African Safaris Consultants Blog Fri, 04 Jul 2014 06:26:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New Immigration Law: Travelling To South Africa With Children Under 18 Fri, 04 Jul 2014 06:26:17 +0000 South Africans have been in uproar over the new Immigration Act, which has recently been passed. It stipulates that anyone travelling to South Africa (or through it) with children under 18 years must show a full unabridged birth certificate (that means both parents full names need to appear on the birth certificate), as well as a valid passport by the 1st of October 2014.

This has left many families travelling with kids feeling panicked as the summer holidays for South Africans are just around the corner. Whilst babies born in Europe, the UK or the US automatically receive an unabridged birth certificate at birth, this is not the case in South Africa. Reports suggest that applying for an unabridged birth certificate is a lengthy process and could take anything up to 8 weeks to be processed or even much more! This causes South African families much distress and is, of course, the reason why so many families are up in arms. Whilst European and US families have the required document, they may not have been aware of the fact that they would need to show this on entering South Africa.

Father and child hiking

The new laws apply to all children under 18.

A spokesperson for Home Affairs has confirmed that they have decided to take the imminent school holidays into account and that they would postpone this new regulation to come into effect as of 1 October 2014. They also confirmed that a certified copy of the unabridged certificate would suffice, and there would be no need to produce the original document.

Says the CEO of ASATA (the Association of South African Travel Agents) Otto de Vries: “Stakeholders such as travel agents, airlines, tour operators and airport staff worldwide need appropriate notice in order to be educated on such changes in regulations, we can only foresee confusion and negative outcomes for the South African travel industry.” De Vries recommends that all passengers travelling with children under 18 flying into South Africa take note of this regulation and ensure that they have all the necessary paperwork to hand to avoid delays and disappointment in their travel plans.

The new immigration law has been put into effect to try to curb the spiralling global trend of increased child trafficking and child abduction, and seeks to ensure that the child is travelling with its biological parents or appointed guardians. If the youngster is travelling with only one parent, they will have to show the unabridged birth certificate, as well as an affidavit from the other parent (whose name appears on the unabridged birth certificate) or court order granting them full legal guardianship which proves that they are authorised to travel with this particular child. In the event of the child travelling without either one of its biological parents, a copy of the passports or identify documents of both parents, as well as an affidavit and the unabridged birth certificate is required.

child with backpack

The new laws aim to curb child trafficking.

When asked how immigration officials would verify unabridged birth certificates in foreign languages at the airport, the spokesperson for Home Affairs had this to say: “A person’s name is spelled the same on a passport and birth certificate, regardless of the language. The unabridged birth certificate is to ensure that the child is travelling with the awarded parents or guardians. For this reason, if a letter has been written to give approval for a child to travel with another adult, this documentation should be provided in English. We would then check the person’s name and verify it against the passport and unabridged birth certificate.”

We urge all our clients to please take note of these new regulations which come into effect as of 1 October 2014 and to have all the necessary documents with them on entering South Africa. We would hate for you to have the start of your holiday spoilt by missing paperwork!

&Beyond Phinda Mountain tour1

With the paperwork done, it’s time to relax!

]]> 0
African Safaris for Seniors Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:30:38 +0000 Travelling across the great plains of Africa on safari doesn’t have to be a young person’s game. At African Safari Consultants, we can tailor safari packages to suit all ages. From the very beginning of your trip, we will deliver as much assistance as needed. Like meet-and-greets at Cape Town or Johannesburg International Airport to help you get through immigration and customs services and to personally guide you to your connecting flight to your safari lodge. As well as keeping your family back home informed on a regular basis as to your whereabouts and well being.

While some may think that an African safari is far too adventurous for the older generation, we simply have to disagree. Being in the African bush is an ideal place for rest, relaxation and contemplation. The only physical effort that is required is to enjoy being surrounded by incredible scenery, listening to birdsong, looking out for passing animals while reading a book or sipping on a refreshing drink. And when you go on a game drive, just sit back and let the expert guides escort you around the reserve in comfortable open top safari vehicles tracking the Big Five, identifying the birds and in most cases, getting you right up close to the animals.

When we have requests for senior safaris, we like to design trips to meet our guest’s specifications and individual requirements. For example if you have difficulty walking or have an aversion for long road trips, need frequent comfort stops or have dietary restrictions, we’ll accommodate your needs.

Safaris for Seniors

Multi-generational African safaris are becoming increasingly popular.

It is recommended that you spend at least three nights in one place to avoid the stress of unpacking and re-packing as well as have the time to appreciate where you are. We also recommend that you consider flying between destinations as the distances in Africa are vast, and the many dirt roads are often very bumpy. We strive to match you with lodgings that have easy access and fewer stairs, and we’ll always book the rooms that are closer to the lodge’s public area. Read on to find out more about our recommended African safaris for seniors…

Cape Town

Cape Town is the ideal place for any traveller and the perfect destination for the senior traveller. Not only is it home to some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery, but the hotels in Cape Town count as some of the world’s best. This city also moves at a slower pace, and with one of our carefully chosen private tour guides, you will find the city fascinating and very accessible.

One of the highlights for many are the harbour and Table Bay cruises that depart from the V&A Waterfront Cape Town daily, as well as Robben Island tours to visit the famous prison cell that Nelson Mandela occupied. Kirstenbosch Gardens showcases some of the continent’s most impressive fauna which is easily accessible with broad pathways (and wheelchair access) and even boasts a nifty electric golf cart for those who want to get off their feet. If it’s cooking you’re interested in, head straight for the Bo Kaap for a unique Cape Malay cooking course .The best part of this, of course, is eating your treats afterwards! The Cape Town events calendar is filled with exciting exhibitons, festivals and events and this city is steeped in history, evident in its many landmarks and monuments. The Cape Town Castle is but one of these icons and, like most well-visited areas in the city, offers several guided tours. For accommodation in Cape Town we suggest staying at The Mount Nelson – steeped in history, The Nellie is one of the most iconic and elegant hotels in town with beautifully landscaped gardens and its famous High Tea.

Waterfront (image by Dook Photography)

The famous V&A Waterfront.


The Winelands are arguably one of South Africa’s most prized and beautiful areas. The historic town of Franschhoek, where several fun-filled events take place throughout the year, is a firm favourite with visitors young and old. Known for its array of top-notch restaurants boasting delectable cuisines, this town certainly won’t leave you hungry. Or thirsty for that matter! There is nothing like savouring a glass of red wine while sitting next to the vineyard it came from. Be sure to be in town for the Franschhoek Literary Festival in May, when the area becomes abuzz with famous authors and journalists. There are numerous incredible Franschhoek accommodation options to choose from, all within easy walking distance from the friendly town centre where celebrated restaurants sit cheek by jowl alongside art galleries and boutiques.

Kruger National Park

If seeing the Big Five is what you have always longed to experience, then the Kruger National Park is where you need to go. Only a short flight (or 5 hour drive) away from Johannesburg, the Kruger National Park is home to several private game reserves and even more luxury lodges. Kruger National Park accommodation such as the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve lodges have specially designed platform ramps for easy access onto the safari vehicles. Wilderness Safaris,known for their dedication to seamless logistical handling of their guests, also offer some incredible camps throughout Southern Africa. Just follow the Kruger National Park map, and you are sure to encounter some of Africa’s most iconic animals. There is little need for exertion on these drives – all you’ll need to do is sit tight, enjoy the scenery, and take lots of photographs to show your grandchildren.

Kruger National Park

Get your ‘Big Five’ fix at the Kruger National Park.

Victoria Falls

One of the most breathtaking scenes in Southern Africa has to be Victoria Falls. The mammoth waterfall billows over the edge of the African crust, leaving behind only its spray. Little wonder then that it’s earned the nickname ‘The Smoke That Thunders’. Even though Vic Falls is known as the adventure capital of Africa with all manner of wild white water action and bungee jumping activities on offer, there are plenty of ‘soft’ adventure options for the less adventurous! From river cruises down the Zambezi River to relaxed elephant back rides to helicopter flights over the Falls. Accommodation around the Falls is plentiful, and we suggest either staying at the historic Victoria Falls Hotel or at the Royal Livingstone Hotel, both hotels have front row seats of the Falls. The Royal Livingstone offers a convenient golf cart service between the public areas and your room.

Victoria Falls helicopter

A Heli flip over Victoria Falls is a sight to behold!

Gorilla trekking

Gorilla trekking is on everyone’s bucket list, and although you technically need to be fit to walk up into the rain forest, getting face to face with the gorilla’s has become more accessible for less able guests. Gorilla Forest Camp has specially customised sedan chairs with support and harness which allows guests to be carried into the rainforest to track the gorillas in their natural habitat. Consistently rated as one of the best gorilla trekking lodges in Uganda, Sanctuary’s Gorilla Forest Camp is tucked away in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

If going on safari has been a lifelong dream of yours, but you think that the chance may have passed you by and that going on safari is a younger person’s game, think again. Surprise the grandchildren and pick one of the above or take an extended trip (you have earned it!) and sample all of them. Either way we promise you will have the time of your life.

gorilla trekking

Seeing gorillas in their natural environment is a joy unlike any other.

]]> 0
Our Top 7 Romantic Weekend Getaways in Africa Mon, 30 Jun 2014 08:17:22 +0000 What is more romantic than a stroll down a perfectly white beach with not a soul in sight and the waves crashing at your feet? Africans have a deep affinity for a love story. At many places in Africa (from restaurants to safari lodges) when the staff get wind of a honeymoon couple or a couple celebrating a milestone wedding anniversary, they tend to go to extreme lengths to make the occasion as memorable as possible. It could be a special candle-lit private dinner in the sand at the water’s edge, or even a pathway of rose petals leading to a romantically set up bush bubble bath.

In Mozambique for example, you can expect to be boat transferred to one of the private islands for a sumptuous beach picnic for just the two of you. For our Northern Hemisphere readers who have summer minds focusing on sand and sun and pretty white beaches, we have compiled this list of our favourite romantic beach weekend getaways. There’s nothing quite like a beach holiday to feed the soul and serenade the senses, so here are our top romantic weekend getaways in Africa…

1. Cape Town

Cape Town is blessed with beautiful beaches even though it’s a biggish cosmopolitan city. Locals and visitors alike can escape the urban humdrum and sink their toes into the sand, hold hands and breathe in the salty air literally within a 10 min drive from the city centre. Camps Bay and Clifton beaches are the most glam and, therefore, attract young, trendy, body beautiful romantics. But other tucked away beaches like Boulders beach and Bakoven are perfect places for kissing behind a rock while watching the sun dip into the Atlantic. Sorry, but skinny dipping here is only for the very brave and the water temps are rarely above 18’C!

We recommend staying at The Twelve Apostles Hotel on the way to Camps Bay beach. This hotel is as much of a Cape Town institution (we also love the Bay Hotel Camps Bay) as its namesake suggests, with the mountain range right behind it. It is a luxurious affair which comprises of 55 suites, a state-of-the-art Spa and the now-famous Azure restaurant – which itself draws guests from far and wide. If the stellar services provided at the hotel are not enough then the breathtaking views over the Atlantic and the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range might just do the trick.

The 12 Apostles Dining Room view.

The 12 Apostles Dining Room view.

2. Hermanus

Most people know that Hermanus is famous for its whales, but did you know that it also boasts a Blue Flag beach (an international rating award for various levels of pristine-ness)? Couples will love to walk the cliff path, watch the breaching whales, and enjoy the wide choice of restaurants and shopping in this pretty coastal village on the Garden Route map. If you’re looking for natural beauty and solitude, we suggest you avoid the busy December/ January holiday season.

We recommend staying at the Mosselberg on Grotto Beach. This five-star guesthouse is one of the most luxurious accommodations in Hermanus, located on the stunning blue flag Grotto beach. If it’s a homey atmosphere with refined touches you’re after then the Mosselberg is exactly the place. Head down to the quaint town during whaling season from June to November and you’ll be near guaranteed a glimpse of these majestic creatures from your bedroom.

Mosselberg on Grotto

Mosselberg on Grotto.

3. Garden Route

Lagoons, sand dunes, pretty beaches and protected coves: the Garden Route is a treasure trove for couples wanting to sneak away on an intimate coastal retreat. Perfect for self-drive holidays, the Garden Route is a very accessible and scenic road trip from Cape Town, and is also the gateway to Knysna and the Eastern Cape Game Reserves.

We recommend staying at Oceana Beach & Wildlife Reserve, perfect for romantic getaways. The Oceana offers guests luxurious suites, a world class spa and the opportunity to interact with animals on one of the famed game drives through this spectacular wildlife reserve. Love struck couples could also visit the Knysna Elephant Park for a close encounter with these majestic beasts. The lodge has also become well-known as a wedding venue on the South Africa Garden Route, a fact that helps to support our claim of its romantic atmosphere.

Oceana Night View

Oceana Night View.

4. Kwa Zulu Natal

The water temperature of the ocean on the KwaZulu Natal coast is a lot warmer than the Cape coast, so skinny dipping is definitely more of an option! The climate is more tropical, and coastal forests are alive with birdsong and big leafed indigenous vegetation. It’s not quite the Bahamas, but couples wanting a languid beach holiday with a tropical vibe won’t be disappointed. There’s the opportunity to go diving, swimming with dolphins, and discovering sea turtles hatching.

We recommend staying at The Oyster Box, which was rated as the most luxurious hotel in the country in 2011 when the newly married Prince and Princess of Monaco stayed there on their honeymoon. Open since 1947, it’s safe to say that The Oyster Box isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it only seems to be growing from strength to strength with the continual addition of facilities like deluxe pools, an in-house cinema and one of the top five rated spas in the country.

The Pool at The Oyster Box.

The Pool at The Oyster Box.

5. Mozambique

Little else is as romantic as a couples massage with a view of Mozambique’s crystal clear waters or a sunset sail on a traditional dhow. Still not convinced? How about a remote beach picnic with only you, your loved one and some of the finest seafood the eastern coast of Africa has to offer. Mozambique is like no place on earth and certainly a beach lover’s paradise. One of the most romantic aspects of the country is the plethora of private islands including those in the Quirimbas and Bazaruto Archipelagos. There are also many opportunities to delve deeper into these blue waters through scuba diving and snorkelling expeditions. The region is home to stunning coral reefs and secluded offshore islands.

We recommend staying at Mejumbe Private Island. If it’s complete isolation you’re after then Mejumbe Private Island is the place for you. As the name suggests, the island, located in the Quirimbas Archipelago, is an exclusive slice of paradise reserved for the luckiest of travelers. There are only 12 chalets making for an individualized and intimate island experience. The staff are attentive and ready to provide an exceptional beach getaway.

Medjumbe Pool Dinner

Medjumbe Pool Dinner.

6. Zanzibar

For decades, Zanzibar has been known as the world’s premier honeymoon and beach holiday destination. And with good reason! Whether lazing on soft sands next to deep blue waters or strolling hand-in-hand through the quaint narrow streets of the town capital Stone Town, the island is simply oozing with romance. The coastline is filled with sunbathing potential, making it tough to choose just one beach, but it’s a well-known fact that Nungwi Beach on the north of Zanzibar is one of the best. And don’t forget the food! A mix of many influences, including Portuguese and Arabic, the local cuisine is enough to tantalize even the sleepiest of taste buds.

We recommend staying at the Mnemba Island Lodge. If it’s a private beach getaway and barefoot luxury that you’re looking for head straight to Mnemba Island. Accommodating just 20 guests, the island offers an intimate and in-touch experience. Many great services are on offer including scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking trips. At Mnemba, guests get their own slice of private beach for the duration of their stay.

Mnemba Island Lodge

Mnemba Island Lodge.

7. Malawi

Not many honeymooners think of Malawi when it comes to romantic destinations around the world, but this magical country has much to offer when given a chance. Nicknamed the “Warm Heart of Africa”, Malawi is actually the perfect place for off-the-beaten-track romance with secluded game lodges, breathtaking scenery and endless stretches of turquoise waters. What makes Malawi so exciting is how different its terrain is: from the serenity of Lake Malawi to the steep cliffs that surround it, this country will keep you on your toes.

We recommend staying at Kaya Mawa. Escape to this secluded paradise which was placed in the Top 10 most romantic places on earth by Condé Nast magazine. This retreat manages to strike a remarkable balance between beach holiday and African safari. There are so many ways to experience the spoils of nature here. Whether you’re waterskiing or mountain biking through the island’s varied terrain, Kaya Mawa has something for everyone.

Kaya Mawa

Kaya Mawa

]]> 0
Where To See Giraffes in Africa Fri, 27 Jun 2014 11:08:43 +0000 If you want to see giraffes, you have to stick your neck out a bit. For starters look up above the treetops – there’s one mammal here on the plains with a better view of the savannah than anyone else. For sheer grace and impression nothing beats the site of these giants ambling across the road in front of you, with their unusual gait and sentinel heads atop a giant neck. Seeing them inside a zoo is common, but seeing them freely roaming the wilds, with their bird’s eye view of the animal kingdom, is truly a memorable part of your safari.

Giraffes are one of the most majestic animals you’re likely to see on an African safari, and are quite common residents. They are not endangered and browse in herds of up to 40 or so by day. To predators they are quite well camouflaged, but to us humans, their long necks stick out like tall poppies .They can be spotted all year round, but if you want to see baby giraffe in particular, the best time to visit is in early summer which runs from September to December.

Giraffe Sandstorm

Giraffes are strangely elegant, despite their size.

Giraffa Camelopardis (in Latin meaning a cross between a camel and horse) is one of the best-loved animals among the popular species of folklore. From childhood, we’ve known them in Aesop tales and children’s books with striking pictures of giraffes. They are widely found across Africa, confined now mostly to game reserves that stretch from South Africa’s Kruger Park to small pockets in West Africa.

Interesting facts about giraffes – there are in fact at least seven common sub-species of giraffes in Africa each identified by a distinct skin pattern, depending on whether you spot them in Central Africa, the Kalahari, Sudan or Nigeria. They might seem like ungainly animals, standing some 2m high at the hip with necks that often tower more than 5m from the ground, but make no mistake this is one of the fastest animals on the plains, capable of galloping 50 kilometres per hour. Although speedy, they have little to run away from as they are hunted by few predators and calmly munch on the treetop foliage (with distinctive giraffe sounds) that others can’t reach. The neck extension is a classic Darwinian adaption for survival.

Acacia is the favourite giraffe diet and is a common, thorny, flat-topped and hardy tree found in semi-arid or sub-tropical woodland, and frequent giraffe behaviour is to see them craning their necks to reach the thorns which its durable tongue makes light work of. With no competition for grazing, the giraffe gets through 30kgs of leaves a day. With this convenient and unchallenged food-chain they are far from endangered.

Giraffe Tongue

A giraffe’s tongue is long, flexible and hardened against thorny branches.

Where To See Giraffes in Africa

1. East Africa

The plains of the Serengeti and Masai Mara are quintessential safari spotting country; wide plains inside the African rift valley typified by grasslands and flat-topped trees offering a perfect shot for the camera, as giraffe heads tower above the low canopy. Big storms bring thundering rain turning the landscape a lush green. Here you might spot the rare Reticulated Giraffe (c. reticulata), the Rothschild Giraffe (c. rothschildi) or the more common Masai Giraffe (c. tippelskirchi,).

Where To Stay

Giraffe Manor Nairobi: sounds improbable but this iconic 1930s boutique hotel is located just outside the city near the Ngong Hills, and includes the Giraffe Centre for rescued animals. It has become well-known for re-introducing Rothschild giraffes back into the wild. There are 12 acres of private land (with beautifully maintained gardens and courtyards) and 140 acres of indigenous forest with the Nairobi National Park nearby. The Giraffe Manor is all about giraffes and world famous for having close encounters with these magnificent creatures.

Amara Selous Luxury Tented Camp: is in the Selous Game Reserve – a World Heritage site with endless grasslands perfect for spotting giraffe. It’s noted for pristine wilderness and plenty of animals. Relax in the elevated pool gazing over the Great Ruaha River and wait for thirsty giraffe to amble up to the waterside.

Giraffe Manor

Giraffe Manor breakfast table.

2. Kruger National Park, South Africa

The Kruger National Park is an obvious choice, having a large population of common species, with game sightings prolific and a suitable giraffe habitat. The Pilansberg National Park near Sun City is more convenient, but requires more patience. Madikwe Reserve in the far north is drier making them easier to spot while The Hluhluwe (pronounced shoo-shluee) Imfolozi Game Reserves in Northern Natal are lusher than their inland counterparts. The private Sabi Sabi Reserve has plenty of giraffes too. In fact, almost all reserves in South Africa are likely to be stocked with this common species. Look out for the South African giraffe (c. giraffa).

Where To Stay

Hamilton’s Tented Camp: Situated in the heart of the Kruger Park and reminiscent of a bygone era. Game drives almost always include giraffe. It’s a luxurious affair with a long history and is situated in prime giraffe country, perfect for taking exquisite giraffe pictures. There’s a convenient flight connection to this part of Eastern South Africa.

Madikwe River Lodge: sits on the banks of the Groot Marico River, in a malaria-free reserve, with frequent giraffe sightings from the camp itself.

Thanda Safari Lodge: in a private game reserve in Kwazulu-Natal, comprising nine suites with panoramic views of Zululand. Giraffe are plentiful in this park which is full of their favourite acacia, along with the Big Five.

Thanda Safari Lodge

Thanda Safari Lodge.

3. Etosha National Park, Namibia

Etosha National Park is Namibia’s biggest game reserve and a great place to spot giraffe thanks to flat wide open spaces. Also, being drier than other parks, the bush and trees don’t hide the animals and they are forced to the watering holes more often. Here you will see the Angola Giraffe (c. angolensis).

Where To Stay

Onguma Bush Camp: is a classic safari-style accommodation with big game viewing overlooking a waterhole in a private reserve bordering the Etosha National Park.

4. Zimbabwe

Hwange National Park near Victoria Falls is one of the region’s best stocked national parks and, even on a simple self-drive excursion from Victoria Falls by rental car, you’re likely to come across these lofty animals sauntering across one of the paved roads that take you to the main camps.

Where To Stay

The Hide: has consistently been voted Zimbabwe’s top game camp, with its prime setting inside the park and a satisfying offering of game drives, bush walking, hide viewing or sitting overlooking the waterhole from the tented camp.

Whichever location you choose to see these fascinating and elegant animals, a safari just wouldn’t quite be the same without seeing giraffes!

The Hide Zimbabwe

The Hide, Zimbabwe.

]]> 2
Kirstenbosch Tree Canopy Walkway Opened In Cape Town Fri, 20 Jun 2014 08:57:05 +0000 Cape Town’s beloved Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens has welcomed another addition to its horticultural family – the Tree Canopy Walkway. Officially opened on 17 May this year, the walkway celebrates 100 years of the gardens’ existence. This steel and timber creation overlooks some of the most impressive collections of indigenous flora in the region and also allows for breath-taking panoramas of the surrounding areas. A collaboration between Mark Thomas Architects and the engineering firm Henry Fagan and Partners, the canopy is structurally innovative whilst at the same time being respectful of its African surroundings.

Nicknamed ‘The Boomslang’ which means ‘tree snake’, the walkway appears to be exactly that. Designed to mimic the skeleton of a snake, this mammoth metal walkway curves and winds its way through the richest and most indigenous gardens in the Southern Hemisphere. The Kirstenbosch tree canopy walkway is located above the Arboretum and snakes its way through the Concert Lawns (famous location for local or international acts that perform during the Kirstenbosch concertperiod in summer), the Protea Gardens, Mathews Rockery and the Amphitheatre. Starting at ground level, ‘The Boomslang’ gently twists and turns for the next 130 metres. The highest point reached is 11, 5 metres making it the perfect vantage point over the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Visitors should remember that the walkway has been designed with some leeway and is not meant to stay completely still – particularly important on Cape Town’s characteristically windy days.

Kirstenbosch Canopy Walkway from Below

Kirstenbosch Canopy Walkway from below

We visited the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden last weekend to have a look at this marvellous structure and take a tree-top stroll for ourselves. It’s cleverly designed to be inconspicuous – blending in with the local flora. The walkway fits in so well, in fact, that we struggled to find it! Once we were on the walkway, feeling quite close to the clouds, we were rewarded with magnificent views of the gardens, Table Mountain, False Bay and the distant Cape Winelands – all the natural beauty that makes Cape Town so magical.

The designers have made sure that all guests to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden have the opportunity to experience the 360° vistas as the walkway is 100 per cent wheelchair friendly. Although, getting to the starting point may require some elbow grease as the Arboretum is located quite high up.

The 'Boomslang' Entrance

The Boomslang Entrance

There is no extra charge for using the walkway, which is probably because the funds for the canopy were entirely donated. Nearly R5 million was raised for the construction from benefactors far and wide, including the late Mary Mullins. As we said earlier, finding the walkway is a bit of a treasure hunt, but all you need to do is walk up from the Concert Lawns towards the Cycads and Proteas.

Kirstenbosch Gardens is one of the most famous landmarks in Cape Town and has become known as a place of calm and serenity. So much so, in fact, that the Dalai Lama referred to it as spiritually powerful. Whether families with small children, lovers with romantic picnics, grannies who love looking at flowers, school tours or foreign tourists, everyone is sure to find a patch of grass to call their own for a little while. And it is exactly this “keep ON the grass” rule that helps to make Kirstenbosch Garden so special.

Kirstenbosch Canopy Walkway view

Kirstenbosch Canopy Walkway view

International visitors who’d like to find a place to stay nearby have many options but we recommend staying at the Vineyard Hotel for its spectacular mountain views or the Cellars Hohenhort Hotel, both of which are only a stone’s throw away from the gardens.

Vineyard Hotel Garden

Vineyard Hotel Garden


]]> 0
Our Top Spiritual Sites to Visit in South Africa Thu, 12 Jun 2014 12:50:03 +0000 If you think of South Africa, spirituality might not be top of mind – yet the entire continent has a magical energy of its own, from the Cradle of Mankind to the diversity of animals in the wild and the melting pot of religions and cultures. In South Africa, three religions enjoy widespread belief: Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. In addition, there is a sizeable Jewish community, small pockets of Buddhist sanctuaries, and not to forget the oldest belief of them all – the animistic faith of worshipping mother earth amongst the San Bushmen.

Modern South Africa is described as the Rainbow Nation since it comprises many different ethnic groups – and with them come all sorts of intriguing spiritual practices and sacred sites. These include lovely heritage churches, Muslim kramats (burial sites), the largest mosque in the Southern Hemisphere, places of spiritual energy and even ancient ritual sites of the San, dating back to prehistoric times.

Christian Sites

Christianity is well rooted across the country with some historic and architecturally intriguing churches from various denominations. Those who like to find time during their vacation to attend church might find it uplifting to attend one of the gospel driven services that are popular amongst African Christians.

St Georges Cathedral, in the heart of Cape Town, is one of the oldest churches in Southern Africa, dating originally from 1834, although the present stone building was erected in 1901. It’s an important site, with its Coptic cross alleged to be 1000 years old. Interestingly, the first ever black bishop was Bishop Tutu, who rose to fame denouncing apartheid and leading peaceful mass resistance from here. Later going on to become an archbishop, he is known around the world as a moral leader and deserved Nobel Laureate. A good time to attend is the evensong choral service at 7pm on Sundays. We suggest staying at the Mount Nelson, which is located a mere 10 minutes walk from the cathedral.

St Georges Cathedral (Picture by Greg Lumley)

St Georges Cathedral

However, wherever you are in South Africa you will find a dedicated tradition of Christianity with services on Sundays across the nation, so that you’re never far from a church if you wish to attend a service. Many are lovely churches, be they Anglican, Dutch Reformed Church, or Methodist, with a lesser tradition of Catholicism. There are even services for Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists and other smaller faiths.

Jewish Sites

One of South Africa’s oldest and finest synagogues is conveniently located within Cape Town’s Company Gardens. Founded in 1841, this Hebrew congregation is one of the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere. Affectionately known as the ‘Gardens Shul’, this great synagogue is well worth a visit and is an architectural wonder which rates as one of the finest in the world.

Located just across the gardens from the synagogue is the Jewish Museum, which is a moving tribute to South Africa’s Jewish community and one of Cape Town’s most iconic heritage experiences.

cape town gardens shul

The Gardens Shul

Moslem Sites

The Western Cape has a strong presence of Islam, practiced by the Malay ethnic group that arrived from Southeast Asia more than two centuries ago. There are quite a few interesting Mosques to be found in Cape Town, and the colourful Bo Kaap neighbourhood is particularly worth a visit. The Masjid-ul-quds is one of the most important places of worship in the city and tours in Cape Town by local guides are regularly given. Even more intriguing are the holy burial sites scattered across the region. Known as kramats or mazaars there are more than 30 near Cape Town, with Signal Hill containing at least four. If you want to visit Cape Town to explore the city’s hidden kramats, we suggest staying at Cape Town Hollow Boutique Hotel.

Visitors with a pious Islamic background might want to take the effort to seek out a number of burial sites for important Sheikhs found in Cape Town, such as Sheikh Yusuf of Macassar in the dunes near Macassar Beach, or that of the last Malaccan Sultan Sheikh Abdurahman Matebe Shahnat, exiled from the Malay Peninsula during colonial rule. It lies at the gate to Klein Constantia. Another is that of Sheikh Sayed Abdurahman Maturu of Jafet on Robben Island.

In Durban, where there is a substantial population of people from South Asia, stands the giant Jumma Musjid Mosque.

Cape Town Bo Kaap

The colourful streets of Bo Kaap

Hindu Sites

These are mainly found in Durban, which supports a large population of immigrant Indians. There’s the Temple of Understanding and the Sri Ambalavanar Alayam Second River Temple (national monument) located in this coastal city, facing the Indian Ocean. Of particular interest to the general visitor however is the museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. It’s located in Satyagraha House in Johannesburg where he lived in 1908 and 1909 during his 20 year tenure in South Africa. Not only is Satyagraha House a museum, but it cleverly offers a guesthouse for visitors wanting to soak up the peaceful surrounds of this heritage site.

San Rock Art Sites

The Khoisan are the oldest surviving culture in Africa and have their own animistic belief which this small group of nomadic people continue to practice. Over the centuries they have left behind some impressive San rock art paintings which allude to their beliefs, including mythical tales, worship of life through the environment around them and ancestor worship. We suggest staying at Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse, nestled in the Drakensberg and much loved as a romantic gourmet getaway.

Battle Cave in Injasuti Valley Drakensberg

Battle Cave in Injasuti Valley Drakensberg

The rock art is best seen in the Kamberg area of the Drakensberg. Rituals for rain and bounty are still performed, many surviving in the present day belief of native Africans who might attend a Christian church one day and visit a witch doctor (Nganga) the next. In short, the continent is possessed by deep-seated spiritual beliefs, thought to reside in all sorts of everyday objects – from particular animals to various plants.

Another spiritual place to visit in South Africa is the Buddhist Retreat in Ixopo in Kwazulu Natal. If you want to experience the ultimate seclusion for meditation, this Buddhist retreatis a gem. A number of groups practice new age gatherings at festivals remotely, in locations reckoned to be pulse points of energy on the planet. These are somewhat esoteric however and tricky to come by.

Wherever you are on this continent, with the wide open spaces and the oldest of mankind’s roots, you will feel uplifted by something magical in the rugged landscape and timeless earth.

Satyagraha House

Satyagraha House

]]> 0
Gaansbaai and False Bay: The Best Places To See Great White Sharks and Orcas in South Africa Thu, 05 Jun 2014 09:41:25 +0000 The waters around South Africa are internationally recognised as being hotbeds of marine activity, with places like False Bay and Gansbaai renowned for Great White Shark activity, while Hermanus enjoys a fantastic whale watching season. All of these are just a short drive away from Cape Town, and provide the perfect day excursion from your base in the city.

Marine life enthusiast and conservationist Chris Fallows has spent many years observing these fascinating creatures from his base in False Bay and loves nothing more than educating others and raising awareness. We were fortunate enough to attend a fascinating talk by Chris a few weeks ago at the One and Only Hotel’s Guest Speaker Series entitled “Great White Sharks versus the Orca”, and boy did we learn some things…

Chris began tagging sharks in 1989, and was integral in implementing a new tag and release program that saw over 1500 sharks and rays released from local fishermen’s nets. In 1992, Chris was at the forefront of Great White Shark diving in South Africa, working for one of the first diving operations in Gaansbaai. 1996 saw Chris and his partner discover the now famous breaching waters of  False Bay and the rest, as they say, is history. With over 2000 expeditions to Seal Island under his belt, Chris has amassed invaluable data that has been published in four co-authored scientific papers, and his book ‘Great White and The Majesty of Sharks’. A keen photographer and stand up paddle boarder, his incredible photographs of these apex predators have also been published around the world.

Chris Fallows on the beach

Chris Fallows is happiest at sea.

Orcas – also known as Killer Whales – are the most widely distributed marine animal in the world and stay in pods of up to six Orcas if transient, or up to 50 Orcas if resident. Males are really attached to their mothers, staying with them their whole lives (which can be between 50 and 80 years). Birthing up to five Orcas in her lifetime, this could be pretty trying for mom! Orcas are the largest members of the dolphin family (not whales, as many people think) and grow up to 9.5m in length, and weighing as much as 9 tonnes. Known to be extremely intelligent, Orcas devise ingenious tactics to catch their prey in teams, be it creating waves to knock seals off ice blocks or swimming adjacent to the shoreline to catch naive seal pups. With the second largest brain on the planet  - coming second only to the much larger sperm whale - Orcas are the braniacs of the sea.

Orca breaching

Orcas have incredible strength.

Great White Sharks – perhaps the world’s most misunderstood animal – are the largest of all the world’s fish species and have the biggest brain of all the world’s cold-blooded creatures. Growing up to 6.5m in length, they have evolved to become supreme aquatic predators and solitary hunters. With a lifespan of up to 40 years, they don’t enjoy quite the same wisdom associated with old age as Orcas do. With the ability to self-regulate their body temperatures by up to 22 degrees celsius, sharks are adept at thriving in even the most testing of conditions. With 18% of their brain activity dedicated to their sense of smell, sharks can detect even the faintest of smells from kilometres away such as a fat-rich whale carcass drifting offshore. Sharks have incredible body strength, which is evident when they breach the water by as high as 5m.

Chris Fallows Shark Breaching

One of Chris’ shots of a Great White Shark breaching.

The two great predators of the ocean largely keep to themselves with little interaction occurring, however there have been two recorded incidents when an Orca has killed a Great White Shark. Fascinatingly, the sharks completely left the area thereafter and have yet to return leading to theories that the sharks release a powerful stress hormone to warn fellow sharks of impending danger.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the One and Only and Apex Shark Expeditions for their hospitality. We thoroughly enjoyed the talk and look forward to learning a whole lot more throughout the series! Click the link for information on upcoming One and Only Guest Speaker Series.

Chris Fallows Stand Up Paddle Board

Chris on his beloved stand up paddle board.

]]> 0
Leopards: Where To See These Beautiful Big Cats in South Africa Fri, 30 May 2014 09:38:09 +0000 One of the largest draw cards for many visitors to South Africa is the opportunity to have a close encounter with animals in the wild. The country is home to a large variety of creatures, great and small, but has grown particularly popular for its abundance of big cats in the wild – lion, cheetah, leopard and caracal. In this post, we’ll be looking at the best places to see leopard in South Africa.

The leopard, the smallest of the Panthera family of cats, is a shy creature that tends to carry out most of its activities after dusk – which makes night time safari drives all the more exciting! As a strategic, solitary and powerful hunter, this nocturnal predator is at the top of its game, reaching speeds of up to 58 km per hour when necessary. They are smart and know when they’ve met their match, in other words they will not risk injuring themsleves in a scuffle with another predator like a hyena. Adept climbers, leopards will drag their kill high into the trees to protect them from scavengers.

With so many national parks and game reserves located in one country, it’s hard to choose which one to visit. We have narrowed down the list to the top three regions where these incredible cats, that are masters of stealth and camouflage, can be seen.

Leopard in the night.

Leopards are nocturnal and thrive under cover of darkness.

Sabi Sands Game Reserve

The Sabi Sands Game Reserve is well-known as one of the best places to embark on an authentic African safari. It is also the best place to view these elusive cats. Located adjacent to the Kruger National Park, The Sabi Sands shares an unfenced border with the Kruger, allowing the animals to truly roam free. The highlight of a Sabi Sands safari is the extremely private nature of the tours. Wildlife enthusiasts and professional photographers will be thrilled by the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Big Five and in particular leopards from the safety of an open vehicle and in the company of a private ranger and tracker. While sightings can never be guaranteed, in the Sabi Sands, we can safely say that on a three night stay, you will more than likely encounter one of these mesmerizing animals.

Where to stay

Accommodation at the most exclusive game reserve in the country is entirely of the luxurious kind. Lodges such as Mala Mala, Singita and Lion Sands are but a few of Sabi Sands’ premier lodgings. Our favourite accommodations are the Londolozi camps which provide a superlative tailor-made safari experience. Steeped in history and deeply committed to the land and the animals, the folks at Londolozi are all about leopards and have gone to great effort to document the local population – truly a leopard love affair! Regardless of which camp you choose in the Londolozi Game Reserve, you can be assured that an encounter with one of these feline beauties is on the cards.

Londolozi Game Reserve Deck

Sit back and try spot leopards from your private deck at Londolozi Game Reserve.

Madikwe Game Reserve

One of the best kept secrets in the safari world is the Madikwe Game Reserve. Few know about this diamond in the rough, and therein lies its inexplicable charm. Located in the North West of South Africa, near the Botswana border, the Madikwe is synonymous with another elusive animal, the Wild Dog. This increasingly popular reserve is capturing our imagination and we are getting regular feedback of good sightings of not only Wild Dog, but all of the Big Five and of course our favourite spotty cats!

Where to stay

We suggest staying at the Jamala Madikwe. This lodge is the quintessence of luxury but maintains its intimate atmosphere largely due to Rodney, the owner, who goes out of his way to ensure a good stay. One of the highlights at Jamala Madikwe is the proximity of the waterhole. Guests have relayed stories of being able to sit on their private deck (or even in bed!) and watch leopards come to drink.

The Jamala Madikwe Main Building

The Jamala Madikwe Main Building.

Phinda Private Game Reserve

Set in KwaZulu-Natal only a short drive away from the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Phinda Private Game Reserve is a remarkable for its abundance of wildlife and pristine bushveld. Besides having a good chance of seeing leopard here, cat lovers will be happy to know that cheetah are common here too. With space to run like the wind and an abundance of antelope herds, our feline predators thrive here.

Where to stay

Our choice is, without a doubt, &Beyond Phinda Rock Lodge. This luxury safari lodge with just six suites is nestled snuggly up against a cliff with stunning views out across the reserve to the aptly named Leopard Rock. The vegetation and lay of the land here is perfect leopard territory.

Sunset at Phinda Rock Lodge

Spectacular sunset from Phinda Rock Lodge.

Western Cape

Many visitors head straight to the north when seeking a glimpse of these elusive cats, but few realise that the Western Cape is home to many leopards. The Cape Leopards tend to find home in the more mountainous regions but are not seen as often as their northern counterparts due to the scourge of hunting so prolific in the region. Unsurprisingly, the leopards in the south are not as accustomed to human contact and are less easily approachable. Such noble organisations such as the Cape Leopard Trust and the Landmark Foundation are making great strides in changing this troubling trend. Through education programmes in local schools and on farms, these organisations are helping reduce the number of traps set by farmers protecting their livestock so that these graceful and powerful animals may be preserved for future generations.

Leopard mother and cub

Leopard mother and cub relax in the long grass.

]]> 0
Africa’s Finest: Kenya’s Top 4 Eco-Retreats Fri, 23 May 2014 09:31:25 +0000 In keeping with our commitment to supporting eco-friendly camps and sustainable tourism, we once again revisit the wonderful new safari book, Africa’s Finest. This full colour volume, authored by Colin Bell (well-known for his extensive work on rhino conservation), details the top safari outfits in Africa in an ‘industry-wide’ audit that assessed most camps according to a strict set of criteria that investigated their conservation merits. It is a sobering and commendable account on the state of health of the continent’s wilderness heritage, recognising the efforts some are making to create a low-impact preservation approach to safari tourism.

This week we take a look at Kenya, the original safari destination – where Hemingway was inspired to write classic stories such as The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. Here, in the Masai Mara, you can see all of the Big Five and stay in some truly amazing camps, safe in the knowledge that your carbon footprint is small. We give you the best of Kenya eco safaris…

Campi Ya Kanzi, Chyulu Hills, Amboseli Region

In the shadows of the magnificent and unique Mount Kilimanjaro, among the ‘green hills of Africa’ as described by Hemingway, lies Camp Ya Kanzi in the private Kuku Group Ranch in the Chyulu Hills. It’s abundantly stocked with giraffe, elephant, zebra, antelope, lion and even black rhino and redolent of the original tented camps – not too over-the-top in luxury. The main reason it is so highly rated on the list of eco-friendly resorts is its approach to the local Maasai community. The area is held in a Wilderness Trust owned by the local community, with the camp under management of Luca Belpietro and his wife Antonella Bonomi. More than 200 people locally are employed, and 700 children attend a local school funded by the trust. The locals are very much involved with patrolling their own park and the best of them join the Simba Scouts, a dedicated lion protection unit, to patrol the ranch. Rainwater is collected for all non-drinking water and the camp is powered by the sun.

Campi Ya Kanzi

Campi Ya Kanzi

Elsa’s Kopje, Meru National Park

If you insist on luxury and a camp unrivalled in its aesthetic this is one for you,complete with its elevated perch gazing over the flats of Meru National Park and its infinity edged pool. Everything about this camp is perfect, yet it also boasts quite a pedigree in the safari conservation field and has been an asset to Kenya tourism. Built near the site where George and Joy Adamson raised their famed lion Elsa, immortalised in the 1966 movie ‘Born Free’, the camp pays homage to these famous pioneering conservationists. Elsa is buried here on Elsa’s Kopje (Kopje means hillock), and Joy’s ashes are scattered there too. The brainchild of Stefano Cheli and professional guide Liz Peacock, it has minimal energy consumption, uses solar power, and conserves as much water as possible in this dry region of Kenya.

Elsas Kopje

Elsas Kopje

Lemarti’s Camp, Laikipia Region

Named after the Samburu guide, Lemarti who married Anna Trzebinski (a Kenyan designer specialising in Afro-chic clothing), this camp truly grew from organic roots, starting out as a favourite camp site for just the two of them, and growing gradually into the lovely commercial camp it is today. With livestock and wildlife roaming freely together, and a general sense that you are in the home of a local in the Maasai, you get to see the bush from their perspective, harvesting honey, learning about medicinal plants and getting insight into their everyday way of life. It’s comfortable and tastefully decorated of course and offers guests one of the most unforgettable Kenya holidays! The camp is powered by solar, or gas (for all refrigeration). Lemarti’s Camp is a camp like no other in the sense that guests and locals enjoy meaningful interactions that leave lasting impressions.

Lemartis Camp

Lemartis Camp

Mike’s Camp, Kiwayu Island

Not specifically a safari camp but eco-friendly none-the-less and equally as rewarding as a true Kenya safari experience, this camp sits on a small mangrove island among national reserve North of Lamu on the Indian Ocean coast. Mike set it up as a simple eco-lodge where everything is powered by solar and wind, and uses mostly local materials. The camp sits on one of the most pristine Kenya beaches and they run a turtle breeding program in conjunction with WWF and the Kenyan Wildlife Services. There’s plenty of marine life to discover, a lovely long beach and it is very much the Robinson Crusoe experience. This is a great option for families!

Mikes Camp

Mikes Camp

We often include Kenya in our itineraries as it is such a classic safari destination in terms of savannah landscapes, all of the Big Five, vast herds of animals and the predators, Mount Kenya, the fascinating Maasai people as well as gorgeous white palm tree fringed beaches along the coast. Most of our Kenya trips start from the capital Nairobi, so we’ve put together a list of awesome things to do while you’re on an airport layover.

Tourism in the 21st Century is about being awed by the animals you will encounter in the wild, meeting the local people, contributing to sustainability and conservation, all the while leaving only footprints behind and taking home memories in the form of stories and photos to show your children and hopefully inspire them to want to experience Africa in a similar (ideally even better) way. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below, or Contact Us here.

Amboseli elephants

Elephants of the Amboseli

]]> 3
Cape Town Hotels With The Best Mountain Views Fri, 16 May 2014 11:49:36 +0000 To those that live here, it was no surprise that Cape Town was voted as the number one city to visit in 2014 by the New York Times. With the royal blue Atlantic Ocean lapping at the feet of one of the most iconic mountain ranges in the world, it’s hard to imagine otherwise. Trying to find a hotel with the best mountain views can be an arduous task so we’ve compiled a list of our top five Cape Town hotels with the best Table Mountain views just for you. As an added bonus, some of them even have views of our many sun-kissed shores.

1.     The One Above

The best views of Table Mountain are, without a doubt, from this fine piece of real estate, The Royal Portfolio’s new exclusive use villa located atop of the One & Only Hotel. The double-story penthouse is designed to invite views of the face of Table Mountain, Cape Town’s famous V&A Waterfront and the historic Robben Island from every angle. The mountain is also cleverly framed by the walls of all the penthouse’s suites. The marvellous views of this vibrant city are not the only highlight of this deluxe villa, however, which boasts 4 bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, top of the range gym and 2 rather sizeable swimming pools.

One Above Cape Town

2.     Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa

The aptly-named Twelve Apostles Hotel is tucked snugly in the bosom of one of Cape Town’s most well-known geographical features – the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range. Unlike most hotels in the city, the 15 suites and 55 rooms at the Twelve Apostles Hotel will always give the visitor something to look at. Whether a face-to-face with the western slopes of the majestic mountain or the glimmering and ever-popular Camps Bay coastline, all rooms grant guests sweeping million dollar views. The Twelve Apostles is no secret, having been voted as the best of the best that Cape Town has to offer several times. Local Capetonians have also come to appreciate the stellar quality of the hotel’s Azure Restaurant, often dining here on special occasions, and making use of the facilities at the renowned spa which includes a sauna, hydrotherapy pools and flotation tank.

Twelve Apostles

Tea at the Twelve Apostles.

3.     Boutique Manolo

Boutique Manolo is living proof that size certainly doesn’t matter – especially when your curtains open to breath-taking views of the awe-inspiring Lion’s Head and Cape Town’s Waterfront. Much of this small luxury hotel’s charm lies in its spectacular rooftop which is best visited for sundowners, during which the city’s famous fairy lights sparkle into the night sky and illuminate the brim of the Atlantic Ocean. This Victorian-style hotel is conveniently located only a few minutes’ walk from Cape Town’s bustling city centre and is home to four of the most deluxe hotel suites you’ll find anywhere in the City Bowl.

Boutique Manolo

Boutique Manolo’s stunning balcony view.

4.     The Mount Nelson Hotel

Basking in the glorious shadow of Table Mountain, the Mount Nelson Hotel, or ‘The Nellie’ as it is warmly known by local Capetonians, is a City Bowl institution. Its candy-floss coloured walls greet all those who enter the city centre and direct their gaze to the sandstone giant that lies behind it. Unlike most hotels in the CBD, the Mount Nelson Hotel Cape Town has space on its side, boasting several acres of well-manicured gardens. Those wishing to stay at one of the oldest and best regarded hotels in Cape Town will find such features as spacious and well-designed suites, a luxury spa and the famous High Tea at which guests and visitors alike are treated to the most decadent pastries and sweet treats.

Mount Nelson

Mount Nelson with Table Mountain in the background.

5.     The Vineyard Hotel and Spa

While some may think that the Vineyard Hotel is an unusual choice, its distance from the city centre, is in fact, one of its greatest assets. Draped along the slopes of Table Mountain’s eastern range, the Vineyard Hotel is graced with spectacular mountain views and provides a relaxing getaway into the quieter Southern Suburbs. The 200 year-old hotel provides a garden-like atmosphere in which guests can listen to the trickle of gentle waterfalls during the rainy season and watch as the estate’s giant tortoises slowly roam through the garden’s lush greenery. The Vineyard Hotel and Spa also boasts the internationally acclaimed Angsana Spa, as well as two top restaurants, and is located within walking to one of Cape Town’s most upmarket shopping centres, Cavendish Square.

Vineyard Hotel

The pool of the Vineyard Hotel.

]]> 0