Monday, January 2, 2017

Highlights from my 2016 travels.

Here are some of my favourite destinations from 2016.

Karkloof Safari Spa.
Probably the only once of its kind in South Africa.
Situated just outside Pietermaritzburg,
it can now be quickly accessed by direct flights from Johannesburg.
Here I was pummelled, prodded, pushed and pulled!
The Thai massage therapists are the BEST.
More importantly, if you are on the Karkloof "signature" package,
 ALL your treatments are included.

The Oyster Box, Umshlanga, KZN
As iconic as the Polana in Maputo
and not much has changed over the years.
Old-fashioned service and stunning views from the accommodation.
A view of the hotel from the pool deck

Off to the Karoo, an area I had not visited for a while.
This is my accommodation at Samara Private Game Reserve.
Situated about 50km from Graaf Reinett,
this reserve offers something very different from the lodges
that I usually visit to the North or West of Johannesburg

This family of Red Hartebeeste,
is just one of the plains game species that can be found
 in abundance at Samara.

Sunset from the roof of my hotel.
I spent a week in Stone Town, the capitol of Zanzibar.
Tourism plays a major role in their economy now,
and tour packages are affordable.
I could have stayed on the north side of the island,
but there are too many tourists there.
Hence me choosing to stay in the heart of this city.

Happiness is...
The boats moored just off  Stone Town become a playground
for the local children

The Vineyard Hotel, Cape Town.
Probably one of my favourite South African hotels,
and for a variety of reasons.
Food, service and accommodation are all excellent. 

Just "up the road" from Cape Town.
Darling is a town I have not visited before.
Unlike a lot of small South African towns,
this one seems to have a booming economy.

Tshwene Lodge, Welgevonden, Waterberg.
My second bush trip of the year,
and one that was most welcome.
The lodge is stunning and the game viewing very special.
The buildings are "hidden" by the surrounding vegetation,
which makes the lodge almost invisible.

Welgevonden has the largest herd of privately owned White Rhino
in South Africa.
It is also the best guarded...

Ekuthuleni Lodge. Welgevonden Game Reserve, Waterberg.
This is a sister lodge to Tshwene and is literally across the road.
But the lodges are very different in both décor and style
The lodge is family friendly.
In this unit there are two single beds on the mezzanine floor,
with a king size bed below.

It is not all about the "Big 5"...
A Golden Orb Spider, caught in the early morning light.

For the first time since 1972, I found myself in East London.
The city might be in shambles, but the beaches are beautiful.

Augustine Ave B&B, Ladysmith. KZN.
I first discovered this property on-line,
and my wife and I have now stayed here on multiple occasions,
I worthwhile stop-over if you are on your way to the coast.

Spionkop Lodge, KwaZulu Natal.
Another of my favourites...
Not too far from Ladysmith, this lodge offers a real
home away from home...
And Raymond Herron is a raconteur of note.
I have visited Spionkop twice, and the story of the
pointless that was fought there has had me in tears.
So many men lost, and not one cm of ground was won or lost.

Isandlawana Lodge, KwaZulu Natal.
This is the only hotel that actually overlooks a battlefield.
It gives the Zulu perspective of the vast landscape.
(They came down the hill where the hotel was built)
Another battle that was dogged by miscommunication
and lack of good leadership from the British.

The Bush House, Madikwe Private Game Reserve.
Our accommodation.
There are 6 bedrooms, all of which are decorated
in a unique style.
There is more than enough space to unpack and
relax without bumping into each other or the furniture.
With the curtains on the main sliding doors open,
the room is bright and airy.

The Bush House has a hide within waking distance of the main building.
Cleverly designed, it allowed me to get really close the
the game that came to drink.

 Tau Game Lodge, Madikwe Private Game Reserve
Our suite had a seating area that was well utilized during our stay.
If the weather is not conducive to sitting on the private deck,
then this sofa offers an ideal vantage point for game viewing.

One of my favourite lioness images.
They are not always graceful.
Late afternoon lighting is always spectacular for photography

Sterkfontein Caves in The Cradle of Humankind.
"A whole lots of living where life began".
Updated new branding, which makes the tourist offering
 so much more professional.
And remembering, that since the discovery of Homo Naledi,
it has become an international tourist destination.

Mhondoro Game Lodge,a Phoenix risen from the ashes. Welgevonden.
Not an animal skin or stuffed head in sight!
Modern, light colours and very comfortable
are some of the adjectives I would use regarding the new décor.

Welgevonden is well known for their cheetah.
This particular male came from Madikwe,
but I knew him as a cub in Kwandwe in the Eastern Cape.

Nan Hua Buddist Temple, Bronkhorstspruit.
On a blustery Spring day, my wife and I decided to head off to
visit the Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit.
And unlikely place for a temple of this sort.
The Temple is the South African home
of the Humanistic Buddhist order, Fo Guang Shan.
There are branches in Malawi, Tanzania and Congo.

I discovered this monument on Emma Koppie,Linden
The English translation would be:
"This was erected to commemorate the receiving of the Oxwagon.
'Johanna van der Merwe'
 on 10 December 1938.
It was consecrated on 16 December 1939,
by Aunt G.M.E v.d.Merwe"
As an aside, the foundation stone of the Voortrekker Monument
 in Pretoria was laid in 1939.
I received this update from Johanna's granddaughter,
Ria Hepburn, who lives in one of the neighbouring suburbs...
"Hi David. The monument was in celebration of the centenary of "Die Groot Trek" (Great Trek) of 1838 (Voortrekkers leaving the Cape Province). 
During the 1838 Trek a Group under leadership of Dirkie Uys was attacked. 
Johanna van der Merwe survived with multiple assagai wounds to her face .
There is a picture of her in the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria. 
Against all odds she managed to warn the other "Trekkers" of the impending danger. 
To honour her heroism a wagon on the centenary trip was named after her. 
South Africa also named a submarine after her - The Johanna van der Merwe.
It was, rather ironically, renamed after 1994 to The Assegai. 
The original table her family used during the Trek is in my house. 
She was my Great Grandmother".

"Absolute Leisure Cottages"...Machadodorp.
Our room, named "Geluk" (meaning "luck" in Afrikaans,
but it was also the name of the farm on which the town was founded)
It was bigger than expected and had a seating area
as well as a small kitchen and dining table!

Lukimbi Safari Lodge, Southern Kruger National Park.
A return visit after 6 years...and nothing has changed!
Great food, superior accommodation and awesome rangers.

They say that Kudu have great camouflage skills...
Can YOU see the animal in this photograph?

From Kruger we drove up to Sabi Sand,
and probably one of my wife's favourite camps...
idube game reserve.
This is a "sister" property to Lukimbi and
once again, this was a return visit for us.

And I was told that lions do not like water...

Fountain Bath Cottages, Barberton.
I was expecting a room, but ended up with an entire cottage.
It is self catering, but there are several restaurants
within walking distance.

 The sublime Walkersons Hotel & Spa in Dullstroom.Mpumalanga Province
A collage.
It has been a while since we have had a mid-week break,
and more importantly it has been almost a year
since we had a "non-wildlife" holiday.
It was a pleasure to NOT have to get up for a game drive at 05h00.

Bird of Prey & Rehabilitation Centre, Dullstroom. Mpumalanga Province
My wife with Heidi...
If you are staying at Walkersons, it is only a few km's away.
Well worth a visit as they are dependant on donations to keep operating

I spend the night at the Grey's Inn in Machadodorp, Mpumalanga Province.
If you are heading North to Kruger National Park,
Sabi Sabi or Sabi Sands...
consider breaking your journey here in Machadodorp.
Stay the night or just enjoy a meal, have a cup of coffee 
and a chat with the Crawfords.

Safari Live with Wild Earth TV...Sabi Sand
This was the highlight of my year.
While we were out looking for game,
the team back in the Final Control studio
 were making certain
the images and audio were being broadcast
 to their world wide audience.

One of the leopards that I got to spend time with with during a game drive.

Cranko's Creek, a guest house to remember. Low's Creek,Mpumalanga Province.
The outside accommodation did not have air-con,
and seeing that the temperature was in the high 30's,
owner Heather Cranko and her husband Mark,
took "pity" on me and allowed me to stay in the main house.

My final destination for 2016.
The Little Brak Beach House
Literally the final one as I stayed here on the 31st December...

And THIS is where I spent MY last night of 2016...

Working on a TV shoot and watching the holiday makers 
dance the year away

I awoke to this view on January 01, 2017.
And then promptly went back to sleep again.


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