A newly-launched environmental tour at Vergelegen wine estate in Somerset West reveals tracts of the 3000-hectare estate previously closed to the public

Visitors can now view rare bontebok, indigenous Nguni cattle, swathes of endangered fynbos and eland recently introduced to the 320-year-old estate.  The drive also includes an overview of the site of a planned arboretum that will incorporate extensive plantings of trees and 3km of walkways.

Swathes of indigenous plants and vegetation have re-emerged following alien vegetation clearing.

Says Vergelegen MD Wayne Coetzer: “Vergelegen completed South Africa’s largest privately-funded alien vegetation clearing project in 2018. As a result, birds and mammals such as Cape leopard, caracal, grey rhebok and spotted genet have reappeared, along with rare,  endangered plants, grasslands and wetlands. With 1900 hectares of the estate promulgated as a private nature reserve with the same protection status as the Kruger Park, we are now ready to share this environmental success story with our guests.”

Bontebok at the Vergelegen Estate

Environmental Tour highlights include:

  • The Vergelegen Nguni Stud, established in 2010 and numbering over 400 indigenous cattle renowned for their multi-coloured hides;
  • Sightings of groups of bontebok once considered the rarest antelope in the world, recognisable by their purplish-red bodies and a white facial  blaze;
  • Possible sightings of five eland, recently introduced to Vergelegen as part of the Gantouw Project, a veld management and research programme;
  • Indigenous plants, vegetation, and extensive water resources;
  • Spectacular scenery ranging from the Hottentots Holland Mountains to views of False Bay.

“Vergelegen was also declared a Western Cape provincial heritage site last year and there are numerous other attractions that will ensure an interesting day out for the whole family,” says Coetzer. “Our 18 gardens include five enormous camphor trees that were proclaimed national monuments in 1942.  A hollow old English oak, about 300 years old, is believed to be the oldest living oak in Africa, while the Lourens River is the only local river that’s a Protected Natural Environment.”

The restored homestead is furnished with antiques, porcelain and objets d’art. It also houses an interpretive centre with information on the estate’s inhabitants over the centuries, plus prominent guests.  A wine cellar built in 1816 has been converted into a library with 4500 books that belonged to mining magnate Sir Lionel Phillips, a previous owner of Vergelegen.

Food and drink

A sandwich or a dish prepared by one of chef, Michael Cooke, can be enjoyed at a bench under an oak tree, while family restaurant, Stables, is open daily. Camphors, frequently listed in the Eat Out Top Ten restaurant awards, offers elegant yet relaxed lunches Wednesday to Sunday. The Rose Garden Gazebo sells sweet or savoury goodies, coffee and cooldrinks.

“We’ve also introduced a new food and wine pairing at the Wine Tasting Centre ‒ charcuterie and wine. Our Reserve Chardonnay, Reserve Shiraz and Reserve DNA are each paired with a different style of cured meat,” says Coetzer. “We’re also offering Vergelegen MMV Brut with strawberries and cream.”

“The estate was bought  in 1987 with the specific purpose of restoring it as a national treasure for all South Africans to enjoy, so it’s a fitting destination for Heritage Month.”