Hike, braai and fly to South Africa

Valentine’s Day on 14 February is the day of love. But for me there’s nothing more romantic than spending time with my loved ones. On 1 December last year, my husband Camiel and I flew with our two-year-old daughter Hannah to Cape Town, South Africa, for a four-week holiday.

It’s hard to know where to start; South Africa is truly amazing. It has everything to offer, from nature to nice dining and loads of wildlife. We travelled the famous Garden Route along the coast and returned to Cape Town through the heart of the country. We had an amazing hike on Robberg Island. The Dutch settlers named Robberg in around 1778; it literally is a ‘mountain of seals’ too. We hiked the circular route to the Point, which took us five hours. It was a little challenging with Camiel carrying Hannah on his back and me carrying our baby-to-be on board – but it was absolutely worth it! As we walked to the Point, the tip of the Peninsula, a group of seals accompanied us. Even though seals don’t really smell like lavender, seeing them frolicking around in front of us was very special.


After such a long hike, you really enjoy eating. Although I must admit I don’t need a hike to savour food. As family travellers, we often made a braai – an authentic South African BBQ. This unique word says a lot about South African culture. You can have a braai anytime, anywhere. We saw people braaiing for breakfast, lunch and supper. We saw people braaiing on the beach and next to the motorway. We had quite a few braais of our own, fitting in nicely with the locals. Camiel stood fixated at the fire while I prepared the veggies and salads, probably akin to the first ice-age families.

South Africa is known for its wildlife and although we didn’t spot the big five, we admired our fair share of wildlife at the Addo National Park and the Karoo National Park. The elephants at Addo were especially impressive. When a huge bull looked in our direction after drinking water from the pond, we quickly drove away in our small Toyota rental.

We’d read in the books that the best time to spot animals is early in the morning or late at night. So we decided to arrive at the park at 6 am and even baked pancakes for a picnic the night before. Arriving a bit sleepy at the gate, the guard told us to go to reception to buy tickets. What he did not say was that reception only opens at 7 am, so we had to wait an hour! We ate all our pancakes.

I’ve noticed, after driving around in a game park for a few hours, you keep trying to spot big dangerous animals even after you’ve left. Luckily, there’s not much chance of spotting a lion next to the motorway.

After four weeks of holiday, we flew back to Amsterdam at 23:59 hours on 31 December. Normally, I wouldn’t like taking off with fireworks – but this time it was special to start the New Year in the air. We ended a good 2012 with a wonderful holiday and started 2013 with new, fresh ideas and love for each other. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Marleen Veldhuis’ travel tips:

Culinary freaks:
Wine Estate Jordan in Stellenbosch
King Fisher Seafood Restaurant in Mossel Bay
Make your ownbraai

Tree huggers:
Tsitsikamma National Park
Robberg Nature Reserve

Wildlife lovers:
Whale watching in Hermanus and Tsitsikamma
Elephants at Addo
Smaller beasts in the Karoo