Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown - the Wildlife route

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Monday, 2nd September 2013

Come with us on a slow ride through Frontier Country in the heart of the Eastern Cape, from Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown, where we travel from exquisite dune fields to a sunset gathering of elephants to a feast in an olive grove outside an old Victorian-era railway village.

If you’re in a hurry to get from Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown, you could get there in 90 minutes. After all, the drive along the N2 is a mere 130km.

But let’s say you’re interested in the wildlife offerings of the Eastern Cape, long lunches in olive groves, farm stalls offering all sorts of delicious delights, golden coastal dunes, and a round of golf in a little Victorian village in the mountains. If any of the above catch your fancy, then the slow road between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown beckons.

But be warned: you might want to set aside a few days for this journey.

The first day is all about the Greater Addo Route, beginning at Colchester, a little town on the banks of the Sundays River. At sunset the massive dunes in the area glow gold. More than 200 species of birds, some small antelope and a number of suricates like mongooses and meerkats call these dunes home.

Less than 15km north of Colchester, we will stop over at Nanaga Farm Stall for one of its legendary pies, along with a couple of jars of pickles, cheeses, wine and breads.

Back on track, we'll head to the Addo Elephant National Park, where we’re booked in at a chalet for the night. We’ll drop our luggage, grab our camera bags and head off immediately for a late afternoon drive to the Hapoor Dam.

The elephants, scores of them, come to drink at the dam. We will sit and watch them in the evening light, as they splash water on themselves and each other, nudge their young to the fore and carry on like one big, happy family, completely oblivious of us. Hapoor Dam is almost always an incredible elephant experience.

After our early morning game drive and a quick breakfast, we will leave the park and head back through Paterson, turning right to the village of Alicedale.

We'll pop in at Bushman Sands Country Estate for a quick round of golf on this Gary Player course with its great views of the hills and thickets in the district.

For lunch, we’ve arranged a little something with Craig Rippon of the Springvale Olive Estate, just outside Alicedale.

First, the well-known Eastern Cape farmer will take us on a tour of his olive-processing facilities. Then we’re going to buy some of his naturally fermented olive products and mix them up with our food haul from Nanaga and sit down for a memorable picnic in the groves. Burp.

We’ll sleep over at the nearby Shamwari Game Reserve. Those of you who have the time available might want to book a two-day walking experience with the Shamwari Explorer Camp. You go on guided walks for about four hours a day and sleep in a mobile tented camp. This is probably the best way to learn about the bush, the birds and the history of the area.

The rest of us will make the short 45km drive to Grahamstown, where all manner of cultural, historical and literary encounters await. See you on the road...

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact
Nanaga Farm Stall
Tel: +27 (0)41 468 0353
Email: iain@nanaga.co.za

Addo Elephant National Park
Tel: +27 (0)42 233 8600
Email: reservations@sanparks.org

Bushman Sands Pro Shop
Tel: +27 (0)42 231 8054
Email: bushmansands@riverhotels.co.za

Springvale Olive Estate
Tel: +27 (0)83 256 6566
Email: rippon@imaginet.co.za.

Shamwari Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)41 509 3000
Email: reservations@shamwari.com

Alan Weyer’s Spirits of the Past tours
Tel: +27 (0) 46 622 7896
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 825 2685
Email: info@spiritsofthepast.co.za

How to get here
Take the Port Elizabeth-Grahamstown N2 route until Nanaga, then take the N10 to Paterson and turn left to Addo. After your visit to Addo, return to Paterson on the N10 and then take the road to Alicedale shortly thereafter. From Alicedale it’s about 45km to Grahamstown.

Best time to visit
This route is a year-round option. Grahamstown lies in the middle of four biomes, so the weather varies constantly.

Around the area
Go on a hike through the Woody Cape Reserve near Colchester.

Tours to do
Once you’re in Grahamstown, book for a Spirit of the Past tour with Alan Weyer. See the listed Grahamstown website for details (www.grahamstown.co.za).

Get around
It is advisable to hire a car in Port Elizabeth.

What will it cost
Depending on where you stay, you will pay regular national park rates or private rates at private game reserves like Shamwari, where the Explorer Camp experience is the most reasonably priced.

Length of stay
You should set aside at least three days for this route if you can.

What to pack
Pack for the bush, pack seasonally (cool clothes in summer, from November to March, and warm clothes in winter, from May to August) and don’t forget that night jacket for the evening game drive, no matter the season.

Where to stay
There are many accommodation options along this route, some of them being the Addo Elephant National Park, the Elephant House just outside the park, and Shamwari (a 5-star game lodge experience) near Alicedale.

What to eat
Try the great pies at Nanaga Farm Stall.

What's happening
The biggest events around here are the Kirkwood Game Festival, and the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown – check the listed websites for details.

Best buys
One of the many glossy books on the Addo Elephant National Park at the gift shop in the main

Article courtesy of South African Tourism.

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