• Mashatu Botswana  - credit Bethan Evans

Whale Watching in South Africa

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There are several locations around the world where one can enjoy whale watching, but few can compare to South Africa. In June, the Southern Right whales leave their sub-antarctic feeding grounds and migrate north to mate and calve in the warmer waters of the protected rocky bays and inlets that occur along the South African coastline. From Cape Town, along to Hermanus, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Jeffrey’s Bay and Port Elizabeth, these magnificent mammals can be seen from the shore, their antics providing hours of entertainment for travellers intent on playing witness as literally tonnes of aquatic beast breach and tail-slap as if to order.

Hermanus

Hermanus provides the perfect base, with elevated views of the bay from the rugged cliff-top paths. The ‘Whale Crier’ patrols the streets blowing a kelp horn to inform passers-by of the best sightings of the day. From July through to October, good sightings can be almost guaranteed – and although Hermanus is well known for this, don’t discount sightings at other seaside towns.

De Hoop

For a more laid back place to stay and see the whales, the De Hoop will fit the bill. This place used to be the retreat of Presidents of South Africa up to the end of apartheid and subsequently is set in a beautiful bay and the land around is now a reserve for wildlife. Imagine standing on a sandy dune  watching whales in front of you while not far behind you are zebra browsing on the fynbos. This is a great place to relax, bike around and swim in the sea while being aware of the history of the place.

A tour of the Cape Peninsular, a stroll on the beach at Knysna or Plettenberg Bay, or a stay at Jeffrey’s Bay will also prove rewarding, and all can be combined in a self-drive route along this southern coast – please see “South African Highlights”.

Photographs by kind permission South Africa Tourism

SAT Hermanus          SAT Humpback whale

Kwazulu Natal

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This corner of South Africa has much to offer, and is home to battlefields and beaches, wildlife and vistas.

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Kwazulu Natal

A corner of South Africa with much to offer.  KZN is home of Zulu culture, battlefields, beaches, wildlife and vistas.

Day 1: Ballito
Day 3: Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Reserve
Day 5: Maputaland
Day 8: Hluhluwe
Day 9: Battlefields
Day 12: Northern Drakensbergs
Day 15: Depart Durban or Johannesburg
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Description

 

The Zulu Kingdom of KwaZulu Natal represents a holiday destination in its own right, and here we explore just such an itinerary including a little of everything, for everybody. The State of KwaZulu Natal is the traditional home of the Zulu people, a nation of tribes, ruled by a chief. They are lovely warm and friendly people, eager to please!

Day 1: Ballito
From Durban, drive to Ballito – a quiet little residential seaside town. At the right time of year, bottlenose dolphins, southern right and humpback whales can be seen.
Two nights Ballito

Day 3: Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Reserve
Head north, roughly following the coast, to Hluhluwe. The big five are present here, which hopefully you’ll spot on your game drives.
Two nights Hluhluwe/Umfolozi National Park

Day 5: Maputaland
Driving further north today, heading towards the Maputaland Marine Reserve. In the Coastal Forest Reserve are several lodges, offering a range of activities from scuba diving to horse riding and walking. At the right time of the year you will be able to see the turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs.
Three nights Maputaland

Day 8: Hluhluwe
It is possible to get all the way to your next stop in one go, but it is a long day, and worth, we think, breaking the journey at Hluhluwe again. This time, we suggest choosing a lodge close to the St Lucia Wetlands for an overnight stay.
One night Hluhluwe

Day 9: Battlefields
Turn inland now to the Battlefields, to re-live the Zulu wars. For even the armchair historian or those with a passing interest, a tour is essential; one cannot help but feel moved by the stories of these epic battles.
Three nights Battlefields

Day 12: Northern Drakensbergs
Drive via the Spionkop Battlefield, to the Drakensbergs. See the Amphitheatre – the source of the Tugela River, and home of the second highest waterfall in the world.
Three nights Drakenbergs

Day 15: Depart Durban or Johannesburg 
Return to Durban or Johannesburg today for the onward or homeward journey.

SAT Drakensberg      SAT impalas KWN

 

SAT Isandhlwana      SAT zulu hut

 

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Little Gems

Fifty miles of pristine beaches, backed by dunes and only three lodges to choose from.  This is remote wild Africa at its best – we love it!
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The Pearl of Africa

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Kirsty Saunders

 

Uganda – The Pearl of Africa

It has been brought to our attention that the Ugandan Tourist Board are currently changing their tourism focus. This is an effort to highlight the diversity of their beautiful country, and we thought we’d give them a hand.  Many of you will know Uganda as home to some extraordinary primates, however there is an array of other tourist attractions across the country that definitely deserve a mention. To quote Winston Churchill “The kingdom of Uganda is a fairy-tale. … For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life – bird, insect, reptile, beast – for vast scale — Uganda is truly the pearl of Africa.”

Wildlife certainly is a big draw for many visitors, and along with primates, Uganda is home to 1061 bird species including the Crested Crane, the Turaco, and the elusive Shoebill.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

This prehistoric looking bird stands five feet tall with its huge distinctive bill.

Along with Africa’s ‘big five’ there is a host of other wildlife, some of which are endemic to Uganda, so a safari is a must!

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

Another opportunity for a animal encounter of a different kind would be to help herd, feed and even milk Uganda’s Ankole Cattle.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

And if you are partial to ‘having a go’ take time to visit the fair-trade tea and coffee plantations and experience the production process first hand.

If prehistoric plants are of interest, Mpanga Gorge in the west is believed to be the largest Cycad colony in the world.  This palm like plant species is believed to have existed before prehistoric times, remaining largely unchanged for 200-300 million years!

We must next draw your attention to Uganda’s water orientated attractions. Uganda is home to ‘Lake Victoria’ the World’s second largest lake, and the source of the magnificent river Nile!  Here there are many activities to embark on such as kayaking, white – water rafting, fishing or take a boat trip.

Finally an interesting fact: Did you know that Uganda provides the opportunity to have one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere? Visit the landmark showing where the equator passes through the country. You will be fascinated to watch a demonstration of how the water drains in opposite directions, depending on which side of the equator you stand!

In order to incorporate all of your preferred activities, you would certainly benefit from a tailor made itinerary. This is where we come in. Africa is one of our specialist countries and our team of experts with first-hand experience can guide you every step of the way.

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South Africa’s Blue Train just became slower – But in a Good Way

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Vicki Tester

 

In 2019 South Africa’s Blue train relaunched its classic train journey between Pretoria and Cape Town (in either direction) now making this a two-night experience. This will allow guests to relax more and soak up the scenery. The Blue Train has always been considered the epitome of luxury, hospitality and leisure.

The train now departs at 4pm and arrives at its destination at 10:30 two days later. The cabins compare well with the finest hotels, with en suite bathroom or shower (depending on level of cabin you choose) and the attention of your personal butler. The Observation Cat at the end of the train has windows on 3 sides allowing you to make the most of the passing scenery.

There is also a 2 ½ hour ‘off train’ excursion to the Kimberley Open Mine Museum and visit to the Big Hole.

This journey would make a great addition to any trip to South Africa and a wonderful way to see part of this amazing country. If you would like to find out more then please contact us.

 

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Picture courtesy of The Blue Train, South Africa

Rovos Rail is 30 Years old

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Vicki Tester

 

Copyright to Rovos Rail Tours

For all lovers of iconic train journeys, a trip aboard one of Rovos Rails trains to different parts of Southern Africa is a must. As at the end this month the company will have been operating for 30 years and is offering eight trips around Southern Africa; varying in length from 48 hours to 15 days. At any given time, the Company will be offering 5 out of the 8 journeys will be running. In addition, they have taken over, and overhauled, Shongololo Express to add to their portfolio.

 

Copyright to Rovos Rail Tours

The trains are exceptional to look at, comfortable to travel in and offer a service that is second to none. You are well looked after the moment you arrive at the station of departure – bags whipped away to be unpacked in your cabin/suite while you have a welcome drink and introduction to a Rovos Rail trip. They stop at many of Southern Africa’s outstanding sites and offer you a tour around – be it the Big Hole at Kimberley or a National Park in the countries visited.

It is a perfect way to celebrate an occasion or to see a country from a different perspective. Please contact us for further details.

 

Copyright to Rovos Rail Tours

Copyright to Rovos Rail Tours

Copyright to Rovos Rail Tours

Copyright to Rovos Rail Tours

Swaziland becomes ESWATINI

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Vicki Tester

 

King Mswati, while celebrating the 50th. Anniversary of the country’s independence at the beginning of July, announced that the country will now be known as the Kingdom of Eswatini. This means “place of the Swati people in the Swazi language”.

Eswatini remains a year round destination for stunning scenery, fascinating cultural experiences, safaris and adventure activities.

A new name to add to your bucket list!

 

 

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Another and Quieter side to Tanzania

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Vicki Tester

 

Most people know about the plains of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater and the wildlife spectacle to found there. But there is so much more to explore in Tanzania and much of it is untouched and incredibly diverse.

If you would like to see and hear Africa at its unspoilt best then consider heading to places like the Gombe Stream National Park and walk in the footsteps the British primatologist, Jane Goodall, in search of the descendants of her favourite chimps – Frodo, Merlin and David Greybeard.

On the banks of Lake Tanganyika, the deepest lake in Africa, is Mahale National Park, another place to see primates such as chimps and Colobus monkeys in their natural habitat. End up on your own private beach to cool down and then around the camp fire with more stars above you than you could imagine.

Katavi National Park, Tanzania’s third largest Park, is ideal for the traveller looking for a truly remote experience away from regular tourist routes. In this park, you will find animals curious and unfamiliar to human contact. Herd sizes of buffalo and other plains animals are massive, often in the thousands and this in turn brings in good numbers of predators. With hardly anyone else around and a great lodge to retire to, you will feel like a true explorer.

For more details please contact us.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

A Hidden Gem in Botswana

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Vicki Tester

 

The Mashatu Game Reserve, in the Tuli Block, Botswana has a wealth of experiences to offer the adventurous traveller and has just become easier to get there. They now sponsor connecting flights from Johannesburg and Maun every Wednesday and Saturday. Just one hour from Johannesburg has you landing in “the Land of the Giants”.

The name comes from the locally revered Mashatu Tree that frame the Limpopo River, the big herds of elephants and iconic baobab trees. You have the choice of staying in a lodge or tented camp, both with active waterholes that will keep you entertained. The guides also offer you different ways of experience Africa unchanged.

 

Picture courtesy of Jackie Appleton

Picture courtesy of Jackie Appleton

 

You can opt for the traditional game drive in 4×4, take to a mountain bike for a closer contact with the wild or perhaps go for the walking safari with sleep outs. Whichever way you choose your guide will ensure your safety, comfort and tailor the safari to the fitness of those involved. For those that are competent horse riders then there is the chance to ride along with the plains animals.

For lovers of history then there is evidence of pre-historic man, the Great Zimbabwe period and the more modern times of colonial rule through to now. Find out from the locals with a trip to a nearby village to learn about life in the Tuli Block.

A different African experience within an hour of one the hub airports of Africa, Johannesburg. For more information please contact us.

Picture courtesy of Jackie Appleton

Picture courtesy of Jackie Appleton

Picture courtesy of Jackie Appleton

 

Kenya – the ultimate safari destination!

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Vicki Tester

 

The word ‘safari’ is synonymous with Kenya, and with good reason. Not only was it the first safari destination for tourists, but it’s also one of the best with phenomenal game viewing opportunities, breath-taking landscapes and fascinating people. Combine this with the soft white sands and turquoise seas of the coast, and you have the perfect recipe for an unforgettable holiday.

With such a fantastic reputation, it’s easy to think that Kenya would be expensive and in truth, there are certainly some luxurious, exclusive options that don’t come cheap. However, there are also options for those keen for the exclusive experience, but without the exclusive price tag.

Our partner in Kenya offers two excellent Adventure Camps, which bring all the benefits of staying in a Wildlife Conservancy teeming with animals but at a small fraction of the price that you’d normally pay to stay at the main, more luxurious camps. All activities are included and conducted at the same standard as is in the main camps.

Their conservancies are vast areas of pristine wildlife-filled terrain where you enjoy day and night game drives in 4×4 vehicles, bush meals and guided walks and stay in comfortable small and exclusive camps. Here guests can observe the wildlife – including elephants and all the Big Cats – where the animals are completely safe, in their natural environment and in a near exclusive setting. No Crowds.

Picture courtesy of Gamewatchers Safaris

The Adventure Camps are designed for those for whom the wildlife safari experience is more important than the accommodation and who are prepared to sleep in basic tents – 10 feet square and 6 feet tall – with sleeping bags and a foam mattress on the floor. (Private safari shower and flush wc are behind each tent). All meals are included, prepared by the camp cook. Mineral water is provided in camp and on game drives and the camp bar has wine, beer and soft drinks available for sale at reasonable prices. The Adventure Camps ensure you get all the premium activities and game-viewing normally associated with only the most expensive camps and lodges but at a fraction of the price.

A six night safari with three nights in Selenkay Conservancy (Amboseli region) and three nights in Ol Kinyei Conservancy (Maasai Mara) starts at £1755.00 per person sharing in the peak season for 2018. The single tent supplement is just £108.00. Prices include Full Board accommodation, flights from and back to Nairobi, day and night game drives in 4×4 vehicles, a visit to Amboseli National Park or the Maasai Mara National Reserve, all Conservancy fees and educational nature walks with Maasai guides. These camps are open between July and October – spaces are limited as the camps are small and personal, so please do give us a call to enquire!

Picture courtesy of Gamewatchers Safaris

Prices are subject to availability and change. International flights are not included – there are plenty of airlines offering flights between London and Nairobi, some direct and others with a stop en route. For information on international flights, please do let us know your preferred dates and we can provide a price for the most appropriate option.

Consider also spending time in Nairobi prior to the tour, and perhaps time on the coast at the end to relax – anything is possible!

For more information on putting together your own bespoke tailor made Africa Safari please call us on Tel:01323 446550 or email: info@experienceholidays.co.uk

 

Fly-fishing in Botswana and Zambia

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Vicki Tester

 

 

The Zambezi River flows through and borders Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  The area is unique, not only as a game-viewing area, but also as the home of the famous Victoria Falls, complete with its history both recent and not so recent. 

Our Guides are highly experienced and knowledgeable – Lee Whittam in particular is also an accomplished wildlife photographer and a keen fly-fisherman.  Wherever possible he will be guiding trips.  In his words:

The areas in which we concentrate are the Okavango system in Botswana and the Zambezi river system in Zimbabawe and Zambia. The main target species would be the Tiger fish and the many Tilapia species (or Bream as they are locally known). Both species readily take a fly and with the tiger fish being a ferocious predator – large baitfish imitations are the order of the day.  The Tilapia species are also generally predatory and similar flies although slightly smaller than those used for Tiger fish will be savagely taken by most bream species.  Sight fishing is the most rewarding way of targeting these two species and this is particularly true in the Okavango in Northern Botswana.  The crystal clear waters of this system offer the angler pristine wilderness coupled with fantastic fishing.

When fishing the Zambezi River a completely different approach is needed. This impressive  river system, which in some areas (lower Zambezi) can be up to 3 km wide,  is most productive on the fast flowing sections of river.  The tiger fish wait on the outskirts of the main channel and pick off fish as they come past. Apart from the Bream and the Tiger fish there are over 80 fish species in each system and most are catchable on fly, this coupled with the fact that you are fishing in areas where the wildlife roams freely makes for a truly unique fly fishing destination. 

Green headed bream -Okavango Delta Botswana

And for the non-fishermen:  The facilities at the lodges insure that for the non fisherman there are plenty of options in the form of game-viewing walks, bird-watching, boat trips and in some cases cultural tours of neighbouring villages to be enjoyed while “the other half” fish.

The Itinerary:  Your itinerary will typically include three nights in the Delta, three nights on a house boat in the ‘pan handle’ and three nights on the shores of the Zambezi.  Including your flights in both directions, this creates an 11 night holiday, however, this can be extended or curtailed to your requirements.

So what else could we add:

Victoria FallsNo visit to this part of the world would be complete without a visit to Victoria Falls.

Game Viewing in the Linyanti or Selinda Reserve: Without doubt, the Linyanti and Selinda Reserves located to the western edge of the Chobe National Park offer the best game viewing in the world.

Makgadikgadi Pans:  Extend your holiday with a two or three night stay at the salt pans.  This area, the size of a small country is the result of the extraordinary changes that have taken place geologically over the millions of years.  Once an inland sea, the pans are now dry, leaving one of the flattest places on earth – so flat that the curvature of the earth can be seen with the naked eye.

A touch of pampering:  After your fly-fishing holiday and game viewing experience, round off your holiday with a few days rest and relaxation, some excellent wines and fine dining and perhaps a little pampering.

 

 

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