Unusual adventures in small-town South Africa
Whether it's the Big Pineapple in Bathurst, John Varty's tigers in the Free State or the scenic Howick Falls in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa's small towns (dorps) offer a wide range of attractions and fun things to do (many of them offbeat, if not a little quirky).
The good news is that writer and adventurer Jacques Marais loves nothing more than a wide, open stretch of South Africa where he can explore the rural towns and wide open spaces inbetween. His latest book, Things to do in a Dorp, reveals some noteworthy things to do in towns across South Africa. We picked a few of the ultra-quirky activities one can experience when travelling across South Africa.
Walk with whales in Arniston: The author notes that there are several hiking tails in the coastal village of Arniston in the Western Cape, where you can watch the whales as part of your hike. He advises the five-day Whale Trail in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, or shorter hikes around De Mond Nature Reserve. Visit www.capenature.co.za for more information.
Go on an X-stream Fish Safari when visiting the Northern Cape town of Augrabies. Enjoy incredible fly-fishing on the Orange River with Kalahari Outventures, which packages the four-day 'X-stream Fish Safari'. Visit www.greenkalahari.co.za for more information.
Visit Mabusa's garden in Barberton: If 'outsider art' is your thing, Marais advises taking the time to visit Nukain Mabusa's garden, where you'll find colourful artworks in a town that was built on the South African gold rush. Visit www.art.co.za/nukainmabusa/ for more information.
Pop in to see the Bathurst pineapple: The Eastern Cape town of Bathurst is home to South Africa's Big Pineapple. Standing at a height of 16.7m, the pineapple is a major attraction in the area. Consisting of three floors with great views across the countryside, this fibreglass pineapple is definitely one to tick off your South African bucket list (www.bathurst.co.za).
Take part in the Darling Stagger: This is a five-day gourmet hike from the Darling hills via the !Khwa ttu San cultural centre to the West Coast village of Yzerfontein. En route you get to taste local wine and olives and enjoy the gorgeous views. Visit: www.capebiosphere.co.za/trails.
Ride by full moon in Dundee: You can explore the Battlefieds and Biggarsberg Conservancy regions of KwaZulu-Natal on horseback by the light of a full moon. Visit: www.horseadventures.co.za.
Go for a cruise in Ficksburg: It might be the cherry capital of the country, but Marais reckons the town of Ficksburg is worth a visit for many reasons, including jumping on board the White Mischief boat for a cruise in a private nature reserve as you sip sundowners. Visit www.thewhitemischief.co.za.
Bosveld (bushveld) scuba: Yip, now you've heard it all. Go scuba diving or snorkelling in a 'fairytale dolomite hole' in Groot Marico (according to Marais), where 'the water is crystal clear'.
You could also opt for visiting a mampoer farm (mampoer is a white spirit distilled from fermented fruit) or hearing the tales of Herman Charles Bosman from Egbert van Bart, who runs the Groot Marico Information Centre with his wife, Santa.
For more information on quirky, wonderful small towns of South Africa and all the activities you can do, grab yourself a copy of Things to do in a Dorp, published by Map Studio and available at all good bookstores (this book is a great Christmas gift for friends and family who are either fans of South Africa or who are planning a trip here).