Guest Author - Aurora Mae
Swellendam is one of the oldest European settlements in South Africa. It showcases some of the best examples of Dutch-Cape architecture in the area and is located along the 'Garden Route.'
The 'Garden Route' is one of Africa's most popular stretches for travelers along South Africa's Coast. Swellendam is a more secluded travel destination with the nice Mediterranean Maritime climate that abounds in that region.
The town is quite small, but there are a number of national parks and nature reserves, as well as other activities, to enjoy if you're in the area.
Bontebok National Park (6km from Swellendam) and the DeHoop Nature Reserve are two parks that are a must see if you're there. At Bontebok National Park, you'll see a plethora of flora and fauna, including the African Bontebok (unique white and brown antelopes), the Mountain Zebra, and the Red Hartebeast. Over 200 varieties of birdlife abound. Game drives, hiking, and swimming in the Breede river top off a day spent at this remarkable park.
The DeHoop Nature Reserve is located several kilometers form Swellendam and is a smaller, less known park, but no less beautiful than Bontebok Park. In fact, because there is generally less foot traffic, travelers can get closer to many rare fauna species. These include Bontebok, ostriches, baboons, tortoises, and the occasional leopard. Another very cool aspect, and that which draws the most visitors, is the ability to see South Point Whales, sometimes ten or more, right off the beach during their breeding season.
Another good adventure lies in meandering about the town of Swellendam itself. You can go by foot (recommended) or by minibus. There is one museum that is well worth a visit, and it's the Drostdy, an old house from 1747 that was converted into a museum, detailing the history of the cape, Swellendam, and the surrounding areas.
From Swellendam, other locations are accessible by minibus or rental car; travel is a little more difficult than other areas because it is less populated and more isolated. It is about two hundred forty kilometers to Cape Town and around one hundred and fifty to Port Elizabeth.
Roads are the only way into Swellendam, as the nearest airport is two or three hours away. There is no railroad into Swellendam either.
There are multiple restaurants, including a steakhouse, that line the major street, as well as a supermarket. The town is quite small, so choices are limited, but the restaurants that are there are excellent. You can also travel elsewhere, but there's really no need.
There are a number of excellent guest houses, Bed & Breakfasts, and hotels for travelers to choose from in Swellendam, though price and availability tends to be limited in the high tourist seasons. There are both economy lodges and top-notch, luxurious hotels, so everyone will find something suitable.