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29 Jul 2013

Wolwedans NamibRand Reserve in southwestern Namibia is the largest private nature reserve in Southern Africa, a desert frontier ecosystem sharing a 100km western border with the Namib-Naukluft National Park and reaching to the foothills of the Nubib Mountains in the east. 

Iron-rich, wind-whorled sand dunes loom magnificently above the sandy plains of Sossusvlei, an area that extends well beyond its nominal 'marsh of no return'. The four distinct and biodiverse habitats encompass granite mountains, gravel plains, ergs, inselbergs, and fairy circles - Google is your friend if you need any enlightenment (-25.0,16.0). Incidentally, the reserve’s night sky happens to be one of the darkest yet measured. And you will want to return.

Hit the road Jack
29 Jul 2013

I had fun this weekend, escaped a lunch party in Franschhoek and made a dash for the hills. For me there’s nothing like having the roof down, sun streaming in and a sporty engine just waiting a foot to deck it. Music’s part of the package, with Ray Charles blasting I flew over the pass “Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more, Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more. What you say?"

It may be an old blues song but it rocketed straight to the top of the charts in the 60s and also won a Grammy award for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording. Another line that springs to mind when the wind's blowing through my hair is “Not a cloud in the sky, Got the sun in my eyes” by the Carpenters. Forget about smelling the flowers - just “Hit the road Jack!"

Text & Image: Shaen Adey

Beat the winter blues
28 Jul 2013

Winter getting you down? Well this might cheer you up! A 2.5 hour flight from Johannesburg to Pemba, northern Mozambique and you’re a short island hop from Azura at Quilalea - the ultimate in barefoot island luxury. Nine beautifully designed, spacious villas are dotted around the shores of the idyllic private island – each opening up onto a private terrace and beach. Dinner is usually a candlelit affair on the main beach; there’s a cool bar and pool area - complete with incredible views over the inviting azure waters, but should you prefer to hole up in your villa, a private butler meets your every need. Leisurely walks around the island take you past towering baobabs to the white sands of the turtle-nesting beach and there’s sea kayaking, snorkelling and some of the best dive sites in southern Africa in the marine sanctuary surrounding this island. Humpback whales are regularly seen from the shore from July to December. It’s the little touches that make Azura at Quilalea so special; champagne on ice in your room, romantic picnics on Turtle Beach, a tour with a birding fundi, funky chandeliers made of recycled plastic, ‘real’ milk in the fridge and a telescope to study the star-studded sky. Whether you need an upmarket Robinson Crusoe-style escape, a romantic weekend or a way to beat the winter blues I can think of no better place.

Text: Fiona McIntosh
Image: Shaen Adey

In the sack
28 Jul 2013

It’s often argued that cricket is England’s greatest gift to civilization. But having watched the untold joy of these Mozambican youngsters when they were introduced to a good old sack race on the beach in front of Ibo Island Lodge I’m not so sure. The islanders love to party – this was taken during the Independence Day celebrations in which everyone took to the streets and had a ball.

Text: Fiona McIntosh
Image: Shaen Adey

Sunset at Mana Pools
27 Jul 2013

Picture this! Early winter’s evening at Mana Pools. You've spent the whole day travelling the main Harare/Chirundu road, juddering over a further 70km of dirt road to reach this remote World Heritage Site in the extreme north of Zimbabwe. You're miles from civilisation and all your senses confirm this. The crimson heavens explode with such sensational significance that you start waxing poetic. Someone murmurs: "Just a plain old sunset…" 

Mana - Shona for ‘Four’ - Pools were carved out aeons ago when the Zambezi River changed course northwards. Besides being one of Africa's top game-viewing regions, this was designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance on 3 January 2013. It seems that most evenings here detonate an aesthetic sunset of universal importance.

Afraid of heights?
27 Jul 2013

Durban sure does have a beautiful view. One way of seeing the cosmopolitan skyline is by ascending the side of the Moses Madiba Stadium, the city’s Soccer World Cup icon. The skycar, which is basically a glass box, moves slowly up the arch, stops at the top for a few minutes, and then descends again. This affords you a great 360 degree view of the city through the see-through walls. The skycar operates daily from 9am until 6pm and are reasonably priced. Catch the last shuttle at 5:30 to capture twilight hour. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!

 – Megan Pilditch

Prent Tours
26 Jul 2013

What are your plans for the weekend? Why not visit the Iziko Museum for free? Ok, there's a technicality - the tour is online... but wait! Local entrepreneurs Cobus and Odendaal Esterhuyse and Rohan Strydom have launched a new venture called Prent, which focusses on high quality virtual tours, and to show how serious they are, they started by doing Cape Town's Iziko Museum. 

They say that they wanted to create better quality tours than the currently available options, and I think they've done a stellar job. Do have a look at their Iziko tour:

Just remember, the imagery is really high quality so it will take a moment to load.

Abandoned Car
25 Jul 2013

I met a traveller from an Afrique land
Who said: 'A rusty car in barren veld 
Lies in the bushes. Near it, with one hand 
I pressed, a shuttered image caught, the car half sunk  
In arid scrub with trees that grew inside,
Proof that its driver well those passions read
Which yet survive, grown in this lifeless thing,
The love of nature, travel's ardour fed.
And on the numberplate no words appear:
No statement, no declaring 'I'm the King:
Look on my car, ye lowly, and despair!'
Only the hulk remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level plains stretch far away'. 

(With apologies to Percy Bysshe Shelley)

Black Mamba
25 Jul 2013

And the winner is… in a 'SuperSnake Africa' show, definitely Black Mamba in the categories: Longest Venomous Snake in Africa - up to 4.45m; Fastest Snake in the world - up to 20kph; Deadliest Snake – can inject up to 25 times the human fatal dose at a time in up to 12 successive bites. Without immediate anti-venom, you don't stand a chance - paralysis usually occurs within the hour and with 100% mortality.

Big Chief reports: “Mama Nightjar and I were swimming in the pool in front of Mkambathi waterfall when this chappie came swimming in from the open ocean side. I spotted him when he was about halfway through the pool. Needless to say, we vacated pretty quickly. Definitely more than 20kph! He zoomed across the pool (it's amazing how fast they can swim), climbed up the south side of the fall, made his way across to the north side (our side), assumed this position and then just sat there. Any idea what he might have been up to?”

African Penguin
24 Jul 2013

Penguins only occur in the Southern Hemisphere and of the 18 species, the African (Jackass) Penguin is the only one found breeding around South African coasts. 25 years ago, there were maybe 30 penguins in Betty’s Bay and they were only on Stony Point, one of only three nesting colonies on the South African mainland. 

Between 1987 and 1989, a fence and viewing platform was put up in this Marine Protected Area to safeguard the penguins. The colony has grown a lot since then, and these days you can even see them nesting in the gardens of the houses surrounding the Point.  And on rare occasions waddling around in their gardens - hoping for City Slickers 2?

Whale Shark Conservation
21 Jul 2013

Fiona got some news worth sharing from the Marine Megafauna Foundation recently.  Mozambique is a global hotspot for whale sharks, but unfortunately the increase in gill netting off the Mozambican coast is creating treacherous waters for these gentle giants. These nets also catch manta rays, dugongs and other threatened species.

Fortunately, the Marine Megafaune Foundation is doing their best to persuade the Mozambican government to address the issue, and to educate fishermen as to alternatives that won't harm the bigger creatures. For some cool photos, and a lot more info, have a look at their site:

Image: Fiona McIntosh

The Blue Hole
21 Jul 2013

The Blue Hole 

Having finally escaped the jungle and failed to make it to the highest point in Belize I headed for it’s lowest point, the depths of the Blue Hole. An almost circular depression in the Belize’s Barrier Reef, the Blue Hole was ‘discovered’ by the legendary Jacques Cousteau on his 1970 voyage on the Calypso, and it’s lives up to its reputation as being an iconic site that you have to dive before you die. It’s partly the contrast that makes it so amazing; we dropped off the boat onto a shallow reef then swam over fields of bright corals teeming with little fish to the shot line. Going over the edge was like skydiving; sinking down the precipitous cliffs, watching other divers plummeting below, was a serous rush. I turned my Go-Pro on myself, capturing the rapidly disappearing horizon. Then everything was calm. There were no features on the vertical cliff by which to orientate ourselves, we were dropping into a seemingly bottomless pit. At about 40m we levelled out then swam into a big cave system with vast stalactites and dripstone curtains hanging from the ceiling. A metre in diameter and over six metres in height these great limestone formations resembled those that you’d find in the Cango Caves. It was an eerie place, the water a pale green soup. Other than the algae covering the dimly lit cavern walls there was zilch in the way of marine life. Diving here was all about atmosphere, the thrill of exploring in this extraordinary natural pit. Memorable but totally bizarre. 

 – Fiona McIntosh

Oogpister Beetle
20 Jul 2013

Photographed in the Mountain Zebra National Park in winter, this multi-talented beetle has a taste for grasshoppers, caterpillars and ants, and secretes its own antacid – not for digestive problems but as a powerful defence. Aptly called, ‘eye pisser,’ it can squirt a well-aimed jet of formic acid from up to 30cm away, causing great pain, and in small animals, even blindness. 

Potential predators soon learn to avoid the distinctive black-and-white-patterned carapace that speeds around on long legs that can kick like Ronaldo to send irritant ants whizzing through the air. Certain lizards, before reaching maturity, mimic its jerky movements and coloration - a perfect ploy for self-protection. Who’s to know that lizards don’t spew acid and aren’t good kickers?

Canola Fields
20 Jul 2013

These golden fields in the Swartland valley in August, viewed from just before the Piekenierskloof Pass on the way to Citrusdal, contain canola, often used in crop rotation with wheat. 

Canola is great for reducing disease in wheat and other grass crops because it is immune to the pathogens that attack these crops. Having wide, flat leaves, it is also unaffected by a variety of wheat-damaging herbicides, so weeds can be more easily controlled with less chance of herbicide-resistance.

Canola was bred naturally in Canada in the 1970s from rapeseed - rapum, in Latin, means turnip, a related cultivar. Pressed canola seed oil is used as vegetable oil and for biodiesel production, with the dregs providing high quality livestock fodder.

Bushveld Oranges
19 Jul 2013

Bushveld oranges – nothing quite like them.

Driving from Hoedspruit to Ohrigstad, it seems like every single resident of the province is on the roadside selling oranges, and after a few kilometres I noticed that these oranges were nearly the size of my head, so I pulled over to investigate further. Large they were indeed, and juicy, soft and sweet. What surprised me more was that the orange & curio stalls lined the road right through the pass that holds the Strydom tunnel – as a Western Caper I am used to the mountain passes being rather devoid of humanity! Needless to say I returned home with a massive bag of oranges.

 – Erik

Spring has arrived
17 Jul 2013

Check out these spring flowers – apparently it promises to be a great flower season. This pic was taken at Enjo Nature Farm, in the heart of the Biedouw Valley last week. And it proves one thing – you don’t have to go all the way to Namaqualand to see the daisies; when it comes to flower-viewing this little-visited valley in the northern Cederberg is a well-kept secret. Less than four hours from Cape Town the pet- and kid-friendly Enjo Nature Farm is a wonderful base if you want to enjoy the floral splendour. The lovely thatch cottages are surrounded by orange, purple and white daisies, there a fantastic walks and if conditions are right the farm owner, Moritz, a qualified pilot, might be persuaded to take you for a flip in his plane. Now that’s ‘doing the flowers’ differently!

More info:
– Fiona McIntosh


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