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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/ 

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

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

Everything but ordinary

The establishment of A-Lounge originated from the desire to create a hotspot for A-listers. Yes, the kind of people you encounter in Hollywood, enjoying life in the limelight. These are sophisticated, elegant, trendy people who know what they like and want out of life. A-Lounge is just the place to have important business meetings, breakfast, lunch or dinner. We also have a stage for live entertainment, cash bar facilities and after 10 pm the dance floor is open. All these create the look and feel of a very exclusive nightclub.

A-Lounge was the brainchild of four very different individuals – Jacques Lombard, director of Mrs Mpumalanga and Timeless Productions; Claud Kruger, artistic and successful space planner who has a love of creating gourmet dishes; Hugo Morgado, a project manager in Mozambique and his beautiful wife Nayana, proud owner of Pop Epoch party shop. They all share one amazing vision for one of the fastest growing cities in South Africa.

Mbombela, previously known as Nelspruit, is developing rapidly and with this, our community has developed a taste for the finer things in life. As most of our customers are business people who are always on the go, they have a need to wind down in a relaxed environment.

Claud had a very clear vision for the decor and colour. Blue represents both the sky and the sea and is associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration and sensitivity. It also symbolizes depth, trust, loyalty, sincerity, wisdom, confidence, stability, faith and intelligence. The colour gold is a cousin to the colours yellow and brown, and also represents illumination, love, compassion, courage, passion, magic and wisdom. Gold is a precious metal that is associated with wealth, grandeur and prosperity, as well as glitz and glamour.

It was also decided to give the establishment a bit of a Gatsby twist as can be seen on the famous A-Lounge hand-stencilled wall… A true masterpiece indeed.

Our food is counted among the best in town and this is thanks to the seasoned chefs and food fundis who are skilled in putting a menu together for functions or events. Claud’s specialities are sliders, tapas and even gourmet samosas.

While he and Nayana make sure everything runs smoothly in the kitchen, Jacques and Hugo ensure that everyone is happy on the floor. Hugo assists with the bar facilities and Jacques specializes in production and entertainment. Together they work like a well-oiled machine to offer a world-class experience to customers.

A-Lounge has many cards up its sleeve for 2019, from exclusive fashion shows to opening a wine boutique and even an art gallery. So put on your finest attire and be spotted wining and dining or dancing the night away among the city’s elite. A-Lounge is the place you want to be seen at.

Contact Jacques for more information:  076 424 8042

How to photograph lightning

Have you ever looked at a thunderstorm and wondered how to take a perfect picture to capture the beauty of lightning?

In South Africa, we get some very powerful thunderstorms and perfect opportunities to photograph lightning.

Read more

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

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!

Authors: Annelie & Neil Pretorius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2011 the Sudwala Caves became the first venue in Mpumalanga to offer a Garra Rufa Fish Spa.  The spa is scenically situated out of doors, with a panoramic view of the valley below.

These tiny fish are known for their habit of gently nibbling away at and feasting on dead skin – and only dead skin. For centuries, people with psoriasis and other skin disorders have visited outdoor hot springs near Kangal, Turkey, where the Garra Rufa live and breed. Sudwala gets their fish from Singapore. Once they have consumed dead areas of the skin, healthy skin is free to re-grow.

As a bonus, in the process, acupuncture points on the soles of the feet are stimulated, and blood circulation improved.  The spa invites visitors to spoil themselves in a foot spa with a difference, allowing these unique little fish to nibble gently at tired feet to revitalise them and leave them feeling just gorgeous, while the guest enjoys stunning views of the valley

The water in the Sudwala Spa fish baths is constantly filtered through bio-filters, and UHF rays are used to kill any bacteria in the water. Customers are also required to wash their feet in an antiseptic bath prior to dipping them into the fish bath.

I treated myself to a few hours at the spa recently, I go there as often as I can to revive my feet and to enjoy the tranquillity of the spa.  Next time you visit the Lowveld, why not try something different?

I can ensure you, you will have an experience of a lifetime.

T: 083 446 0228 / 079 205 1688 | E: info@sudwalacaves.co.za | W: www.sudwalacaves.com