South Africa is not short of food experiences, whether it’s a shisanyama meal at a township, a Cape Malay curry in the Bo-Kaap, or a lamb bunny at a family run business in Durban.
And, it seems travel companies are now maximising South Africa's unique food scene with bespoke tours and getaways that delve into the destination's history, culture and food attractions.
Enter the world of gourmet getaways, a sumptuous way for travellers to explore a destination while tucking into delicious cuisine.
From its half-day tours or week-long culinary escapes, gourmet getaways are fast taking shape in the country. One such establishment that is riding on the gourmet getaway bandwagon is Schoone Oordt Country House in Swellendam.
The 5-star property's first gourmet getaway weekend at the end of May, aims to put Swellendam on the map. Owners Richard and Alison Walker collaborated with the hospitality industry in Swellendam to offer guests an exclusive look at some of the area's top culinary jaunts.
Walker said the itinerary, which features budget-friendly and luxury accommodation, will focus on foodie experiences, storytelling and other insightful tidbits.
“South Africa is renowned for its food culture. You can find a great meal practically anywhere.
“The country is home to interesting people and stories, which translates to its food. It not only sustains your body but feeds your soul. Therefore, we hope our gourmet weekends encourage other hospitality establishments to show off their food attractions in their city or small towns,” she said.
Lending a helping hand
Walker said collaboration played a vital role in the tourism industry, especially during the pandemic.
She created a WhatsApp group called Hospitality Support to encourage Swellendam tourism businesses to share ideas and lend support in times of need.
“Businesses need to work together and share a piece of the tourism pie. Working in partnership allows people to share ideas and build each other up.
“Travel offerings like gourmet getaways benefit us all, showcase what a particular destination offers and entice people to visit. Food is a big thing for us, and we want that to translate into our guest experiences,” she said.
She said they planned to host these getaways every month from July, August and September. If successful, they will revisit it next year. The May gourmet getaway sold out in two weeks.
Eat like a local
After losing a majority of his international clients due to the pandemic, Rupesh Kassen, the founder of Eat Like a Local, is adapting his food tours to cater to the local market. He hosts a vegan food tour and the City Bowl tasting experience that takes travellers to Cape Town central and Bo-Kaap. He has now set his sights on Hermanus, a town an hour and a half away from Cape Town.
“Hermanus is regarded as the culinary mecca in South Africa. There is no better place to collaborate with small businesses to showcase food and wine experiences.
“With the travel bans and restrictions imposed on South Africa, we are shifting our focus towards the South African market.
“The aim is to add a multicultural flavour to our experiences that locals and international travellers will appreciate,” he said.
Planning your gourmet getaway
Kassen advised travellers planning gourmet getaways to research the foodie attractions at their chosen destination.
He warned them to steer clear from tourist traps.
“Ask locals for recommendations. For example, many bloggers, Instagram and Tik Tok accounts offer a wealth of information. They know many hidden foodie gems that serve good cuisine and aren't packed with tourists,” he said.
Kassen recommended booking accommodation at your food destination to avoid long travel times.
“The best time to start embarking on food tours is on your first day to familiarise yourself with the destination,” he said.
Booking tour guides comes highly recommended, especially when travelling to places you haven't been before.
Walker said people should look for the must-try food experiences at the destination.
“Find out what the top foodie spots are, and then do research of your own to create an itinerary with experiences that you enjoy. Connect with your hotel for insider tips. Try something out of your comfort zone,” she said.
Foodie experiences start from $100 (R1 406) for a 4-hour tour.
The cost of a gourmet weekend or week-long getaway depends on your budget, the types of experiences you add to your itinerary and your accommodation grading.