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Northern Cape
12 Dec 2012
 
     

As we mentioned earlier, we're in the field at the moment with a focus on the Destination Guide.  This week, we are on a mission to explore the Northern Cape.  This desolate yet beautifu province gets far less attention than it deserves, and every day thus far has been more of an eye-opener than the previous!  We'll start you off with this photo while we sharpen the old pen and paper and write up the trip...

In the meantime, check out the magazine article that inspired us: Five fun adventures in the Northern Cape!

Mphongolo Wilderness Trail
11 Dec 2012
 
     

The Mphongolo Wilderness Trail

There are many ways to experience the Kruger National Park either on your own or with a guide. If you truly want to immerse yourself in the park’s wildest areas though, the best way is on foot. The Mphongolo Wilderness Trail is 1 of 3 multiple-day backpack trails through the park.

Accompanied by your guides, carrying your own supplies and even digging for your own water, you’ll engage all of your senses during this special wilderness experience. Increasingly immersed in your environment, you will reconnect with the natural world at the most basic level and enjoy magical encounters with Kruger’s wildest creatures.

- Dianne Tipping-Woods

Nightjar Travelled
10 Dec 2012
 
     

Just outside of Jo’burg there’s a nature reserve that is one of the city’s better kept secrets (unless you’re a bird watcher or cyclist). It covers an area of about 11 595 hectares and is home to a variety of mammals, including eland, zebra, red hartebeest, mountain reedbuck, duiker, steenbok, blesbok, and kudu. 

On Saturday, a perfect Highveld morning of deep blue skies and birdsong, it was bursting with life. Driving around the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, we had sightings of most of the mammal species and the birders recorded a total of 98 bird species. Back at the picnic area, to work up an appetite for lunch, we did the shortest of the reserve’s hiking trails, the 4.2 kilometre Cheetah Trail, and were treated to an absolute riot of summer wild flowers, washed clean by the recent rain.

We also got to see how busy the N3 was with holiday traffic – I do hope that everyone arrived safely!

Festival of Bubbles
7 Dec 2012
 
     

We took our own advice and headed out to Franschhoek’s Festival of Bubbles this weekend... And what a party it was. Most bon vivants embraced the black and white dress code, turning up in larney outfits and hats that would have impressed even at prestigious events like the Durban July.

The bubbly was flowing, there were oysters, chocolates and a host of other spoils and by the end of the day we were dancing on the stage along with the revellers. A great start to the festive season!

- Shaen Adey

The Royal Kraal at Ondini
5 Dec 2012
 
     

When the sun sets over the Makhosini Valley, it catches the smoke rising from cooking fires of its sprawling villages, turning the air golden. From the vantage point of the royal kraal at Ondini, 20 km east of Ulundi, it’s easy to imagine the old Zulu king, Cetshwayo, strategising with his councillors more than 100 years ago. 

This royal residence, which was both the judicial and legislative capital of the Zulu Kingdom from 1873 to 1879, was burnt down by British forces after the battle of Ulundi on 4 July 1879; the last battle of the Anglo Zulu War. The royal enclosure, an important archaeological site and a national monument, was reconstructed in the 1980s, along with a small site museum. I stayed at the Umuzi tourist facility on the eastern side of the complex, in a traditional Zulu homestead with modern kitchen and ablution facilities. 

- Dianne Tipping-Woods

C'est la Vie
4 Dec 2012
 
     

Great news for caffeine addicts! C’est la Vie has found a new home – 20, Main Road, in Kalk Bay, right across the road from the tidal pool at Dalebrook. Jo, the owner, has brought a touch of France into the area with her simplistic yet tasteful décor, hot loaves of artisan bread, and patisseries including delicious pain au chocolat.

But it’s the wonderfully aromatic coffee that will draw you through the door. They also offer freshly squeezed juices, yummy breakfasts and lunches every day from 07.30-15.00 (except on Mondays and Tuesdays). Even better is that trade at their temporary ‘hole in the wall’ premises - C’est la Vie on the Park, right on Lever Street community park - has been so good that it will remain open daily except Wednesdays and Thursdays from 07.30 to 13.00. Yippee, we’re spoilt for choice!

- Shaen Adey

The living legend
4 Dec 2012
 
     

Amongst the green heart of Cape Town, Company Gardens hides a very unusual and unique animal, the albino squirrel. Tree squirrels were imported by Cecil John Rhodes in the 19th century from Europe and although an alien species they aren’t too invasive. 

Open daily, the gardens, which are the oldest in the country, have a rose garden, restaurant, an avery, pathways and plenty of open areas to picnic. A favourite activity amongst tourists and locals alike is feeding the squirrels that have evidently become quite tame. So have you seen the living legend?

- Megan Pilditch

Nightjar Travelled
3 Dec 2012
 
     

Climbing Lion’s Head to celebrate the full moon is a long standing tradition, and we were on the peak this Wednesday, somewhat buffeted by a howling south easter! ‘Training’ for the summit assault had however been curtailed by the inaugural Red Bull Lion Heart event held last weekend, when the mountain was ‘closed’ to hikers.

Thirty-two men and eight women qualified from Friday’s prologue for the 4.4km round-for-round knockout format on Saturday. Three Peaks winner, AJ Calitz, yet again topped the log in the final stage, blasting his way to the top and back down in 27 minutes and 16 seconds ahead of Michael Bailey, (28.54), trail running supremo Ryan Sandes (29.09) and Bernard Rakadz (30.07).

Carla van Huyssteen [pictured] romped home ahead of Katia Soggot (34.13) and Landie Greyling (34.34) to take the women’s title, finishing in 33 minutes and 21 seconds. Mmm. Our champagne would definitely have been a little shaken at that pace.

For more, check out http://nightjar.travel/Sx8RGL

Big News
2 Dec 2012
 
     

So I heard on the grape vine that Gondwana Game Reserve, situated in the Garden Route, is celebrating the birth of two free roaming lion cubs - which are believed to be the first wild lion cubs born in the Southern Cape for the last 150 years..!

We are so proud of this milestone in your conservation effort... Well done!

Disclaimer: This pic is from my personal collection. For photos of the actual cubs, and more info, check their blog:

http://www.gondwanagr.co.za/news-blog

The babies are here!
27 Nov 2012
 
     

Good morning! Those of you who love the Kruger will have been eagerly anticipating the birthing of the impala... Well, Dianne Tipping-Woods let me know that they dropped over the course of the last week - and aren't they beautiful! Lovely to see the cycle of life continue like clockwork.

Nightjar Travelled
26 Nov 2012
 
     

You can’t visit a city without paying respect to its soul. For me, the soul of Jozi is reflected in its wondrous mix of food, culture and creativity – and the people who generate and consume it. This particular visit to the city left me little time for indulgence, but a quick visit to 44 Stanley on Sunday morning ensured I was able to appreciate at least some of the city’s character. 

Here, industrial buildings have been transformed into a stimulating social hub of restaurants, speciality shops and design studios. I was able to pick up some beautiful books at the charming and quirky l’elephant terrible bookshop, eat an inspired citrus and almond salad (followed by a decadent red velvet cupcake) at Salvation Café, and speculate about the passing strangers that animate the city.

Click for more info.

What a view!
23 Nov 2012
 
     

Southern Africa’s first king once enjoyed this magnificent view. The photo is taken from Mapungubwe Hill, most famous perhaps for the little golden rhino that was discovered here when the site was excavated in 1932. It is one of many remnants of a civilization that prospered in this area between 900 and 1270, farming their cattle and trading with people from as far afield as Asia. 

The important archaeological site is now protected and forms part of Mapungubwe National Park in the far north of South Africa. The area is not only rich in cultural history; its breath-taking landscapes of mixed mopane veld, riverine gallery forest, and sandstone outcrops, are home to elephants, antelope and abundant birdlife.

 - Dianne Tipping-Woods

Stripey boys
20 Nov 2012
 
     

These two Burchell’s zebra were having what looked like a serious disagreement. I spotted them on the H6, just a few kilometres from Satara, a camp in Kruger National Park. The encounter lasted about 15 minutes, with lots of biting, kicking, pushing and chasing back and forth across the road. Fighting between zebra isn’t really uncommon. 

Like many animal fights, this was probably about battling for dominance and the right to mate with females. The zebra's social system is based on a harem of females led by a stallion. Stallions are known to fight over fillies, with one male challenging the other for the right to control the harem.

 - Dianne Tipping-Woods

Clos Malverne
19 Nov 2012
 
     

I do hope that everyone had a nice weekend? Life always seems to stack up towards the end of the year, and the weeks get more intense until suddenly you're on holiday...

After a hard week at the office we decided that an evening of fine dining was in order so headed out to one of Stellenbosch’s most prestigious wineries, Clos Malverne, for their monthly gourmet evening. As we enjoyed a glass of bubbles in the restaurant’s glass-fronted verandah the final rays of the sun lit up the surrounding hills and orderly rows of vines – a view to die for. 

Executive chef Nadia Louw Smith’s creations, paired with award-winning wines, were divine and the service was relaxed and unhurried. The perfect start to the weekend. Best of all we scored the recipe for our favourite dish, lime and chilli marinated cob ceviche, which we’ll be trying at home with the estate’s much lauded Sauvignon Blanc 2012.

Olive Jam Recipes
16 Nov 2012
 
     

I recently made a ham and fig jam sandwhich, which made me feel like a masterchef (my girlfriend, however, felt otherwise)! And then Fiona picked up some tips on how to really make magic with jam while she was at Kloovenburg Wine and Olive Estate, and now I feel a little embarrassed admitting to my sandwhich! So here's what they had to say...

Kloovenburg Olive Jam is more savoury than sweet. A savoury jam is a good accompaniment to a cheese platter. Add some smoked cold meats, ciabatta bread and rocket leaves for the tapas platter. Spread some olive jam on toasted bruschetta and top with buffalo mozzarella.

It also perfect for meat, especially venison. Debone a springbok leg of lamb, marinate overnight in some Balsamic (Kloovenburg also makes a good one). Spread some olive jam on add some crushed black pepper and braai it over hot coals. Be careful to not over braai, it should still be pink in the middle. Add a green salad and some rosemary baby potatoes and you have the perfect Sunday lunch.

Sounds delicious, and I think I'll stick to confirmed recipes from now on!

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Khamai Reptile Park
15 Nov 2012
 
     

Khamai Reptile Park

This beautiful Burmese python is one of hundreds of snakes and other reptiles that live at the Khamai Reptile Park, just outside the Limpopo town of Hoedspruit. The centre does really valuable conservation work in an area with a particularly high concentration of snakes. Allowing visitors to handle one of their non-venomous snakes is part of Khamai’s educational tour, which helps address fears and misconceptions about snakes, chameleons and other reptiles that often lead to them being killed. 

These unnecessary deaths place additional pressure on reptile populations already affected by agricultural development, urbanisation, mining, erosion and pollution. The centre also conducts important reptile-related research and helps lodges, farmers and local communities within the region to relocate so-called ‘problem’ reptiles into the wild. 

- Dianne Tipping-Woods

p.s. Thanks to Warren Garvie for the edit.

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