Monthly Archives: April 2015

One of us : Marie Wilcox

One of Us: Marie WilcoxWhat is your story? Why did you arrive in Cape Town?

I was travelling around the world and I met a few South African people when I was in London in the 90’s. They told me that Cape Town was one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Needless to say I had to check it out, that was 23 years ago and to this day Cape Town is still my home and indeed a very good place to be!

Describe your job for us and what do you like the most about it?

I am in charge of the sales, products & marketing for the leisure travel department. I like seeking new products that fit our image & clientele and create relationship with our partners in the industry. I also enjoy the diversity of my tasks which include promoting our destinations, problem solving, interacting with suppliers, the operation team at XOA and our clients. Keeping busy all the time is my motto (my to-do list never dries up!)

Describe XO Africa in 3 words

Attention To Details

What is your best spot among our destinations?

There are so many it’s difficult to choose but if I have to isolate a few that would be De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Southern Cape, Grootbos near Hermanus, The Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape, Thonga Beach lodge in the Kwazulu Natal North Coast, Marataba Safari Camp in the Welgevonden, Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort & Spa in the Quirimbas (Mozambique) and the Okavango Delta… amongst many others.

What are your secret addresses (restaurant, sunset, club…) in South Africa?

Pic-nic-braai at Millers Point near Cape Point. Swimming with the penguins in Boulders Beach. Traditional fish & chips at Kalky’s in Kalk Bay. Eating prawns in a local pub in St Lucia. Listening to live music at The Orbit Jazz Club in Johannesburg. Various hikes in the Cape Peninsula.

Tell us one anecdote or memory you had in your life in south Africa

Being charged by an Elephant in the Kruger National Park. I have never reversed so fast in my little hired car. Only to find out later that it was a “mocked” charge and that this particular Elephant was well known for doing this.

Edito 064 – Spring Summer Collection

Heading North - Edito 064

Imagine a tawny envelop made of graphic effects that underline a fluid line, elegant but tonic, supported by an opal white corset and adorned by a wide brown shawl, revealing some modest coquetry, a free spirit, a sharp and mischievous character.
In this spectacle, the Springbok treats us with its uneven bounces with a burning and deserted Southern African landscape as a background.

Despite its resilience to the arid red earth of the Kalahari, the gazelle could have seen its career ruined. Even disappear if it had not been saved, and then carried in triumph to become the symbolic emblem of the country.
This is how the mighty springbok walked to posterity, ending up on coins even…

Some will filch its performances, like the National Rugby Team of South Africa that always bears its golden icon on top of dark green jersey.
Others will name a cocktail after it, a shooter more exactly, a combination of Amarula cream and mint liqueur, quite far from elegance of the “jumping antelope” like the Dutch named it.

A city of over 10,000 inhabitants also proudly bears its name, 500km north of Cape Town. This is where I actually wanted to take you. The most populated city of the Namaqualand is indeed the theme of this newsletter. The Northern Cape Province, the runway of our summer collection…

Sébastien Charrieras

Introducing Northern Cape

Do you want go off the beaten track ? We invite you to discover somewhere special which combines magnificent landscapes and adventure-sport playgrounds and offers a rich archeological and geological heritage. It is home to the world’s first people and contains the most coveted gemstone.
Welcome to the Northern Cape, a region, which, behind an austere appearance, hides many treasures.

A wild nature

No less than 6 National Parks will make you happy if you are fond of nature and wild life. From the red sand dunes of the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park, one of the largest and unspoilt ecosystems in the world, to the gorgeous scenery of carpets of flowers in Namaqualand, including the rugged mountains of the Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, or the Falls of the Augrabies NP, you’ll have to come back more than once to discover Northen Cape’s splendours.

Norhern Cape, a wild nature

A long story to tell

Not only is the Northern Cape home to the San (also called Bushmen) who are directly descended from the original population of early human ancestors, but there are several importants prehistoric sites such as Wonderwerk Cave near Kuruman, from which two millions year-old stone tools were excavated. The region, the Karoo in particular, also provides a lot of Khoisan Rock-Art sites that can be seen in completely natural surroundings.
Much later, in the late 19th century, it is around Kimberley that history was written with the discovery of ‘Eureka’ (1866), the first diamond, which later gave birth to the ‘Big Hole’ along with the major battles of the Western Campaign during the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902).

Norhern Cape, a long story to tell

A Playground for Adventurers

Adrenalin enthousiasts and open-space lovers are in their element in the Northern Cape. From abseilling to hot air ballooning to motorbiking, sand boarding or camel riding, everyone will find grounds for fun here.

Norhern Cape, adventurers' playground

Hidden treasures

Under this harsh land, important ore deposits like zinc, copper, lead, silver, and, of course, diamond, hide. The latter is still exploited around Kimberley, but also on the West coast, in the Namaqualand Region, particularly on the restricted road to the north, from Kleinzee to Alexander Bay (area which extends to hundreds kilometres in Namibia).

Northern Cape at a glance

Northern Cape

With its 362 591.41km² and 1.058 million inhabitants, it’s the largest and most sparsely populated province of South Africa (3 per sq km)

5 regions : Namakwa, Karoo, Green Kalahari, Kalahari, Diamond Fields

Capital : Kimberley
Major Towns: Calvinia, Colesberg, De Aar, Kuruman, Springbok and Upington

Major Airports: Kimberley, Upington

Climate: Hot to very hot in summer, mild to cold in winter

6 National Parks : Augrabies Falls National Park, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Mokala National Park, Namaqua National Park, Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, Tankwa-Karoo National Park

By Muriel Romero

Wonderful Namaqualand

Namaqualand is a really arid region shared between Namibia and South Africa. It is divided into two portions by the lower course of the Orange River – Little Namaqualand to the south (South Africa) and Great Namaqualand to the north (Namibia).

Namaqualand Flowers

Springbok is one of the more prominent towns in this area, as well Kleinzee and Koiingnaas which are private mining towns owned by De Beers Diamond Mines.
Namaqualand is indeed a vast and varied region and it’s quite popular with both local and international tourists during early springtime.

Animals in Namaqualand

During early August and September after the winter rainfall, seemingly overnight, the dusty valleys of Namaqualand are transformed into a wonderland carpeted with wildflowers. The place is home to the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world and more than a 1000 of its estimated 3500 plant species are found nowhere else on earth.
Butterflies, birds and long-tongued flies dart around among the flowers, overwhelmed by the abundance and diversity!

Namaqualand Animals

Every turn in the road paints an unforgettable picture: valleys filled with Namaqualand daisies and other spring flowers, or extremely visible fauna…

“What a spectacle!” quoted Simon van der Stel, first Governor of the Cape Colony in 1652, when he saw Namaqualand for the very first time.

A part of Little Namaqualand, known as the Richtersveld, is a National Park and a World Heritage Site, while the often-visited Namaqua National Park and the Goegap Nature Reserve are located short distances from Kamieskroon and Springbok, respectively.


This area is also quite rich in alluvial diamonds deposited along the coast by the Orange River so let’s be crazy and try to find our own diamond!

During the arid summer months it is really difficult for the tourist to imagine the phenomenon of the yearly wild flower appearance but you will be glad to be a part of this experience next spring!

See you there!

By Lena Graire

We are all San People

In the movie The Gods must be Crazy , a « Bushman* » tribe made a modern-world discovery –  Coca-Cola bottle, thrown down from a plane. The fact is that Bushmen or Khoi and San people have had contact with western civilisation for several centuries.

These indigenous people who speak unique click languages, still exist in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa today. They would have been living there for at least 27 000 years.

San people (« gatherer » in the Haillom dialect) would be, according to the latest scientific  studies, the oldest people on earth – those from whom entire humanity is descended.

San People hunting

Although traditionally hunter/gatherers, San people are widely settled and are not more than about 100 000 in number at the present time, living essentially on the harsh land of the Kalahari Desert.

The San have come down through the millennia, thanks to their thorough knowledge of their natural environment, for example : hunting mainly antelope with a bow, but above all living from gathering fruits, berries and desert roots.

This nomadic life inspired them to painting many rock artworks. often scenes of deities, rituals or hunting that we can admire in completely natural surroundings at numerous sites around South Africa including in the Cederberg nature reserve a few hours north of Cape Town.

Northern Cape - Rockart

In May 2002, ‡Khomani San (a group belonging to San people), reached a historic land settlement agreement with the government of South Africa and South African National Parks (SANParks) which restored 50 000 ha of land to the communities that had once roamed or farmed this area, within the boundaries of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Whereas SANParks is responsible for environmental conservation, the communities received funds to build a tourism facility owned and managed by the two community :!Xau Lodge.

!Xau Lodge

In the Green Kalahari, the !Xau Lodge, an ecotourism project, will give you the opportunity to meet San People

After early contact with Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries, many Khoi and San people were killed by diseases such as smallpox to which they had no immunity. They were also often regarded as vermin animals by European settler farmers who hunted them.

* Although the term « Bushman » is still used by some people, many consider it derogatory and prefer the terms Khoi and San.

The Orange River

Interested in this still mysterious river, on behalf so original and most intriguing?

It’s time to learn more. Along 2160 kilometers, the Orange River rises in the Drakensberg mountain range in Lesotho, known as the Senqu River, and flows westward into the Atlantic Ocean after crossing the immensity of South Africa. Its long route ends as a natural border between Namibia and South Africa (967 kilometres).

Sunset on Orange River

It initially appeared as the Gariep, a name given by the Namas, but was referred to as “Orange” in 1779 in honor of William V of the House of Orange-Nassau*.

Today, the Orange is a river steppe and desert river, irregular and often poor with a watercourse crossed by falls and inhabited by hippos and crocodiles where we can also find quartz and opals.

Nowadays, it also plays an important role in the South African economy as it provides water for irrigation and hydro-electric power.

Orange River in Green Kalahari

The Orange River flows through the Green Kalahari

To discover a little more about this river, sail along the Orange River in a canoe, a raft or walk alongside on foot to explore this outstanding place at its best …

Now imagine yourself like an adept of the rafting…

At XO Africa, we have selected a trusted operator that offers various activities regarding this impressive river, including an adrenaline packed: The River Rush!

Craig, the owner of “Outventures Kalahari” and his assistant start the briefing and explains your cautions: firstly, a helmet and life jacket are required to embark on the river. After sometime paddling, you are going to find yourself faced with your first obstacle; rocks…try to get out quickly in order not to fall into the rapids.

Then, you will engage in the strait and will have to operate your raft in turbulence in order not to derive or brew in the bubbling water.

Orange River - Rafting and Canoe

This adventure takes place over approximately 9 km which lead you through 5 rapids in total (the first being the most “difficult”, classed as a Category 3 on 6) but also through calm waters where you can swim. You can be assured that the guides keep watch over you along the way and help you if some person falls overboard or hangs onto the rocks.

For amateurs and professionals in rafting or canoeing, this outdoor experience is without a doubt unique and not to be missed. It combines tranquility, adventure, bird watching and also intense moments during rapids.

Fishing on Orange River

If you are a fly fishing enthousiast, Kalahari Outventures  also organizes fishing safaris from half a day to 4 days. ​​You can ​rest assured of making ​some fine catches on​ the​ Orange River!

Augrabies Falls

Augrabies Falls on Orange River

* The House of Orange-Nassau is the ruling house of the Netherlands from 1814 until today.

By Marie Lesueur

Tutwa Desert Lodge

It is in the northwest of South Africa, on the border of Namibia, in the middle of wide open spaces and spectacular scenery where you will find your oasis of calm and freshness: the Tutwa Desert Lodge.

Located in the heart of the Green Kalahari, on a game reserve of 16 000 hectares, this lodge offers a unique location with exclusive access to 24 km of the Orange River.

Tutwa Desert Lodge

Imagine yourself in this haven of peace, surrounded by the desert and the Orange River in the middle of the African bush, scanning the surrounding hills from your private terrace. It is 6 am, the sun has just risen.

It is in this particularly peaceful and calm atmosphere that you decide to go for a dive in the pool … The guests of the other eight rooms at the Lodge are still sleeping, you are alone in the world…

In an hour you go to the airport to fly over the region aboard a Cessna 204.

Tutwa Desert Lodge - The pool

Once on board the small plane, you let yourself be enthralled, opening your eyes wider to take everything in. There is nothing better than a view from the sky to discover the enchanting landscape of the Green Kalahari region! The desert spreads across the horizon, in the middle of sand dunes covered with vegetation: a breathtaking landscape!

Desert Green Kalahari

This afternoon the Tutwa Desert Lodge organized a hike for you to discover the vast and wild Green Kalahari environment. Rangers then accompany you to explore the fauna and flora. It is so hot that you think of one thing: the canoe trip that will follow!

It is 5 pm and, slightly tired from the day; you cannot resist laying on your king size bed in your suite for a nap before going to dinner on the deck of Tutwa Desert Lodge.

Tutwa Desert Lodge - Room

The day is not over! This evening a guide will take you on a cosmic safari. You are given the opportunity to see the nocturnal animals of the reserve which only come out at night and listen to the Bushman legends told by the guide.

Safari Sundowner

But before that, it’s cocktail hour! So why do not you let yourself be tempted by a glass of sparkling wine under the sunset, in the middle of nowhere? A magical place, isn’t it? Then you can taste local and exotic dishes paired with South African wines. A real treat!

The Tutwa Lodge Desert Lodge is a friendly environment and actively engaged in a project to protect leopards. It will offer you many water and land activities, giving the opportunity to live unforgettable moments to all lovers of adventure and travel!

Tutwa Desert Lodge - Safari

By Candice Chapel

One of us: Chanelle Diergaardt, Leisure Travel Team Leader


What is your background?

At the moment, a white wall… Just kidding…
I was born and bred in Cape Town, finished High school and then went on to do a Bachelors degree in Tourism Management.
In my 3rd year, I did an internship at Tsitsikamma National Park and while finishing my 4th year of studies, I started working for a tour operator for 8 months. Shortly after I started at XO Africa, which is now almost 7 years ago.

How would you define your job?

A mixture of sales and operations. Selling our beautiful country to very curious clients, closing the sale and then starting with the admin side of their holiday.

Why did you choose this job ?

I think the job chose me. As a 21st birthday present, I received a glass world globe with my key  (editor’s note: In South Africa, to symbolize transition to adulthood, at the 21st birthday, parents offer their child a key with a special object according the person, here a world globe). Looking back, it was the perfect gift for my career.

Where is your favorite place to eat in Cape Town?

I have 2 – for a night out with hubby it would be Cape Town Fish Market. With my 3-year old daughter, it would be Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyard.

Tell us one of your best travel memories in Southern Africa

The highlight so far would definitely be the trip to Victoria Falls & Botswana last year. It was beyond amazing (to say the least) especially because I said I would never go to Botswana, and now I want to go back every month!