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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Edito 062 – Back to the Future

BTF

 

Already Feb? Time flies…

Last year, we took leave from you on an assortment of gastronomic ideas, a selection of cultural and culinary concepts depicting the taste diversity of South Africa.

Now that we’ve all digested, let’s start this New Year with movement, speed and rhythm by keeping a streamlined tempo. Let’s travel by combining relaxation and mobility. A theme that unites Time and Moment.

How about a cruise in Mozambique? So that time leads us and doesn’t take us.

Or to fly over Botswana by plane? From camp to camp, lodge to lodge… In little time sometimes comes a long way, you know!

Time is like a river, it doesn’t flow back to its source. Personally, for the river I chose the Zambezi and for the descent, how about using canoes.

Those for whom Time is a father of truth, I recommend the Blue Train, crossing South Africa from Cape Town to Johannesburg… while taking its time of course.

Finally, if among you are people eager for Adventure, for whom Living is trading time for experience, you will discover this month how to cross the Namibian desert on a motorbike…

So, do not waste your time! Happy reading…

Sébastien

PS: I want to thank Marguerite Yourcenar, Caleb Gattegno, François Rabelais, Molière et Antoine Rivaro for their time-saving help in the writing of this newsletter…

Island Hopping Yacht Cruise – Mozambique

Mozambique Island Hopping

Carnet de voyage – January 2015, Mozambique

Day 0 -Packing day

I am excited. I believe packing is one of the greatest parts of a trip. While packing swimsuits, sun screen and light dresses, I cannot stop dreaming about my upcoming experience, and I am deeply convinced this trip will go beyond my expectations. We should arrive in Pemba tomorrow afternoon, after a 3 hour flight from Johannesburg. By the end of the day, we will land in Ibo Island. I googled the place, it looks like heaven.

Day 1

Packing day I am writing right now from Ibo Island. I flew today from Johannesburg to Pemba, and then took a charter flight from Pemba to Ibo. I have never seen such beauty. From the sky, the shading of turquoise, melting with the white sand almost looked unreal. After landing, we werearrived at the yacht and received a safety briefing. In ten minutes we will set sail north for the Southern Island. I am looking forward to my first sunset dinner in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Day 2

It was an early wake up this morning. After a light snack, we dived for the first time in our trip. Breathtaking. In the middle of the ocean, floating around hundreds of colourful fishes I spotted so many underwater treasures.After breakfast we headed to Quilalea region, where we will be anchored tonight. On the way we stopped on Quisiva Island and explored its incredible old fort.

Ibo Island

Ibo Island

Day 3

I was so excited about the activities, I did not even mention our crew. Fantastic. All very kind and helpful, and they know everything about the island. As promised, the food is excellent, the chef cookedsucculent fresh crayfish yesterday, paired with a delicious white wine. The dinner was on the deck with an exceptional view over the sea, lit by the moon. I have never felt luckier in my all life.
Right now, it is 5am, Romain and I woke up to see the sun rising in the middle of the ocean. I might get back to sleep a little bit more. After breakfast we will head back to Ibo Island to discover its treasures. We also want to enjoy the mangrove kayaking activity.

Day 4

Yesterday we enjoyed Ibo Island, we went Mangrove kayaking, swam in the crystal clear water and took a historical tour… We could even enjoy the pool facilities at the Ibo Lodge. It felt good to spend a day on land before getting back to our splendid yacht. This morning we sailed to Matemo and Rolas Islands. After a morning dive, Romain decided to try fishing, and I just sunbathed. This afternoon we wandered around Matemo Island, and enjoyed some cocktails by the pool at the Matemo Island Resort.

Snorkeling around Ibo Island

Snorkeling around Ibo Island

Day 5

We sailed north to Medjumbe Island. How can such a small island have so many underwater gems? Diving was breathtaking, between the colours, the underwater plants and all of the species we met, I was amazed. After diving, we rested on the sandy beach and practiced our balancing skills by stand up paddling around. Today was more about sunbathing and resting in the ocean.

Day 6

We went diving again today, looking for turtles. I think swimming with turtles is one of the most peaceful things I have ever done. They are such gracious animals, and the ride was smooth and thrilling. No words could describe it. I cannot believe tomorrow is our last day.

Dhow safari

Day 7

We fell asleep near Matemo Island and woke up this morning right next to Pemba. I guess it makes the departure easier, not seeing a part of the way back. I did not write yesterday, I wanted to enjoy my last day as much as I could. We spent the day on Matemo Island and enjoyed our last diving experience in Mozambique. Those holidays were the best idea we have ever had.

By Orianne Gambino

Flying from Lodge to Lodge – Botswana

botswana-map

Discovering Botswana by air is quite a common way to visit the country. Dominated by the Kalahari desert which covers up to 70% of its land surface, light aircraft is clearly the ideal means of transport to move quickly between remote locations. So, let’s take advantage of this and visit three of the most attractive regions of the country.

1st stop – Makgadikgadi Pans National Park – Leroo La Tau

After having arrived at Maun Airport and from Maun, you will flight to Leroo La Tau, one of the most lovely and confortable lodges of this area. It is situated close to the Boteti river, which forms the boundary of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park on its eastern bank. From here, you’ll certainly choose to go on a game drive, especially in the dry winter months, between July and October, where you’ll witness, among others remarkable scenes, the second largest zebra migration in the world.

Zebras migration from Makgadikgadi

Zebras migration from Makgadikgadi

2nd stop – Okavango Delta – Okavango Camp

Set sail to the Okavango Delta. On the way to your remote camp in Nxaragha Island, you’ll take in all the magnificence of this astonishing area. While in dry winter months, you’ll be able to see many herds of mammals concentrated around water holes, in rainy season from december to march, the landscape will have changed its colour to shades of green, contrasting with the dark water of the numerous meanders of the delta. This green season is also the time of bird migration and you’ll have the opportunity to see a great concentration of different species.

Elephants in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Elephants in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

3rd stop – Chobe National Park – Chobe Game Lodge

Fly to the North, towards Chobe Game Lodge, in Chobe National Park.
Lying along the banks of the beautiful Chobe River which borders Botswana and Namibia, the Park, with its 11700 sq kms, is the second largest in Botswana. While heading to your very relaxing river-facing Chobe Game Lodge, you will fly over floodplains, swamps and woodland and, reaching the Chobe river, you’ll be fascinated by the breathtaking view of this brillant peacock blue ribbon. Known for its superb game viewing all year round, the park provides shelter for one of the largest populations of game on the African continent and, especially along the Chobe River, where impressive herds of elephants form the largest concentration of Africa. It is not uncommon to encounter herds in excess of hundreds of animals.
Let us not forget that Victoria’s Falls are, as a crow flies, about 20 minutes from Chobe Game Lodge and being so close, it is indisputably worths the trip.
Your journey will end at Kasane airport, ten or so kilometres from the lodge.

Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park

By Muriel Romero

Boarding for a Canoe Safari – Zambia

Canoe Safari on the Zambezi

Each year, our group of friends choose a new way to explore Africa. We opted this year for discovering wildlife by a waterway tour and when it was time to choose the destination, the Zambezi was at the top of the list.

​The Zambezi is a majestic river of 2700 kilometers, that flows through six countries.
It is Africa’s fourth largest stream system after the Nile, ​the ​Zaire and the Niger, and, as it is less developed than other rivers in terms of human settlement, many areas along its banks enjoy protected status.

Along the 500 kilometers that serve as a border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Zambezi has carved the spectacular Victoria Falls and the zigzagging Batoka Gorge, providing a fantastic playground for rafting, kayaking, river boarding and jet boarding.

Game Viewing Canoe Safari

8:30am – Let’s go !

We start at Karombora area, thirty or so kilometres upstream to Livingstone. We are on the spot at 8:30am. Our group of six people is taken care of by Nasilele and Matthew, our guides for this two day canoe safari. After a briefing, we board our canoes. In this place, the Zambezi is about 600 metres wide. We gently start paddling away from the land, following Nasilele, the leading guide.

After only 15 minutes, we make a detour to avoid a group of hippos, having their bath along the bank, their proeminent eyes emerging, observing us attentively. Well, let’s say that I’m not really at ease, but Nasilele and Matthew’s professionalism, and the confidence that they exude, are enough to reassure me.

canoe-hippos

Our descent continues at a cool pace, allowing us to enjoy the peaceful atmostphere of the river, while seeing a great variety of birds species, among them being the Half-collared Kingfisher, with his somptuous blue plumage, the Goliath Heron, and the Cattle Egret…

12:00am – Lunch break at Bovu Island

We stop for lunch on Bovu Island, one of the many islands along Zambezi. It is time to rest in the shade of the trees.

Makora-Quest-Canoe-Safari-7

We set off on our way down the river after a two hour break. Our afternoon is marked by very different encounters from an emotional point of view : elephants, crocodiles, zebras, buffalos, hippos, and more… but what is really notable is the feeling of being in a perfect harmony with nature and not feeling like a foreign body but fully part of this natural balance.

4:00pm – Stop at the camp for the evening and the night

Our expedition stops around 16:00 pm at Kubu cabins, well before sunset. Our tents, domes for two people, have been put up around the campfire on the riverfront before our arrival.

7:00pm – Evening and dinner round the fire

The chef has already started cooking the dinner, meat and vegetables prepared on the fire. In the dark of the night, dinner is served. We are pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meal, not that we were expecting poor cooking, but let’s say … more rustic. And what the chef concocted is simply excellent.

Multi Day Safari

Our evening around the fire give us the opportunity to remember and share the outstanding memories from the day, and gives our guides the opportunity to tell us some amazing stories that they have gathered among the dozens of safaris they have done.
Our night is lulled by the permanent concert of the nocturnal inhabitants of the river. It is an unforgettable experience to have the feeling of being a part, for a few hours, of a world so far off from our own.

Overnight Camping Adventure

9:00am – Let’s go for the second day !

Our trip resumes in the morning, around 9:00am and lasts until 11:00am, to which we arrive at Bindi Farm, which marks the end of our 40 kilometres trip along the Zambezi. The feelling that remains of this short trip is a blend of serenity and strong emotions caused by the proximity of the intense wildlife all around us. It is an unforgettable experience that everyone should try !

By Muriel Romero

The Art of Travel on the Blue Train

map-blue-train

While you may very well take a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town, you also have an alternative: travel with class and elegance and treat yourself to a unique experience.
Today, our daily life very often resembles a race against the clock: Imagine finally being able to take the time and relive the golden age of luxury train travel. Find the very essence of travel where the art of journeying was as important as the final destination. Plunge into the atmosphere of the legendary Blue Train which is to Southern Africa what the Orient Express is to Europe.

So this is a surprise; your man still does not know anything of the trip. A couple ofdays’ vacation for the two of you, as thelast time was so long ago. It is true that lately, becauseof your respective workloads, you feel as though you have been living apart from oneanother.
That day at dawn, a taxi will come to the hotel to pick you up and take you to the station. You enter the beautiful waiting room and only there, he understands. You areabout to board the famous Blue Train, to experience this historic train as many heads of state and celebrities have before you. Some butlers with white glovestake your luggage before offeringyou coffee and canapés and impatience is now at its height. Seeing the look of disbelief on his face, you cannot help but smile of satisfaction: you hit home.

Blue Train - Deluxe Suite

8:30 am – On board

The stationmaster whistles for the train to leave the station. You settle in your private quarters, a suite with all the modern comforts and even a private bathroom with a bathtub. Your butler comes to you and brings you your first drink. You begin to relax and look at the changing landscape behind the panoramic windows, sunk in your cozy seat.

10:30 am – Breakfast time

It is time for breakfast. You are dazzled by the lifestyle aboard this palace on rails: fresh flowers, refined tableware made of delicate china, silverware and crystal glasses. Fine dining at its best, featuring South African cuisine and wines. Really, it is the perfect place to reconnect, to finally take the time to relax, without obligations… at last. You already consider the 27 hours it will take for the train to cover the 1,600 km journey as a legitimately stolen break from the plain daily life where you have been caught for too long

Blue Train - Elegant Lounge

The afternoon runs just as perfectly. After a well-deserved nap, high tea is served, and you settle in the lounge car to enjoy a Margarita.

7:30pm – Dinner time

This exclusive trip takes an extra romantic turn at dinner time when, according to tradition, the guests dress up:jacket and tie for men and evening gowns for women. You struggle to remember the last time you two had dinner in such an environment. Your conversation has regained its natural state. Time stands still. The soft music in the dining car mixes with the clear soundof champagne flutes clinking against each other.

details

When you retreat to your suite, the butler converted what had been a comfortable lounge during the day into an opulent bedroom. You close the door behind him and notice that his suit has kept a bit of the aroma of the Cuban cigar he smoked after dinner. The soft lighting let the intense starlight flood the room. Tomorrow you will cross the mountains and arrive in Cape Town, the mother-city. Tomorrow. Meanwhile you are the only two people in the world.

The Blue Train runs between Cape Town and Pretoria (one way in both directions) and will open a new route to the Kruger Park this year via Hoedspruit.

By Angeline Jaquin

Riding between ocean and desert – Namibia

moto-tour-EN

My friends and I decided to be adventurous and explore Southern Africa by motorbike. Not knowing what to expect we flew to Windhoek where we were met and transferred to our hotel. Later that evening we met at a restaurant for dinner to discuss the tour that lay ahead of us.

Let’s go to Etosha National Park

The following morning our adventure began, leaving Windhoek and on to Etosha. We were driving on beautiful quiet roads at first in order for us to get used to the motorbikes. As the first Springboks came in sight we realized, that we were leaving civilization behind us and approaching unspoilt natural wilderness. That evening we checked into a small, cozy Guest House just outside Etosha National Park.

etosha++
The third day began with an exciting morning game drive. Seeing animals like giraffes, kudus and rhinos up close was quite an experience.

Petrified Forest > > Skeleton Coast > > Cape Cross

Our journey continued halfway westbound towards the ocean and the desert. We stopped for a visit at the Petrified Forest to see the eon-old fossilized trees. As the journey continued, we were driving along the road with the desert on our left hand side and the ocean on the right. A weird but unique experience! We came across a few shipwrecks along the Skeleton Coast, after which the coast was named and thousands of Cape fur seals at Cape Cross. We reached Swakopmund that evening.
On day 6 we spent a day in Swakopmund. The area has many activities to offer, such as Quad biking through the dunes, a scenic flight over the Skeleton Coast, a visit to a township or even a tandem skydive 10,000 feet above the desert. Some of them were definitely worth a try.

pink-flamingos++

Walvisbaai > > Kuiseb Canyon/Gaub pass > > Solitaire

On the seventh day our journey continued towards Walvisbaai. We followed the coast till we reached the flamingo lagoon just outside Walvisbaai. We entered the desert once again and continued the ride through the impressive Kuiseb Canyon/Gaub pass and the Namib Desert till we reached Solitaire.It looks just like any other Namibian village: a petrol station, a shop and a bar. But there is one big difference: Moose’s apple pie!

sossusvlei-dunes++

Sossusvlei > > Kalahari Desert > > Seeheim > > Fish River Canyon

In the light of the setting sun, the red dunes of Sossusvlei appear to grow higher and higher.The ride continued along the edge of the Kalahari Desert. The loneliness is interspaced with small towns like Bethanie, Helmeringhausen and Maltahöhe, often consisting of just a petrol station, a shop and a pub. After an overnight in Seeheim we continued the following morning towards Fish River Canyon, Africa’s grandest Canyon and the second largest in the world, passing through the Karoo on day 11 and over the mountain roads towards the Winelands of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.

motos-3++

The Karoo > > Franschhoek et Stellenbosh > > Cape Town

We travelled along the famous R 355, the longest stretch of empty road in South Africa. With impressive mountains in sight, we knew we were approaching the Winelands. We stopped for wine tasting in Stellenbosch before our journey continued to Cape Town where we spent a few days before going back home. An experience not to be missed and definitely worth repeating….

 

By Jameela Wagener

One of us: Faizel Martin, Leisure Travel Consultant

Faizel Martin

What is your background ?

My background is in Travel & Tourism. Though I studied Human Resources in my formative years, I received my first pay cheque through a tourism related job. I always wanted to travel the world and found that working in the tourism industry made this dream come life in many ways.

Why did you choose this job ?

For a longtime worked mostly with the US market. I dealt with very specific products in the tourism industry. In the last 2 years , I’ve been looking to diversify my knowledge base, and explore other products that are on offer, when guests visit Southern Africa. XO Africa provides a great platform for me to do just this, as the market it serves (Mostly French and other european countries) is so diverse.

How would you define your job ?

Essentially, it is an operational based. My job entails making all the logistical arrangements required, for our clients to come to Southern Africa and enjoy what our country has to offer.

Your idea of a well done job?

Getting a 10/10 on the client satisfaction questionnaire. When a client remarks ‘the journey was a complete success from beginning to end’

What are your secret addresses (restaurant, sunset, club…) in Cape Town?

I love eating sushi. My favorite sushi restaurant is a little place caled Roseberry’s in Durban Rd, Little Mowbray (75 Durban Road Mowbray). I like the ambience in the restauraunt, the flexibility (eat out or take-away options), and the wasabi (I think they make their wasabi with a touch of horse radish). It’s quite literally, the BOMB !

A phrase or word that you hate in your daily work?

When someone comes to me and says ; “Your clients never arrived, they missed their flight”.
This means that my day is about to become a roller coaster ride.