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Get to know Lady Grey

Tucked away in a valley below the breathtaking Witteberg mountain range is a town called Lady Grey. This area is rich in sandstone, fossil beds and rock or San art. In the town is a Dutch Reformed Church which was built in 1913. Today this beautiful sandstone building is a national monument. In 1925 a Mr Stromsoe of Cape Town built the Lady Grey Dam. Its wall is 25 metres high and visitors can walk up a natural staircase to the top of the dam wall or even go for a swim in the rock pool below the dam. Lady Grey was named after Cape governor Sir George Grey’s wife, Lady Eliza Spencer.

Registered tour guides offer historic and botanical tours around town. The Cape Vulture Sanctuary in the Karnmelkspruit Gorge is well worth a visit, as you can get an eye-level view of this magnificent endangered species. This area has some of the best fly-fishing waters in the country with crystal clear streams and breathtaking scenery. Although fishing is catch and release only, you can catch yellow fish and trout in these waters. All activities in the area will be by prior arrangement with the relevant people. The area offers many lovely hikes. There are also camping sites on the Karnmelkspruit River and in town for keen caravan enthusiasts.

Lady Grey hosts a few artists and The Arts Academy produces young professionals in drama, dance, music and singing. The Altec Choir has live performances throughout the year. Exhibitions are held regularly. Apart from the church and the museum, other historical places include the Powder Magazine, historic buildings and the cemetery with graves of soldiers from the Anglo-Boer War.

Witteberg Skywalk Start in Lady Grey and finish in Rhodes Duration: Anything from seven to 10 days Fitness requirement: It’s tough, you’ll need to be relatively fit Our tip: Going during winter means cold days, crisp skies and wet boots

The Witteberg Skywalk is regarded as rigorous. You will not only have to be fit but an adventurous backpacker as the route follows the edge of the Witteberg mountains between Lady Grey and Rhodes.

There are no fixed overnight huts or places to stop. It is somewhat of a wilderness hike that entails carrying a tent and stopping where it suits you best.

In exchange for a little discomfort and carrying extra weight, you will experience incredible mountain scenery that includes peaks like Balloch, Snowdon and Ben Macdhui.

Accommodation in town varies from backpackers to four-star accommodation. Accommodation in the countryside varies from lodges, camping sites, game farms and self-catering establishments of high quality. There are a number of restaurants and coffee shops in town. A padstal on the R58 towards Barkly East provides the traveller with home-made goodies from the area.

Make the most of your trip by arranging excursions well in advance.  Many interesting places cannot be entered without permission www.ladygrey.co.za

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Take a hike to Mpumalanga this holiday season

With more and more day- and overnight-trails opening every week, hiking is rapidly becoming one of Mpumalanga’s major drawcards for visitors. There are literally hundreds of spectacular hiking trails on offer, lasting anything from several hours to several days.

Examples include day hikes at Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) sites, such as the Belvedere Day Hike from Bourke’s Luck. This full-day trail takes in some hefty gradients and leads down to the Dientjie Falls in the foot of the Blyde River Canyon, where buck abound, baboon calls echo and eagles and ibises soar overhead. The Bourke’s Luck area also offers a number of other day trails and a 30-kilometre three-day overnight trail. All are self-guided.

Another option is the newly-reinvented Jock of the Bushveld Day Hike, running along the edge of the escarpment, taking in Paradise Camp from the book Jock of the Bushveld and offering great grassland bird sightings along the banks of the many streams. It even has its own geocache site.

Sabie offers the popular Bridal Veil hike, a gentle wander along the Sabi River to this popular waterful, with some challenging detours for the more adventurous, and the walk to the Forest Falls. Known for being the only falls in Mpumalanga to be wider than they are high. Hazyview offers the popular Matumi Trail, a shady wander along the Mac Mac River, from its confluence with the Sabaan and Sabi Rivers. Cool off in the forest, chase butterflies and find a rare Narina Trogon or a red duiker among the manifold matumi trees.

Situated in the Nelshoogte Forest Reserve between Barberton and eManzana (Badplaas), the Queen Rose Trail is arguably one of the most scenic hiking trails in South Africa. The two-day, 26km hike takes adventurers through indigenous forest, over mountain passes, through the Montrose timber plantation and along the Queens River.  Spectacular scenery and rich in wildlife, including over 350 bird species.

The hike includes 20 river crossings, some with suspension bridges to keep boots and kit dry, as well as several natural pools where hikers can take a break and cool down.

Alternatively, the Num-Num Hiking Trail is a self-guided 3-5 day hiking trail situated between eManzana (Badplaas) and eNtokozweni (Machadodorp), in the Skurweberg Mountains, Mpumalanga. This trail has been rated by Green Flag as moderate-to-difficult, meaning hikers have to be of reasonable fitness and agility. Along the route, hikers may encounter suspension bridges, ladders and steep up- and down-hills to get into stunning gorges. The route winds through a spectacular variety of Highveld Escarpment terrains including indigenous forests, sandstone mazes, ancient grasslands, waterfalls and panoramic views of the Komati River Gorge.

Overnight accommodation is in five unique and comfortable camps that have equipped kitchens and hot showers.

The Kruger National Park offers numerous trails with possibly the most exciting being the opportunity to backpack the length of the park in a rigorous hike broken up into 100-kilometre sections. The SANParks Honorary Rangers are offering this as a chance to ‘Follow in the Footsteps of the Giants’.

As a further indication of the increasing popularity of hiking in the province, passionate hiker Kevin Ruthven’s has also founded Lowveld Hikers. This innovative institution is more of a hiking club than an established hiking trail, whereby Kevin manages to find obscure trails and walks, predominantly along the Mpumalanga escarpment but sometimes further afield, and invites members (and visitors) to join him in appreciating the natural beauty that the region has to offer.  He has access to properties that very few could obtain permission to hike without him. At least two hikes are organised every month.  Check the events calendar on the Facebook page for forthcoming hikes.

The Mpumalanga Highveld also offers a broad range of challenging walks, including the Ama Poot-Poot trail near Dullstroom with both day-trail and overnight options and taking in lovely views, ravines and mountain streams. Nearer Middelburg, day routes include the Slagthoek Trails, with longer options following the Olifants River Gorge,  through open grassland, up steep climbs and down wooded gorges.

With more and more trails opening every day and with the launch last week of the first phase of The Marula Route, a cultural trail running through the rural communities along the western border of the Kruger National Park between the Paul Kruger and Orpen gates, Mpumalanga is definitely the space to watch for hikers.

For more information, check out the following websites:

http://www.safcol.co.za/ecotourism/

http://www.mpumalanga.com/things-to-do/adventure-sports/hiking

http://www.thenum-numtrail.co.za/

http://www.sanparksvolunteers.org/camps_trails.php

https://www.facebook.com/lowveldhikers/ 

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Spring Flowers in the Cape Region

We spoke to Piet van Zyl, former owner of Matzikama Tours and Accommodation in Cape Town, who specialized in spring flower tours in the Western Cape mainly. He gave us some guidelines for first-time visitors.

Timing is everything – This is probably the number one thing that visitors miscalculate. Being a hotter area than the rest of the Cape, spring starts earlier.  The flower season peaks between early August and late August and it is dependent on the winter rains.

As a general rule, the wild flowers begin flowering first in the Northern Cape in Namaqualand in late July/early August.

They then advance southwards through Nieuwoudtville and the Cederberg region and then begin in the West Coast at the end of August. Thus the West Coast offers the best chance of seeing spring flowers in early September.

However, there is a large element of luck involved as it all depends on the amount of rain. Some years are better than others! If there has been a steady flow of gentle cold fronts during the winter, then it is likely to be a good flower season. But one or two violent storms interspersed with dry weather are not so good.

Spring temperatures are also important. If it heats up too quickly then the early visitors have glorious sunshine but the flowers do not last very long.

The bottom line is that ideally, you need to go with an attitude of acceptance and ideally be prepared to explore other aspects of the area if the flowers are not so amazing. For example, the Cederberg has some stunning mountain passes to enjoy. View rock art, do a walking trail or visit Rooibos tea farms. The towns have attractive coffee shops to enjoy and arts & craft shops to explore.

Visitors might not feel they need any tips for flower viewing (how hard can looking at flowers be?). But there is quite a lot to consider if you would really like to get the most out of this experience. Piet suggests you visit the Tourism Information Centres and talk to the locals, who are very hospitable and enjoys sharing their knowledge with visitors, to get the information you wouldn’t necessarily find in books or on the internet.

The best way to have a well-rounded trip would be to include the West Coast National Park for its Postberg flowers, wildlife and birding, some of the quaint West Coast Towns like Paternoster, Yzerfontein and Saldanha, for their laid back atmosphere and fresh seafood, the Cederberg for its rock art and mountain beauty, Wuppertal for its interesting history and Citrusdal for the beautiful orange orchards. Darling is also well known as a cultural experience, with the Eva Perron theatre and culinary delights. The entire flower area has become well-known for its vineyards and boutique wine cellars, and the West Coast Wine Route will give you options, whichever route you take. If time allows, the flowers in the north, though further away, around Vanrhynsdorp and Springbok are glorious and well worth the trip.

Cape Town to Richtersveld 850km: Johannesburg to Springbok 1160km:

Springbok to Richtersveld 297km. We did this trip in spring after good rains. It was one of our most memorable travel experiences! Richtersveld, a world heritage site, has the most amazing scenery in a desert environment, with a remoteness that stills the soul. Set in a great loop of the Orange River, the deep canyons and jagged mountains, unusual rock colours, the rare kokerboom or quiver tree, the strange halfmens tree, unique succulents and isolation make for a lifetime experience. In spring, the desert can bring forth a host of wild flowers. Miniature rock gardens, perfectly designed by nature, cling precariously to cliff faces.

Tiny succulents, mere pinpoints against a backdrop of surreal rock formations, revel in the moisture brought by the early morning fog rolling in from the cold Atlantic Ocean.

Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed in the park. For detailed park information, booking and how to get there visit the park’s website. There are no shops in the park, but fuel and cold drinks can be purchased at a small general store at Sendelingsdrift. The shop is open on weekdays only. Tel: 012 428 9111 for central booking or 027 831 1506 at the park itself. The trip to Springbok is 568km from Cape Town and 1160km from Johannesburg.

Springbok is close to the famous Goegap Nature Reserve, also known for its birding.  Springbok is a great springboard from the north, with the top flower destinations of the Namaqua National Park, Kamieskroon (visit the Skilpad Flower Reserve – named for its tortoises), Garies and Bitterfontein, all en-route to Vanrhynsdorp and Clanwilliam.

To reach Vanrhynsdorp from Cape Town is a 308km trip and Springbok to Vanrhynsdorp is a 260km drive. If you are camping, the Vanrhynsdorp private caravan park is close to town on the Main Gifburg Road. The Caravan Park has a quiet, well managed, farm like atmosphere and also offers guests the option of staying in self-catering units. Camping sites have power points and ablution with hot water. There’s a restaurant with a great a la carte menu. Tel: +27(0)27 219 1287: +27(0)76 293 2578.

Vanrhynsdorp itself has flowers on various farms and it is best to contact tourism for the best places to go, both in town and in other areas. T:027 219 1552: Van Riebeeck Street, Vanrhynsdorp.

Vanrhynsdorp is home to Kokerboom,  the biggest succulent nursery in the world (Tel: 027 219 1062: Cell: 082 811 5474)  and to the Latsky Radio Museum with its interesting displays:  Monday – Saturday 9 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 5 pm: Tel: +27-27-2191032: 4 Church Street.

From Vanrhynsdorp you can do the following breathtaking day trips:

Take the 182km circular route from Vanrhynsdorp to the coast and back. From Vanrhynsdorp take the N7 to Klawer, and visit the Klawer wine cellar. From Klawer, drive to Vredendal, famous for its flowers and wine. Continue to Lutzville with more wine cellars and then on to the flowers at Standfontein and Doringbaai, home of Fryers Cove wines on the coast. Not only do you go through the beautiful Olifants River Vallery, a rich wine, fruit and vegetable farming area, but get to enjoy the quiet beaches along the coast. See our article on the West Coast Wine Route. Or you can go to Nieuwoudtville.

Drive 52km over the awe-inspiring Van Rhyns Pass, to Nieuwoudtville, the bulb capital of the world and visit the flower reserves and farms for amazing floral carpets.

Drive 52km over the awe-inspiring Van Rhyns Pass, to Nieuwoudtville, the bulb capital of the world and visit the flower reserves and farms for amazing floral carpets. Visit the Hantam Botanical Gardens that boasts an incredible 1350 plant species, and is found on the Oorlogskloof Road and the Nieuwoudtville Flower Reserve, close to town.

A great day trip from Nieuwoudtville, is to take the R357 north out of town, and visit the Nieuwoudtville Falls, the Quiver Tree Forest at Gannabos, a private farm, where trees grow to 400 years old and produce vivid yellow flowers in May, June and July, as they have been doing for many thousands of years.

This forest is spectacular at sunset. Further on, Loeriesfontein has a rather interesting windmill museum.

An excellent flower experience can be enjoyed by driving south from Clanwilliam. It is only 228km from Cape Town and 80km from Vanrhynsdorp on the N7. You will pass the Klawer Cellars en-route from Vanrhynsdorp, so make a stop.

Clanwilliam offers the magnificent Ramskop Wildflower Reserve, next to the Clanwilliam Dam. A wonderful day trip from Clanwilliam is the 140km round trip to the Biedouw Valleyand Wuppertal. Not only are the flowers overwhelming, but Wuppertal is a village lost in time and an experience itself. You can enjoy something to eat at the little shop in Wuppertal.  To get there, take the R364 from Clanwilliam over the Pakhuis Pass and turn right onto the Biedouw Valley/Wuppertal road.

If you are interested in Bushman Rock Art, take a really professional guided tour with the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project.

Citrusdal is situated on the Olifants River and is famous for its citrus orchards. It is 170km from Cape Town and 58km from Clanwilliam along the N7. However, there is a wonderful gravel route from Clanwilliam along the dam, towards Algeria.

After approximately 30km, you will access the N7 again. No traffic, pure bliss (this is the same road you took to visit the Ramskop Wildflower Reserve).

The Postberg area of the West Coast National Park that is only open in flower season is a brilliant spot and the park itself is also a sight to behold, where wildlife on the plains mingle with the flowers. There are also bird hides in the park. The towns of Yzerfontein and Darling are also good flower spots.

From Citrusdal, an interesting route can be taken over the Piekernierskloof Pass and onto the R399 to Velddrif, which is also well known for its birding and fishing. From Veldrif, experience the quaint West Coast Villages of St Helena Bay, Britannia Bay, Paternoster (very popular village with great seafood) and Tietiesbaai. Drive through Vredenburg en-route to the West Coast National Park and Postberg. In Postberg you can enjoy a picnic at the Uitkyk picnic spot. An interesting attraction, 13km from Vredenburg on the R45, is the Fossil Park. On the same road, 37km from Vredenburg is Hopefield.

The veld around Hopefield provides its own natural display of springtime flowers when the green winter wonderland is transformed to an overnight spectacle of bright indigenous daisies and fynbos. There are four botanical zones: renosterveld, sandveld, reed veld and vlei areas. At the Hopefield Show, these regions are displayed in the exhibition hall to reflect Fynbos in their natural habitat. This very popular show takes place at the Hopefield Sports grounds on the last weekend of August each year.

In Langebaan visit the Strandloper Seafood Restaurant for a fresh seafood indulgence.

From the WCNP drive to Yzerfontein and enjoy a meal at the Strandkombuis Seafood Restaurant on the beach or participate in an authentic Bushman cultural experience.

Drive to Darling on the R315 and visit the Tienie Versveld Wildflower Garden, the Renosterveld Reserve, Wayland Farm, Contreberg Farm on R307 Darling-Mamre road and Oudepost Farm. Wayland and Oudepost are only open for flowers during August and September. Here millions of these exotic flowers are cultivated for local and export markets. The Groote Post wine farm also offers long walks in its beautiful natural surroundings.

Piet also stressed the fact that you need to book early to avoid disappointment the ‘season’ is very short and people book way in advance.  His last private tour was in August 2017 when he took his mother-in-law and grand-mother-in-law to observe Mother Nature at her proudest: spring flowers spring as this was a lifelong dream of Grandma. Piet says that everybody should go there at least once in their lifetime.

Written by:  Ista van Zyl

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Tiger Fishing In The Mighty Zambezi River

Written by: Sylvia von Lindeiner – Waldau

Anyone who likes to fish has the wish to hook a big Tigerfish at least once in their life. They are a highly sought-after freshwater game fish because of their speed and aerial displays when hooked.

Tigerfish

When I asked my friend Eddy van Deventer why he is so passionate about tiger fishing his reply was short “Well it’s very simple! Tigerfish gives an angler one of the best fights!”

The best spot to do so is, hand down, the mighty Zambezi River – home to some of the largest tigers on the planet. “Tiger-heaven”

I am personally not the best fisherman or more like the worst. My friends who are very much into fishing like to refer to me as a ‘civilian’, apparently a commonly used term in Zimbabwe among the guys who participate every year at the Kariba Invitation Tiger Fish Tournament, to describe someone who is absolutely useless when it comes to fishing.

Tigerfishing

But despite being terrible at catching fish (or anything for that matter- even the right man), I would never say no to a fishing trip with these non-civilians as a fishing trip in Zimbabwe on the mighty Zambezi does not only give you the ultimate chance to experience the catching a massive Tigerfish but also guarantees you extraordinary Big Five game viewing and the most stunning and calming scenery.

The Zambezi Valley bids the perfect mix of game fishing and first-class game viewing from some unique safari lodges.

Fishing on the Zambezi or in Kariba is always done from boats with crocodiles and hippos around you. Sometimes the boats get tied up on the sandbanks for lunch and some bank fishing in the afternoon. But be careful of wildlife!

According to some of my friends, who certainly know more about this subject, the three main areas to catch Tiger in Zimbabwe are the Upper Zambezi, Kariba and the Lower Zambezi:

The Upper Zambezi above Kariba promises you a catch throughout the year. However, from August to December it is recommended to go trolling whereas January to April drift baiting is most recommended.  June to September are the best months to use spinning as a fishing method.

Kariba, where they prefer to go trolling spinners or other artificial lures as well as live bait. Lake Kariba is approximately 220kms long and in parts up to 40kms wide and gives anyone stunning game viewing and fishing occasions from the many lodges and houseboats that are available. Most houseboats are fully equipped with delicious cuisine, a crew and tender boats which allow to go and explore the lake and further fishing spots.

And last but not least- the lower Zambezi, where they mainly use live bait or fillets and go drifting with the current. Once again – one is also promised spectacular game viewing with buffalo, numerous elephants, lions, leopards and many antelope species. Birders will certainly also love this area and so if the fishing is getting a bit quieter- the nature and wildlife, as well as all the birds, will not let you get bored until those hungry tigers finally bite again!

Zambezi River

All these areas are best during the summer months but fish can be caught throughout the year.

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Relax and Unwind in Marloth Park

Author: Ina Stevens

A burning red ball of fire with hues of orange fading into a magnificent Africa sunset, lush greenery and wild animals roaming on swaying grasslands springs to mind when I’m descending into Mpumalanga.

My husband James was born and bred in the Lowveld and always dreamed about his own piece of land in this tropical lush part of our country. For me, life on a farm would just be too remote but when he showed me this beautiful location I fell completely in love with Marloth Park. It is then here we found our perfect piece of paradise…

Marloth Park situated on the banks of the Crocodile River, is a Holiday destination for local and international guests alike. Giving you the opportunity to relax, unwind and appreciate nature and wildlife at its best. It boasts four of the “Big Five “in its own game reserve Lionspruit, with the exception of elephants. The rest of the game such as zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala and warthogs roam freely between the houses, they are quite tame and use to humans, which makes for a very” close”  viewing experience. Many lookouts along the river offer magical picnic spots, it leans itself to having a romantic sundowner with spectacular views at dusk.

One can often spot the” Big Five” while driving or walking along the fence road neighbouring the Kruger National Park, with elephants so close you can almost touch them,  Lions feasting on a kill and lurking Wild dogs and Hyena waiting to scavenge. Should you wish to visit Kruger Nation Park, Crocodile Bridge gate are a mere 14km away. Due to its close vicinity of the Mozambique and Swaziland borders, the Park is also a very popular stopover.

You will find this small community friendly and helpful. There are several restaurants offering mouth-watering cuisine and a few shops as well as hair and beauty salons which usually are a big plus for city girls like me!

Bird watching is very popular and those familiar sounds of a Fish-eagle can be heard echoing through the sky. But the true beauty is the calmness, the quietness in your soul, sitting next to a fire with dancing flames, hearing a lion’s majestic roar, looking up at the Milky Way with millions of flickering stars in the night sky. The peace and tranquility it brings to mind are almost indescribable… something you will just have to experience for yourself!

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Kgalagadi, as experienced by our readers

Authors: Annelie & Neil Pretorius

Wow! I don’t even know where to begin. This place is just magnificent and exceeded all our expectations and more.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is situated in the Kalahari Desert region of South Africa and Botswana and is about a nine-hour drive from Pretoria on the N14.

A few years ago my husband came across a Facebook group called Kgalagadi Sightings where visitors to the park posted their personal photos of their experience in the park. We fell in love with it and could not get enough of the photos of all the lion, cheetah, leopard and spotted hyena.  

So we started planning our two-week trip to the South African side of the park mid-2015. We decided to visit the park during April/May 2016 as it was is just after the rain season and temperatures were bearable and the evenings a bit cooler. We started buying our camping gear … As it was our first visit to the park, we decided to book accommodation at the three main fenced rest camps namely Twee Rivieren, Nossob and Mata-Mata, and to do a three-night, four day 4×4 eco-guided tour en route to Nossob.All these rest camps comprise of very neat ablutions and laundry areas and even have electricity connectivity. Twee Rivieren has a restaurant and tiny shop and there is cell phone reception too.

Our holiday began on 22 April; we left Centurion very early that morning. We checked in at Twee Rivieren for the next 2 nights and days. Twee Rivieren is situated on the bank of the dry Nossob Riverbed. We travelled up the Nossob River bed between Twee Rivieren Camp and Nossob Camp, we left our camp early at 07:00 and was surprised to see 2 lionesses’ on the dunes not long after we left our camp, we stopped for a few minutes, but they disappeared behind the dunes and we decided to drive on, 10 minutes later we came across a few cars in the road, next to the road a lioness and her 2 cubs was drinking water in a puddle, I was ecstatic to see the 2 cubs so close to our car. The highlight was when I noticed the most beautiful lions walking in the direction of the mom and cubs, went and paused for a rest period on one of the Kalahari’s idyllic red dunes with the morning sun in his face, I snapped so many photos of that beautiful moment. We saw big herds of springbok, oryx, blesbuck, blue wildebeest mainly travelling on their own, vultures, a small group of meerkat playing, but no hyena, cheetah or leopard sightings.

We stayed another night at Twee Rivieren and from there, prior to our visit to the park we booked a 3 night, 4 day guided 4×4 eco trail group tour across the red dunes to Nossob, where we stayed at 3 unfenced camps, without electricity, running water and a long drop toilet, but that was all part of the experience. During our trip, we were taught a lot about the dunes, fauna and flora in the Kalahari desert. I definitely recommend the eco-tour. We didn’t see lots of game but saw ostrich, kudu, lion and lots of birds.

On day 6 we arrived at Nossob camp, we started the day off by just relaxing at camp for a change. The following morning, we left early to see if we could spot some hyena, as we were informed at reception that there is a den not far from camp, so we headed in the direction of Polentswa waterhole. We didn’t drive far and came across 3 lions having an early morning nap in the sun on the road near Bedinkt waterhole. We couldn’t believe it, we were the first car to view the sighting and had the 3 all to ourselves for nearly 20 minutes. We drove off and had coffee and nice rusks in the bakkie at one of the many waterholes along the road, before driving back to the camp for an afternoon nap. The following morning, we left as the gates opened at 07:00, made sure we are the first vehicle to exit.

Today is the day we are going to spot some hyena I told my husband, full of optimism we left and drove for about 10km next to the Nossob riverbed heading again in the direction of Polentswa waterhole when I spotted 2 creatures in the distance walking very fast, grabbed the binoculars and yes, it’s 2 hyena. I was in my element as I have never seen a hyena in the wild. We drove to get ahead of them, but they were still very far in the distance walking in the riverbed, and then they turned towards us and walked straight up to our bakkie and sniffed on the bakkie’s tires. What and awesome experience to see them so up and close. My day was made! Once again we headed to a waterhole and had our daily coffee and rusks in the bakkie before we drove on for some more game viewing and came back around 15:00 and set up camp and lit the fire. Nothing can compare to the peace and quiet and the night sky in the Kgalagadi with distant jackal calls in the distance.

On day 8 we headed to Mata-Mata, situated on the bank of the Auob River, this side of the park borders Namibia to the west. Mata-Mata offer 2 hour long guided night drives, we saw bat-eared foxes, muskeljaatkat, spring-hare, scrub hare, Cape fox, African wildcat, jackal and night owls and lots of antelope. The rest of our trip we stayed at Mata-Mata and travelled up and down the Auob Riverbed  and saw Masego the famous young leopard hunt an African wildcat in a tree next to the road after exploring various trees looking for prey, we followed her on this particular day for more than an hour between Dertiende and Veertiende boorgat.

The riverbed is also home to large herds of giraffe and we came across them everyday sightseeing, we saw Masego the leopard almost every day. One morning on our daily route we saw 2 hyena walking in the direction of Veertiende boorgat and followed them slowly, they reached the waterhole and both jumped in the water trying to cool off while drinking water. This was so interesting to watch as they were playing. Like at Nossob they walked straight up to our bakkie and sniffed on the wheels but this time biting at it with their sharp teeth, my husband had to pull away to avoid any damages to the tires. We spent the last two days at Twee Rivieren before heading back to Pretoria. During our trip, we were lucky enough to see a total of 32 lions, some leopard and two cheetahs in the distance near Mata-Mata, among others.

All three rest camps have little shops with all necessaries, a petrol station to refuel. Twee Rivieren and Nossob have swimming pools. We bought delicious freshly baked “rooster brood” every night while at Mata-Mata and Nossob. You can place your order at the shops in the morning and collect your items after 06:00. At Mata-Mata there is a little shop across the border on the Namibian side that sells delicious lamb chops and boerewors at a very good price. You are allowed to cross the border without a passport to visit the shop, just inform the security at the border.

Kgalagadi is an absolute must for bird lovers, we saw yellow-billed kite, black-breasted snake eagle, tawny eagles, bateleur, pale chanting goshawk, lanner falcon, Namaqua sand grouse, Namaqua Dove, spotted eagle owl, veer aux eagle owl and tow species of vultures. The camps are also home to yellow mongoose and ground squirrels. They are not shy at all and will even walk up to your camp chair if you sit very still. One even tried to take a dead butterfly out of my hand! Big herds of gemsbok and springbok can be spotted throughout the park along the roads and at waterholes. Unfortunately, we didn’t see meerkat up close, but maybe next time.

I can definitely say that this breakaway to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was and will be remembered as one of our most memorable and relaxed holidays yet. We returned revitalised and the park definitely exceeded our expectations. The staff is friendly, fellow campers greet you in the morning on your way to the ablutions and on the roads. People are very considerate and everyone gets a chance to view a sighting. We are already planning our next trip with friends to the Botswana side of the park this year April. We cannot wait to put our feet in the sand and get that overwhelming feeling of joy that comes with it.

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Marloth Park

Aurthor:  Isak du Toit

After I read the articles on Marloth Park in Edition 6 of YGo e-mag, my friends and I decided to go and see for ourselves what the big fuzz is all about.

Since it is less than 100 kilometres from home in Mbombela, we went for the weekend. We arrived on Friday just in time to witness a  spectacular sunset after which we spent the evening around the campfire enjoying the sounds of nature.

On Saturday we explored Marloth and caught a glimpse of its wildlife such as giraffes, warthogs, impala, kudu, zebra, some of which freely roamed the streets. We also visited the two shopping centres, where we met up with some of the locals – all genuine and friendly people.

It was indeed a weekend well spent.  If you love nature like we do, we definitely recommend Marloth Park for a tranquil break away to enjoy the wildlife the village has to offer.

Marloth Park – we will be back soon!

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Untouched Zimbabwe – Mana Pools National Park

Aurthor  – Sylvia von Lindeiner-Wildau

Imagine a little piece of heaven so wild and untouched, so pure and marvellous that heavenly is the only way to describe it. It is here where the mighty Zambezi winds its way up north and the floodplains are home to a wide variety of wildlife. It is where the trees are lush and provide shade from the relentless African sun and the elephants balance on their hind legs to reach the highest fruit. If one is looking for the ultimate “off the beaten track” experience I suggest to a trip to Zimbabwe to visit Mana Pools National Park. Here the hyenas pays your campsite a visit every night and if you are lucky – even more amazing creatures of the animal kingdom. This is the perfect destination to experience nature in all its splendor. It lacks luxury and there are no creature comforts but, in exchange, it gives you the rare opportunity to experience peace in its true essence.  Once you have visited this African Garden of Eden you will want to return again and again. The remoteness of the park and its huge expanses and overall magnificence provide a wildlife experience far superior to that of any other national park.

On the opposite side of the river, in Zambia, there are many luxurious upmarket lodges and five-star camps. Zambia’s tourism has experienced immense growth in the past decade. The decline in Zimbabwe’s economy and the resulting political crisis certainly helped to boost tourism in Zambia. Nevertheless, the natural resources, beauty, wildness and uniqueness of Zimbabwe have remained relatively untouched.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to take the road less travelled, this Zimbabwean experience is for you. It is the perfect destination for the explorer looking for the ultimate thrill. Before the collapse of the economy due to the Land Reform Program in 2001, when Zimbabwe was still the breadbasket of Africa – it was a key tourist destination, drawing millions of tourists every year. This country had a reputation for offering the finest rates in the safari industry and boasted the most renowned and knowledgeable guides in southern Africa. This destination was one of the most popular choices on the global tourist trail – offering millions of international tourists everything – from first-class safaris to exploration and adventure holidays and luxury wildlife breaks. But when most privately owned game reserves were violently disowned, international tour operators started to pull out of the country due to its bad reputation and because of security concerns. Tourist numbers dropped drastically and left the wildlife sector and conservationists in dire straits. International travellers gradually forgot about Zimbabwe and its fine natural resources, several World Heritage Sites and world wonders and focused their attention on other destinations. Zim became the hidden gem for the adventurous traveller- the perfect off-the-beaten-track destination. Nowadays very few South Africans and foreigners visit  Mana Pools.

This is Africa in its essence.  The campsites are unfenced, there are no queues through which to find your way in the park. There are no restaurants and no power supply. I personally recommend the Nyamepi campsite which is comparatively safe and also fairly close to the park office where one can buy firewood (and trust me – running out of firewood is no joke!). Although the more remote camps sound more enticing, you might appreciate a bit more hustle and bustle,  safe in the knowledge that you are not entirely alone on a dark night when lions, hyenas, hippos and elephants roam free in the bush around you.

I do, however, advise visitors not to sleep alone in a tent as it can be quite frightening at times with the hyenas sniffing around the tents all night. After all, a tent is just canvas!  I remember one such sleepless night, too scared to get out of the tent and to make too much noise – when I realized that a much bigger animal than a hyena was sniffing around the campsite. The next day an American couple told us excitedly how lucky we were to have a leopard in our camp. Although the hyenas at the Nyamepi campsite can be chased off easily,  they are not shy at all. They love to pay an unexpected visit during braai time or when everyone is fast asleep, in search of some leftover food. Therefor – try not to act like a savage and rather discard your leftovers in the dustbins. Apart from the wildlife, the Mana pools are also remarkably beautiful as they are situated right next to the mighty Zambezi.

Walking safaris offer a special challenge to the very brave. The guides are very experienced and know exactly where to go and what to do to see the biggest variety of animals. I once was lucky enough to spot a pride of lions during one such a safari. It was a thrilling experience – but also quite scary despite the guide’s reassurance that it was safe. I still froze. Funny enough, my only response was that I would not be able to run as I was wearing slops.The guide’s prompt reply was that the worst thing one could do was to run. So, if I could do it you can too! Years of experience make it possible for the safari guides to get surprisingly close to the animals.

It is advisable to be responsible and practice caution during your stay in the park. The short walk to the ablution blocks can quickly turn into a very scary experience. Especially at night. I personally recommend campers to walk to the ablution blocks in groups and not to wait until the middle of the night when the entire campsite is pitch dark. Always keep in mind that this is the wild. It is strictly forbidden to take any fruit into the park. It is also very important to properly discard of all your garbage. Also, ensure you are back in camp at sunset – another rule that management made for your safety.

Keeping in mind that the journey is always very much part of the destination, remember to smell the flowers along the way – try to enjoy the drive through the country just as much as your stay. If you are heading to the park from Bulawayo, why not stop at places such as the Gweru Antelope Park, or stay over at a beautiful lodge such as Pamuzina Chengeta where you can enjoy exciting activities such as elephant rides, among others. Do not miss out on the Chinhoyi Caves on your way to Mana Pools. These caves have a very mysterious and peculiar ambience. The tranquil waters of the caves are sapphire blue. There are also various quaint shops to browse through which will quickly ease your frustration about the potholes and roadblocks on your journey.

It is regrettable though most people have a bad perception of Zimbabwe as a travel destination nowadays, as its friendly people and untouched nature and wildlife have remained very much the same. But maybe it is also a good thing that a visit to the country is not everyone’s cup of tea, as this makes it a tourism destination of quality rather than quantity. Quality which offers good value for money and a one-of-a-kind experience – off the beaten track and a road less travelled.

Mana Pools National Park Central Reservations Office in Harare

Tel.:+2634706077/8 Email reservations@zimparks.co.zw

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Apps for outdoor Travel

Author: Du Plessis Janse van Rensburg

February may be famous for Valentine’s Day, but for travellers it’s also the month in which summer provides some of the most exquisite outdoors experiences. Many of these experiences may happen far off the beaten track, in new, unknown destinations.

Since many of our readers are probably involved in some sort of outdoor travel or activities, we’ve compiled a list of the top apps to take with on your outdoor explorations this February.

AllTrails

If you plan on doing any biking, hiking or other trail-related activity this month, AllTrails is definitely a must-have on your home screen.

The app is feature-rich in the sense that you’re able to find nearby biking or hiking trails, have a look at others’ rating of the said trail and, in some cases, look at videos and photos of the trail.

These features can be useful when you’re planning a trail run, walk or hike and you’re unfamiliar with the terrain and routes. Along with the many trails you also have the option of selecting a trail and, by using the GPS of your phone, track your progress live on the map, which eliminates the risk of getting lost.

AllTrails is available on both the Google Play and stores.

SAS Survival Guide

While adrenalin-inducing travel adventures are amazing, they do come with their own potential risks. Any number of accidents may occur on your adventure and,  if the unthinkable should happen, you want to be sure to have a resource to assist you in addressing it.

The SAS Survival Guide app does just that, with in-depth guidelines for solving almost any emergency that might occur while on an outdoor excursion. It’s an essential rather than a nice-to-have.

The app claims to be the definitive guide for survival in the wild, in any climate, on land and sea. It definitely delivers, with everything from tailor-made lists for specific activities to recipes for food when you have to live off the land.

The SAS Survival Guide app is available in both Google Play and Apple App stores in two versions.The one is free and the other, with more extensive features, can be downloaded for R75.

Skymap

One of the most special things the outdoors has to offer is the huge expanse of stars in the night sky and,  if you find yourself far away from the city light, watching the stars can be a magical experience.

The only problem is that you may not know where to find the constellations which can make stargazing a bore.That’s where Skymap comes in – it’s an app that refers to itself as a handheld planetarium which empowers the user to identify stars, planets, nebulae and any other interesting astrological occurrences.

The simplicity of the app is part of its appeal.You simply open the app, calibrate the gyroscope (this is very easy, it just sounds complicated) and point your phone to the sky to see where the constellations are.

Skymap is available on both the Google play and Apple App stores for free.

Google Translate

Imagine you’ve travelled to another country where its native tongue is totally unfamiliar to you? Although you might not find yourself on a trail in the bush, not being able to read signs can make you feel lost very quickly.

If you hate getting lost in unfamiliar surroundings, Google Translate is a lifesaver.

The idea behind the app is simple – when you come across as sign that is written in a language you don’t understand you simply whisk out your phone, open the app and point the camera at the sign, wait a moment and, voila!, the app will translate up to 37 languages into English.

Even though this is magical already, the app goes even further by also giving you the option of translating in real time if you have to ask a local a question. Just open the app, set the mode to conversation,  set the input and output language, and merrily ask away – the app will translate whatever is being said into the local tongue and translate the local mother tongue into English!

Google Translate is a fee app available in both Google’s Play store and Apples App store.