S. Africa’s home to the rich and famous

Sunday, day for families. Dolphin Beach was teeming with them. Luckily, this was not peak season so we managed to have enough beach space for our gigantic towels and caboodles.

This was our main destination, Jeffrey’s Bay, surfers’ paradise and home to one of the biggest annual surf competitions in the world — the Billabong Supertube.

Surf enthusiasts from as far away as Down Under and Hawaii come here every July to add their fervour to schools of wave worshipers. What’s more, from here, it is only a couple of hours drive to any point in the famous Garden Route of South Africa.

One such point is St. Francis Bay, a little Dutch–like village nestled at an estuary with the Indian Ocean as its source. Whitewashed houses with thatched roofing or some with dark brown slates populate the area. These immaculately kept homes line a web–like labyrinth of canals, which cradle small boats, jet skis and other water sport vehicles.

It is also the holiday home for the rich and famous, not just of South Africa, but also of other African nations and for the Europeans who shrewdly benefit from the exchange rate.

Here, the simplicity and informality of Jeffrey’s Bay was to me almost unimaginable. The place was deserted, the villages empty of people except for the town center where we encountered several workers doing maintenance jobs. Them — and the real estate agents who stiffly sat behind immaculately polished windows, who looked us up and down as we pass, deciding there and then whether we were potential clients or not, and which price range of houses go with our looks or with the car we drive.

Further west, simpler houses come back into view at the Cape St. Francis. Here, a remarkable lighthouse dating as far back as 1878 is set among waves of sand dunes. The strong winds did not discourage a man riding the waves with his board and kite, but it managed to drive us back to the safety of our temporal shelter.

An experience that stood out though, was at one of the last existing original (Eastern) Cape houses by the bay, the Potters House. As the name suggests, this joint offers pottery, arts and craft and on certain evenings, live entertainment from local celebrities. Most importantly, they also serve the "white gold" of the south, melt in your mouth calamari.

Grilled or simply panfried, it is an experience never to be missed. Across the road is a home industry, which sells homemade rusks, jams and cakes.

A trip to the easternmost part of Jeffrey’s revealed tidal pools ideal for fishing. For the first time in three days, I dipped my feet in the menacing, icy waters and was surprised at how warm it actually was. Looking behind me, I was regaled by the sight of pink and mauve crepuscule outlining the hills. The shadow of houses, where I could almost discern families going about dinner, lay long and heavy on the deserted roads. I listened to the sound of children chattering and to the tinkle of their laughter breaking the silence of the evening, as they stuffed their tiny mouth with roasted vegetable and fish, all at the same time.

How simple and complete, I told myself. Could one ask for more than this?

The author, a former beauty queen and a graduate, is based in South Africa with her husband and two sons. Aside from managing their small lodge, she is set to start on her masters degree in European literature at the University of Witwatersrand, she is researching and corresponding with a local university in trying to maintain/sustain their indigenous yellowwood forest (in the lodge) as an ecotourism destination. It is an 11-hectare forest with more than 400 indigenous trees, Knysna Loeries, crowned eagles, vervet monkeys and bush bucks (deers) as its residents. Her dream is to be able to turn it into a mini-botanical garden.

- www.mb.com.ph