Tourist Time in Western Cape

Exquisite bead panels at the Franschhoek Village Market

Exquisite bead panels at the Franschhoek Village Market

We arrived in Villiersdorp in the Western Cape just before Christmas and spent the few days preparing for the big meal and visiting a couple of local areas.

Just about everything shuts down over Christmas in South Africa. The factories close, lots of offices are closed and it’s not just for the few days, the closures begin around December 16 and last through the first week of January. For some unknown reason, it’s traditional for EVERYONE to take their holidays over this time, creating chaos at tourist hubs and making it rather unpleasant to go anywhere like that. So we avoided most of them except for Franschhoek Village Market and Stony Point Nature Reserve.

Lily learned beading from her grandmother and now teaches others this amazing artform.

Lily learned beading from her grandmother and now teaches others this amazing artform.

Franschhoek Village Market

One was he  wonderful Franschhoek Village Market. Set under the trees in grounds of the old Dutch Reformed Church, it was the ideal place for last-minute gift buying. Gorgeous African beadwork, artwork, different types of homemade foods and on and on. We tried some very unusual samoosas with snoek and other local fish which were very different, but good!  I went there, not really planning to buy anything, but guess what…came away with gifts and more gifts to take back with me. I know I am going to have to ship stuff as my bags will definitely be overweight now.

Christmas Day rolled around and it was 80F. I did feel a little sorry for the people in the Northern Hemisphere who were dealing with miserable weather. It was our second Christmas Day, our first being with Mick and Debbie in KZN and we had our second, large Christmas dinner, complete with flaming (the flames didn’t want to die out; Zoze was a bit too generous with the brandy) Christmas pudding and brandy butter.

Penguins line the rocks at Betty's Bay

Penguins line the rocks at Betty's Bay

Penguins at Stony Point Nature Reserve

Stony Point Nature Reserve is home to the largest successful breeding colonies of African Penguin in the world. It’s located on the old Waaygat Whaling Station at Betty’s Bay and some of the old machinery is still there. Although it was a misty day, the coastline looked spectacular.

There are thousands of penguins populating the rocks and with a very well-constructed, raised boardwalk, we could be quite close without infringing on their space. It was so much fun to see them surfing in on the waves, and agilely landing on their feet on the rocks. Ta Da! You could almost see Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) landing after a tumble, but rejoicing in making it! Artificially nesting huts were set up above the waterline in the sand dunes. Lots of dassies (rock hydrax) also inhabit the area and they were sunning themselves on the rocks above the penguins, while cormorants and gulls wheeled overhead.

The reserve is a wonderful place to take kids; it's safe and they can feel like they are right in with the penguins. It's also contained enough that the kids are not roaring around disrupting the other visitors.

no selfies

I did like one of the notices, painted onto the board walk. It's of a selfie stick with an cross through it! The world needs more signs like that!

Operating hours: 08:00 – 17:00 (last permits issued at 16:30, gates close at 17:00 sharp)
Reserve office phone number: +27 (0) 28 272 9829

GPS: 34 37 14.21 S, 18 89 32.65 E