Seriously, for me there is nothing more exciting and rewarding then going on an African safari. Seeing all of the Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and cape buffalo) and much more, including the incredible African landscape simply must be on your bucket list.
Whilst I can only recommend to include going on a Big Five safari when travelling to South Africa, for reasons unknown to myself you might not have the opportunity to do this. At least not every time.
The good news is, there are some fantastic opportunities for stunning wildlife encounters without the need to leave the Cape Winelands behind you.
OK, you won’t find elephants or lions marching through the Cape Winelands. But that does not mean you can’t have some exciting wildlife encounters in the area seeing lots of other species.
Many of the local wineries are engaged in nature and wildlife conservation and several have set up small sanctuaries to support a number of endangered species.
If that makes you curious and you are now looking to experience some wildlife encounters in the Cape Winelands next time you are visiting, one location I definitely recommend to put on your list is Villiera Wines.
Located in the Koelenhof area of Stellenbosch on the junction of R101 and R304, the winery is one of the more recent ones in the historic Winelands, dating back to 1983. It is still owned by the founding family who are very determined to make excellent wines while giving back to the local community as well as engaging in sustainable farming and wildlife protection.
As part of this engagement, the winery dedicated 220 hectares of land as a wildlife sanctuary in 2009 sitting right next to their vineyards.
Though wine tasting and exploring local wineries is always on top of my list when visiting the Cape Winelands, the main reason to head to Villiera Wines for me this time was indeed the opportunity to have some wildlife encounters. Albeit I was of course also determined to seek out their wines.
But first, let me tell you about the game drive I’ve done. Weather permitting, Villiera offers two drives in the morning and one in the afternoon, which will take about two hours.
There is actually a good chance to see the resident animals since the area is relatively confined and in part is open terrain. That said, it is still large enough to be home to a wide variety of mammals including springbok, kudu, eland, black wildebeest, bush pigs, zebra and giraffe.
These are the animals you also see on a safari in South Africa too but which usually take a bit of a backseat as you will be for the lookout for the Big Five. Thus it’s a great opportunity to appreciate these typically less though after species at close range.
There is also a huge variety of birds which are attracted by several dams and marsh areas that are forming part of the sanctuary.
The game drives start right at the winery’s small tasting room and after approximately two hours observing and learning a lot about the animals, the tour ends with a wine tasting back at the tasting room which is included in the game drive fee.
Weather permitting, find a place in the lovely small courtyard for your tasting.
For the standard wine tasting included in the game drive you can choose to tray six wines from the winery’s Villiera and Domaine Grier ranges.
The former is the main range and includes a number of white, red and MCC wines from single varietals from the vineyards surrounding the estate in the Koelenhof area.
Meanwhile, Domain Grier features wines from the Roussillon region in the South of France.
Surprised? I was too. Though I would normally not drink a French wine while in South Africa (after all I am going to taste the local wines) I tried two of their wines from France which I quite liked. Albeit to tell the truth I thought the Villiera range was superior to their French wines.
In addition to the standard wine tasting, Villiera also offers a bubbly and nougat tasting which is available on a pre-booking basis. The chocolate paired to four of Villiera’s MCCs are coming from MySugar Chocolatiers and are handcrafted in small fresh batches specifically for each booked pairing.
Since I really liked their MCC’s – but did not book the chocolate pairing – I think of that as a really great excuse to return. So watch this space.
Villiera Wines – R304 & R101 Koelenhof Near, Stellenbosch, 7605, South Africa