entertained, as did the excellent food stalls, but the usual crowds did not materialise.

A parade by some of the cars through the town during the early morning proved popular with weekenders as did a special parade in the middle of the day to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Triumph Spitfire, Ford Cortina and South African built sportscar, the GSM Dart.

If the organisers wish to regain the popularity of the previous years they will have to give serious thought to the format for the 2013 Whale festival. Perhaps it would be better to combine all of the events over the same weekend and make special arrangements to control the traffic and provide an easy access for the drivers of the classic cars who do not like having to cope with traffic jams

By : Horizon Cottages- Cape Town beach cottages and chalets


23 Sep

Harbour House Restaurant : Kalk Bay

Pic Courtesy of Harbour House

Kalk Bay is one of the most popular of the seaside suburbs of Cape Town’s southern peninsula, and attracts both locals and visitors who fill its streets on weekends. This charming fishing village is not only a browsers paradise but has many restaurants and cafes offering food to suit a wide variety of palates and budgets. Some of these have enviable reputations, built over long periods of time, while others seem to come and go. The working fishing harbour may not seem to be the most salubrious of locations for fine dining but the Harbour House restaurant is hands down the best restaurant in Kalk Bay. The restaurant is perched on the rocks right next to the sea, and has large floor-to-ceiling windows to enable diners to enjoy lovely views across False Bay to Simonstown and to the Hottentots Holland mountains on the other side of the bay, or the waves crashing on the rocks below. During the spring months diners may,  from the elevated dining room, be lucky enough to spot whales which migrate annually to our shore to mate and calf.

Lunch time diners get the best of the views, but enjoying dinner here has its own charm at any time of the year. The restaurant décor is light and airy with white painted chairs and white table linen all softly lit with many tiny down lighters.  The lights of the restaurants ( 2 others below) are enough to spotlight the waves which may come crashing up as high as the windows like some sort of iridescent sparkler. If you book well before the time you may get a window table on request but it is a very popular restaurant.

We, a party of 3, enjoyed dinner on a cold and somewhat stormy spring evening recently and were lucky to book the last available table. I appreciated the honesty of the person taking the booking informing us that it would not be the best in the restaurant, but we were not unhappy with our seating. In the centre of the dining area was a open hearth with a cozy fire burning , keeping the chill at bay. Before even browsing the menu, one could not suppress a delightful sense of anticipation of a special night to come. The evening’s specials as well as the regular menu offered many tempting choices of seafood but we decided instead to take advantage of the set menu special which offered three courses for R 170 in order to enjoy a variety of the kitchens offerings.  During the low season months the set menu changes each month and offers really good value for money.  Best of all is that, unlike so many fine dining establishments, the portions are generous.

Two of us had the Steak Tartare; raw chopped beef fillet, drizzled with sauce Marie Rose; topped with a puree of parsley, caper and shallot and a fresh quail egg , served with garlic ciabatta croutons. Our daughter, who travels extensively, pronounced it better than anything that she had

enjoyed in Europe. My Asian wife eagerly ordered the soft shell crab; masala dusted and deep-fried,  garnished with fresh green asparagus spears  and served on a Russian potato salad and pronounced it delicious. For the mains, the ladies each had Trio of Venison ; medallions of Kudu, Ostrich and Springbok on an orange and honey jus, with a pretty layered tian of roasted butternut, creamed spinach and celeriac mash, garnished with white onion puree and strips of deep fried leeks. Both enjoyed the venison , but our daughter found one of the medallions to have a less pleasant aftertaste, and was disappointed that the waitron was not able to identify which meat was which nor get anyone from the kitchen to help.

I had the line fish which was so superb that I was filled with an amazing sense of fulfilment on eating it. Fresh Kob was served with potato Gnocchi and baby fennel; tiny kernels of sweet corn, green beans and oven roasted bella rosa tomatoes with a crispy dice of chorizo and black olive salsa.  A grand finish was provided by a choice Italianate desserts;  Panna Cotta in a berry soup or Tiramasu, served with red wine poached pear, unusual vanilla mascarpone ice cream garnished with coffee syrup.

Our service was good, but not up to the standard of either the food or the restaurant.  Not being able to provide information on the dishes being served and being absent rather than discreet should not be expected. Although we lingered over dessert and the restaurant had pretty much emptied, we tried so long to get the attention of our waitron that we decided to forgo coffee in favour of settling the bill.

We recommend this great resaurant: If you want to enjoy creative fish and seafood served in a great scenic location pay a visit to the Harbour House restaurant in Kalk Bay soon.

By :  Horizon Cottages- conveniently located for all Cape Town attractions.



19 Sep

Mooiberge Farm Stall

Interesting and attractive farm stalls may be found throughout the greater Cape Town countryside offering not only an enjoyable diversion but some great alternative shopping. One of the most interesting and most popular of these is the Mooiberge farm stall and strawberry farm situated between Stellenbosch and Somerset West on the R44. On any weekend, no matter what the weather, it is bustling with Capetonians looking for great quality and value farm produce, preserves, pickles and confectionery.  The Zetler family , owners of the farm, has been supplying fresh produce to the local market and supermarket chains for more than 100 years.

You will be sure not to miss this attraction because the fence adjoining the road is lined with colourful papier-mâché scarecrows and other Mooiberge farm stallcreatures, with an even greater variety including a blue giraffe, blue bull (for the rugby team) elephants, chameleons and the like lining the lane through the strawberry fields.  Children are enthralled at these bright and colourful characters and they will enjoy clambering on the “strawberry choo-choo”; a rusty old wreck of a motorcar, or a tractor.

The farm stall is a harvest cornucopia, packed as it is with neat wooden shelves lined with jars of honey, jams, dried fruits, nuts, pickled vegetables, chutney, vegetables and the iconic South African dried meat known as Biltong.  Mooiberge farm is, however, best-known for its strawberries which are distributed to major outlets and are also available to the public for picking in the fields during the season, which begins when the Cape Town summer has truly settled in during November. Because of its location a little distance from the sea the summer months here offer lovely still, warm weather making it ideal for spending time in the countryside. Mooiberge strawberry farm nestles in a beautiful

location at the foot of the mountains, surrounded by the Stellenbosch vineyards. Although you can purchase beautiful organically grown strawberries at the farm stall; the family is more likely to want to collect a basket at the farm stall and head off to the fields to do their own picking which you then take back to the farm stall and pay per kilogram for what you have picked.

mooiberge  farm produce

Mooiberge Farm stall is not just about fresh and preserved produce but offers an enormous selection of wines; estate and table, as well as ports, brandy, spirits and liquers in the adjacent wine shop. Here you will find racks, oak barrels and baskets filled with newer wines as well as an impressive selection of vintage wines all of which are offered at affordable prices, and some at bargain prices. Great care has been taken to offer something to suit every taste and every budget. It is worth taking a drive out on a weekend if you want to stock up your wine cellar at prices that will not dent your budget, from a range that you are unlikely to find at your local wine outlet. If you are fortunate you may be invited to view the awesome temperature controlled underground cellar which is a repository for a large selection of vintage wines dating back to the 1970s and even older. For a selection of photographs of the underground cellar go to the gallery of their website :  http://www.mooiberge.co.za
One of the newer additions to the farm is a country restaurant called “The Farmers Kitchen”, where one can enjoy modern country cuisine in the bright, cool restaurant which has a French Café ambience with its reds, whites , checks and recycled metal fittings. On nice days one may opt to dine on the open deck under the shade of colourful umbrellas while enjoying lovely views of the strawberry fields surrounding winelands and the beautiful mountains (mooiberge). The Farmers Kitchen offers both breakfasts and lunches.

To get there: One can take the R44 exit from the N2 highway just before Somerset West, and then follow signs for Stellenbosch or,  if coming from the Southern Peninsula, take the Baden Powell /Stellenbosch road R310 and, just before Stellenbosch, turn right into Allandale Road, which will bring you to Mooiberge farm stall.

Insider tip : Mooiberge Farm Stall lies at the junction of the R310 and Allandale Road from Stellenbosch.  If you have approached it from the R44, leave via Allandale Road and, at the junction with the R310, you will find the Zetler Farm Stall within the precinct of a filling station. This farm stall, too, belongs to the family and seems to be known only to the locals. You may be lucky enough as I was, to find some wine bargains that were not available at Mooiberge; like a few bottles of 2006 Estate Mouvedre marked down by 75%, and magnificent indeed they were.

By : Horizon Cottages: Affordable Cape Town family cottages and chalets

17 Sep

Whales and Wheels Classic Car 2012 show – Hermanus

Spring has arrived in Cape Town and, with it, the annual migration of the Southern Right whales from the Antarctic to the warmer shores of South Africa, affording both visitors and residents alike the opportunity for great whale watching in Cape Town. The seaside village of Hermanus claims to be the best land-based whale watching destination in the world and has celebrated this annually for 21 years with the Whale Festival. A festive long weekend attracted 137,000 visitors in 2011 and the numbers are expected to grow this year as a result of an extensive programme of events, activities, theatre, music and a large range of food and craft stalls; not to mention refreshments such as a beer garden. The old harbour surrounds afford plenty of strategic spots on the rocks from where you can watch the star performers of the festival, the Whales; basking, cavorting and perhaps sounding as if they know that the festival is centred around them. The Endangered Species Marquee at the festival is claimed to be the best ever this year. The people of greater Cape Town look forward to celebrating spring at this annual event which continues to grow to such an extent that the annual Whales and Wheels classic and vintage car show is now being held on a separate weekend. Festival attracts many classic cars

The annual “Whales and Wheels” Classic and Vintage car Show will be held this year on Saturday 6th of October 2012 in the grounds of the Hermanus primary school. The organisers have scheduled this popular event for a week after the main festival in order to help ease the traffic flows into the village, where traffic was backed up for hours last year. An entrance fee of R20 for adults and R10 for children is collected at the entrance to the show and the proceeds put to good use for improvements and facilities for the school. On exhibition will be hundreds of classic and vintage cars, all of which are maintained by their proud owners in better than showroom condition. One may expect to admire desirable British sports cars from the 50’s and 60’s, including makes such as Triumph, Austin Healey, Jaguar and MG; awesome finned American classics; bespoke classic saloon cars, and even vintage tractors and agricultural machinery.

In addition to the car show there will be an exhibition of scale model cars that will enthrall both young and old, and there will be plenty of opportunity to buy one of those special diecast models to add to your own car collection. In addition to those on sale at the exhibition throughout the day, there will be an auction of scale model cars at the show grounds during the morning. The classic cars on exhibition will parade through the town, giving everybody an opportunity to see them in action close-up. In addition, a special car parade will take place at midday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the production of those popular classic British sports cars the Triumph Spitfire and the TR4. During the Whales and Wheels classic car show there will be a number of sporting activities as well as the annual Harbour swim, while attractions from the main Festival weekend including the  Two Oceans Marquee as well as the Endangered Species Marquee, with its focus not only whales, but on the Marine Big 5 and the current plight of the Rhino will be left up.Classic cars on parade through Hermanus

If you are interested in classic cars and want an enjoyable day out with the family, don’t miss this annual event in its new format.

By : Horizon Cottages: Affordable self-catering Cape Town cottages and Cabanas

2 Sep

Milnerton Flea Market- find a bargain

Although Cape Town abounds with markets of all types, there is only one real “flea market” and that is the “Milnerton Flea Market” which, technically, is situated in Paarden Eiland.  It has grown from beginnings in a sprawling dusty lot to an extensive, well organised, fenced and tarred market precinct with ample toilets and plenty of secure off road parking.  The market is open on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, depending upon the weather. It is extremely popular and busy on all but the most miserable of days as it is well-known by those looking for

bargains, collectables and antiques. Entrance to the market is free of charge,  but you will be expected to tip the parking attendant who doubles as a car guard. The market is set against the backdrop not only of the sea but offers lovely views of Table Mountain and Signal Hill.

Many of the traders make a full-time living from this and other markets, and many of the people who frequent the market shop here to save money as one will find stalls offering health products, groceries, fruit, home bakes, vegetables and other comestibles at prices up to 50% lower than regular retail outlets. The Milnerton Flea market is the place to go if you are looking for reasonably priced tools and hardware, second hand books, plants for the garden and textiles for the home. It is a place to find bargains if you don’t mind having to trawl through a myriad of castoffs and junk. On offer is almost anything that you can think of, including the proverbial kitchen sink. The main attraction of the market is certainly the many stalls that offer collectables such as militaria, glassware, crockery, vinyl records,  small items of old silverware, jewellery, paintings stamps and coins.

Whilst this unpretentious market makes no claim to gourmet foods there are a number of stalls that offer refreshments and cooling drinks while you browse the market as well as a range of things to eat. These range from simple burgers and “Boerewors Rolls”, which include the spicy farm sausage that is so typically South African; to Cape Malay and Indian dishes either to eat there or take-home. Look for the caravan offering Halaal Indian dishes; they have not only the best samosas in Cape Town, but lovely spicy curries served wrapped in rotis or with rice.  The more enterprising of the stalls provides a few chairs and tables where you can sit down and enjoy a light meal. Another attraction to this outdoor market is the enjoyable opportunity to observe people of Cape Town from all walks of life trawling the market. Many will be walking their dogs or have children in tow because the market has wide aisles between the stalls, making it easy for pushing prams and strollers and very much child friendly.

The market is situated on Otto Du Plessis Drive, Paarden Eiland. To get to there:  take the N1 highway out of the city; one of the first exits is marked “R27 Milnerton”, pass through a couple of traffic lights and the market parking area will be visible on your left where you turn into the parking from a convenient traffic light. The market is open from 08:00 until 16:00, although it does not really get going until about 09:00, particularly in winter.

By : Horizon Cottages Noordhoek:  Fully equipped self catering family Cottages and chalets in Cape Town.



Taking it slow


29 Aug

Best Fish and Chips in Cape Town

Cape Town people love eating fish and chips. Whether enjoying it in one of the many restaurants that have it on their menus, or picking up some from the local take away, people of all classes enjoy comforting fish and chips. The most popular fish by far is good old Hake, but the firm fleshed snoek , a type of barracuda,  is a great alternative.

Kalk Bay, a little False Bay fishing village, is a popular weekend destination for Cape Town people and visitors alike. It is always bustling on weekends because of the many interesting shops, market, galleries and restaurants as well as the working fishing harbour. Because it is a fishing village you will find plenty of choice to eat seafood and some of the reputedly best fish and chips in Cape Town. The Brass Bell restaurant has a wonderful location right on the sea and a long-standing reputation as “the” place to go. Whilst there are many delicious items on their menu, we have been constantly disappointed by their fish and chips and would recommend that one pursue the goal of finding the best fish and chips within the fishing harbour. The prestigious Harbour House restaurant has an affordable outlet in their “Lucky Fish”, but the cognoscenti are unanimous that Kalky’s is amongst the top places to find great fish and chips. Don’t expect much by way of décor; at best it can be described as humble; you eat off enamel plates with plastic utensils and will sit at wooden tables and benches where you have a great opportunity to rub shoulders with a cross-section of the people of Cape Town at leisure. On sunny days it is a pleasure to sit outside watching the fisherman going about their business. Large portions of flaky, sea fresh hake are enclosed in a delicious crispy batter, while the chips are robust and chunky. Best of all is that it is one of the cheapest places to eat. Beware that on weekends it is very busy and you may have to wait a while for a table.

Simonstown: We rate the Salty Sea Dog as consistently serving the best fish and chips in Cape Town. It is situated in an old building dating back to 1925, which was a fish market until the apartheid regime moved the coloured people out of the town. Now it is an idyllic spot on the

View from Salty Sea dog

wharf at Simonstown where one can dine and enjoy the views of the little waterfront, the yacht basin and the Naval dockyard, and enjoy fish, seafood, local beers and wines. Their Hake is served in a light, crispy batter with no trace of oiliness permeating the fish, while the chips are golden fries with crisp outer and soft inner. Portions are huge, and the fish and chips inexpensive.  Their popularity may be attested on weekends when they don’t attempt to serve tables, but just give you a number which you keep until they call out that your order is ready. Diners are asked to share their tables with anyone needing a seat- who knows but you might make a new friend while eating at the Salty Sea Dog.

Hout Bay is another popular seaside village with a working fishing harbour. Because of this, there is plenty of choice and you may find your own personal favourite fish and chips outlet here. Mariner’s wharf in Hout Bay precedes the famous Cape Town V&A waterfront by some years and , whilst it may not be as large, it is very popular because of its location next to a beautiful white sand beach with the backdrop of the mountains.  The Wharfette bistro is a bustling outlet serving a range of take-out seafood, but the most popular is their fish and chips. One dines outdoors at wooden benches and tables where you can not only enjoy watching people playing on the beach but most likely also a seagull swooping to take titbits from somebody’s hand. This place is hugely popular on weekends because the food is so good and inexpensive. Their kitchen knows how to deal with the crowds and one seldom has to wait more than a few minutes to get piping hot hake in crispy batter with real restaurant style chips. Snoekies in the harbour claims to be the oldest fish and chips outlet but, with other choices,  we recommend that you bypass this dingy and uninteresting eating place. At the end of the harbour road,  perched right on an platform of rocks at the edge of the sea you will find “Fish on the Rocks”, which is reputed by some to serve the best fish and chips, while they have a number of other specialities including grilled yellow tail; a delicious local line fish.

Within the harbour is the popular “Look Out” deck restaurant which also serves top quality fish and chips, albeit a lot more expensive than the

Look out deck Hout Bay

other outlets mentioned. If you want to enjoy sitting on their deck looking right into the fishing harbour, perhaps listening to live music, it is worth paying the extra. Sunday afternoons are very popular because a local band plays foot tapping songs from the 60’s and 70’s, from about 4 pm to 7 pm, and patrons are encouraged to get up and dance in the aisles. One couple who stayed with us loved this place so much that they ate there every night for a week.

Kommetjie: near our Noordhoek holiday accommodation is a historic farm, known as Imhoff’s farm, where there are a couple of restaurants and other attractions. The newest of these is the “Pickled Fish, where you can enjoy a range of fish and seafood. Their current winter special on Tuesday night is fish and chips for only R30. For this small sum you will be treated to a large piece of battered hake, crisp chips lightly spiced with a small salad whose delicious dressing is put up with fresh parsley and coriander. We found the batter a little too thick and stodgy but if you want to eat out inexpensively, they cannot be better value for money anywhere in Cape Town.

Finally, if you want an economical eat-in option, Fish Hoek Fisheries on the Fish Hoek Main Road has been dishing up crunchy battered hake ever since  I can remember. Their tasty batter encloses a huge piece of fried, flaky white hake with no oiliness, although we don’t personally care for the chips. These are large and soft, known in South Africa as “ slap” chips, but many love them. That this outlet is constantly popular can be seen in the long line of people waiting for their food on any night, but Friday night is the busiest and most crowded of all, but you will not have to wait very long.  The turnover is so fast that both fish and chips are always freshly prepared.

All of these restaurants and outlets are a short drive from our self-catering Noordhoek accommodation and will offer an inexpensive opportunity to dine out and see some of the best of our coastal villages.


26 Aug

Spring Flowers in the West Coast National park

Cape  Town’s rainy winters are interspersed by lovely sunny  and warm days which delight our European visitors during the so-called ”secret season” of Cape Town, as they are better than the best European summer’s day. Exploring Cape Town and the environs on such days can be truly rewarding as the city is not busy and one can travel anywhere without traffic or crowds. This year’s winter has been characterised by early, heavy rains with many warm days, and which has led to early blossoming of the wildflowers in many of the reserves.

Within  an hour’s drive from Cape Town can be found the West Coast National Park, at which the Postberg Postberg west coast national parksection is open only during the spring flower season months of August to October.  Having been alerted by a press release from SAN parks of the amazing carpets of wildflowers to be seen in the reserve, we took a drive in the middle  of the week intending to arrive quite early. Many others must have been similarly

watching the weather forecast because there was quite a long line of cars waiting to enter the Park. Although one can see a variety of wildflowers as you drive through the reserve , once you enter the gate at the Postberg section it is as if you have entered a magical kingdom. The veld is carpeted with the most magnificent display of multicoloured wild flowers, stretching almost as far as the eye can see in every direction. Flowers in yellow, red, orange and white colours dominate the landscape while some areas covered in white Namaqualand  daisies look almost like snow-covered fields. Like all visitors, we wanted to try and record some of these spectacular vistas, and stopped the car occasionally to walk to a strategic photographic viewpoint. It is then that one may see the many jewels that are hidden amongst the masses of flowers that make up the carpet; beautiful single blooms and bulbs that can easily be missed amongst the masses. At one spot we stopped to enjoy the sight of a small herd of Bontebok grazing. Although we saw several tortoises crossing the road we were not lucky enough to see any of the other game in the Park which includes Zebra, Gemsbok, Red Hartebeest and Kudu.

The shores of the peaceful Langebaan lagoon skirt the eastern side of the reserve, where one can rent a houseboat, or a cottage at Kraalbaai. There not only beautiful views and lovely clean white sand beach but a number of dedicated braai (bbq) pits and ablution facilities. The sheltered islands and beautiful beaches of the lagoon are home to a myriad of seabirds and migrant waders including flamingos.  We noticed that once we had entered the West Coast National Park there was an almost constant variety of chirps and calls audible from the many birds that have made their home here. Twitchers are catered for in the Park with a number of hides, the first of which is located near the Geelbek restaurant and visitors centre, and others which are detailed on the complimentary map of the Park that will be given to you at the entrance. Plankiesbaai on the Atlantic side also has dedicated braai areas and a lovely beach for enjoyable family outings.

grazing west coast national parkFor those who want to take it easy, the Geelbek restaurant presents a more relaxing dining option. The restaurant is situated in a beautifully restored Cape Dutch homestead that dates back to 1740. One can dine on the terrace enjoying the sun or sit in the dining room of the house and marvel at the beautiful old wooden beams floors and amazingly thick architraves.  The menu is not extensive but presents a number of local specialities beautifully prepared and presented. We enjoyed probably the best fried fish and chips that we have had anywhere; in a light crispy batter which had ben tantalisingly spiced.  Also good was the sweet/spicy Cape Malay bobotie served with saffron rice, roast vegetables and a fiery sambal. . Apart from thirst quenching beers, on offer is  a range of affordable wines available either as a whole bottle by the glass, focussing on the wines of the nearby Darling region which are certainly worth trying. Given the monopoly situation that the restaurant enjoys in the Park, we were pleasantly surprised at the affordable prices of the really enjoyable food.

The best route to follow from Cape Town to the West Coast National Park is to take the R27 exit from the N1, through  Milnerton, and along the coast in the direction of Langebaan; the road is excellent . Entry fees are R44 for South Africans; R64 for SADC visitors and R88 for international visitors, while children up to the age of 12 pay half price. Since the flowers have bloomed early this year (2012)they may not last until end of September so go early.

Geelbek restaurant On the way back we were attracted by the thatched roof West Coast Farm stall which may be found at the junction of the R27 and the Yzerfontein roads, but found it to be dingy and the goods on offer not very tempting.  Insider tip : a little further towards Cape Town will be found the less attractive but rustic Vygevalley Farm stall. We left loaded with freshly baked bread, homemade jams and preserves and tasty pies. Here is also a wine shop where the wines of the region, particularly Darling wines,  are available at prices easy on the pocket. Best of all, we found some gems; reds from famous estates,  older than 6 years, and still labelled with prices of some years ago. It might be worth driving from Cape Town just to buy wine here. Try the Groote Post “Old Man’s Blend” Red wine;  an enjoyable robust red at a bargain price or head off to the Groote Post wine estate itself a little further on, instead of going home.


By : Horizon Cottages



15 Aug

Mating Season for Western Leopard Toads in Noordhoek

Noordhoek is not only an unspoiled, country village suburb of Cape Town, but it is also a conservation area where inappropriate and uncontrolled development is strongly resisted. People who live here willingly give their time and become passionate about many causes. One of these is protection of the endangered Western Leopard toad,  which is generally restricted to the low lands of the south-western Cape and with a fragmented distribution extending from the southern end of the Cape peninsula southwards to the Agulhas plain. The habitat of this delightful creature is around the large wetland areas and rivers usually not much further than about 10 km from the coast. Noordhoek is one of the Leopard toad crossing

best-known habitats, where you will find Leopard Toad road crossing signs to draw the attention of motorists to their presence. Just opposite our Noordhoek holiday accommodation, is a large wetland from which the toads migrate in their thousands annually during August to their breeding ponds. Unfortunately in their haste to take the opportunity of the breeding season which only lasts about 6 weeks, many of them cross the Noordhoek main road at various points; usually on rainy nights when visibility is reduced.

With Horizon Cottages situated just across the road from the wetlands,  the Western Leopard toad is a frequent visitor to our property,  but occasionally also to the guests of our accommodation. It has very distinctive markings from which it gets its name and most of those that we see are relatively small in size. If you come across one in the accommodation, please do not harm it. It presents no danger to you or your children who are sure to be enthralled by the little creature. Most of our guests are delighted when they come across one although we did have one guest who left a complaint left on an international accommodation website, as if it was some sort of dangerous creature, rather than a little toad !

Noordhoek’s Unpaid Toad Savers, known as Toads NUTS  are dedicated and very active volunteers and are often seen on the roads every night during the breeding and mating season. Their cars are dressed with reflective banners and they will wear reflective jackets to ensure their safety. Please be patient on the roads – this amazing migration usually takes around 6 weeks from start to finish.

Leopard Toad, NoordhoekLast Sunday night the endangered Western Leopard Toads in Noordhoek, Sun Valley and Fish Hoek started their annual migration to their breeding ponds. Their aim is to get to the ponds as quickly as they can, and this always leads them across roads. The Toad NUTS plea to the community is :

During the next few weeks, and especially on rainy nights from 6.15pm onwards, please be extremely vigilant not to run over our beautiful amphibian. If you do see a toad, please can you:

1.       Make sure that you are safe before stopping your vehicle. (Please make sure not to cause undue interference to traffic flow)

2.       Remove the toad off the road and place it on the side of the road towards which it is facing – it knows where it is heading. (They are not poisonous to humans and you WON’T get warts!)




15 Aug

Free Access to Table Mountain National park, and others in September

The people of greater Cape Town have often complained about the prohibitive pricing of the recreation spots in the Table Mountain National Park , as well as other national parks that makes it difficult for those who live in our beautiful city to appreciate its natural resources. One of the most beautiful picnic, braai and swimming spots is situated at Buffels Bay in the Cape Point nature reserve. Here are rolling lawns, barbecue

Buffels bay beach Cape Point Nature reserve

pits, and a beautiful white sand beach along with an expansive tidal pool; but at almost any time of the year it is all but deserted because tourists do not usually visit Cape Point for the beach, but for the spectacular views and the lighthouse. It is sad that this ideal family recreation spot is beyond the reach of many of the local people owing to the entrance cost of R85 per adult to the reserve.

Some good news is that South African National Parks has announced the 2012 South African National Parks Week with free access to all South African citizens will be launched on Monday, 10th September 2012.  SAN Parks Acting Head of Communications: Paul Daphne, who announced the week long campaign will be giving free access to the national parks from 10th to 14th September 2012. This will be applicable to all the national parks managed by SAN Parks, with the exception of Boulders Beach in Table Mountain National Park and the Namaqua National Park. Table Mountain National Park (excluding Boulders) is extending SA National Parks week until Saturday 15 September 2012 .

According to Mr Daphne this focus week on national parks was first promoted in 2006 after the SAN Parks Chief Executive Officer, Dr David Mabunda, recognised that the vast majority of South Africans were not accessing the national parks. He then embarked on a campaign to encourage all South Africans, especially those from the communities around the parks, to share in what SAN Parks envisions as ‘connecting to society’.  He further noted that the objective of SA National Parks Week is to cultivate a sense of understanding and pride in South Africans, of their natural, cultural and historical heritage; which is the basis for the established theme ‘Know Your National Parks’, and has proved to be a successful campaign in terms of education and awareness of conservation issues.

This free access is granted to all South African day visitors on presentation of their official Identity Documents. Young persons under the age of 16 will be allowed free access without the requirement of proof of identity. It must be noted that the free access to the parks will not include any commercial activities in the park such as guided safaris in vehicles or guided walks, etc.

“Environmental education and protection is the responsibility of everyone, not just a privileged few. If we are to create a sense of ownership of the natural heritage of South Africa in all South Africans, then all South Africans must be able to have access to such,” said Daphne.

For more information see the website : http://www.sanparks.org/



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