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Kruger Park MTB Trails
14 Jan 2014
 
     

Kruger Park MTB Trails

The Kruger National Park introduced guided mountain-bike rides in September 2003. On a bicycle, you can cover much greater distances than on foot and access parts of the reserve that are rarely seen. Three return routes of different lengths are on offer.

The 21,4-kilometre Hardekool Draai Ride's name originated from a huge leadwood tree (Combretum Imberbi) that grows on the banks of the nearby Olifants River. This easy return ride is a gentle climb over a slightly rocky ranger’s road, which doubles as a firebreak. The trail leads through mopane veld, with an occasional view of the Olifants River...

(GPS coordinates: -24.005567, 31.740301)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/mountain-biking/kruger-park-mtb-trails

River Trail, Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve
14 Jan 2014
 
     

River Trail, Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve

The Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve, a 500-hectare floral wonderland 35 kilometres west of Port Elizabeth, is bounded on the west by the impressive Van Stadens Gorge and bisected by the N2 highway from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. The terrain comprises southern wooded slopes, a large plateau and northern river banks, each with its own vegetation type. But the prime purpose of the reserve is to protect and propagate the unique indigenous flora.

It's an absolute gem that is a must for any nature-lover – you could spend hours exploring and enjoying the extraordinary diversity and splendour of the fynbos, succulents and other indigenous flora, as well as the beautiful sugarbirds, sunbirds and butterflies. There is also the three-kilometre Forest Walk, as well as mountain-bike routes...

(GPS coordinates: -33.906201, 25.218113)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/river-trail-van-stadens-wild-flower-reserve

Fish traps in Kosi Bay
14 Jan 2014
 
     

View of fish traps in Kosi Bay, Elephant Coast, KZN.

Mkhambathi Waterfalls
14 Jan 2014
 
     

Mkhambathi Nature Reserve – where waterfalls and oceans meet

Setting out early, with swimming costumes, cameras and a picnic lunch we canoed across the Mtentu River into Mkhambathi Nature Reserve, planning to explore Mkhambathi's famous waterfalls. The reserve has an impressive 21 waterfalls in all, the most legendary being Mkhambathi Falls which plunges straight into the sea! It is one of three waterfalls in Pondoland that flow into the sea and there are only about twelve in the world. The falls are most impressive during summer when the rivers are full, but even so, it was something really special to see – sparkling showers cascading into welcoming blue rock pools. We then hiked to Strandloper Falls, which has a particularly large rock pool to swim in. Horseshoe Falls, a little further up, was even more impressive. One could easily spend a week or more just hiking, exploring and frolicking around the waterfalls. A perfect holiday destination for adventurous couples and families!

Photo © Rachel Lang: One of the many little rock pools and waterfalls along the Mtentu River. Be ready to get your feet wet! The water is cold but exhilarating.

Contact Reservations: 043 701 9600 / Fax: 086 611 1623

Guest Blog by Rachel Lang

www.bushboundgirl.com

Mountain Zebra National Park 4x4 Trails
13 Jan 2014
 
     

Mountain Zebra National Park 4x4 Trails

Arriving at the Mountain Zebra National Park you will be impressed by the craggy heights of Bankberg as it embraces the rolling plains and deep valleys of this jewel of a National Park. The park was established in 1937 to save the Cape mountain zebra (or ‘berg kwagga’). Their population currently stands at 300 roaming the 28 412 hectares of land protected within the Mountain Zebra National Park.

You will have a choice of three 4x4 routes veering off the beaten track taken by other SUVs and family-filled double cabs…

(GPS coordinates: -32.140937, 25.509596)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/4x4/mountain-zebra-national-park-4x4-trails

Sandstone Buildings
13 Jan 2014
 
     

Sandstone Buildings

Sandstone buildings are synonymous with the eastern Free State. In fact, in almost every small town you’ll find an example of this architecture. Such is the quality and splendour of Free State sandstone that it has inspired some of the country’s most important structures – including the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Much of the sandstone quarried in the Free State comes from Ficksburg so start your quest on President Brand Street, which is lined with glorious sandstone architecture. Sandstone was used architecturally for the first time here in 1885 - in a bay window that can still be seen at McBride’s House, situated in McCabe Street. Most of Ficksburg’s churches and the town hall, post office, railway station and the bridge across the Caledon River are built from the local sandstone. Ficksburg’s Old Mill is said to be the highest sandstone building in South Africa…

(GPS coordinates: -28.871947, 27.874262)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/cultural/sandstone-buildings

Whale watching at Port St Johns
13 Jan 2014
 
     

Whale watching at Port St Johns - A standing ovation

The experience was like a theatrical performance, beginning as soon as our boat made it past the breakers. First to take the stage were the Cape Gannets, airborne acrobats hovering and diving for their breakfast. Gannets can submerge themselves as deep as 30 metres to grab sardines and other bait fish. And then – dolphins!! Dolphins as numerous as impala in the Kruger Park. I gasped as a large bottlenose dolphin flung itself from the wake of our boat. There were common dolphins too, that synchronise their breeding when food is plentiful, so the water was full of youngsters, which, amazingly, can keep up with the pod from birth. 

A large oval shape moved just below the water… what was it? "A turtle, probably a Hawksbill", said Rob, Captain of the boat. Even before the Grand Finale, my head was spinning, tipsy from the waves and all the excitement. In the distance, a large spray of water erupted and we made our way closer to the whales. Altogether we spotted about 5 or 6 Humpbacks. Two of them came really close to the boat, curious and completely at ease with our presence. "Look!... under the boat!" I exclaimed. The whales swam right beneath us. We marvelled at their dreamlike shapes gliding and sailing through the clear water. "This is something really special," said Rob. "Every whale has a different character and it’s not every day that they come so close to the boat." I gaped at their powerful tails, the knobbly bumps on their bodies and how a creature could be so huge yet so graceful. I would have loved to jump off and swim with them!

Offshore Africa Port St Johns run daily whale watching trips - the best time to go is during the sardine run in the winter months. 

Contact Rob: 084 9511325 or Debbie: 082 256 9414 (www.offshoreportstjohns.com)

Photo: Bottlenose dolphins move incredibly quickly through the water which makes them very difficult to photograph! I just caught the fin of this bottlenose on my iPhone. © Rachel Lang

Guest Blog by Rachel Lang

www.bushboundgirl.com

Darlington Dam
13 Jan 2014
 
     

Darlington Dam in the Greater Karoo.

Wreck Challenge Trail & Event
12 Jan 2014
 
     

Wreck Challenge Trail & Event

Great Brak, situated halfway between George and Mossel Bay got its name from the brackish water of the Brak Rivers. The Wreck Challenge is held in mid-December and you can enter solo or as a relay team. There is a trail run and a bike/run option. There is also a Fun Beach Dash Run of 4km (or 1.5km for families). 

The Glentana Wreck Hiking trail to the wreck and back is open to everybody and information can be obtained at the Great Brak Tourism office, the municipality or www.visitmosselbay.co.za. The rest of the route run during the race goes over private land. The landowners are very strict and do not allow anybody to enter their property, except during the race…

(GPS coordinates: -34.050149, 22.314907)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/trail-running/wreck-challenge-trail-event

Montagu Rock Climbing
12 Jan 2014
 
     

Montagu Rock Climbing

Montagu is a sport climber’s paradise with everything from easy slabs to bicep-pumping overhanging routes. Most of the climbing is single pitch, but there are also some multi-pitch lines, all on hard sandstone. Montagu is only a two-hour drive from Cape Town and offers a stunningly beautiful, tranquil setting. It is home to roughly half of all the bolted routes in the Western Cape. It has everything from friendly beginners’ crags - like ‘Legoland’ where you can almost belay from the bumper of your car - to South Africa’s hardest route, ‘Mazawattee’ (35) at Jurassic Park.

The crags are spread out over a large area, with most accessed either from the main road from Ashton/Robertson or from the Ou Meul above town (in the Montagu Nature Reserve, where the Bloupunt Hiking Trail starts). Bad Kloof and neighbouring Donker Kloof are accessed from the latter...

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/climbing/montagu-rock-climbing

Koh Kong, Cambodia
12 Jan 2014
 
     

Koh Kong Conservation Corridor, Cambodia

Koh Kong Conservation Corridor is still the kind of wild that inspires the Indiana Jones in us all. The Mangrove forests of Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctaury that slightly frightened me with the strange way the canopy and roots meet and the impenetrable-ness of them, and the Koh Por Waterfall that thrilled my senses...

Taking a boat ride up river I felt like a researcher in search of different kinds of mangroves with their roots appearing out of the water like snorkels searching for oxygen, an explorer discovering untouched realms as river ahead went on and on, often reaching what I thought was a dead end only to swing around up another winding stream. 

Slowly the mangroves gave way to the dense overgrown vegetation of the jungle stretching all the way down to the river. We saw monkeys playing in the trees and heard the quiet chitter and chatter of birds and invisible animals – the kind of noise you only ever hear in the wild.

It is the kind of place that feels sacred; it felt like we were the only people in the world – alone in the entire universe. I knew that I could never photograph, or be able to capture in words what it was really like – nothing would ever do it justice.  But the memory of it will always remain and the hope that we will always appreciate these rare corners of the world, respect and protect them.

- Shan Routledge

 Shan Routledge

Can it still be renovated?
12 Jan 2014
 
     

Can it still be renovated?

Junction Shelter
11 Jan 2014
 
     

Junction Shelter

Didima Gorge (formerly Ndedema) has become famous for its rock art. This is largely due to Harald Pager, who undertook the enormous task of documenting it. His technique for recording the art was unique and laborious. He photographed all the images in all the known shelters in black and white. Then he enlarged the prints and pasted the various sections together to form large, life-size panels. He later returned to the gorge and spent a couple of years painting the images in oils onto each photograph. His work was published in 1971 in a book entitled Ndedema.

Junction Shelter is one of the large and spectacular sites recorded by Pager, at the entrance to the gorge. A famous painting from this shelter was at the centre of debate during the 1980s. The painting appears to be a bridge with human figures crossing it. Some scholars argued that it was a real bridge while others pointed to its non-real elements...

(GPS coordinates: -28.943293, 29.232257)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/rock-art/junction-shelter

Wet biking, Langebaan
11 Jan 2014
 
     

Wet biking, Langebaan Lagoon

The Langebaan Lagoon is a great water sports destination, and one of the best ways to splash out and have fun is to go wet biking. Wet bikes look just like jet skis but they’re a lot more stable and easier to ride.

Club Mykonos hires out the bikes to both guests and non-residents - simply head down to the marina below the hotel. After brief instruction you can leap onto a bike and ride all the way to Schaapen Island (5km away) and back...

(GPS coordinates: -33.047507, 18.040433)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/activities/wet-biking-langebaan-lagoon

Ruins near Ladismith
11 Jan 2014
 
     

Ruins near Ladismith in the Western Cape.

The Restaurant in the Sky
11 Jan 2014
 
     

Start the year on top of the world at Waterkloof Estate’s ‘restaurant in the sky’

The sense of occasion started as soon as we entered the estate, driving through rolling vineyards towards the Hottentots-Holland Mountains, with the restaurant perched high up on a ridge on our left, like a fort. The spectacular location afforded breath-taking vistas of mountains and ocean, and half way through the meal, virtually the entire restaurant abandoned their tables to go out onto the deck and watch the sunset over Cape Point. 

Waterkloof’s not just about the views, however, with chef Grégory Czarnecki priding himself on creating bold, innovative fare from fresh local ingredients. The menu is relatively short (on our visit there were six starters and five main dishes), but there was still sufficient variety to require some difficult choices. My partner and I both started with the Cured Fizantakraal Trout with pickled oysters. Then, while he chose the Farmed Mulloway Cob with squid ink and smoked potato, I opted for the freshwater crayfish with scallop, which was simply divine, though I also was tempted by the signature Karan beef fillet with braised beef croquette. Next time. All the dishes came simply yet artfully presented, and they surprised us by having more constituents and flavours than described on the menu, although you should bear in mind that with modern haute cuisine the portions aren’t gargantuan. We made the elementary mistake of coming here straight after a six-hour hike, but a potential crisis was averted by our attentive waiter bringing us a triple portion of bread!

It being the festive season we started with a Steenberg Cap Classique then moved onto the estate’s own Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah, which were excellent and very well priced. All the still wines come from the estate and are available by the glass, which I always appreciate. There’s nothing worse than drooling over a wonderful wine list only to find that there’s only an unexciting house wine should you not want to share a bottle!  And with half the wine list below R145 per bottle - and several wines under R100  - the drinks bill is surprisingly reasonable even if you do go mad. (An added bonus is that if you order before 8pm you can also buy wines at cellar prices to take home.)

The restaurant’s interior is light and spacious, with modern yet elegant décor and a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere. Needless to say, you should try and nab one of the tables next to the full-length glass windows, even if that means spending most of the meal admiring the vista rather than your partner. Meanwhile, the staff were excellent: welcoming, helpful, well-informed and attentive without being intrusive.

Not surprisingly the accolades have rolled in. Waterkloof was nominated in the prestigious 2013 Eat Out Top 10 Awards then crowned culinary king in the Best Gourmet Restaurant at the Cellar Door Category of the 2013 Klink Wine Tourism Awards - lauded for its cutting-edge cuisine, attention to detail, awe-inspiring location, sterling service and strong focus on natural local produce showcased in seasonal dishes that bear the chef’s hallmarks of simplicity and finesse.

At R260 for two courses and R340 for three (with only one dish attracting a supplement), Waterkloof is favourably-priced for a restaurant of this quality, especially given the spectacular and memorable location. When I feel I’ve deserved a special treat I’ll be back to sample the Degustation Menu of six mouthful-portions paired with estate wines. (R600 per person with wine or R500 per person without.)

To book phone 021 858 1491 or email [email protected]

www.waterkloofwines.co.za

- Fiona McIntosh

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