Activities

Grab your board, surfs up! There is no getting around the fact that Seal Point pounds out some of the best surfing waves in South Africa as the geological location of Cape St. Francis makes it susceptible to swell all year around from large low pressure systems that form between Antarctica and the southern tip of Africa. The movie Endless Summer is often attributed to making the previously un-known beak off Cape St Francis one of the most famous surfing sites in the world, offering a classic barrelling right-hander and a fairly consistently exposed point break that works best with a northwest wind and south, southeast swell direction. The water is very seldom crowded and all surf gear can be hired in the Cape St Francis village.

Ride the big waves or just float along with the foamies, you can do both with stand-up paddle surfing. SUP offers a fun alternative to traditional surfing and involves the rider standing on the board, using a paddle to propel themselves through the water. Experienced surfers can tackle the large breakers and those new to riding waves can pick up the sport easily - all you need is a bit of balance as you glide across the smooth shallow water. SUP can be enjoyed in the ocean or lakes and rivers with some yoga enthusiasts even trying headstands, sun salutations and backbends on their boards.

Channel the power of the wind on an epic kite boarding session. But before we get you all excited, let’s be honest, kite surfing is not for everyone and requires a decent amount of strength and knowledge of the sea, as inexperienced newbies could easily find themselves eating the sand (literally) or quickly pulled out into vast deep blue. The technicalities of kite surfing include harnessing the power of the wind with a large controllable power kite that is propelled across the water on a kiteboard, with or without foot-straps or bindings. For those that know how, the main beach of Seal Point is definitely worth the effort of kitting up when the easterly wind blows, and if Seals has a good wave off the point you are in for one firing session. Ideal wind strengths are between 12 and 25 knots and the grass in front of the car park provides a good rigging area where you can also rinse off under the showers. Warning - look out for unseen rocks as the waves break close to the shoreline.

It just isn’t a holiday without bikinis, boardies and a beach (or so we think anyway). With the mildest temperatures and the longest sunshine hours along the Southern Cape coast, Cape St Francis is just the spot for spending long, lazy days in the sun. Seal Point Beach is arguably one of the best in the Eastern Cape and delivers lingering stretches of soft sandy shoreline perfect for sunbathing, romantic strolls and kids play. Around the corner, the Wildside is more rugged yet equally stunning offering walking trails, shale beaches and rock pools waiting to be explored. Seal Point Beach is generally safe for swimming but please take some time to read the sign boards that explain rip currents and their dangers. Swimming is not permitted along the stretch of beach that is accessed directly through the Cape St Francis Resort.

Walk off your worries. Adorned with fynbos, the village of Cape St Francis and surrounds falls into the Cape Floral Kingdom, a UNESCO World Heritage Site described as being of ‘outstanding universal significance to humanity’ as well as ‘one of the richest areas for plant diversity in the world’. It’s a mouthful but we’re proud of it! Much of the village forms part of protected nature reserves, with no less than five to explore - these being; Cape St Francis Nature Reserve, Seal Point Nature Reserve, Seal Bay Nature Reserve, Irma Booysen Flora Reserve and St Francis Field Nature Reserve. The tons of great walks and hikes take you from colourful coastal vegetation to rocky outcrops and along quiet stretches of beach where rich cultural history, historic shipwrecks, midden sites and indigenous wildlife and birds are found in handfuls. This smorgasbord of options caters to all ages and fitness levels and are easily reached from Seals Backpackers. As a plus the reserves are open to everyone and ask no entrance fee, offering an authentic eco-experience without a commercial feel.

The Cape Floral Kingdom stretches roughly from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town and inland, covering about 90 000 square kilometres and home to approximately 9 000 plant species, 70% of which grow nowhere else in the world. Around Cape St Francis the local vegetation variety is the St Francis Fynbos/Thicket Mosaic which only grows in the lime-rich coastal sandy environment found between Tsitsikamma in the west and Port Elizabeth in the east. This area compromises only a tiny 0.2% of the Cape region and botanists from all over the world visit the belt to investigate plant life that only occurs here.

Go explore the magnificence of Cape St Francis and surrounds. The Chokka Trail is not just another hiking route but rather a first class experience in nature that leaves you free to enjoy the beauty of the greater Cape St Francis coastline without having to worry about the boring jobs such as cooking your own food and pitching a tent at night. Dubbed a slack packing trail, this 4 day hike includes 3 and 4 star accommodation, most meals, transport and porterage. Beginning in Oyster Bay the trail roves through St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis, along roughhewn coastline and billowy sand dunes, through protected wetlands and fragrant fynbos, breaking at cushy accommodation and fabulous restaurants along the way. Calamari tasting at a working harbour, a canal cruise and a stop at the Seal Point Lighthouse and Penguin Rehabilitation Centre are just a tip off of the highlights that you will enjoy. Day trips can also be arranged.

If the need for speed is calling, Seals can give you a fix with a sandboarding adventure in Jeffreys Bay. Sandboarding is pretty close to snowboarding and anyone can give it a bash, even those without any balance, as you can face the dunes standing up, sitting down or laying flat on your stomach. The beautiful, white dunes in Jeffreys Bay offer some of the best sandboarding conditions in South Africa and all necessary equipment is provided. Dunes of varying sizes and gradients can be tackled as the sea air whips off the ocean to cool your face and you take in the stunning coastal panorama that surrounds you. Excursion typically lasts for 2 hours.

Encounter a wealth of wildlife at the Lombardini Game Farm, less than half an hour from Seals Backpackers. This wicked wildlife viewing destination is nestled in the picturesque Seekoei River Valley region of Jeffreys Bay and offers game viewing either in safari vehicles or on horseback. The relatively small size of the farm makes wildlife spotting fun and mostly easy with guests usually treated to sightings of white rhino, wildebeest, nyala, giraffe, zebra, springbok and buffalo, to name but some. Birdlife is also abundant and iconic photographic images wait to be captured around each bend. Take advantage of the unique opportunity to mingle with quintessential African wildlife without needing hours to find it while searching through acres and acres of bushland.

Ride with the wind on horseback. Papiesfontein Farm is located 10 kilometres from Jeffreys Bay in a region that brings together the unique combination of beach, indigenous bush, river and secluded peace. The trail that you will follow hooks through thickets of coastal fynbos before arriving at the Gamtoos River where gob smacking sand dunes shimmer in the sun, before the circular route begins the journey home along 6 kilometres of untainted and deserted beach. Here you can unleash your inner speed demon and let your hair down as riders are permitted to gallop across the beach or canter in the shallows of the ocean. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins swimming in the sea and wildlife such as tortoise and bushbuck as well as various birds. The guided trail is best suited to intermediate and experienced riders and takes approximately 2 hours to complete.

Return to nature as you sweep through the trees, 30 metres above ground level on an intoxicating canopy tour. The Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour is a unique eco-adventure and one of the fastest growing activities in South Africa that takes you on an unforgettable journey through the remarkable Tsitsikamma indigenous rainforest situated along the Garden Route.  As you fly from one platform to the next along a series of steel cables, professional guides ensure your safety as well as teach you more about the forest ecology and birdlife in the area. Many of the platforms are erected around giant Milkwood trees, some over 700 years old and offer heavenly views of the surrounding verdant landscape. Local bird species that you will possibly see include the famous Knysna loerie and elusive Narina trogon. The tour last between 2 - 4 hours.

Adrenalin junkies won’t want to miss the chance of staring fear in the face and taking up the ultimate challenge of the Bloukrans Bridge. At 216 metres, Bloukrans is the highest commercial bungee bridge in the world and should only be tackled by those with a head for heights. A bungee jump off this bridge will satisfy every thrill seeker’s ultimate desire and, as a bonus,  send you home with photographs, a video and certificate for future bragging rights. Bloukrans uses pendulum bungee technology for a smooth and comfortable jump while jumpers are secured in a full-body harness combined with an ankle connection. The massive bridge spans the breadth of the Bloukrans River and gorge below, and acts as the border between the Eastern and Western Cape. A bridge walk is also offered for those who want the views without the cowabunga jump.

You don’t need to swing from the trees or jump off a bridge attached to a piece of elastic to enjoy the pleasures of Storms River. Just over an hour from Cape St Francis and along the gorgeous Garden Route lies the Storms River Village, peacefully nestled in the Tsitsikamma Forest. While the area is primarily known for the awesome adventure activities it offers, there is also a serene silence that enshrines the forested area and it is great to explore on foot. The Tsitsikamma National Park near the Storms River Mouth is a reserve that covers 80 kilometres of tremendous and dramatic coastline and is well known for its classic, ferny forests and numerous hiking trails, while the Tsitsikamma Forest itself is the oldest indigenous forest in South Africa. Don’t miss out on the spectacular sight of the Storms River Mouth, best viewed from the not-too-scary suspension bridge inside the Tsitsikamma National Park.

Go play in the unspoilt natural beauty of Storms River and the Garden Route National Park. Untouched Adventures dishes out a variety of packages ranging from kayaking and cliff jumping in the Storms River Gorge to scuba diving and snorkelling amidst the marine wonders of the Indian Ocean. Explore tranquil pools, hidden caves and ancient forests as you kayak and float on a lilo through the impressive cliff faces of the Storms River Gorge or immerse yourself into the protected waters of the Garden Route National Park to come face to face with amazing marine life. The park is situated approximately an hour and a half from Cape St Francis and protects a string of natural jewels, ranging from small bays and dramatic ravines to evergreen forests and fynbos, providing the perfect setting for an eco- adventure trip.

While exploring Cape St Francis and its untouched surrounds, Seals Backpackers highly recommends that you take the opportunity to venture into the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve - an area of outstanding natural diversity and part of the Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site. No less than seven of South Africa’s eight biomes are found in this remarkable valley, including fynbos, forest, grassland, succulent Karoo, nama-karoo, sub-tropical thicket and savannah and it stands as one of the richest plant regions in the world. The narrow valley is bounded by the Baviaanskloof Mountains to the north and the Kouga Mountains to the south and features steep mountain passes (you may have to grit your teeth), vast grassy savannahs, narrow gorges and sparkling streams where Cape mountain zebra, eland and savannah buffalo roam. Platefuls of outdoor adventures can be tried here ranging from hiking, mountain biking and 4 × 4 trails to birding and walking through a forest of ancient wild fig trees. Also check out some of South Africa’s cultural history and age-old rock formations while you are there.

Excursions/Day Trips

Lose track of time on a scenic canal cruise. The popular playground of St Francis Bay is just a short drive from Seals Backpackers, where the unique white and black village reminds one somewhat of Venice as the houses hover on the shores of a man-made canal system. The canal waterways zig zag through the village and under small bridges before exiting at the Kromme River and are awesome for a peaceful, lazy cruise on ‘River Break’ a luxury 12 seater barge complete with professional skipper. Fix your eyes on vivid African sunsets, birdlife and small species of wildlife as you motor along at a laid-back pace. The River Break cruise option is flexible and you can catch a quick 1 hour cruise around the canal system or slip into a full day excursion up the Kromme River. Because we like our guests so much you can ask Seals Backpackers to put together a picnic basket for your 1 hour cruise - or bring your own, whichever blows your hair back. Sorry, but you can’t do this solo and a minimum of 2 people are required to book a 1 hour River Break cruise.

When the surf blows flat and you find yourself with time on your hands then Seals Backpackers can keep you entertained on a full day River Break excursion. Leaving from the small boat harbour in St Francis Bay, the barge winds its way through the canal system before moving out into the picturesque Kromme River, forming part of a conservancy and attracting scores of birdlife such as fish eagle, kingfisher, oyster-catcher and drongo, while bushbuck and other small grazers can be seen on the river banks.  As the distance mountain range spills blue shadows on the horizon you detour and follow the flow of the Geelhoud River towards your final destination of the Bat and Boerboon - a private farm and your personal playground for the day, offering a swimming pool, water sports and nature walks. Your visit includes lunch of a calamari starter, followed by a traditional South African ‘braai’ (barbeque) and tempting desert. When shadows draw long, drag your lazy body back to the barge for a slow return cruise to St Francis Bay. Booking a full day river cruise requires a minimum of 6 people and is also popular for team building activities, birthdays and functions and corporate outings.

While Seals Backpackers hits the mark when it comes to sand, surf and fun we are also into our tribe and like to do our bit towards social responsibility in our local community. Betty’s Tour takes you from furry birds to fandangled threads and sweet little smiles as we you introduce you to some of the hard working, non-profit organisations in the greater Cape St Francis area. Kick off at the Penguin Rehabilitation Centre for a talk on why African penguins are on the list of threatened species and, after getting all soft and gushy over these cute birds, a few bucks added to the donation box will be greatly appreciated. There is no entrance fee. Your next stop is a chat with the under 7 age group at Talhado Children’s Haven, a pre-school and after care centre that caters for the rural kids of Sea Vista, before ending at Nomvula’s knitters where awesome talent shines as local ladies smash out gorgeous knitwear for men, women and kids. By simply purchasing a Nomvula’s product you will be helping the local community support their families through job creation, training, education and healthcare.

Volunteering

Within walking distance of Seals Backpackers and situated adjacent to the historic Seal Point Lighthouse is the local penguin rehabilitation centre, a non-profit organisation that relies heavily on the assistance of volunteers and donations from the public. The centre cares mostly for sick, injured, oiled and abandoned African penguins - a critically threatened species, Cape gannets, cormorants, oyster catchers, terns and seagulls and typically treats approximately 350 birds a year. More than half the birds nursed back to health originate from the Bird and St Croix Island colonies in Algoa Bay which collectively support 60% of the global African penguin population.  Inquire at Seals Backpackers reception for more information on getting involved with this worthy cause or visit the official SANCCOB page at www.sanccob.co.za.

Talhado Children’s Haven is a Montessori pre-school catering to under-privileged learners between the ages of 3 and 6. The non-profit organisation has been in operation since 1998 and currently schools approximately 60 children, with many more on the waiting list. Besides a solid education, the school also provides the children with meals, and in the afternoons Talhado turns into an aftercare facility for other kids in the community offering them access to computers and internet, books, puzzles and board games. Volunteers are welcomed with open arms and there are many different areas where aid is needed ranging from fundraisers to aftercare assistance. Please contact Cathryn Hempel on 076 412 6090 for more information.