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Nestled in a fertile valley and ringed by majestic mountains, Swellendam may appear to be merely a picturesque rural village, yet this is the food and wine heartland of South Africa and one of the premier destinations in the world of wine, comparable to Spain, Italy and to France.
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The spectacular scenery of this beautiful valley, where vineyards stretch across the mountain slopes and mighty oaks tower over original Cape Dutch farmhouses, nurtures this peaceful settlement that tells a colourful history.
The valley has of course existed for eons and has no doubt been inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous San and Khoi peoples. The area was known to be verdant and in it’s natural and unspoiled state, was the home to so many of Africa’s wild animals living in what was their natural habitat.
It was only after the Dutch Colonial era when this all changed, after modern day hunters ‘discovered’ the area. It is said that initially the hunters established a trading/replenishment post in the area where the present Swellendam settlement and the old railway station is now situated. There was apparently a flourishing trade in animal skins, meat and elephant tusks etc. until of course the area was denuded of most, if not all of the indigenous animals.
The indigenous flora has also suffered from the onslaught of human habitation and certainly not many indigenous trees and natural fynbos exists anymore. Thankfully the flora and fauna is now protected in the areas under the administration of Cape Nature Conservation (mountain reserves)..