What do you do when you and your partner want different holidays?

Do you and your other half disagree on what holiday to book? This is the time of year, when the days are long and dark, when most people are looking into booking their big holiday for the year. It’s hard enough trying to decide where to go and how much to spend but it can be a total minefield if you and your partner want completely different things.

Hands up – who wants to lie on a beach but has another half who wants to be active? Who wants to enjoy fine food and drink in a luxury hotel but your partner wants to rough it in the great outdoors? Does one of you hanker after bright lights and city breaks but the other prefers fantastic scenery and wildlife?

Well I have the perfect solution for those of you with this dilemma – South Africa!

It may be a cliché but South Africa really does have something for everyone. If you want a city break with luxury hotels, fine food and wine, nightlife, shopping and galleries then Cape Town is the place for you. Cape Town is not only a vibrant and exciting city but it is also surrounded by amazing scenery. Accessible from Cape Town is a wide range of scenery from mountains to vineyards, beaches to bush and incredible wildlife including whales, sharks and dolphins. While you are relaxing on the beach, visiting galleries, enjoying a superb lunch or shopping your partner could be sailing, fishing, shark diving, taking a helicopter flip, whale watching or golfing. You see what I mean? There aren’t many places in the world where you can do all this in one place!

If one of you wants great beaches and the other wants to go on safari then this can also be done easily in South Africa. (Actually Kenya or Tanzania are also good options as you can easily combine a safari with a beach stay on the coast or on Zanzibar.) The world famous Garden Route is chock full of beautiful beaches and you can stay at Knysna or Plettenberg Bay two small but lively beach towns surrounded by amazing scenery. Combine this with a few days on safari in one of the 5 star private game reserves in the Eastern Cape and you can both be happy!

If one of you wants to experience the great outdoors then staying in a tented camp on safari or a lodge tucked up high in the stunning Drakensberg Mountains are both excellent choices. If you are is super sporty then you can play golf at one of the numerous golf courses all over SA, go surfing at Jeffrey’s Bay on the Garden Route, go shark-diving in Cape Town, mountain biking, horse-riding or hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains, fishing, whale watching, dolphin spotting all along the Garden Route – the list is endless. If the other half is not so keen then there are plenty of alternatives on offer in all of these places.

If you also cannot decide on what kind of accommodation you both prefer perhaps you could mix and match and combine both your preferences? If you do one of our wonderful self drive holidays you have a huge range of choice. You can stay in everything from private luxury villas to boutique bed and breakfasts. We have eco-lodges, luxury hotels, self-catering apartments, safari lodges, city hotels, beach resorts, bed and breakfast accommodation, country houses, vineyards – the list is endless. You can find our full range in the Lodge Library.

If you would like to talk to one of our experts about your holiday dilemmas then just give Paul, Helen or Lily a call –we are very good at finding the perfect solution!

Posted by Ruth Bolton

 

 

 

Ancient Africa And Where To Find It

Most people go to Southern and Eastern Africa for the wildlife and scenery but actually it is a fantastic destination for those looking for a bit of history. After all Africa is the cradle of civilisation and the place were mankind was first discovered. There are many fantastic sites where you can see evidence of ancient times; from rock art to ruined cities, from fossilised remains to ancient living tribes there is something for everyone even remotely interested in Africa’s epic and important history.

Ethiopia – Axum, Lalibela and Gondar

Ethiopia is one of the most historically and religiously significant places in the world with an exciting past that is still very much evident today. Those who visit Ethiopia are stunned by the vast number of holy sites which have amazingly survived pretty much intact. If you wish to visit the most important historic sites of Ethiopia then you should definitely include Lalibela, perhaps the most famous of them all. This site is home to 12 monolithic or rock-hewn churches including the Church of St George. How they managed to carve these churches from underground and the rock face itself back in the 13th century is just mind boggling.

In Axum (Aksum), an ancient capital of Ethiopia and home to the Kings, you can find the basilic Church of our Lady Mary of Zion. This is believed to be the home of the Ark of the Covenant that Moses carried with him during the Great Exodus. No one is allowed access to it for fear of the dire biblical warnings associated with the Ark so many religious scholars doubt that the Ark is really there. There is plenty more to explore in Axum as there are many stelae or obelisks dating back 1700 years and historic royal palaces; a relic of the time when Axum was the capital of Ethiopia (from 400BC – 1000AD).

Also worth a visit is Gondar which was once the ancient capital city of both the Ethiopian Empire and the later Begemder Province. Gondar is home to many important remains including several royal castles, including Fasilides’ castle, Iyasu’s palace, Dawit’s Hall, a banqueting hall, stables, Empress Mentewab’s castle, a chancellery, library and three churches. Near the city lie Fasilides’ Bath, home to an annual ceremony where it is blessed and then opened for bathing; the Qusquam complex, built by Empress Mentewab; the eighteenth century Ras Mikael Sehul’s Palace and the Debre Berhan Selassie Church.

There is so much history to explore in Ethiopia that you need a good couple of weeks to get the most from your tour. We have several different tours in Ethiopia that include the most important sites.

South Africa – Rock Art in the Drakensburg

South Africa is an incredibly rich source of cave paintings and one of the best areas to see many of them in in Kwazulu Natal in the stunningly beautiful Drakensberg Mountains. The area is now protected as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The San people (also known as Bushman) created beautiful rock paintings and engravings which you can see all around this area. There are over 40,000 of them in this area alone so they were pretty prolific! There are various walking tours that take you to sites that are close together and these trails usually have an information centre where you can learn more about them or hire a guide to show you around. We have a great range of beautiful accommodation in the Drakensberg Mountains including Cathedral  Peak and Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse and some great South Africa self drive tours that pass through the Drakensberg.

The Kamberg San Rock Art Trail is incredible and includes such sites as the Game Pass Shelter.  The San paintings are now national monuments protected by law but were first discovered back in the early 1900s.  At first they were thought to be simple depictions of daily life such as hunting but nowadays experts believe that the artwork is actually made up of mystical images that were seen by shamans whilst in a trance.  Among the most accessible of the many Drakensberg rock art sites is the open-air Bushman Cave Museum in the Giant’s Castle Reserve, established in 1903 and run by KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation. A short walk takes you to the cave, which features 500 rock paintings, some of which are estimated to be around 800 years old. However if you are a fit and adventurous hiker you can take yourself off to more remote trails where you will be able to discover caves on your own!

Tanzania – Olduvai (Oldupai) Gorge

Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania is actually one of the most important paleo-anthropological sites in the whole world and you can visit it on one of our Tanzania safari holidays.  You can visit en route to the Ngorongoro Crater. This site was part of a scientific discovery that rocked the scientific world.  It allowed scientists to date early mankind for the first time as it was here that remains were found from millions of years ago. Olduvai turned out to have been occupied by Homo Habilis 1.9 million years ago,  Paranthropus Boisei 1.8 million years ago, and Homo Erectus 1.2 million years ago.  Modern mankind known as Homo Sapiens is dated to have occupied the site 17,000 years ago.

Louis and Mary Leakey were the paleo-archaeologists responsible for most of the excavations and discoveries of fossils in Olduvai Gorge and their family have since continued their work and even today scientists are still continuing to discover important finds in the area. The Leakeys were firm believers in Darwin’s theory of evolution and were sure that early man had lived in the area. They followed other scientists finds but it was their discovery of a homonid skull that meant Tanzania was truly the origin of mankind. In 1959, Mary found remains of the robust australopithecine Zinjanthropus boisei (now known as Paranthropus boisei) which has been one of the major scientific discoveries of all time. This is because the age of the skeleton was put at  1.75 million years and this dramatically changed what had been the previously estimated time scale of human evolution.

Zimbabwe – Great Zimbabwe

The Great Zimbabwe ruins are the largest collection of ruins in Africa south of the Sahara such as Libya, Egypt and Morocco. Located in Zimbabwe between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, the ruins are remains of an ancient culture of great wealth and impressive architectural skills. Built between the 11th and 15th centuries, Great Zimbabwe was home to a cattle-herding people who also became adept at metal-working. The ruins are the largest of their kind on the Zimbabwe Plateau, but they are by no means unique. There are lots of much smaller sites across Zimbabwe and as far as Mozambique. Great Zimbabwe is impressive as it was once home to up to 20, 000 people in its heyday. The remains are made up of granite walls – embellished with turrets, towers, platforms and elegantly sculpted stairways which show a huge amount of skill and expertise in architecture and engineering for such an early civilisation. Although the site was ransacked by European explorers and treasure hunters it is still an incredible place to visit and well worth a visit. It can be combined with a tour of Southern Africa or a safari in Zimbabwe. So important are the ruins to the nation that the country actually took its name from the Shona word for ruins, ” Zimbabwe”.

Posted by Ruth Bolton

 

 

Springbok driver, Abe, now guiding Real Africa clients in South Africa

He’s met Nelson Mandela, been the driver for the famous Springbok team, South Africa’s national rugby squad, and is now part of the Real Africa family,  available to book as a private driver/guide  – a fabulous option for those not wishing to self-drive on a holiday to South Africa and an absolute must for anyone into their rugby!

We like our clients to experience the real Africa, with local guides,  and we are delighted to be able to offer Abe Abrahams, something of a national personality, to our clients as a personal driver/guide. Whether you would like him to accompany you for a day around Cape Town’s environs, or a week or more, we think you’ll find his insight and his humour a huge asset to your trip.

Feedback

“We would also like to specially mention Abey , our tour guide, who took great care of us and was a big part of our thoroughly enjoyable experience with his knowledge and insights of the places we travelled to. Please do give him our regards again” – Amish Choksi  

“Thank goodness for Abie and his flexibility, due to unforeseen weather conditions, he came up with a solution and saved the day for us.  His resourcefulness and quick thinking gave us a beautifully redesigned, personalised tour” – Mr Thomas Kaplan  

“Cape Town tour was fabulous with an excellent guide, Abe Abrahams, who made the stay memorable. He is a true professional and a credit to South Africa.” – Mr Colin Atkinson

More about Abe

Abe worked for a company called Springbok Atlas Charter, a coach company, who subsequently won the tender to be the transport company for the Springbok team in the nineties. Abe became the team’s elected personal driver in 2003. Due to Abe’s bubbly personality he struck a good relationship with all within the team and served as their driver for many years.

In 2007, John Smit, who was the Springbok’s captain going into the 2007 Rugby World Cup, asked Abe to accompany the team to France for the World Cup, something Abe remembers with great fondness and  described in a news report as, “an incredible reward for driving the team.”

2003 – Started with the Springbok Rugby team under the leadership of Rudolph Straeuli. Abe was in charge of the team preparation of the transport for the World Cup in Australia.

2004 – Jake White was appointed as the coach, and for the following 4 years Abe worked in close relationship with him and the Springbok Rugby Team. This also brought about the team contributing towards Abe’s flight and accommodation, etc in order for Abe to travel with the Springbok Team to the 2007 World Cup in France.

2007 – Abe had the honour of meeting the late President, Mr Nelson Mandela at the Mandela Foundation when the Rugby World Cup trophy was presented.

Abe is referred to as Oom Abe by all within the rugby team meaning Uncle Abe,  a sign of respect. Even within the current team who face England at Twickenham this Saturday, he is well-known and is always seen at the grounds rubbing noses with the big boys. Clients travelling with him are often in awe as they chat  about rugby, the country,  its culture and some of his wonderful experiences.

If you would like a tailor-made itinerary to South Africa, with Abe as your driver-guide, then please do call us on 01603 283 517 for a personalised quote.

Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park

Have you ever heard of a Peace Park? There are several in Africa but the biggest and most established is the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park in Southern Africa. This incredibly vast conservation area  stretches across three frontiers between Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa and is home to millions of animals.

This park was set up as a peace park to join  three countries together in an effort to protect the wildlife that roams across their national boundaries and as such it is one of the most successful conservation projects on the whole of the African continent. The park actually incorporates three seperate national parks; the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique and the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and some of the areas in between.

Conservation Area:

At the moment it is in the first stage and currently it covers around 35,000 kms sq. The aim is to bring together some of the most exciting and well established wildlife areas in Southern Africa and  manage it as one single, integrated unit across three international boundaries, a tricky proposition! The next phase will to be to create a bigger transfrontier conservation area measuring almost 100,000 kms sq.  The larger transfrontier conservation area will include Banhine and Zinave national parks, the Massingir and Corumana areas and interlinking regions in Mozambique, as well as various privately and state-owned conservation areas in South Africa and Zimbabwe also bordering on the park.

Administration:

The adminstration and development of the park needs the various countries to agree unified policies and to co-operate over things such as fees and rates, border crossings, tourism strategy, conservation strategy, future funding and future development. This can only be done by running the park under a single management organisation and this has been done since 2002 when the park was finally created after years of planning.

History:

The park was originally discussed as an idea in a meeting between President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and the president of the World Wide Fund For Nature (South Africa) in 1990.  The 1992 Peace Accord in Mozambique and the South African democratic elections of 1994 paved the way for the political processes to proceed toward making this idea a reality. Feasibility studies initiated by the World Bank culminated in a pilot project that was launched with Global Environment Facility (GEF) funding in 1996.  Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique signed a trilateral agreement in Skukuza, South Africa on 10 November 2000. The Skukuza agreement signalled the three nations’ intent to establish and develop a transfrontier park and surrounding conservation area that, at that time, was called Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou. Finally, on 9 December 2002, the heads of state of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe signed an international treaty at Xai-Xai, Mozambique to establish the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Below is one of the first concept maps drawn up for the park in 1993.

Wildlife:

The park is important for several different reasons. It is vitally important to preserve some of the cultural sites such as the ancient cave paintings and the evidence of early man within the park.  The landscape and vegetation area are also vitally important to preserve. Of course one of the most important aspects is the conservation of the rare wildlife that lives in this area. In the GLTP there is a significant and viable populations of wild dog, white rhino and black rhino all of which are significantly endangered. Both these species are increasing steadily and increased range opportunities into Mozambique and Zimbabwe will enhance the conservation of these species and others. There are also significant populations of elephant, zebra, lion and spotted hyaena to be found in the park. As the park grows it will encompass and protect more endangered species and preserve more areas of environmental or cultural importance. It will also offer protected migration routes as most animals travel huge distances in search of either grazing or prey.

This is one of Africa’s great success stories. The park has taken a huge amount of time and effort whilst managing to overcome many hurdles on the way but it is now   a great success with plans to continue its expansion and development.

 

Posted by Ruth Bolton

 

 

 

 

 

Beaches, battlefields and bateleurs – KwaZulu Natal is small but mighty

The Western Cape’s Garden Route is rightly a well-trodden path for international visitors to South Africa, while Kruger is known worldwide as an iconic safari destination. But for those wishing to escape ‘well trodden’ and to really get under the skin of South Africa, then we recommend looking east to the tiny province of KwaZulu Natal.

KwaZulu Natal may be South Africa’s third smallest province but this doesn’t stop it packing a punch as far as experiences are concerned with two World Heritage sites, fabulous beaches, the Big Five, historic battlefields and a colourful Zulu culture.

Our new KwaZulu Natal in Luxury itinerary, brings together the very best of KwaZulu Natal to showcase what can be done in a two week holiday.

KwaZulu Natal in Luxury, 15 days from £3,770 per person including international flights, accommodation and car hire.

Here are five reasons why KwaZulu Natal should be on your wish list:

CULTURE

This historic Zulu kingdom is steeped in history and culture, from ancient San Bushmen rock art sites in the UNESCO World Heritage uKhahlamba-Drakensberg mountain range, South Africa’s highest mountain range, to a living museum in Hluhluwe where traditional Zulu dancing and craftwork are demonstrated. The remnants of the British colonial era blend with Zulu, Indian and Afrikaans traditions to give this province a rich cultural diversity.

BEACHES

Beautiful beaches stretch every which way from the gateway city of Durban and being on the Indian Ocean coast, the added benefit is that the water is actually warm while shark nets and lifeguards ensure that time in the water surfing and swimming is spent safely. Alluring cafes and sophisticated restaurants line the stylish Umhlanga Rocks area near Durban, perfect for downtime after a long international flight.

WILDLIFE

Abundant wildlife can be experienced along the Elephant Coast to the north of Durban. Within iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a 328,000 hectare UNESCO World Heritage Site benefiting from beautiful beach and reef habitats of the Indian Ocean on one side and steamy tropical lake, forest and wetland habitats on the other, visitors can canoe, trek, fish and wander along stunning beaches in search of leatherback turtles, dolphins and whales. Inland at Phinda, a private game reserve, you can stay in luxurious safari camps and see all the Big Five as well as a host of other wildlife including wild dogs. This area is known for its thriving black and white rhino population, following concerted conservation efforts.

FOOD & WINE

Take the Midlands Meander, a food and wine trail where farm stalls like Piggly Wiggly, cafes and restaurants beckon. Viticulture is in its first decade of development but there are already notable labels including Abingdon and Lion’s River to sample along the way. Finish the Meander with a stay at Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse, a gourmet retreat set in a remote valley on a lake where seven course dinners, mountain walks and roaring log fires are the order of the day.

BATTLEFIELDS

No trip to KwaZulu Natal would be complete without a stay in the Battlefields. An area made famous by the Anglo-Boer Wars. The quiet hills now ring with the voices of expert guides who tell visitors of South Africa’s bloodiest chapter in history, of the struggle at Isandlwana where the British were defeated by the Zulu in 1879 and then just days later how the British defended Rorke’s Drift so gallantly.

To find out more about the lodges we offer in KwaZulu Natal, like historic Fugitives’ Drift, or to receive a tailor-made itinerary for South Africa then please do get in touch with us on 01603 283 517.

By Sara White