Seychelles – The Paradise Islands

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Before visiting the Seychelles, I had heard a great deal about these alluring tropical islands. A remote island archipelago located in the Indian Ocean north east of Madagascar, the Seychelles has attracted visitors from all over the world for over 40 years – mainly due to the islands many beautiful beaches, spectacular mountain scenery, lush vegetation, and unique flora and fauna. After sending many travellers to the islands for honeymoons, family holidays and beach breaks, it was high time that I visited the Seychelles myself. And who better to visit with than my husband and my 18 month old daughter. It may come as a surprise that the Seychelles not only offers luxury resort accommodation (out of the budget range for most travellers), but also plenty of mid-range guesthouses and self-catering apartments & chalets. Since we were travelling with an infant, we opted for self-catering allowing us to be flexible and to fit with her schedule.

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Our arrival on Mahe Island was in the evening so we missed the chance to see the stunning scenery en-route to our accommodations on the south east coast, Chalets D’Anse Forbans. But upon waking the next morning, we quickly discovered that we were indeed in paradise. Palm trees line the pristine beach of Anse Forbans and, heading down to the beach for our first swim of the holiday, we did not see another footprint in site! Anse Forbans is quite possibly one of the most beautiful beaches and bays that I have ever seen….and hardly a soul around! The bay is perfect for swimming when the weather is calm and there is great snorkelling just off the beach. If that’s not enough, during the months of October to January Hawksbill turtles come to the beach to lay their eggs, and a couple of months later they eggs hatch with hundreds of tiny turtles scuttling to the sea.

The owners of Chalets D’Anse Forbans are hospitable and friendly and they went out of their way to help us plan our few days on the island. They suggested renting a car for a day so that we could explore what the rest of Mahe Island has to offer. Setting out in the morning we ventured up the west coast stopping along the way at the many incredible beaches and bays to take photographs and have a quick swim. The island changes so much from the South to the North that it’s well worth exploring by car – we found lots of hidden coves with nobody in site; we drove up through the spectacular mountain passes; and we enjoyed a sundowner drink on one of the islands most scenic beaches, Anse Intendance.

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Our journey in the Seychelles took us to the island of Praslin next. Off we headed by local ferry, an efficient and easy way to travel between the islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue. An hours trip on choppy seas (don’t forget the sea sick tablets!) and we arrived at the port. It seemed that we were in a totally different country. Praslin revolves almost completely around tourism and all the people of the island are very laid-back, the population a fraction of what it is on Mahe. Less mountainous than Mahe, but just as gorgeous, Praslin is easy to get around on the local bus network so travellers can explore the many stunning beaches and hidden coves by local transport and on foot. Travelling with a toddler, we decided to rent a car explore the island by car. As on Mahe we were struck by the beauty of the island and also the lack of people on so many of the beaches. It was easy to get away from the ‘crowds’ and find our own private beach were we spent the day playing in the waves, snorkelling, catching crabs and building sandcastles. Many of the beaches are wild and remote, while others are line with resorts….but even on these ‘resort lined’ beaches, it’s easy to find a private spot. Locals stay pretty much to themselves and, unlike in other African island destinations, tourists don’t get hassled by hawkers trying to sell over-priced but cheaply produced souvenirs.

Praslin has its share of resorts and luxury hotels catering to the rich, but just as on Mahe Praslin has plenty of locally run guesthouses and well-equipped self-catering apartments. We spent five wonderful days at L’Hirondelle directly opposite the well-known white sand beach of Cote D’Or.  This area is the tourist hub of Praslin lined with shops, restaurants, and dive centres. Day trips to the nearby islands of Curieuse, St Pierre, Cousin, and Aride can also be arranged. We decided to visit Cousin Island, a nature sanctuary and one of the most important nesting sites for hawksbill turtles in the western Indian Ocean. The island is also home to Aldabra giant tortoises, skinks, an indigenous green gecko, Fairy terns, lesser noddies, Frigate birds and plenty of other birds. A one hour boat trip from Praslin and we arrived on Cousin – we enjoyed a fascinating two hour guided tour. Definitely one of the highlights of our trip being able to experience an island that is completely devoted to nature and inhabited by humans, apart from a handful of researchers.

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The Seychelles is without a doubt a destination that suits any type of traveller – it lends itself to exploratory travel as much as the more conventional resort stay. And it attracts nature lovers, golfers, hikers, divers, honeymooners, romantics, and those looking to relax and get away from it all. The laid-back people, the all year round warm weather, the white sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters, the ease of getting around, and the huge range of accommodations available make it the perfect island getaway!

For more information about Janine’s holiday and the Seychelles islands please contact Janine on


Experiencing Cape Town

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You could easily mistake an aerial view of the Cape Peninsula for a panoramic view of Never-never Land. At the centre of Never-never Land is Table Mountain, standing as a timeless figurehead in all its glory, while all around it, the surrounding rocky coastline protrudes out of crystal azure seas. Take this still picture and add the dynamic movement of the tides, currents, clouds, and weather and you have a breathless 10,000 ft bird’s eye view of the fairyland that is the Cape Peninsula and its surrounding lands.

If the Peter Pan viewpoint doesn’t suit you, let’s examine Cape Town logically. The people are busy here and actively engaging in the finer points to life. Important things like cycling, hang-gliding, running, surfing, eating out, and rock climbing are never far from their minds — less important things are not allowed to get in the way. A multitude of various adventures and sight-seeing opportunities are within easy driving distance from most parts of Cape Town and its surrounding suburbs, so much so that some Capetonians don’t seem to travel to any other parts of the country.

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It’s a real challenge for a couch lover to find excuses to stay at home here. There’s just no time to lounge on the couch. Yes, the sea can get cold on the west side. That’s no excuse, you can buy a wetsuit. Yes, the weather is temperamental, but if you’re not careful you’ll miss out. Just because it’s raining down on you in the southern suburbs, and you can’t see your hand in front of your face for all the mist, you’ll soon realise that ten kilometres either way will probably put you back in the sun zone. When the west side is horrid, the east side is great.

You haven’t really lived until you’ve spent some quality time on the beautiful beaches of Llandudno, Noordhoek, Kommetjie, and Scarborough. If you haven’t had a coffee or a cocktail looking out over Camps Bay with the rocky cliffs of Table Mountain behind you, you’ve missed out. If you have, you’ll want to do it again.

Weather bad? Rain often means good surf at Muizenberg! You see, I see the world through the eyes of a surfer and a regular beach-goer. The peninsula has certain advantages that aren’t available to the sea lover in other parts of the country. I grew up on beaches in the Eastern Cape, and for a time, on the north coast. If the wind wasn’t blowing from the right direction, or the weather was inclement, there was nothing else to do but stay home and pull out the Playstation. I spent a number of years away from the coast, and so the move to Cape Town was like coming back home…

…except it isn’t home: it’s Never-never Land. It’s an endless adventure filled with possibilities I’ve not found elsewhere.

This is what I love most about Cape Town and its surrounding areas: its unparalleled beauty, its scope of opportunity, and its tendency to keep you busy doing the good things in life. What a great way to bring up my young boy! What a great place to spend my life with my family and friends!

A Day in the Pilanesberg


As we headed towards the Pilanesberg National Park, I was reminded of how close it is to Johannesburg and Pretoria. Only a 2 hour drive and one leaves behind the hustle and bustle of the city and enters a wildlife haven. The main attraction of the park, apart from the wildlife of course, is the fact that it is quick and easy to get to, making it an easy add-on to any itinerary for those who do not have time to visit the Kruger Park or one of the other wildlife reserves further afield. It is also a short drive from the famous Sun City Resort which attracts hundreds of visitors each year.

The park has a rich array of southern African wildlife including lions, elephants, black & white rhinoceros, African buffaloes, leopards, zebras, hyenas, giraffes, hippos and crocodiles. And it is home to over 360 bird species. On our recent visit there, we kept our eyes open trying to spot the big game – we saw plenty of elephant, zebra, giraffe and other small game, but the predators eluded us that day. So, we decided instead to focus on the smaller things, of which there are many. A great way to enjoy the reserve and spot some of the smaller creatures is to stop at one of the many hides in the park.  Many of the hides overlook the vast lake in the middle of the park, and these hides create an excellent vantage point to view wildlife without being noticed. Upon arrival at one of the hides, we noticed a hippo snoozing in the water below the hide – nothing unusual about that. But on further inspection we saw that terrapins were using the hippos back as a resting spot, as if it was a huge stone! That’s something I have never seen before…..when one terrapin moved off, another popped its head out of the water, swam towards to the hippo, and climbed aboard. Astonishing!

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Another fascinating sighting was a pied kingfisher that had caught a fish that was almost the size of his entire body. The kingfisher perched on a branch of a dead tree in the lake nearby to the hide, and we watched for about 30 mins while, fish in beak, it ‘smacked’ the fish on the tree branch over and over again, until finally it swallowed it whole, and flew off. The only guess we had as to why it ‘smacked’ the fish for so long was that it was trying to remove its scales before eating the fish. Nature has its reasons.

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The amazing sightings reminded me that no matter how often I have visited this and other wildlife reserves, there is always something new and incredible to see. If you would like to visit this small, but beautiful reserve, there are a number of fantastic lodges in the area – ask us to recommend one that will suit you. To learn more about the Pilanesberg National Park, please

The Elephants of Ruaha


Ruaha is Tanzania’s largest National Park and forms the heart of a unique and large ecosystem, with over 4 million hectares of protected areas. Ruaha is home to an extraordinary diversity of species, and it is Tanzania’s National Park with the largest population of elephants. The current global ivory poaching crisis has seen a massive impact on elephant numbers across Africa. Most experts estimate that more than 30,000 were poached in 2012 across Africa. In Tanzania, which is said to have the second largest population of elephants in Africa after Botswana, this has a notable impact.

The PAMS FOUNDATION, a not-for-profit conservation organisation operating in Tanzania since 2009, recently formed the Ruaha Protection Project. This project was initiated last year and through it they aim to provide support to the Ruaha Ecosystem in order to safeguard Tanzania’s largest remaining elephant population as well as a very impressive variety of associated species which share this exceptional habitat. They have begun supporting rangers in Ruaha through providing advanced training on anti-poaching; establishing an informer network in communities adjacent to the National Park for the gathering and analysis of intelligence information needed for enabling effective preventive actions against poacher networks; providing incentives for exemplary performance; and training and certification of rangers as walking safari guides.

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In June and August 2013 The PAMS Foundation, in partnership with TANAPA (Tanzanian National Parks), helped train 40 TANAPA rangers in tactical and combat anti-poaching skills in the Ruaha National Park. These rangers now form four special Rapid Response teams that are currently operating in the Ruaha ecosystem and to date have had substantial success in combatting elephant poaching. Toni Krook visited Krissie Clark and Wayne Lotter (the founding members of PAMS) in the Ruaha National Park in August 2013 and experienced what the project was all about:

“I was fortunate to spend a few days in the Ruaha National Park. This picturesque park shared with me many very special moments and heaps of spectacular wildlife sightings. I was completely blown away! I was equally blessed, in being able to spend some time watching the new TANAPA rapid response recruits being trained in advanced anti-poaching techniques. Coming up against poachers who may armed with automatic rifles, means that the training the recruits receive, could well be the difference between life and death. I was in awe of the passion and dedication these recruits display. Only the toughest recruits made it all the way through to the end of the intensive seven week training program….this also include some courageous and determined female recruits. It was a good feeling leaving the training grounds, knowing that the future of the wildlife in Ruaha National Park had a fighting chance against the massive poaching onslaught that Africa is currently experiencing. These brave men and women together with organizations like the PAMS Foundation might just mean that our children and grandchildren still get to see the big five on the plains of Africa.”

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You can HELP elephant conservation by donating equipment, or funds needed for:

  • Operations (infield anti-poaching patrols and operations against ivory traders)
  • Rewarding informers
  • Field equipment
  • Aviation fuel
  • Procuring vehicles
  • Management and administrative costs.

Should you wish to help or partner with the project in any way, however small or big, please contact us?

Captivating Uganda

Uganda is a country with incredible natural scenery and a rich variety of ethnic tribes and cultures. Travelling through Uganda, you will be captivated by its beauty, abundant and diverse wildlife, and its people. The friendliness of Ugandans, and of course a chance to see some of the last remaining mountain gorillas in their natural environment, is the reason why so many people visit this beautiful country.

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Trekking through the lush virgin forests to try and get a glimpse of the mountain gorilla was without a doubt the main reason for my visit to Uganda. But what I was not expecting was how much more the country had to offer. My first introduction to the forests of Uganda was an incredible walk in the Kibale forest. Located in Western Uganda, not far from the mysterious ‘mountains of the moon’ or Rwenzoris as they are more commonly known, Kibale Forest has a thriving population of Chimpanzees. Not knowing much amount about Chimpanzees in the wild, I had no idea what to expect from this experience. From the moment we entered into the forest, we heard the ‘piercing’ cries of the chimps, used to warn other chimps of danger, the danger being us! As the chimps got closer however, they ‘recognized’ our guide and were no longer so vocal (every day the local forest guides and rangers spend time walking in the forests with the chimps in close proximity to try to habituate them so that visitors can view these incredible animals from a safe distance without fear of an attack). I was amazed at how close we got to one family group of chimpanzees – there were about 15 of them and one minute they were up in the trees above our heads, the other they were on the ground moving fast through the forest and we practically had to run to keep up. At no point, however, did we feel threatened…….although the guides always made sure that we maintained a safe distance!

Trekking through the Kibale forest with the chimpanzees is one of the most memorable experiences I have had in all my Africa travels and I recommend including it to anyone visiting Uganda. Combine this activity with a stay at theKibale Forest Lodge, offering ‘rustic’ luxury and with outstanding views of the distant Ruwenzori Mountains, and you will not be disappointed.

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Seeing the mountain gorillas in their natural environment was the next stop on our Ugandan adventure, and this activity is something I have been dreaming of experiencing for as long as I can remember.  As we headed further towards the mountainous region of the Bwindi reserve, the forests got thicker and the roads got steeper! Thank goodness we had a good guide as the roads in Uganda are not roads that you would want to negotiate on your own…..muddy at times and steep, with crazy drivers overtaking on blind corners along the mountainous passes. Safely we arrived at our beautiful lodge in the forest, Bwindi Volcanoes Lodge, ready for our strenuous trek into the mountains the next day.

Early in the morning we set out with our ranger and our small group of 8 people into the forests in order to find a particular family group of mountain gorillas. Viewing time with these animals is limited to only one hour so we made sure we were in the front of the group so we could get as close as possible. After only one hours walk (which is very unusual and can take up to 5-8 hours to find the group) we stumbled upon the group we were looking for, and luckily for us they we right in the open and lazing about, the little ones clambering over each other playing and swinging from branch to branch.  Mesmerized, I sat watching their interactions with awe until out of the thick brush from my left came a crashing sound that made me almost jump out of my skin! The silverback gorilla & head of the troop had appeared out of nowhere, his main role to protect his family from danger….again that being us! But as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared again under a ticket of tangled branches and shrubs and fell soundly asleep secure in the knowledge that we were not going to pose any threat. So we had the rest of the hour to enjoy our time with the females and their offspring… hour that I will never forget for the rest of my life.

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To find out more about Uganda and trekking with the mountain gorillas and chimps, please contact

Touring in the wine region


One of my highlights, as a Wine Specialist tour guide, is being able to see our wonderful country through fresh eyes every week. Our days on tour are spent in pursuit of the perfect combination of wine, views and, inevitably the gourmet delights that go along with it.

The Cape Winelands are the third most visited tourism destination in the country with most wine routes being within easy driving distance of Cape Town. A visit to the winelands goes way beyond the cellar door, celebrating not just the wine itself but also the way in which its made, the people who make it, the restaurants that serve it and the vistas of landscape that gave it birth.

Whilst South Africa is referred to as a New World producer with wines focused on fruit flavours and made to be drunk soon after bottling, we still have several estates whom make old-world style wines specifically blended to be kept for longer periods of time. Our cellars range from large co-operatives to independent cellars and estates down to boutique wineries and garagiste producers. By putting a personalized tour together we are able to take the guess work out of our clients hands and focus the day around specific regions, wine styles and flavour profiles as requested by them. Add to this opportunities to do vertical tastings of older vintages, library stock tastings, wine and chocolate pairings, cheese tastings, art gallery or motor museum viewings, or even an opportunity to meet the winemaker, and your tour is a wrap!

I believe wine should be sipped, savoured and shared. It’s an entirely subjective experience and all that’s required is that you find one which is perfect for you!

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Janine’s family holiday in Mauritius

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Being adventurous travellers, my husband and I always said that we would wait until having a child before we visited Mauritius. In our eyes Mauritius has always been one of those destinations for the ‘all inclusive resort’ package holiday traveller. We have never travelled this way because we really enjoy the freedom of being independent and travelling from one destination to another within a country, whether by self-drive, or local transport. But having a child this year made us realise that the type of holidays that we usually choose would not work when travelling with a baby, and it was now time to try out a resort package holiday. And what better destination to try it out than Mauritius known for its hundreds of world class package resorts offering amazing food, 5* service, and located on some of the most beautiful beaches in the Indian Ocean!

We chose the resort hotel Le Canonnier, located in the north west of the island a few kilometers south of Grand Baie, one of the main tourist hubs. Le Canonnier Hotel is a 4* hotel that is perfect for families offering a range of activities for the kids at the dedicated kids club (for kids from 3 yrs); baby-sitting facilities for toddlers and babies; family rooms; and plenty of land & water sports for the older kids from tennis to pool tables, waterskiing to snorkelling. The hotel has a large pool with an adjoining kiddie’s pool, and the ocean is flat and crystal clear making it very safe for swimming for kids of all ages.

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Our days in Mauritius were spent lazing on the deck chairs by the beach, swimming, snorkelling, water skiing, and windsurfing. Each day the hotel arranges three snorkelling trips to the nearby reef and I was quite surprised at how plentiful the fish life is. We also tried out the glass bottom boat trip…which didn’t quite compare to snorkelling….but is a great option for those who don’t swim well, or those with small kids. Waterskiing and windsurfing were new experiences for us as we had never tried these before. We both managed to get up onto the skis after a couple of turns…with a bit if coaching from the water sports centre staff. But we were not quite as successful at windsurfing, both of us managing to sail all the way to the reef, but not being able to turn back! Needless to say the boat had to collect us and take us back to shore, windsurfer in tow!

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Of course after all the activities we did plenty of eating and drinking! The big advantage of booking a fully inclusive package is that we could indulge in the buffet breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks; and enjoy all of the delicious cocktails without having to worry about any additional costs. Food and drinks are expensive at the hotel so it is well-worth choosing the fully inclusive option.

We had such a fantastic week in Mauritius and will not hesitate to go back. So for anyone that thinks that an inclusive resort package holiday is not for them, think again!

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Notten’s Bush Camp


For years I have had friends, colleagues and clients of mine rave about Nottens Bush Camp, and until recently, I have not had the chance to visit. This seems a bit crazy considering the amount of time I have spent in the Greater Kruger area! Nottens Bush Camp is located in the Sabi Sands reserve, which borders on the Kruger Park. Wildlife roams freely between the park and the reserve with no fencing in between. The Sabi Sands is well-known for its fantastic predator sightings, specifically lion and leopard, and we were not disappointed. From our first game drive, the Nottens rangers and trackers had their keen spotting eyes ready. Our first sighting that we came upon was a pride of about 14 lion tearing away at a recent buffalo kill. And what a sighting it was! Each lion, including the little cubs, was literally gouging themselves on the buffalo meat, despite their bulging bellies. Some of the members of the pride were so exhausted after eating for the last couple of hours that they were eating half asleep! One thing for sure was that not a scrap of the meat or the carcass was going to go to waste, and on returning to the kill the next day, there was practically nothing left.

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Besides this incredible lion sighting, we had the rare opportunity to track two male leopards that were fighting over the same territory. The older male, whose original claim was to this particular territory, was protecting his domain and had therefore injured the younger male, although thankfully not fatally. We watched as he attempted to chase the younger male out of his territory. On a number of occasions both the leopards passed right next to the vehicle, so close that I could have touched them as they were passing. A unique aspect of the Sabi Sands reserve is that leopards, usually shy and elusive animals, have been tracked by vehicles for such a long time for photographic safaris that they have become ‘habituated’, and do not consider vehicles as a threat. Hence our opportunity to get so close.

There is an abundance of other wildlife varieties in the reserve including buffalo, rhino, elephant, giraffe, zebra, impala and kudu. But excellent guides and plenty of wildlife is not the only quality that makes Nottens special. The camp staff are the soul of the camp and their warm greetings, friendly manner and positive attitude make Nottens feel like a ‘home away from home’. The camp is owner run and managed and most of the staff have been their many years, and their love of the camp and the wilderness shines through in every aspect. Nothing is too much of a problem, and we could not have asked for better service. The food was outstanding, although we ate far too much!

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I am not going to elaborate on all the ‘little touches’ that were added to our stay as then I would spoil it for anyone planning to visit. Rather come and stay and see for yourselves. Nottens Bush Camp is a truly authentic safari camp and will suit all those travelers who are looking for a ‘real’ wilderness safari experience with all the luxuries that you would like, but without the ‘frills’. To find out more about Notten’s Bush Camp, please contact

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Cape Town City Sightseeing Tour


The Hop-on Hop-off City Sightseeing bus is definitely the best way to see Cape Town in two days. The busses run daily and there are two main bus routes which you can choose – The Blue Mini Peninsula Tour and The Red City Tour. We decided to do the Blue Tour beginning at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens situated at the base of world famous Table Mountain. From Kirstenbosch the bus takes you along Rhodes drive towards the bustling town of Hout Bay. Rhodes drive is a beautiful scenic road which winds along the mountain side giving you breathtaking views of the mountain above and valley below. Although it was a cool winter’s day the sun was shining bright and there was not a cloud in the sky, so we decided to sit at the top of the bus and enjoy the wonderful views.

As the bus makes its way towards Hout Bay you have the opportunity to hop off at the change point at Constantia Nek, where another bus waits to pick you up. From here the bus takes you to the Constantia Valley Wine Farms and you can choose where you would like to get off. We decided to visit Jonkershuis Wine Farm which is nestled in the middle of the Groot Constantia Wine Estate. The area is surrounded by old oak trees and the famous Groot Constantia Vineyards. After a little tour of the Wine Estate we treated ourselves to a coffee at the quaint bistro set in the gardens of the farm. The bistro is set in a brilliant position with panoramic views of the whole peninsula. We sat enjoying the peaceful surrounding and spectacular views before we had to make our way back to the bus.

From Jonkershuis Wine Farm, you will be taken back to the Constantia Neck change point to get onto the bus travelling onwards towards Hout Bay. Before you enter the main town of Hout Bay you will see signs for “World of Birds” which is the largest bird park in Africa and it is definitely worth visiting if you have not been there before. There are over three thousand birds (and small animals) of different species which are kept in spacious walk through aviaries, allowing you to feel close with nature. We had visited the bird sanctuary before so we continued our way through to the main town of Hout Bay. The next stop is Mariners Wharf, which is based at Hout Bay Harbour. It is a marvellous little hub made up of restaurants, shops, markets and where locals and tourists come to enjoy a good meal, shop or take a stroll down the peer to look at the old fisherman ships.

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From Hout the Bay we continued towards the coastal road which takes you to Camps Bay. This coastal road allows for breathtaking views of the ocean and is also a good place to spot whales or dolphins. As the bus makes its way towards Camps Bay, you will pass the little beach town of Llandundo. Llandundo is renowned for its magnificent houses, spectacular views and unspoilt beaches. I would definitely recommend spending a day here soaking up the sun or simply enjoying a sundowner on the beach watching the sun setting over the ocean. If you feeling adventurous you can also take a walk to Sandy Bay – a nudist beach just a ten minute stroll from Llandudno.

Our next stop was Camps Bay – one of Cape Town’s most favourable destinations. With its long stretches of white sandy beaches and streets lined with palm trees, it has become a very a very popular spot for the young & trendy and rich & famous. We decided to jump off the bus here and take a gentle stroll along the beach before having a bite to eat at one of the little restaurants located just off the main beach road. It was a beautiful sunny winter’s day and we enjoyed a delicious meal as we watched the waves gently breaking on the white sand.

Our last stop was the V&A Waterfront. We had been to the waterfront many times so we decided to take the City Sightseeing Canal Cruise, where you will get the opportunity to see the waterfront from a completely different angle. This is a hop-on hop-off cruise, so you might decide to spend some time at any of the stops along the way and rejoin a boat later. The cruise includes a trip through the V&A Waterfront’s beautiful canal and stops at the One and Only, the City Lodge and the Harbour Bridge before arriving at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. While you cruise along the canals you will also enjoy seeing the many luxury apartments rising above on either side of the canal, owed mainly by the rich and famous. Don’t miss out on this exciting Cape Town experience!

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A Weekend in the Countryside


Instead of having a get-together with all my family and friends to celebrate my birthday this year, my husband and I decided to go away to the countryside for the weekend. We chose Blue Gum Country Estate for our romantic getaway. Blue Gum Country Estate is located close to the quaint village of Stanford (about 20 mins from Hermanus) – it’s close enough to town that you won’t get bored, but far enough from town that you feel totally away from it all. This wonderful intimate country lodge with only 10 rooms is a fantastic spot for couples, families and groups of friends to spend a couple of days relaxing.

We were greeted on arrival by Anton, one of the lodge managers, and shown to our beautiful room, the honeymoon suite, which overlooks the vineyards. Waiting in the room for us was a decadent cheese platter and a two glasses of port which made us feel very welcome. But we were not here to spend our time indoors, so being a beautiful sunny winter’s day; we decided to take a walk on the property up the mountain path behind the lodge. When we got to the top, which wasn’t a strenuous walk at all and can be achieved by anyone that is reasonably fit, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the valley down below and the surrounding countryside. The perfect spot for a sundowner drink!

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After freshening up after the walk, we made our way to the cosy bar for pre-dinner drinks and snacks, where we were met once again by Anton who was the perfect host. We were taken through to dinner, which is a 3 course affair at the estate, and we were not disappointed. The food was out of this world and I can only applaud the chef for his choice of meals – the starter was a curried apple soup, something I would not have ever expected for a soup, but absolutely delicious. The main course of lamb and potatoes was to die for, not to mention the lemon cake desert. For anyone who is a lover of fine dining and food, this is the place to come. The restaurant is also open to non-guests so is the perfect place to go for a romantic night out if you are staying in the area.

We had a wonderful night’s sleep and woke up to the sounds of the birds and insects outside, before indulging in a wonderful 3 course breakfast of cereals, croissants & muffins, and a full English breakfast. Our stomachs full we were ready to head out for the day to explore the surrounding countryside. Not far from the estate is the nature reserve of Salmonsdam which offers outstanding hiking trails and plenty of mountain streams for swimming in the summer months. After a walk in the reserve we continued onto Platbos, a privately owned indigenous forest. Walking through the forest we encountered many different species of birds and trees, a troop of baboons, and some antelope spoor…probably duiker….although unfortunately we were not lucky enough to even catch a glimpse of the antelope. We ended off the day with a stop in the village of Stanford known for its preserved Victorian cottages, its craft beer made in the nearby Birkenhead brewery, its wine farms, and its quaint coffee shops and restaurants serving country-style food and mouth-watering pastries.

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For those visiting Blue Gum Country Estate there are also plenty of other activities available in the area so a 2 – 3 days stay is recommend. Drive to Hermanus in whale season and spot the whales from the cliffs, spend the day on the quiet beaches of De Kelders, go shark cage diving in Gansbaai, cycle along the country roads, taste some wine, or just relax. Blue Gum Country Lodge is the perfect weekend getaway since it is only a 2 hour drive from Cape Town. And it is also the perfect stop en-route to the Garden Route. To learn more about the BLUE GUM COUNTRY ESTATE and the surrounding area, please