The following itinerary describes a range of private gardens, national parks and museums which we plan to visit. Some are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.
Cape Town, Waterfront - 3 nights
Day 1: Saturday 14 September, Arrive Cape Town
- Arrival Transfer for participants arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Travellers taking the ‘designated ASA flight’ will arrive into Cape Town late this evening. A private coach will transfer you to your hotel. Situated at the foot of the majestic Table Mountain in the south of the Western Cape Province, Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest and arguably loveliest city. Our hotel for the first three nights is located on the famous Victoria and Alfred (or V&A) Waterfront. (Overnight Cape Town, Waterfront)
Day 2: Sunday 15 September, Cape Town
- Table Mountain with horticulturalist, Adam Harrower
- Welcome Lunch at the Bo-Kaap Malay Restaurant
- Bo-Kaap Malay Quarter
- The Company’s Gardens
This morning we ascend Table Mountain on its aerial cableway which affords passengers a 360-degree view of the city. Atop Table Mountain a number of pathways lead us to views over Cape Town, Table Bay, Robben Island, the Cape Flats and the Cape Peninsula.
Horticulturalist Adam Harrower will join us here to share his knowledge of the mountain vegetation. The Table Mountain National Park has the richest single floristic area on the planet, with over 1500 species of indigenous flora. ‘Fynbos’, an Afrikaans word meaning ‘delicate bush,’ is the name of the scrubby vegetation that is particular to the Cape; it is found in abundance on the mountain slopes. Fynbos consists of four primary plant groups: proteas (large broad-leafed shrubs), ericas (low-growing shrubs), restios (thin reed-like plants) and geophytes (bulbs). This is an ancient form of vegetation, some species (restios) of which date back 60 million years. Common garden plants like geraniums, freesias, daisies, lilies and irises originated in fynbos. Like many Australian natives, fynbos species depend on fire for seed dispersal and new growth. To survive they must burn every 15-20 years; weaker plants thereby flourish and avoid being overwhelmed by stronger species.
We spend the rest of the day exploring Cape Town. Known as the ‘Mother City’, Cape Town boasts a proud heritage spanning over 300 years. Its historical diversity is visible in the mixture of African, Asian and European influences that infuse its cuisine and cultural life, and especially its architecture – the colourful houses of the Bo-Kaap nestled on the slopes of Signal Hill, Cape Dutch homesteads, Victorian homes in its suburbs at the foot of the mountain, and Cape Town’s colonial civic buildings.
The historic ‘Bo-Kaap’ or ‘Cape Malay Quarter’ is one of the most culturally interesting parts of the city. Many Bo-Kaap residents are descended from Indonesians, Sri Lankans, Indians and Malays, who were enslaved by the Dutch-East India Trading Company in the 17th and 18th centuries. A number of these slaves were Muslims who introduced Islam and played an important role in the development of the Afrikaans language. A simple form of Dutch, Afrikaans evolved so slaves from different countries and cultures could communicate with each other and with their Dutch masters. Educated Muslims were the first to write texts in Afrikaans.
We shall sample the area’s excellent cuisine with a Welcome Lunch in a traditional Cape Malay restaurant situated in the heart of the Bo-Kaap. We then tour the Bo-Kaap area with its steep, narrow streets adorned with colourfully painted artisan houses and mosques. The architectural style of these buildings is a synthesis of Cape Dutch and Edwardian idioms.
We then make our way to Cape Town’s city centre, or City Bowl, and the Company’s Garden. The Company’s Garden, now a large public park and botanical garden in the heart of Cape Town, is the oldest garden in the country. It was laid out by Cape Town’s founding father Jan van Riebeeck on orders of the Dutch-East India Trading Company, so as to provision colonists with vegetables. As more produce became available from the Company’s gardens at Newlands and from the Free Burghers who had settled along the Liesbeek River, the town garden was slowly converted into a botanical and ornamental garden, although vegetables continued to be grown for a number of years. Today the ensemble includes a rose garden, fishponds and a Saffron Pear Tree that is believed to be South Africa’s oldest cultivated tree. (Overnight Cape Town, Waterfront) BL
Day 3: Monday 16 September, Cape Town
- Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCCA)
- Lunch at the Granary Café, Silo Hotel
- Robben Island Tour
We spend the morning visiting the Zeitz MOCAA, the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world. Opened in September 2017, this converted grain silo overlooking the Atlantic on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, was designed by architect Thomas Heatherwick. With 100 galleries spread over nine floors, the museum focuses exclusively on 21st-century work from Africa and the diaspora.
Lunch will be served at the Silo Hotel, a new luxury hotel situated above Zeitz MOCCA. Its Granary Café overs fabulous views over the city.
In the afternoon we depart by ferry for Robben Island from the Nelson Mandela Gateway. Located on the V&A Waterfront, this gateway was officially opened by Nelson Mandela on 1 December 2001. It is the embarkation point for exclusive access to Robben Island, the infamous site of the maximum-security prison where, along with other political prisoners, Mandela was imprisoned for 25 years by the South African apartheid regime. Robben Island has a long history as a place of banishment and punishment. In 1657, five years after Jan van Riebeeck established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa, he decided to use the island as a place of banishment. Thenceforth, various governors of the Cape used it as a place of exile. In 1846 the prison became a hospital. In 1855 part of the hospital became a colony for lepers and a lunatic asylum, whilst another portion was converted back into a prison. In 1959 the island became a maximum-security prison and between 1961 and 1991 over 3,000 political prisoners were incarcerated here. Since 1997 the prison has been a museum and in 1999 Robben Island was declared a World Heritage Site. Today’s prison’s guides are former inmates. (Overnight Cape Town, Waterfront) BL
Cape Town, Newlands - 6 nights
Day 4: Tuesday 17 September, Cape Town – Cape Point Reserve – Newlands
- Biodiversity Showcase Garden, Green Point Park – with Marijke Honig of Think Ecologic
- Lunch at Two Oceans Restaurant
- Cape Point Nature Reserve with horticulturalist, Adam Harrower
This morning local botanist and landscaper Marijke Honig shows us one of her projects, the Showcase Biodiversity Garden, situated in the 12-hectare Green Point Urban Park. It is a unique didactic garden featuring ‘educational art and craft’, a khoikhoi (native to the Cape region) food garden, interactive displays and over 320 local plant species.
Next we drive to the Cape Point Nature Reserve located at the tip of the Cape Peninsula, part of the huge Table Mountain National Park that stretches from Signal Hill and Table Mountain in the north to Cape Point in the south, encompassing the coastline of the peninsula. Lunch is at Two Oceans Restaurant which occupies an enviable position above False Bay at the southwestern tip of Africa. The restaurant is as famous for its seafood cuisine as it is for a superb wooden deck that looks out onto one of the most stunning ocean views in South Africa.
Horticulturalist, Adam Harrower, joins us again today to explore the indigenous fauna and flora that are conserved in this rich wilderness area. The Cape Peninsula has in excess of 2,500 fynbos species and within its 7,750 hectares it sustains more varieties of plants than the whole of the British Isles, including some 1,100 indigenous species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The reserve also protects a variety of animals including buck, baboons and Cape Mountain Zebra; over 250 species of birds are found here. Cape Point’s treacherous cliffs form Africa’s most south-westerly point: they mark the point where the cold Atlantic Beguela coastal current merges with the warm Agulhus Indian Ocean current from the south. We shall ride the funicular up to the lighthouse at the peak of Cape Point where you can view the Cape of Good Hope to the west.
We spend the next 6 nights at the 4-star Vineyard Hotel located in the leafy suburb of Newlands, on the slopes of Table Mountain. (Overnight Newlands, Cape Town) BL
Day 5: Wednesday 18 September, Newlands – Drakenstein Valley – Franschhoek – Newlands
- Babylonstoren Garden, Drakenstein Valley
- Private garden of Henk Scholtz, Franschhoek
- The Leeu Collection: Leeu House & Le Quartier Français. Guided tour of the Herb & Vegetable Garden, Bokkie Garden & Vineyard Walk; wine-tasting & lunch
- Private garden designed by Franchesca Watson, Franschhoek
Today we make a day excursion to the historic town of Franschoek located in the fertile Cape Winelands region. Thanks to their Mediterranean climate and winter rainfall, this region boasts some of the finest wines in the country, important for winemaking, one of South Africa’s fastest growing industries.
We first visit the garden of Babylonstoren, a Cape Dutch farm with vineyards and orchards surrounded by the dramatic mountains of the Drakenstein Valley. It has an exceptionally well–preserved werf (barn) dating from 1690. Inspired by the 17th and 18th century formal Company Gardens of the Dutch East India Company and harking back to the mythical gardens of Babylon, its 8-acre fruit and vegetable garden is unique to South Africa. Every one of over 300 varieties of plants in the garden is edible. The garden is divided into fifteen clusters spanning vegetable areas, berries, bees, indigenous plants, ducks and chickens, and even includes a prickly pear maze. Gravity feeds water from a stream into the garden waterways as it has done for 300 years.
We next drive to the Franschhoek Valley, where French Huguenot refugees first settled in 1688. The region’s climate and French cultural influence combine to make this valley South Africa’s gourmet centre. Before acquiring its present name, the valley was called Olifants Hoek in Afrikaans, describing the herds of elephants that used to roam into the valley along an elephant path from the mountain pass between Villiersdorp and Franschhoek.
In Franschhoek we first visit the private garden of well-known South African garden designer and artist Henk Scholtz. Scholtz’s garden featured on the BBC’s Around The World In 80 Gardens and was described by presenter Monty Don as ‘probably the most photogenic garden [I’ve] ever been to. The garden uses only a few varieties of plants that provide a strong rhythm and continuity in both its structure and planting. Although a small garden, its clever use of borrowed landscapes gives it a feeling of enormity, which contrasts with the extreme intricacy of its myriad small spaces, graced by eccentric sculptures.
Businessman Analjit Singh bought several properties in the Franschhoek Valley including the art-filled Leeu House and Le Quartier Français. Both manor houses are surrounded by Franchesca Watson-designed gardens and vineyards overseen by the very best young winemakers Chris and Andrea Mullineux. Gardens designed by Franchesca include the Herb & Vegetable Garden, the Bokkie Garden and the Vineyard walk. The country herb and vegetable picking garden is laid out around three granadilla-covered pavilions with formal hedges. This was the first garden laid out on the property and it has incredible valley and mountain views. The garden provides fresh seasonal produce for the Leeu Estates culinary team.
The word ‘bokkie’ is the diminutive of buck and is often used within the Afrikaans community as the term for ‘beloved’ or ‘sweetheart’. An expression of love, the beautifully laid out Bokkie Garden aims to create a meditative and serene space where people can reconnect with nature and one another. A small vineyard showcasing carefully selected varieties of grape has also been established, from which a very limited edition wine will be produced.
The gardens along the Vineyard Walk meander along the natural course of the river and were designed to suggest nature – the planting is controlled but more relaxed than the formality of the rest of the gardens on Leeu Estates. Oak trees at the river are interplanted with evergreens, creating a perennial screen of green. In spring, luminescent white azaleas along the river stand out against the banks of green.
We shall take a garden tour with the head gardener, enjoy a wine-tasting at the wine studio, and enjoy lunch at one of the manor’s restaurants.
In the afternoon, garden designer Franchesca Watson will take the group to some contemporary gardens. (Overnight Newlands, Cape Town) BL
Day 6: Thursday 19 September, Cape West Coast
Full day trip to the Cape West Coast with horticulturist Adam Harrower including:
- !Khwa ttu San Education and Culture Centre (time allowing)
- Postberg section of West Coast National Park
- Tienie Versveld Reserve
- Darling Wildflower Show (dates subject to confirmation in early 2019)
- Waylands Wildflower Reserve
In August and September each year, the Cape West Coast bursts into a dazzling display of wild flowers, carpeting what is normally a barren semi-desert with a colourful array of daisies, yellow gansogies, felicias, nemesias and vygies. The West Coast flower region, an integral part of the Cape Fynbos Kingdom, boasts more than 1,200 species of flowering plants. About 80 of these are not only endemic to the West Coast but are encountered nowhere else on the globe. Conservation International has recognised the Cape Floristic Region as the only arid ‘hot spot’ for biodiversity, placing it among the 25 most ecologically valuable places in the world.
Today Adam Harrower leads us on a very special private tour of the West Coast reserves to experience their remarkable displays and study the distinctive vegetation types that contribute to Cape Fynbos Kingdom’s unique species diversity.
We drive north to the top end of the West Coast National Park (Langebaan), where we visit Postberg, a special section of the park that is only open to the general public in early spring when the wild flowers are blooming in the Cape. There we shall admire the magical displays of multi-hued spring flowers, and perhaps also catch a glimpse of the many antelopes that populate the reserve.
Time allowing, we shall also stop at !Khwa ttu San Education and Culture Centre, to explore the world of the descendants of southern Africa’s earliest indigenous people, the San. Located 70 kilometres north-west of Cape Town, this 850 hectare nature reserve is home both to hundreds of species of indigenous fynbos plants and a wide array of indigenous animal species such as Eland, Zebra, Oryx, Bontebok and Springbok.
Before leaving the West Coast National Park, we stop at Geelbek to collect our picnic basket and then continue to the small town of Darling where we hope to visit its famous flower show (subject to confirmation). The arid region through which we are travelling is termed ‘veld’ in Africaans, the equivalent of ‘prairie’ in the USA and grassland in Australia. There are many varieties of veld, which are distinguished by their soil types. Darling is surrounded by three distinct types, Strandveld (sandy plains, dunes and limestone with granite ridges), Renosterveld (coastal lowlands with shale and granite) and Sandveld (with dry, sandy soil) that account for the huge variety of plant species in its environs. To celebrate this extraordinary variety, the Darling Wildflower Society has held a show virtually every year since 1917, and pursued a sustained policy of educating local farmers to protect the region’s species. The show’s uniqueness is that it displays plants that are not cultivated but wild, having been picked under strict supervision.
We also visit the Waylands Flower Reserve and Tienie Versfeld Wildflower Reserve. The former, founded in 1922, boasts some 300 varieties of Lowland Fynbos. (Overnight Newlands, Cape Town) BLD
Day 7: Friday 20 September, Newlands – Kenilworth – Stellenbosh – Newlands
- Stellenberg, Kenilworth: Tour of gardens and the private home of Sandy and Andrew Ovenstone
- Historic town of Stellenbosch
- Delaire Graff Estate (to be confirmed)
- Dylan Lewis Studio & Sculpture Garden, Stellenbosch
This morning we visit Stellenberg Garden, located at Kenilworth in the heart of Cape Town’s southern suburbs. Owner Sandy Ovenstone has lived on the property since 1974. She will guide our tour of her beautifully tended gardens that owe much of their inspiration to three well-known English gardens, Sissinghurst, Hidcote Manor and Hatfield House. The white garden, planted alongside the 1840s Cape Dutch homestead, displays a wonderful mix of romantic perennials. A vegetable patch boasts a companionable mix of herbs, vegetables, sweet peas and foxgloves. There is also a marsh garden area and a wonderful formal parterre designed by David Hicks as a silver wedding present for Sandy from her husband Andrew. Franchesca Watson has created three of its other gardens: the Medieval Garden, the Garden of Reflection and the Parterre Garden.
Mid-morning we continue to the pretty university town of Stellenbosch, situated at the head of the Eerste (First) River Valley. It was one of the first valleys to be settled by Europeans and the area contains many well-preserved examples of domestic Cape Dutch architecture and notable vineyards.
Delaire Graff Estate, a botanical paradise in a gorgeous setting, is our lunch destination. Surrounding the terraced restaurant area are are acres of tranquil colours planted to reflect the changing seasons, spectacularly in bloom every day of the year. Spectacular views of the Stellenbosch valley can be enjoyed at this wonderful estate, which features an art collection including world-famous Tretchikoff’s Chinese Girl.
Dylan Lewis is a South African artist who has emerged, internationally, as one of the foremost figures in contemporary sculpture. Lewis’s primary inspiration is wilderness. We take a guided tour through the extensive sculpture garden, formed and created by Lewis. From virtual flat farmland, there is now an undulating landscape of valleys and hills, ponds fed by natural springs and shady secret gardens and groves, inviting peaceful contemplation. The monumental pieces permanently installed in their magical surroundings and given an insight into Dylan’s journey to his work. At one level his bronze sculptures celebrate the power and movement of Africa’s life forms; at another the textures he creates speak of the continent’s primeval, rugged landscapes and their ancient rhythms. A visit to his circular studio with its huge barn doors, open out onto a magnificent view of the landscape. (Overnight Newlands, Cape Town) B
Day 8: Saturday 21 September, Newlands – Kirstenbosch – Pniel – Newlands
- Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden with horticulturalist Adam Harrower
- Old Bethlehem Farm, Pneil – design project by Franchesca Watson and Danie Steenkamp
Located on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is considered one of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the world. It was established in 1913 on land left to the nation by Cecil Rhodes to protect the immense floral wealth of the Cape region. Kirstenbosch is one of 8 protected areas that make up the Cape Floral Region (CFR), a 528 hectare botanical wonderland that is home to over 22,000 indigenous plants; it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. This distinctive phytogeographic unit is listed among the 6 ‘Floral Kingdoms’ of the world; it is by far the smallest of these and for its size the richest and most diverse. Species include almost 70% of the 9,500 plants that are endemic to this region. The Garden’s horticulturalist Adam Harrower will lead a special tour introducing the collection of South African plants in the 40 hectares of developed garden; the crane flower (Strelitzia Reginae) is the emblem of the garden.
Following some refreshments at the Kirstenbosch tearoom we journey to Old Bethlehem Farm located in the Dwars River Valley between the villages of Kylemore and Pniel. The old farm buildings, which date from the late 1680’s, have been beautifully restored. Here we shall meet Danie Steenkamp, a landscaper, town planner and founder of DDS Projects; he is currently considered the best landscaper in the Franschoek/Stellenbosch region. Francesca Watson and Danie were responsible for designing the farm’s simple gardens and restoring the natural fynbos landscape. Time-permitting, we may also visit another small project by Danie in the area. (Overnight Newlands, Cape Town) BL
Day 9: Sunday 22 September, Newlands – Constantia – Bishopscourt – Newlands
- Garden Newbury & Garden Raymond, Bishopscourt – design projects by Franchesca Watson
- Garden Urquhart, Bishopscourt
- Liz McGrath’s award-winning gardens at Cellars-Hohenort
- Gardens Middleton, Ackerman & Topat, Constantia – design projects by Franchesca Watson
Today is devoted to visiting gardens in the suburbs of Constantia and Bishopscourt. These include the private gardens of Gavin and Sharland East Urquhart featured in Nicola Hadfield’s Beautiful Outdoors of South Africa as ‘Brave heart’. Sharland, a well-known artist and gardener, has made a brave statement with her landscaping.
The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel is located on the slopes of Table Mountain in the heart of the Constantia Valley. We shall take a tour of its beautiful gardens which have been voted by American magazine Garden Design, as one of the top 30 hotel gardens in the world. Set over nine spectacular acres, the gardens are the result of the owner Liz McGrath’s 20-year vision. Giant camphor trees dating back to the eighteenth century are surrounded by more recent gardens including the unrivalled Cellars-Hohenort rose garden.
We also visit a number of private gardens designed by Franchesca Watons including the large garden of ‘Middleton’ which has been developed over the years as a series of large garden “rooms” with Table Mountain as the dramatic backdrop. The garden features wonderful seasonal plantings with a sensitive use of colour. Level changes give interest and structure to the various spaces. The newest addition is the rill garden planted with grasses and perennials. (Overnight Newlands, Cape Town) BL
Mossel Bay - 1 night
Day 10: Monday 23 September, Newlands – Somerset West – Swellendam – Mossel Bay
- Vergelegen Wine Estate & Garden, Somerset West – guided tour with head gardener, Mr Richard Arms
- Historic town of Swellendam
We depart Cape Town to journey towards Mossel Bay, considered to be South Africa’s historical capital, where the renowned ‘Garden Route’ begins. On the way we visit Vergelegen (meaning ‘situated far away’), which has been a gardener’s paradise since 1700 when the then Governor of the Cape, Willem Adriaan van der Stel, cleared land to establish a garden and develop its vineyards. Willem Adriaan, a keen horticulturist, was the author of The African Gardener’s and Agriculturists’ Calendar. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited here during their tour of 1947 and were reputedly ‘overcome by Vergelegen’s loveliness’. Restored in 1987, the ensemble now features a White Garden, a Rose Garden and the magnificent Octagonal Garden, which affords views to the house along 400m of twin herbaceous borders. The garden also includes a Wetland Garden and Yellowwood Walk. Along with summer flowering perennials, annuals such as cleome and nicotiana are planted in September.
After lunch at the Vergelegen Camphors Restaurant we drive to Mossel Bay, making a short stop in Swellendam, the third oldest town settled in South Africa by the Dutch East India Company. Founded in 1746 by the Governor of the Cape Province, Hendrik Swellengrebel, and his wife Helena Ten Damme, the town displays its rich history through its marvellous Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture. It has over 50 National monuments, most of them excellent examples of Cape Dutch architecture. (Overnight Mossel Bay) BL
Knysna Quays - 3 nights
Day 11: Tuesday 24 September, Mossel Bay – Garden Route – Knysna Quays
- Old Post Office Tree and Bartholomew Diaz Museum, Mossel Bay
- Knysna Elephant Park: sunset walk with African elephants
This morning we visit the Bartholomew Diaz Museum named after the Portugese explorer who was the first European to land at Mossel Bay in 1488. Mossel Bay subsequently became an important port of call for many Portuguese ships taking on board fresh water and replenish provisions. The museum complex comprises a number of buildings as well as a 500 year-old ‘Post Office Tree’ that was once used by sailors who deposited messages for other ships in a boot that hung from its branches.
From Mossel Bay we drive to Knysna along what is known as the ‘Garden Route’, a conservation route along the strip of coastal plain that stretches between Mossel Bay and Storms River Mouth. Ostensibly a marketing idea for promoting this stretch of coast, The Garden Route enjoys a semi-Mediterranean climate and includes indigenous forest, freshwater lakes, wetlands, hidden coves, and long beaches. Our journey ends at Knysna, one of the main centres on the Garden Route. Our hotel is located on the former harbour quays from where we can enjoy one aspect of Knysna’s enchanting natural setting, its estuary called Knysna Lagoon where sea and sweet water mix. The lagoon’s salt marshes and sandbanks support an unsurpassed wealth of bird and marine life, the Knysna Loerie (brightly coloured bird of the banana eating family) and the Knysna Seahorse being the most famous examples.
We conclude the day with a quintessentially African experience, an opportunity to walk with elephants in the Knysna Elephant Park. Our sunset tour at the Elephant Park begins with spectacular views of the Outeniqua mountain range and Knysna forest and concludes with a meal at the beautiful Lapa restaurant overlooking the indigenous forest. In between, you have the rare and exciting opportunity to get close to the elephants that live here in a controlled, free range environment. Knysna Elephant Park also supports a number of elephants at their orphanage near Port Elizabeth. The Park’s primary role is rehabilitating elephants and providing them with better homes. We shall dine at the park’s restaurant before returning to our hotel in the early evening. (Overnight Knysna Quays) BD
Day 12: Wednesday 25 September, Knysna – Plettenberg Bay – Knysna
- Keurbooms Cottage & the White House: private gardens of Julian Treger, Plettenberg Bay (to be confirmed)
Today we hope to visit two world-class gardens, both owned by Julian Treger. (Overnight Knysna Quays) B
Day 13: Thursday 26 September, Knysna
- Knysna Forest Tour
- Sunset Ferry Cruise on Knysna Lagoon
Knysna grew up as a small port from which timber from indigenous forests, part of the original montane rainforests, was exported. Today we make a full day excursion into the strictly protected 80,000-hectare Knysna Forest, the largest remaining forested area in South Africa. The indigenous forests of huge ancient hardwood trees like Yellowwood, Stinkwood and Redwood found here are both a rarity and are considered a treasure in a country composed mainly of savannah. It is believed that a couple of wild elephants still live in the forests, though sightings are extremely rare.
Our guides today will introduce the forest’s astounding diversity of plant life including huge Yellowwood trees, ferns and mosses and fynbos vegetation. We follow a trail of approximately 3.2 kilometres through to the heart of Diepwalle Forest, where we will stop for lunch under an enormous Outeniqua Yellowwood tree (Podocarpus falcatus). The ‘Big Tree’, or ‘King Edward VII Tree’, has staggering dimensions: a height of 39 metres with a crown width of 32 metres, and its age is estimated at approximately 650 years.
In the evening, we shall take a sunset cruise across the turquoise waters of Knysna Lagoon which opens up between two sandstone cliffs known as the Heads, once proclaimed by the British Royal Navy the most dangerous harbour entrance in the world. We shall also see some interesting birdlife such as African fish eagles, darters, kingfishers, cormorants and black oystercatchers.
The rest of the evening is at leisure in Knysna Quays and you may wish to sample the town’s famous oysters. (Overnight Knysna Quays) BL
Umhlanga, Durban - 1 night
Day 14: Friday 27 September, Knysna – George – Durban – Umhlanga
- Late-morning flight George to Durban
- Private garden designed by John Brookes, Durban
- Durban Botanical Gardens
- Oyster Box Hotel, Umhlanga Rocks – guided tour of landscaped gardens designed by Franchesca Watson
This morning we drive from Knysna to George Airport to catch a late morning flight to Durban. Described as a city where the ‘sun never sets’ Durban is a coastal metropolis on the Indian Ocean, famous for its string of magnificent beaches known as the ‘Golden Mile’. With a warm, sub-tropical climate, it is the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal, and South Africa’s busiest port. Durban was first a Dutch and then an English colony, and now has the largest Indian population of any city outside of India. Its ethnic complection has produced in Durban a vibrant mix of architectural styles, encompassing elegant Victorian houses and monuments, Hindu temples and modern high-rises, and the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere.
This afternoon we visit a private garden located in central Durban, designed by influential English designer and plantsman John Brookes. The garden’s owner Neville Schaefer also owns Riversfield Farm, a property in the Natal Midlands that he has kindly invited us to visit on Sunday.
Nearby, we also meet with Di Higginson for a guided tour of the Durban Botanical Gardens, which are Africa’s oldest surviving botanic gardens. They were established in 1849 to participate in the quest for Kew Gardens to establish a series of botanic gardens across the world which would assist in the introduction of economically valuable plants, and to supply plants to Kew that were new to science. The gardens include collections of sub-tropical trees, cycads, palms and orchids, and a lake with water lilies and pink lotus.
Our accommodation for tonight is at the famous luxury Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks, an exclusive resort town north of Durban on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. The hotel, which originally opened in 1947, underwent an extensive two-year renovation, re-opening 2009. As part of the refurbishment program, Cape Town based landscape consultant Jean Wouters and landscape designer Franchesca Watson have recreated beautiful sweeping gardens with a colonial feel to suit the style of the hotel. Having worked for the Botanical Gardens in Durban, Franchesca Watson contributed her extensive knowledge of KwaZulu-Natal plants to the project. The garden features all the colourful tropical plants such as bouganvillea and frangipani together with local subtropical coastal plants, giving it a romantic air. Thickly planted areas are punctuated with functional clearings such as the wedding garden and the fountain court, creating small, secluded garden rooms.
This evening we shall dine in the beautiful Ocean Terrace restaurant overlooking the Indian Ocean and sample Durban’s Indian culinary heritage with a selection of fine curries using fresh local ingredients and spices. (Overnight Umhlanga Rocks) BD
Hilton, Natal Midlands - 2 nights
Day 15: Saturday 28 September, Umhlanga – Durban – Pietermaritzburg – Oakpark – Hilton
- Private garden of Rob and Jane Crankshaw, Cowies Hill – with horticulural consultant, Geoff Nichols
- Rosehurst Garden, Pietermaritzburg
- Private garden of Sue and Hugh Akerman, Pietermaritzburg
- Norwood Garden, Oakpark
- Sue Tarr’s Summerhouse, Hilton
Early this morning we depart Umhlanga for Cowies Hill to visit the private garden of Rob and Jane Crankshaw. We will be accompanied by horticultural consultant Geoff Nichols who helped lay out the garden in 1999. A few large trees remain from the original garden including a big Casuarina cunninghamiana and some Jacaranda mimosifolias with a border of Azaleas (which might still be in flower during your visit). The rest of the garden now consists of local trees and shrubs. There are at least 100 species of tree planted in the garden. A very rare epiphytic orchid Diaphananthe millarii occurs in one tree in the garden.
Next we drive 90 kilometres to Pietermaritzburg, the capital and second largest city of the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Few African cities are as vibrant as Pietermaritzburg. Steeped in a history that has Zulu, Boer, British and Indian elements, it is one of the best-preserved Victorian cities in Africa. Its city hall, built in 1900, was then the largest all-brick building in the southern hemisphere.
Pietermaritzburg is justifiably known as the City of Flowers, with private gardens and public parks awash with lush foliage and seasonal blooms, such as bougainvilleas and azaleas. Today we visit some of Pietermaritzburg’s and nearby Hilton’s lovely private gardens, which open to the public every year as part of the local Witness Open Gardens scheme, ranging in size from neat townhouse plots to rambling two-acre smallholdings. The Hilton gardens, growing in misty, hilly conditions, are filled with azaleas, fine trees, exotics and some of the finest roses to be found in South Africa.
Now thirty years old, the delightful town garden of Rosehurst was established by the late David and Lorraine Kettley, well-known Pietermaritzburg heritage and garden personalities. Influenced by Sissinghurst Castle Garden in South East England, this is a whimsical Victorian-style garden featuring hedges, topiary and relatively informal plantings set upon a formal framework. It is divided up into a number of ‘garden rooms’ each with its own predominant colour theme: small entrance garden, pink lawn garden, yellow sundial garden, mauve side garden, white gazebo garden and the all-colour potager/kitchen garden. It also has a delightful tearoom where lunch can be obtained.
After lunch we continue with a visit to the private garden of Sue and Hugh Akerman. This mostly indigenous garden has some exotically planted areas of bright annuals and mosaic features. The indigenous trees that have been established for over 25 years have created a rivereen forest along the stream. It is a steeply sloping property where the owners have reclaimed land from rampant alien vegetation and re-planted it with indigenous plants and trees. Sue, who is well known for her artistic flair, has several new mosaic features in the garden. Paths meander beside the stream for some distance so be sure to wear good walking shoes! The bird life in the garden is prolific.
From Pietermaritzburg we continue to nearby Norwood garden, with over 7000m2 of rolling landscaped gardens in an informal, tropical, forest style, with numerous formal elements. Massive trees frame many beautiful vistas through the garden and over the city. The garden features masses of clivias, tree ferns and cycads and magnificent koi ponds.
We also visit Sue Tarr’s Summerhouse at Folly Hill located in Hilton. The summerhouse, now a nursery set in beautiful gardens, was formerly a milking shed. The old milking pens and feeding troughs provide a backdrop to the displays of goods on sale, and the old calf pens are now used as a rustic restaurant, La Popote, where we will enjoy afternoon tea. Sue is a well-known local landscaper and her garden is a great inspiration to many gardeners. The garden features lovely old trees and wonderful azaleas. There are also well-established borders with roses, perennials and shrubs.
We spend the night in Hilton, enjoying an evening meal together at our Tudor style hotel. (Overnight Hilton) BLD
Day 16: Sunday 29 September, Natal Midlands
- Riversfield Farm
- Pizza Lunch at the Italian Restaurant, ‘La Lampara’
- Benvie Farm
Today we visit more private gardens in the area, including a formal 18th century English garden by legendary British gentleman of design, the late David Hicks (1929-98), on Riversfield Farm. An architectural garden with a formal potager, a dovecote, and a Gothic pool pavilion, the garden displays a panache typical of Hick’s work.
After a light pizza lunch at the nearby Italian Restaurant, ‘La Lampara’, we visit Benvie farm, located in Karkloof. The gardens were established in 1882, by Scottish emigrant John Geekie who is well known throughout South Africa by both the gardening and birdwatching fraternities. Geekie, who was a cabinet-maker by profession, also loved trees, and imported seedlings from across the world. Many of the trees which he planted are still standing today, including three giant eucalypts. Today the farm’s arboretum is managed by Geekie’s great grand-daughter.
The 127-year old garden covers an area of about 30 hectares, and consists mainly of large conifers, rhodedendrons and azaleas, all of which is bordered by a typical indigenous mist belt forest. The garden features a walkway, about 2kms long, where bird watchers stand a good chance of seeing Orange Ground Thrush, Chorister Robin Chat, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Cuckooshrike, Knysna Turaco, White starred Robin and Cape Parrot which use the property as a nesting site. (Overnight Hilton) BLD
Johannesburg - 3 nights
Day 17: Monday 30 September, Hilton – Durban Airport – Johannesburg
- Morning flight from Durban to Johannesburg
- Light Lunch at The View
- Guided tour of Sir Herbert Baker’s ‘Northwards’ by resident curator, Dr Neil Viljoen
- Heritage tour of Rockridge Road, Parktown including Baker’s Stonehouse (exterior) and Pilrig House
- Sir Herbert Baker’s St Margaret’s including gardens designed by landscape designer Patrick Watson
This morning we depart Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal region to fly to the economic hub of Africa, Johannesburg, a bustling, sprawling city of contrasts, spread across the small but densely populated province of Gauteng. Some people call it ‘Jozi’ or ‘Joburg’, others ‘Egoli’, meaning ‘City of Gold’, a reference to its origins as a gold rush town founded after the discovery of gold on the East Rand in the late 19th century. From its humble origins as a camp of rows of tents, Johannesburg has grown to be the economic powerhouse not only of South Africa, but much of the African continent, with one of the forty largest metropolitan areas in the world. The city’s modern vibrancy is largely based on the diversity of its people and cultures, with a mix of indigenous African, and immigrant Dutch, English, Portuguese and Malay cultures.
This afternoon is dedicated to exploring the work of Sir Herbert Baker and heritage properties in the Parktown area. Sir Herbert Baker, a British architect, was the dominant force in South African architecture for two decades, 1892-1912. In 1902 he left his practice at the Cape in the hands of his partner and went to live in Johannesburg, where he built Stonehouse. Baker quickly became noted for his work, and was commissioned by a number of the “Randlords” (the wealthy mining magnates of Johannesburg) to design houses, particularly in the suburbs of Parktown and Westcliff.
Following a light lunch at The View, ostensibly the oldest house left standing in Johannesburg, we meet with Dr Neil Viljoen for a tour of Northwards which was designed by Baker in 1904 as the residence of John Dale Lace and the flamboyant Lady Josie Dale Lace. Northwards is an impeccable example of the aesthetics and characteristics of the Arts and Crafts movement. The contrasts between Koppie stone quarried on site and plastered brickwork, the warm and comfortable wood panelled rooms and wooden floors and the very sensible usage of space exemplify this architectural style. In line with the movement, the house was built by specialist craftsmen and masons rather than from manufactured parts which had become popular during the Industrial Revolution. The house possesses some beautiful romantic features like a minstrel gallery and Juliette balconies.
Next we meet with local historian, William Gaul for a heritage tour down Rockridge Road, Parktown to view other examples of Sir Herbert Bakers work. Here we shall view Stonehouse (designed 1902), Pilrig House (designed 1903) and St Margaret’s (designed 1911). At St Margaret’s we shall also visit the delightful garden designed by Patrick Watson, one of South Africa’s most stylish, gifted and sought after landscape designers.
We spend the next 3 nights in the municipality of Sandton, one of the most opulent areas in Johannesburg. Sandton began as a sedate rural suburb for white upper class gentlemen and was once dubbed the ‘mink and manure’ belt. Today it is known as ‘Africa’s richest square mile’ and it is South Africa’s most important financial and business district. (Overnight Sandton, Johannesburg) BD
Day 18: Tuesday 1 October, Johannesburg – Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site – Johannesburg
- Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site: Maropeng Visitor Centre and Sterkfontein Caves
- Lunch at Roots Restaurant
- Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens
Today our destination is the Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng, a UNESCO World Heritage Site considered one of the most important paleontological zones in the world, where remains of Australopithecus, distant forebear of humankind, have been discovered. The site comprises a strip of a dozen dolomitic limestone caves containing the fossilised remains of ancient forms of animals, plants and most importantly, hominids. The dolomite in which the caves formed, started out as coral reefs growing in a warm shallow sea about 2.3 billion years ago. We first visit the Maropeng Visitors Centre. Maropeng means ‘returning to the place of origin’ in Setswana, the area’s major indigenous language. A series of fascinating exhibits focusing on the development of our ancestors over the past few million years are housed in the Tumulus Building designed to resemble a giant ancient burial mound.
We also visit the Sterkfontein Caves owned by the University of the Witwatersrand whose scientists have been responsible for the main excavations and the discovery of many fossils, including ‘Mrs Ples’, a 2.1-million-year-old Australopithecus skull, and ‘Little Foot’, an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton dating back more than 3 million years.
Midday we shall enjoy a 4-course lunch at the Roots Restaurant which is renowned as one of Johannesburg’s top fine dining restaurants. Located in the private Letamo Game Estate, chef Allistaire Lawrence specialises in French cuisine with subtle Asian and African influences.
This afternoon we visit the Walter Sisulu National Botanic Garden which is one of the 8 botanical gardens managed by the South African Biodiversity Institute (Overnight Sandton, Johannesburg) BL
Day 19: Wednesday 2 October, Johannesburg – Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve – Johannesburg
- Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve
- Private Estate of Iwan and Irene Roux – private landscape project by Patrick Watson
- Farewell Dinner at the Bull Run Restaurant
This morning we visit the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, a privately owned, non-subsidized game reserve, covering approximately 1200ha on the typical Highveld of Gauteng. The reserve which is situated in the Cradle of Humankind was founded in 1985 by Ed Hern, a well known stockbroker, with the aim of preserving this beautiful area for private leisure. Prior to this, the land was utilised as a dairy and agricultural produce farm. From a modest beginning of two white rhinos, “Ouvrou” and “Bulle”, imported from a zoo in Germany, and some antelope species, the reserve now boasts 600 head of game representing 25 different species.
We visit the reserve at the same time the lions, cheetahs and wild dogs are hand-fed. We shall also enjoy a game drive with one of the reserve’s rangers. With roughly 600 head of game within the reserve, a visit is bound to include white rhino, buffalo, cheetah, hippo and antelope.
Another highlight is our visit to see the lion cubs, one of the species that forms part of the reserve’s breeding program. Most of the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve’s focus is on their breeding program. No fewer than 18 white rhino calves have been born on the reserve. Other animals bred here include the Cape wild dog, Bengal tigers, Siberian tigers and the white lion. Another interesting project of the reserve is the vulture restaurant – literally a way of providing the vultures that live in the surrounding Magaliesberg with carcasses, donated by local farmers. Up to 200 birds feast at a time in the reserve.
Our progam concludes with a visit to the private estate of Iwan and Irene Roux to further study the work of landscape designer Patrick Watson. Unlike many of his contemporaries, his work has no one distinctive stamp that indelibly marks a garden as his; rather he strives to create something unique for each client. With flair and originality he combines local species into a natural looking ecology that will have interest throughout the year within an ecologically sound background.
In 1991 he was awarded the “Honorary Landscape Architect and Member of the South African Institute of Landscape Architects” in appreciation for his contribution to many of South Africa’s finest gardens. His work covers an immense range of projects – from tiny domestic private gardens to vast industrial estates, hotel complexes, golf courses and even entire farms.
In the mid-afternoon we shall return to our hotel where there will be some at leisure. In the early evening we shall remeet for a group evening farewell meal at the Bull Run Restaurant. (Overnight Sandton, Johannesburg) BLD
Day 20: Thursday 3 October, Depart Johannesburg
- Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight.
Our tour ends in Johannesburg. Passengers travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport for the return flight to Australia. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in South Africa. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B