By Rob & Julie Cole, UK
 
 
Destination Port Elizabeth, Eastern Garden Route, Cape Town, South Africa
Categories Over 50's
When Travelled We travelled in June, winter in South Africa. The weather was similar to a good summer in Britain, perfect conditions for a sightseeing holiday.
Length of Stay 4 weeks
Travel Agent SAGA Holidays. SAGA holidays are for anyone over 50. You can enjoy the holiday you prefer utilizing the Saga package as a starting point or just sit back and let the company ‘take the strain’.
Airline South African Airways. All our flights were on time, with reasonable legroom, good food by airline standards and friendly staff.
Accommodation
Humewood Hotel, Port Elizabeth This is a small family style hotel perfect for an extended stay, offering friendly personal service and a relaxed atmosphere. Saga guests are on a fully inclusive meal plan, which includes alcohol up to 11pm. The buffet meals were of the highest standard, although an early start is necessary before the best has gone. The hotel is situated on the seafront only a few yards from the aquarium and a brand new shopping precinct. The beaches are sandy and spotless.

Inyathi Guest Lodges, Knysna These are a small group of African style wooden lodges in the center of the town owned by a very pleasant Dutch couple. The tropical vegetation, rough wood and stained glass windows make this a romantic, although somewhat eccentric place to stay a few nights. At £25 a night, including a full cooked breakfast, it was a bargain.

The Cape Manor Hotel, Sea Point, Cape Town This hotel is a large multi-story building set back from the seafront. What it lacks in style is compensated for a by pleasant staff, great food and a good position within walking distance from the world famous Victoria and Alfred Waterfront development.

Travelogue We had long wished to visit South Africa but had been unsure about personal safety in this country, which has a poor reputation for street crime. Discovering that SAGA Holidays specialize in South African package holidays, and believing that they were unlikely to place their ‘ageing’ clientele at risk, we decided to give them a try; and how pleased we’ve been with our decision. This proved to be one of the best holidays we’ve recently experienced. It was reassuring to hear that the city and surrounding areas are the safest in South Africa with the lowest crime rate in the country. At no time did we feel uncomfortable or threatened when walking around.

A few words in praise of our SAGA representative at Port Elizabeth: Over the years we have become more and more disillusioned with holiday reps., but Melanie proved to be the best we have ever known. She was consistently cheerful, always ready to help and full of loads of useful local information. (Above: Xhosa Man, Port Elizabeth. Below: Cape of Good Hope)

We found Port Elizabeth attractive, full of interest and friendly towards tourists.

We were able to book a four-week stay mainly at Port Elizabeth with the last few days in Cape Town. During our stay at Port Elizabeth we hired a car and drove along the eastern end of the Garden Route, spending a couple of nights at Knysna. We hired our car, one year old and in perfect working order, through the local Avis agent, at £125 a week for two drivers and all insurances. Driving in South Africa is similar to the UK, they drive on the left and road signing is the same and once out of the city the roads are very quiet.

Knysna and the Tsitsikamma National Park were stunning and we intend returning to spend more time enjoying their delights in the future.

Cape Town is a city in the most beautiful of settings with the impressive table mountain as a backdrop (unfortunately the cable car was being repaired whilst we were visiting). Four days was not enough to fully experience the city and its environs, looks like another return trip!
It may be clear by now that we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, so much so, that we have already booked a return trip (with SAGA holidays).

Places of Interest

Port Elizabeth Although an industrial city Port Elizabeth’s position on the coast has led to the growth of an attractive seaside resort area set apart from the main city, but still within easy reach of the city center.

In the city center the Donkin Heritage Trail is a pleasant, if somewhat hilly, 1 hour walk around the oldest surviving colonial style buildings leading to the neat and tidy St. Georges Park, famous for its international cricket ground. Beyond here is the more substantial Settler’s Park, a large tract of semi-wild parkland on the edge of the city center. The park is brimming with local flora and fauna, and we were fortunate to see mongoose and even otters on our visits.

The area is well served by wildlife parks; one of our favourites was the Kragga Kamma Wildlife Park in the city suburbs. Here you could get very close to zebra, giraffe, antelope, buffalo and even white rhino. For sightings of the ‘big five’ it is necessary to visit the larger game parks east of the city. The best of these is the Shamwari Game Park, but be warned these parks are very expensive and do not guarantee sightings. (Top: Singing at school in Port Elizabeth. Right: White Rhino at Shamwari Game Park)

We were lucky that during our stay the ‘Apple Express’ narrow gauge steam train (below) made one of it’s rare journeys and we were able to book seats. This is a small railway run by local enthusiasts with track running through the city into the countryside, on the way crossing the highest railway bridge in South Africa.

Included in our package were three full day trips and two half-day local outings. A full day trip to Grahamstown offered a view of the hinterland and farming areas. Grahamstown is an old fashion colonial frontier town with some fascinating little stores and loads of history. Our day trip to Cape St Francis & Jeffrey’s Bay provided our first view of the spectacularly wild Eastern Cape coastline, with huge sand dunes and expansive beaches. The third, and most spectacular, full day trip was to the Addo Elephant Park; a visit here is a must. Here you have the opportunity to see loads of elephants, often very close, ‘nose to trunk’ so as to speak! A half-day trip around Port Elizabeth proved a good introduction to the area. The half-day trip to a Township was an eye-opener, giving a perspective on the problems faced by a post-apartite South Africa, but the school visit was a joy; particularly the children’s beautiful singing. (Above Right: Addo Elephant Park)

Eastern Garden Route An easy-going four hour drive took us to the pretty seaside town of Knysna, voted as South Africa’s Favorite Town, where we decided to stay for a couple of nights. The town is situated on a wide river estuary, which reaches the sea through a spectacularly narrow gap in the sea cliffs called ‘The Heads’. The Heads offer great walks and spectacular views. With lots of good quality craft shops and galleries the town has an ‘arty’, almost hippie atmosphere.

An early start on our return journey to Port Elizabeth permitted an extended stop at Storms River Mouth (Left) in the Tsitsikamma National Park. This is an area of stunning coastal scenery, which would require days to explore rather than the few hours we had allowed.

Cape Town For the last few days of our visit we flew to Cape Town, staying at Sea Point, within walking distance of the world famous Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, with it’s outdoor lifestyle, attractive restaurants, and trendy shops. Just south is the city center dominated by impressive architecture from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries. A fascinating full day can be spent wandering around the area.

Just a few miles outside the city center is the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, one of Cape Town’s jewels. The gardens are extensive, beautifully kept and well worth a days visit.

A really good day trip is the Cape of Good Hope Reserve covering a far greater area than we had expected. Cape Point is well worth the visit, apart from the super landscape; the sight of ostriches and baboons on the beach was unexpected. North of the reserve is
Simon’s Town, home to the South African Navy, and steeped in naval history. Nearby are Boulders Beach and the famous penguin colony, which was far bigger than we expected. We were lucky to see lots of little furry penguin chicks clustering together on the beach waiting to be fed by their parents. We could have spent hours watching this spectacle.

 

Fab Tips 1) We found walking around in the cities fine but would not advise doing so after dark, and as with all cities dress down and keep valuables out of sight. We regularly used buses for short journeys finding them safe and cheap.

2) Eating out is reasonable with good quality restaurants charging around £10 for an evening meal with wine. South Africans like their food and consequently the quality and quantity is superior to what we are used to at home. Whilst in South Africa you must try game foods such as ostrich, warthog and springbok, they all have very distinctive flavours.

3) Unlike many holiday destinations South Africa offers good quality souvenirs, many produced by local craftsman, at reasonable costs; don’t forget to bargain at stalls and markets – offer a third and expect to pay half the original asking price.

 
Recommended Lonely Planet Travel Guide
 

Few destinations offer such bewildering diversity as the great continent's mesmerising expanses, unlock the secret of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland with this essential guide.

  • over 100 detailed, accurate maps
  • packed with places of interest
  • practical advice on staying safe and healthy
  • special section on the Cape wineries – where and how to sample some of the world's finest wines
  • Kruger National Park – an entire chapter devoted to one of the best national parks in the world
  • special colour wildlife guide to help you spot the Big Five and more
 
 
 
2003 Fabulous Holidays