Wednesday, October 19, 2011
They are in Africa, of course. Tanzania to be exact, where tourists from around the world gather to witness what is estimated at two million wildebeest as well as herds of zebra, gazelle and buffalo in their annual migration between grazing opportunities along the Serengeti and Kenya’s Maasai Mara. This is the ultimate Tanzania safari and Tanzania hotels rely on it for their livelihood. The timing of the migration is not exact as the herds work by instinct, which is finely tuned to the area’s rainfall pattern.
Plan to be there around October to see them responding to the promised rainfall as they move from the northern hills to the southern plains, across the Mara River. In April, the procedure is reversed. Despite its standing as one of the great travel wonders of the world, it’s a perilous 800km journey for the animals whose lives are under constant threat from thirst, hunger, exhaustion or predation.
Tanzania hotels like the Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge are the ideal choice. Lyrically set “high on the saddle of a tree-clad ridge, commanding panoramic views across the Serengeti”, the Lodge is designed to blend in to its surroundings – impressively unobtrusive.
Ask a tour guide to take you to the nearby two-million-year-old Palaeolithic site of Olduvai Gorge, “birthplace of mankind”, and the Serengeti National Park for a sighting of the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo).
The game drives are a must. Balloon safaris are a fun alternative if you have a head for heights while nature trails are the soft option for a gentler introduction to these surroundings.
Sate your appetite with a pre-planned bush barbecue for lunch or a bush dinner on the plains. Add to that some traditional dancing, music and cultural displays and you have a holiday experience of a lifetime.
Zanzibar is the proverbial island paradise with luminescent sand stretching along pristine beaches, lapped by waves generated by warm Indian Ocean currents.
Zanzibar tour packages that incorporate a stay at the Diamond Dreams of Zanzibar Resort would be a fitting choice if this exotic island is your ideal destination for the perfect holiday. For starters, it has a five-star rating. It’s built on Kiwengwa Beach, incorporating a mix of contemporary and Afro-Arabic design fit for royalty from a bygone era.
If you don’t feel like sightseeing, there’s nothing stopping you from lazing around the pool or at the seaside. And if you stay close to this Zanzibar beach resort, you’ll be hard-pressed not to sample the delicious menu options offered by its various restaurants.
Tour guides are on hand to guide the more active guests through boat excursions, sightseeing tours, Tanzanian safaris and snorkelling trips to Mnemba Marine Park. Zanzibar boasts some of the best coastal locations for scuba diving and dolphin watching. These gentle creatures love swimming and surfing these waters, and there may be opportunities to swim with them.
If you have energy to explore on land, the Stone Town World Heritage Site is an historic attraction 45km from the resort. Because Zanzibar made its mark in the spice trade, and is still referred to as the Spice Islands, the spice tour is a must. Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper are still grown there.
You could also consider tours to the Mbweni Ruins, Mtonil Ruins and Kidichi Persian Baths or go in search of the Red Colobus Monkeys in Jozani Forest on Unguja Island. Mafia Island has the Ngezi Equatorial Forest, home to the Pemba Flying Fox, while killer whales and dolphins are found near Kizimkazi.
Zanzibar is in a malaria area so precautions should be considered. The yellow fever vaccination is recommended.
Some visitors like to live like the locals and rent a house or cottage for a spell. Others like to camp on the beach to get a real feel for the island. Roughing it is not everybody’s cup of tea, however, and don’t forget that Mozambique is a third-world country. If taking a holiday means doing it in style, with a few creature comforts to make it special, booking in to hotels in Maputo is your answer.
There are some areas of Mozambique, on the east coast of Africa, that are quite legendary in their universal appeal for natural attractions, relaxed atmosphere, friendly people and magnificent locations. Vilanculos, in the province of Inhambane, is one of them. There you’ll find your pick of hotels in Maputo from which you can indulge your yearning for exploring foreign places and discovering new and interesting things to see and do. Vilanculos Beach Lodge places you close to the awesome Bazaruto Archipelago and the Bazaruto National Park.
Tour guides are always on hand to show you the popular attractions and some might be able to take you off the beaten track. Don’t expect to see sights in the Bazaruto Archipelago though – it’s a protected national park that encompasses one big attraction. It’s beauty. There is nothing touristy about it. That means no roads or shops either.
Barra Lodge is another option for accommodation in Inhambane. This venue boasts unbeatable views of pretty beaches lapped by the Indian Ocean. Or you can try Flamingo Bay Water Lodge, which rises up out of the ocean to stand on stilts. It’s a spectactular setting for an equally magnificent bird – the flamingo. You will also be able to marvel at the tropical fish and the rare dugong, a mammal that is also known as a sea cow.
Seychelles tour packages are designed to give visitors the best experience of these islands, dotted about 1 000 miles off the east coast of Africa in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
The aptly named Coral Strand Hotel is one of the Seychelles hotels that offer special deals on holiday packages, which is good to know when you need to make your travel budget work for you.
You can arrange your visit through a tour operator, who can assist you with your bookings. This Seychelles hotel is located on the largest island of the group. It is called Mahe, which is big enough to have a capital city and an airport.
The hotel is 20 minutes from Seychelles International Airport, which provides easy access to Baie Ternay Marine National Park, Ste Anne Marine National Park, and Port Launay Marine National Park. It’s also worth visiting Morne Seychellois National Park to see, among other wonders, the island’s tallest mountain. Morne Seychellois stands 905 metres high.
Much of Seychelles land is preserved, and still unspoilt. Fishing and waterskiing, for example, are forbidden in Ste Anne Marine National Park, which itself comprises six smaller islands. It is one of the best locations for diving, cruising on glass-bottomed boats and snorkelling among the colourful coral reefs.
Part of the magic of staying at the Coral Sands Hotel is the evening entertainment provided by local musicians. During the day, guests who aren’t into watersports can choose from four different tours of Mahe Island or tour to Praslin and La Digue islands. Praslin is a World Heritage Site, and well worth a visit.
The attraction? None other than the Smoke that Thunders, of course. The Victoria Falls, so named after Queen Victoria but originally called Mosi-O-Tunya (Smoke that Thunders) by the indigenous Kololo tribe, is one of the world’s greatest spectacles. It’s no wonder that Victoria Falls safaris top the list of things to do by visitors to the area. Tour operators have a number of exciting activities and excursions to offer them.
This is not the type of destination where you can consciously sit in your hotel room or at the pool and do nothing else. There is too much to absorb and experience there, which you can’t accomplish anywhere else. The location also provides easy access to sights in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa.
If your goal is to see the Victoria Falls in all their glory, book into Victoria Falls lodges following the peak flood season when that “smoke” can be seen 80km away.
To get the best view of its magnitude, you have to take flight – microlight or helicopter, anyone?
Conversely, the dry season between November and December diminishes the water supply to small rivers of water. Do not be perturbed, however, because that means you can explore more at the bottom of the Falls on foot. One visitor says the best thing to do at what is commonly known as Vic Falls is “an unsolicited walk on the edge of the walls”. Risky, but unforgettable. An elephant was photographed recently doing something similar – he walked right to the edge with his sights firmly set on a succulent leafy plant.
Of all the fascinating activities and tours on offer, Mosi-O-Tunya National Park is another must. In terms of accommodation, the Elephant Hills Resort and the Victoria Falls Hotel are both strong recommendations on the Zimbabwe side.
Living life under threat of death by thirst, hunger, exhaustion or predation is not anybody’s idea of fulfilling, but for the two million wildebeest that have made the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania their home – it’s all they know.
Visitors to Africa have developed a fascination for their widely publicised annual migration between the Plains and Kenya’s Maasai Mara. It’s for good reason that it’s nicknamed “the greatest show on earth”.
Tanzania hotels gear up for an influx of tourists between April and June. This time of year offers the best sightings of the wildebeest herds and other grazing mammals like buffalo, eland, zebra and gazelle as they make their way across the Serengeti towards better grazing and water in Kenya’s Maasai Mara.
It’s a circular migration that sees the herds in Kenya from July to November, before they return to their birthing grounds near the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. So, if you’re planning a visit to this part of the continent, a Tanzania safari must be on your itinerary.
Award-winning Tanzania hotels like Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge have an enviable position on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater, the largest unflooded and unbroken caldera in the world. The crater measures 20km across, 600m deep and 300sq km in area, and harbours a unique biosphere that provides a magnificent habitat for elephant, rhino and lion.
It looks like something out of the movies… but here, in this part of Africa, it’s very real.
The Lodge is close to the prehistoric site of Olduvai Gorge, which is one of the day tour opportunities. Game drives into the crater are a favourite option. There are adventure hikes too (around the Crater and nearby volcanoes) or more sedate wildlife walks to sign up for. Equally appealing are a barbecue lunch at a hippo-filled pool in the depths of the Crater or a visit to Empakaai, a 300m deep crater with a lake where flamingoes flock.
A tour guide can also lead you to authentic Maasai villages where you can see traditional homesteads, cattle markets and women's handicrafts.
If you’ve got your eye on a Zanzibar beach resort for your next holiday, there are several options to choose from. Zanzibar offers an idyllic island getaway off the Tanzanian coast, where Zanzibar tour packages will help you get the most out of your trip.
For those who prefer a more private environment, there is the 35-room boutique establishment simply called Z Hotel. The owners have combined a chic, contemporary design with traditional Zanzibari elements and a luxury approach to the interior furnishings and fittings.
There is no fear of eyeballing your neighbour in the adjacent room if you step out onto your balcony as all the rooms have private decks that provide spectacular views of the sea. The superior Z Suite goes one better with two terraces and an outdoor Jacuzzi.
Z Hotel is set in a tropical garden that leads onto soft white beaches, which beckon you into their warm waters. That’s one of the main reasons to visit Zanzibar: experienced divers will insist on exploring its coral reefs while the less adventurous can happily snorkel among them.
The hotel’s restaurant options and menus are so well planned you might struggle to leave this venue to explore the island but, if you are the adventurous type, it’s worth signing up for one of the Zanzibar tour packages. Just make sure you’re back in time to catch the sunset at Cinnamon Cocktail Bar; it’s said to be the best spot on the island for a sundowner!
Zanzibar tour packages often incorporate Stone Town, the historic centre of the island’s capital city, known as Zanzibar Town or Zanzibar City. Z Hotel is 75km away so the journey there reveals more of the island’s beautiful scenery. It’s also about an hour’s drive from the airport.
Enquire about options for excursions to Jozani Forest (to catch sight of the endangered Red Colobus Monkey) or the Mnarani Turtle Sanctuary, where villagers nurse injured turtles back to health in their natural habitat.
Tours among the spice plantations and to Prison Island are also popular activities at Zanzibar.
Beauty is a word that is synonymous with Namibia, not only with reference to its landscape. Michelle McLean topped her win of the Miss Namibia 1991 title with her crowning as Miss Universe 1992, the only Namibian to win it. She hails from Windhoek, which is close to the Etosha National Park.
Hotels in Namibia give visitors different experiences of the country – from the Fish River Canyon to the Namibia and Kalahari deserts found in the Gondwana region. The Gondwana Four Desert Tour is highly recommended.
But Namibia’s desolate landscape is not all desert. Hotels in Namibia like the Etosha Safari Lodge, 10km south of the Etosha National Park’s Andersson Gate, are recommended by reputable tour operators who want to give guests an unforgettable safari experience.
The Lodge is close to this world-renowned, 4 500 square kilometre reserve, which consists of salt pan, woodland and grassland habitats. From a distance, its chalets are barely discernible as they are designed to blend in with their surroundings. Just their tented rooftops peep out above the bush like meerkat sentinels.
Day safaris into the park reveal wildlife incorporating antelope, gemsbok, impala, kudu and springbok; big cats like cheetah, leopard and lion; the mighty elephant and elegant giraffe plus over 300 bird species.
The bush drives start early, to catch the animals at watering holes and before the heat of the sun forces them to seek shelter, and end at sunset. Magnificent photographic opportunities await the keen photographer – of the wildlife, landscape and, of course, the exquisite sunsets.
Those who still want a taste of the city can book a day trip to Windhoek by minibus shuttle or laze around the swimming pool after a morning game drive. This Namibia hotel has disabled access and provides a babysitting service for parents who really need a break.
Don’t forget to take the necessary precautions against malaria, as mosquitoes are found in this area of Namibia.
Monday, October 17, 2011
When it comes to island holidays, the Seychelles is one of the most recommended. The Seychelles comprises a group of 115 islands literally in the middle of the deep blue sea; the Indian Ocean. Part of their attraction is their isolation, which gives new meaning to the need to ‘get away from it all’. Cliché or not, it’s the reality of our existence today.
Seychelles hotels often offer specials in conjunction with Seychelles tour packages, so these are the ones to look out for if you want the best value for money. Expect to have a blissful beach experience, see incredible marine life, and explore captivating coral reefs. These are just some of the significant Seychelles attractions.
Described as an ecologist’s dream, because so much of the country’s land is preserved, it even has a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Aldabra. This island in the archipelago is the second largest atoll in the world, and is noted for its giant land tortoise population.
Coco de Mer is one of the Seychelles hotels on Praslin Island, which is the second largest of the Seychelles islands covering just 38 square kilometers. It is named after a rare palm tree found in the archipelago. On the subject of the sea, look out for ‘fruits de mer’ on the restaurant and Seychelles hotels menus. These promise some of the tastiest seafood you will ever savour.
Getting to Praslin Island is a fun excursion in itself, made easier if you work through a trusted tour operator. You can fly there in 15 minutes from Mahe Island or take a 45-minute ferry ride across the water. The hotel grounds cover 200 acres, adjacent to Anse Bois de Rose, a popular beach for swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving with a special section for Seychelles hotels’ guests.
For something different, ask a tour guide to show you sights like Praslin’s ‘Garden of Eden’ – the Vallee de Mai Nature Preserve with its plentiful Coco de Mer trees and vanilla orchids is worth a visit.
Sun, sand and sea… It may sound simplistic, but it’s one of the best prescriptions you can get for relaxing and unwinding.
You can get it all and more with holidays in Mozambique.
There is something about the salt air and the warm water of the Indian Ocean that attracts holidaymakers from around the world to these shores, which are all the more appealing for their relative isolation.
Hotels in Maputo believe their third-world location with all the luxury you could ask for, if that’s what you look for in a holiday. Mozambique has two main archipelagos – Bazaruto in the south and Quirimbas in the north.
Some say that it is the undiscovered jewels in the Quirimbas crown that make it so special. And they’re right. The Cabo Delgado Province in northern Mozambique is where you’ll find the 32 coral islands that create this archipelago as well as several top hotels in Maputo and tour guides happy to show you around.
Pemba Beach Hotel and Spa is described as the gateway to the islands as well as the Niassa National Reserve. This is the largest conservation area in Mozambique. Covering 42 000sq km, it’s also double the size of South Africa’s famous Kruger National Park. There you’ll see three endemic species: the Niassa wildebeest, Boehm’s zebra, and Johnston’s impala, which are considered rare anywhere else. Its teeming bird population includes several majestic raptor species too.
Matemo Lodge provides alternative accommodation in the Quirimbas Archipelago while the resort on Medjumbe private island is just that − an exclusive retreat par excellence. The island is only one kilometre long and 500 metres wide. For romance, it’s hard to beat. With pristine beaches, pretty coves, inimitable palm trees and magnificent marine life, what’s not to love? PS. There are only 13 beach chalets in the resort.
Nambia offers tremendous opportunities for keen travellers wanting to explore an African country that incorporates a diverse array of sights, vegetation and wildlife.
It’s one of those destinations where you can lose yourself in the peace and quiet of a safari location at a Namibia Hotel, where you can tune in to nature and its special sounds after shedding the stress of your busy daily life.
Hotels in Namibia give visitors access to aspects of vegetation at opposite ends of the landscape spectrum, with corresponding wildlife. This country is on the west coast of Africa, bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean. It has 14 vegetation zones including desert, woodlands, and savannahs.
Visitors who go on safari with good tour guides will learn about some of the country’s more astonishing attributes. For example, the Namib is the oldest desert in the world and the only one where you will find elephant, lion, giraffe and rhino.
On the subject of big cats, Namibia has the biggest free-roaming cheetah count in the world (one estimate counts 2 500), so it’s not surprising to learn about conservation efforts that have been established to protect the beautiful beast.
However, these cats also enjoy the habitat provided by the Etosha National Park, close to Namibia Hotels like the self-catering Etosha Safari Camp. This is a no-frills set-up, in close proximity to a slightly more sophisticated lodge complete with restaurant and bar.
Visitors must take the necessary malaria precautions to make sure they get the most out of this part of the country, without fear of infection by mosquitoes.
Day safaris will entertain guests with potential sightings of resident elephant, buck and cat species, giraffe and zebra, among others. Early morning sightings as well as those at sundown comprise some of the most memorable, so charge your camera batteries and invest in a long-distance lens to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
Wet or dry? Once you arrive at Victoria Falls lodges on the Zambia side, that’s all you have to decide. Do you want your tour guide to show you around on water or on land?
Victoria Falls safaris incorporate canoeing on the upper and lower Zambezi River for a completely different vantage point of all the animals that frequent the river banks and surrounds.
River cruises are another tamer touring option compared to white-water rafting, which is guaranteed to get your adrenalin pumping on day trips or expeditions.
Mosi-O-Tunya National Park incorporates the Victoria Falls as it stretches about 12km along the upper Zambezi. It’s a good ‘dry’ tour if you want to see antelope, zebra, giraffe and the only white rhinos to have a safe haven in the country.
Victoria Falls lodges like the Victoria Falls Hotel provide quick access to Namibia, Botswana and Zambia if you have time to wander beyond the immediate vicinity of this world-renowned landmark and its nearby attractions. The Victoria Falls Hotel is perched on the edge of the Batoka Gorge with a view of the railway bridge named after the spectacle.
Bear in mind that even on a ‘dry’ tour, you must be prepared to get a little wet for the spray from the ‘Smoke that Thunders’ is far-reaching.
Attempting the world's highest free-standing bungee jump from the Victoria Falls bridge is one way to get your adrenalin pumping. Hot air ballooning is something else to do from a great height, and provides unforgettable views of this natural wonder.
The conventional day and night game drives; traditional, cultural, Zambezi Nature Sanctuary and Falls tours; horseback and elephant trails are highly recommended too.
David Livingstone’s discovery of the Victoria Falls in November 1855 is commemorated through Livingstone Island and Livingstone Town. The Island is where he first sighted the Falls, which are so large that they are identified in five parts, namely: the Devil's Cataract, Cataract Island, the Main Falls, Rainbow Falls and the Eastern Cataract.