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How to plan a first visit to South Africa/Capetown/Plettenberg

How to plan a first visit to South Africa/Capetown/Plettenberg

Jun 3rd, 2004, 05:32 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 18
How to plan a first visit to South Africa/Capetown/Plettenberg

I have four days to plan our first visit to South Africa in five days time and I am panicking.

I have got lots of glossy brochures and some great books but I can't come up with a plan.

My husband has just booked a fly/drive/six nights in Somerset West/six nights in Plettenberg for us and our 33 year old son. We would love to get to know Capetown, experience the wonderful scenery, the food, the music and to get some idea of what makes South Africa such a special place.

Please somebody, help me come up with a plan to make the most of our visit.

Jona is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2004, 05:53 AM
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... certainly devote a full day to seeing Cape Town, including a trip up Table Mountain, and seeing the Waterfront area.

Suggestion: search "Buz Beck" on this site for his email address ... retired teacher who gives an informative tour of the city.

Use one day to make the RT drive south to the Cape.

Jun 3rd, 2004, 07:17 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,657
Make contact with Selwyn! Let him show you Cape Town from his perspective. We had a terrific time with him last month, and I would recommend him highly as a tour guide for a day or two. www.ilovecapetown.com If he is unavailable, there are apparently a number of guides who classify themselves as "cultural" tourguides -- meaning they focus on exactly what you say you want to learn/see -- what living in South Africa is really about. I'd bet Sel would be able to recommend someone to you as well. It truly is worth it. I was blown away by South Africa...the scenery is incredible and the people are just as fantastic.
uhoh_busted is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2004, 09:54 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 119
I would agree with uhoh_busted. We toured with her, Selwyn and Kavey (another poster) for one day in May. I had along my husband and our two children (21 and 23 years old). We were all taken aback by his depth of knowledge and the amount of activities he was able to cram into one day. Our kids loved it too. So please contact Selwyn and see what you can come up with.
We spent 4 nights in Capetown and were able to see table mountain, the Cape, the V&A waterfront and a pile of other things. With 6 nights you should be able to cover alot of the attractions.

As you go along the Garden Route check out some of the small towns such as Knysna and Hermanus. If possible do the Treetop Canopy tour at Storm river www.treetoptour.com It is well worthwhile. Once again Selwyn will give you advice on this part of your tour. He provided me with an enormous amount of ideas for places to visit, activities, restaurants and scenic routes. He never steered us wrong!
Alisonv is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2004, 12:32 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,097
Uhoh_Busted and AlisonV thanks so much for your kind words. Much appreciated.


Your time for planning is very short hence the following suggestions.

Arrange your first night of accommodation in Cape Town. If you need help in this regard contact me directly per email and I will help you as best possible. I should also be able to arrange discounts for you as we are now in the low season and much bargaining can be done. Btw in my opinion staying in Somerset West is NOT a good idea as it is very far from Cape Town centre.

Once you are in Cape Town give me a call on 083 604 3917 and I will then make my way to meet you personally soonest and advise you as to all that you should know relative to what you need to do in Cape Town and the Garden Route etc. I can assure you that I will be able to help you fully and please rest assured that you do NOT have to tour with me when you are in my city as my main aim in helping you would be to ensure that you enjoy my city, the Garden Route and my great country to the full. If you feel that you want to try and do all by email that would also be fine. Its up you but with you having such a short time factor to make decisions I would suggest that we follow my first plan of action

Another point: Plettenberg Bay is OK but it is NOT the ideal town to want to use to explore the Garden Route from. In my opinion Knysna is the best town to use in this regard. Right now I am in Knysna touring with some wonderful Australians and they saw Plettenberg Bay today. One of them actually remarked how much better it was to use Knysna as place to tour from relative to Plettenberg Bay when visiting the Garden Route.

OK Jona its all up to you.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2004, 04:44 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 18
Hi Blacktie, uhoh_busted, AlisonV, Selwyn and anyone else who might be reading this.

I'm really grateful for your responses and the wealth of information I've found today on this forum.But I'm not out of the woods yet!

The "packet" we bought means we'll arrive at CT airport just before midnight on June the 9th.after a 12 hour flight from Amsterdam. At the airport we are supposed to pick up the prebooked car and head for the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West where we are booked for five nights.
From Somerset West we hope to be able to "do" Capetown:Tablemountain,a trip down to Cape Point(penguins/Kalk Bay/Chapmans Peak),Bo-Kaap (Zoerinas), The District 6 Museum,the Pan African arts/craft market all sound like a must as does Kirstenbosch Gardens (even in winter?). We would love to get a general impression of what non-tourist life in Capetown is like, sample the different types of cusine on offer, visit a local pub,hear live-music, see buildings of architectural interest etc (!). Any suggestions/comments? Is this doable from Somerset West?

Any general suggestions for daytrips from Somerset West?

Is this the wrong time of year for vineyard or game farm visits?

The second part of our skeleton fly/drive/hotel packet is seven nights in the Plettenberg Bay Hotel.Once there, my son is responsible for the planning but I am left with the problem of where and how to break the journey from Somerset West to Plettenberg and once again I would be really grateful for any suggestions.

Jona is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2004, 11:06 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 251

I'm sure Selwyn will reply if he has the opportunity while on tour, but just in case not ...

Seeing as you're locked into Somerset West and Plett, accept it and don't stress. Although - as Selwyn noted - they are not necessarily the best spots to be based it is not a train smash.

Cape Town is doable from Somerset West - you are just going to spend a bit more time driving. If you want off the beaten track then try the Worcester/Robertson wine route - it's not as touristy as Stellenbosch/Paarl and has delightful lesser known and brilliant vineyards.

Winter has yet to really set in in the W Cape - which is a bit of a problem because if the rains don't arrive within a few weeks the wheat crop will fail. But it can turn up very quickly so be sure to bring a warm coat. The long and short is that Kirstenbosch will be fine, as at any time of the year you will need to keep a close watch on the clouds to be able to go up Table Mountain. And take the gap if you see it!

Plett is a sweet town, it will be virtually empty of local holiday makers at this time of year. And it's a short 20 minute drive from Plett to Knysna.

In terms of breaking your journey to Plett - try somewhere like Arniston or Oudsthoorn. As Selwyn mentioned it is low season at the moment so you probably won't have trouble getting accommodation at a good rate.

I get the panic, I also usually like to know as much as possible before I leave on a trip, but rest assured that once you are here many locals will be happy to give you advice. Also - contact Selwyn on the cell number he listed.

traci_local_in_sa is offline  
Jun 4th, 2004, 04:54 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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We stayed in Plett this April and found it a good base to explore the area. We made daytrips to Tsitstikamma NP (a 'must do' IMHO - take a full day) and to Knysna/Wilderness/Belvidere, spent a day in Plett hiking the Robberg (another 'must do') and spent a day at the lovely beach. Of course, at this time of the year the weather may be a bit different, but a long beach walk is always possible.

As suggested by traci_local_in_sa, Oudtshoorn would be a good place to break up your journey. Take the opportunity to drive the Swartberg Pass to Prince Albert and back via Meiringspoort. Amazing scenery! You won't have problems in finding accomodation there.

When you're in Somerset, a very nice trip - weather permetting - is the Coastal Clarence drive to Betty's Bay (penguins, though not as much as in Boulders Beach) and the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden. I think this must be about the best season to enjoy the protea flowers. If you have time left, you can drive further to Hermanus (whales!), a very nice coastal town.

I agree that Somerset is not the best location to visit Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula. On the other hand, Somerset is very close to the N2 highway and Cape Town can be reached in a fairly short time. You'll be OK there!
MyriamC is offline  
Jun 5th, 2004, 01:16 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 18
Hi all,

What wonderful responses. I'm so grateful and have stopped panicking!

This is a great forum: I searched on weaving and got Good Sea Food Restaurants in Capetown(may 2003)with a mouthwatering list of places from Selwyn + suggestins on where to hear live music (would love some more on this although we are old fogies)) + very interesting comments on visits to the Townships. (still none the wiser about the handweaving scene if any!)

We would so much like to get some impression of what life is like for the non-white population but find the idea of a "zoo" - tour distasteful. Any comments or suggestions on how to get a glimpse of this side of South African life in CT or along the Garden or Wine Routes?
Jona is offline  
Jun 6th, 2004, 02:51 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 2,501

I have been to Cape Town three times with my wife and it is a great city. I have posted a couple of trip reports with pictures on my personal homepage gardkarlsen.com Maybe you can find some useful information there. Have a great trip

Stavanger, Norway
gard is offline  
Jun 6th, 2004, 10:19 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 18
Hi all,

Our plans are taking shape thanks mainly to you good people.

A special "takk" to Gard og Nikki in het yndige Stavanger in Norge: lovely website. ( Jeg kommer ut Island)

At the moment our plan is as follows:
Five nights booked in Somerset West. Arriving late next wednesday.
First dat: Drive through Chapman's Peak + Capetown.
Second day: Drive round the peninsula.
Third day: Capetown with a guide which we have come to realise is not a luxury but a neccesity but a MUST given the time available.
Fourth day: The Four Passes or the North Border drives.
Fifth day: Route 62 to Plett where we are booked for seven nights.
From Plett we hope to "do" some or all (!?) of the following: Knysna, Oudtshoorn/Swartsberge, the Robbery.Tsitsikamma/the Wilderness, Addo.
Seventh day: drive along the costal route from Plett to the airport in CT (Plaine leaves just before midnight).

"The Plan" may be overly ambitious and it is very rough but I see it as as promising start to a wonderful holiday.

My de-luxe "problems" have been deflated.
So what if it rains: It will benefit the Wheat crop (thanks traci)
Winter is thr best time for prothea (thanks Myriam C)!
I would still welcome any tips or comments gratefully but even with the details missing I'm now in a state of happy anticipation.


Jona is offline  
Jun 6th, 2004, 12:51 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501
Hello Jona,

Regarding your remark that you would like to see what life is like for non-white South Africans, I don't know if you've noticed yet in the information through which you've been surfing that Selwyn's tour offerings include a tour of a township in Cape Town.

Check out the May 2005 tour on which two Fodorite couples and one Fodorite family accompanied Selwyn on a visit to a township (scroll down through the winelands scenes in order to reach the township scenes).

Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jun 6th, 2004, 01:13 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501
>>>>>>still none the wiser about the handweaving scene if any!<<<<<<

In my country of origin, which is Swaziland, there is a mohair industry that uses fibre from the angora goat. Some of the manufacturers are relatively large commercial operations, but some of them are smaller women's cooperatives.

I understand this industry exists in South Africa too, but I don't know many of the particulars with respect to South Africa. Years ago I'd heard that mohairs products were being produced in the Transkei and Ciskei areas (near East London). However, you won't be going there.

So I did an Internet search and came up with some mohair businesses in Cape Town and Cape Town's hinterland that would be within reach of your base at Somerset West. I'm thinking of places like Cape Town, Wellington, Stellenbosch, Montagu, etc. Here is the website:


Whether or not these businesses do HAND weaving is something you would need to research individually. For example, the website of "A Room with a Loom Weaving Workshop" in Montagu indicates that, while not all of their products are hand woven, some are. Their web page that shows off some of their hand woven products is:


Hope this helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 10:25 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,943

Prince Albert in the Great Karoo (an easy half day trip from Oudtshoorn) is known for its high quality of mohair wool.
It must be possible to visit a goat farm and buy mohair locally.
MyriamC is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 12:20 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,657
I bought a gorgeous hand woven mohair scarf at a lovely shop in Stellenbosch. They carried mostly mohair (any color you can imagine and some you might not have dreamed of) and also beautiful ostrich things. It was more expensive than my usual souvenir purchases, but well worth it. Of course now that I'm at home I wish I'd bought several....
uhoh_busted is offline  

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