Life is about the journey - some roads are not always what they seem but you sure learn a great deal from them!
Published November 22nd 2013
12 Days of Christmas in South Africa
While a white Christmas is iconic for the Northern Hemisphere, a very hot and sunny Christmas is had in the south. South Africa has a diverse range of climate settings which can offer you not only a great getaway but a truly safari Christmas experience.
The Southern Coastal Regions of South Africa can offer you a wide range of experiences from an the great wineries in Stellenbosch to the an wild encounter with elephants. You can be guaranteed that every day will be packed with a new adventure and something interesting to do.
Accommodation is plentiful where you can enjoy a five star bed and breakfast on the edge of cliffs looking over a bay graced with playful whales or you can enjoy a more luxurious experience in one of the hotels that line the famous Cape Town harbour.
So, take a stroll with me with show case what 12 days of Christmas in South Africa would be like. The journey will start in Cape Town lead up along the garden route up to Plettenberg Bay and then back down for your departure back home.
The top of Table Mountains homes a café, a curios shop, bathrooms facilities and a number of pathways which will keep you busy for hours. If you feel you need a little more adrenaline, you can try the abseiling option off the side of Table Mountain.
Outside of the spectacular view, you will also see a range of wildlife from wild buck to dassies. Dassies are a mixture of a rabbit and a rat, and could quite easily be the relative of the quokka found on Rottnest Island.
The view down Table Mountain from in the cable car.
Your first day of Christmas would be start early catching the first cable car to Table Mountain. By the time you have explored most of the top of Table Mountain you will be ready to have a meal with an breathtaking view. After this, you will then journey back down the mountain which you can either walk down (if you are fit enough) or cruise down in the cable car. It will be a fun full day.
Robin Island became famous when the world learnt about the prison that was on it, more importantly the prisoner who became South Africa's first black Prime Minister.
You will take a boat cruise to the island where you will step on shore to experience what many prisoners experienced on a daily basis. The rooms were small cubicles, and their days were filled with hard-core labour which is not experience today.
Many of the prisoners at Robin Island were held captive for treason. Many of them were accused for their terrorist attempts to over throw a white government.
For many of the prisoners, the risk of being caught was worth it, as they saw the Apartheid Regime creating huge disadvantages for the coloured skin person.
While the history of this island may be border line depressive, the views back to Cape Town are spectacular. Furthermore, you will have a huge chance of seeing some amazing marine life on route to and from the island.
The third day of Christmas will take you to the outskirts of Cape Town to the heart of the Winelands. On this day you will not only enjoy the taste of the famous South African wines, but you will also take a stroll through the Language Monument that will showcase the whole valley of the Paarl Region.
The story goes that the Language Monument (also known as the Taal Monument) was built as a means to honour God. It was architecturally created where man could stand on earth and have an audience with God. Surrounding the monument is mound like creations which signify a hand pointing up to God. And the whole structure signifies the struggles the Afrikaners had to make their Afrikaans language a national language.
After this experience, you will drive back towards Stellenbosch stopping at a number of wineries to taste their amazing fruit filled beverage. The first stop will be Le Bonheur, followed by Reemhogte Wine Estate, finishing off with Vergelegen Wine Estate. All three of these Wines Estates have been ranked for one of the best wines in the district.
You will finish off the day with staying at the Vergelegen Estate while watching the sun set creating an amazing array of African colours along the Helderberg Mountains.
The 4th day of Christmas A encounter with a Cheetah followed with a picnic at the Helderberg Nature Reserve
Like many animals in South Africa, the cheetah is on the endangered list. The Cheetah Out Reach, at the De Beers facility by Strand, hosts a cheetah program where you can have a personal encounter with a cheetah.
A encounter with one of the fastest animals on earth!
You can visit the curios shop to purchase little keepsakes before driving to the Helderberg Reserve for a nice picnic at the base of the mountain. If you are feeling energetic, you can take a 2 hour walk to Disa Gorge which is the home of giant Yellow Wood Tree and a small spring water fall.
The fifth day of Christmas will take you along the garden route to the old whaling town called Hermanus. There will be many stops along the way, as the view along this road is spectacular. You may even find a few baboons taking an early morning stroll.
Hermanus was once a whaling station. It was a perfect set up because it was on the outskirts of a shallow bay where whales would come to give birth to their young. Today, you can view the history of this town together with taking a stroll through the African craft market where you are sure to find a few unique African crafts.
The 6th day of Christmas Southern Most Tip of Africa
As you make your way up the garden route coast, you will take a little detour to see, and to be on the southernmost tip of Africa by Cape Agalhus.
The road there can be quite bumpy as there are areas where they are still doing road works. However, along the way you can be guaranteed to see wildlife such as blue cranes and flamingo.
The southernmost tip of Africa is where the two oceans meet. You will be able to stand in two places at the same time with one foot on the Indian Ocean side and once foot on the Atlantic Ocean Side.
This experience will be followed with a walk up the lighthouse which is one of the oldest light houses in Africa. It still has most of its original framework, and you will be able to experience what lighthouse keepers experienced many years ago.
Of course, lunch will be served at the Lighthouse café, before making a trip north to Mossel Bay for your next adventure.
The 7th day of Christmas Shark Cage Diving in Mossel Bay
Mossel Bay is about 4 hours of Hermanus. It used to be one of the biggest fishing villages in the Southern Cape area. Just about 3 km off the shore of Mossel Bay is the seal island where you will find many Cape Fur Seals basking in afternoon sun.
Cape Fur Seals on Seal Island found in bay of Mossel Bay.
Mossel Bay is also the home of one of the best Shark Cage Diving businesses, namely White Shark Africa. White Shark Africa is also part of the shark tagging program, where Great Whites are tagged and monitored.
Experience and See the Great White in their own environment.
You are guaranteed to see these amazing creatures swim in their surroundings. Don't forget your camera because you can be guaranteed to take some world class photos. Apart from viewing these amazing creatures in their habitat, you will also learn about their behaviours and demeanour. This alone is worth the experience.
On the 7th day of Christmas we take a journey to Knysna to visit the Knysna Elephant park. Knysna Elephant park was established original as an orphanage for elephants. People have the chance to feed and walk with these majestic animals. Of course, you can also take hold of the opportunity to ride them along the outskirts of the Knysna Forest.
The day will finish with you checking into the Elephant Lodge where your room will be just above the elephant's quarters. You can experience falling asleep to the murmurs of elephants and waking up to their morning call.
The 9th Day of Christmas Wolf Sanctuary, Monkey Land and Garden of Eden
The 8th day of Christmas in South Africa will give you an personal encounter with wolves. Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary homes two packs of Timber Wolves, African Wild Dogs, and some local inhabitants such as tortoises, emus and donkeys.
You can experience walking among the wolves, while guides will teach you about their behaviour and the rankings within the pack. Finish off the experience with a wolf encounter, with some Timber wolves standing right by your side.
The afternoon will see you drive to Monkeyland for a guided tour through Monkeyland's natural reserve while monkeys play naturally around you. Watch Lemurs bask in the sun or Gibbons grazing from tree tops, with some even curious enough to see what is in your bag.
The Monkey Land tour will last about 2 hours, after which you can enjoy a drink and some snacks. Once you are well rested, you can walk across to the Garden of Eden. This is a self-guided tour walk through a tropical designed aviary which also happens to be one of the biggest aviaries in the world.
A tropical pathway through one of the largest aviaries in the world.
The Cango Caves are situated in a limestone ridge parallel to the Swartberg Mountains just outside Oudtshoorn. These Caves are filled with Stalagmite's and Stalactites that date back hundreds of years. You will personally experience what it was back in the 1800's when scouting for caves as well as see some natural sculptures created by Mother Nature herself. This tour will last at least 2 hours, unless you decided you to take a more adventurous tour which will see you crawl through small cave entrances.
The Ostrich Farm will follow your Cango Caves experience where you can feed and touch one of the biggest birds in the world. If you are feeling adventurous, you can take a personal guided tour where you can feel what it is like to ride an ostrich.
By the 11th day, you will probably be feeling quite weary, so you can spend the last part of the afternoon enjoying a scenic drive around the Klein Karoo before heading back to the hotel.
The 12th day of Christmas Drive back to Cape Town
On the 12th day of Christmas you will take a drive back to Cape Town along the National Road. Of course, there will be loads of opportunities to stop at rural cafes for last minute gift ideas.
This trip will take a total of roughly 5 hours to drive, giving you time to stop at places such as Swellendam, Caledon, and Grabouw. Grabouw is well known for apple juice drink called, Appletizer. You may be able to stop an buy a couple of Apples before heading home.
You can stop for a few snacks or 'biltong' (dried meat) along the way.
Part of this trip will have you drive over Sir Lowry's Pass. There is a lookout point where you can view the whole of the Cape Town area. You may even see some wagon wheel tracks etched into the rocks from the 1800's.
Of course, the 12 days of Christmas will be packed with a huge range of activities. If you have the luxury of time, you may extend you visit to South Africa by 10 days, giving you time to shop and see a little more. However, 12 days will not only give you enough to talk about but also leave you with wanting to come back for more. To me, that is a perfect vacation.
Great article. It brought back a stack of memories as I was there less than a year ago, and will be returning again soon.
I believe Africa is a truly amazing and diverse continent.
Although sad, I felt lucky to have visited Robben Island before Mandela's passing. I lot has changed since then.