Where growers want to go.
As first published in Agri-Kultuur magazine.
With the Pome harvest in the bag by May, most South African apple and pear growers use the down time of June and July to take a break.
BRIAN BERKMAN, agricultural PR specialist who helped launched Ceres-grown Witlof on to the market in 2017, the Flash Gala apple in 2018 and has represented Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, the largest exporter of South African apples and pears into more than 104 countries, for more than 15 years, also writes about travel.
Here, in the first of a series, Where Growers Want to Go, he suggests top travel tips:
Although nearer to Africa than to Europe, the Island of Madeira is a family-friendly destination that is still good value for South Africans. English is widely spoken,(and smatterings of Afrikaans too is heard by the Madeiran ex-pats who returned to the Island after growing up in South Africa.) Globally famous for their wine, Madeira has year-round pleasant temperatures.
Stay in the capital Funchal at Belmond Reid’s Palace Hotel (belmond.com) for the classic grande-dame hotel experience on the cliff overlooking the bay of Funchal. Day-trippers can book their celebrated and sophisticated Afternoon Tea on the balcony or book spa treatments. On the opposite of the Island, Calheta is a good place to base yourself if you’d like to take full advantage of the Levadas, hiking trails all over the mountains of Madeira adjacent to the irrigation channels. Also, seeing the cliffy conditions under which the Madeirans grow bananas, sugar cane and wine grapes is inspiration for anyone who farms for a living. In Calheta, the Savoy Saccharum (SavoyResorts.com) is a resort-style hotel themed around sugar cane and rum production. As the island is small and benefits from an excellent road and tunnel network, most areas on Madeira can be reached within the hour. For the ultimate in charming seaside village, Câmara de Lobos, just near Funchal, is a top choice.
June and July has always been peak holiday season in Durban and while Umhlanga and Durban’s North Beach strip are wonderful, a stay a little further out in Ballito at the outstanding Fairmont Zimbali Golf and lifestyle resort, (zimbali.co.za) is always a treat. The further north one travels, the warmer the sea temperature gets which means that you can pack in a game lodge experience. Phinda (AndBeyond.com) has few competitors for top honours and at Thanda Safari (www.thanda.com), also nearby the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park, tracking rhino on foot as part of their rhino protection programme is something you and your family will never forget.
From Richard’s Bay you can explore the St Lucia wetlands and combine a beach break with a bird, hippo and crocodile safari trip on the lake.
Rovos Rail, (rovos.com) the luxury train company, offers first class safari experiences as part of their Pretoria to Durban routes. Although the route and stops change, we enjoyed the stops at Howick to explore the Mandela capture site, the Majuba Hills so important to the Boers during the South African War and, of course, the big-five game experiences. Although these experiences come at a premium price, they represent excellent value especially if you choose to stay in South Africa rather than travel abroad.
Thailand is one of the few international destinations that is still easily affordable for those of us with Rands. A stay, for example, at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, (MandarinOriental.com) the finest hotel I have ever visited, may cost nearly double other five-star hotels along the River of Kings, but the experience will be unmatched. Now, as Thai island Phuket has its own international airport, you can reach it more easily than before. The Emirates flight from Cape Town to Dubai is direct and then you have a 16 hour layover in which to do a Dubai city tour before heading to Phuket.
Although Phuket has been long famous as a party-non-stop island, it is so much more than that and, as we experienced, entirely possible never to go to Patong Beach. The Pavilions Resort, www.thepavilions.global/phuket/ is on a hill above top Thalang Choeng Thale and Layan Beach. There are free shuttles down to the beach although this serenely private resort, plushly planted with palms and orchids, is hard to leave. A more affordable and family-focused option is to stay near the Sirinath National Park, on the northwest coast right near the airport. The Dewa Nai Yang Resort has a number of self-catering units and supermarkets are within walking distance. www.dewaphuketresort.com
The Garden Route is much less crowded in June and July than it is in the summer months yet still with many sunny days. Although early mornings can be chilly, winter is a great time to visit the Garden Route with the added advantage of never having to wait for a table, parking space and being able to take advantage of the off-season price specials.
The Fancourt Estate, (fancourt.co.za) near George while aimed at golfers with its three Gary Player-designed courses, has much to offer non-golfers and a number of accommodation options from self-catering units to the wonderful Fancourt Hotel and the exquisite boutique hotel in the original Manor House where you will receive butler-driven six-star services and amenities.
Emily Moon River Lodge, overlooking the Bitou river, is quirky and delightful and a wonderfully romantic place to make your base from which to explore Plettenberg Bay. Their winter specials are hard-to-beat discounted prices.