African Safaris Consultants Blog Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:12:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Our Top 5 Most Romantic Safari Camps in Botswana Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:09:37 +0000 The flood plains of the Okavango Delta in Botswana have all the ingredients for one of the most romantic getaways in Africa: serenity, incredible sunsets and starry African nights, relaxation, the sound of nature and pampering spa sessions for you and your lover all in the lap of luxury and in utter privacy.

Not surprisingly, honeymoon packages are a popular choice, with many camps catering especially to couples. But even if you’re celebrating your 25th wedding anniversary or just the fact that you are travelling together, Africa can offer an utterly magical and memorable experience for couples. Imagine the experience of seeing a giraffe in the wild for the first time or enjoying a gin and tonic (just the two of you on your own private deck) as a herd of Burchell’s zebra lean into their striped reflections of the watering hole just yards away from you.

Some of the all inclusive resorts that we recommend are ideal honeymoon destinations, with private suites in the remote bushveld – far away from the main lodge to afford you some seclusion – away from your busy lives, with a chance to rekindle the memories of your honeymoon or first date.

Sunset Okavango Delta

Sunset in the Okavango Delta.

If you’ve ever had the chance to read the popular Lady Detective Agency series, you’ll understand that the people of Botswana – like Mma Ramotswe herself – are romantics at heart, and their country is an unhurried place of wide open spaces, big skies and beauty. Hence, the perfect place to be in love! Honeymooners in particular are given extra special treatment. The lodge staff will lay out a path of rose petals for you and are always eager to serenade lovers with harmonious African songs and dances. They’ll arrange secret bush picnics for just the two of you and private dinners under the stars or an ancient baobab tree, or on a private island, or even in your own luxurious safari suite. There are dugout canoe trips through the wetlands, lush plains teaming with wildlife, and sunsets to make it one of your most extraordinary safari holidays.

Here are our  top five honeymoon destinations and most romantic safari camps in Botswana, though we should warn you in advance that privacy and exclusivity comes with a VIP price tag.

1. Sanctuary Baines’ Camp

The setting at Sanctuary Baines’ Camp couldn’t be more romantic, situated on stilts in the Borro River of the private Moremi Game Reserve, amongst the reeds and waters of the flood plains. You will be one of only five couples, each enjoying a private deck with a star bed to pull out and sleep under the stars if you wish, not forgetting the outdoor bath. Dinner time is particularly unusual as your dinner companions might include Jabu, Morula and Thembi, from the local habituated elephant herd. There’s plenty of other wildlife to spot, as well as numerous activities. The camp also sponsors some local conservation initiatives.

Sanctuary Baines Camp

Sanctuary Baines Camp.

2. San Camp

By contrast, San Camp is the complete opposite with no water below your suite but an incredible feeling of freedom with near 360-degree vistas from your isolated tented chalet on the edge of the vast Makgadikgadi Salt Pans that stretch for miles and miles. This is one of Africa’s zen-like experiences, where you feel there’s no one else out there as far as the eye can see – with surreal sunsets on the distant flat horizon and nowhere for the animals to hide from you. The cuisine is first-class, and there’s the added intrigue of the local San people (nomadic Bushmen) who roam these parts. We suggest that adventurous couples go quad biking to explore the magic and mystique of the Kalahari.

San Camp

San Camp.

3. Vumbura Plains

We think that if James Bond were to go on safari, he’d choose Vumbura Plains! Operated by one of our preferred partners, Wilderness Safaris, Vumbura Plains offers the best of both worlds – wide open grasslands as well as plenty of water in the wet season to attract the animals. Think herds of elephant a dozen strong dropping in for afternoon tea, and lechwe bounding through the wetlands. The savannah bushveld creates a lovely environment with a quintessentially safari atmosphere as well as an utterly romantic setting. Each one of the private suites has their own plunge pool and sala. Billed as an eco-resort and couples retreat, it has a low impact on the environment whilst still providing the usual safari activities like game drives or sundowners on the waters edge of the Vumbura Plains.

Vumbura Plains

Vumbura Plains.

4. Zambezi Queen

Perhaps one of the ultimate romantic weekend getaways is to cruise down the Chobe River through the channel from the mighty Zambezi River, enjoying the serenity of the plains from the vantage of the purpose built three-tiered Zambezi Queen houseboat. With its low draft, it can even navigate the smallest of tributaries in search of elusive wildlife. Dine in style, whilst floating safely on the water, with the ultimate sunsets across the river or flooded plains. Smaller tenders take you onto the land for walks; otherwise it’s a self-contained exclusive luxury experience on one of the greatest rivers of the world.

Zambezi Queen

Zambezi Queen.

5. Camp Okuti

Camp Okuti is the one truly affordable camp on our list. It’s noted for its unusual and attractive architectural design with arched roofs tented in canvas, and air-conditioned rooms furnished in a homely manner for one of Botswana’s best honeymoon destinations for the budget conscious. It lies alongside the Maunachira River which flows through the Xakanaxa Lagoon within the world famous Moremi Game Reserve amid lush bushland, with water right outside your window and the promise of plenty of animals.

Camp Okuti

Camp Okuti.

For the most romantic and utterly unforgettable Botswana vacation packages or honeymoon ideas look no further than these five camps. They are bound to sweep your loved one off their feet and into your arms!

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Spotlight on Mozambique Fri, 15 Aug 2014 09:10:48 +0000 The name itself conjures up azure crystal-clear warm waters, miles of untouched white sand and some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling that Africa has to offer. Add to that the famous coral islands of the archipelagos, and you have a winning recipe! It’s no wonder that Mozambique is one of the top honeymoon destinations and that couples and families alike flock to its sandy shores for the ultimate sun, sand and sea holiday.

So to warm us up as we armchair travel on this wintery day, we’ve decided to feature Mozambique as our top travel destination and will highlight some of its best bits. For starters, this country literally has hundreds of miles of Indian Ocean coastline and easily counts amongst one of Africa’s premier romantic getaways and beach destinations. We fly most of our clients directly to one of the islands in the archipelagos, the two main ones being the Bazaruto Archipelago in the south and the Quirimbus in the north. Our favourite destination in northern Mozambique is Ibo Island Lodge, which has just undergone an upgrade and is looking fabulous.

Intrepid travelers (who have visited Africa a few times), as well as extreme nature lovers, should definitely try and visit the Gorongosa National Park. A sought after destination for biologists and scientists alike, this is where David Attenborough recently shot the final episode of his series Life entitled Africa: The Future.

Another place well-worth a visit is Mozambique’s capital city, Maputo, which is a fascinating African city with a vibrant musical, architectural and culinary culture that is influenced by its legacy as a Portuguese colony.


Maputo is a cosmopolitan city with an undeniable coastal charm.

Where Is Mozambique?

Mozambique lies on the Indian Ocean coast north of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal and just about alongside the Kruger National Park, so is the perfect destination for anyone looking to combine a safari with a beach vacation. Its eastern coastline along the Indian Ocean is more than 1,000 km long – perfect for diving, snorkeling, sailing, fishing and chilling under a palm tree on the beach!

Renowned as being one of Africa’s top honeymoon destinations and for the excellent diving and snorkeling (not to mention the legendary and sumptuous seafood), this country offers outstanding family holidays with family-friendly resorts where a wide range of water activities are available from traditional dhow sailing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, fishing and picnics on remote private beaches. Go swimming with dolphins at the White Pearl Resort or in the whale season see humpback whales frolicking in the bay near Nuarro Lodge.

Benguerra lodge

Mozambique boasts miles of unspoilt beaches, like the Benguerra Lodge beach.

Mozambique’s culture is a vibrant mix of Portuguese and African which can be experienced through the art, music and food. The Portuguese influence on the local cuisine is evident with some of the most unique and eclectic dishes found in Southern Africa being served up here. It also offers the visitor some of the best colonial architecture and relics in Africa and is known for having preserved its African cultural heritage.

Another plus point is that Mozambique holidays are not as expensive as the Seychelles, Mauritius or even the Caribbean. It’s also not as touristy as many other beach destinations, and visitors can look forward to miles of unspoilt, private beaches and unexplored wilderness.

Best Time To Visit

The finest weather months start in about April/ May with June through to October being the dry season and offering visitors the best beach days with clear sunny skies and no rain. June, July and August are the winter months, so expect chilly nights but daytime temperatures can easily reach around 30 degrees.

Mozambique is blessed with tropical to sub-tropical weather for most of the year which is why it rates as one of our best honeymoon destinations. The rainy season is between December and March when the weather can be really uncomfortably hot and humid. The northern parts of Mozambique can become especially unbearable, particularly if you are keen on sightseeing and not just chilling under a palm tree on a white sandy beach! Unlike other Indian Ocean islands, Mozambique is relatively protected from cyclones and tropical storms. The weather in November can be quite windy and somewhat unpredictable.

Azura Benguerra

Swim, anyone? The Azura Benguerra Lodge.

Best Way Into Mozambique

Southern Mozambique is easily accessible from the Kruger National Park region, Johannesburg, or even one of the Zululand Game Reserves, making it the perfect beach and bush combination. We recommend that most of our clients fly directly from Johannesburg to Vilanculos and take a boat transfer or short scenic air transfer to the Mozambique islands.

Northern Mozambique is a bit more of a journey, but well worth it once you get there! As this region is so remote, it is the perfect honeymoon destination if you are looking to explore a truly unspoilt paradise, Robinson Crusoe style or even ideal for family getaways.

Things To Know When Visiting Mozambique

As with booking most foreign flights, visitors must have a valid passport (for at least 6 months) with a minimum of three blank pages. All visitors to Mozambique need a visa, except those holding a passport for South Africa, Mauritius, Botswana, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Note that you need to get your visa prior to travelling. It is no longer possible to purchase a visa on arrival.

A departure tax of US$20 is payable in cash at the airport (for all international and regional flights) or US$10 for domestic flights. We recommend to all our clients to ensure that they pack light when travelling on most intra-Africa aircrafts, as these have strict luggage restrictions due to their small size. Typically each passenger may only carry a maximum of 20kg or 44lbs (which includes a duffel bag and carry-on), and the luggage needs to be soft with no wheels or hard frames, as these need to fit the cargo hold of a small plane.

Mozambique’s official language is Portuguese, but English is widely spoken in touristy areas and the capital Maputo. The further up north you travel, the less likely it will be to meet English speakers, and in some of the more rural areas even Portuguese is seldom spoken.

Mozambique Sailing the Indian Ocean 5

Local fishermen in their traditional Dhow boat.

Mozambique’s currency is the metical and credit cards (Visa and Mastercard) are widely accepted with most city banks having ATM machines available for easy cash withdrawals. It’s a good idea to ask your bank prior to travelling for a card without foreign transaction fees. Visitors cannot buy or exchange meticais whilst outside Mozambique, but you will be able to convert your money back to your preferred currency at exchanges before leaving the country.

Tipping in Mozambique is optional, although generally ‘expected’. When packing for Mozambique keep in mind that you’re most likely going to spend days relaxing on the beach, so pack light and casual. Even at the most luxurious hotels and restaurants formal wear is not required. If you are visiting in the wet season ensure that you pack a rain jacket and something warmer for the evenings. It’s always a good idea to pack sandals or flip flops as some of the beaches may have rocky stretches.

Mozambique lies in a malaria zone so anti-malaria tablets must be taken, and typhoid, hepatitis A, tetanus and polio immunizations are also advised. Whilst in Mozambique, we don’t advise drinking tap water. If entering Mozambique from Malawi or another Yellow Fever zone such as Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Uganda, Yellow Fever immunization is required, and you must ensure that you travel with your Yellow Fever Certificate at all times.

When it comes to mobile coverage, Mozambique can still be a bit shaky in some parts of the country with intermittent connectivity.

For avid shoppers, there are bargains aplenty in many of Mozambique’s roadside stalls and markets. Look out for silver jewellery which are hand-crafted by local craftsmen on the islands of Ibo and Mozambique, as well as colourful paintings by Mozambican artists, locally produced and printed materials, bags, woven baskets and hats.

Mozambique fabrics

The marketplaces are alive with colourful fabrics and spices.

Mozambique truly has something for everyone and is a tropical paradise island experience with a laid-back African charm that is hard to beat. From its wildlife to its pristine, palm fringed beaches to the most incredible sea life and scuba diving adventures this country is perfect for honeymoon packages or family vacations. But don’t take our word for it, book yourself into a romantic, rustic hideaway or a top-end five-star resort and see the magic of Mozambique for yourself.

For more incredible images of Mozambique, check out our Mozambique Pinterest Board.

White Pearl Resort

The stunning deck of White Pearl Resort.

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Richard Branson’s New Hotel in the Cape Winelands Fri, 08 Aug 2014 07:15:08 +0000 Sir Richard Branson is one of the best-loved and most recognisable personalities in the world today, as well as one of the most respected and successful entrepreneurs. Branson started his first business at the tender age of 16, and since then has not slowed down. By far his most successful endeavour to-date is the Virgin Group. It’s a little known fact that Branson started the first of his Virgin companies, Virgin Music, in 1970 with his South African cousin. They no longer control that business, but the Virgin Group now boasts over 200 companies in over 30 countries (including the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Asia, Europe and of course South Africa) which includes Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Health Clubs, Virgin Money, Virgin Mobile and even Virgin Galactic, his newest space-tourism business.

Branson has always loved Africa, her people and wildlife, and has established several properties – such as the incredible Ulusaba Private Game Reserve located in the Sabi Sands, which rates amongst one of South Africa’s most exclusive and top-rated safari destinations. He also recently opened Mahali Mzuri which lies in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. It was created in conjunction with the local Maasai Mara community and is an eco-friendly haven with Branson’s usual touch of uniqueness and magic.

Ulusaba Cliff Lodge

The incredible Ulusaba Cliff Lodge.

With his love for the Rainbow Nation well documented, it comes as no surprise then that Branson’s latest venture is also located in South Africa. Mont Rochelle is Richard Branson’s New Hotel in the Cape Winelands and lies smack bang in the heart of the charming Cape Winelands village of Franschhoek. It’s a 22-bedroomed luxury hotel situated on one of Franschhoek’s trademark vineyards and home to not one but two world-class restaurants, boasting three separate wings and an entire off-site section dedicated to wine tasting. Mont Rochelle is set atop a hill on a sprawling 39 hectares estate overlooking the surrounding Franschhoek wine farms. The hotel is currently undergoing a million Rand upgrade and will re-open in early August of 2014 when it is sure to become one of the premier Franschhoek accommodation locations.

The quaint town of Franschhoek (roughly translated into “French Quarter”) is steeped in history and is renowned as South Africa’s gourmet food and wine capital, with some of the best wines the country has to offer. Filled with charming villas, luxury boutique hotels and world famous Franschhoek restaurants, the town has become an idyllic getaway only an hour’s drive from the bustling city of Cape Town. Franschhoek has a festive atmosphere, hosting and celebrating several events year round. Head down in May for the incredible Literary Festival or in July when the town comes alive for Bastille Day festivities. And of course there are numerous wine and gourmet festivals throughout the year, notably the Champagne Festival in November.

Mont Rochelle

The picturesque Mont Rochelle.

It was the Huguenot refugees in the 18th Century who established this curious bubble of history, and with them came the wine cultivating skills that helped set South Africa up as a leading wine producer. Today this corner of the Cape Province, including Stellenbosch and Somerset West, is the wine growing capital of Africa and full of exquisite Franschhoek hotels. Escaping persecution as Protestants significant numbers of Hugeunots helped establish the colony here and were granted land. They later chose to assimilate themselves into the emerging Afrikaans culture, which is the reason why you find French sounding names among some of the locals.

The Winelands wine tasting route (with someone else as driver!) is a popular excursion from Cape Town, as you meander through the rolling hillsides of vines. A rugged mountain range that hems in this part of the world forms a dramatic background with sometimes snow-capped mountains at this time of year. Some of these farms are hundreds of years old, still held by the same families. Hopping from one winefarm to the next to sample a unique South African Pinotage or perhaps seek out a crisp Sauvignon Blanc is all part of its charm. Don’t miss the L’Ormarins, Boschendal or La Motte Franschhoek cellars, but when it’s time for lunch or a luxury overnight, Branson’s new venture is sure not to disappoint.

Mont Rochelle 2

Clouds roll over into the Mont Rochelle vineyard.

Much of Virgin’s exciting and innovative branding is down to Richard Branson himself, who has proven to be an exuberant and youthful character. His thirst for adventure is unrivalled, having completed such feats as going hot air ballooning across the oceans. His property empire stretches from Necker Island in the Caribbean to Morroco’s High Atlas Mountains and the Cape, all under the banner of Virgin Limited Edition.

With great power comes great responsibility – something Branson has taken to heart. Awarded the United Nations Correspondents Association Citizen of the World Award, Branson has made it his goal to champion human rights and provide educational and business opportunities to promising youth around the world. Together with the late Nelson Mandela, he started The Elders, a group of influential leaders around the globe who speak out on key human rights issues. He also established his own organisation – The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – which supports budding young entrepreneur ideas, seeks venture capital and sets them up for starting a business.

When Mount Rochelle finally re-opens we can all be assured that it will have the same blend of unique luxurious style with a touch of magic that this incredible entrepreneur extraordinaire has become known for.

Want to read more about the wine culture in South Africa? Check out our post of the Top 5 Lodges for a South African Wine Safari.

Branson and Mandela (Photo David Turnley)

Sir Richard Branson with the late, great Mr Nelson Mandela.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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


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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

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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.

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