South Africa – It’s Time to Stop and ‘Smell the Roses

South Africa – It’s Time to Stop and ‘Smell the Roses

The holiday season is drawing to a close and we will all soon be returning home from our holiday destinations. Why not take an extra few days to travel home and explore your surroundings?  We’re going to take a look at a specific route from Cape Town via the Garden Route, Bloemfontein and on to Johannesburg. The distance as the crow flies between Johannesburg and Cape Town is plus minus 1254 km

Drive from Cape Town to Hermanus and onward to Gansbaai (Goose Bay). Gansbaai is renowned for good fishing and whale watching and over recent years has established itself as the ‘great white shark capital’ of the world. It is one of the few places left in the world where one can still ‘shark cage dive’ with these mysterious and graceful creatures who have drawn visitors from around the world.  


Mossel Bay the ‘Frontier town’ and ‘Bay of Mussels’ on the Garden Route, is a quaint coastal town with lovely beaches, and great surfing. It is bordered by the magnificent Indian Ocean and the majestic Outeniqua Mountains, and is a welcoming place, and not at all just tourist friendly. Instead, a better description would be a genuine homegrown coastal town, where you’ll feel at home and get used to the ‘don’t worry, be happy’ frame of mind.

Visit the Cango Caves at Oudtshoorn, which is one of the natural wonders of the world and lies in the Swartberg Mountain Range. There are a series of caverns that open into vast halls of towering stalagmite formations with names like the ‘bridal couple’, ‘glass flower fantasy’, ‘weird cango candle’ and the ‘hanging shawl’. Not all the caves are open to the public but the main sections are available for brilliant subterranean tours that include crawling around on all fours in an effort to see everything and miss nothing.

Knysa, whatever the season, stays green and its warm temperate climate make it the perfect place. The town nestles between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean, and the forests encircle it like a protective mantle. This exceptional playground of beaches, lakes, mountains, forests and rivers offer an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re an adventurous type or simply enjoy lazing in the sun, Knysna has it all.  Oysters and Knysna are synonymous and is famous for its cultivated Knysna Oysters, unique to the area.

Visit Storms River, a tiny scattered village with shady lanes situated on the edge of the Tsitsikamma Forest – an ancient indigenous forest with giant trees, forest ferns, clear streams and brightly coloured birds. Storms River is the starting point for many adventure activities such as the canopy tour, where you swing between platforms built high in the forest. Another awesome and breathtaking activity is the 1km board walk along the ‘wobbly’ suspension bridge strung across the mouth of the river above the ever-pounding giant waves.


Jeffrey’s Bay is home to the perfect wave and its combination of beautiful beaches, endless summers, abundant shells, white gold (calamari) and relaxed lifestyle.  The beaches are safe and perfect for bathing and all water sports, making it a popular weekend getaway and a surfer’s paradise.

Off to the Addo National Park, deep within the dense valley bushveld of the Sundays River region. Here, the evenings are punctuated by the eerie howl of the black-backed jackal, and the franklins’ call which beckons each new day. Safe from relentless persecution in the past, the elephants now roam in peace in this finely tuned ecosystem.  Addo is now sanctuary to over 450 elephants, Cape buffalo, black rhino, a variety of antelope species, as well as the unique flightless dung beetle, found almost exclusively here.

Our route takes us onward to the Mountain Zebra National Park. Set within the rugged heights of the Bankberg Mountains, amidst prolific flora and fauna. The park is a bird lover’s paradise and a reserve for the Cape mountain zebra together with a host of other mammals. The caracal occupies the niche as the primary predator.

Rouxville is situated on the southern most tip of the Free State and is possibly one of the smallest towns in the country. Take a break, spend a bit of time in this town and you’ll find it worthwhile. There are a number of historical buildings to see and although it’s not immediately obvious, there are places to stay and eating-places to visit.

From here we head to the Golden Gate with its cliff faces covered in ancient rock art and golden colored sandstone which completes this imposing image. Numerous paleontology finds have been made in the park including dinosaur eggs and skeletons. Approximately 140 bird species have been identified in the park, including the rare bearded vulture, the endangered cape vulture and the bald ibis.

Bloemfontein, the judicial capital of South Africa and the capital of the Free State, oozes with history and is probably the most concentrated point of traditional Afrikaner culture left in our rapidly evolving country. From its very beginnings it has welcomed visitors to stay and become part of the everyday fabric that is woven by the locals. There is no rush in the ‘City of Roses’, life is lived at a slower pace, so take the time to enjoy your day and meet the locals. ‘Bloem’ welcomes you and invites you to center yourself in the heart of the country.

The last part of the journey is between Bloemfontein and Johannesburg – please don’t expect a memorably scenic drive. However, the road is straight and in good condition and won’t take you more than a couple of hours. Welcome home to Jozi, the ‘City of Gold’ and our ‘Egoli’.

Aren’t you glad you stopped to smell the roses and took a moment to recognise the beauty and bounty of South Africa……

Denny McQueen

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