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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

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/ 

Our world is more than just a planet. It is the only one with life – as far as we know – and although our planet has countless beautiful destinations, you don’t have to travel very far to find one…

Photo credit: Katrine Smit.

Being based in Mpumalanga means being surrounded by a vast number of must-see destinations, like the Kruger National Park, Malolotja Nature Reserve and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in Swaziland, the abounding Mozambican beaches and even the Maloti Drakensberg Park.

With such abundant wildlife and pristine nature all around us, it’s not at all hard to find a hiking trail, secluded beach or invigorating waterfall a few hours in any direction, but we’ve found little sanctuaries mere minutes from home.

Mbombela is considered a city, but the streets meander through an endless number of treetops and fortunately, unlike most urban jungles, there’s more greenery than concrete. Not only does it have a magical botanical garden with its very own rainforest, it also has two sizeable nature reserves! One of them has a few hiking trails that take you over a tranquil little river, down a granite boulder and through mossy paths covered with mighty tree roots.

If you follow one of these tracks, they lead to more openness and typical Lowveld fauna. The trick is knowing which way to go when you reach a fork because most of the trails lead back to the beginning, but one of them goes past a mighty boulder. You will likely not consider climbing it at first, but the best view awaits at the top!

After quite a climb, you will reach a more level trail that leads to some tall grass and thorn trees. The first time you wander on this path, you might doubt yourself as it isn’t marked out, but it carries on until you reach another large boulder… This is the one. When you have braved this path and made it to the top of the granite beast, the 360-degree view of Mbombela and all the mountains that surround it will astound you.

Photo Credit: Quinten van Rooyen

Late afternoons offer the most incredible view of the setting sun and all the colours that light up the sky but be sure to make your way back down soon as this trail is not recommended at night.

Sitting up there surrounded by all the majesty of nature, letting your sight stretch as far as you can, will make you feel victorious, yet minuscule at the same time. It almost reopens your eyes to all the beauty that you might not notice every day, and if you listen closely to the warm wind that comes from miles away, you will feel re-energised, ready to take on another day at the office.

YGo Adventures is aimed at helping people rediscover ways to explore and experience the joy nature provides. We believe you shouldn’t have to venture far to find beauty, but if you do, you should do it in style.

Our tours can be tailor-made to make your travel dreams come true. Guided or not, we will put together itineraries that will take you places that give the words “dream holiday” a whole new meaning.

Contact us directly for more info, and look out for our next edition where more hidden treasures of Mpumalanga will be revealed.

Text: Katrine Smit

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

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

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!

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!

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

Why consider Geocaching for your next road trip

Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure-hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate according to a specified set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.

The word ‘geocaching’ was written and said for the first time in the year 2000, by combining “geo” for geography and “caching” for the process of storing or hiding materials. Merriam­-Webster added “geocaching” to its dictionary as an official new word in 2012 and “geocache” was added to the official Scrabble dictionary in 2014.

The spirit of exploration and the joy of discovery unite Geocachers. They live in nearly every country on Earth and have families with children and grandparents. Tech ­geeks, photographers or hikers; in fact anybody can be a geocacher. It offers a broad appeal in large part because it’s bound only by a location and someone’s imagination.

People geocache because it’s a way to explore the world around them with friends and family in an enjoyable way. The game reveals a world beyond the ‘everyday’, where the possibility of a new discovery hides under park benches, in the forest and probably a short walk from where you are right now (literally) – even in your own suburb…

The only necessities are a GPS device or a GPS-enabled mobile phone so that you can navigate to the cache, and a basic geocaching.com membership.

A total of 2.5 million geocaches can be found all over the world in over 180 countries. It is common for more than 10 million registered geocachers to hide caches in locations that are important to them, reflecting a special interest or skill of the cache owner. These locations can be quite diverse. They may be at your local park, at the end of a long hike, underwater or on the side of a city street.

A geocacher hides a geocache, lists it on geocaching.com and challenges others to find it.

At minimum, geocaches contain a logbook for finders to sign. After signing, finders log their experience on geocaching.com, or with the geocaching app and earn a reward in the form of a digital smiley.

Some geocaches contain small trinkets for trade. If a geocacher takes something from the geocache, they replace it with something of equal or greater value.

Geocaches are put back where they were found for the next geocacher.

Geocaches are never buried.

There are also geocaches that are not based in containers – these are called earthcaches – very informative and teach you a great deal about geology.

Other alternatives to container-based caches are trackablestravel bugs (TBs) and geocoins (GC).  These have tracking numbers and rake up mileage as they travel from cache to cache.  They travel the world; exchange hands from cacher to cacher and land up doing more than 100 000km – adding another exciting aspect to the game.

Items that should not be placed in a geocache are food, sharp objects, ammunition, illicit or illegal items and alcohol. Everyone should respect their local laws. Geocaching offers advice to geocache hiders from law enforcement around the world and complimentary geocaching premium memberships to law enforcement agencies.

 

A geocacher chooses a waterproof container and a location to hide it. Once accurate coordinates have been established along with landowner permission, they submit it for publication on geocaching.com. A set of guidelines will be provided, including important rules that keep geocaching fun (and legal) for everyone involved. If a geocache clearly violates one of these rules, community members who review new geocaches may ask the hider to correct any discrepancies.

The most famous South African team is iPajero. It consists of a retired couple from East London and geocaching is what keeps the couple fit and on the go.  These two go-getters embarked on a colossal trip to the USA last year from 28 March to 15 August, and found over 1 000 caches in total.  They put together an article which makes for some very interesting reading: You can read all about it on http://bit.ly/1Tqd6z9

Should South Africans find this hobby interesting and the wish to connect with local geocachers, check out this local, voluptuary group that promotes the game locally – http://www.geocachingsa.com or visit the website www.geocaching.com

Endorsed by Silvia Ludwig – Secretary of Geocaching South Africa