• Bitten by the whale watching bug Bitten by the whale watching bug We don’t realise how lucky we are in South Africa, and in particular the Western Cape, to have the mightiest of the marine mammals visit our coastline between every year ...
  • The Whale Trail The Whale Trail The Whale Trail is not a new trail, having been around since about 2002, but it has become extremely popular. It is truly a unique experience, perhaps comparable with ...
  • 10 Pamper-Perfect Spas in South Africa 10 Pamper-Perfect Spas in South Africa Combine your trip to South Africa with a relaxing, revitalising visit to a health spa and experience Africa at it's finest. Our favourite 10 Pamper-Perfect Spas in South Africa are ...
  • Locals share their favourite getaways Locals share their favourite getaways We ask 30 local South Africans to share their favourite holiday destinations and getaways with us. From the more popular destinations like Knysna and the Kruger Park to ...
  • The Oude Skip hike The Oude Skip hike The Oude Skip walk shares portions of its hike with the larger Karbonkelberg Traverse, which is roughly seven hours of hard walk from Hout Bay harbour to Llandudno ...
  • 10 Amazing Game Lodges 10 Amazing Game Lodges South Africa is world renowned for her game reserves and wildlife. The lodges which allow us to experience these in luxury are no less awe inspiring. Our favourites are ...
  • 101 Things to Do with Kids in Cape Town 101 Things to Do with Kids in Cape Town As much as your kids will tell you they can’t wait for the school holidays, the words "I’m bored" inevitably cross their lips. Our "101 things to do with kids in Cape Town" will ...
  • "World's most beautiful Cities" "World's most beautiful Cities" Open space makes Cape Town special. Renowned English sea navigator Sir Francis Drake once referred to Cape Town as the fairest cape in the world. The city houses the ...

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Monday, 8 February 2016

6 Marine Protected Areas in South Africa

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South Africa protects just under 25 areas of its 3 000 km coastline. Known as marine protected areas (MPA), they safeguard threatened marine species and important habitats.

What they are, in essence, is a space in the ocean that strictly regulates human activities. Kind of like nature reserves, but in the sea.

To succeed as conservation areas of South Africa’s marine resources involves collaboration between civil society, communities and government… Continued

Friday, 5 February 2016

West Coast National Park’s Turquoise Blue Lagoon

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And other reasons to visit the West Coast National Park…

The West Coast National Park, for most people, is all about the spring flowers.

From the beginning of August Capetonians, or visitors to Cape Town who haven’t the time to drive all the way to Springbok to see the Namaqualand daisies drive out in their droves to drink in the valleys and sand dunes of the reserve – literally awash with colour.

Postberg nature reserve, that part of the reserve on the other side of the Postberg (the mountain on the edge of the Langebaan Lagoon) that is usually closed, opens specially for the flowers.

At other times of the year the West Coast National Park seems to languish, like a strumpet whose skirts have long been explored. As if there was nothing other than flowers to attract visitors. Continued

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Five Places To See The Cape Mountain Zebra

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The zebra is an African equid found on the grassy plains of Africa’s game reserves. It’s a common herbivore found in great numbers, which means it rarely gets much attention. Particularly if there is the chance of spotting any of the Big Five.

A zebra is a zebra, is a zebra…But is it?

There are three species of zebra – Burchell’s (Equus burchelli), Grevy’s (Equus grevyi) and Mountain zebras (Equus zebra) – all of them characterised by wide horizontal black and white stripes.

The function of these stripes is still open to debate. Some people think it’s camouflage, whilst others site a socialisation function by which zebras are drawn to one another, to the exclusion of any non-striped equids (horses, asses).

The Cape mountain zebra is different from the other two species, however….

 

Cape Mountain Zebra

 

The vertical black lines on its neck and torso are thinner, more numerous and closer together than Burchell’s zebra. The black horizontal bands on its haunches are broader than either Burchell’s or Grevy’s zebra.

But its most distinguishable feature (and the one way to easily tell if you are looking at a Mountain zebra or not) is the dewlap, or extra fold of skin, at its throat (when a Cape mountain zebra lowers its neck to feed it makes the zebra’s neck look shorter and fatter).

Mountain zebras are also smaller than their counterparts, but unless they’re standing next to one of the other species this feature is not easily discernible.

The other noticeable characteristic of the Mountain zebra is that it occurs in small groups. Most groups are made up of a single stallion and anything from one to five mares, with their young. Stallions can maintain this group for as long as 15 years, depending on whether or not a younger male attempts a take over, or not.

Some people further divide the Mountain zebra into the Cape mountain zebra and Hartmann’s mountain zebra. The IUCN Redlist recognises the two as a single species made up of two subspecies, a species that is today Vulnerable (in 1996 the Mountain zebra was considered Endangered).

Cape mountain zebras used to roam widely along the southern mountains of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. They were commonly found in the Roggeveld, Ceder and Amatola mountains of the Cathcart District, and west and north to the Kamiesberg in Namaqualand. Hartmann’s zebras lived in the mountains between the Namib Desert and Namibia’s central plateau where small groups are still in evidence.

Today there are only small surviving natural populations of Cape mountain zebra in the Mountain Zebra National Park, Gamka Mountain Reserve and the Kamanassie mountains.

Other populations have been reintroduced in the Karoo National Park, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Camdeboo National Park, Commando Drift Nature Reserve, Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area, Tsolowana Nature Reserve and the Gariep Dam Nature Reserve.

 

Cape Mountain Zebra

Five of the best places to spot the Cape mountain zebra:

1. MOUNTAIN ZEBRA NATIONAL PARK

If it were not for the Mountain Zebra National Park (MZNR) the Mountain zebra could very well be extinct today. The concerted effort on the part of the reserve to preserve the few remaining zebra in the early 1930s, by adding further zebra from an adjoining farm, paid off. By 1980 there were 220 animals in a herd that has remained stable ever since. Every year up to 40 zebra are transferred from the reserve to re-establish herds in other reserves. MZNR lies just outside Cradock in amongst the Bankberg Mountains that gently slide into endless grassy hills hugging the vast plains of the Karoo.

2. GAMKA MOUNTAIN RESERVE

The Gamka Mountain (GMNR) Reserve’s Cape mountain zebra population might be small, but it’s regarded as important because it represents a third of the entire gene pool of this species. GMNR was established in 1974 with the express purpose of conserving the 13 Cape mountain zebra remaining in the area. However six were shot by a local farmer before the fences could be erected. Despite this, the population is 90 strong today, although it has been slow to grow relative to other mountain zebra populations. The 9 428 hectare reserve lies 33 km outside of Oudtshoorn, dominated by mountainous plateaus, deep valleys and fynbos.

3. KAMANASSIE MOUNTAINS

The Kamanassie Nature Reserve (KNR) is a sanctuary for a small relict herd of Cape mountain zebra. What is important about this little group is that their gene pool is pure – they are descendants of the original herd that lived on the mountain. No other zebra have been introduced from one of the other protected populations. Ensuring that each of the three populations remains conserved is really important to maintain genetic variety. The herd has been slow to grow, which could have something to do with the fact that mountain fynbos covers over 80% of the reserve. Mountain zebra only appreciate Arid restioid fynbos and Waboomveld. The reserve is beautiful, receiving rain almost throughout the year (Kammanassie means ‘mountain of water’). It is here you can spot the Kammanassie blue butterfly, and take advantage of two incredible day hikes.

 

Cape Mountain Zebra

4. DE HOOP NATURE RESERVE

De Hoop’s Cape mountain zebra population is also important. Together with a neighbouring conservancy, the reserve is home to the most genetically diverse sub-population of the zebra, although the herd is ‘male heavy’. The reserve, famous for its Whale Trail and whale spotting potential, makes sighting the zebra easy – they’re often in amongst the chalets.

5. CAMDEBOO NATIONAL PARK

Camdeboo National Park lies not far, as the crow flies, from the Mountain Zebra National Park. The two are separated by the Mountain Zebra Wilderness Corridor – a series of protected grasslands and the Sneeuberg mountain complex of the central Karoo – that will ultimately link the two and assist in the protection of the Cape mountain zebra. Camdeboo’s population of Cape mountain zebra is rather elusive as they prefer the mountainous areas of the reserve.

 

Cape Mountain Zebra

 

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

2016 Travel Trends That Will Define Tourism In South Africa

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The spate of terrorist attacks that rocked the world in 2015 may mean that north Africa and Paris are off the travel menu for a while. But rather than resulting in a dip in worldwide travel, things appear to be just the opposite.

People have had to curtail their travel for a number of years due to world-wide financial strain and, whilst the rand is at a record low in South Africa – exacerbated by the recent juggle of finance ministers – in other parts of the world currencies are strengthening and people are looking to 2016 as a year of adventure and long distance travel.

These 2016 travel trends could sharply define South Africa’s tourism … Continued

Monday, 18 January 2016

Mountain Zebra National Park – 5 Reasons Why You Should Visit

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Most people I speak to haven’t heard of Mountain Zebra National Park. The park is one of the country’s lesser known hideaways, and those in the know would rather keep it that way.

For some reason people fail to imagine mountains and zebras together (for most of us, zebras belong on the grassy plains of the Kruger National Park, or Serengeti). And when I then mention that the park is close to Cradock in the Karoo, there is further bafflement: yes, there are mountains in the Karoo!

Mountain Zebra National Park falls under the SANParks banner, one of twenty odd national parks in the country. It lies on Route 61, 12 km outside Cradock in the Eastern Cape. From Cape Town it’s a good nine hour journey along either the N1and R61, or N2 and N9, which you can do in one stretch, but I’d advise breaking the journey for comfort’s sake.

Its appeal lies in its beauty, rather than its animal checklist… Continued

Monday, 21 December 2015

7 Wilderness Areas In South Africa You Probably Don’t Know About

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Wilderness areas are the most intact, undisturbed, truly wild spaces left on the planet…

They are unaffected by any development and many, if not all of them, practice the highest level of conservation – legally protected and untouched by man. There are no roads, vehicles, houses or industry in these areas.

In short: wilderness areas are the only places left in which man can develop a true relationship with nature, if he wants to. South Africa is the only country in Africa with such a rich variety of parks, reserves and wilderness areas.

The first wilderness area (now the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park) was designated in South Africa in 1959 – 12 150 hectares in which all form of motor traffic was stopped and rangers and visitors were allowed in the area only on foot. Soon afterwards the St Lucia Wilderness Area, now in the northern section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site, followed.

The country only introduced legislation to protect formal Wilderness Areas In South Africa in 2003. Continued

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The 7 Most Beautiful Places In South Africa You Probably Didn’t Know Existed

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There is a danger in thinking that every little bit of South Africa has been discovered. There are actually some beautiful places, and areas, that a few people know about, but not everyone.

These 7 most beautiful places in South Africa are worth knowing about.

Visit them if you can … Continued

Monday, 14 December 2015

‘Big Five’ Multi-Day Hikes in South Africa

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South Africa is one of the world’s best hiking destinations…

The weather is fantastic, the country’s infrastructure is excellent, the scenery is out of this world and the ‘backcountry’, or outback, areas in which to hike – the Cederberg, the Drakensberg, the Wild Coast, the Dolphin Coast, and Amatola (to name but a few) – are of the most beautiful on the planet.

South Africa also has exceptional wilderness areas – areas dedicated to remaining truly wild spaces; intact and undisturbed by man – around the country that include: Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, Wolkberg, Winterhoek, Mkhomazi, Ntendeka, Groendal and the Cederberg. Each of these is ideal for days of off-the-beaten-track tramping specially for those for whom marked hiking trails are anathema.

Our hikes, although well known amongst locals, have taken a while to draw the crowds. Now people travel specially to South Africa to join the Otter or Whale Trail, or to hike one of the Kruger Park’s Wilderness Trails.

Here are the ‘Big Five’ multi-day hikes in South Africa that rank up there with the best in the world. One or two of them are relatively new and deserve attention, the others are, without doubt, the country’s favourites… Continued

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Walks in the Wild – 7 Kruger Wilderness Trails

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Wilderness trails are one of the only true ways to experience the essence of nature. They imply an escape into the great beyond, a following of your heart, rather than any designated paths. They necessitate the absence of people, society and the noise and bombardment that come with it.

Wilderness trails in the bush are totally unique to the African continent. Those who walk them claim they are the only way to know Africa. For once you have done a wilderness trail in the Kruger National Park, there is only one way to be in the bush, and that is to walk it.

There is, however, a proviso… Continued

Monday, 7 December 2015

Walk Cape Town – Top Free And Other Walks, In The City Bowl

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Cape Town is one of the most walkable cities in South Africa.

We’ve put together a list of city bowl walks that will have you in touch with the beat of the city’s heart in no time. Included in our list are free guided walks, walks you can do on your own, and those Cape Town walks that you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to do. Continued

Friday, 4 December 2015

10 Places You Could Be Spending Christmas in South Africa, and Why

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South Africans celebrate Christmas in much the same way as the rest of world.

We spread good cheer, enjoy Christmas traditions – like leaving cookies and carrots out for Santa Claus – decorate our homes with mistletoe, Christmas lights and little figurines like Santa or the elves, buy and decorate a Christmas tree, join up with friends and reconnect with family we might not have seen for most of the year, invite friends and family over for dinner, sing Christmas carols, watch Christmas movies, behave more generously than usual, and wrap presents for under the tree.

We just don’t have any snow. Or log fires, eggnog or snowmen (actually, some of us do the eggnog anyway).

The advantage, of course, to all of the sunshine we experience is that Christmas in South Africa is generally a warm one, spent outdoors appreciating the beauty of nature. We usually swim, walk or rest on the lawn whilst our children play games on the grass (computer screens are totally banned for the day).

South Africa, though, is as diverse as its people. It’s a good idea to know just what kind of Christmas you want to celebrate. We help you narrow your choices down… Continued

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

10 Superb Scenic Drives in South Africa

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Narrowing scenic drives in South Africa down to ten is not easy. Just the mountain passes in each of the provinces would leave you speechless for months (the Swartberg, Sani and Bainskloof passes in particular).

And so we’ve selected a number of longer routes, some of which incorporate mountain passes, from across the country.

Each of these drives has a unique beauty.

Drive as many of them as you can. Continued

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Adventures On 8 Of South Africas Most Significant Rivers

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Not only are they a source of beauty, but rivers drain nearly 75% of the earth’s land surface. They are the lifeblood of any country, their steady flow of clean, fresh water a vital part of survival for millions of people. They are a means of transport, recreation, drinking water and power.

People are intrinsically drawn to rivers. They provide spectacular settings, a sense of heritage, a place of adventure, a space in which to watch birds and wildlife, and inspire art. Which is why so much of our outdoor lifestyle is experienced on the banks of rivers – white river rafting, canoeing, stand-up paddling or simply watching the water drift by.

South Africa has many rivers. Here is a list of activities on 8 of South Africas most significant riversContinued

Monday, 23 November 2015

Just Who Visits South Africa, And Why? – The Top Ten Countries

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Voted among the top 50 most tourist-friendly countries in the world, by the World Economic Forum recently, South Africa remains a popular place to visit.

In the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report South Africa leads sub-Saharan Africa and ranks 48th overall (out of 141 countries); even higher on the list than Mauritius, a major tourist destination (56th). Why?

Our rich natural (20th) and cultural resources (22nd), a positive business environment (15th) – no over-burdensome red tape and modest administrative burden – and good infrastructure when compared to neighbouring countries.

We rank 24th in online searches for nature-related activities Continued

Friday, 13 November 2015

7 Most Amazing Caves To Visit In The Western Cape

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Caves – underground crevices and cavities that develop naturally over millennia, usually due to erosive underwater action or the slow erosion of dripping water – keep hidden the natural beauty and splendours of the world; their breathtaking formation or cultural relevance uncovered by scientists or explorers and later shared with visitors.

Their importance, or simply their majesty, an echo of the people or creatures who have celebrated, lived or sheltered against their porous walls and floors.

Some of these caves are filled with stalactites and stalagmites, others harbour historical evidence of mankind’s early existence. Some are open for visiting, others can only be explored by scientist-led tours. All of these amazing caves are beautiful… Continued