Cape Town - Tranquillity and serenity await you in Swartland. Located just about an hour from the city, it has little towns that will take you on a journey like no other.
With Covid-19, the tourism industry suffered and many businesses had to close their doors. Now they are ready for things to lift off as tourists trickle in, and Swartland is ready to welcome them.
“Before Covid, we received an average of 450 000 visitors to Swartland a year, but unfortunately there was a drop of about 60% in visitors this last year. Fortunately, there has been an increase over the last three months and we do hope that it will keep increasing,” said Kiewiet van Rooyen, manager for Swartland tourism.
She added that they did not stop marketing over the Covid-19 period but concentrated mainly on social media and e-marketing. Instead of exhibiting at expos, they now focus on “educationals”.
Owner of Big Tree marketing, Lindsay Gibaud, said it was “getting more bums on seats and beds” that would make the tourism industry bloom.
“Remember, we do not travel to escape life, but we travel so that life does not escape us,” she said.
There is much to see and experience in the towns. From olive-tasting to gin or tonic-tasting, wine-tasting, biking, hiking, and visiting museums and festivals.
Swartland is named after the endemic Renosterbos, which turned black in the winter after the rains and takes a dark appearance when viewed from a distance in large patches.
It’s perhaps best known for its wines, historic buildings and rich culture.
Moorreesburg is well-known for its wheat industry and it’s is just about 40km from the mountains to the coast. One must visit the Wheat Museum, one of only two of its kind in the world. Here you can see wheat fossils found in an Egyptian pharaoh's tomb. The museum originated around 1967.
“Things wheat are used for include bread and biscuits, which are made from wheat in Swartland, and durum wheat for pasta, which is not grown in Swartland,” said tour guide Daureen Cederas.
Fun fact: if you chew a bunch of wheat grains you will get bubble gum.
Darling is a small town filled with many activities to do. There are the ever-so-famous Darling Sweets that will tickle your taste buds; they offer an array of different flavoured toffees. Here you can see the employees make the toffees.
Riebeek Kasteel has The Royal Hotel which has much heritage to offer. It’s about 20km out of Malmesbury. The Royal Hotel is the oldest licensed hotel in the Western Cape and provides the most beautiful and luxurious accommodation.
Owner of the Royal Hotel, Rob Brendal, said it was established in 1862, but he bought it in 2004 and closed it for 18 months for renovation because the building was dilapidated.
“It has always been a hotel, nothing else. There hadn’t been anything done on the hotel for 80 years when I bought it. I kept the front stoep the way it was before, and the bar counter. Nothing has changed there. We are well-known for our gin and tonic-tasting. This was even before it became a trend,” said Brendal.
The hotel also boasts a labyrinth. This is where you take a rock and follow your path, focusing on what makes your heart heavy. You meditate on it while you walk, then drop it into something at the end, and leave your troubles and worries there as you walk away.
Wines in the area include Bester Family Wines, AA Badenhorst Wines, Blake’s Family Wines and Groote Post.
Winemaker Zakkie Bester, from Bester Family Wines, makes wines with grapes from the dryland bush vine Cinsault vineyard which was planted in 2001 on the western slopes of the Kasteelberg mountain, where the soil is mostly weathered Swartland shale. The Shiraz vineyard was planted on the eastern foothills of Kasteelberg mountain on a mixture of shale and koffieklip in 2002, and is farmed on trellis with supplementary irrigation.
Yzerfontein has tranquil beaches and views. It’s just 80km north of Cape Town, a place where man and nature live in harmony, with natural fynbos, beautiful sunsets and the longest uninterrupted 26km beach on the South African coastline, giving views of Dassen Island and Table Mountain.
!Khwa tuu is where the San spirit is shared. !Khwa tuu, which means watering hole, takes you on a journey in learning the way of the San in the museum. There are an estimated 130 000 San living across six countries in southern Africa. The San are one of the last hunter-gatherer societies left on Earth. They refer to themselves as the “the people” or the First People of Southern Africa.
There are three key figures in the San religion: God, Trickster and the San healing dancer. Ultimately God lies behind everything, but God’s involvement in everyday life is more often in the background.
!Khwa ttu tour guide Nashada Ndango will take you on a walk through their three museums.
“Before going out on a hunt, the San would call out to their ancestors. There is always a fire burning on the site which is used for family gatherings and to keep away animals. This is not used for cooking – for cooking they would have a fire in front of their hut,” said Ndango.
Here you can go on a game drive and see wild animals..
On Route 27, you can find Roosterkoek, known as ash bread. This is where coals are used to bake bread. It is delicious with butter, or anything for that matter.
Swartland has plenty more sites and offerings to explore and enjoy, with lots of friendly locals.