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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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Sabie Valley Riding

Author: Thomas Böhm

Thomas Böhm is well known in the bike riding circles of Mpumalanga. He is the owner and instructor at  Sabie Valley Rider Academy. The academy is based at the Windmill Wine Shop and Cottages on the notorious and fabled road known as the “22” (R536 ) winding between the towns of Sabie and Hazyview.

The Academy offers on- and off-road riding courses to Adventure Bike riders from novice to advanced riders wanting to improve their skills at bike handling in off-road or dirt road riding conditions. Thomas also conducts a Defensive road riding course. This course is aimed at the riders wanting to improve their safety and skills for riding on public roads.

Thomas’s passion for biking was born at the young age of nine and he participated in off-road races as a teenager. He shared his love of riding with his wife Jacqui and together they originally rented bikes to tourists visiting the Lowveld.

In 2005 he planned and hosted the first ever Sabie GS challenge This became an annual event and only registered owners of BMW Adventure Motorcycles are allowed to enter and participate. The event is held in March every year and is the longest-running BMW GS biking event in Sout Africa. Participants in the event usually have to arrive fully prepared to camp overnight, but chalets and cottages are also available for accommodation. The Sabie GS challenge provides the opportunity to ride in safe, sometimes challenging off-road conditions. The routes are pre-determined and are classed from Green – the easiest – to Black for those that has the advanced riding skills and determination to be challenged.

Thomas started The Sabie Valley Rider Academy in 2010 after a series of negotiations with BMW Motorrad. He completed the advanced instructor training course in 2012 in Germany. He is planning to construct a bigger and better training facility on his property. He is hopeful to have it completed in June this year. Thomas is actively involved in the local BMW Riders Club and assisted in the organising of this years Mpumalanga GS Trophy 2017 held in Badplaas in May.

In addition to the Sabie GS Challenge and offering beginners to advanced (level 1 to 3) training, the academy also offer bike rental, and personal, 1-on-1 training for those not comfortable in groups. The Expert Adventure Riding Sand Experience is aimed to provide training for riding in sandy conditions. Sandy roads can be challenging to most riders and are generally referred to as the sand monster. Thomas’s course conducted over a weekend at Kosi Bay in Kwa-Zulu Natal gives the participants comprehensive training and the opportunity to hone their newly learned skills under the supervision of a capable and qualified instructor. Just to be sure, Thomas assures us that all lady riders are welcome on any of the courses he presents at the Academy.

Thomas and Jacqui Böhm are passionate about Adventure Biking and biking in general. They are as passionate about the Lowveld and riders are welcome to contact him if they are looking for riding partners and or advice on routes to ride in the Lowveld.

For more information and upcoming events visit their website http://rideracademy.co.za/

Or call Thomas +27 (0) 72 133 2151 and Jacqui +27 (0) 82 930 6289

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Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino – Swaziland

A Hotel with a view – Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino Swaziland

The Piggs Peak Hotel & Casino is located in the mountainous Kingdom of Swaziland, a country with unique flora and fauna and a distinctive and interesting cultural heritage. The hotel is situated in a beautiful and secluded pine forest and it meets the diverse needs of nature lovers, sports enthusiasts, casino guests and night owls. Each day has many activities or none, whichever you prefer.  Situated just 31km from the South African border on the northern side

Piggs Peak Hotel & Casino in Swaziland provides everything for everyone, from a top class restaurant, luxury bedrooms and a cosy casino to excellent sporting facilities. The hotel is perfect for a romantic honeymoon, a relaxing weekend or a family holiday. Its secluded location also makes it an ideal out-of-town conference destination.  Piggs Peak Hotel & Casino offers a choice of 103 luxury rooms, including 14 suites and 89 comfortable bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, tea/coffee stations, telephones and satellite TV. All rooms have spectacular views from their individual balconies.

The hotel offers a 24-hour room service, arts and crafts boutique, a children’s playground, jumping castle, an indoors life-size chess facility and a babysitting service. For business people, secretarial services are available on request.

Conferences at this Hotel are hosted in 3 well-equipped conference and meeting rooms that are air-conditioned. For smaller gatherings, there is a board room accommodating 10 plus people. There are 4 conference rooms accommodating between 20 and 65 people which can be combined to seat a maximum of 216 guests.

For an experience of a different kind, enjoy a relaxing drink in one of the hotel’s three bars. Gamble in the Casino, where punters have a choice of several gaming tables with a mix of Blackjack, Roulette, Punto Banco, as well as slot machines. Stroll around the beautiful grounds and discover two tennis courts, a gymnasium, two air-conditioned squash courts, a swimming pool, a sauna, a bowling green and a mini golf course. Numerous scenic walking and hiking trails exist in the surrounding forest, which is home to a variety of bird life and indigenous flora and fauna. The hotel is close to tourist attractions like the Phophonyane Waterfall, the Maguga Dam and Sibebe Rock, the second largest single rock face in the world. Local glass and candle factories are worth a visit to search for a perfect Swazi memento.

When visiting Swaziland, if one is a non-local, one needs to have a valid international passport. Check with your travel agent to ensure you have all the correct travel documents to travel to Swaziland. A road tax is payable at all Swaziland borders upon entering Swaziland (at the moment the road tax amount is R50.00 – June 2017). Once in Swaziland it is possible to make international phone calls, the international code for Swaziland is +268, there is also e-mail centres and internet cafes located in Mbabane (Swaziland’s Capital) and Manzini. Travelling in Swaziland can be done via the railway lines, roads, buses and minibuses, roads are in excellent condition but be on the lookout for speed bumps near all the populated areas.

Tel: (+268) 2437 8800 Fax: (+268) 2431 3382 / 3415

Email: res@piggspeakhotelandcasino.co.sz gm@piggspeakhotelandcasino.co.sz

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Once upon a time in Coffee Bay

Authur: Sylvia von Lindeiner – Wildau

There is a little place in the Transkei called Coffee Bay which can fully be described as a hippie paradise perfect for all the gypsy souls roaming along the coast from one backpacker hostel to the other.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, a cargo ship stranded at this very place in the wild coast and spilt a shipment of coffee beans all over the seashore. Apparently, some of these beans took root and started to grow into baby coffee bean trees but, unfortunately, the conditions were not suitable and they did not endure. This is where Coffee Bay got its name.

The first time I arrived at Coffee Bay in the Wild Coast was over ten years ago. As a young 20-year-old girl ready to explore the world on her own and seeking as much adventure as possible. I still remember it as if it was yesterday. It was after having spent almost two weeks in Port Shepstone that I decided to move on with my travels and head to the wild coast. I caught a lift with an Irish guy who also stayed in Port Shepstone for a few days to Port St Johns. This was where I met a group of Germans who said they still had space in their car and were planning to travel to Coffee Bay in a few days and I decided to tag along.

Once we arrived in this little town we immediately got hit by the vibe. The reggae music playing in the background somewhere, the typical long haired hippies in their tie-dyed shirts and the general feeling of chilled relaxation hanging about the hammocks under the trees and people chilling near the Babalaza bar. As soon as you go for a stroll to explore the town (which mainly consists of two streets and a river) you will find a handful of local kids selling their wares “You want mushrooms?”

The Transkei is a wanderer’s paradise. No time, no rules, no restrictions. You just lose yourself in the sense of the place.

Coffee Bay has one of the most beautiful beaches. So my new group of friends and I spent time at the beach all day, be it playing cricket, surfing or just chilling and listening to the typical odd person play the guitar and sing. We went for amazing hikes to Hole in the Wall followed by long picnics at the beach or bumpy rides back to Coffee Bay in the back of someone’s bakkie. Yeah- pretty weird- we thought the same- but it was all part of the vibe. The evenings were either spent at the bar (where all buffalo rules apply) or in the little hut we shared listening to music, laughing for hours, talking endless rubbish or just watching the stars. We didn’t care about anything in the world. We had no worries. We were young and wild and free. Literally.

Who we were, where we came from- none of that mattered. Which was the beauty of it all- In normal lives, what you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. But in that moment of our life’s we were what we were right there and then. People had no past to hold against anyone. No yesterdays on the road. Just here and then. It was a beautiful time of our lives.

This was my first experience of Coffee Bay. I always remembered it with special memories and always wanted to return to this crazy place.

So when I was 24 my boyfriend at the time and I headed back to this crazy place that caught a special place in my heart. This time I experienced Coffee Bay in a completely different way. It now turned into the perfect romantic place one could think of. It wasn’t about meeting new friends and all that. It was more about us two and our time together. Even though the town itself was a bit more developed and commercial, we still had endless empty, untouched beaches to ourselves. (ok- not completely empty- we had to share with a few cows) and a little hut right on the beach. We watched the sun go down while sitting on top of the hills with a bottle of wine and started our days early with walks on the beach. The Babalaza bar still existent and was where we met a few other travelers who partied a bit with us on one night. But we didn’t overdo it or anything. We rather had early and well spent days exploring nature.

My second experience of Coffee Bay was therefore also indescribable as I now experienced it as this amazing, romantic little place in the middle of nowhere. And it made me realize that love makes you see a place differently.

Three years later I returned once again. This time, however, with a few friends I studied with in Port Alfred for a quick weekend getaway. It was different. I am glad that I did not stay in the same hostel once again as I think this would have ruined my memories of Coffee Bay even more.

My perfect little romantic-hippie-getaway was packed with young students and backpackers and the parties were pumping. I am not sure if it was just my perception or if it really changed into more of a commercial touristy town.

I think what it really was, was that it was a different time in my life. I outgrew Coffee Bay. Sometimes you shouldn’t always return to places that already hold the most amazing memories. They were amazing at that time in your life for a reason. How could the previous times in this little town have possibly been topped. What did I think? This time when I returned I was no longer in the adventurous phase of a 20-year-old girl who felt young and wild and free nor was I in love.

Yes- the natural beauty of Coffee Bay and Hole in the Wall was obviously still there… and I obviously also partied with everyone else and joined in with all fun activities- but my last visit to this beautiful town made me sad in a way as it made me realise that at times one should not always return to places with incredible memories.

It taught me a lesson. I now believe- as amazing as it was back then- it would have been enough to leave it at that. I’m not saying I had a bad time the third time- but it couldn’t hold up with the previous times. And to cut a long story short: Don’t ruin your memories. Rather create new ones in new places.

Travel isn’t always pretty- sometimes you can return to the most amazing place which may hold beautiful memories of your past- and it will hurt. Because it will make you realise that life carries on… everywhere. Travel can therefore also break your heart in a way- but that’s okay. The journey changes you and it should!

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Explore Mpumalanga On Your Off-Road

It is time to take out your bike riding gear and head for hills, forests, dirt roads and those slightly far off places in the province.

Remember to check your bike’s oil and fluid levels before heading out on the road. If your luck is anything like mine, make sure to pack the rain suit as well. Whether you plan to go on a tar or a gravel route be sure to have your brightly coloured reflective jacket on to ensure high visibility. If you are going on an off-road route be sure to have a puncture repair kit and or spare tube handy if your wheels are the tube types.

If you are an experienced rider you know what to do. To refresh your memory and riding skills head out to Sabie either from MBOMBELA (Nelspruit) or via White River. If you get there early have breakfast at The Woodsman or why not make a change and try out the fine fare at Sabie Brewery or The wild Fig Tree Restaurant.

Then get back the tingle of excitement in your toes as you swoop through the smooth curves of the Long Tom Pass. If you are new to the area and the Long Tom Pass ask one of you fellow experienced rider to show you the lines to take through the curves.

Don’t be shy to ask advice on riding some of the best twists and turns in Mpumalanga. Challenge yourself and make use of all the expensive rubber you have on your bike. If you are out early you might just be lucky enough to feel like you are riding on top of the world.

If your heart rate has not been raised by then, stop at Misty Mountain Lodge and take a wild ride on their downhill toboggan. Contact the lodge regarding fees and bookings.

You can then brave the roads from Lydenburg to Dullstroom and enjoy lunch at one of the fine establishments there. The whisky shop comes to mind.

For the more adventurous, the off road dirt roads around Kaapmuiden, Barberton, Kaapsehoop, Swaziland border, Badplaas and Chrissiesmeer offer a wide range to choose from. Take into account that the logging season is in progress and most of the forestry roads are also used by logging trucks and machinery.

Another factor to consider is the recent rains. Roads used extensively by the loggers can proof challenging to beginners or novice dirt riders.

Making a full days ride and getting dirty is the goal. You have to spend at least a day or two cleaning the mean machine that carried you safely. Be sure to oil the chain if your bike is chain driven. Mud and water can take its toll on that shiny new chain and sprockets you had fitted and not used regularly.

Get an early start to make use of the best light for your pictures and utilise the cooler morning air. Pack snacks in your top-box or camelback backpack to have a picnic along the route. Don’t forget the water.

Exploring a recent route, we ended the day at Badplaas. The route followed the service road between the railroad track and the Kruger National Park fence from the Numbi Gate to Matsulu.

This sometime two-track dirt road can be challenging with washed-away low water bridges and slippery causeways. Do not ride this route alone.

From Matsulu you can make your way on tar to Louw’s Creek (R38) and on to Barberton. You can detour on the dirt road by taking the Louieville turn-off that skirts alongside the Shiyalongubodam.

This road links up with the Barberton Geotrail and ambles through an indigenous forest with rich birdlife and small game. This is also a great spot for an impromptu picnic. The Geotrail to Barberton has paved viewpoints where travellers can stop to read about the rich geological finds in the area.

Get out there and explore the blue sky country.

WRITTEN BY:  Nicolene Olckers

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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