The Sarah Baartman District is a pastoral gem with immense contrasts in scenery, vegetation, wildlife, history and culture. It is a 60 000 square kilometer malaria-free area, which stretches from Nieu-Bethesda in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south and between the Bloukrans River in the west and Great Fish River in the east.
The District is home to a myriad of noteworthy tourist sites, amongst which are the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve – a World Heritage Site, the breath-taking Valley of Desolation – in Graaff-Reinet, the world’s highest commercial bungee jump – in Tsitsikamma, the largest coastal dunefield in the Southern Hemisphere – in Alexandria and plenty of wildlife, such as the Big 7 found in the Addo area. It is also home to a number of natural, historical, sporting and cultural features that attract local, domestic and international tourists to the area, including:
The various areas within the District has been branded as the 7 Wonders of our World:
Addo - the 1st wonder of our world
Situated in the Sundays River Valley, the Addo area is known as the valley of elephants and citrus. As diverse as oranges and elephants, so is the greater Addo Route. One moment you’ll be paddling a canoe down the beautiful Sundays River and next you’re on the back of a 4x4 climbing a hilltop overlooking a breathtaking landscape. The Addo area offers hiking trails, elephant back rides, mountain walks, horse riding, luxurious spa treatments, top class game reserves, history, and wide open vistas of mountains, sea and winding rivers. Addo is also host to many delightful festivals throughout the year, such as the Kirkwood Wildlife Festival in June and the annual Rose Festival in October.
Sundays River Valley protects the world’s largest Cape gannet breeding population on Bird Island, while the lush green bushveld of the Sundays River Valley is home to the Addo Elephant National Park. This nature rich park not only hosts the Big 7 (comprising of elephants, Cape buffalo, leopard, black rhino, lions, and great white shark and seasonal southern right whale in the marine section), but conserves five of South Africa’s seven biomes. It is a finely tuned ecosystem offering sanctuary to over 450 elephants, a variety of antelope species and the unique flightless dung beetle, found almost exclusively in Addo.
Baviaanskloof & Gamtoos Valley – the 2nd wonder of our world
The Baviaanskloof and Gamtoos Valley area, rich in natural and cultural diversity, includes a cluster of protected areas of which the most well-known is the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve. The reserve, a World Heritage Site and South Africa’s largest inland protected area, has seven of the eight South African biomes with an abundance of bird and animal life, holding ample opportunity for outdoor recreation.
Explore the 185 000 ha of unspoilt wilderness and marvel at the contrast of rugged terrain and beautiful fauna and flora. The area is home to 17 types of Protea and an array of mammals including kudu, hartebeest, and bushbuck, Cape buffalo, leopard, the rare Cape mountain zebra and the Chacma baboon after which the kloof is named.
Nature lovers can surround themselves in prime fauna and flora and the more adventurous can enjoy mountain biking excursions and 4x4 trails. There are plenty of heritage sites just waiting to be discovered, as well as San Art which adorns the pristine cliffs. While traveling through this area, you will be forgiven for feeling as if you are the first person to set foot on some of the rugged mountain paths.
Among the friendly and quaint towns situated in the area are Willowmore and Steytlerville, each with colourful histories and surroundings. which offer outdoor adventures, scenic routes and a variety of arts and crafts to appreciate. Willowmore is one of the only places in the Karoo with coastal fynbos, while Steytlerville is renowned for its variety of semi-desert vegetation. For clean skies, starry nights and sweet breezes, there is no better place to spend your time.
Grahamstown – the 3rd wonder of our world
Grahamstown, the City of Saints, is a remarkably beautiful city which boasts true country hospitality, game lodges and the thrill of sky-diving and glider flights. A blend of history, art and culture packaged in a rustic city, Grahamstown’s architectural wonders make it the perfect fusion of the past and present. In July of every year, this quiet city comes alive and transforms into a hub of culture and activity with drama, music, art and markets as over 150 000 visitors flock to the city for the annual National Arts Festival.
With its rare fusion of culture, history and adventure, Grahamstown is truly diverse in every sense of the word. Everything from ski-diving to museum hopping can be experienced in this charming town, while soaking up the scenery of the tree- lined streets and historical buildings. Game Reserves in the area are all situated in close proximity to Grahamstown (20 – 60 km) and most are home to the Big 5. The malaria-free area has more than five eco-systems, thus enabling the support of many forms of plant, animal and bird life.
The delightful towns of Alicedale and Riebeeck East are also situated in the area and are fast gaining local and international popularity for their lingering history and the many prestigious game reserves that surround them.
Jeffreys Bay & St Francis – the 4th wonder of our world
Magical champion waves break on the shores of the old fisherman’s town, while hippies of the day quietly sit and watch the sunset. This was once how one would describe the surfing town of Jeffreys Bay, a town which has now grown into a prime holiday spot and has become world renowned for being the home of the world’s best right hand surf break. The “Surf Mecca of the World”, Jeffreys Bay, has for the past 40 years lured surfers from across the globe to the legendary break of ‘Supertubes’ with its ruler-straight cylinder-shaped waves.
The area is further renowned for its gorgeous beaches, never ending summers and plentiful shells. The town boasts numerous trendy restaurants, a brand new mall and various ‘surf-shops’ carrying world famous surf brands. Walking through the streets of J-Bay, as most locals call it, the small town atmosphere still reigns supreme.
Not far from Jeffreys Bay lies the charming town of St Francis Bay. It is known for its endemic white houses with either black tile or thatch roofs blending together with the Sardinian-style red tile roofs. Approximately half of the town is built around the largest web of man-made canals and waterways in Africa. Adjacent to St Francis Bay is the pastoral fishing village of Cape St Francis with its outstanding beach and historic Seal Point Lighthouse, while Port St Francis is where the harbour lies. Nearby Oyster Bay caters for those who enjoy quiet time and relaxation.
Explore this area with its beautiful beaches, rich wildlife and adventures – surf the waves or swim with dolphins, there is something for everyone.
Karoo – the 5th wonder of our world
Experience the star studded roof of the Karoo by night with the stark contrast of the incredible landscape by day. This area offers rich history and architecture surrounded by exquisite purple mountains creating infinite horizons. Be wrapped up in the breathtaking beauty, while enjoying the homeliness, eccentricity, and hospitality of the small Karoo towns. Be sure to visit Aberdeen, Graaff-Reinet, Nieu-Bethesda, Pearston, and Somerset East to ensure that you unravel all the mysterious treasures of the glorious Karoo.
The area is characterized by broad plains that roll away toward distant koppies and multi-layered mountains that seemingly touch the indigo sky. The Karoo’s clear night sky is densely studded with stars and offers some of the best star-gazing in the world. Fossils of some of the earliest forms of one-celled life have been discovered in the Karoo, indicating that life has existed in this region for more than three billion years. The richness of pre-dinosaur fossils in this region is world-renowned.
The geological phenomenon of the Valley of Desolation, a National Heritage Site, lies within the Camdeboo National Park located just outside Graaff-Reinet. Historic artefacts such as Helen Martin’s Owl House in Nieu-Bethesda as well as museums and art galleries that date back to the 1800s embellish the Karoo towns of Graaff-Reinet and Somerset East.
One can stop almost anywhere in the Karoo and listen to the silence, breathe in the aged earth and the Karoo bossies (which conjures up the taste of Karoo lamb), and gaze at a startlingly clear horizon that seems drawn at the other end of the earth. You are bound to discover eccentric little hamlets, sprawling farmsteads and historical towns populated by warm and welcoming people that love to share their stories and legends.
Sunshine coast – the 6th wonder of our world
True to the area’s name, the Sunshine Coast has more sunshine hours per year than any other part of South Africa. With plenty of charm, sun-drenched beaches, warm waters and quaint seaside villages, it makes for a popular holiday destination. Watch the whales and dolphins play in the sparkling ocean and the Big 7 roam their natural habitat. The area boasts a wide variety of water sports, such as surfing, canoeing and skiing. Other activities for the adventurous include beach sports, fishing, golf, hiking trails, mountain biking and horse safaris.
Adding to the charm of the area are the sea-side resorts of Kenton-on-Sea, Bushman’s River and Port Alfred, with its impeccable marina. The small resorts provide any holiday maker with the unique balance of fu and excitement and tranquillity and relaxation. With its miles of sun-drenched coastline, warm sparkling ocean and unspoiled beaches, the Sunshine Coast will enchant, entice and excite all who visit the area.
Tsitsikamma & Langkloof – the 7th wonder of our world
Tsitsikamma is a Khoi word meaning “place of abundant or sparkling water”. The Tsitsikamma area is covered in large tracts of indigenous forest, commercial plantations, Fynbos, and an estimated 116 different types of giant trees. Deep river gorges cleft the plateau as they make their way down to the sea, creating spectacular waterfalls and deep kloofs.
Indulge in Tsitsikamma’s unparalleled pleasures - visit the National Park with its abundance of birds & wildlife, watch whales and dolphins along the rugged untouched coastline or explore the Khoisan rock art and many walking and hiking trails. Take a treetop canopy tour - spread your wings and glide like a bird from tree to tree! Adrenalin junkies can enjoy seasonal white water tubing, or a 7 second free fall from the World’s Highest Commercial Bungee Jump.
Take a walk on the wild side in the indigenous Tsitsikamma forest - home to the giant Outeniqua Yellowwood or simply relax & unwind in a completely serene wonderland of forest, mountain & sea.
Soak up the grand decor while on a game drive or hike in this wonderland. The Langkloof, also known as the Fruit Route, is the second largest deciduous fruit producer in South Africa. The Langkloof offers breath-taking scenery with its rows of fruit, spectacular mountains, and cooling streams. The Tsitsikamma and Langkloof area is truly a modern day version of the Garden of Eden that is home to a variety of birds and animals with whales and dolphins constantly visiting the coast.