Simply click on the destination name for information on hotels, lodges, self catering and to make your reservations


Northern Cape eastern Cape Hotels Helderberg Hotels

Text by Prof P Van Dyk

The Western Cape Province is located on the tip of continent of the African continent. Before the mid 1990s when South Africa was divided into nine provinces the Cape province was by far the largest of the former provinces. It was then divided into the Western, Eastern, Northern Cape and part of the North- West.

The Western Cape is by far the most prosperous and developed of these four areas. The Western Cape is one of the principal tourist areas in Major tourist destination South Africa and is a region with majestic mountains, well watered valleys, wide sandy beaches and amazing scenery.

The cold Benguela sea current skirts the west coast (i.e. the Atlantic side) and its rich waters is the main shing area in South African waters. The warmer Agulhas (Mozambique) current (i.e. the Indian Ocean side) makes for pleasant swimming beaches and a higher rainfall along the southern and eastern Cape coasts.

Cape Town is the only city in the province and is the oldest Towns in South Africa (hence it is called the mother city). Other major towns in the province are: Paarl, Vredenburg-Saldanha (with its harbour used for iron ore export), Worcester, Stellenbosch (the second oldest town in South Africa), George, Oudtshoorn and Beaufort West.

Botanically speaking the Western Cape is one of the most Fynbos interesting regions in South Africa. Within its borders is contained one of the six floral kingdoms of the world. Called "Fynbos" (i.e. ne bush) it is by far the smallest of the world's six floral kingdoms, but with an astounding diversity

The Western Cape is the only area in South Africa with a Winter rainfall and forests Mediterranean climate (i.e. with a winter rainfall). East of Cape Town the Cape South Coast (Knysna {Tsitsikamma) has a high rainfall, throughout the year. It is therefore also the largest indigenous forested area in South Africa with giant yellowwood, stinkwood, white pear and other hardwoods.

Nowadays these indigenous woods are harvested according to a very strict quota system to protect South Africa's natural forests.

Basic Statistics :

Cape Town Languages: Afrikaans 55.3% isiXhosa 23.7% English 19.3% Population: 5.3 mil (10.9%) 2008
Area: 129 370 km2 (10,6% of SA)
% of SA GDP: 14,6%
Premier: Ms Helen Zille (2009)

The Western Cape has the highest adult education level in South Africa (only 6,7% of the people above 20 years did not receive Education any schooling). T

The Western Cape further houses two of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the country (i.e University of Cape Town and the University of Stellenbosch), while the University of the Western Cape originated later.

The official unemployment rate for the province is 13,7%, which is substantially lower than most other parts of the country.

A large part of the primarily Afrikaans-speaking population consists of the so-called Cape Coloured community. The white community is also mainly Afrikaans-speaking, although especially Cape Town has a sizeable English-speaking community.

Most of the inhabitants in the province belong to the Christian faith, although the Cape Malay community is mainly Muslim. 1

The Western Cape is one of the richest agricultural regions Agriculture: Wine, fruit, wheat and sheep in South Africa. It is the main wine and grape producing area in the country, while it also produces top-grade apples, pears, olives, peaches and oranges. The eastern (wetter) regions of the province also produce a variety of vegetables, while the Oudtshoorn district (Klein Karoo) is best known for its ostrichfarming.

The province produces also a significant part of South Africa's wheat primarily in the Swartland (Malmesbury) and Overberg (Caledon) regions.

The central inland area is a semidesert (known as the Karoo) and is an important sheep-farming region, producing wool and mutton.

The Western Cape houses the head offices of almost all South Textile industry, publishing Africa's petroleum and insurance companies. The single most important industry in the Western Cape is the clothing and textile industry with more than 170 000 employees.

Printing and publishing is also an important industry in the Western Cape. Epping, Parow, Retreat, Montagu gardens and Vredenburg-Saldanha are the major industrial areas in the province.

The major highways radiating from Cape Town in all directions are: N1, N2, N7 and R27.

The N1 Highway The N1 highway travels in an eastern, north-eastern direction and connects Cape Town with Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Polokwane. It ends on the Zimbabwean border at Beitbridge. The N1 is therefore the most significant highway in South Africa.

After it left the Cape Town CBD, the N1 skirts Belville, the Boland town of Paarl, goes through the Huguenot tunnel, bypasses Worcester and then climb up through the spectacular Hex river pass towards the Karoo towns of Touws River, Laingsburg and Beaufort West. The highway enters the Northern Cape Province at Three Sisters and continues towards Bloemfontein.

The N2 Highway uns for its largest part along the southern and eastern coast of South Africa, connecting all the important cities N2 highway on this side of the subcontinent. These are: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Umtata and Durban. It leaves Cape Town in a more south-eastern direction, runs through the Cape flats (on the northern perimeter of False Bay), bypasses the Cape Town International Airport and continues towards the Hottentots Holland Mountains. It further bypasses the Strand and Somerset West, before it goes through Sir Lowry's Pass towards the Overberg area.

In the Overberg the N2 skirts the Grabouw - Elgin region and then continues through Bot River, Caledon, Swellendam, Heidelberg, and Riversdale, before it again reaches the Indian Ocean at the town of Mossel Bay.

From Mossel Bay the N2 is known as the Garden Route It then continues up the Garden Route towards George, Wilderness, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Nature's Valley. Here the N2 leaves the Western Cape to continue towards the Eastern Cape Towns of Humansdorp and Nelson Mandela Metro (i.e. the Greater Port Elizabeth).

The M7 / N7 Highway route starts at the northern edge of False Bay (i.e. at M7 and N7 Mitchell's Plain) and continues in a northern direction, through the Cape flats. It crosses the N2 highway at Langa / Bonteheuwel and goes through the Epping industrial area until it crosses the N1 in the Goodwood region. There it becomes known as the N7 highway, which connects Cape Town with the Swartland towns of Malmesbury and Morreesburg.

The N7 is an inland route, going up the West Coast towards Piketberg, Citrusdal, Clanwilliam and Vanrhynsdorp. Finally it enters Namaqualand (Northern Cape Province) just south of the town of Garies. It then continues in a northern direction towards Springbok and eventually enters Namibia at Vioolsdrif where it becomes the B1 (the major North-South highway through Namibia).

The West Coast Road (R27) The R27 is the main West Coast road. It turns o the N1 R27 Paarden Eiland (known as Marine Drive) to continue along the coast towards Bloubergstrand and various small West Coast towns. After skirting the West Coast National Park (Langebaan) it continues to the Saldanha-Vredenburg complex.

Major Peninsula Roads. The M3 (initially called Rhodes Drive) turns south from the N2 M3 and Ou Kaapse Weg towards the Groote Schuur Estate and the University of Cape Town. It continues along Union Road until it turns East into Paradise and then again South into Edinburgh. In the Wynberg vicinity it becomes a dual carriage highway and continues down the Peninsula.

The M3 ends in the Tokai / Silvermine region where one can either climb to the western (Atlantic side) via the Ou Kaapse Weg" and through the Silvermine Nature reserve, or continue down the False Bay side via Steenberg (East). In the last case the route goes south in Main Street (M4) (or Boyes Drive) towards Muizenberg, St James, Vishoek, Kalk Bay, Simon's Town, Boulders and further south towards the Cape Point Nature Reserve.

An alternative is to follow the western route down the Peninsula. Now that Chapman's Peak Drive is open again, one can Atlantic side travel down from Sea Point down the M6 through Clifton, Camps Bay, Bakoven, Llandundo, Hout Bay, Chapman's Peak and Noordhoek. Here the \Ou Kaapse Weg" join the road from Silvermine. One can then travel down with the M65 through Kommetjie and Scarborough to Cape Point.

In terms of tourism, the Western Cape is divided into seven tourist regions. These are listed more or less in the order of preference by foreign tourists:

Cape Town and the Peninsula (i.e. City Bowl, Waterfront & Sea Point, Cape Town Suburbs, the Cape flats and the Peninsula)  Winelands (Boland)  Garden Route  Overberg (Hermanus and Whale watching)  Klein Karoo  West Coast  Breede River Valley  Central Karoo

PRE-COLONIAL HISTORY Archaeological research showed that Southern Africa was up to Origin of the name San 2 000 years ago only inhabited by hunter-gathers or San (Bushmen). San" is the name the Nama gave to people without domestic stock, who lived by hunting and gathering. During the 1600s the term San therefore referred to all people who had no cattle or sheep and made a living from hunting and gathering. The San was also seen as of a lower social status than the Khoikhoi. The original term "San" was probably a derogatory term meaning not real people". (Some academics are therefore now again favouring the term "bushman".)

About 2 000 years ago the situation in Southern Africa chan- Arrival of the Khoikhoi - 2 000 years ago ged when Khoikhoi pastoralists (i.e. cattle and sheep herders) started entering Southern Africa and the Western Cape. "Khoikhoi" or "Khoekhoe" pronounced in much the same way is the Nama version of the name by which the herders referred to themselves collectively.

The name "Khoikhoi" literally means "men of men" or "real men". The differences between the Khoikhoi and San are cultural rather than biological, and these two names are often combined as "Khoisan" to refer to both groups as a whole.

Contact between these groups caused a heterogenic society to develop in the interior of the country. Two major theories were proposed to explain the origin of the the Khoikhoi.

According to the Stow & Theal theory the Khoikhoi came from East Africa and reached the Cape via Zambia, Angola, Namibia and Namaqualand. However, the newer theory by Elphick proposed that the Khoikhoi developed from the San of Northern Botswana, from where they immigrated to the Cape.

The language studies showed that on the one hand the San has been a diverse group (also in terms of their languages) and in the second place that the Khoikhoi language probably developed out of one of these San language groups.

Exactly how the Khoikhoi became pastoralists is not clear. It however, possible that they gradually changed from a hunter- Pastoralists gatherer lifestyle and slowly accrued cattle from Bantu-speaking people.

The Khoikhoi people mostly lived together in an area until the grazing was exhausted. They then split up into smaller groups and moved to better areas probably following seasonal migration routes. During the summer months some of these groups lived in the Cape Peninsula, but moved into the interior when it became too wet and cold during the winter months.

Cattle and sheep made it possible for the Khoikhoi to live an independent lifestyle. Animals were slaughtered during difficult periods or for ritual purposes and the long-horn cattle were also used for defensive purposes during war. The status of an individual depended to a large extent on the number of cattle and sheep he owned. During droughts and difficult periods the Khoikhoi would fall back on a hunter-gatherer style of living to survive The semi-nomadic lifestyle of the Khoikhoi caused them to live\e in widely scattered communities, making political centralisation difficult.

The most stable group was the clan (i.e. close blood relatives). No hereditary chieftainship developed, making it more difficult for the Khoikhoi to resist colonialism in any organised way

The "Strandlopers" were mentioned by some of the early travellers. They had no cattle or sheep and were said to live most miserably on shell , certain roots and the esh of beached whales. Their shelter was imsy huts, made of leafy branches, quite unlike the huts of the Khoikhoi, which were made of a frame of poles covered with woven rush mats . This group became known as "Strandlopers" (i.e. beach combers) and most of the shell middens, which are common along the SA coast, are usually attributed to similar "Strandlopers" groups.

In Van Riebeeck's time the "Strandlopers" consisted of no more than sixty to eighty men. Earlier physical anthropologists sometimes suggested that the "Strandlopers" may have belonged to a different group than the Khoikhoi. Recent research studies and evidence from archaeological excavations suggest, however, that there is no justiffication for such a distinction. Some researchers think that the "Strandlopers" were possibly outcasts from some of the bigger groups, but it is also possible that they were former San hunter-gatherers who had entered into the service of the Khoikhoi.

On the basis of present evidence it seems reasonable to assume that at no time in the past there were people who lived exclusively as"\Strandlopers", but rather that the exploitation of marine resources was done by Khoikhoi, San and the Xhosa. The extent to which marine resources were utilised varied according to time and place. The term "Strandloper" should therefore not imply a separate group who lived exclusively from marine resources.

The community of "Strandlopers" (during the time of VanRiebeeck) was under the leadership of a man known as Harry or Herry'. Herry was taken in the 1630s by the British to the East Indies and later brought back to the Cape. During his journey he acquired a knowledge of English, that made him useful as an interpreter when bartering livestock from the Khoikhoi.

He may be considered the first South African entrepreneur of whom we have any record, since he enriched himself at the expense most of the "Strandlopers". a

Cape Wine Industry

The Cape Wine Industry is one of the best-known industries of Wine routes major tourist attractions the Western Cape. Although the fruit industry in the Western Cape annually earns at least 7 times more than the Wine Industry, the Wine industry has over the last decade become a major tourist attraction in South Africa.

A large proportion of foreign and local tourists nowadays include a Winelands tour into their itinerary. Estates like Groot Constantia, Spier and many others are well geared towards receiving tourists. They have regular wine-tasting sessions, wine shops, tours, restaurants and other tourist attractions. Spier has for example picnic sites and a Cheetah farm.

Jan van Riebeeck planted the rst vineyards in the Company Garden in 1655 and recorded the first production of wine in the Cape in February 1659.

The quality of wine produced in the Cape was, however, relatively mediocre. It was only with the arrival of Simon van der Stel as governor of the Cape in 1679 and the coming of the French Huguenots|a decade later, in 1688 that the Cape became known for its quality wines. Simon van der Stel had knowledge of viticulture. He improved vineyard practises and planted his own vineyards at Groot Constantia, where he started producing high quality wines.

W.A. van der Stel (Simon's son) further improved the Cape wine industry. During the first half of the 1700s Groot Constantia was neglected, but when the Cloete family (descendants of Van Riebeeck's gardener) took it over towards the end of the 1700s, it again started to produce excellent wines. It was during this period that many of the European aristocracy and people like Napoleon Bonaparte and the British novelist Jane Austin preferred Groot Constantia wines.

During the Napoleonic wars Britain was not able to import wine from France and on a large scale switched to South African sweet wines, ports and sherries. This greatly boosted the Cape Wine Industry. Further wealth came to the Cape wine farmers after the British took over the Cape in 1806 and huge quantities of wine were exported to Britain.

In the middle 1800s the Cape Wine industry took a severe nock when England and France resolved their differences and the protective trade tariffs between Britain and the Cape came to an end.

In die 1860s Louis Pasteur studied the wine making process carefully and discovered how each step of the process could be carefully controlled. This breakthrough caused a great improvement in wine making worldwide, including in the Cape.

In 1886 the Cape wine industry received a further setback when the disease phylloxera almost wiped out the Cape vineyards. Fortunately researched showed that North American vines were immune against phylloxera and American rootstock were grafted onto Cape vines. In this way the Cape vineyards were slowly restored, but soon an over-production of wines caused the industry another setback as huge quantities of wine were poured "down the drain"

In an effort to curb over-production the first co-operative was established as early as 1905. Others soon followed and they succeeded in establishing a collective bargaining process and pooling of knowledge and resources, which greatly benefetted the industry.

However, they lacked any real authority and could therefore not succeed in solving the problem of over-production. For this reason the Ko-operatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid Afrika Beperkt (KWV) was established after the First World War (1918). They immediately started implementing a quota system, which was, however, finally abandoned in 1992 in favour of a free market system

One of the best known South African researchers in the Wine Perold Pinotage Industry was professor Abraham I. Perold, who experimented with South African wines and in the 1920s succeeded in producing a cross between the cultivars Pinot Noir and Hermitage, which was then called Pinotage. Today Pinotage is the only local cultivar from which wine is produced.

n 1940 the KWV was empowered to limit the minimum price Certiffication system: Vintage, Area and Cultivar for wine and after the Second World War the cold fermentation process was further developed, which gave rise to the production of good quality white wines.

Better control over the wine industry came in 1973 when the legislation concerning "South African Wine of Origin", or the so-called "bus ticket" system was implemented. These labels on the neck of the bottle authenticate SA wines in terms of (a) Vintage (i.e. year of harvest); (b) Area of origin; and (c) cultivar (i.e. grape variety).

A Board of inspectors regularly check the authenticity of each label. Unfortunately approximately 90% of SA wines are still uncertiffied and can therefore not claim any one of these three quality in uencing facts[

During the Apartheid era many countries boycotted South African wines. When international boycotts were lifted in the mid 1990s the South African Wine Industry suddenly found that it had again to compete on the international market. Although exports increased immediately the industry was not well prepared for competition and was hampered by a lack of direction.

Three stylistic camps developed, which fought amongst themselves in terms of the direction which should be taken. These are:  The proponents of a more up-front fruity, softer NewWorld style. They advocated lighter more readily drinkable wines.  The classically austere, structured Old World brigade, who still supported wines with a high tannin content.  Those who wanted to retain an "authentic" regional Cape identity for the South African wines. This group falls somewhere between the Old and the New styles.

There is probably a place for both Old and New style wines in the market. But there is a vast difference between a delib- erately `old classic' style wine and a poor, mean, raw and uneshed cabernet, that is the inevitable result of a virus-diseased vineyard incapable of ripening grapes properly"

South African production South Africa is the seventh largest wine producer in the world.

Figures: In the year 2000 South African wine growers produced 8,4 hectolitres of which 65% was used in wine-making. More than 100 000 hectares, containing more than 314 types of vines are under cultivation. There are 4 500 primary wine producers and more than 55 000 people are employed by the wine industry. In the year 2000 about 140 million litres of white wine alone were exported by South Africa (This is a considerable increase from the mere 20 million litres exported in 1992!)

The per capita consumption of wine in SA is, however, still low per capita consumption far below the top wine drinking countries of the world. In the late 1990s SA was only the 27th largest wine-drinking country in the world with an annual consumption of less than 9 litres per person per year. Compared with the more than 62 litres and 58 litres of France and Italy respectively, the SA wine industry still has a far way to go.

The so-called classic grape varieties comprise about 19% of the Classic varieties national vineyard. These include most of the well-known red varieties such as: Cabernet Sauvignon (5%), Merlot (1,8%), Shiraz (1%) and Pinotage (2,7%).

SA white wines (especially dry white) are usually drank within 12 to 18 months. Because SA has ample sunshine, SA wine growers do not add any sugar to their wines. Well-known white varieties such as Chardonay (4%) and Sauvignon Blanc (4,5%) are well represented. Chenin Blanc accounts for almost a third of all planted SA varieties. Other white varieties are: Colombard, Crouchen Blanc (i.e. Cape \Riesling") Clairette Blanche and Palomino.

Although the Western Cape is more homogenous than some of the other South African provinces, it still boasts a big array of cultures and cultural in uences.

The majority language is Afrikaans (59%) the preferred language of both Coloured and White people in the Western Cape. The other two important languages in the province are English (20%) and Xhosa (19%).

The so-called Coloured people of the Western Cape are of mixed- Term coloured blood. (During earlier stages the terms "brown people" and "so-called coloured" were also used.)

The white Afrikaner people are the descendants from the Dutch, Descendants from Dutch, French and German immigrants French Huguenots and German immigrants who came to the Cape from the middle 1600s onwards. The number of Europeans who immigrated to the Cape were relatively small and it was a gradual process. For example, although only approximately 200 French Huguenots came to the Cape in the 1680s (i.e. via Belgium, The Netherlands and Britain) they made up a significant part (approximately a 1/3) of the European inhabitants of the Cape at the time.

After the Cape finally became a British colony in 1806, more committed immigration efforts took place, resulting in a fair number of British settlers coming to the Eastern Cape in 1820. As a matter of course some intermarriage between "Dutch" and British took place, resulting in quite a significant British influence on Afrikaner culture since the early 1800s.

The Afrikaans language developed primarily from 17th century Dutch, with some minor influences from German, Malay and other indigenous languages. A gradual movement away from 'standard" Dutch was due to the relative isolation of the Cape inhabitants and the permanent nature of most of its settlers.

From an early stage many of the Dutch settled permanently in the Cape and became independent farmers and artisans. The earliest deviations between Afrikaans and Dutch were already reported before 1795 (i.e. the time of the First British occupation of the Cape). Afrikaans-speaking people have, however, up to this day a reasonably good understanding of "high Dutch".

The Afrikaans language has a rich vocabulary, but a much simplified grammar (e.g. verbs are not in ected)[16]. One of the most interesting features of Afrikaans is that it has assimilated the Malay term "baie" for the Dutch words "very" or "much". Although Afrikaans was already a distinct language in the 1800s, it was not officially recognized, primarily because it was seen as "Kitchen Dutch" a lowly or deviant form of Dutch. High Dutch was therefore still being taught at school until the early 1900s.

An important Afrikaans language movement, however, developed in the 1870s in the Western Cape (i.e. the First Language Movement) which advanced the language and lay down spelling and grammar rules. It was also at this time that the language was named "Afrikaans" to indicate the fact that it developed on African soil and to distinguish it from Dutch.

Afrikaans was finally recognized as an official language in 1918 and was used in Parliament from 1925 onwards. Coloured writers and poets contributed signifficantly to the development of Afrikaans during the 1900s.

Today many South Africans recognize the fact that Afrikaans Political baggage should be considered a true African language and not as the exclusive "property" of white Afrikaners. Unfortunately the language still retains some of its political baggage of the past. It is often associated with the rulers of the Apartheid era and the forceful introduction of Afrikaans into schools also contributing to the Soweto uprisings in 1976.