Written by: Claire O’Shaughnessy
South Africa is the point on the map where natural beauty meets contemporary sophistication and a rich history. My experience in South Africa ranged from snapping colourful pictures of fruit markets on the street, to viewing the unique Dutch architecture that is scattered throughout Cape Town, to marvelling at the endless vineyards of Stellenbosch.
The Cape Winelands are renowned for beautiful vineyards but what if you don’t drink wine? That was the question that seemed unanswerable to me as I ventured to South Africa’s wine country. As a 12 year-old, I had no idea what I would do in a place referred to as “wine country,” but I was surprised at how much else the Cape Winelands have to offer.
If you happen to go to the Cape Winelands when you can’t or don’t drink, I recommend that you take my advice on how to have the best day ever, minus the Merlot.
1. If you want to experience the atmosphere of wine tasting, I recommend going on a wine tasting that includes other food items. Hidden Valley Vineyard located in Franschhoek offers a variety of complementary snacks with the purchase of a wine tasting.
The tasting I participated in at Hidden Valley Vineyard included chocolate (my favourite), fresh olives, olive oil made on the vineyard, and homemade bread. I also recommend smelling an assortment of wines and comparing them to the available food items, or meals that you might pair them with. No matter your age, I guarantee you will find this interesting.
2. Stellenbosch is home to the educational Eagle Encounters rehabilitation centre at Spier Estate. This rehabilitation centre will not only educate you about native birds, but also give you the opportunity to be part of a falconry experience and watch trainers work with various types of birds including owls and vultures.
In addition to the interactive shows, Eagle Encounters at Spier Estate has a number of native birds that are available for viewing at all times. There are also owls and fledgling owls to view, touch, and observe.
3. If you don’t have time to visit Robben island in Cape Town, Groot Drakenstein Prison will provide a similar experience. Located between Franschhoek and Paarl, Groot Drakenstein is the prison Nelson Mandela was finally released at and is a correctional facilty still in use.
A prison in working order may not seem like a family-friendly fieldtrip, but the tours provide interesting information on the background on the area. The highlight of the visit is standing under the towering bronze statue of Mandela.