Travel – Hidden gems of the Northern Cape

2014-10-17 08:00

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This week the Northern Cape is in the spotlight. There is so much on offer in this vast province, so here’s our list of off-the-beaten-track adventures and must-see places when you’re planning your sojourn to big sky country.

!Xaus Lodge

If you really need to get away from it all, book at !Xaus Lodge in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. You are picked up in a 4x4 at the Kamqua picnic spot (64km, or one and a half hours from Twee Rivieren gate) and it’s about 91 dunes to the lodge. The only people you see are those who run the lodge and most are from the Khomani San and Mier communities, who jointly own the lodge (on community-owned land managed by SANParks). There are 12 ecofriendly chalets overlooking a salt pan and a gesellige central area, including the reception and lounge.

.?Phone 021?701?7860 or email

Kokerboom Food and Wine Route

Northern Cape is an emerging food and wine destination, and if you’re a bit of a foodie, you might want to meander along the Kokerboom Food and Wine Route, which stretches through the towns of Keimoes, Kenhardt, Hakoneiland, Augrabies, Upington and Marchand. En route, you can stop at Die Pienk Padstal in Kakamas and try wine tastings at the Orange River wine cellars?–?you have to have a suip at Bezalel Wine & Brandy Estate. For something a bit different, Tiaan Visser will cook for you at his house just a few kilometres from the Augrabies Falls. He also makes very good cheese.

.?Phone Tiaan Visser 082?825?2704. For the Kokerboom Food and Wine Route, visit

Sushi in Kakamas?

A water wheel in Kakamas is bound to take you back in time

In a landscape where a “boer maak ’n plan”, you’ll find a South African take on the sushi concept at the Kalahari Gateway hotel. The story goes that after the owner of the hotel saw Gerrie de Beer working his sushi/cocktail bar in Blouberg (Western Cape), he brought him and his bar to Kakamas. It may be your only opportunity to try springbok sushi on his creative sushi menu.

.?Phone 054?431?0838 or visit

Stay with a Riemvasmaker

We came across Elisa Nameses by chance. A Nama who’s originally from Namibia, she’s a teacher at the Assumpta Mission School in the Augrabies village?–?but she’s also running a community guesthouse in Riemvasmaak, just down the river from the Falls. Berto, of Dundi Lodge, has helped her get it together, and her son and brother help out. Riemvasmaak is a spectacular landscape with towering granite canyons, klipspringers and naturally good hiking?–?owned and run by the community of Riemvasmakers.

.?Phone 078?215?1634 or email

Stargazing in Sutherland

The Southern African Large Telescope in Sutherland

Four hours from Cape Town and much further from most anywhere else, this Karoo dorp is home to massive, deep-blue, western skies by day and among the most jam-packed (and chilly) starry skies by night?– happily free of light and noise pollution. This explains the presence of the SA Astronomical Observatory and, more importantly, why the Southern African Large Telescope, known as Salt, was built here. But the “star” attractions are Rita and Jurg Wagener, and their combined flower and astronomy activities.

.?Visit and

Brandewijn for the pain

About 15 minutes west of Upington, en route to Augrabies Falls, you’ll find Bezalel Wine & Brandy Estate. From his pot still, Inus Bezuidenhout produces a brandy of note and sells it only from here. You can also get some excellent locally made liqueurs and enjoy a lunch as part of your visit (good idea to book beforehand). If this puts you in the mood, there’s also Die Mas Wine Cellar and Brandy Distillery nearby.

.?For the Bezalel Wine & Brandy Estate, phone 054?491?1325 or visit For Die Mas Wine Cellar, phone 082?931?5902

Tutwa Desert Lodge

The ultimate great escape, this luxury venue lies in a phenomenally beautiful landscape with “direct access to 24km of exclusive river frontage” on to the Orange River. A highlight of any visit to Tutwa is the night drive. You have the chance of seeing aardvark, aardwolf and the usual night-time suspects?–?while leopards have been captured on their camera traps. For daytime adventures, there’s rafting trips on the nearby Orange River as well as extreme fly fishing. Another good bet is Tutwa’s sister property, Dundi Lodge, outside Augrabies.

.?Phone 054?453?0001 or visit


Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm is situated on the Bokkeveld Plateau at the northern extreme of the Cedarberg, outside Nieuwoudtville. It’s here on Mariette and Willem van Wyk’s farm that you’ll find drop-dead platteland hospitality. Staying in one of the old and remote stone cottages among the flowers in spring takes first prize, but even the main house and the removed (and potentially romantic) sinkhuisie with its slightly cramped ball-and-claw bath are winners.

.?Phone 027?218?1246, email or visit

Naries Namakwa Retreat

There are three accommodation options to choose from at this soulful retreat: the mountain cottages, manor house and family cottages. For something unique, stay over in one of the Namakwa mountain suites moulded on the unique Nama style of architecture (and with incredible views of the area). This place highlights so much that is special about Namaqualand?–?space, exclusivity, hospitality and food.

.?Phone 027?712?2462 or visit

George Moyses of Port Nolloth

Colourful characters abound in this part of the world and you might get lucky and meet George Moyses of Port Nolloth, who lives a few metres away from the water and runs the local museum. As a former navy and diamond diver, he has the unsanitised lowdown on how everything goes down on this coast of illicit operations?–?plus his history of the world. A must-see before heading to Kleinzee or the Richtersveld. He has no cellphone, but Conrad Mouton (below) knows him.

Conrad Mouton of Aukwatowa Tours

Aukwatowa may sound Maori or Hawaiian, but it’s apparently the Nama name for Port Nolloth, named after an English naval captain who arrived in what must have appeared to be a godforsaken place. Conrad Mouton started a new life as a tour operator after years as a soldier, and has a big heart and love for his world. He’ll take you on shipwreck tours above Kleinzee, make crayfish braais on the beach (in season), talk about tiny flowers wedged between rocks, and introduce you to his personal favourite, that awesome wilderness called the Richtersveld.

.?Email or visit


For more information on the province, visit, phone 053 832 2657 or email If you’re looking for a reliable tour operator in the area, contact Megan Alves

of African Chapter at or call 011?545?6100

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