A newly hatched turtle in the St Lucia Wetlands. Image: Mike Brice/Pixabay

Magical March: Three top tourism experiences in the coming month

From the Cape Winelands to the remotest beaches of KwaZulu-Natal, here are three seasonal tourism experiences you’ll never forget.


A newly hatched turtle in the St Lucia Wetlands. Image: Mike Brice/Pixabay

From watching baby turtles hatch and make their way to the sea to sipping some of the world’s finest wines under a cascade of autumn leaves, here are some of the best tourism experiences you’ll find at this time of year.  

Experience turtles hatching in St Lucia

The stretch of coast from St Lucia to Kosi Bay is known as “turtle country”. In March this is the place to be to see baby turtles hatching in their thousands. Head to this magnificent coastline for a rare opportunity to see this spectacle and gain a greater understanding of these fascinating creatures. 

The pristine northern KwaZulu-Natal coast is home to a variety of turtle species, including the large Leatherback, Loggerhead, Olive Ridley, Green and Hawkbill. The turtles breed in the warm shallows, and lay eggs along the isolated and protected coast.  

iSimangaliso Wetland Park a haven for turtles

During late February and March, baby turtles hatch on balmy nights and head into the sea en masse. Watching thousands of turtles make this epic journey is one of the most spellbinding and spectacular things to see.

The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park — now known as iSimangaliso Wetland Park — was declared South Africa’s first Natural World Heritage Site. It extends from Mapelane (Cape St Lucia) in the South to Kosi Bay Nature Reserve in the North.

The park is the premier destination for turtle watching in South Africa and renowned as one of the country’s most beautiful sections of coastline — tourism experiences you’ll struggle to forget!

Experience birds flocking to the Kalahari

When it rains in the Kalahari Desert, the land is transformed into an oasis of lush, green vegetation and undulating seas of grass, drawing animals and birds from near and far. Grazers arrive to drop their young, closely followed by predators on the hunt.

Thousands of migratory birds also arrive to breed and feed. Any time it rains in the Kalahari is a fantastic time to travel there and see the African plains come alive. Sporadic rains can arrive in March, which is still part of the region’s summer rainfall season.

Stark salt pans miraculously transformed

Rains bring about an incredible transformation of dry, cracked plains. The Makgadikgadi pan in north-eastern Botswana is surrounded by the Kalahari and lies southeast of the Okavango Delta. These and other pans miraculously morph into one of Africa’s most important wetland sites.

As the vast pans fill up, they become a glistening oasis for wildlife and thousands of species of migratory birds. Once-barren pans soon teem with life as desert birds like the ostrich and sand grouse, and a plethora of water birds, arrive.

Towards the end of the season, flamingos descend in their thousands to rest on the pans and feed in the rich, saline water before continuing their migration.

Experience autumn in the Winelands

As shadows begin to lengthen and summer begins to wane in the Western Cape, the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows of autumn start to emerge. This is a wonderful time to head to the Cape to take in some spectacular scenery.

The Cape Winelands is one of the country’s most beautiful regions. Add to that some Cape-Dutch architecture, magnificent mountain vistas and award-winning restaurants, and you have the makings of an unforgettable tourism experience.

Head there in March to explore the area’s spectacular valleys, taste superb wines, dine on gourmet food and take in the glorious season-changing scenery of the Winelands. The largest wine-producing region in the Western Cape, the Cape Winelands is home to 18 official wine routes and two brandy routes.

Patchwork quilts of rolling vineyards

The routes wind through the magical valleys of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, and continue up the popular Route 62, famed to be the longest wine route in the world.

Regal estates with beautiful Cape-Dutch homesteads nestle against the backdrop of majestic mountains. Valley floors are patchwork quilts of verdant, rolling vineyards as cool mountain mists swirl across the landscape.

Begin your Winelands ramble in Paarl, renowned for its scenic beauty and deep viticulture and fruit-growing heritage. It offers historical charm, culture, architectural heritage, and a diverse wine and country living experience, not to mention excellent vintages at its many wine estates.

A little piece of France in Franschhoek

As tourism experiences go, a meander through vineyards and mountain backdrops to the Franschhoek Valley and the town of Franschhoek is hard to beat. Founded by the French Huguenots after their exodus to Africa, this little French corner is known as the Food and Wine Capital of the Cape.

Take a leisurely stroll around this quaint, sophisticated town, then enjoy a well-deserved lunch. Explore the history of the region in the local museums or taste some of the country’s finest wines at the surrounding wineries.

Stellenbosch: The best of Cape hospitality

After a hearty lunch, head to Stellenbosch, the second oldest town in South Africa and the historic heart of the country’s wine region. A gracious blend of 18th-century Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian buildings is evident on Dorp Street, where huge oaks still shade original water furrows.

Spend the days exploring beautiful valleys and enjoying sublime wine, cheese and chocolate tastings. At night you’ll find the luxurious accommodation and the warm hospitality the Cape is famous for — some more brilliant tourism experiences to remember.

ALSO READ: Travel trends to watch: Exclusive-use safari destinations on the up