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Monthly Archives: December 2013

New Green hotel lives up to its name

The three-star Hotel Verde, situated at 400 meters from the Cape Town International Airport, is the first of its kind on the continent to adopt 100% green-living principles. It is part of the city’s “110%” green initiative to make it the province with the lowest carbon footprint.

The outside and inside decoration is a subtle blend between wild spirit and modern elegance that always tend to serve the hotel’s ambitious project.

For instance, the splendid green walls between the lounge and the bar area helps to reduce the room temperature, and absorb air contaminants and carbon dioxide.

To reach the upper floors, the environment protectors will not hesitate to use one of the three energy-efficient lifts since 30% of the input energy is recaptured and directed back into the building.

hotel verde airport cape town room

The accommodation is composed with 145 rooms, which includes 12 luxurious rooms and 4 spacious ones featuring a lounge and a kitchenette. They are all tastefully decorated in a distinguished and comfortable way.

Using indigenous plants, green roofs form a great habitat for local wildlife, and furthermore, provide insulation for those rooms below.

The hotel is built with concrete slabs containing recycled materials that allowed saving approximately 1279 tons of concrete.

In order to bypass the need for standard air-conditioning systems, traditionally one of the biggest energy consumers, Hotel Verde uses geothermal heat pumps coupled to 100 boreholes drilled appreciatively. The system is situated 65 meters into the ground, where the temperature is a consistent 19 degrees.

Energetic-independence is also insured by 220 photovoltaic panels and 3 wind turbines that can produce 78 000 kWh per year.

Water consumption is reduced by around 1,5 million liters per year thanks to a grey water recycling system, where waste water from showers and baths is collected, processed and then redirected for use in irrigation and toilet cisterns. This system is able to produce 9 000 liters per day. In addition to that, a 40 000 liters underground stainless steel tank is used to collect both rainwater and subsoil drainage water.

hotel verde cape town airport dining

The sports hall also got its “green touch” since it features energy-generating gym equipment. The hotel offers gorgeous outside areas: a pathway, leading to a mini-forest with indigenous plants and birds and a rock pool, was specifically created for enjoyment and relaxation.

The hotel sounds even more attractive for business travelers who will have the opportunity to take the most of the business center equipped with all the latest technologies.

South Africa is internationally renowned as one of the most dynamic country for responsible tourism and Hotel Verde has already won an ecological award. The country is consequently determined to become a pioneer for ecotourism.

50 Shades of…

If our newsletter gets its inspiration from E.L.James’ steamy affair, it is mainly to praise our 50th release.

Though we could draw a parallel with the masochism needed to fulfil our daily duty of Travel and Events Organizers…

Or even, compare the surrounding sadism with the electrified life of Christian Grey… showing how domination and submission are also appreciated practices in our industry.

But let us gather our hormones, shall we? It is with a blast of colours that we celebrate, with you, this 50th newsletter.

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These 50 publications, of which you’ll find all the articles on our blog, have deflowered subjects as disparate as Gastronomy, Art or even Adventure. They led you to our deserts and on our islands. With them, you discovered our parks, our beaches and our cities.

We approached everyone: the innocent lovers, the modern families, the desperate housewives, the young and the restless, the wacky friends, the machos and the greenies…

Yes, “Your satisfaction is our priority, Miss Steele”.

Our 50 shades are not made of grey.

They are colourful, evidencing our mettle, our passions, and our creativity. Have they untied some clichés? Fuelled your desires? Sharpened your senses and teased your curiosity? We certainly hope so!

This newsletter, one more time, denudes our 5 destinations. I let you taste it and get back to me with your unbridled comments…

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Photo Gabriel Wickbold

Vamizi island, step into a blue dream…

The first thought you have when you reach the Vamizi Island in the Quirimbas archipelago in Mozambique is that our Blue Planet has never been so aptly named.

As soon as you wake up, all those shades of blue are blending right in front of your eyes for the beginning of what the band I Monsters would call a “Daydream in Blue”.

The blue of your villa’s pool is just the reflection of the turquoise-blue color of the Indian Ocean that lays in a rare tranquility. What makes this picture even more fantastic is the incredible purity of this land embodied by the immaculate light-blue sky.

blue vamizi island blog xo africa

The only “cloud” on this azure horizon: the raw and wooded colors of your luxury villa built on a white fine sandy beach and at the heart of a multicolor wild vegetation. As you will have realized, the “cloud on the horizon” in Vamizi actually turns out to be what the Yang is at the Yin: an inevitable and harmonious combination, making it a one-of-a-kind place in the world.

After a delicious breakfast, go out to sea for a scuba diving unforgettable experience. Your destination: Neptune’s Arm, a coral garden tumble down the edge of a thousand meter cliff which is a sanctuary for more than 46 coral species and 400 fish species including dolphins, grey reef sharks, humpback whales, green turtles and other flying fish. You will have the opportunity take the most of what nature can offer the best since these reefs have been named as one of the top ten scuba sites on the planet!

Back in the island, a picnic prepared by the chef is waiting for you in the shade of a palm tree.
This haven of peace, which is 12 kilometers long and 1 kilometer width, benefits from important conservation projects. Thus, an astounding variety of flora can be contemplated, just like an exotic wildlife including samango monkeys, coconut crabs and 112 bird species among others.

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By the end of the day, let go at the Spa where you will be pampered with natural and exclusive products specially created on Vamizi.

The last chapter of this idyllic day is written under the starry sky and your toes in the sand, where you will savor delicious meals prepared right under your eyes.

The midnight-blue atmosphere will then slowly take possession of the land, amplifying like in a Magritte’s painting the infinite feelings of peace and voluptuousness.

Welcome to the ‘’green paradis’’…

The Antarctic is usually nicknamed the ” white paradise’’, with its pristine and untouched nature. Needless to say, seen from the explorers, it is quite different.

What about the ‘’green paradise’’ ? The Okavango Delta undoubtedly deserves it and is largely comparison with its counterpart in the extreme south. Because the green makes us think of the nature directly. And in the Okavango Delta , nature is the absolute queen.

Green out of sight, which carries as far as your eyes and you allow the horizon. From the sky, it looks like a monochrome painting, green is everywhere.

At the early morning, the green serenity fills you with the majestic tranquillity of the place and its Olympian silence, only broken by birdsong, which I consider as many welcomes.

okavango delta green paradise xo africa blog dec 2013

Green freshness embodied by the river, a source of extraordinary life for the abundant wildlife. The Delta is an oasis amidst the vast plains and pans of the desert that covers most of Southern Africa. Its waterways are a collection of meandering channels, creating a haven for Africa’s most notable wildlife. The Okavango Delta is the spectacular result of the Okavango (Kavango) River flowing into the Kalahari Desert.

This only source of water during the dry period the Okavango Delta attracts thousands of animals creating one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife.

Wildlife? Rather quiet at first sight. But turns surreptitiously during your discovery through the meandering delta with the traditional boat, the Mokoro, moving noiselessly , just continuing its walk over the water and pushed at a regular rate by your guide. Along the way, if you are lucky enough, you should see crocodiles, hippos, elephants…

Green harmony and balance represented by our eco -lodge built in the heart of the Delta and overlooking the legendary island chefs. The lodge is one of the last few remaining luxury, vintage safari camps. Set under leafy palms and African Ebony to blend naturally with its unique surroundings, the camp achieves a fine balance of comfort without isolating guests from the sights and sounds of the wilderness.

lodge in delta okavango xo africa dec 2013

All 6 tents are discretely set within the densely treed island ensuring privacy and tranquillity.

The accommodation area is connected to the main camp via raised wooden walkway crossing the wetlands and magically lit by a series of fairylike lanterns.

The lodge is as environmentally friendly as possible. The camp runs off a massive solar-panel, which feeds power to the entire camp. Hot water is supplied through a state-of-the-art solar-heated geyser system, delivering hot water to each room.

Green is the color of hope. After a day spent in the heart of the Okavango Delta, this hope goes through your veins like this river irrigates the plains, because you really believe that these African wild beauties can be eternal.

Fly over the red sand dunes

Namibia is a beautiful country. Between the hot breath of the Kalahari Desert and the cold breath of the South Atlantic Ocean.

Namibia offers a stunning and almost unbelievable variety of natural phenomena.

In addition to its remarkable cultural diversity through its mosaic of peoples of various ethnic origins, its nature offers amazing settings for photographers.

Namibia offers a spectacular selection of magical views and endless panoramas. One of his most famous icons is the Namib Desert. In the Nama language of the locals, Namib means ‘stretched out’. This is a very modest understatement once you get yourself confronted with the endless red dunes of the Namib Desert.

ballooning namib desert xo africa dec 2013

The red is definitely a DNA part of the nature in Namibia, because this color characterizes so much its landscapes and shapes their moods at different times of the day.

However, the original emotional meaning of the color red stands for passion, love and warmth. Namibia is listed as one of the most romantic places in Africa. A honeymoon in Namibia can be stunning – just imagine sleeping under the sparkling stars, whilst the Namib’s red desert dunes and the Naukluft Mountains isolate you from the outside world.

Many camps have lovely honeymoon suites, set in quiet spots away from the rest of the camp, to ensure maximum privacy. Namibia is not your typical honeymoon destination – it doesn’t boast white sands and turquoise oceans, but can guarantee instead exclusive getaways into the desert or bush.

little kulala namib desert xo africa dec 2013

Little Kulala is a beautiful place to immerse yourself in this romantic atmosphere. It is located along the desert Namib. It offers comfort, peace and it will be your gateway for your excursions into the desert.

The adventure begins before sunrise. You are collected from your accommodation and driven to the take-off area. Meanwhile, the sun tenderly colors the desert with a soft red.

Once in the air, you drift silently above the dunes. And you take the full measure of the beauty of the show. Blade, then the sun bursts into a bright red and reveals the splendor of their curves. To recover from so many emotions, the champagne will be served and the fresh dishes on the tables nicely set in the heart of the desert!

If you are only going to splash out on one thing while in Namibia, ballooning should be the one. And aren’t you on a honeymoon? This can be the perfect place to pop the question.

A white wine tasting journey

The Winelands, in Western Cape,, offers picturesque reliefs, lush nature, blazing sun and beautiful road. It’s also more than 10 million hectoliters of wine produced each year ! White ones compose 55% of the whole production. Carte blanche then for a daily journey among the vineyards, that will make you see (drink) the glass half full.

The day begins at L’Avenir Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. This property is the archetype of the beauty of the region: a vast stretch of vineyard encircled between impressive mountains and overhung by a radiant blue sky pierced by scorching sunrays. You will learn all the ins and the outs of the wine making process, making the wine tasting even more enriching. You will have the opportunity to exchange views about each grape variety: would you be able to spot the touch of apple in their fruited and mineral Chardonnay 2006 ?

white wine journey tasting cape town

You will then be expected at Rust En Vrede estate for an unforgettable lunch experience: the “estate experience menu” is a gastronomic meal savored in the shade of centenary oak-trees, with a selection of the best South African wines. The menu is kept secret, but no worries: Rust En Vrede was elected in 2013 one of the three best restaurant of South Africa, and its wine service was named the best in the whole country. The dishes and the wines will sublimate each others thanks to authentic white wines produced in Stellenbosch like for instance “The Eleanor Chardonnay” cuvée 2004 from the Hartenberg wine estate.

You will spend the rest of the day in the most French-influenced South African town: Franschhoek. Grande Provence is a splendid estate that bears marks of the country’s History. During the heat of the afternoon, take the most of the botanical garden and visit the Cape-Dutch home built in 1756 where an astonishing gallery of African contemporary art is situated. In the meanwhile, take delight in savoring some of their awarded white wines like the exotic flavored sauvignon blanc 2011, which won the gold medal at the Michelangelo International Wine Awards of South Africa.

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A last wine tasting in Babylonstoren in Franschhoek will be ideal to put an end to such an experience. Will you still be able to identify the flavors of peach and apricot in the amazing Viognier wine produced in the estate? In any case, the last swallows will be like in a dream under the sunset; and as Bacchus has drowned more men than Neptune, stay for a night in one of their spacious and elegant room.

Sun City or the ”yellow fever”…

Yellow. Yellow as the sun of course, but also as gold or sand. Yellow as coins but also as a façade tanned by the sun. A color that makes you think of the holidays. What about to take a journey inspired by the yellow color?

In South Africa, there is only one place that refers to yellow : Sun City. Sun City reflects the sun, the sand, the coins and tanned facades.

Sun City is a huge leisure resort at only two hours driving from Johannesburg. The 4 hotels where you could stay match with all kind of budget, from the affordable family holidays to luxury ones.

Likewise, the hundred activities offered will satisfy everyone: just enjoy the sun around the swimming pools or on the golf course. If you prefer gambling, let’s bet at the Sun City Casino.

sun city casino

You could also go shopping, attend to a concert as well as discover the nature that surrounds you. A stunning nature !

Indeed, Sun City is located on the edge of the Pilanesberg National Park. A park where you could enjoy a safari on an area of 55 000 hectare. If you are lucky enough you may see the famous Big Five (buffalo, leopard, lion, rhino and elephant).

The crater of a long extinct volcano is the setting of the Pilanesberg National Park. Pilanesberg is one of the largest volcanic complexes of its kind in the world. Its rare rock types and structure make it a unique geological feature.

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There are nearly 200 kilometres of excellent quality roads for either self-drives or guided drives and professional guides operate within the park. Numerous hides and scenic picnic sites enable the tourist to experience “out-of-car” experiences as well.

Don’t be jealous, Sun City and the Pilanesberg will suit to everyone. For either a romantic trip or a wildlife experience, Sun City will fill you.

The ”dark” festive side of Johannesburg

The traffic jam and the daily rush of the city of Jo’burg turn into a nightlife vibe as soon as the sun goes down. If you haven`t burnt out your energy during the day, follow the chic dress code and put on your glittering shoes to enjoy the town’s nightlife, whether it is below the ground in the mines or at the top in a business suite.

Sandton, the business hub during the daylight, is the place to be for those who wish to spend an unforgettable moment in the city of gold and glamour.

Start with an exotic cocktail at the unique venue of Katy’s Palace Bar. Choose a comfortable sit-down corner while enjoying the intimacy and the fine art collection of the place which makes it a discovery at every turn.

Katy`s bar night at johannesburg

A grand piano is the central piece that floods the place with a fine background jazz music; just what you need to be transported and tuned on to a party time.

Book your dinner at the heart of the very-trendy Parktown precinct at Womble, which is a fine dining restaurant and Steakhouse, considered as one of the best one in town. Womble is the perfect combination with its warm welcome, meat cooked till perfection and its impressive choice of wines from South Africa’s wine estates. In other words, The Womble will make your dinner as an experience of rare delight.

The ideal way to end up this amazing evening is to grab a last glass of Champaign at Elevate Rooftop, a trendy spot situated in the 16th floor of the Reef Hotel, where you can take the most of the urban beauty of Joburg’s old business district.

elevate view interior

With a gorgeous view overlooking the city, good music and a stylish setting with glitzy contemporary furniture, Elevate Rooftop is much more than a party venue: it is for those who are ready to fall for this astonishing city, an outstanding ambience of pure luxury and intimate space. Cheers !

Be part on this large-scale social-artistic project

Graffiti ? Street Art ? The word used to qualify his art does not really matter. Indeed, Falko, a South African “street artist” who has been expressing his talent in South African’s streets since more than 20 years, does not really care about semantics.

What matters to him is to make good use of his characters – children, adults or animal – and of his colors in order to convey emotions. His works often present concrete situations or imaginary ones occasionally; but each time, he manages to accomplish this objective.

Quick drawings interacting with the urban environment, huge high-precision frescos, or just short sentences being projected in a wall from the bottom of his aerosol spray: all these accomplishments manage to catch the pedestrian’s attention at first sight.

falko once upon a town dec 2013

Falko leaves it to the others all violent pictures and words. His expression communicates positive values such as respect, tolerance, unity and always aims at bringing out the beauty of African’s nature.

This artist is a pioneer in Africa’s contemporary urban art. He puts this experience in the service of another terrific cause: contributing to give some African landscapes their letters of nobility back. This is a project he has decided to undertake a couple of years ago like in the town of Darling in 2011 and in Mamre and Pella in 2012.

By spreading out colors and cheerfulness through those villages, Falko boosts the population’s hope and joie de vivre. Drawing acts like the conveyor of happiness thanks to positive waves that exude from it. The consequence is that many places formerly considered as unwelcoming have now become unique, intriguing, in one word: attractive.

And this is what socially-engaged art is made for when it is undertaken with honesty and conviction: promoting and making a great cause progress.

falko once upon a town dec 2013 south africa

The artist overflows with fascinating and large-scale projects that denotes his wide ambition. One project in particular could see the light of day in the short-term if he succeeds to collect enough financings.

This project has to remain secret in order to retain its deepest interest, and we are proud to be at his side to help him carrying out his work.

Join us in this astounding socio-artistic adventure and help him gathering enough funds to launch the project.

Then, it will be Falko’s turn to act for our greatest pleasure.

If the intention arouses your curiosity, feel free to contact us :  sebastienc@xoafrica.com .