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Make the Lowveld your kids’ playground these holidays

Finally, December has arrived. Now you can wind down and spend some quality time with your family. The Lowveld offers a wide range of activities to keep the kids busy and we guarantee you will end up looking back on many memorable moments after a visit to one of these hotspots.

HAZYVIEW

A visit to Hazyview and surrounds is essential for a family looking for adventure and fun. Other than the various types of accommodation and family-friendly restaurants found in town, there are many activities on offer for all ages.

Make a booking at Induna Adventures for anything from zip lining to quad biking or white-water rafting. Get elevated to the treetops on Africa’s longest aerial cableway with Skyway Trails. Interact with mighty African elephants at Elephant Whispers or at the Elephant Sanctuary, or embark on a horse safari at Horse Whispers. Visit Monkeybirds to see 120 exotic monkey species and over 50 pairs of exquisite birds, do a Segway tour through tropical fruit orchards or view an extensive collection of reptiles at Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park.

LOWVELD NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDEN

With its waterfalls and wildlife, the Lowveld National Botanical Garden is a subtropical paradise for kids and adults alike. The garden is shaped by the Crocodile and Nels rivers that cut across it to form spectacular waterfalls which can be viewed at the Cascades and the Nels viewpoints.

Children will really enjoy walking through the enchanting African rainforest and across the famous suspended bridge, where the cascading waterfall can also be viewed. They will also enjoy one of the largest collections of South African fig trees and the mystical baobab tree.

Other highlights include the useful plants project, children’s play area, dry bushveld area, the riverside trail, canals, SA Forest, cascade viewpoint, Sappi Aerial Boardwalk and Nursery, as well as the resident wildlife and wonderful biodiversity.

SKUKUZA

Whether you are staying in the Kruger National Park or not, a visit to Skukuza is a must.

Although part of getting close to the Big 5 entails a full day in the car, you can get a break from the midday heat by spending the bulk of your day at the rest camp and visitors’ centre.

Skukuza offers family-friendly restaurants and loads of things to do. Just sitting alongside the Sabie River provides a wonderful game-viewing opportunity.

If things really start heating up, make your way down to the day visitors’ precinct where a splash in the pool and an ice cold ice cream will go a long way towards cooling you off.

Visit the Stevenson-Hamilton Knowledge Resource Centre Museum and get to know the history of the Kruger National Park’s most famous warden or take a quick drive to the Skukuza Indigenous Nursery and buy a plant or two for your garden at home.

SUDWALA CAVES AND DINOSAUR PARK

Enjoy an excursion into the depths of the earth. This system of caves dates back 3 000 million years to a time when extraordinary stresses cracked the dolomite of the Mankelekele Mountains, allowing water to slowly trickle through and forming a series of passages through the rocks.

As a result, the Sudwala Caves, thought to be the oldest in the world, were formed – a series of many chambers revealing giant stalagmites, stalactites, flowstone formations and dominated by a circular chamber – the amphitheatre. For the more adventurous, there is the crystal tour, which involves a journey of 2 000 metres into the bowels of the caves.

The Dinosaur Park displays life-sized models of prehistoric animals, ranging from amphibious and ancient reptiles, dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, prehistoric man and more.

BADPLAAS/EMANZANA

Nestled at the foot of the Ndlumudlumu Mountains between Machadodorp/eNtokozweni and Carolina, is Badplaas/eManzana, which is known as a resort town.

Badplaas, A Forever Resort has become legendary for family leisure breaks and is a firm favourite among kids. It’s a treasure chest of entertainment from heated and cold mineral pools to an entertainment team that keeps the youngsters occupied. There are also game drives, horse trails, paintball, a hiking trail along the canals, a waterfall and so much more.

At The Cradle of Life, kids can visit the animal farm and see a variety of animals like pigs, ducks, geese, tortoises and chickens. They can also go fishing or spend some time at the playground next to the restaurant.

HOEDSPRUIT

The town of Hoedspruit has grown from a small village serving the agricultural industry to a popular wildlife tourism destination ideal for families.

The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre breeds endangered species for release and cares for injured and orphaned wild animals. Regular tours enable visitors to see some of the animals up close.

A visit to Lion Tree Top Lodge to meet some white lions is a must when exploring Hoedspruit.

At the Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation Centre the public can interact with animals that have no chance of being released into the wild due to their injuries or habituation.

Khamai Reptile Park is the best place to go to learn more about spiders and reptiles or to help you overcome your fears.

PILGRIM’S REST

Exploring South African history as a family is a rewarding experience and there is no better place to do this than Pilgrim’s Rest, one of South Africa’s most loved heritage sites.

For the outdoorsy types, there is fly fishing on the Blyde River, golf at the nine-hole course and, of course, a visit to the diggings and a spot of gold panning. The town has seven museums that are open daily and offer insight into the history of the town. There are several accommodation establishments catering for most budgets as well as cafes and restaurants that offer something for all palates.

Fun activities also include a visit to Kuzzulo’s Emporium – a place where visitors can get dressed up in period costumes and have old-fashioned photos taken. This is a favourite among the youngsters!

SABIE

The attractive hillside town of Sabie is a Lowveld gem. At the source of the Sabie River, lies under the impressive Spitskop and Mauchsberg mountains and Mount Anderson and has always been a popular place for South Africans looking for a family-friendly holiday.

The town owes its formal founding to the discovery of gold in 1871. Its restored settler buildings, numerous high-quality restaurants, friendly bars and coffee shops along with the surrounding tranquil forests, exhilarating activities and scenic views continue to make it one of the best options for a peaceful retreat.

Have a round of golf at the Sabie Country Club, explore the South African Forestry Company Forestry Industry Museum, go tubing down the Sabie River or take a mountain bike ride with the family.

I’LANGA MALL

Ideally situated on the main road to the N4, i’langa Mall is a hub of entertainment for kids, shopping for parents and fun for the whole family – from the ice rink to Ster Kinekor cinema.

Inside the mall there’s fantastic fun to be had at The Fun Company, enjoy a game of tenpin bowling and a jump around the trampoline park. You can also head over to the arcade games to hit, shoot and jump your way into the top scores.

For those looking for a more relaxed experience, there are loads of restaurants in the entertainment area that offer various options.

CASTERBRIDGE LIFESTYLE CENTRE

Experience the tranquillity of the Lowveld at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre, set on the original Casterbridge Farm.

Located on the R40 just outside White River towards Hazyview, the centre offers parents the ideal venue to let their kids unwind after a busy day. There’s nothing better than grabbing some popcorn and catching a good movie at the Casterbridge Cinema or enjoying a show at the barnyard-style Casterbridge Theatre. The centre also boasts the motor museum, which is home to a large collection of immaculately restored vintage cars and bikes.

There’s also a variety of shops, art galleries and restaurants ready to tantalise your taste buds.

CHIMP EDEN

A must-see when travelling through Mbombela towards Barberton is the only chimpanzee sanctuary in South Africa, Chimp Eden. Offering three tours daily (10 am, 12 pm and 2 pm), there is no reason to miss this experience and educational opportunity. After your tour through the sanctuary and meeting some of their famous residents, have a look around the curio shop and enjoy a light meal and a refreshing drink at the restaurant.

Chimpanzee Eden

RIVERSIDE MALL

Situated on the main road to White River, Riverside Mall offers a range of entertainment for kids, from the Mafunyane Riverside Water Park – which features seven, rip-roaring super slides, a sparkling pool and a lazy river specifically designed for the young ones – to the Riverside Go Kart Park – with Honda engines which range in size from 50cc to 200cc.

Inside the mall the Magic Company offers exactly that – a magical experience of fun for the kids. Don’t be surprised if the smell of popcorn lures you to Movies @ Emnotweni, which is right next to the Magic Company. Here you can enjoy all the latest blockbuster films on the big screen.

Information supplied by Kruger Lowveld Tourism +27 (0)13 755 1988

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Jambo, Jambo … Hakuna-matta, Zanzibar

The old saying of “been there, done that” in no way applies to this tropical paradise. If you thought going to Zanzibar is similar to a visit to Mozambique, it is time to get rid of your old sunnies. The azure sea and sky will have you doubting the quality of your Ray-Ban’s polarizing lenses.

This becomes evident as soon as the aeroplane swoops down over the edge of the island to land at Zanzibar’s quaint airport. Off the east coast of Africa the deepest blues of the Indian Ocean give way to the turquoise waters and white beaches of this island.

The attraction of the beaches will keep you mesmerised. Zanzibar is a photographer’s paradise, especially with the spectacular sunsets and the colourful fashion of the female residents. A word of advice though – the locals, especially the women are camera-shy. It is advisable to respect their traditions and refusal to being photographed as the population is traditionally Islamic.

We ventured north and settled in Nungwi. The village is known for its tourist shops and busy beaches. It is also the base for countless scuba-diving operations and if this is your priority, you will find at least seven professional operations within a three-kilometre amble along the beach. Best is to take along a snorkel set including fins. The tranquil and clear blue ocean is an underwater photographer’s dream. With dive sites around Mnemba Atoll and the lush coral mounds off Tumbatu Island, divers have a multitude of options to explore to their heart’s content.

After a full day of traversing the underwater world, you will have quite an appetite. Zanzibar is known for its abundance of spices and seafood – all the more reason to take yourself on a sensory tour by savouring the local cuisine. The bounty of fresh seafood such as kingfish, tuna, prawns and octopus, to name but a few, can be enjoyed by trying the various curry dishes on offer. Traditional breakfast is substituted with freshly cut, succulent fruits…. From the everyday bananas, tropical pineapples to the exotic jackfruit and carambola, or more commonly known as star fruit. Be adventurous, find the locals’ favourite food hangout and ask for a Zanzibar pizza. This uniquely Zanzibari snack makes for a filling breakfast.

Remember to stay hydrated, drinking enough water is essential. But who can deny a long cold cocktail at the end of a hot day on the beach? Settle down at a rooftop bar that overlooks the wide-open ocean and watch the sunset while sipping on your favourite island drink or ice cold beer.

The spice island offers much more than idyllic beaches and excellent cuisine. Explore the vibrant cultures and history of Zanzibar up close when you wander through Stone Town. The maze of alleys and narrow streets seem to have no specific order and you might end up going around in circles. With an abundance of hip cafes and coffee shops, you will find yourself admiring the rare carved ancient doors and energetic daily life. From the local artist exhibiting his creations on his doorstep to the more trendy crafted jewellery, fashion designers and curio shops, one is bound to find gifts for friends and family back home.

If you like the hustle and bustle of shopping take the time to walk through the world-renowned Darajani Market. Taste the sticky dates and chetti then take a break and have a hearty meal at Lukmaan restaurant around the baobab tree. Once you have had your fill of the sights and sounds in Stone Town head to one of the various spice farms along the road between Nungwi and the capital city. Witness first-hand the harvesting of spices such as cloves, cinnamon bark, star anise and vanilla pods when in season.

The allure of Zanzibar is its mix of blissful beaches, flavoursome food, lively culture and rich history. Add to this the rush of adventure when doing island hopping from Zanzibar to Mafia and Pemba islands by making use of the local airlines and you’ve had a taste of tropical paradise.   The booking for your inter-island flights can be done online and in general, is slightly cheaper than doing it when on the ground in Stonetown or Nungwi.

Using your Visa or Mastercard here will incur excess fees and these payments are loaded with a 4 – 6% surcharge or handling fee. Take into account that you will also have to fork out the banking and exchange fees when using your plastic to pay for food services and or gift. ATM services are available in Stonetown.

Pictures and text;  Nicolene Olckers

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Swaziland in four days

During a recent conversation with a friend about travelling, we discussed all the places we had been and where we would still like to go. To my surprise, he had never been to Swaziland before, which was very odd for someone who had travelled the world. With the help of an experienced tour guide, we planned a four-day guided tour to Swaziland for our readers who, like my friend, have never been to this wondrous country before.

Counties visited: South Africa and Swaziland

Highlights: Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Hlane National Park, Swazi Candles, Ngwenya Glass, Swazi Cultural Village and Swazi dancing.

Day one: Johannesburg to Kruger National Park (KNP)

Leaving Johannesburg early morning, we made our way down to the KNP for the night. Once in the park, our guide made sure that we were ready for our sunset game drive. If you have ever experienced nature in its purest form while the South African sun sets on the horizon, you will know what a truly remarkable experience this is. Once we returned dinner was all set up and we were ready to dig in.

Camping tour: Tents

Accommodated tour: National Park Chalets

Day two: Swaziland

After a hearty breakfast, we packed up and headed for Swaziland. Once through the border, we made our way to Hlane National Park. Activities on offer for visitors include going on or staying in a houseboat, guided walks, ziplining, mountain biking and the Umphakatsi Cultural Experience, where you can become familiar with the rural Swazi way of living.

Camping tour: Tents

Accommodated tour: National Park Chalets

Day three: Swaziland

On this day we travelled to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. On our way there we visited Swazi Candles and stopped off in Matapa for some shopping before going through to Mlilwane. Our guide made bookings for us to experience a cultural village tour and traditional Swazi dancing. At the reserve, visitors can enjoy several activities such as mountain biking, horse riding, guided walks and self-guided walking trails, nature education, a splash in the swimming pool or the Esitjeni Village Walk.

Camping tour: Tents

Accommodated tour: National Park Chalets

Day four: Swaziland to South Africa

We left early morning to make our way back to the border, but not before stopping off at Ngwenya Glass for breakfast first. Here we had the opportunity to observe the guys at work as they created all kinds of products from recycled glass. This is the perfect place to get yourself a memento of your trip to Swaziland before crossing back into South Africa.

From the border, we headed for Johannesburg. We stopped for lunch, which was at our own cost, and after filling up our guide dropped us off at our place of accommodation.

There you have it! Now my dear friend and I can both tick off visiting the beautiful Kingdom of Eswatini off our bucket lists. If you would like to do a similar tour, contact us on bookings@ygo2.co.za or 061-902-5219.

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Madeira – Portugal’s Garden of Eden, Madeira is known as the ‘Island of Eternal Spring’

Since the day I met my Portuguese husband Carlo Neto, he promised me that we will travel to Madeira Island, also known as “the Pearl of the Atlantic” to this island his parents and family originated from. Our adventure began during the July holidays of 2014 when our 2 daughters were old enough to enjoy and appreciate this amazing trip that we were about to experience. All we had to worry about were booking our flights and packing our bags before we could set off to chase the sun to this breathtaking paradise and as a bonus escape the winter here in South Africa.

Madeira

Carlo’s uncle Fritz Helena and his wife aunty Sue Helena were waiting for our arrival at Madeira’s own International Airport. We were so lucky to have these two special people as our very own personal tour guides during our entire stay. They live nearby Ponta do Sol in a simply enchanting town called Calheta, Calheta is blessed with rare natural beauty and 8 parishes.

Calheta was, in fact, the first town in Madeira to import sand from Morocco. Calheta Village has an artificial yellow sand beach that opened in 2004. We thoroughly enjoyed the days we had on Calheta beach and all it had to offer.

Madeira

The Ponta do Sol beach is hidden away in a small cove in the village of Ponta do Sol, between the slopes of the valley. One just can’t help but fall in love with this little gem, with its beautiful sunsets and excellent pebble beach. We’ve  spent many afternoons with our daughters sunbathing, swimming, relaxing and playing on this beautiful beach.

Madeira

Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago situated in the north Atlantic Ocean, south-west of Portugal and the main agriculture here is sugar cane, banana and wine production. Historically the sugar cane was worked by slaves owned by a Flemish lord João Esmeraldo, a close friend of Christopher Columbus. There are many religious nature traditions, strongly rooted in the Madeira culture, but also traditions linked to crafts, music, and even the evolution of the island’s economy. We were very blessed to visit a couple of these churches and busy, noisy, colourful covered markets stocked with fresh fish, tropical fruits, spices, beautiful flowers and local crafts.

The Aquaparque de Santa Cruz, close to the airport was definitely the highlight of our Madeira trip for both our daughters Carla, Simoné and me…

Madeira

It boasts 5 toboggan slides of varying heights and speeds and a fast and slow river. There are 2 leisure pools too as well as play parks for the younger guests.

We also treasured our visit to Machico town and Machico beach, this historic, peaceful town was the landing point of the discoverers and offers a number of good quality guesthouses and restaurants.

Madeira

Uncle Fritz took us to many little towns and beaches, but the Porto Moniz Natural swimming pools are the highlight of my stay. These natural salt water swimming pools are made up of volcanic rock, into which the sea flows naturally, we also visited the aquarium.

Another must see when visiting Madeira is the Traditional Santana houses close to the Santana Municipal Council. This is a preservation area, expanded by the municipality of Santana, in memory of local heritage.

Other memorable places we visited on the Island were the Ponta do Pargo Light House Viewpoint, the Marina of Funchal, CR7 Museum which tells the story of the Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and houses all of his individual and team trophies won. Our daughter Carla was totally smitten. Our youngest daughter Simoné was very excited about our visits to the botanical gardens and all our different rides in the cable cars. Don’t let me even start talking about the gardens and flora, it is simply magnificent…….

Madeira

I really loved our visit to Ponta do Garajau where you’ll find the statue of Cristo Rei de Garajau, carved by Georges Serraz in 1927 and you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the amazing view over the ocean. I was brave enough to walk all the way down the path… It felt like I was entering the sea what a wonderful feeling.

We also enjoyed every minute of our time spend in Funchal, the biggest city in Madeira. It is modern but at the same time kept an authentic historic centre that will amaze you. We went on an unforgettable Yellow Bus trip around Funchal, very similar to the Red Bus trips in Cape Town….

We had so much fun at the Madeira Theme Park. The Park’s main attractions are the 4 multimedia pavilions; “ Discovery of the islands”, “Future of the Earth”, Fantastic Voyage in Madeira” and “A World of Islands”. A replica of the Monte train, traditional ox carts and nets, a traditional Santana house, a windmill, a maze and even a lake are some of the Park’s attractions.

Madeira

Uncle Fritz took us to the Cabo Girão Skywalk too. At 589 meters, the Cabo Girão Skywalk is the highest cliff skywalk in Europe and 2nd highest in the world. As I was looking all the way down from the glass deck to the ocean my legs went absolutely numb… what a thrilling experience.

Another very special memory is our visit from Funchal by cable car to the Church of Our Lady of the Monte in Funchal. We climbed to the bell tower terrace and oh my word we experienced the most spectacular view of Funchal.

Madeira

Monte Village was built in 1565 as a summer refuge for Funchal’s aristocracy. Constructed in 1741, the Church of Our Lady of the Monte is the resting place of Charles 1, the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

We had an absolute blast and we just couldn’t get enough of this astonishing Island with its warm friendly people, it’s breath-taking nature, it’s incredible history and it’s wonderful opportunities to go for walks and find so much to see and do. Should you seek a place to stay, away from the hustle and bustle, then Hotel Jardim Atlântico (Jardim Atlantico) is just the place to be. This exquisite Hotel promise for a very memorable stay. Here we had the pleasure of meeting a very stunning lady working at the Hotel, named Rita Santos, we learned that she also stayed in South Africa many years ago…….Although she loved South Africa she loves Madeira more!

Madeira

Maybe one day if I am fortunate enough I could go and retire in Madeira this magnificent Island that I love to call paradise… But first I want to travel and see the world!

Content by Tanya Neto

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New in Sabie – Loggers Pub & Grill

An opportunity arose for Zander McDonald and his daughter, Joni Smit, to buy an existing eatery in Sabie Mpumalanga.  Zander has been in Forestry most of his life and Joni is a Goldsmith; none of them had any restaurant or hospitality experience but this minor obstacle didn’t scare them.

Loggers Pub & Grill Zander decided to use Forestry and Bikes as the theme for the restaurant as that is what Sabie is best known for, hence the name Loggers Pub & Grill. The eatery was refurbished for 3 weeks. With Zander’s exceptional taste, eye for detail and some help from friends, Loggers Pub & Grill where born

Loggers Pud & Grill

Although Zander and Joni are the owners of Loggers Pub & Grill, Sonja helps a lot with, basically everything… Sonja is the glue that holds this pub in place.

Henk Le Roux, from La Provance, supplied the profile timber products to create the rustic yet cosy ambience.

Contact Henk for your profile timber products: 083 566 2334

The Turpentine Wood (solid wood live edge slab) for the bar counter was supplied by Denzil Lawrie from Woodfella.

They specialize in exceptional furniture timber – not your everyday timber products that you find everywhere.

Contact Denzil for exclusive custom cut furniture timber: 082 455 7153

Woodfella

These beautiful lights were made by Brian van Rensburg from MR. B. crafts & creations. Brian and his wife, Jaque, basically did most of the Decor and woodwork; they played a huge role in the finishing touches of this intimate gem in Sabie.

Call Brian for unique custom made Decor items or any woodwork you need: 082 927 2574

This is Zander’s baby, fully functional and runs on Nitro Gas. It’s hanging in the restaurant because Sonja doesn’t want him to ride it.

Zander

The unique children’s play area consists of two fully functional green jeeps that Zander build, he just took out the batteries and keys. I wasn’t surprised to see the Dads enjoying the area just as much as the kids.

Ruan

International Chef, Paul Westergreen, is in charge of the kitchen.  His style is a mixture of Indonesian, Malaysian,  Thai & The Seychelles to name but a few.

All these influences helped him to create his own unique cooking style. Curries are his speciality and, believe me, he makes scrumptious curry dishes!

Loggers Pub & Grill

Loggers Pub & Grill caters for private events; they also do special theme evenings.  The Sushi evenings are very popular with the locals.

Breakfast

With their inviting atmosphere,  friendly staff, delicious food and reasonable prices, Loggers Pub & Grill is a true asset to Sabie and definitely worth a second, third and fourth visit.

Make sure to visit them next time you are in the area.

Written by: Ista van Zyl

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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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Seascape Photography By Des Jacobs

Author:  Des Jacobs

Really good seascape photography is not about expensive equipment or hi-tech methods. You need a decent DSLR camera (any make will do), good lenses and a basic understanding of camera settings. You will need a tripod. Also a wide angle lens. A 10-20mm lens, 10-22mm, 11-16mm or 17-40mm. The basic 18-55mm lens or similar lens will also do the trick.

It is not compulsory but it is wise to invest in lens filters to attach to the lens to get more special effects. Personally, I think a Circular Polarizing Filter is a must when working with water. Not only will it get rid of reflections in the water but also darken the whole scene a bit to be able to work with slower shutter speeds. An ND8 filter will also come in handy when doing water photography as it gives you a much slower shutter speed when not working in shady or overcast conditions.

Des Jacobs Photography

If you really want to be artistic you can try a ND400 or ND500 filter. With this, you will be able to use shutter speeds of 2 minutes or even longer depending on the light conditions available. Make sure you buy the correct size filter for your lens.

Most of the time your timer function on your camera will work fine to limit camera shake but if going for longer shutter speeds than 30 seconds you will need a remote to trigger the shutter.

Des Jacobs Photography

Work with the weather. Make sure you know what the weather will be like when you do the planning for your photo shoot. I use a website called www.yr.no for most of my weather forecasts when I plan a shoot. It will give an indication on what kind of clouds there will be if it will rain etc. Also, make sure you know at what hour the sun will rise or set. Try to avoid very windy days. The chances are good that your photos will blur because of camera shake. Early morning before sunrise and late afternoons with sunset are the best times to photograph seascapes. Make sure you are at your ideal spot at least 20-30 minutes before sunrise or sunset.

Camera Settings

I like using “Aperture” mode when doing seascape photography. This way I can decide on what my depth of field must be. Normally I choose a wide depth of field so that everything in the photo will be sharp and in focus. With a 10-20mm lens, I normally set the aperture to F/11. The camera will decide for itself what the shutter speed will be according to the available light. Before sunrise and after sunset the shutter speed will be very slow and during the day, while the sun is shining the shutter speed will be very fast. I like doing seascape photography in the early mornings and late afternoons. Personally, I like the colours during the golden hour. I also like the slower shutter speed effects on the water.

Des Jacobs Photography

Try to get a good composition before taking the photo. A nice rock in the foreground, a piece of driftwood or something else that will make the photo interesting. Make sure to set the focus on this subject. Also, make sure the ISO is set to 100 when doing this kind of photography.

www.desjacobsphotography.co.za

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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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I Vote Casterbridge For Father’s Day

As I was looking for content for this edition, I decided to explore Casterbridge in White River Mpumalanga.

Was I surprised and impressed with everything they had to offer! Staying in the Lowveld for most of my life I couldn’t imagine why I didn’t do this years ago! Then I wondered, how many others are there like me? Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre is an exceptional lifestyle destination with serene gardens, unusual independent shops a boutique hotel and even fitness centre.

They got a huge variety of shops, something for everyone from Coffee Shops and Restaurants to vintage cars, and everything in between.

Sabie Valley Coffee Shop and Roastery

Start your journey with COFFEE

Tim Buckland, owner of Sabie Valley Coffee, and his wife Kim are your hosts. This friendly couple’s passion for coffee is catching, one cannot help but listen to every word they say, their knowledge of these precious beans is astonishing and they are more than happy to share that knowledge and expertise with their clients.

As you enter the shop the welcoming aroma of freshly brewed coffee welcomes you. In the shop, they got a variety of coffee gadgets from years ago to the latest on the market. Add one of their mouth-watering homemade dishes to your experience and you will have something to talk about for years to come.

Valley Spices

Maybe you need the perfect spices to turn your next Biryani into a masterpiece

Valley Spice is a hidden gem of exotic, Indian and Middle Eastern spices. They stock a wide range of difficult to source food ingredients and hand mix spices to your taste.

ROTTCHER WINERIES AND DISTILLERY

Wine or Gin tasting anyone?

Rottcher Wineries and Distillery, which has been a landmark of the Lowveld for the past 50 years, is well worth a visit.

At this cellar, unique alcoholic orange beverages are fermented in the old fashioned way. Pop in and come and taste the “Pride of the Lowveld” – their version of dessert wines, Sherries and ports.

The Distillery produces several citrus based products

– Their very own version of Limoncello Liqueur. – Rottcher Slowveld Mampoer – The first citrus based gins in the world! – Slowveld Gins

SHAUTANY CHOCOLATES

“FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE”

Shautany Chocolatiers reminds one of the sweet shops you went into as a child where you pointed at the glass jars and said, “I’ll have that one please”. Glass display cabinets abound with locally handcrafted Belgian and Swiss chocolates, while shelves are laden with pure cocoa chocolate bars and exquisite gifts. The ultimate chocolate fantasy begins…

They encourage a new way to love chocolate that is as appealing as appreciating the traditions of fine wines and coffees. The seduction of chocolate on all human senses is irresistible. This ceremony of chocolate tasting is enhanced by a casual, easy, ambience of intimate excitement.

Shautany is the new chocolate culture: sexy, nostalgic, and forever an object of fantasy for children and grown up children.

ANTIQUES AND ARTIFACTS

If history and classic cars fancy your interest, this is the place for you

The charming owner, Angie Bunyard welcomes you with her friendly warm smile and when she is not around the equally charming Marilyn stands in for her.   Their love and knowledge of History and Antiques are remarkable.

In this unique ‘destination‘, nestled in the Vintage Car Museum, a treasure trove of artistic fusion of funk & functional, past & present pieces creatively combined into bespoke genres by Angie.

The collection comprises of a superb assortment of antiques, fabulous ‘jewellery’ items for décor processes and personal homes, general collectables, historical memorabilia, books, artworks, porcelain, mirrors, carvings, imported French wares combined with traditional African artefacts, stone works, carvings and more. An exciting mixture of traditionalism and innovation, indeed something for everyone.

The delightful owner, Angie Bunyard with her boundless energy has the exceptional ability to point one in the exact direction to find ‘what you never knew you were looking for’.

Creative Union

An eclectic mix of function and design – from repair and restoration of vintage/antique clocks and lighters, custom lighting to furniture design and manufacture.

Vintage Car Museum

The White River History & Motor Museum is home to a large collection of perfectly restored vintage motor cars, tractors and bikes.

Here automobile enthusiasts can see a wide variety of vintage vehicles, including the Willys-Overland, the Swift and the celebrated Model T Ford, the 1929 Austin Seven, various MGs and the 1936 Jaguar SS100, amongst others

A must see for petrol heads visiting Casterbridge.

If these are not enough to keep you busy for a day, they also got an Art Gallery, a Second-Hand Bookshop, a Spa, a Cinema and many more interesting shops.

End the perfect day out with a scrumptious lunch at one of the restaurants in Casterbridge.

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Shake It Up… Gourmet Milkshake

In time gone by going for a milkshake involved a visit to the Roadhouse or the local drive-in cinema. Most of all it was a treat meant for kids. It came in the usual tame flavours of Strawberry, Chocolate, Lime or the favourite, Blue Bubblegum.

Nowadays this ice-cream and milk confection gained almost cult status. The choice in flavours are limitless and some are creatively put together to resemble works of sweet art.Gone are the days that it came with a mere twirl of cream and a burst of colourful sprinkles over the top.  Now the sky’s the limit.

Milkshake

Since when was only one shake enough to satisfy the urge for adventure and discovery. The tour for the ultimate milkshake starts at the lavishly decorated SIP Coffee café & deli, in White River. Here,  try the gourmet touched milkshakes set you into the mood for a long story or a much longer gym session.

Shake it up

It is the complete and “utterly” crazy combinations and confection that you will find in the small Village of Dullstroom that will have you hooked. The variéty on offer is mind wobblingly great. At Udderlicious milkshake bar, the tough just might swap the beer for a long cold creamy drink. The client has the choice of creating his or her own concoction and add to it any topping to make it utterly crazy. Or you can choose one of their smooth creamy designed selection. With titles like French Kiss, Turkish Delight and the Millionaire you are bound to run to the bar for more.

Milkshake

We can Sip on the Udderlicious milkshakes until the cows come home.  The taste sensations of this age-old treat will shake up and rock your milkshake memories for sure.

WRITTEN BY:  Nicolene Olckers