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Monthly Archives: September 2014

A wonderful trip to the end of Africa!

Let’s go for an amazing expedition through the Cape Peninsula! This is undoubtedly one of the richest places of the Western Cape, whether it’s the breathtaking views over the Ocean, white sandy beaches or the rich wildlife! You won’t be disappointed by such this trip!

Leave early from Camps Bay beach and drive through the beautiful West Coast of Cape Town. The winding road will take you directly to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, while passing beaches, scenery and beautiful roads!

ChapmansPeakDrive_View

After Camps Bay, you will drive through Hout Bay, a very nice fishing port surrounded by two big mountains, located in the heart of a huge bay. Then, follow the winding road, carved out of the cliff for about 10 miles: it’s Chapman’s Peak. Along this cliff you will enjoy stunning views of Hout Bay and surroundings, but be careful and do not forget to keep your eyes on the road! This road finally ends at Noordhoek Beach, a huge and probably one of the wildest beaches of the area that is very famous for its beautiful horse rides!

Boulders Beach - penguins

After this wild adventure, you will arrive in Simons Town, a small coastal town, known for its colonies of penguins. Don’t hesitate to drive a little further to Boulders Beach to watch hundred of penguins interacting on this small but beautiful beach!

With either your head or your camera filled with beautiful images you will (finally) arrive at the entrance of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. If you decide to drive to the end of the peninsula, you won’t get tired of the diverse vegetation, and who knows,you might meet a family of baboons on your way!

Cape of Good Hope

You finally reached the end of the peninsula and you can get out of your car. Get ready for a short but athletic ascension to the Lighthouse of the Cape of Good Hope. Don’t forget to take the narrow path below the lighthouse that is much less touristic; it will take you to the end of the cape, which is one of the most southern points of Africa (other than Cape Aghulas). With the strong wind and waves you will certainly understand why this cape is so fearsome for sailors! After this windy experience there’s nothing better than a nice lunch at the Two Ocean’s Restaurant, where you’ll enjoy a breathtaking view!

Cape Point - paradise

To perfectly end this day, go through the narrow paths of this great reserve. One of them will lead you to idyllic and deserted places. Breathe, watch and don’t make any noise, you’re not alone… Some ostriches, elands and zebras are keeping you company. The light of the end of the day is perfect to admire such a landscape and allows you to live a perfect moment in harmony with nature! But don’t forget to keep an eye on your watch because the park close at 6:30pm!

By Capucine Motte

Cape Town Fringe – 11 days of amazing shows!

The inaugural Cape Town Fringe will be running from the 25th of September until the 5th of October 2014. The Cape Town Fringe is being produced by the Grahamstown National Arts Festival team, and has been brought to life through a partnership between the National Arts Festival, the City of Cape Town, Standard Bank, 567 Cape Talk and MNet.

Jacques de Silva and Ameera Patel in Whistle Stop at the 2014 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Picture by Marius Janse van Rensburg (56)

A total of 89 productions have been confirmed as the core of the Fringe’s programme. The selected shows represent a blend of work that is “old and new, tried, tested, opportunistic, comfortable, familiar, edgy and daring” according to Ismail Mahomed, the artistic director of this project. Mahomed added that, “Roughly half the productions selected are theatre, while the rest are fairly evenly spread across music, physical theatre, performance art, and comedy.”

Guy Buttery and Gareth Gale_NAF2014.CUEPIX_Kate Janse van Rensburg (7)

The team in charge of organising the event wanted to devise a programme that audiences would feel comfortable with. They’ve tried to combine names and faces that they have come to know and associate with a good quality work over the years, along with some newcomers who will break the mould and get people talking. “But most importantly we wanted to create a cohesive programme that would capture the mood and ethos of the Fringe we’re trying to create.” said Mahomed.

The Fringe festival will present a number of magicians (Marcel Oudejaans, Brendan Peel and Stuart Lightbody), stand-up comedy from the iconic Corne and Twakkie and others, and a special treat for jazz lovers – the launch of Marcus Wyatt’s newest album – to add to the mix and ensure that the Fringe is an eclectic, exciting platform for lovers of all forms of performing arts.

Richard Antrobus in Being Norm at the 2014 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Picture Marius Janse van Rensburg-10

The Cape Town Fringe is making a concerted effort to draw youth into the theatre with a carefully designed day programme for schools.
You’ll find online tickets and more details about the full programme on the website: www.capetownfringe.co.za . Also, don’t forget to look at the school programme and the closing weekend programme!

See you during these 11 days of amazing shows!

by Capucine Motte

Edito 058 – The 5th Element

5th_element

Whether it’s been hot or cold, dry or wet, I assume and hope you all had a great holiday.

And if this little foreword indeed suggests that “When summer ends, one has to go back to work”, it is even more consistent with the theme of our September edition: The 4 Elements.

This newsletter isn’t about introducing you to the fundamentals of Tai Chi, sorry if you misunderstood. We’re giving you here an overview on how Air, Earth, Water and Fire have shaped Southern Africa.

The waters of the Okavango Delta, the Victoria Falls, the red and burnt sands of Namibia, the clouded summits of the Drakensberg mountains… aren’t they all concrete examples?

If these elements haven’t always brought tranquility and hospitality, they have however served to create this unique and diverse spectrum of landscapes and activities.

An almost godlike gift from which Southern Africa benefits.

Here, Water can be scarce or abundant. Earth can be rich or lifeless. The weather can be ice cold or Fiery hot. And these wide open spaces bring this profusion of Air and Light of which you so often lack. Perhaps even more now that you’re back to the office.

But, from these four elements rises a fifth one. Its meaning may be more ambiguous. Yet, it unites the 4 other elements and happens to perfectly describe our activity of “Travel Designer”… This is the Quintessence!

Are you happy to be back?

By Sébastien Charrieras

Up in the air of the Drakensberg

It’s very early in the morning. The sun is just beginning to rise, but the lights in the heart of Drakensberg Mountains are already beautiful.

You have just arrived on site, where the pilot and his crew are preparing the balloon. You can enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea, or even some champagne, while the hot air balloon is been inflated. Actually it’s quite an impressive show! Of course you’re more than welcome to help them; it may actually be time to show your passion for Jules Verne!

hot-air-ballooning

After listening very carefully to all of the security measures, explained by a calm and confident pilot, you’re ready to jump in the basket and fly over the Champagne Valley, one of the most beautiful valley’s in the Drakensberg Mountains. Within a few minutes you already have a breathtaking view! This panoramic view presents an incredible variety of landscapes: rivers, forests, plains and impressive mountains!

This natural reserve is surrounded by very high mountains, such as the Champagne Castle (3.377m). So if you’re lucky you might see some snow at the top of the highest peaks. And don’t forget to pay attention to the wildlife of this natural reserve: birds and wild animals are the main hosts of this place! Who knows? You may be able to see a Giraffe in its natural environment?

serengeti_balloon

The sun is now up and the luminosity is perfect to show you every details of this sumptuous landscape. The best part about it is that you can really enjoy the view since the hot air balloon is floating for about an hour with the calm South African wind. In front of such a breathtaking view you’ll enjoy the serenity of the hot air balloon experience. This is definitely one of the best ways to discover the Drakensberg Mountains, inland from Lesotho and Kwazulu Natal, usually known for their sport trails only. Few people have the chance to enjoy such a view!

Now it’s time to begin your descent. Still impressed by this stunning view, you jump out of the basket. Of course there is no place in your camera anymore, but you definitely had to capture this unforgettable experience!

Balloon in South Africa
As you may have realized, hot air ballooning is not ordinary at all. Therefore the choice of where to enjoy such an experience is very important! Hopefully South Africa and its neighboring countries offer many other places that are as amazing as the Drakensberg Mountains. Don’t hesitate to fly over the Namib Desert in Namibia, the Victoria Falls in Zambia or the Gauteng, near Johannesburg. The landscapes will certainly be quite different (depending on your destination), but the experience will remain unforgettable! So…Let’s fly away!

By Capucine Motte

Along the peaceful waters of the delta

Isn’t it always nicer to discover new places in a serene environment? On board of your canoe, the safari takes on a new dimension with a different point of view on the bush and its wildlife. On the water, take the time to look, listen and smell… a few hours will be enough to be in harmony with the nature.

canoe safari

In Northern Botswana, lies a treasure of nature: the “Selinda Spillway”, a waterway linking Botswana’s Okavango Delta with the Linyanti and the Chobe’s waters. The river and its banks are home to a wide variety of animals as well as birds and plants that make safaris an incredible experience.

I invite you to discover the Selinda Spillway aboard of a canoe, in groups of up to 8 people and supervised by professional guides who will provide a safe and relaxed journey.

Your journey begins at sunrise. As the hours progress, the Delta offers breathtaking landscapes which are changing right in front of your eyes, at the gentle and quiet pace of the river. For five days, wildlife scenery and idyllic panoramas will pass one after the other.

canoe

Imagine a herd of elephants cross the river while a roan or sable antelope, extremely rare, shall come to drink. Further down giraffes graciously walk around looking for foliage. On the other side of the bank, lions bask in the sun… Astonishment guaranteed!

In the late afternoon, you’ll arrive at the mobile camp where you will meet the team who shall prepare an unforgettable evening. While everyone recalls the strongest moments of the day sipping on their drink around the fire, the local Chef prepares a sumptuous dinner.

Canoe by night

When time comes to retire in your canvas “palace”, where comfortable mattresses and fluffy pillows await you, the sounds of the night will rock you to sleep.

One can do canoe trail safaris on most rivers in Southern Africa. So take the leap and get on board of a new adventure of a lifetime!

By Aurélie Jammes

Rising above the Okavango Delta on an elephant’s back

Standing more than 4 metres tall, weighing nearly 4 tons in muscle and bone, the elephant is an impressive animal. According to certain it would be impossible to ride on the back of an African Elephant. If you are a non-believer, come and take up the challenge in the heart of Botswana at the magnificent Abu Camps Lodge where everything has been designed to cater for these great animals.

abu2

In this part of the world, the bush wakes up very early in the morning. Along the snaking Okavango River, a special procession is making space for themselves amongst trees and tall grass.
A row of elephants winds through the Okavango Bush with grace and peace.

On the backs of Shirini, Cathy or Warina, the guests are gently rocking back and forth by the languishing rhythm of these giants. They used to lead busy circus lives in the United States, but now enjoy a peaceful retirement in Botswana.

abu1

As the walk progresses, the Okavango comes alive to the song of mysterious birds. Near a pond, animals are quenching their thirst, completely oblivious to the passing elephants who manage, despite their size, to blend into their natural environment. During the course of the day, the natural light changes and the immensity of the savanna becomes clearer. It is a visual feast.

abu3

After a beautiful day out in the bush, it is time for the young elephants to follow their mothers back to the lodge. The adventure seekers relax in one of the six tents built in the tree tops. Abu Camp, named after its first guest, is a real refuge for the elephants. From the balcony it is possible to enjoy their presence until they fall asleep peacefully.

Without a doubt, Abu camp is a true meeting place between man and elephant.

By Mélanie Chapellan

Through the namibian fiery landscapes

After an hour drive along the dry Hoarusib River, we suddenly saw a group of desert elephants. They were two hundred meters away,trying to shake the nearby trees in attempt to get food.

Obviously, they care more about our mother nature than the elephants who live in the national parks. It’s their only way of surviving in the heart of a harsh environment where food is very scarce. Needless to say that water is even worse, with the exception of the scattered groundwater.

We stared at the elephants with our 4×4 engine off. Apart from the cracking of the branches and the low whistle of the wind, the silence was powerful.

Desert Elephant

We actually traveled in the heart of the vast wilderness of the Kunene region in Namibia. The masters of these unlimited open-spaces are undoubtedly the desert elephants, the last one to move freely in Africa. There are no barriers to impede their invariable journey along the river.

These are not the only animals to roam in this remote area. We can also observe giraffes, zebras, hyenas, lions, which are hard to spot, and the iconic and beautiful but very shy, Oryx.

horses at sunset

We did a loop which started off at Purros Village, which blends seamlessly into the landscape and amazingly looks like the planet Mars. We slept at the campsite, which is located beside the Hoarusib River, 2km from Purros village. The sites are well shaded by mature indigenous trees. One of the highlights of the trip was to see the elephants zigzagging amongst the tents and vehicles without causing any damage!

This region is also the territory of the Himba, a tribe of nomadic pastoralists who breed cattle and goats, and inhabit the Kaokoland. T

he villages are scattered among this wild land, but their authenticity does not suffer from any discussion. Pictures of the women and their skins rubbed with red ochre made them very popular around the world.

4x4 namibia vehicule

To experience the vastness of Namibia’s Kunene Region, you require a 4×4 (ours is equipped with a folding tent on the roof) because you have to drive on tracks that are sometimes very sandy. You should also know that the phone reception is usually bad, and does even not exist sometimes. Don’t forget to buy enough food at Opuwo for your few days because the possibilities of refueling are very little along the way.

Last, but probably not least, at night around your fire, you can relax and look up at the sky because you will be stunned by what it has to offer, it one of the purest skies you can find on earth. One last thing, except for at Purros, we always set up our camp in the middle of nowhere, without making a plan, every time just before the sunset.

By Stéphane Rossard

Ride like the wind

I dreamt that I was riding Pegasus, the silvered-winged horse. We were flying through the African sky, heading in a southerly direction.

I suddenly realized that we were flying over the Rainbow Nation; I saw that my horse had turned black and had lost its wings. I was now in the Wilderness Forest, at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains. I was riding Avalon, a placid Friesian horse. We were slowly making our way along a Blue Gum lined path, and I was hearing the raucous call of the Knysna Loerie. We were riding next to a river of stars, illuminated by the sun. As we moved on, I heard the muffled noise of bubbling water. Avalon started to run faster the closer we got to the water. We were at full gallop when we reached the waterfall. Without any hesitation, my horse headed straight toward the wall of water.

horse-forest

I now found myself on the floodplains surrounding the Okavango Delta. Liberty, my thoroughbred horse, was riding at a full gallop, her body invigorated by the splashing water of our run. She slowed down once we reached the dry grass. A few meters away from us, a herd of wildebeest was quenching their thirst. To the left of us, about ten zebras were overtaking us, completely unfazed by our presence.

plaines-inondees-botswana

The sun was busy setting when we arrived at our camp, a place called Moklowane. My shelter for the night was a tree house overlooking the floodplain we had crossed earlier. I rapidly fell into a deep sleep. Pegasus had come back and took me away once more through the skies. We went to the east, flying over the Victoria Falls fault line, Zambia, Lake Kariba and the Matusadona Park. In Zimbabwe I saw a long procession of hundreds of elephants moving towards the east as well.

mozambique-beach

The sun was rising and I was now in Mozambique, on an endless white sand beach to the north of Vilanculos. My horse was called Shaman, an Arabian with a white coat and a joyful character. The air was sweet and he was in a playful mood. He was gently trotting, following the line of the breaking waves on the sand and sometimes venturing into the turquoise water, deep enough to wet my feet.

We reached a group of fishermen who were just coming back from deeper waters with the day’s catch. Shaman had slowed down to a walking pace; allowing me to see in greater detail what was happing in front of us. Once we had passed the men, he sped up to a gallop again and he was taking me towards a mangrove forest. Once we were under the dome of trees, he dove headfirst into the water and I sank with him into the dark water.

horse-giraffes

We emerged in the midst of a group of giraffe. They were busy drinking; their forefeet spread and their long necks bent towards the ground. It seemed like an exhausting yoga posture. I was on Django’s back as we got out of the water. A South African Boerperd with a bay coloured coat. The giraffes were staring at us with a sweet, slightly surprised look. We were in the Kruger National Park and it was surely the first time that Django had seen a giraffe, since he backed away to get his hooves on dry land. The giraffes weren’t impressed by his excitement and curiosity and they moved off in their nonchalant swagger.

Quite unexpectedly, Django decided to follow them and we rode together at a peaceful tempo. It was a short lived experience since Django spotted a herd of buffalo and found them much more interesting than the giraffes. He headed straight over to them for what he must have seen as the beginning of a cattle drive. The herd responded in turn and they turned around like a dark wave to confront their approaching enemy as a united entity. We were catapulted into the air and as I was falling through the air, I remember telling myself that riding was not easy and that I was starting to get tired. The next moment I was straddling a bad tempered buffalo … but that is another story.

By Muriel Romero

One of us, introducing Riaan Stander

This month get to know our new travel ops manager: Riaan Stander.riaan-10

What is your background?
After school I studied languages while living on the West Coast. I went to France for a year to study French and by accident I got involved in the tourism industry. I’ve been involved in it for 10 years. I recently left the office environment to help a friend set up a lodge in Mpumalanga. It was very insightful to see the industry from the other side. It was also good to work outdoors; setting up greenhouses for organic vegetable production, alien vegetation fighting and replanting of indigenous trees.

What do you like the most about your job?
Discovering new places in Southern Africa and creating itineraries based on that.

How would you define your job?
Supporting and helping consultants. Paying attention to detail and making sure that guests get exactly what they paid for.

What is your favorite destination in Southern Africa?
I prefer places around the coast where I can combine surfing with luxury accommodation like Strandloper Ocean on the West Coast, Birkenhead House in Voëlklip or Thonga Beach Lodge up in Maputaland.

What are your secret addresses (restaurant, sunset, club…) in Cape Town?
Big route – Green Point pizzeria
Taj Mahal – Hout Bay: best Indian food in Cape Town
Deluxe Coffeeworks – Church Street: great espressos
Oways – Claremont: good vegetarian food and large variety of loose leaf tea
Derde Steen: long, white sand beach with amazing views of the mountain