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Monday, November 7, 2011

Adventure opportunities aplenty from Victoria Falls lodges

It’s an incredibly large waterfall, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. But there’s so much more to the Victoria Falls than a wonderful sight. A safari to this special place in southern Africa where the mighty Zambezi River plunges into a gorge on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border promises lots to explore. There are thrills aplenty to those in search of adventure, and even looking at the falls can take on a whole new meaning – for example, if done from a helicopter, hot-air balloon or microlight aircraft.


For a serious adrenaline rush you can jump off the bridge – the Victoria Falls Bridge being one of the highest bungee jumping sites on the planet. You can also abseil and gorge-swing under the bridge. Whereas below the falls the river makes for relaxing river cruises, great kayaking and canoeing, and ultra-energetic pursuits including white water rafting expeditions. Plus there are hiking trails and nature walks, horseback and elephant trails as well as game drives – the Mosi-O-Tunya National Park, for example, stretches for about 12km upriver from the falls.


If you’ve never been to the Victoria Falls it’s hard to imagine how many places there are to stay at in the area – so many that you need the advice of a truly professional tour operator when making your choice. Specialists African Encounters can speak from personal experience in recommending the accommodation that they do, regardless of which country you’d prefer to base yourself in.


Recommended on the Zambian side of the falls are the Zambezi Waterfront, Thorntree Lodge, Zambezi Sun and the Royal Livingstone. And on the Zimbabwe side: Gorges Lodge, Ilala Lodge, A’Zambezi Lodge, the Kingdom Hotel (casino and entertainment centre), the Victoria Falls Hotel and the Elephant Hills Hotel (5 Star resort).


The Zambezi Waterfront, for example, is 4km upstream, right on the river banks, and fly-fishing is among the many activities they offer. Thorntree Lodge is also on the river, within the Mosi-O-Tunya Park, and the attractions there include game-viewing barge cruises.


Gorges Lodge is a fantastic retreat on top of Zimbabwe’s Batoka Gorge, 200m above the Zambezi. It’s literally perched on a cliff, and guests are limited to 20. Whereas Ilala Lodge is an understated oldie English safari lodge within walking distance of the falls and has a luxury cruise boat fitted-out in a style of generations ago.

Seychelles resorts nothing short of fantastic

Paradise! Most of the islands that make up the Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa feature idyllic beaches and scenic vistas as far as the eye can see. The crystal clear waters and reefs are perfect for swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving. Plus there are forests to be explored, excursion opportunities aplenty, and the resorts on the islands offer a variety of sporting and adventure activities in addition to a wide choice of accommodation and dining options.


There’s a myriad options in terms of where to stay and it pays to heed the recommendations of specialists such as African Encounters, a highly experienced wholesale tour operator servicing South Africa’s top retail travel agencies. African Encounters represent some of the best resort destinations in the Seychelles, destinations such as the Sunset Beach Hotel, Coral Strand Hotel and the Eden Villas on Mahe, the largest of the islands and renowned for its three marine parks.


The Sunset Beach hotel built on a granite outcrop and stretching out over the sea is a private retreat whose many attractions include a high-speed boat charter. The Coral Strand boasts five restaurants/bars, offers excursions in a glass-bottomed boat and runs tours focusing on the culture, history, fauna and flora of Mahe. And the Eden Villas in a small fishing village called Port Glaud are particularly appealing to travellers who enjoy self-catering.


Whereas on Praslin, the Seychelles’ second-largest island, Coco de Mer stands out as a luxurious resort including a private section of beach dotted with palm trees, being great for nature walks and bird-watching, and featuring boat charters and deep-sea fishing amongst the many activities that can be arranged. Berjaya Praslin, on the other hand, is punted by African Encounters for its tropical gardens, its convenient location close to theairport from which to visit some of the other islands, and the resort’s popularity as a wedding venue.


The Seychelles is stunningly beautiful and the resorts make the most of this by offering great views from their rooms. You can take a plane to hop from one island to the next but the boat trips are spectacular in their own right. The food on the archipelago is characterised by interesting Creole dishes, and relaxing at one of the islands’ many cocktail bars just a few steps away from lapping waves is pure bliss.

Mozambique lodges on some of the world’s best beaches

Great weather, palm trees, idyllic islands, coral reefs… It’s a fact that Mozambique has some of the finest beaches on the planet – great for swimming, surfing and diving. And the marine life is one of the biggest attractions: superb fishing opportunities,and one of the best places to see dolphins and whale sharks up close.


So popular have Mozambique safaris become that there are numerous accommodation establishments along the coastline, which makes it all the more important to heed the tips and advice on where to go from tour operators specialising in this area and who speak from personal experience.
African Encounters’ special packages are recommended by top travel agents country-wide and even just the names of the places they recommend are come-ons: Indigo Bay, Pemba Beach, Flamingo Bay, Massinga, Pescador, Casa Do Capitao…


Barra Lodge, for example, is 485km north of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. You can get there by car (although the road is pretty rough in places) or by plane, in which case the lodge staff will meet you at the historic Inhambane for the final leg of the journey. Imagine wide secluded beaches and groves of coconut trees to provide shade after a long stroll. Barra stands out as child-friendly and is suitable for conferences (cinema-style seating for up to 60 guests). Activities include diving, hobie-cat and laser dingy sailing, paddle skiing, surfing and fishing for sailfish or pelagic. Perhaps you’d like to go horse-riding, or quad-biking through coconut plantations, and also popular are the trips across the bay either on Barra’s large catamaran or on a traditional dhow boat.


Another recommendation by African Encounters is Casa Rex in the Vilankulos area, a favourite with couples wanting a romantic getaway. It overlooks the Bazaruto archipelago, perhaps best seen from the lodge’s terrace with a sundowner in hand, and the variety of things to do there is considerable.


Mozambique ranks among the Top 10 diving destinations in the world, it’s no surprise that there are scuba diving courses available at Casa Rex. Game fishing as well as whale- and dolphin-watching boat trips can be arranged with a marine biologist on board to add an educational aspect. Sunset cruises and dhow trips to the archipelago are popular, as is the canoeing and water-skiing. And guests can also adventure out on self-drive safaris – 4×4 vehicles for hire.

A holiday in Zanzibar an exotic experience second to none

For many, Zanzibar (UngujaIsland) is about magnificent beaches, boating of various sorts and getting under the waves to explore the coral reefs. For others, the place appeals for its spicy mix of Afro-Arabic history and culture subjected to European influence in recent centuries. And there are somevisitors who seldom stray from their hotel, relaxing big time, content to enjoy the hospitality and cuisine of the locals.


On this island some 30km off the East African coastline of Tanzania, the accommodation ranges from basic traditional to over-the-top modern, from relatively affordable establishments where they don’t take credit cards to decadent indulgences where each house has a butler standing by. Zanzibar is a place where the options are many and where the recommendations of specialist tour operator African Encounters are invaluable in helping you to choose what’ll suit you best on the basis of their personal experiences.


The 5 Star resort Diamond Dreams of Zanzibar is a palace of sorts, right on the beach, equipped with numerous sports facilities plus an African Rain Spa, and a good location from which to go on a tour of the island’s clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper plantings.


Also situated on a beach, the Azanzi Beach Hotel features multi-tiered decks ideal for taking in the view of the ocean, white beaches and palm trees – luxury accommodation in boutique villas, with the activities offered includingsundowner cruises on a dhow.


One of the most impressive buildings on the island is that of the Gemma Del Est resort with its beautiful beach, huge swimming pool and sunken cocktail bar, plus an entertainment area built on a jetty that juts out some 100 metres over the sea.


The Royal Zanzibar Beach Resort is one of the most opulent on the island. Four restaurants and two bars. And to stay in: superior rooms, large suites and four lavishly appointed villas, eachwith a private pool, Jacuzzi, deck and butler service.


The approach to the decadent Sea Cliff Resort & Spa includes a 4km road through a coconut plantation, withthe resort featuring a jetty bar, dhow sailing trips and sporting activities galore.


And Swahili Beach lodge is of authentic Zanzibar quality – right down to the design and furnishings. It’s in Kizimkazi, famous as a place where people go to swim with dolphins.

Namibia offers more than you can manage in one holiday

To holiday in Namibia’s parks and reserves is to experience nature in the raw, so to speak. The countrycan be a harsh, unforgiving land, yet at the same time spectacular, very special.On safari here you can’t help but be struck by the ancient nature of the place and the resilience of the creatures that survive in it.


At the heart of the famous Etosha National Park is a giant salt pan, home to the Big Five and hundreds of other species on both four legs and two, whereas the Namib is the oldest desert in the world and the only one in which elephants, lions, giraffes and rhinos live. There is said to be more than 1000 shipwrecks along the desert’sSkeleton Coast, and it’s also in the Namib that you’ll find Sossusvlei, a clay pan surrounded by huge red and orange sand dunes – some reaching a height of 300 metres.


Towards the south of the country is the 85-kilometre long, 550-metre deep Fish River Canyon. The Spitskoppe mountain is a magnet for both photographers and mountaineers. And then there’s the ghost town of Kolmanskop, gradually succumbing to the invading dessert sand, and L├╝deritz, a 19th century Bavarian village with desolate beaches that support seals and penguins as well as flamingos and ostriches.


Destination specialists African Encounters are tour operators whose experience is invaluable in guiding visitors in their accommodation choices. For example, the Sossusvlei Lodge gets a thumbs up in part because of its adventure centre which offers eco-quad biking and a bird’s eye view of the area from a light aeroplane or hot-air balloon.


Scenic flights are also offered at the Wolwedans Dune Lodge, Dune Camp(on the edge of a huge sand dune) and Private Camp in the NamibRand Nature Reserve. In addition, the management are keen to provide guests with the opportunity to sleep out in the open under the stars should they wish to get really close to nature.


When it comes to Etosha, the Etosha Safari Lodge and self-catering Etosha Safari Camp get the nod together with the Taleni Etosha Village. In the Gondwana Canyon Park near to the Fish River Canyon, the Canon Lodge, Canon Mountain Camp (self-catering) and Canon Roadhouse are recommended, whereas the Namib Desert Lodge is recommended in the Gondwana Namib Park.