CAPE TOWN’S TOP SEAFOOD RESTAURANT….

On a recent flying visit to Cape Town I was given an insider tip on where to find the best seafood on the planet. So I made my way out of town some 20 minutes,  passing the magnificent Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (no time to stop on this trip!) and continuing on to Hout Bay.

This is a wonderfully scenic stop along the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive which winds its way up from sea level in Hout Bay, clinging to the spectacular coastal cliffs along to Noordhoek. Anyway, getting back to the mission I was on, to find the best seafood….

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Just as you enter Hout Bay, you will find the Chapman’s Peak Hotel at one end of the bay with views back across towards the town. The hotel has 24 rooms including 2 wonderful penthouse suites, but that is not why I am here either…

Ushered onto an outside table enjoying views of the bay and craggy peaks rising up from the Atlantic Ocean, I feverishly studied the menu; almost entirely pointlessly I might add as I knew before I left Cape Town what I was going to order. Expectations were understandably high but when the giant pan of fresh Calamari and Queen Tiger Prawns landed on the table I knew this was the right place!

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I have been fortunate enough to enjoy some good seafood during my travels around the world but this is without a doubt the best I have ever tasted and I cannot recommend the Chapman’s Peak Hotel highly enough on a “must do” whilst you visit Cape Town. I would recommend making a reservation at the weekend as I was very fortunate to get the last table. I was also very fortunate to get back to the airport in time for my flight to Windhoek, Namibia for what would include an unforgettable trip to the Skeleton Coast but that is another story….

FANTASTIC “BUSH AND BEACH” WINTER SPECIAL

Thanda Private Game Reserve offers 7,800 hectares of Big 5 game viewing within easy reach of either Durban or Richards Bay. Accommodation is at the five star main lodge or the intimate tented camp, which has just undergone a recent refurbishment (see a sneak preview picture below!). The non-electrified tented camp offers a really authentic bush experience, so no fences and therefore no children under 16 years. For those wanting the ultimate romantic getaway or a luxury break away with the kids, the villas at the main lodge provide 220 square metres of self-contained privacy with infinity pool, sala and a boma.

Situated a mere two hours drive from Thanda is the Fairmont Zimbali Resort and its sister property Fairmont Zimbali Lodge. Both properties offer luxury accommodation in subtropical surrounds with access to one of the most beautiful stretches of South African coastline. With a variety of dining options, a full service spa, fitness centre and five swimming pools, the resort is a family-friendly destination in itself. The lodge is smaller, set within a coastal reserve which is home to a variety of bird species, indigenous plants and small animals such as bushbuck and vervet monkeys. Shopping, cultural tours and marine activities are within easy reach of both properties.

Opulent Africa can offer direct flights with Emirates into King Shaka International, making this a hassle-free and really great value holiday.

BUSH AND BEACH

9 days for only £990 per person sharing

Your package includes:

• 4 nights at Thanda Tented Camp with all meals and game drives included
• 4 nights at Fairmont Zimbali Lodge with breakfast daily
• 9 days Group B car hire

Thanda Tented Camp

LUXURY BUSH AND BEACH

9 days for only £1,525 per person sharing

Your package includes:

• 4 nights at Thanda Main camp with all meals and game drives included
• 4 nights at Fairmont Zimbali Resort with breakfast included
• 9 days Group B car hire

Zimbali Resort

*Packages are valid from 9 January – 30 April 2011

(Blocked out dates: 9 – 15 February & 22 – 27 April)

Excludes flights · Price is based on 2 people sharing · Children’s prices available on request.

Our Intrepid Traveller Part 12

20-23 JANUARY -  This morning you will drive to the Serengeti National Park via Olduvai Gorge for a stay of four nights at Dunia Camp.

Jan 20 – began drive to Serengeti and stopped at Masai village.  You have to pay $50 per car and are treated to a Masai welcome song, a dance where Masai warriors jump to impress the females, and then taken to a traditional house made of mud dung.  They are rounded and about 5 feet high and about 12 feet in diameter.  The shell is acacia branches and then other brush is woven between the branches and then the  wet mud/dung is applied to the outside.  About 120 people lived in this village of 24 huts.  The kraal is in the middle of the huts which are in a circle around the kraal.  This holds the cattle, sheep, and goats at night.  Around the outside of the huts is a thorn fence to keep out lions and other animals.  The house Steve and I visited was cooking maize in the middle of the hut.  Inside were two beds, if you could call them that, and a few belongings.  The smoke was filtering out a window about 8”x4”.  The village owned about 1000 cows and 300 sheep and goats.  Outside hanging on the kraal were beaded things and lion’s tooth things that one could buy.  I was on to that since I had done this before so I didn’t take any money with me, not that I wanted anything anyway.  They have lots of eye problems because of the flies and the smoke in the huts.  They do not go to doctors; everything is traditional medicine and everyone knows it.  When the young boys go out with the cows an older warrior accompanies them and explains which trees and bushes are medicinal so that when they are alone, they will know how to take care of any problems.  Circumcision is practiced at 14 and the boys go off into the wilds for 6 months to a year.     They come back a warrior.  Traditionally they used to have to kill a lion but now that the area is a conservation/national park area, that has stopped.  Girls also at 14 have a cliterectomy.   That is illegal now, but everyone knows it still happens.  Boys can’t be married unless they are circumcised and the same for girls–at least in the past. 

Next stop was Olduvai Gorge.  I wrote about that last time I was here.  Louis and Mary Leaky made many discoveries here.  I photographed 2 Agama lizards. 

Next stop was the shifting sand dune made of sand and iron so it is very heavy.  The winds move it 15-20 meters per year.   It is dark charcoal in color.

Just before going into the Serengeti, we drove off road (you are not allowed to in the park) to witness the migration of wildebeest.  There were wildebeest running, eating and lying down for 360 degrees as far as the eye could see on the plains.  There were thousands. 

While out there we also saw two Golden (Common) Jackals, Secretary Bird, Grey Heron, Yellow Billed Stork, Spotted Hyena (4 of them beside a waterhole and a fifth one farther out by a large rut that had water in it), Giraffe (8), Crowned Crane, Elephant, Ostrich, Warthog, and Hartebeest. 

There are 4 million animals in the Serengeti–mind you, not 4 million and one but just 4 million.  Serengeti means “endless plain” and the park is 14,763 sq. km., or roughly the size of Connecticut. 

We arrived at the tent camp about 5:30 p.m.  Our tent is one of the largest I have ever stayed in.  In addition to the 2 single beds, a chair, headboard with lamps, and a chest, and the bathroom behind the flaps behind the beds, there is an extension in front of about 6 feet which has another chair, small table and a couch.  It is quite spacious.  The bath has a long table with the sink.  Water is in a jug beside the sink and when that runs out, there is a bucket below the table with more which you dip from.  That area is about 3 feet by 16 feet.  Behind that is a flap with the toilet and the other half is a flap with the shower.  You tell the staff when you want a shower and they will bring the 15 liters of heated water and put it in the bag outside and let you know when they have done so.  Then you have a shower head in the shower with a chain that you regulate the flow with.  There is a wooden floor over a hole where the water drains. 

And every night we get treated to a campfire–the African Bush television–with only one channel.

Jan 21 awakened at 6 with coffee and hot chocolate ordered the night before.  Breakfast at 6:30 and morning drive 7 am-1:30 p.m.:  Cape Buffalo, Impala, Topi, Fischer’s Lovebird, Ruppell’s Longtail Starling, White Headed Buffalo Weaver, Baboon, fever trees, acacia trees, Red necked Spur Fowl, White Headed Shrike, White Backed Vulture, Grant’s Gazelle, Lioness, Tawny Eagle, LBR, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red Winged Bush Lark, Lesser Kestrel tree (about 23 in a very small tree), Black Coucal, Ostrich, Grey backed Fiscal, LBR, Superb Starling, Tawny Eagle, Fischer’s Lovebird, Giraffe, and finally a Leopard in a tree.  We waited for about a half hour watching and she came down and disappeared into the grasslands.  That completes our BIG FIVE:  Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino, and Cape Buffalo.  The Big NINE will be complete when we see a Cheetah.  Those are:  Cheetah, Hippo, Giraffe, and Zebra.  And I have to admit to Lens Envy:  One 4×4 had two guys each with an 800 mm lens shooting the leopard.   Continuing on with the drive we saw a Magpie Shrike, Hippos, Grey Heron, Rock Hyrax, Grey HB, Dark Chanting Goshawk, a huge herd of Elephant (close to 100) spread out on the plains, a Nile Crocodile, a herd of 40+ female Impala with their one male.  The males typically only last for 2-3 months before being removed by another male fighting to have his genes carried fwd by the herd. 

Afternoon drive:  90-100 female Impala with their one male (he will last only 2-3 months because he is constantly fighting other males who want his harem and he is constantly looking for danger for the herd.  Baboon, Topi, Reed Buck, Hartebeest, Two banded Courser, Gray HB, Cape Buffalo, Egyptian Goose, 2 male impala in the batchelor herd practicing their fighting skills, Black Chested Snake Eagle.  We were looking for Black Rhino which were introduced a few years back and there are now about 17 of them.  They have guards 24 hrs per day and the rangers must account for all of them each day.  We didn’t find any but the scenery was beautiful as it had many kopje, which are rocky outcrops. 

Jan. 22nd – I was picked up at 5:10 a.m. to go on my hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti.  My partner in my section of the carriage was Mark from Canada.  He asked if I had ever been in bed with a stranger and I replied ‘No.”  He replied that I had now.  It was awfully tight quarters.  We saw 4 lioness on the ground, 2 Golden Jackals, Topi, Giraffe, Hippo, Baboons and monkeys in acacia trees and the landscape and sunrise were beautiful.  Afterwards had champagne to celebrate, and were taken to a place in the bush where they had tables set up for breakfast of fruits, bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, bread, and tea or coffee.  And we got our certificate. 

Then was taken to one of the Gates of the Serengeti where I met our guide and Caroline, Steve and Ellen.  We continued on our drive:  Lioness and 3 cubs close to the road and who moved back to a tree where the cubs were practicing climbing the small tree*, Tawny Eagle with a kill and we watched as he picked the feathers from his kill (couldn’t tell what type of bird he had), walking Leopard on a kopje about 15-20 feet from us, herd of elephant close to road, Blacksmith Plover, Crowned Crane, Ostrich, juvenile Dark Chanting Goshawk.  Began to rain big fat drops but lasted only 5 minutes.  4 lioness with older cubs, 2 lion cubs in tree, Secretary Bird, Baboon, Black Backed Jackal, Buffalo, warthogs, Fever Trees and other Acacias. 

This is the beginning of their rainy season and apparently the week before we arrived, at least one camp was washed away.  There are dirt roads and tracks and when it rains many are full of ruts and deep water holes.  The Acacias and Fever trees are turning green, and the Baobab trees were fully leafed out.  They are usually called ‘upside down trees’ because when they lose their leaves in the dry season, their limbs look like roots.  This is the first time I have seen Baobabs with leaves.

Afternoon game drive:  Caroline, Steve and Ellen decided they wanted to stay at camp and play bridge so it was just me.  Red billed HB, Impala with babies, Wildebeest, Cape Buffalo, Red necked Spur Fowl, Black Rhino and I now have the Big 5 in one day in the Serengeti.  Jackson told me that was not often accomplished.  4 Black backed Jackals (a mom and 3 juveniles playing very near a Crowned Crane who ignored them at a waterhole) and they made me miss Sasha.  Also saw Warthog, Elephant, Tawny Eagle, and Secretary Bird.  In addition I failed to mention that the camp is set in Tsetse  Fly territory.  And we have all been bitten so if I exhibit symptoms of African Sleeping Sickness, take me to a doctor; don’t assume I am just tired because you know I’m not usually tired.  The kopje had Euporbia bussei also on the hills.  LBR, Agama lizard, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Baboon, Coqui Francolin, same jackals as above (mom and 3 juvs.), White Backed Vulture and Ruppell’s Vulture waiting for the leopard to move off from his Impala kill.  We didn’t see the leopard but knew he was still around because the vultures were in 2 trees just waiting.  Giraffe, Redbilled HB, Dwarf Mongoose.

Jan. 23rd. -  All day game drive:  Cape Buffalo, Warthogs, Impala plus 1 juvenile Wildebeest, juv. Bateleur Eagle, Spotted Hyena at Impala kill from last night, Topi, Grant’s Gazelle, Blacksmith Plover, Hyena on road, Black backed Jackal, Cory Bustard, Giraffe, Zebra, Ostrich, Thompson’s Gazelle, Eland, Nubian Vulture (also called Lappet Faced Vulture), Agama lizard, Lapwing Plover, Secretary Bird, 4 Bat eared Fox, CHEETAH so I now have the Big 9 as well.  Hyena by waterhole, Cheetah – same one – Black Chested Snake Eagle, Golden Backed Jackal, Topi, Grant’s and Thompson’s Gazelles, Male Lion and 2 females (and I spotted them!!!!  I don’t think Jackson could believe that he had missed them).  It began to rain from 1:12 to 1:18 and then stopped completely.  We are on the Southern section of the Serengeti which is really the  shortgrass ‘endless plain’–the Swahili meaning of Serengeti.  Continuing on we saw Ostrich, Elephant, Cape Rook, Hartebeest, Lions in trees!!!! (7 in one tree and 1 female in another–Lake Manyara is famous for their lions which climb trees but we didn’t seen any there.  This sighting was of the same lions where the cubs were practicing climbing the small tree yesterday.    Hippos, Egyptian Goose, Crowned Crane, Topi, Cory Bustard, Warthog, and Giraffe. 

Jackson can’t get over having essentially no rain for our entire safari trip.  I explained that he was with me and about my luck with rain. 

‘What if” gene:  When a question begins with “what if” we …?  as in What if we get charged by an elephant.  What if we run out of gas?  What if we get lost?  Caroline seems to have that gene in spades.   It was rather endearing. 

Meals at this camp were rather spectacular considering we are in the middle of nowhere at a bush camp. 

First night:  Broccoli and cheese soup (they made me just broccoli soup).  Carrots and green beans wrapped in bacon, roasted chicken, potatoes au gratin (they made me a small bowl without the cheese), snowpeas, homemade rolls, and Chocolate Samosas for dessert.  I have had veg. samosas and meat and veg. samosas, but never a dessert samosa.  Was great.

Lunch next day was cucumber salad, beet and apple and cashew salad, veg. lasagna, and meat lasagna (they made me a bowl of meat, tomato,  and onion), a green salad and dessert was and Chocolate profiterole

2nd night:  Mashed potato puffs, beef stroganoff,herbed rice, chickpeas and zucchini, grilled red and green peppers, and Apple Charlotte

lunch Tandori chicken, rice, Tadka Dhal, mixed green salad, chutney, poppadums, and dessert was pineapple rum.

3rd .  night: Using a grill:  BBQ beef or chicken kebabs, pork ribs, boerowoeres (sausage), coleslaw, green salad, roast pumpkin, roast potatoes, BBQ and satay sauces, and lemon meringue pie.

4th night:  Roasted bell peppers with bacon wrapped ground beef inside,  potato cakes, roasted zucchini,  and I don’t remember rest. 

Ok, James J., are you satisfied with all the descriptions of the meals since you requested them???

Our Intrepid Traveller Part 11

18-19 JANUARY– After breakfast you will be driven to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area for a stay of two nights at Plantation Lodge.

On the way to the front gate:  Monitor Lizard, Black Headed Heron, Hammerkop, Baboons, Monitor Lizard, Zanzibar Bishop, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Terrapin, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl (has pink eyelids), Elephant, Dikdik, Impala, Giraffe, Buffalo, Warthogs, Zebra, Waterbuck, Black Kite. 

NGORONGORO CRATER:  The rim is 2300 meters high; it is 260 sq. km. and is approx 90 km. long and 16 km wide in the crater floor.    There are approx. 20,000 animals on the crater floor and Ngorongoro is a World Heritage Site.    Female Elephants and young are all on the rim area of the crater and the males are on the crater floor. 

Afternoon Game Drive:  Cinnamon Bee-eater, Umbrella Acacia, Cape Buffalo, Western Wildebeest, Burchell’s Zebra, Grant’s Gazelle, Tawny Eagle, Spotted Hyena (and I spotted him a long ways away!) – only species where female also has a penis??? -, Cape Eland – the largest antelope, Cory Bustard, Crowned Crane, Abdim’s Stork, Elephant with big tusks, White Stork, Hippo, Black Rhino, CARACAL!!!!!!!   I have to insert some info here.  When the guide said caracal I could tell he was a bit more excited than he had been for other things but I thought he said Coucal and I wondered why he was so excited about a bird.  Then he said Caracal again and I got excited!!!  I never expected to see one ever.  This was the third one he had ever seen in 9 years of guiding.  They are usually more nocturnal and it was afternoon.  He/she was in the grass and in the open but posed and posed and posed.  Just ignored us to some extent but kept glancing toward us so my photos are pretty good!  He/she hung around for 10 minutes.  Still haven’t looked at the photos on the computer but I took over  100 easily.  It was a fabulous sighting and it made my week.   Now all I have to find is an Oryx, which I should find in Namibia in Sept., and a Pangolin.   After that I was excited for the rest of the day.   Continuing on, we say Thompson’s Gazelle, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Coke’s Hartebeest, 2 more Hyenas, a Cory Bustard displaying,  Hartebeest, Black Rhino, Black bellied Bustard, Black Headed Heron, Pink _____ Pelican, and 3 lionesses lying beside the road at the top of the crater.  It rained two times in the crater, but not where we were. 

 Jan 19th – Game drive in Crater:  Male Lion deep in grasses on the rim drive – there are 5 prides in the Park and some have about 20 lions –, Fiscal Shrike, Buffalo, Zebra, Grant’s Gazelle, Gnu, 2 lionesses lying down in grasslands a LONG way off so that they looked like golden rocks, warthogs with babies, 5 Hyena, Elephant, Crowned Crane, 2 lionesses lying in grass near road.  When they got hot, they just went into the shade of the 4×4’s and didn’t move when the engines of that 4×4 were started.  One of them had her paws underneath the vehicle near the tire so that the vehicle couldn’t move!.  Hippos, and a great 360 panorama of zebra, gnu, buffalo, and Thompson’s Gazelles.  We were in the middle of hundreds of all of them except the Gazelles.    Hartebeest, Wildebeest, Ostrich, Black Rhino in distance  Cory Bustard displaying, Masai Warriors guarding their cattle they bring into and out of the crater each day, Grant’s Gazelle female and baby, White browed Coucal, big tusked elephant, Spur Winged Goose, 3 black Rhino, and a male lion in distance.    At a rest area stop there were Euphorbia bussei on the hillside of the crater.  Also in the crater is the Euphorbia nyika (? spelling–Jackson isn’t a particularly good speller!) but I am not sure if I got any photos of that species. 

Box Lunch in the Crater was Hamburger patty, bun and tomato, apple juice, water, hard boiled egg, carrot sticks, another sandwich, a piece of not very good cake, and a Cadbury milk chocolate bar.  I had been having Chocolate withdrawal and Caroline even gave me half of hers!

Our Intrepid Traveller Part 10

15-17 JANUARY -  Depart on a game drive to Lake Manyara Tree Lodge for a stay of three nights.  

Was told there are about 120 tribes in Tanzania, of which Masai are not the largest.  Swahili is common language.  There are lots of orphanages, presumably because of AIDS.  About 50% of the population are farmers and have about 5 acres of land. 

After about 3 hours arrived at gate to Lake Manyara National Park.  The park is 230 sq. km. but the Lake is about 200 sq. km.  and salty.

The Lodge is the only lodge inside the park, (but there are camping sites) and is 45 km from the gate at the end of the park.  It takes a minimum of 2 hrs. on a dirt road/track to reach the lodge.  Since the lodge is not fenced off, we have to be walked to and from our room at dusk by Masai warriors with spears. 

On the game drive to the Lodge:  Baboons, Bushbuck, Burchell’s Zebra, African Elephant – hereinafter just called Elephant!, Brown Snake Eagle with a snake hanging from its beak as it was flying, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Masai Giraffe, Klipspringer, Warthogs, Impala. 

Arrived about 2-ish for lunch of spicy gazspacho, BBQ pork spareribs, rice, bean salad, pasta with onions and herbs.

Afternoon game drive:  Cape Buffalo, Impala, Hammerkop, Eastern Wildebeest (Gnu) (Eastern are lighter and Western are in Serengeti), Abdim’s Stork, Grey Headed KF, Saddle Billed Stork, Grey HB,  ? Wooddove, Crowned HB, Common Bulbul, Ground HB, about 20 Banded Mongoose, 2 Klipspringer, a Hot Springs where it is said one could boil an egg in 15 mins.,  Read Headed Weaver, Silvery Cheeked HB, Baboon troop on road.

We were assigned our own butler/waiter.  The room is about 7 or 8 feet above ground with a large wrap-around porch.  The ceiling is banana leaves and covered in thatch.  The beds again have mosquito netting, there’s a desk and chair, a couch and cocktail table, closet, and the bath has two sinks, a tub, and a toilet.  The shower is outside on the porch but fenced off with bamboo.  It is very elegant.  Dinner was Sirloin Steak, salad, green beans, zucchini, carrots, rice and dessert of banana fritters.  And Robert, our butler/waiter took very good care of us. 

 Jan. 16 - Breakfasts are buffet style with fruits, tomato, juices, cereal, eggs any way you want them or an omelet, pancakes/crepes, bacon or sausage, toast, coffee, hot choc., yoghurt, etc. 

All day game drive with lunch boxes of chicken, homemade buttermilk type biscuits but better, pasta, and butterscotch fudge.  We had tablecloth, cloth napkins, silverware, metal plates, and the items were in metal containers.  Only thing missing was candles! 

Baboons, Waterbuck, Strangler Fig, Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Red Headed Weaver, Zanzibar Bishop, Brown Snake Eagle, Little Bee-eater, Klipspringer, Ground HB, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Pintailed Whydah, Paradise Whydah, Egyptian Goose, Hadada Ibis, Vervet Monkey, White Browed Coucal, Impala everywhere, Masai Giraffe, Crowned Crane, Dikdik, Vervet Monkeys, Elephant, Zanzibar Bishop, Speckled Mousebird, Zebra, Elephant, Masai Giraffe, Masked Weaver, Elephant, Herd of Impala, a wide panorama along the lake of herds of Zebra, Elephant, Warthogs, 1 Impala, Cape Buffalo, and Wildebeest.  Namaqua Dove, the largest Baobab tree I have ever seen, Superb Starling, and Elephant.

Dinner was pumpkin soup, cashew encrusted tilapia, rice, veg. tortilla, bean moussaka, and pineapple crumbles for dessert. 

Jan 17 -  All day game drive:  Greater and Lesser Flamingos, some flying in choreographed formations along the lake, Marabou Stork, Hippo, Grey Headed KF, Monitor Lizard, Flamingos in the lake, Baboons, Terrapin, Zanzibar Bishop, Giraffe against lake background, Augur Buzzard, Dikdik, Impalas, Blue Monkey, Crested Guinea Fowl, Water Monitor, Hippo Pool with Red Billed Oxpeckers, Silvery Cheeked HB, Baboons on canopy top of Acacia tree, Elephant and 3 year old who trumpeted at us just after we passed trying to show off!, Grey Heron, and Little Bee-eater. 

Lunch was chicken with lemon sauce, apples, rice, bean salad, biscuits. 

When we got to the room, there was a drawn bubble bath in the tub.  Neither Ellen nor I like baths so it was wasted effort and water.  We went to the pool and read after sticking our legs in the cold pool. 

Dinner was champagne, roasted veg. soup, endive and green peppers with lemon dressing, tenderloin of beef, carrots, mashed potatoes with coconut milk,  peppers, onions and chickpeas, and dessert of honey cake with banana glaze.

When we got back to the room, there was a Bushbaby on the porch railing and he quickly scampered up to the roof and into the tree.  During showers we frequently see monkeys in the trees nearby.  We could hear hyenas in the distance.  We were told that Elephants frequently visit the Lodge environs but we never saw any.

Our Intrepid Traveller – Part 9

Jan 13 – AM Boat ride on Shire River and tributaries:  Have only me in the vehicle and boat rides. Don’t have to share so I can take all the time I want to take photos and decide what I want to stop for. 

Brown throated Weaver, Water Monitor, Malachite KF, Greenbacked Heron, Woodland KF, Malachite KF, African Jacana, lots of swallows, Great White Egret (I think this is what we call Great White Heron!), Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret on Hippo back, Mother and baby hippo with Cattle Egret on top of mother, Great White Egred, Hippos, Purple Heron, Blue Cheecked Bee-eater, Nile Crocs (6 of them), Hippos, Open Billed Stork, Malachite KF, Giant KF, male Elephant, Spur winged Lapwing and Blacksmith Lapwing,

Have now seen 5 KF’s–Giant, Woodland, Pied, Malachite, and Striped, of which Woodland and Striped are new for me. Love the snorfling grunt type noises the hippos make!

Age of Baobab trees is measure the circumference.  For each meter, assume 80-100 years old.  Some of the trees have an amazing girth so they have to be thousand or more years old. 

Evening Game Drive through Mopani Woodland (other has been Mopani Woodand and scrub)  :  LBR, Striped KF, baby impalas about 1 mo and 1 1/2 months old, AFE, Woodland KF, Red Billed HB, AFE Grey Lourie, Red Squirrel,  Sable Antelope in the wild–not in Sanctuary, 8 Sable females and 2-3 young plus 2 young males, Elephant family, another herd of Sable Antelope consisting of 17 females, 2 males and then one solitary male for a total of 43!!!!   After dark:  Elephant shrew, 2 genets, and 4 hares. 

 There is noise all day and all night in the bush–frogs, birds, crocs, hippos, insects, etc. 

 It is the beginning of their rainy season, but I have been dry! 

 First day there were 6 others, 2nd day there were 5 others, and last day there were only two others. 

 Had dinner at my lodge last night.  Was supposed to be on the porch but it was too buggy so I brought it inside. 

14 JANUARY Transfer to Lilongwe International Airport and fly to Nairobi where you connect onwards to Kilimanjaro.        Transfer by road to the Arusha Hotel to meet with your group and stay for one night.

Have seen no tractors or farming equipment.  Everything is done by hand–hoeing, harvesting, taking to mkt.  And about half of the people walk barefoot on the black tar highway or by the side of the road.  Water is from pumps in the villages, where they go each day for their daily water.  Many also wash their clothes at the well. 

Today was travel day; 4 hrs by car back to Lilongwe to fly to Nairobi and on to Kilamanjaro in Tanzania.  Had a bit of excitement on the Lilongwe to Nairobi flight.  The captain flashed the seat belt sign — mine was on — and almost immediately the plane dropped.  I had a coke on the way to my mouth and my had went down all the while trying to keep the coke in the glass.  The plane bounced up and my arm with up.  When the plane went down again my glass came down with about half of the coke still up in the air flying all over the two seats beside me.  That happened twice.  I had no coke left in the glass after that!  Luckily there was no one sitting beside me or in front of me.  The coke was still dripping from the ceiling of the overhead bins for another minute or so!  You know that photo where something is dropped in milk and the ring forms with droplets.  That’s what my coke sorta looked like as it was leaving the glass! 

Caroline, Steve, and their friend and my roommate Ellen, will be here sometime tonight.  It is now 11 p.m. and I am going to bed shortly.

Our Intrepid Traveller – Part 8

Jan. 12th.  There was a Londoner at breakfast this morning.  Talked about his wife in London…   Then about 4 paragraphs later mentioned his girlfriend in the Hamptons.  I wondered if I was the only one who caught that.

Morning Game Drive:  Yesterday when I found out there were Sable Antelope in the park, I was quite animated.  I have not seen one in the wild so we had gone in search of those yesterday.  And, as I said above, we finally say a small heard of females with babies inside the Rhino Sanctuary but they were extremely skittish and took off.  And there were no males with them.   I was told we couldn’t go into the Sanctuary since the rainy season had started but there were a very few inside the park otherwise.  I accepted that.  This morning Michael and my guide, George, decided to get the key to the Sanctuary since it hadn’t rained in 3 days and should be dry enough.    (Besides Black Rhino, there are the Sable Antelope, Zebra, Kudu, Impala, Roan Antelope, and Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, as well as leopards and hyenas.)

On the way to the Sanctuary:  Squacco heron, 2 warthogs greeting each other with squeaky squealing noises, Carmine Bee-eater, Lilac breasted Roller, Bohm’s Bee-eater, baby bushbuck, Malachite KF.  Inside the Sanctuary:  is more dense vegetation so was harder to sight:  African Hoopoe, and a gorgeous male Sable Antelope!!!  He posed for me!  My day was absolutely made.  A few minutes later, there is a 2nd male Sable Antelope, Common Duiker (smallest antelope in the park and usually nocturnal), Rose Ginger (a very low-growing ginger plant), Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, 4 MORE Male Sable Antelope for a total of 6 so far and I am in heaven.  They are just stupendous animals.  Continuing on the drive:  Roan Antelope, male Sable Antelope (7, are you counting?), Bushbuck, herd of female impala, Lillian’s Lovebirds*, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Martial Eagle, Woodland KF, and  male Sable Antelope Number 8!!  Python vine which curls counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere just like a python around another tree.  Supposedly in the Northern Hemisphere it would curl clockwise; that is according to George.  Broadbilled Rollers.

I asked for one male Sable antelope and got 8 fabulous specimens.  So, this afternoon I have decided to ask to see a Pangolin!  George has seen two in all his years in the park.  I can ask, can’t I?

Lunch was sliced beef, curried potatoes and cauliflower, Greek Salad, rice, and bread.

Afternoon Game Drive:  NOTE:  Hereafter, Lilac Breasted Roller will be LBR, African Fish Eagle will be AFE, Hornbills will be HB, and Kingfishers will be KF.

Impala, impala, impala!  Bush Buck, Nile Crocodile, Sandpiper, Pied KF, AFE, Red necked Francolin, warthogs, Euphorbia inglens, male and female Waterbuck, LBR, Goliath Heron, morning dove, Red headed weaver, Grey Lorie (Go Away Bird), Malachite KF, Little Bee-eater, Striped KF, Woodland KF, Baboon and impala and babies, Banded Mongoose, Yellow Billed Stork, Elephant and Baobab with stormy sky, lightning and rainbow, Grey Heron and Great White Egret on a limb in the inlet, Waterbuck in field, Crowned HB, Sunset, Yellow Billed Stork flying with night sky and on top of Baobab tree, Water Mongoose, 2 genets, White Tailed Mongoose.  It was raining across the river but we have had great weather.

South Africa now the World Cup dust has settled.

With the World Cup now come and gone, I think few people – South Africans included – understood the full implications of what an event of this size meant to the country – and the brand “South Africa”. In the months preceding the World Cup, South Africa was largely a building site, and any reference to the event was to do with high pricing and logistical complications. Now that it is over – and has been an overwhelming success – we can finally look back and assess the legacy of the World Cup, particularly from a tourism point of view.

The infrastructural benefits – while largely restricted to the large cities – are immediately apparent in the vastly improved road systems and airports, meaning access and transfer times have been improved.

The largest impact I feel from our point of view is the successful implantation of the high speed train (Gautrain) from OR Tambo International in Johannesburg to Sandton (Pretoria will be completed as part of phase 2). Launched days before the World Cup, it covers the distance in 12 minutes in fast, world class comfort and arrives in the heart of Johannesburg’s tourist areas. New hotels have sprung up to service the Gautrain stations, and it is going to change the way we sell the city, as previously many clients opted for airport hotels to beat the notorious Johannesburg traffic. Now the best restaurants, outdoor squares and shopping are within an easy ride. We will be sending out comprehensive info in the next few weeks on this – how we will include Gautrain tickets for clients, how transfers to hotels will work and feedback on the plethora of new hotels that have opened in the Sandton/Rosebank areas.

Durban too has seen a remarkable resurgence during the World Cup period, driven primarily by its iconic stadium a stone’s throw from the beach, and a R350 million beachfront boulevard, running for 5 kms from harbour side restaurants, along the best beaches the city has to offer and passing restaurants and bars en route, all the way to the stadium. With no less than 6 boutique hotels opened in the last 4 months, it also has opened the door for more creative hotel offerings which were sorely lacking in the past. Again – watch out for our comprehensive Durban mail out in the weeks to follow.

The World Cup has monopolised the tourism industry in South Africa for over a year and has absorbed much time and energies. With it behind us, we can now anticipate the benefits of the improved facilities,  transport links and ultimately the exposure of South Africa as a destination.

Copyright © New Frontiers Tours & Travel

Our Intrepid Traveller; a client’s account of Africa part 7

11 TO 13 JANUARY This morning you will be transferred by road and boat to Mvuu Lodge for a stay of three nights.

Leaving the Park we saw yellow baboons (caramel colored instead of the darker brown), Meves’s Starling, Eastern Paradise or Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah?, Glossy Ibis.  Got to the Shire River about 12:30 and had a 45 minute boat ride to the Mvuu Lodge in the Liwonde National Park (Mvuu means Hippo).  Along the way were White Breasted Cormorant, Blue-Cheecked Bee-eater, huge bull African Elephant, Hippos, Hippos, and Hippos, Cattle egret on the hippos, White Heron, Squacco Heron, African Skimmer and some of them skimming!, yellow baboons.

After lunch of fish and chips, set out for a game drive:  Pied Wagtail, Bushbuck, Warthog, Longtailed Glossy Starling, Impala, Great White Egret, Wood Sandpiper, Malachite Kingfisher, Cape Turtle Dove, Banded Mongoose, Red billed Hornbill, Marabou Stork, female Kudu, Red billed Hornbill, Knob billed Duck, female Sable Antelope from a distance, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Red Billed Hornbill, Woodland Kingfisher, Forktailed Drongo, juv. Redbilled hornbill, Bearded Woodpecker, Arnott’s Chat, Woodland KF, Warthogs and Impalas at sunset, Spurwinged Goose flying thru the sunset, Sunset, croc in the water at sunset, and night drive was Courser, Square tailed Nightjar, Black tailed Scrub Hare, Hippo out of water to eat, white tailed mongoose.

They have fireflies!  Don’t know what they call them here, but lightning bugs, they seemed to be!  And I had 2 friendly pale geckos in my room.

Ah, yes, my room!  There are two comfy chairs and a hammock on the porch overlooking a side tributary of the river.  There is a huge king sized bed in the middle of the room enveloped with mosquito netting, a table on either side, a drum to bang on if I need room service (after dark a staff member to come and get me), a desk and chair, and in the other corner is half a dugout canoe which is serving as a closet.   Behind this room is a bathroom with thatched roof, a toilet,  huge rain shower head over a tub, and two sinks.  Water is filtered and safe to drink.  There is a door out of the bathroom with a wooden 2’ wide slatted walkway which leads to another outdoor shower, which I used this morning.  Also in the bath is another half of a dugout for shelves.  My rooms  have solar-powered lighting and hot water.

I was feted to crocs splashing and eating all night long in my little tributary!   And about 4 a.m. some birds with a VERY loud noises were happily awakening everything in the Park (Hadida Ibis ? spell) .  About 5:30 a small troop of monkeys happily hopped across my balcony.

The Lodge is inside the park and is not fenced off from the animals so at night we have to be escorted to dining room and back to our individual lodge.  The Park is mainly Mopani tree vegetation (Mopani means butterfly and the leaves are shaped like butterflies).  The Park is 538 sq. km. and inside the park is a 47 sq. km. Black Rhino Sanctuary.  There are less than 10 leopards in the park, and less than 100 hyenas.

Dinner:  mushroom crepes with lettuce and tomato and cucumber.  Pork chop, mashed potatoes, homemade rolls, cauliflower, chilies, onions, carrots and cabbage.  Lemon pie for dessert.

We are off to Mozambique! – the ultimate dream of Azure warm waters and the romance of a bygone era of coastal trading beckons us.

First of all we are heading to Gorongosa National Park – known in the 1960’s as the place where “Noah left his Ark” because of the vast herds of game.  Unfortunately however the park was ravaged by the civil war in Mozambique. While the dramatic landscape remained largely untouched, the animal life was all but obliterated.  Then in 2008 The Carr Foundation, a U.S. not-for-profit organization, teamed with the Government of Mozambique to protect and regenerate the ecosystem of Gorongosa National Park and to develop an ecotourism industry to benefit local communities for the next 20 years.  Today this forms the backnone of a drive to restore the Park to its former wildife glory. Animal relocations from the Kruger National Park, including elephant and lion, have been successful and plains game numbers have increased incrementally. It isn’t the Masai Mara yet, but it is a remarkable wilderness area, with 54 different biomes, and ever changing landscapes. The plains recall images of Busanga Plains in Zambia, the Sand Forests northern KwaZulu Natal, while the Gorongosa Mountains and Lake Urema are evocative images in this 400 000 hectare park. Explore Gorongosa is the first, and currently only, concession in this wilderness, offering comfortable tented accommodation with bucket showers and eco-loos, and unparalleled day and night access to activities in the Park. Expect plentiful birdlife, plains game, lion sightings and a sense of being in a remote and exotic part of Africa.  After a few days here we would suggest you head to a simple yet stunning lodge on the beach.

Benguerra Island Lodge captures the essence of Mozambique beautifully. With squeaky white sand, a protected bay and a catamaran that sails into the sunset with freshly caught fish barbecuing on an open fire, it ticks all the boxes of an island getaway. Yet it is aspects like a weathered dhow that serves as beach bar, a beach bonfire at pre dinner drinks and staff in flowing white Arab robes that make it more than this and give it an evocative edge. Ironically, the cyclone which destroyed the lodge nearly two years ago now has had a hugely positive influence in the rebuilt and re-designed casas, vast suites directly on the beach with private pools, giant copper baths and an intriguing blend of African and Arabian influences.

For a slightly more eco-rustic beach stay we would suggest Guludo Island Lodge is an innovative lodge built out of a desire to provide a sustainable lodge within the tourism sector to help the NEMA foundation (an organisation which fights child poverty in Africa). The foundation currently supports 12 villages in all aspects of life, and as an interesting twist to a stay here, guests can choose to become involved in one of the projects – or indeed just enjoy the beauty that this part of Mozambique has to offer. In keeping with the organic element, every aspect of the lodge has been designed with ingenuity at its best, from the showers – a creative version of the bucket shower, to the eco- toilet system, to the locally crafted furniture and interiors in the rooms. This Robinson Crusoe element adds to the romance of a wide sweep of beach, and unobstructed views of the ocean from each room, capturing the Mozambique spirit perfectly.

Mozambique is a breath taking unforgettable beach destination just waiting to be explored.