The beauty of South Africa in the European winter is the overnight flight due south with no jet lag. Plus it is great value when you get there provided you allocate a large slice of your budget to the safari component of your trip. So we decided to stay in the Eastern Cape area for 10 days rather than do the usual Garden Route drive to Cape Town.
It’s a short flight down to Port Elizabeth from Joburg, even shorter from Cape Town. The airport is delightfully old fashioned, as is Port Elizabeth although you probably won’t need to spend much time in the city itself. We picked up a rental car and drove straight to Elephant House for a 4 night stay. It’s just one of those laid back relaxed places that is hard to find these days. Addo National Park is only a short drive away or you can hang out at the pool and do as little as possible.
We also went to St George’s Park to watch England play cricket v South Africa. This is one of the oldest cricket grounds in the world and just has a lovely feel to it. The band plays continually throughout the day, the beer is cheap and you can always get a ticket. I worked out that it is probably cheaper to fly from London to ‘PE’ to watch 4 days of cricket than it would be to stay in London and go to Lords every day such are the price differences in every respect.
From Elephant House we drove to Knysna and the delightful Forest Valley Cottages. Located about 10 minutes outside Knysna these wonderful self catering lodges are perched on a hillside overlooking the forest and are really ideal for a few days kicking back and doing very little. No wifi but perfect peace and quiet. You can barbecue on your own deck or take a hot bath in a tub with a view if the weather comes in. We didn’t have great weather sadly but the rain was very welcome for the locals given the dry conditions and fires they have had in recent years. Forest Valley Cottages are a brilliant and affordable option for staying in the Knysna area and its great to be able to self cater whilst in such beautiful surroundings.
We then headed back along the coast to Oceana near Port Alfred on the other side of PE. A Mantis Collection property that has the best of both worlds. It’s a game lodge with its own amazing beach. And I mean amazing. The game viewing is quite gentle and of course not in the same league as nearby Kwandwe or Shamwari but lovely nonetheless. The highlight of Oceana is it’s location and that remarkable beach that seems to go on for ever. You need to be driven down to the beach and the private sun deck where they will also serve you a stunning lunch. If the weather is kind there is no better place to be. The sea is wild but you can swim as long as you are careful. Others horse ride along the beach and some even bicycle.
So if you are looking at staying in the Eastern Cape these 3 lovely places provide a perfect combination as long as you stay a minimum of 3 nights in each place. If budget allows then I would do one more 3 night stop at either Shamwari or Kwandwe.