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Karkloof Canopy Tour
31 Dec 2012
 
     

The Karkloof Canopy Tour in KwaZulu-Natal is an exhilarating adventure activity (as you can see from the expression on my sister-in-law’s face as she comes in to land after completing a section of it). During the 2 hour adventure, you and a group of friends will get to experience the area’s magnificent indigenous forest from a unique aerial vantage point, as you slide between 9 platforms.  The longest ‘foefi’ slide is about 180m. Secured by a harness, gravity does most of the work, making the activity suitable for almost anyone between the ages of 7 and 70. You’re accompanied by guides at all times and, can go tandem with one of them if you want to. The forest is alive with the calls of birds and monkeys and the high lasts long after you come down from the trees. 

 - Dianne Tipping-Woods   

 

Look after your pooch
30 Dec 2012
 
     

Temperatures of over 30 degrees this weekend had us, and our dogs panting. So we thought we’d share a bit of advice from a mountain club member, Chris Walker, about hiking with your four-legged friends.

‘At knee level the temperatures on paths are much higher than at your head level and often owners do not realise the stress being encountered by their pets. It’s also important to remember dogs, like people, have good and bad days. On some days we cope well and others we just battle along with the rest of the group.

Dogs are no different so look after your pooch by following these tips:

Start and finish early before the heat of the day

Take plenty of water for your dog (not that this will help much for dogs susceptible to heat stroke)

Restrict your walk to something you are confident your dog can cope with

Be on the lookout for abnormal behaviour, particularly the following:

  - Excessive panting
  - Constantly seeking shade
  - Unnaturally dry and warm nose
  - Unable to cope with terrain it can normally cope with

Keeping your animal well watered, allowing it to wallow in water as and when that is found, and staying in breezy and shaded spots will all help avert heat stress.' 

Mongoose Cafe
29 Dec 2012
 
     

The Litchi Orchard in Salt Rock, KZN, is home to an animated group of Banded Mongoose.  Although feeding is forbidden they scurry between the café’s outside tables scavenging for titbits, playing on the grass or chasing each other in and out of their burrows. Even though these furry creatures are common in KZN’s coastal lowlands this is a chance to enjoy their gregarious antics up close. Situated half an hour from Durban, the Litchi Orchard has a trendy café, a coffee roastery, a nusery and holds Saturday and night markets. Kids can play on the lawn while parents enjoy a coffee. 

 - Megan Pilditch

Kruger's Big Tuskers
27 Dec 2012
 
     

The Kruger National Park’s healthy elephant population makes it one of the best places in the world to watch elephants in their natural environment. Along with its many breeding herds, the park is also home to some big tuskers, like Masthulele, whose tusks are estimated to weigh around 100 pounds each!  I encountered this bull driving between Phalaborwa Gate and Letaba Camp.  Big as he is, this bull wouldn’t even be called an emerging tusker...  in fact, to qualify as an emerging tusker, the ivory on a young male elephant must protrude at least 1.5m. If you’re going to Letaba, you might want to visit the Elephant Hall. It houses the ivory and skulls of some of Kruger’s largest-ever tuskers, like the Magnificent 7.

  - Dianne Tipping-Woods

Babylonstoren
23 Dec 2012
 
     

If you’re looking for something special to do with your kids over the holidays, why not head over to Babylonstoren? For a mere R10pp they can spend the whole day exploring the gardens, hopping through the veggie patch on wooden pavers, float leaf boats down the gravity fed waterways or even pick a deliciously ripe berry for themselves. Simply heaven!

 - Shaen Adey

  

http://babylonstoren.com/garden/ or call + 27 21 863 385

Harold Porter Botanical Gardens
22 Dec 2012
 
     

Looking for a place to rejuvenate on your travels along the Cape Coast? The Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens in Betty’s Bay is a breathtakingly scenic spot to unwind with a picnic and a coffee from their coffee shop. Framed between mountainside and coastline this garden, established in 1938, is full of colourful flora, birds, baboons and sometimes leopard. If you’re feeling adventurous there are several walking trails and three waterfalls to enjoy.

To top off the convenience, the Disa Kloof waterfalls are a quick hike away, and Leopard's Kloof a long hike, so you can suit your schedule.  If you are heading to Leopard's Kloof, just be wary of the baboons that roam the mountainside (as we found out).

Entry is R15 for adults and R5 for children and dogs are allowed. (028 2829311).

Theatre of Dreams
21 Dec 2012
 
     

What you doing for New Year? 

If you’re looking for something totally frivolous, seeing in 2013 at Madame Zingara’s Theatre of Dreams is a good bet. The magnificent, velvet, ornately-decorated big top ‘Victoria’ will be in Natal on Hogmanay for the first time, and it’ll be one hell of a party! Dressing up is not mandatory, but the boutique has a wonderful selection of masks, boas and other colourful accessories if you’re feeling a bit drab after seeing the waitrons, who always go to town with their wacky costumes. 

After the welcome drinks in your booth ‘el Milagro’ (the Miracle) unfolds as you tuck in to a decadent four-course dinner. Then the stage is yours with DJ Dino Moran there to bring out your inner animal! Not that you have to wait until December 31st for an OTT evening of magical entertainment – the Madame is already at the Sun Coast Casino. If you’ve never been to The Theatre of Dreams you haven’t lived!

 

Phone 0861 623 263 or visit www.madamezingara.com.

Cosmogenesis 2012
21 Dec 2012
 
     

This stunning scene is from Cosmogenesis, which has been taking place from the 12th (until 23rd) December. The first festival of its kind held in South Africa, this ten day event welcomes people of all backgrounds to join into a community of universal upliftment. 

The focus of Cosmogenesis is on the Mayan Calendar ending on 21 December 2012. This is seen, not as a point of destruction, but rather a point of rebirth - the start of a new and enlightened age. That’s not to say that if you go you will find enlightenment, but it will certainly aid in the pursuit of self-awareness! 

Held in the “Valley of the Stars" in the Eastern Free State of South Africa, the venue has running water, ablution facilities, limited preset tented camps, swimming dams, hiking trails, caves and waterfalls. Live music, workshops, speakers and artists will be present throughout the event to inform and entertain. Being a not for profit event, all ticket sales go to the event partners and organisers to set up and create the experience of a lifetime.

 

For more information visit cosmogenesis2012.com or email [email protected]

Basil Scordilis is attending the event so look out for a full write up of the happenings and experiences.

Python Sighting
20 Dec 2012
 
     

Late one night in Ndumo Reserve, Zululand, we witnessed this African Rock Python take down an Nyala while owl-spotting on the fringes of the camp. Although the reserve is home to smaller game it has a beautiful pan system and is a mecca for birders, with a neat little camp and friendly staff.

Pythons kill their prey by suffocation and then unhook their jaw to swallow it whole, stomach acids finishing the job. We left the snake after an hour, still wrapped around it’s prey, and returned early the next morning to find it had completely ingested the animal. 

- Megan Pilditch

Eat Out Awards 2012
19 Dec 2012
 
     

Congratulations to Luke Dale-Roberts, owner of The Test Kitchen, awarded Best Restaurant of the Year at the 2012 Eat Out Dstv Food Network Restaurant Awards. Having just returned from Swiss ski resort Verbier where he has been busy with a seasonal pop up version of his second venture, The Pot Luck Club & Gallery, Luke was arrived back in time to receive his award at the gala dinner held recently at The Westin Cape Town, which pitted the country’s finest chefs and restaurants against each other for the accolade of best of the best in South Africa.

Not surprisingly The Test Kitchen has been full since opening its doors in late 2010, but not one to rest on his laurels, Luke opened The Pot Luck Club & Gallery next door achieving similar success with his innovative Asian-influenced menu of shared tapas style dishes.

In a recent move, Luke decided to shift things around, incorporating this space into The Test Kitchen and moving The Pot Luck Club & Gallery to larger premises within The Old Biscuit Mill which will open in January 2013. 

 

www.thetestkitchen.co.za

Drive Safely!
18 Dec 2012
 
     

We picked up a SanParks pamphlet on our recent travels, and simply had to share the message on it... especially after what we found standing in the middle of the road! 

If your travels take you on less travelled roads these holidays, please be on the lookout for smaller road users. Meerkats, in particular, are vulnerable to fast moving vehicles. Instead of running when a car approaches, they sometimes freeze in panic; especially the babies. Adults are reluctant to abandon the young ones, resulting in multiple fatalities. 

So there you have it... travel far and wide, but please do so safely and enjoyably!

Northern Cape - Day 5
17 Dec 2012
 
     

We left the Northern Cape thinking we'd seen as much splendour and natural wonder as we could take in a week, and that nothing would surprise us... and boy! were we wrong?!  We came across these gorgeous but bedraggled little creatures on a road in the middle of nowhere in the Northern Cape (halfway between Pofadder and Kliprand, to be precise) after a sudden and severe rainstorm. The ground was permeated, and water was streaming through the fields, so more than likely their burrow was flooded (the adults were also running around but stayed much further from the car). 

These guys looked seriously unimpressed at being cold and wet, but the rainstorm moved over relatively quickly, so we are hopeful that by nightfall they would have found a new home! 

For more photos, http://nightjar.travel/BatFox

Augrabies Falls National Park
16 Dec 2012
 
     

So, you think Augrabies is all about the waterfall. Well, maybe not. I personally find waterfalls quite boring. Just lots of water gushing over an edge. So? And this isn’t even an edge, its just a crack! 

But there are so many more reasons to visit this park. For starters, the landscape is multi variate in composition; shades of pastels in colouration and totally beguiling. If you can’t find at least one angle for a special landscape composition, you should think about donating your camera to somebody more deserving. 

And then there is the fauna. Who would have expected to see giraffe in this forbidding landscape, and then such an attractive animal to boot? Light in coloration, majestic in bearing, these guys are always a pleasure to look at, and even more so in this stark environment.

(We've taken in so much stunning scenery in the last week, tripping through the Northern Cape, that some of us are getting a bit blazé about it!)

Northern Cape - Day 4
16 Dec 2012
 
     

We dragged Nightjar Junior along on our Northern Cape road trip; mostly for his luggage-bearing capabilities but also partly for his sense of humour. Eventually, we asked him what he had to say for himself…

Awake at 7 again? This is not how I wanted to start every day of my holiday. On the other hand, wrestling with gnarly rapids and fighting to keep the current at bay? That I would not mind. I guess one has to accept the bad with the good, a splash of a day on the white waters of the Orange River is definitely worth lugging a few life jackets, paddles and boats across sand and rocks. 

On the flats, between swimming back to my boat and shoving others off theirs, there was hardly enough time to appreciate the splendor floating past. We used Kalahari Outventures who operate out of the Augrabies Falls National Park and they were excellent.

 

www.kalahari-adventures.co.za

Northern Cape - Day 3
15 Dec 2012
 
     

Rumour has it that the beer mugs at the Pofadder Hotel have bicycle bells on their handles. Makes the refill process so much easier. We were almost tempted to head straight there, but a last minute decision saw us take the scenic route through Riemvasmaak and the Vredesvallei (Peace valley). What an experience! It you took the Richtersveld and compressed it by 80%, this is what you get. 

Although this stretch of road is only about 20km long, we spent more time out of the car taking photos than driving. So, we only connected with the main drag to Pofadder four hours later and sensibly decided to stop over at Aughrabies Falls for the night. Pofadder will have to wait.

But back to Riemvasmaak; there is a hot spring with eight 4-bed chalets 4km out of town, which is an ideal base from which to explore the area, and in particular the three 4x4 routes that criss-cross these mountains. We have already made our June booking.

www.greenkalahari.com/riemvasmaak.html

Tel: (054) 431 0945

Guided Night Walk
14 Dec 2012
 
     

Things that go bump in the night – a walk with guide Richart Jesslitz after nightfall is a must if you are ever in Witsand Nature Reserve. We walked into the dunes to the accompaniment of a chorus of Bubbling Kassinas. These diminutive frogs are desert specialists. After rains they crawl up the sand dunes where they bury themselves for the day. When they come out in the evenings, their skins are parched dry, and super sensitive to moisture, helping them navigate to the next pool. 

Next on our sighting list was a sand frog, followed by a dancing spider and a plethora of other insects. But the big daddies of the night were the scorpions. Watching the veld light up under Richard’s ultra violet light was amazing. Pound for pound, scorpions are some one of the most poisonous animals on earth. To crown the night out, we were lucky enough to see one of these little creatures stop a flying beetle in his tracks in less than two seconds with one of his powerful stings. What an experience!

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Nightjar

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Erik