Sunshine Coast juices you up

2009-10-17 12:19

AH, the beauty of small towns! Surely the Sunshine Coast must be one of South Africa’s best kept secrets – unless everyone knew about it and I didn’t.

As a vacation spot, the Sunshine Coast looks like an exotic, remote island – with all the benefits of still being at home. “Sunshine Coast” is actually a perfect description of the Eastern Cape coastal belt. It boasts a plethora of ­little villages, each with beautiful and extraordinarily clean beaches, ­rivers and lagoons that stretch between the Tsitsikamma River and East London.

The two places I visited, Kenton-On-Sea and Port Alfred, are picturesque towns with bed & breakfasts where the proprietors give their guests the personal touch.

Port Alfred
The first morning I really saw Port Alfred, it looked like a perfect little town with cute monopoly-like houses dotting the riverbank, and each house boasts a parking spot for boats.

It is even more beautiful up-close if you take a boat ride along the river and out into the Indian Ocean where you can do a spot of dolphin watching while you enjoy a leisurely breakfast – provided you have a strong stomach.

For learning purposes, the ­Research Marine Laboratory is where you’ll get to see all kinds of fish and other small sea creatures.
The town has what most call perfect weather – never too hot or too cold. The Kowie River, which flows into the Indian Ocean, divides the town in two and the various banks are linked by bridges.

The Kowie River has a popular canoe trail, which is a 40km-long return paddle and a 12km hike. This is where I discovered my hidden talent for canoeing. I took to it like a pro thanks to my super competitive spirit and surprisingly lead the “race”.

I must admit I didn’t have much choice but to paddle upstream to my destination for two hours straight to where the tour guide promised a­ lively braai and a night on a houseboat.

It’s simple to hire a house­­boat, which is easy to steer and comes with all the necessary amenities such as warm water, a toilet with a shower, a kitchen with a fridge, stove and sleeps about six people.

Port Alfred’s weather is so warm you could sleep outside – and it’s a malaria-free area.

This little town lies halfway between Port Elizabeth and East London and residents say it’s where “the sun spends its winter months”.

It lies between the mouths of the Boesmans and Kariega rivers and is bordered by the sea.
If you’re a fishing or bird-watching fan, it’s heaven.

Just a few minutes drive inland, there are well-stocked game ­reserves, including Kariega, Sibuya, Shamwari and Lalibela.
I’m not a big fan of game drives mainly because of my “hay fever problem”, plus I always feel funny ooh-ing and ahh-ing over animals that I’m am used to by now.

But I really enjoyed the day tour of Sibuya, which can only be ­accessed by riverboat.

We were first treated to a delicious lunch prepared by their resident chef who apparently used to be Sir Richard Branson’s personal chef – before embarking on the safari tour.

Surprisingly, I saw more animals than I have ever seen at the Johannesburg zoo. Anyone who has been on safari will tell you the animals hardly ever come out, but there were lions, elephants, zebras, ­giraffes, hyena to loads of buck and springbok and monkeys – name it and it was there!

On our way to the airport, we made one last stop at The Big Pineapple. As a fan of pineapples and ­cartoon character, Sponge Bob Square Pants (who lives in a pine­apple under the sea) – I was delighted.
The place is dedicated to everything about the fruit – the perfect place for anyone conducting, uhm, serious research.
By the time I returned to good ol’ Joburg, I was relaxed and felt like I was in another part of the world completely removed from all the hustle and bustle of normal life.

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