Cape Town, South Africa is known as one of the top spots where luxury travel and active travel converge. Whether its a relaxing beach break you’re after or a once-in-a-lifetime South African safari, this beautiful area of the world has just about everything.
But, there’s even more to Cape Town than what’s on the beaten path. Come along as guest contributor, René De Klerk, a South African travel and conservation journalist, (who already took us Hiking on South Africa’s scenic Garden Route) is back to take us on a wonderful tour of some incredible weekend escapes near Cape Town.
Four nature escapes near Cape Town, South Africa
Planning a trip to South Africa with a weekend free near Cape Town? Fancy some time in nature away from the bustle of the city where you can just sit back and relax? Many visitors to Cape Town are so overwhelmed with everything there is to offer in town that they miss the beautiful places that can be visited within a stone’s throw from the city.
Cape Town and its surroundings fall within the Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest vegetation biome in the world, but the most diverse when it comes to the number of species. There is always something flowering, does not matter what time of the year.
The region represents less than 0.5% of Africa’s area, but home to nearly 20% of the continent’s flora. This makes Cape Town and its surroundings an incredible place to explore, at virtually any time in the year.
Visit Bontebok National Park
The bontebok is a colorful antelope found in the fynbos and renosterveld of South Africa’s Western Cape. If you want to see one, Bontebok National Park is your best bet.
In the early 1800s, the bontebok population neared extinction and a number of land owners set aside land to conserve the species. What I love most about the park is its location on the Breede River, with the beautiful Langeberg Mountains as backdrop.
It is situated approximately 140 miles from Cape Town and 3 miles from the town of Swellendam, the third oldest town in South Africa. It is South Africa’s smallest national park, and with no big predators, the park encourages getting out there and enjoying nature on foot. I loved practicing my macro photography skills on the fynbos flowers, but this becomes quite challenging when it is windy.
Fly to Cape Town International Airport and rent a vehicle. All these national parks are easily accessible by normal sedan. Entry fees apply to all of these parks and reserves.
Where to Stay in Bontebok National Park
The Lang Elsie’s Kraal Rest Camp, named after Lang Elsie, a Hessequa Khoe Khoe, a clan of herders that once lived in the area, offers accommodation on the banks of the Breede River. It is peaceful, and the ideal location to light a cozy fire and enjoy sundowners while watching the sun set over the Breede River.
Activities in Bontebok National Park
- A number of short hiking trails offer plenty of opportunity to explore the park on foot. There is a distance for every fitness level.
- Rent a bicycle and cycle on the designated routes.
- Water activities such as swimming, canoeing and fishing on the Breede River.
- Game viewing as there is not only bontebok, but grey rhebuck, red hartebeest and Cape mountain zebra amongst others.
- Explore the historic buildings in the nearby town of Swellendam. The Drostdy Museum and the Old Gaol are two worth a visit.
Explore Anysberg Nature Reserve
This conservation hotspot in the heart of the Klein Karoo is approximately 162 miles from Cape Town, but there are still fynbos elements in selected areas in the reserve. At almost 80 000 hectare, Anysberg Nature Reserve offers vast expanses of open space, ideal to escape from the crowds. Cellphone reception is not great, but I never complain when there is an opportunity to get away from technology.
In Anysberg, everything happens according to nature’s rhythm. On my arrival, a large herd of springbok scattered, but quickly stopped when realising I posed no threat. Later, I passed a gemsbok lazily grazing in the Karoo vegetation. Apart from these antelope, you can also look out for Cape mountain zebra and a few other species.
Where to stay in Anysberg Nature Reserve
Rough it by camping, or stay in one of five rustic cottages inside the nature reserve. Although extremely basic, I loved their simplicity against the backdrop of the Cape Fold Mountains. They have no electric plug points, and lights are provided by means of solar power. The kitchen has a gas stove for cooking.
Activities in Anysberg Nature Reserve
- Hike the trail at Land se Kloof, the only formal hiking trail in the park. Keep in mind that you can walk anywhere in the reserve.
- Explore the rock art sites in the reserve, just inquire at reception.
- Explore the reserve on the back of a horse.
- Star gazing is exceptional in the reserve due to the location. There are no major cities nearby.
Adventures in West Coast National Park
The azure waters of the Langebaan Lagoon form the central focus point of the West Coast National Park. Just 2.5 hours from Cape Town, it is the perfect choice along South Africa’s west coast.
Think endless white beaches, salt marshes, migrant waders and carpets of colorful Namaqua daisies during spring. During this time, you can expect to see eland, bontebok, Cape mountain zebra and other game graze amongst the flowers.
Where to stay in West Coast National Park
Fancy sleeping on the water? Accommodation options include the Kraalbaai Luxury houseboats on the lagoon. It is self-catering, but catering can be arranged on request. For those that prefer their feet firmly on the ground, choose a beach cottage or chalets elsewhere in the park.
Activities in West Coast National Park
- Cycle on the designated routes in the park
- Walking and hiking
- Water sport such as kayaking, sailing and kite-boarding in selected sections of the Langebaan Lagoon
- Geelbek Restaurant offers brilliant meals inside the park
- Birding enthusiasts can visit one of four bird hides to capture spectacular shots
- The breathtaking Tsaarbank section of the park is the place to go for whale watching from August to September
- The West Coast Fossil Park is approximately 20mins from the town of Langebaan. It is home to fossils dating back 5.2million years ago.
Looking for more adventure? Check out Alan and Donna’s experience on a South African safari.