When you think of the Cape of Good Hope, besides shipwrecks, impressive coastlines and great white sharks, it’s also the delicious wines from this Southern tip of the African continent that come to mind. Say the word ‘safari’ and it conjures up dusty aromas, khaki, 4×4 jeeps and of course the Big Five. But is there a way to combine the two and go on a Wine Safari? Several innovative wine estates in the Cape Winelands have blended the safari concept with their wine and hospitality offering on their farms to create a fun and educational outing into nature with the opportunity to taste wines in the vineyards.
Here are our picks of a Wine Safari:
Big Five Wine Safari at Warwick:
Warwick belongs to my cousins and is a destination winery par excellence, consistently voted by me and TripAdvisor as the number one winery to visit in Stellenbosch! Elegant and yet child friendly, it offers something for every member on the family holiday. Their Big 5 Wine Safari refers to the 5 different grape varietals grown on Warwick. The wine safari lasts just under an hour and is a casual, enjoyable experience. Once on board the 4×4 safari vehicle, the guide set off into the vineyards stopping along the way to equate different wine varietals to different members of the savannah’s Big Five. It is educational in a sound-bite kind of way and although it sounds cheesy – the concept actually works with Merlot being described as ‘shy like a Leopard’ etc. you get the picture! The views at the top are amazing – You can see Paarl Rock, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and of course Lion’s Head. Here you are given a glass of Warwick’s flagship red, ‘The First Lady’, named after my aunt Norma Ratcliffe, the first female winemaker in South Africa.
Wine Safari and Chocolate at Waterford Estate:
Waterford offers a sophisticated wine drive combined with food pairing at different locations in their white and red wine vineyards. After a brief cellar tour, visitors climb up onto a genuine 4 x 4 safari vehicle (which seats ten passengers) and depart on a meandering route up into the vineyards. From the top of the estate there are views of the whole of Lion’s Head as it crouches beside Table Mountain! The first stop is next to a pretty little lake where the guide introduces the white wines – Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – laid out a white tablecloth and crusty sourdough bread with estate olive oil. At the next stop, the red wines are presented along with generous bowls of droewors, biltong and green olives and cashew nuts. Back down at the tasting room, the wine safari is concluded on a sweet note with the renowned chocolate wine pairings and stories of the day’s adventure.
Eco Wine Drive at Avondale:
The Eco Wine safari on offer at this wine estate near Paarl introduces visitors to their special ecologically friendly way in which wines are produced, and where Avondale’s ethos of ‘Terra est Vit’- soil is life – is put into practise. Lasting just over 2 hours, wine enthusiasts are taken into the particular vineyard blocks on the back of a farm truck so that they can taste the wines from where the grapes were grown in harmony with nature. Look out for the ducks – Avondale’s totally organic snail combat team! This unique experience is rounded off with a tasting and a look into the modern gravity flow cellar which is built three storeys into the ground on the site of a dry river bed.
Game Drive Safari at Villiera:
The 220ha Villiera Wildlife Sanctuary at Villiera Wine Farm just outside Stellenbosch offers a game drive safari in an open vehicle that lasts approximately two hours. Visitors are guaranteed sightings of giraffe, zebra, wildbeest and antelope such as gemsbok, eland, springbuck, bontebok and kudu. For keen birders there is also huge diversity of birdlife attracted by the dams and wetland. Look out for the beautiful blue crane – South Africa’s national bird. The safari includes a tasting of Villiera’s wines plus a self-conducted tour of the cellar where they also make their renowned Cap Classique.
However… If your tastebuds and wallet have the appetite for a specialised authentic photo safari accompanied by fine wines to destinations like Kenya’s Masai Mara or Zambia’s animal rich Luangwa Valley, there are a handful of bespoke trips that are led by a combination of conservation, photographic and wine industry personalities.
Wine and Walking Safaris in the South Luangwa
How about joining the legendary Peter Finlayson of Bouchard-Finlayson fame and wildlife photographer David Rogers on a 6-night safari to Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park in June 2016 where they’ll be staying at a selection of Robin Pope’s walking safari camps. After a full day of game watching and photography with David, Peter will introduce his Bouchard-Finlayson wines over a delicious bush meal.
Wine & Wildebeest Migration Safaris
Or join Daryl and Sheila Balfour on a mobile safari in East Africa where they invite top South African winemakers like David Trafford of De Trafford and Gyles Webb of Thelema to host elegant dinners in candle-lit safari mess tents in the middle of the African bush. A once in a lifetime experience like this is aimed at serious safari-goers who like to spend the day out in nature on highly personalised guided and tutored wildlife photography safaris with Daryl and then sit down to superlative wine tastings in the evenings.