The alluring Pearl of the Boland

Paarl Gimnasium, built in 1858 as a primary school for boys, features Egyptian decorations. Photo: Bright Shamu

The alluring Pearl of the Boland

12 April 2021 | Tourism

As the story goes, an official of the Dutch East India Company saw the granite rock of Paarl Mountain glisten in the sun one day in 1657.

The diamondt was lost over time as de peerl became Paarl, but Afrikaans speakers still refer to the town as die Pêrel rather than Paarl. Established in 1687, it is the third-oldest European settlement in the country.

Paarl’s most famous landmark is the Taal Monument, dedicated to the Afrikaans language. The various tall obelisk-style structures are full of symbolism, partly inspired by poet N.P. van Wyk Louw who saw Afrikaans as a bridge between Europe and “the magical Africa”. The monument high on the mountain is visible from afar. Needless to say that the view from up there is priceless.

Afrikaans is the mother tongue of about seven million people in South Africa. It is the third-most-spoken language of the 11 official languages. Often overlooked: Afrikaans is the home language of some 75% of the Coloured population and 4.6% of South African Indians. The total number of Afrikaans speakers worldwide is estimated at between 15 and 23 million.

Drink delectable wine, be merry and get your adventurous self in gear: go for a full moon picnic at the Taal Monument, spend a night among lions, dive with Nile crocodiles, feed alpacas or just relax at the Spice Route Destination and enjoy tastings, delicious food and glorious views all the way to the Table Mountain Range 60 km away. Lunch reservations are a good idea because the Spice Route is extremely popular. Nevertheless we found the short gravel driveway branching off Suid-Agter Paarl Road as bumpy and corrugated as if it were from Jan van Riebeeck’s time when the horns of ships arriving in Table Bay could be heard as far as die Pêrel.

Also in Suid-Agter Paarl, the main attraction of the Alpaca Loom farm is a herd of 250 alpacas. The petting zoo also includes other animals, and you can watch weavers at work with the silky wool.

Drakenstein Lions Park, a completely private rescue facility, borders on the Old Paarl Road. More than two dozen lions, a tiger and two caracals live in the 50-acre sanctuary. The owner has rescued the big cats from deplorable circumstances, mostly at zoos or circuses abroad. A fenced-in tented camp provides the rare opportunity to spend a night among lions.

At nearby Le Bonheur the thrill is cage-diving with crocs. The crocodile farm has blossomed into an attraction of note, not to be missed when visiting the pearl of the Boland.

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