Growing up in a landlocked state left me with a deep fascination with the Ocean and the surfers who brought victory to their agility as they rode her waves – especially in St Francis and Jeffreys Bay.
Shaun Tomson was a household name and I clearly remember watching the Billabong Pro on TV, whilst accepting that bronzed bodies and bleached hair were synonymous with the Jeffrey’s Bay and 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.
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 hold world renown, walk the coastline and get 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.
– Walk the Chokka Trail http://chokkatrail.co.za/, 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.
– Visit SANCCOB’s – the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds – new facility next to the lighthouse at Seal Point in Cape St Francis.
– While you’re there visit the Seal Point Lighthouse, 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 today.
– Cruise the Canals of Cape St Francis, 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. http://stfrancisboattrips.co.za/
– Walk the endless white beaches of Cape St Francis. Swim in the sea!
– Visit the Nomvula’s Knitters and their 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 with. Look out for their Annual Knit Festival in September.
– Arrange a visit to the Tahlado Children’s Haven http://www.talhadochildrenshaven.org/ to 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.
– While in town for a coffee or to stock up on goodies, take time to look into the 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. Some of the wonderful activities she lined up and recommends are the following:
– A dream came true when we headed to Wavecrest Surf School http://www.wavecrestsurfschool.co.za/ for surf lessons with the legendary Andrew Moon, a brave and practised 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 by the famous Supertubes Beach to watch the surfers on their boards, it really is magical to see the pros at play.
– Whilst there, take a walk to the Supertubes Indigenous Garden which Alison Kühl of the Supertubes Surfing Foundation nurtures with her theme ‘passion through the protection of rescued land and plants.’ Heartwarming that much is being given back to Jeffrey’s Bay by the surfing community.
– Horseriding with Hilmary of the Featherfoot Horseriding School in the Kabeljouws nature reserve whilst looking out for bird life, including flamingos, spoonbills and even fish eagles was a gift. If you’re a confident rider you can enjoy an exhilarating gallop along the beach too.
– Visit the Shell Ladies with their traditionally handcrafted figurines, decorated gift boxes and art for sale, as well as 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.
For accommodation whilst in the area I stayed at Cape St Francis Resort who offer a variety of options from luxury villas to backpacking rooms right on the beach and on the most beautiful grounds. In Jeffrey’s Bay, I stayed in Seashells Luxury Apartments for a well-located self-catering option.
This really is the ideal escape for a long weekend or holiday in the Eastern Cape. Be it to relax, walk, swim or take a lesson from the surroundings. 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.