3 must-try wine festivals in the beautiful Robertson valley

Looking to enjoy some of the best Cape wines, while soaking up gorgeous country scenery? Dax Villanueva, the writer behind popular Cape Town food, wine, travel and lifestyle blog Relax-With-Dax, gives the low-down on three special wine festivals to try in the Robertson valley.

Many people associate the Robertson valley (two hours’ drive from Cape Town) with the Wacky Wine Weekend, which is a crazy wine festival with over 10 000 attendees. But Robertson also has some other amazing wine festivals that are much calmer!

The Robertson Slow festival is all about doing very special things in small groups on various local wine estates. Booking in advance is essential so that the organisers can cater properly for all attendees.

Robertson also hosts Wine on the River, which happens on the Goudmyn farm on the edge of the Breede River. It’s beautiful on the river and festival goers can take a cruise on the river or, if you prefer dry land, you can take a tractor-ride through the vineyards. Many wineries take part in the Wine on the River festival and there is an array of great food options, making it a very special day. Robertson is about two hours away from Cape Town so it’s a good idea to book some accommodation nearby.

Big Bottle: a wine festival where bigger is better!

Dax Villanueva, the writer behind popular Cape Town food, wine, travel and lifestyle blog Relax-With-Dax, is a man of healthy appetites. No surprise then that he says his favourite wine festival in and around Cape Town is one where more is definitely more.

There are some great beer festivals in Cape Town, but wine festivals are more my thing. They are more sophisticated!

There are many great wine festivals in and around Cape Town, but the one that always impresses me is the Big Bottle Festival, which takes place in winter in Cape Town. At this festival all wines are in big bottles, from magnums up to the 27-litre “Primat”.

Not only is it a rare opportunity to try wines that have matured in big bottles, but the winemakers are at the Big Bottle Festival, so you can chat to them and ask them questions.

The food is provided by top chefs and is always superb to match the excellent wines. All tastings and food are included in the ticket price. For the real wine-heads, there are ‘master classes’ with tastings of rare vintages and the like, but those cost extra.

Cape Town’s electronic-only festival pioneers the best beats

The Cape Town Electronic Music Festival brings progressive beats out the basement and onto the main stage.

Cape Town’s electronic scene is diverse, energised but mostly underground and misunderstood by those not in “the know”. The Cape Town Electronic Music Festival is doing big work to change all that, showcasing the best electronic music the city has to offer and introducing the genre to new audiences, both local and visitors.

Taking place in early February, the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival has only been around since 2012, but already it has a solid reputation for bringing the most innovative, relevant and thrilling acts to its stages. Top local acts are given the chance to perform in front of the most enthusiastic (and critical) of crowds, while international pioneers such as Four Tet come to show off their skills and entertain until there’s no more sweat to be sweated.

They take their electro seriously at this festival. In addition to live acts, festival goers can attend a number of workshops and specialised showcases over the course of three days.

The Cape Town Electronic Music Festival is held in the iconic Cape Town City Hall in the city centre. Come feel this Edwardian building reverberate with progressive beats.

Cape Town’s summer festivals are where love and live music meet

Over the summer months, Cape Town and surrounds play host to a wide variety of music festivals – from folk to rock and more – and they’re a must for any music lover.

Looking for a thrilling summer festival experience? Cape Town has it all. In October Rocking the Daisies, one of South Africa’s biggest music festivals, draws thousands to Cloof Wine Estate in Darling, where seven stages boast top local and international acts. Expect to pay a premium price as tickets range from R650 to R950 for a full four-day trip.

Synergy Live takes place over the last weekend of November at Theewaterskloof Dam in Villiersdorp and boosts a weekend of top international headliners, local live talent and electronic artists to welcome in the holiday season. Tickets range in price from R200 to R600 for a full weekend.

Taking place in Swellendam on the last weekend of January, Up the Creek is one of the longest-running South African music festivals, charmingly set beside a river, where you can float leisurely by on your lilo as bands rock the River Stage. Tickets for this cosy festival with limited numbers sell out at a rapid pace and R900 will get you in the gate.

The Flamjangled Tea Party is another must-do and is like stepping straight into Wonderland, as three days of music and fun and tomfoolery take place at Elandskloof Wine Farm on the last weekend of March. Tickets range in price from R200 to R500 for the full weekend.

Come play at Cape Town’s quirkiest music festival!

There is no festival in Cape Town like the Flamjangled Tea Party. Expect a weekend of dress-up, games, silliness, dancing, playing and incredible live acts, all on a beautiful farm settting an easy drive from the city centre. Festival organiser Regan Tacon of GoodTimes Events, explains what makes this festival an unmissable melting pot of fun, music and eccentricity.

The Flamjangled Tea Party is a weekend-long outdoor festival that aims to create an event firmly rooted in the eclectic, artistic and humorous side of life.

The Flamjangled Tea Party is all about mixing things up, being eclectic, frivolous, light hearted, chilled, silly, cheeky, naughty, arty and fun….The vibe at this festival is one you won’t find elsewhere: it’s unlike anything else in Cape Town. It is super relaxed and we take being silly very seriously!

There are many really satisfying elements of organising — and experiencing — The Flamjangled Tea Party. It’s like smiles on dials. People leave the event invigorated, not burnt out. They exit happy and full of life, and this is what we are after.

This ain’t no ‘thrash’! This is a bunch of people who love life, having the time of their lives with friends old and new, in a beautiful setting. We want people to leave feeling as if they have just stepped out of one of their favourite childhood dreams where everything is smiley and happy.

Dance to urban beats at Cape Town’s ultimate electro party

Craig Stack from nightlife and entertainment website MyCityByNight gives the low-down on an annual event that has become the preferred destination for electronica local and international enthusiasts.

The Cape Town Electronic Music Festival (CTEMF) is an annual inner city electronic music festival that brings together Cape Town’s diverse party scenes with a lineup that includes the full spectrum of electronic dance music, from techno to house, gqom, hip-hop, electronica and more.

What makes this festival all the more special is that it is not just a showcase of local talent.  CTEMF also focuses on providing a platform for international and local acts to share the stage – their knowledge of and passion for music – through a series of workshops in the lead-up to the core festival.

Apart from being the premier local, inner city music festival, CTEMF is renowned for consistently curating a world class lineup of local DJ and acts that draws music lovers and party people from all walks of life across South Africa.

The production value of the festival always exceeds expectations.

CTEMF is an education in electronic music – an audio visual experience that’ll leave you wanting more.

Enjoy close Encounters with top documentary filmmakers

Every June, Cape Town is treated to the Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival, featuring the best of local and international documentary films. Here’s a trailer of what to expect…

When the wet clutches of the Cape Town winter start to take hold it’s a good idea to find refuge in a cinema. Thankfully, June sees the arrival of the Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival, a 10-day showcase of the best of local documentary film-making and hot “doccies” doing the rounds on the international circuit.

Be prepared for the type of socially conscious films that make you angry, sad, hopeful and just a bit in awe of the big world. The kind of films that give you dinnertime conversation starters for weeks after you’ve watched them.

The films, of which there were over 40 at the 2015 festival, screen at Ster-Kinekor’s Cinema Nouveau in the V&A Waterfront and at independent movie house The Labia in the heart of the city centre and, a stalwart of the local indie film scene.

Like any good festival, Encounters offers more than just movies: expect after-screening question-and-answer sessions with film-makers, and panel discussions that take you deeper into the creation and conceptualisation of the films. Those in the business can also sign up for master classes with film-makers to hone their skills behind the camera.

Float your boat Up The Creek at Cape Town’s most laid-back music festival

If you find yourself emerged to the hips in a slow-flowing river while grooving to the funk-ska sounds of a live band playing on the riverbank, you’d better drink that experience in, as Up the Creek comes round but once a year.

Just about two hours’ drive from Cape Town (plus a short dirt road slicing through lush farmlands), about 2 000 “Creekers” converge on the banks of the Breede River in the high time of summer (usually late January or early February) for Up the Creek – one of the smaller offerings on the South African festival calender. However, the intimacy and freedom of movement found at this festival are but two of many, many good reasons music lovers from Cape Town and all over South Africa keep returning to experience the delight of Up the Creek.

Though excellent line-ups of rockers, DJ’s and mellow one-man acoustic acts continually ensure there’s no lack of quality music (several food stalls and bars take care of the other needs), the highlight of Up the Creek is without doubt the mornings and afternoons spent in the river. Nothing quite compares to that feeling of splashing your fists furiously into the water – to indicate applause, you see – while the most colourful and creative floatables (I’ve even seen an active barbeque station drifting around, operated as if it’s the most natural thing in the world) add to the festival character unique to Up the Creek.

Swimming attire is a must if you’re heading to Up the Creek … though not compulsory if you’ll be one of the many “Creekers” indulging in a late-night river dip.

Go beyond the surf at Wavescape’s outdoor film festivals

Every December, the Wavescape Surf Film Festival brings a medley of surf films, art, music and ocean conservation education to Cape Town. Organiser Steve Pike tells all about these popular film events.

Wavescape is not just a surf film festival: our focus is on ocean sustainability and conservation. Although surfing was originally the central thread that held the festival together we’ve evolved to include events that are more about the ocean. So you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy Wavescape’s screenings.

The film festival component is mostly surf films, but surf films are eminently watchable, even from a non-surfing point of view, with very beautiful shots of line-ups of waves and coasts. Sometimes they’re documentaries that tell interesting stories, for example we featured one about a Chilean big wave surfer called Ramón Navarro who was trying to save a small fishing community from development.  Another interesting feature was a film about a group of guys who camped in a remote place in the fjords of Norway.

We chose Clifton Fourth beach as the outdoor venue for our annual film screenings because it is probably the most sheltered beach in Cape Town in terms of the wind, and it’s also a beautiful location. The beach itself is big enough to hold a crowd of a couple of thousand people.

As part of the festival we host Slide Night, which features various speakers who have in-depth knowledge of the ocean. Slide Night brings a scientific, educational and activist element to the festival. It gives scientists and people who might otherwise not have a platform the opportunity to show what they do and tell stories about their connection with the ocean.

We’ve hosted talks by a shark scientist, a sailor who has circumnavigated the globe, a big wave surfer an expert on orca whales in False Bay and an expert on climate change on the role of the Southern Ocean in regulating atmospheric pressure.

So there’s definitely a lot more to Wavescape than just surfing movies.

Holi One Festival is a beautiful chaos of colour and kindness

Cape Town’s own version of the international Holi One Colour Festival turns the Grand Parade in front of City Hall into a Jackson Pollock artwork of sorts every March, as thousands of party-goers all dressed in white dance into the night while pelting each other with coloured powder.

Though the organisers stress that the Holi One Colour Festival (also known as the We Are One Colour Festival) is not a religious festival and is not associated with the original Indian Holi festival, this Hindu celebration did serve as inspiration. Author and journalist Johannes de Villiers tells how he found some spiritual essence in the festival he loves more than any other.

“The spiritual element of Holi One, and the way you experience it, all depends on how you define ‘spiritual’. Holi started as a (Hindu) religious festival, but very few of the people who attend Holi events in Western cities are Hindus. But my experience is that the Holi One Colour Festival events are marked by an atmosphere of peace, intense joy, huge kindness and solidarity among the revellers. I would consider that as spiritual as anything.

There seems to be a growing demand for less toxic events of this sort: sober raves, yoga trance parties and the Holi One festivals are places where people can be joyful together without all the negative karma you pick up in many other party spots. Holi One is an exuberantly happy party, but you are still smiling the morning after as well. That’s why people return every year to take part in this festival.

For optimal enjoyment of the festival, it’s important to have nice people as your festival partners. If you thrive on negative drama, Holi won’t work for you. But if you are part of the world-wide love revolution, the kind of person that doesn’t mind wearing a flower in your hair, then Holi is the place to be.”