Monthly Archives: May 2014

Taste the recipes from Top chefs

Real Food is at the heart of the Week of Taste, inspired by the French concept La Semaine du Goût initiated almost 20 years ago.

For 13 days, 5 top French chefs will work with top South African chefs on gastronomic experiences in 8 cities in South Africa and Lesotho. The idea is to discover new food and taste experiences in collaboration with French and local chefs.

The Week of Taste is about the sharing of food, knowledge and experiences with surprises including competitions, tips and personal recipes from top South African and French chefs.

The programme is varied and offers worthwhile experiences for foodies and people of all ages, with “Taste lessons” organised in schools and universities, “Taste workshops” for self-learners, four-handed gastronomic dinners, tours of city markets, as well as a culinary photo competition on social media.

Pan1 Real food


Taste Workshops
For those who like to get creative and get their hands dirty in the kitchen, the Taste Workshops will be organised with chefs, in the Alliances Françaises participating or in partnering cooking schools. The workshops will be followed by a cocktail and meal.

Market Outings
All foodies are invited to discovery or rediscover local produce that have somehow been forgotten or those ingredients that are not often used in the kitchen. Thematic visits of large or small markets will be organised in the cities participating and will focus on various aspects for example, on the making of certain dishes, spices, etc.

Culinary Photo Contest
Grab your phone or your camera: it is your chance to win prizes related to The Week of Taste! The most liked and shared photo will be awarded tickets to attend a four-handed gastronomic dinner, a cooking class, or a trip to Reunion Island!

To find out more about what’s happening in your city, information about the chefs and how to book, visit

Edito 55 – Lush, Wild and Tasteful…

Obviously, everyone has heard of Cape Town. Table Mountain, the Winelands, the Cape of Good Hope… The Kruger Park, the Blyde River, the Kwazulu Natal with its Zulu culture, its safaris and its beaches should also be of common knowledge.

There is also a region that stretches from Port Elisabeth to Cape Town. A coastal route, washed by the Indian Ocean currents where dolphins, whales and sharks migrate; a route that houses the lush forests of Tsitsikamma, Wilderness and Knysna; abrupt cliffs and unexpected lagoons mixing all the existing blue colors. The Garden Route.

garden route knysna lagon south africa blog xo africa

More than 700km of panoramic route open to all kinds of travelers: families, nature lovers, foodies, slow-travelers and of course restless sportsmen. The Garden Route’s palette is very broad and there is no shortage of activities.

Golf courses, wild animals, unique hiking trails, boat cruises, picturesque villages, spas and restaurants that are definitely worth leaving the N2, endless beaches… and above all, landscapes that spread and change throughout the itinerary. Their diversity and contrasts, from which local artists draw their inspiration, won’t give your eyes any rest.

Talking about inspiration, it was the French National Football team that put Knysna and the Garden Route on the cover of all international media’s during the last World Cup 4 years ago.

We all regret that it wasn’t for its oysters, dolphins, beaches, golf courses, forests or even its blue lagoon…

Enjoy the drive,


Plettenberg Bay, a destination for all travelers

Plettenberg Bay? A destination that’s still unknown to most Garden Route travellers but that is certainly worth a stopover.

A reputation that is constantly on the rise, an atmosphere that breathes the good air of holidays and a wide range of activities that does not suffer from competition, welcome to Plettenberg Bay!

This area managed to enhance what nature gave it offering you the opportunity to thrive in a sublime setting.


Between the beaches suitable for morning and late afternoon walks, the iconic Robberg Peninsula for its views on Plettenberg Bay , the lagoons and breathtaking estuaries, its indigenous forests, pristine rivers and vineyards, you have here a myriad of opportunities to enjoy a true sensory experience.

So, what would be a perfect day in Plettenberg Bay?

The “morning” suggestion focuses on a sea safari. The occasion for you to meet some dolphins, “all year round” residents, that sometimes come very close to the shores to play with the waves. Besides dolphins, you’ll also be able to see some whales during the migration season, sea lions, and many other species living along the southern coast of South Africa. And if you want to take it to another level, jump in a sea-kayak, accompanied by a local guide of course, and you’ll get as close to them as you wouldn’t have imagined…

dolphins at Plettenberg Bay

After such nice emotions, you must be hungry?  Depending on your preferences, we recommend you the three following places: Cornuti Al Mare for an authentic wood fired pizza straight out of the family oven. Emily Moon for a charming lunch made with only the best produces of the area. And, last but not least, the Lookout for the most stunning view on the whole bay.

Now that you’re full of energy again, let’s have a look at the wide range of activities the area has to offer, shall we? From skydiving to hiking (whether you’re walking or running), from strolling among local crafts markets to horse riding on the beach… the list is endless. Even golf players will find their happiness since the area comprises some of the best courses of the country. If relaxation is your thing, the Plettenberg Park Hotel & Spa offers a complete range of body treatments with breathtaking views over the ocean of course.

Plettenberg bay park hotel

And if you’re going to be in the area for a little longer, we strongly recommend you to push it a few kilometres further, to the nearby “Crags”. This was only the beginning.

Plettenberg Bay has so much to offer. It is a destination which should meet the expectations of any travelers and regardless your interests.

Xavier Lopes

Knysna, Pearl of the garden route

Knysna is known as the “pearl” of the Garden Route. The attractiveness of the town is mainly due to its geographic location. Indeed, Knysna is situated on the banks of a 13 square kilometers lagoon, which opens to the ocean passing between two large rocky headlands, popularly known as “The Heads”.

Start your day by visiting one of the many theme parks in the Crags area, less than thirty minutes by car. Do not miss Monkeyland: a free roaming primate sanctuary, Birds of Eden: a unique 2 hectares dome home to over 3500 birds, or even experience a unique interaction with Elephants at the “Knysna Elephant Park”.

Knysna garden route south africa

Time to go back to Knysna for a nice lunch. How about a relaxed lunch on the water’s edge of the trendy Thesen Island? Sirocco is the right place for you then. Otherwise, if you have more of a seafood appetite, we recommend JJ’s in the Knysna Waterfront.

Start the afternoon with a digestive stroll, on the banks of the busy harbor among its numerous shops and restaurants. If you are looking for more peaceful environment, drive just a few minutes out of town, take some height walk in surrounding forests and discover some hidden treasures like the Belvidere area and its small church.

Alternatively, the area is also well known for its oysters. Join the Oyster Tour for a 2-hours’ cruise on the lagoon where you’ll learn everything you need to know about the local Oysters. Learn how to open them and get to taste the difference between both wild and farmed oysters.

Knysna garden route south africa

The area surrounding the lagoon is covered with pine forests and some indigenous forests. This scenery helps to create a tranquil setting for the picturesque town. In terms of beaches, Knysna will spoil you with its large choice like Brenton-on-Sea, Bollard or Noetzie just to name a few.

How better could you end the afternoon than with a sunset cruise on the peaceful lagoon. Watch the sun going down through the heads enjoying a glass of bubbly.

Knysna, what else

PAN4 Knysna

A Motorcycle safari along the Road 62

Today I’m taking you on my dream motorbike safari to the heart of the Little Karoo. Jump on your Harley Davidson, start the engine and follow me.

We will start and end the tour in Cape Town, giving you the opportunity to extend your holiday by a few days to explore this jewel of South Africa.

The Cape Route 62 will take you along the longest wine route in the Western Cape and most likely in the whole world.

This scenic route passes through farming towns such as Calitzdorp, Ladismith, and the fruit growing and wine producing towns of Barrydale, Montagu, Ashton, Bonnievale, Robertson, to name a few.

Motorcycle Road 62

The next day we will experience the semi-arid area of the Karoo and visit some historical villages, while riding along wide open roads until we reach the town of Prince Albert at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains.

Just picture it for a second: You are travelling on the best roads in Harley-Davidson style, enjoying unique African scenery in one of the most luxurious safari destinations in the world. On par with its American sister, the Route 66, believe me!

The area is well known for its breathtaking passes like: The Prince Alfred’s Pass (after Prince Alfred) from Knysna to Uniondale and The Swartberg Pass from Oudtshoorn to Prince Albert.

Back on your bike, listening to the engine humming as it carries you down the mountains reaching the coast line. Yes, our next stop is Knysna, the pearl of the Garden Route, where we will spend the afternoon relaxing and exploring the town, while tasting some local oysters.

Motorcycle Road 62

As we start our journey back to Cape Town we take a slightly different route through the Langeberg Mountains. The long sweeping bends of the Outeniqua Pass takes us back on the Route 62 for a lovely ride through the small villages of the ostrich breeding area: the Little Karoo. And how about riding an Ostrich? We will spend the night in the village of Montagu, famous for its hot springs.

An alternative road would be riding through Swellendam, where the country atmosphere is charming, to reach Hermanus. How could we end such an amazing experience after all the good moments we spent among bikers… by a whale watching boat trip to spot the giant mammals frolicking in the waves…? Yes!

3 great golf courses

The Garden Route area is blessed with many world class golf courses set in the heart of the beautiful countryside. It’s a great opportunity to combine your favorite sport with a safari when traveling in South Africa.

Oubaai Golf Course (18 holes)
The dramatic Golf Clubhouse location overlooks the 16, 17 and 18th greens. Open air terraces offer panoramic views of the Indian Ocean and the Gwaing River Valley. As you walk the course your views and outlooks take in forest, sea, river and mountain. Oubaai is proud to be the first Ernie Els signature golf course in South Africa. In its design, three-time major championship winner Els and his team took full advantage of the spectacular landscape. The Golf Course is a links style layout, with nine holes out and nine holes back, where veld grasses line the lush fairways and greens. As a coastal golf course, golfers will find generous fairways that are well bunkered. This is a course that will look to reward the good shot and penalize the wayward one, which is the essence of a true championship golf course.

Course Rating
Men : Par rating 74 – Length : 6516m
Women : Par rating 74 – Length : 6516m

 Oubaai golf course garden route

Simola Golf Course (18 holes)
Located high on the hilltops above Knysna, Simola Golf Course offers truly spectacular views over the town, the lagoon and beyond to the Knysna Heads. So the reason why keeping your head down at Simola can be a challenge. The course isn’t handicapped by the wind that often affects coastal courses. Fairways flow with the natural contours of the terrain and the unusual configuration of five par 5’s and five par 3’s adds a new dimension to the game. The Simola Golf Clubhouse forms part of the recently opened Simola Hotel. Guests and members have access to hotel facilities including a gourmet restaurant, indoor pool and Wellness Center.

Course Rating
Men : Par rating 72 – Length 6095m
Women : Par rating 72 – Length 4996m

simola golf course garden route

Humewood Golf Club (18 holes)
Home to one of the world’s most challenging links courses, it is consistently ranked as one of South Africa’s Top 10 golf courses. Humewood has hosted the South African Amateur 9 times and the South African Open 4 times. The golf course is a genuine seaside links, with wide and undulating fairways, fast greens and thick coastal bush. Humewood is renowned for its rough but it does have generous fairways to compensate. It is also close to well-known Game and Nature Reserves like the Addo Elephant Park and the Mountain Zebra Park. Perfect if you want to combine the practice of your favorite sport with a safari.

Course Rating
Men : Par rating : 72 – Length : 6225m
Women : Par rating : 75 – Length : 5367m

Humewood golf course garden route

Turbine Hôtel & Spa, your prestigious stopover

As an essential stopover on the Garden Route, needless to say that Knysna features quite a few good addresses.

That being said, why did we particularly choose the 5-star Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa?

First, it was born from an ambitious project that transformed the old local power station into one of the most elegant hotel in the country. This specificity contributes in making Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa an exceptional venue that didn’t forget where it comes from, since the machines that once belonged to the power station have been renovated and incorporated in the new design.

Turbine Boutique Hotel Knysna south africa

Furthermore, beyond its architectural singularity, its unique location also draws the attention. Situated on Thesen Island, considered as one of the most prestigious area of the Garden Route.

And the element that definitely seduced us: each suite has been individually decorated. While some feature a floral touch, others are distinguished by the presence of numerous works of art. A personalized decoration with a touch of art clearly brings you a very unique atmosphere.

Besides these considerations, you should also know that the Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa comprises seventeen “standard” suites, six luxury suites, a honeymoon suite and an independent self-catering Water Club apartment owned by the hotel. Each suite has an air conditioning system (heating and cooling), and a bathroom that combines elegance and charm.

Turbine Boutique Hotel Knysna south africa

In terms of facilities, the hotel has two restaurants which are always open to satisfy your cravings: The tapas bar and the Island Café. While the first one serves light tasty meals for lunch and dinner, the second one will seduce you by its relaxing atmosphere and by its creative “a la carte” menu.

And to complement these tasty notes we could also add: the pool overlooking the canal, the Amani Spa which offers a wide variety of treatments from luxurious facials to manicures / pedicures and hydrotherapy…

The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa is suited to meet your most specific requirements and stands out as a prestigious stopover.

Turbine Boutique Hotel Knysna south africa

Xavier Lopes