Twice a year the Chrissiesmeer shop owners put up signs on their doors that say, “Gone Frogging”.
Instead of preparing for World Tourism Day on September 27 by publishing a set of platitudes about the most prominent places to visit, we decided to abide by the spirit of these intrepid merchants and prepare a portfolio of the country’s more unpredictable and out-of-the-ordinary travel destinations.
This odd and freakish pastime has become a happening event in Mpumlanga’s grass and wetlands region.
According to a local champion of the event, Athol Stark: “The town has the highest density of frogs for miles and frogging has become a major event in the area.”
Ask no questions, just head out to Chrissiesmeer and investigate for yourself. Apparently there is no harm caused to the amphibians involved, either.
Call Stark on Tel: (017) 819 4707, visit the Mpumalanga Tourism Authority at www.mpumalanga.com or call Tel: (013) 752 7001.
Anyone who has ever been to Knysna’s Phantom Forest can vouch for the magical quality of the place.
Hidden from the world, the Phantom Forest Eco Reserve consists of elevated luxury tree suites (all wood) with foresty-type bathrooms and enough green-lung energy to while away the negative city variety.
This is fish-eagle country and a new addition to the property is the Moroccan suites. The North African feel just adds to the magic of the space. Phantom Eco Forest is not cheap — even if you were party to Travelgate, so do your homework.
Call Tel: (044) 386 0046 or visit www.phantomforest.com.
Roughing it gently
Mosetlha Camp in Madikwe Game Reserve is the ideal spot to go on a bush getaway with a small group of friends.
Not too rustic (but definitely not pretentious), this homely bush camp is run by madcap auntie June Lucas, who is only too happy to show you the communal loo and bush shower (hot water is readily available). It’s the ideal spot to have an authentic bush experience without breaking the bank, and is great for parties of six to eight people — think birthday celebration or a special anniversary and bring along your own stash of Old Brown Sherry.
Call Tel: (011) 444 9345 for bookings or visit www.thebushcamp.com.
The Herman Charles Bosman Literary Weekend is one of the many South African festivals that draws a particular brand of mayhem.
Mampoer tastings, poetry readings (many by the local farmers) and live theatre all make for a great weekend.
Perhaps the highlight is finding out all about the event from Bosman stalwarts, Bert and Santa van Egbert, who run the local information centre and are celebrities in their own right — and for good reason.
The Emoyeni Retreat Centre outside Hartebeesport is the new and much nearer Buddhist spot for those of us who are daunted by driving all the way to Ixopo (KwaZulu-Natal). Contemplate your navel or go and fly a kite. The new Buddhist retreat in the North West province has just opened a meditation hall.
Weekend retreats are available, or just go by yourself: chop wood, carry water. Call Tel: (014) 574 3662 or visit www.emoyeni-retreat.com.
Put together to impress international delegates coming to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Cape Care route is meant to show visitors the “other face” of Cape Town. This is a fantastic day trip that includes visits to various greening projects (such as the Abalimi Bezekhaya Peace Park, the green lung of the Cape Flats). You can meet Gideon Flowers, an artist from the Eastern Cape who makes exquisite flowers out of trash.
Think Owl House meets Khayelitsha.
For more information call Cape Town Tourism on Tel: (021) 426 4260, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.capecareroute.org.za.
Poetry on the hop
This pioneering project in the township of Kalkfontein near Kuilsrivier is hosted by poet and activist Jethro Louw. Called the Coffee Beans Route Kalkfontein, this is a music and poetry meander complete with story-telling, break-dancers, authentic goema music sessions and a host of local community characters.
Visit www.coffeebeans.co.za or call Ian Harris on Tel: 084 476 9249.
Best high tea in town
High tea at the Westcliff hotel may not be an everyday tourist attraction — but for a special occasion, having your scones and jam while overlooking the green belt of Jo’burg and the angel statue near the zoo is definitely a good way to celebrate the day.
High tea costs about R85 a person and you can indulge in some of the most sinful treats in town.
Call the Westcliff hotel on Tel: (011) 6462400.
For a few G&Ts, try out the Ambassador hotel in Cape Town’s Bantry Bay, where bitters are served with the country’s most spectacular sunsets.
Lookout Beach in Plettenberg Bay is also pretty special, especially when there are whales copulating behind the backline just 5m from the deck. A more remote and expensive option is the top of the Outpost deck in the far north of the Kruger park, an ultra-luxurious lodge with by far the wildest views in the park.
Call the Ambassador hotel on (021) 439 6170, the Look Out Restaurant on Tel: (044) 533 1379 and the Outpost on Tel: (011) 325 2442.
West Coast Wonderland
Route 27 is a road that has become increasingly popular with motorists and bikers. Incorporating the small towns of the West Coast from Darling to Yzerfontein, you are guaranteed fabulous seafood, delightful scenery and great boere hospitality along the way. Visit www.route27.sa.com.
Of sharks and men
Known as the Great White capital of the world, Gansbaai offers its own rough brand of hospitality. Sitting at the foot of the Duyenefontein mountains, this Western Cape town is famous for its in-season whale-watching and for being the breeding ground for jackass penguins. It is also home to the country’s best shark safari — or so they tell you at the local pub. Great diving, too.
Visit www.gansbaaiinfo.com or call Tel: (028) 384 1439.
Wild horses and boere baroque
Mpumalanga’s Kaapsche Hoop is home to the famous wild horses and misty mountains. Just 28km from Nelspruit, this little town has solidified its reputation as a laid-back artist’s haven with attitude. The odd good restaurant and more than a handful of dicey characters (not to mention the wild horses) make for a wonderful blend of legend and reality. Visit www.kaapschehoop.co.za.
Our favourite kitsch
Sun City. The service is still appalling, the fake rocks are fading and the majority of the croupiers need an overhaul, while the faux rainforest at the Palace tops the list of fantastical kitsch. If it’s too bizarre to spend the night, just pack a lunch and spend the day in the woods. Call the Palace on Tel: (014) 557 1000.
Yoga sessions take place in the gardens of Sandhurst’s Saxon hotel on Saturday mornings during the warmer months. Doing sun salutes in the garden of this monument to good taste is bound to glean you some good karma for at least a week. Call the Saxon hotel on Tel: (011) 292 6000.