Category Archives: African Safari Tours

Animal Spotlight: The Black Mamba

Arguably the world’s deadliest snake, the black mamba has been the focal point of many exaggerated African legends, making its name feared around the world. Known for its cunning speed, aggressive behavior, and ability to inject potent venom into its prey, the black mamba is not something you’d want to provoke.

Found across the African savannahs and in rocky areas of southern and eastern Africa, the black mamba is a popular snake to witness on an African safari tour. Although they are dangerous, you are extremely safe within your vehicle with your highly knowledgeable and certified guide.

Here are the real facts behind the black mamba:

  • The black mamba is actually grey, but gets its name for the blackish-bluish color inside of its mouth that is displayed during aggression.
  • Reaching up to 14 ft. (4.3 m) in length, the black mamba is Africa’s longest venomous snake.

  • Black mambas are difficult to out-run as they’re one of the fastest snakes in the world—they can reach speeds up to 12 mph to be exact. And surprisingly, they do not use this incredible gift for speed to attack their prey. Instead, they use it to escape threats.
  • Left untreated, the black mamba’s venom has a fatality rate of 100%.
  • The black mamba is so strong that it can raise its 1/3 of its body off of the ground.
  • A black mamba will spend hours on a branch waiting for its prey, which are usually reptiles, amphibians, and rodents.
  • Using its long black tongue to smell, the black mamba will frequently display its tongue when it senses something approaching.
  • Females can lay up to 17 eggs in a nest beneath the ground or in a hollowed tree hole and they will hatch in approximately three months.     

For a closer look at the black mamba and research being performed on it, view this fascinating PBS video.

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6 Tips for Navigating Through the African Savannah without a Compass

Scenario: You’ve been lost for two days in the African savannah with nothing but the clothes on your back. You know survival skills but you’re not sure how to find civilization. The key is to stay optimistic and continue to implement your survival skills (view our post on survival skills in the African savannah here). It could take days, weeks, or even months to be found, so don’t get discouraged.

Although there’s no definite way to find your way back to civilization, there are strategies you can implement to increase your chances of finding people.   

6 tips to finding your way back to civilization without a compass or a map:

  1. Be confident: Have the confidence that you will find your way back. Don’t give up and don’t think negatively. When you think this way you become discouraged and less likely to be motivated to continue on. Keep going and don’t give up.
  2. Choose your direction and stick to that route: You don’t want to end up going in circles. When choosing the direction you want to go in, look for higher ground. This is where you’ll want to head.
  3. Climb to the highest ground: Implement your survival skills when traveling to the top and your chances of survival will be very strong.
  4. Observe from the top: Once you reach the top, make sure you have a panoramic view of the lower ground. Look for huts, smoke, villages, and streams.
  5. 5. Follow the streams: If you do not see any signs of civilization from the highest ground than look for streams—these are the best places to find civilization. Also, streams are interconnected and lead to larger streams, which will be more likely to be a large water source for villages.
  6. Use the sun and your watch: Point the hour hand of your watch directly at the sun. Look for the halfway point between the hour hand and twelve o’clock. This is north (if you’re in the northern hemisphere this would be south but since you are in southern Africa, you are in the southern hemisphere). Also, during midday in the southern hemisphere, the sun will be in the north.

You don’t want to have to use these navigation or survival skills, so always remember to stay with your vehicle and guide. Many African safari tours are comprised of a small group of tourists and a highly knowledgeable and certified safari guide, so the likelihood of getting lost is nearly impossible—unless you are intentionally trying to get lost!

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Cape Town: Guided Tour vs. On Your Own

It’s truly amazing how your mind can open up and your point-of-view can change with a little background information and some guidance. Whether you’re touring through the internationally-renowned Sistine Chapel or through a historical region rich with deep cultural heritage and mystery, a guided tour is a must if you want to leave with a valuable lasting impression.

tablemtnTable Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa is one such region where participating in a guided tour is a must. The history behind its existence coupled with the impression it has on you as you observe it first hand, is what makes the strongest impact. It’s amazing how Cape Town can truly speak to you once you begin to understand the cultural heritage and historical background, and how its past has shaped the region into what you see today.

At the end of your tour you’ll leave with a wealth of knowledge you otherwise would have never had if you decided to view the area on your own without a knowledgeable guide. Although many city tours throughout Africa don’t necessarily require a guide, a Cape Town City and Table Mountain tour is highly-encouraged for visitors in the area who want to experience the authenticity of the region.

One of the most highly-acclaimed tour providers in Cape Town is Cape Fusion Tours. Their knowledgeable and friendly guides ensure you discover all the wonderful elements that make Cape Town and Table Mountain historical and cultural icons. On their off-the-beaten-path tours, you won’t be lectured with boring or popularly known facts found in dusty history text books. You’ll get a rare insight into the region’s profound history and its intricate wilderness.

Why take advantage of a guided tour through Cape Town City and Table Mountain? Simple.

 The rich cultural heritage you’ll become acquainted with. Home to some of the world’s most inspirational cultures, a guided tour through Cape Town provides you with the exceptional opportunity to learn about the indigenous people by interacting and observing them in their daily lives. You’ll also discover the stories and legends of past generations from their living relatives. During your tour, you’ll learn about various art forms and their historical and cultural significance, as well as the lifestyle of certain cultures and how those lifestyles came to be.
   
cablecar The opportunity to enjoy a guided view of Table Mountain as you journey up the rocky mountainside in a rotating cable car. Each cable car has the ability to fully rotate, giving you the opportunity to see 360 degrees around you. On your cable car trip you’ll see stunning gardens, death-defying cliffs, and playful dassies—furry brown creatures that live on the mountain whose closest relatives are elephants.

You’ll also learn about the history of the cable car and the grounds beneath you as you venture up the mountainside. And awaiting you at the summit is one of the most stunning and indescribable views in the entire world.  
 
• The safety and convenience factors. Because there are 350 routes up the mountain, having a guided tour is highly recommended, as it can be extremely difficult and sometimes dangerous to navigate the mountain on your own. And not to mention the headache of choosing which path to take, out of the 360 different ones! When you experience Table Mountain on a guided tour, you can rest assure that your family is safe. The elimination of the stresses of getting lost or hurt allows you to relax and truly enjoy your trip.

 The deep insight into Malay Quarter’s fascinating evolution into what it is today. You’ll discover how religious influences, changes of European power, and slavery all worked to shape this region into the place it is today.

• The exciting history of The Castle of Good Hope. This military fort relic, which was built between 1666 and 1669 by the Dutch East India Company, was the main protection for Cape Town and was constantly threatened by outside forces. Capturing the combination of the structure’s fascinating history with the sheer size and intricate architecture of the castle can only be experienced while on a guided tour.

• The beauty and captivating scent of the flower market. Over the past 100 years, flower selling has become a cultural tradition on Cape Town’s Adderley Street. On this walking tour you’ll discover the cultural heritage of Adderley Street and meet vendors known for their friendliness and humor, and you’ll have the opportunity to purchase their vibrantly colored flowers.

• The local crafts and works of art at the Green Market Square. Originally Cape Town’s first fruit and vegetable market, Green Market Square is a sensational place to go for cultural enlightenment. Today, it is a market offering African goods and art, and is surrounded by charming cafés that invite visitors to enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and socialize. On your guided tour, you’ll uncover the large impact Green Market Square has on the local community, as well as the local economy.

Who Knew Merlot Cared So Much About Labels?

avondale

Photo from Avondale website

The wine country of South Africa is full of old-world Dutch estates, family-owned vineyards, and charming countryside, but there is one vineyard, in particular, that is appraised for not only its eco-friendly practices, but also for its delectable wines.

Each year, Avondale picks their best wine from the barrel and awards it the Les Perleus label. This label of excellence was given to their Merlot 2006 this year because of its “deep velvety texture,” hints of fruit flavors, and long, subtle tannin finish.

merlot

Photo from Avondale website

Below you will find more information about the Les Perleus Merlot 2006:

• Some of the grapes were fermented in open tanks and the other part in closed tanks.

• Part of the fermentation process occurred in French oak barrels to draw out deep flavors of wood.

• The wine is ready to drink now. However, if you would like to wait until the wine has aged the recommended time is 15 years.

Avondale, an exceptional vineyard that began in Paarl, South Africa, features some of the most exquisite wines in the world and since its opening has expanded satellite vineyards to fifteen countries across the globe. But Avondale is famous for more than its splendid wines—they are Bio-LOGIC certified for their entire farm. In a nutshell, Bio-LOGIC certification requires that a farm does not use pesticides (even if they’re organic) or herbicides in their grape growing process. Avondale has taken great pride in this certification and strives to do their part in sustaining the environment.

Learn more about this exceptional vineyard here:

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The Elephant Sanctuary: The Ultimate Place to Connect With Nature

elephantImagine standing in the bush as you watch a 12,000 lb. mammal approach you without the restraint of a fence or cage. It would be exhilarating to say the least.

At the Elephant Sanctuary in Garden Route, South Africa, this situation is a reality. At the Elephant Sanctuary, you’ll not only be able to witness these creatures up-close, you will also have the opportunity to pet, feed, and walk with them trunk-in-hand. There is also the option to ride these magnificent creatures, which is a favorite among children and adults alike.

The staff members at the Elephant Sanctuary are completely dedicated to the safety, happiness, and well-being of the elephants and are equally committed to the enjoyment and learning experience guests have with the elephants. Because of their passion for guest and elephant happiness alike, staff at the Elephant Sanctuary takes great pride in their ability to foster relationships between elephants and humans.

elephant logoThe Elephant Sanctuary has three different locations including Plettenberg Bay, Hartbeespoort Dam, and Hazyview. All three locations provide excellent care for young African elephants that need a temporary home. Once the elephants become more independent, The Elephant Sanctuary will release the elephant into the wild.

During your visit to the Elephant Sanctuary, you have your pick of several different activities . . .

One-hour-trunk-in-hand elephant education program: This program is designed for all ages and is an excellent way to learn about elephant behavior and personalities from expert guides. You will also have the opportunity to pet, feed, and walk trunk-in-hand with these delightful animals.

Elephant-back ride: This includes the one-hour-trunk-in-hand elephant education program with the addition of a 15 minute elephant-back ride. Because there is no saddle between you and the elephant, you are able to have direct contact with the elephant and feel its natural movements beneath you.

elephant and boysEarly morning elephant brush downs: During this program, you have the rare opportunity to interact with the elephants as they are groomed and brushed down as well as view their daily training and stimulation program. In addition to these wonderful activities, the early morning elephant brush down program also includes the one-hour-trunk-in-hand elephant education program.

Afternoon sundowner elephant experience: This program is the ultimate experience for visitors to the Elephant Sanctuary. The program includes all three of the above programs: the one-hour-trunk-in-hand elephant education program, the elephant-back ride, and the elephant brush down.

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Things To Do and See In Africa: A – Z Part II

View Part I here.

leopardNight drive: Observe some of South Africa’s most interesting wildlife—at dark. During night drives, you’ll see Africa’s nocturnal wildlife and some of the Big Five at their most active. At night, lions and leopards are frequently spotted on the move or hunting.

Ostrich farm: Visit Western Cape’s Little Karoo for a unique tour through one of its many ostrich farms. During these tours, you’ll observe breeding behaviors and witness how ostrich eggs and feathers are crafted into decorative assortments for the home and stylish accessories.

Port Elizabeth: Filled with an array of stunning beaches, nearby golf courses, boardwalk shopping, a casino, water sport activities, and an aquarium, Port Elizabeth creatively combines relaxation with adventure. And at night, the city comes to life with exciting ghost, graveyard, and cell tours.

Quad Biking: South Africa’s rugged, bumpy terrain has made this country synonymous with quad biker’s paradise. Whether you want to ride through the Drakensberg Mountains or the beaches, the bushveld or the Valley of The Elephants, Mpumalanga wetlands or Kruger National Park, you’re guaranteed to find adventure in the varying terrains of South Africa.

Rust en Vrede: This exceptional estate exclusively produces only red wines and is located in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Their wines include 1694 Classification, Syrah 2006 (which has already sold out), Estate 2005, Shiraz 2005, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, and Merlot 2008. Their bold, full-bodied reds are a treat to anyone’s itinerary and this estate should not be missed. In 2008, the Rust en Vrede estate’s 1694 Classification wine and the Syrah 2006 wine both received the double golden Veritas Award for excellence.

penguinSwim with the penguins: Not as traditional as swimming with the dolphins, swimming with the penguins offers a completely unique experience if you’re looking to get up-close-and-personal with these adorable little creatures. Boulders Beach on the Cape Peninsula is one of the only places in all of Africa where the African penguin lives and it is a highly-rewarding experience to interact with them in their natural environment.  

Tour Table Mountain: Enjoy a panoramic view of Table Mountain as you journey up the rocky mountainside in a rotating cable car. Each cable car has the ability to fully rotate, giving you the opportunity to see 360 degrees around you. On your cable car trip you’ll see stunning gardens, death-defying cliffs, and playful dassies—furry brown creatures that live on the mountain whose closest relatives are the elephants. Because there are 350 routes up the mountain, having a guided tour is highly recommended, as it can be extremely difficult and sometimes dangerous to navigate the mountain on your own.

uKhahlamba-Drakensberg: As the longest, tallest, and largest mountain range in all of South Africa, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg (meaning “Dragon Mountain”) is a must-see natural phenomena. This World Heritage site has one of the largest collections of Sans rock paintings in all of Africa. On the mountain you can also see a wide variety of plant, bird, mammal, and reptile species, and you can experience exciting activities such as hang gliding, hiking, and rock climbing. 

Victoria and Alford Waterfront in Cape Town:  This area is one of the most culturally enriching places to see in Cape Town. With a working harbor, unique seaside culture, five-star restaurants, historical monuments, and world-famous shopping hubs, Victoria and Alford Waterfront has it all.

Walking_SafarisWalking safari: If you’re looking for an African safari tour that combines an interactive experience with a rich cultural and learning environment, then you’ll want to take part in a walking safari through Kruger National Park, South Africa. On a walking safari, you’ll learn to listen for the distinct callings of South Africa’s wildlife, search for animal markings, and track paths of residential lions and elephants with the invaluable expertise of certified local guides. These highly knowledgeable guides introduce you to the hidden elements of indigenous wildlife that ranges from larger game to intricate wildlife hidden beneath rocks and inside crevasses.

Xhosa People: With a population of around 7 million individuals, the Xhosa people primarily live in the Eastern Cape and are the ancestors of the Nguni, a group that migrated from central and northern Africa to southern Africa. Keeping their traditional culture alive, the Xhosa people provide visitors to the region with a culturally enlightening experience. Watch as they craft exceptional beadwork, perform dance rituals, and speak in the Xhosa language (comprised of clicking sounds).

honeYmoon safari: South Africa is one of the most exceptional places to enjoy a romantic honeymoon safari. With a variety of intimate and luxurious accommodations that provide honeymooners with superior service and care, and a wide spectrum of activities for honeymooners, it’s no wonder South Africa has made a name for itself as the perfect honeymoon destination.

Zulu Traditions: Zulu culture has kept the same traditions passed down from their ancestors including ceremonies, rituals, and old traditions. With the belief that birth, marriage, and death are important times to interact with the ancestors, the Zulu people will sacrifice a variety of items to the ancestors during these moments in life such as home-brewed beer or a slaughtered animal.

View Part I of this post here.

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What To Do and See In South Africa: A – Z Part I

Antique Shopping: With history dating back to the 1600s, South Africa is filled with delightful antiques and artifacts from the home, and from times of apartheid, imprisonment, and war. Whether you’re looking to purchase an antique chair or an ancient relic, South Africa’s antique shops are full of spectacular cultural and historical heritage.

Sugardbd_C-Mvert1-Jy05-wwBirding Safari: Bird lovers find South Africa to be one of the greatest countries in all of Africa to observe an abundance of unique birdlife. Currently, South Africa has over 850 different species of bird, and many of those species are endemic to the area. The best time to enjoy South Africa’s birdlife is during the spring and summer time (September – March). From ostriches to bateleur eagles, and African penguins to Cape parrots, you’ll observe some of the most exotic birds in the entire world on a South African birding safari.

Cape Town: Home to some of Africa’s best restaurants, shopping, and tours, Cape Town, South Africa is a must-visit destination for travelers. Some of the many attractions throughout Cape Town include, Table Mountain, Port Elizabeth, museums, art exhibits, and Cavendish Square—to name a few.

Dive with the Sharks: In Gansbaai, an island off the coast of South Africa, there are a variety of shark dive safari providers and excursions to choose from—some including cages, photography opportunities, manta rays, hammerheads, tiger sharks, Great Whites, and more. If you’re not feeling as adventurous as those going into the water, a shark viewing safari from the comfort of a boat is also highly rewarding and adventurous.  

Elephant and Horseback Riding: Take a ride on the back an elephant and experience stunning views of Africa and wild game from 13 feet above ground, or enjoy a horseback safari through indescribably landscapes. A horseback riding safari and elephant safari are two of the greatest ways to get up-close to nature and run with herds. 

Franschhoek: Informally dubbed the “Food & Wine” capital of South Africa, Franschhoek’s historic French Huguenot Village is one of the most exceptional places in all of Africa to enjoy stunning countryside landscapes, experience exciting cultural affairs, dabble in wine tasting, explore charming bistros and boutiques, and observe classic Cape-Dutch architecture. 

the-garden-routeGarden Route: With a chain of sprawling mountains, valleys of wildflowers, lakes, forests, and majestic beaches, Garden Route is the perfect destination for honeymooners and families alike. Whether you enjoy fishing, sun-bathing, water sports, birding, hiking, scenic tours, or cultural tours, Garden Route has it all. 

Hot Air Balloon Ride: Take a relaxing trip past jagged mountains and above plump treetops on a hot air balloon safari. Get a new perspective on South Africa’s diverse terrain as you glide through the air on this tranquil safari and enjoy fantastic photography opportunities.

Inkaba Body Balance: Experience this revolutionary and completely rejuvenating Inkaba massage therapy at the Serenite spa at L’Ermitage Franschhoek Chateau & Villas. This hands-on therapy is used to connect the body’s energy and create balance within. During this treatment, the entire body is stimulated—from the toes to the face.

Jardine: The contemporary and hip ambiance of the Jardine restaurant in Cape Town is one of the many reasons why the restaurant has landed a spot on South Africa’s prestigious Eat Out award list. Jardine boasts a delightful selection of fine African and Contemporary cuisine, such as tender duck confit, Chalmar beef fillet, and tantalizing desserts.

HOA_Kruger1Kruger National Park: As the first wildlife reserve in southern Africa, Kruger National Park has made a name for itself as the premier place to observe the Big 5 on a South African family safari or honeymoon safari. Kruger and its adjacent private reserves are home to some of the most luxurious and exclusive lodges and camps in all of Africa, including Singita, Londolozi, and Mala Mala. 

Local Village Tours: Take a tour through one of South Africa’s many quaint and charming villages and discover interesting facts and stories about local cultures and history. During these tours, you’ll have the amazing opportunity to interact with the locals and learn about their lifestyle and cultural heritage.

Mpumalanga: Breaking free from traditional African safari tours, Mpumalanga, South Africa is a haven for people who love the outdoors. Whether you enjoy hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, historic site seeing, or water sports, Mpumalanga can accommodate your every desire.

 

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