Eastern Cape. – Growing up in a landlocked state left me with a deep fascination with the ocean and the surfers that brought victory to their agility as they rode her waves.
South African professional surfer and former world champion, Shaun Tomson was a household name and I clearly remember watching the Billabong Pro on TV. It made me accept that bronzed bodies and bleached hair were synonymous with the Jeffrey’s Bay and the Cape St Francis coastline. Words like Supertubes and right hand point waves were both familiar and foreign as they rolled off my tongue, as was the undeniable desire to be a part of it all.
If only I was cool enough … I’d think.
Yet, simply put, I wasn’t and it took me decades to get into those Indian Ocean waters for a surfing lesson, to gaze upon the waves that have world-renown significance in the surfing community. The same can be said for exploring the coastline, and getting to know a bit more about these towns that make up an ever attractive part of the Cacadu region.
It was worth the wait though and I was amazed by how much there is to do.
Whilst in the Cape St Francis area I was hosted by the remarkable Esti Nieuwoudt Stewart who knows more about the town than anybody you’ll meet. She put together an itinerary that included visits to the following main attractions, all things you should know about when planning a visit to this eco-destination, with its endless white beaches.
– Walk the Chokka Trail – This is a four-day, slack-packing trail that takes you through three picturesque fishing villages, along the rugged coastline, over sand dunes, through tidal rivers and protected fynbos to South Africa’s only privately owned working harbour.
Pic of me on the Chokka Trail by Linda Markovina.
– Pay a visit to SANCCOB. The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds – This organisation is at the forefront of saving African penguins and other threatened seabirds. It never takes a day off and its rehabilitation team is on 24-hour call. It’s has a new facility next to the lighthouse at Seal Point that is worth a visit.
– While you’re at it, visit the Seal Point Lighthouse. This is the tallest masonry lighthouse in South Africa at 27.75m high, a beautiful building rich in history that is still sending out signs of warning to assist ships to this today.
– Cruise the Canals of Cape St Francis. This is an upmarket residential development that opens onto the Kromme river mouth. A perfect place for sundowners as you take in the shades of blue, bird life, tranquility and on lucky days, catch a catch glimpse of a whale or dolphin playing along the shoreline.
– Visit the Nomvula’s Knitters. They have a factory shop where you’ll meet the incredible women driving this project. There’s also a shop in town where I bought the most beautiful jersey that I fell in love. Look out for their Annual Knit Festival in September.
– Arrange a visit to the Tahlado Children’s Haven. Here you can learn about the work being done here with the Rotary Recycle Swap Shop, as well as their Montessori approach to education. Ideally go on a Friday when the children are bringing in recycling in exchange for items.
– Check out St Francis Art Route. Stop for coffee or stock up on goodies as you make your way through this newly developed Art Route, which includes Blue Earth, The Sea Cottage Antiques, Rambling Rose and Inside Art Studio and Gallery.
I then moved across to Jeffreys’ Bay where Jacqui Bursey of the Tourism Office showed what this cool coastal town I’d always been drawn to, has on offer.
– Head to Wavecrest Surf School for surf lessons. To be schooled by the legendary Andrew Moon was a dream come true, a brave and practiced man who almost got me up on the board. If, like me, learning to surf has been a long-term dream, Andrew offers daily lessons or even a 7-day surf package.
– Stop in at Supertubes Beach. Visiting this famous beach is a must, even if it’s just to watch watch the surfers on their boards – magical to see the pros at play.
– Walk through the Supertubes Indigenous Garden. Alison Kühl of the Supertubes Surfing Foundation nurtures with her theme ‘passion through the protection of rescued land and plants.’ You’ll find this experience heartwarming, especially when you consider how much is being given back to Jeffrey’s Bay by the surfing community.
This recycle bins are one of the many projects implemented.
– Horseriding with Hilmary of the Featherfoot Horseriding School. It’s a true gift exploring the Kabeljouws nature reserve whilst looking out for bird life, including flamingos, spoon bills and even fish eagles. If you’re a confident rider you can enjoy an exhilarating gallop along the beach too.
– Visit the Shell Ladies. You’ll find them baring their traditionally handcrafted figurines, decorated gift boxes and art for sale. Its also recommended that you stop in at the Shell Museum at the Tourism Office. There are additional projects we learnt about whilst there, namely the Waste Management Program for ships run by Mark Rowe, the Bins for Hooks that are being placed along the coast and at the Kromme Trust Heritage Centre.
Here is a community of people making a difference whilst preserving the environment.
Where to Stay:
– I recommend Cape St Francis Resorts who offer a variety of options from luxury villas to backpacking rooms right on the beach and in the most beautiful grounds.
– In Jeffrey’s Bay I suggest Seashells Luxury Apartments for well-located self-catering option.
This really is the perfect escape for a long weekend or Sho’t Left as we so warmly call those local breakaways. Be it to relax, walk, swim or take a lesson from the surrounds, it’s on offer and you’ll be guaranteed to return.
It took me a few decades of dreaming to get into these Indian Ocean waters, and even though my surfing skills leave much to be desired, there remains a rich romance to the sun-bleached beauty of these towns and the healthy looking relaxed people who get to call it home.
The Cape St Francis Resort and this beautiful pup that will walk you to the beach.