OFF THE GRID…

Exhale. Relax. And reconnect with the natural world, at this environmentally-friendly Paternoster guest house

There are, we recently discovered, so many reasons to visit Paternoster on the Cape’s West Coast. All whitewashed cottages, long stretches of beach and icy waters (for those who believe in the benefits of cold water swimming). More (mostly really exceptional) restaurants than you’d image in a small seaside town, and plenty of adventure for those who like to more than lie sipping cocktails in the sun.

Plenty of places to stay, too … with our first option being the Gonana Guest House. Why? Well, firstly it’s perched right on the Bekbaai beach on the quieter side of town, with endless views out over the ocean, and bordered by the Columbine Nature Reserve. Originally a family home called Whalesong, it’s now owned by Swedish entrepreneur and interior designer Jonas (namesake of the biblical whale tale!) Sandström, who, together with his partner, has transformed the house, and made it Paternoster’s first sustainable and environmentally conscious guest house … another reason why it’s should be top of the where-to-stay list.

If you care about the environment, and by now don’t we all, Gonana is effectively off the grid, and is completely environmentally ethical. Solar power provides the electricity, rainwater feeds the house, there are waterwise showers and grey water is recycled for loos and for use in the indigenous gardens. With his motto of ‘think global, buy local’, Jonas used only local builders and contractors, furniture was crafted locally, even the blankets, hand towels, and bathroom amenities were made locally.

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But off the grid by no means indicates less luxury. The eight guest rooms are charmingly decorated … all natural hues and feel-me textures; some lead directly onto the beach, others open up onto terraces or onto the pool. There is one self-catering room, which makes sense to book if you’re planning on a longish stay, and from mid-December, two four-sleeper self-catering cottages will be available. With fully equipped kitchens, dining areas and patios, these are perfect for those wanting total privacy.

Guests meet in the upstairs room-with-a-view … where there’s a jolly excellent breakfast served, as well as endless teas, refreshments and local snacks (think Darling Toffees) for in-between-meal-treats.

For lunch and dinners – guests walk into town and choose an eatery that appeals. There’s Wolfgat (ranked Best Restaurant in Africa this year), the amazing Voorstrandt, right on the beach and with great views alongside your fish and chips, and Waffle Wharf at Whales Rib, where the waffles are sweet and generously sized. A highlight is Leeto … unexpected, as we weren’t thinking fine dining, but it is – and we say this not at all lightly – world class. It’s our must-do choice. A. Maz. Ing!

For those adventurous travellers – there’s e-biking with Wow e-Bikes along the beach or up to the lighthouse in the Cape Columbine Reserve (loads of va va voom power to get you up the inclines and through the deep sand), kayaking (with plenty of seal spotting and, if you’re lucky, whale sighting, too); or just long walks along the beach (to work off that waffle).

Gonana is derived from the Zulu word embrace … it’s fitting not only for this warm, welcoming guest house (which is newest member of the Cape Country Routes stable), but for the town, too. A really lovely destination for your next holiday.
Rates from R1620 a night, the self-catering cottages from R1400 a night for the unit, and there are always specials worth enquiring about.

Details: capecountryroutes.com and gonanaguesthouse.com

Can’t get to the coast this year? This is almost as good as the real thing. Get lost in the pages of Wild Seas, by National Geographic photographer Thomas Peschak, who, when he’s not underwater, calls Cape Town home. In the book, he’s documenting the beauty and fragility of underwater life, and the majesty of wild coastlines. From gregarious gray whales in the waters of Baja California to manta rays in the Maldives, from sharks in a feeding frenzy to sea turtles the size of bears … the book shows off the gems of the oceans as well as the darker side – the pollution, overfishing and climate change. Page after page after glorious page of images – from southern Africa and the Galápagos, the Seychelles and the Maldives, and so many more spectacular destinations which he explored with little more than a mask, fins and a camera.
A magnificent buy, which will bring joy long after the Summer beach holiday is over. HPH Publishing, R750 at book stores or from hphpublishing.co.za.
Once you’ve poured over the book, watch Peschak’s TED talk Dive Into an Ocean Photographer’s World, which has been viewed more than a million times.

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