Victoria Falls

Still on our quest to see more of our continent, my #SAfricansTravelToo friends and I ventured off to the much talked about, Victoria Falls. As with all our trips, we did not go at it alone, but we partnered with Fastjet Airlines and Avani group hotels to help make our trip memorable.

Victoria Falls

Getting There…

Having heard of FastJet and their aim to be pioneers in making travel through east and southern Africa reliable and accessible, we reached out to them to ask if we could try them out for our trip to Vic Falls and we were happy when they came on board. They did not have a direct flight to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg on our dates, and so we had to fly via Harare and then connect to Vic Falls. And it just so happened that our trip was around the time of #MugabeMustFall so it was interesting to be there at that time. It was quite surprising though that as much as there were marches and everything going on in Harare, the airport was super quiet, and it was business as usual.

Victoria Falls

So a bit about Fastject is that their model is based on Easyjet, which means that they allow you the option to choose pay-as-you-travel extras. If you won’t be carrying a suitcase, you don’t need to pay for it. If you’re happy to be assigned a seat at check in, you don’t need to pay a pre-assigned seating charge, and they offer flexibility that saves you money and time. They currently fly to the following destinations:

  • Mozambique
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

We had a good experience with FastJet, there isn’t much to expect really, all low cost airlines promise is to get to you to your destination safe, without any frills and that’s what we got.

Victoria Falls

Our Time At Avani Vic Falls

Oh Avani!! Where do I start! Should I start with the fact that the hotel is literally a 5 minutes walk from the Vic Falls? And that as a guest you have unlimited access, meaning you could sit and stare at the falls all day? Or should I start with these Zebras that are lazily strolling about, everywhere you turn?

Avani Victoria Falls

Or talk about the friendly staff at the hotel? I don’t know where to start, all I can tell you is that we were received so warmly at the hotel, and having spent time at the Avani in Lesotho, there seems to be a common thread of warmth and genuinity in the people they employ.

Avani Victoria Falls

The hotel driveway…

This is where the 5 minutes walk from the hotel will take you… to view the falls.

But ….

..we unfortunately visited during their Dry Season so there were no “waterfalls” to see on the Zambia side…

But we didn’t let that get us down… instead, we went to where there was definitely water: Zambezi River for white river rafting!!!!! *insert scream*

Victoria Falls

Guys, we went river rafting in the Zambezi river and it was the best thing about the trip. We did the half day option, it was the scariest experience but also the BEST! Just make sure you take a GoPro camera with you, and don’t be like my friend, Papi, who forgets the camera in a bag!!! I wanted to strangle him, when I saw all the wonderful photo opportunities we missed along the way. Thanks to Bushtracks Africa for the images we managed to get.

Victoria Falls

…and no, don’t worry about not being able to swim, you will still come out of this alive lol. I mean, I did.

This was at the end – I was SO happy I did this, and I was talking about how I can’t wait to do it again!

…that was until I realized I had to hike up the gorge!!! Heheheh I don’t know how I thought we’d get back up but to be honest, all I knew before this was that I wanted to river raft, then I saw we were walking down to the river and I was just anxious to get to the river, I did not for a moment pause to think about the fact that I’d have to walk up to get back! Oh my word!!!!!!!

We walked, and walked, and walked… took a break, walked, took a break, walked, took a break, took a break, took a step… and after what seemed like a lifetime for someone as unfit as me, we finally got back to the top and I wanted to cry!

But I had no time to waste crying because next up we had the Royal Livingstone Express waiting to host us for dinner….

plus I had a red dress I had to wear!

This was another beautiful experience but definitely one that you must do with a partner for a romantic dinner.

inside the train…

The menu… The only thing I couldn’t eat was the seared salmon eeeuww… 

I generally felt the trip was ideal as a romantic getaway. Take your partner to Victoria Falls! I felt this even more when we went next door to the Royal Livingstone hotel – another must see!!

Sunset view from the Royal Livingstone Hotel bar

It wasn’t a romantic getaway for us but nonetheless the boys and I had a great time in the train. I most especially enjoyed the train’s stop at the Victoria Falls Bridge where I once again, looked down at the river and marveled at not having died after that hike! It was intense.

Joyce Victoria Falls

A special mention goes to our wonderful hostess Joyce Sikabbubba for her hospitality, she was amazing. Thank you Joyce!! 

Another BIG thank you to Papi and George for their company during the trip, we had the longest layover in Harare but they made it memorable. On that note, if you go to Vic Falls, fly direct! Like Zanzibar, layovers to Vic Falls are a waste of precious time.

Thanks once more to our partners FastJet and Avani for making my first time in Zambia/ Zimbabwe/Vic Falls unforgettable! I will definitely come back and yes, I will go river rafting again 🙂

Here are the details of the companies that helped with arranging our activities during this trip. 

Bushtracks Africa

  • Return Airport Transfers from Victoria Falls Airport to the Hotel
  • USD 30 per person one way
  • Royal Livingstone Express Train Dinner
  • USD 180 per person ( Inclusive Train ride Experience, wines, beers and soft drinks and a 5 course dinner)

Safari Par Excellence

  • Half Day White Water Rafting on Saturday
  • USD150 per person (Light Lunch inclusive)
  • Full Day Trip
  • USD 160 per person
  • productions@safpar.com

Livingstone Adventures

  • Sunset Cruise on the African Queen on Sunday afternoon.
  • USD 75 per person ( inclusive snacks, wines, beers and soft drinks)
  • www.livingstonesadventure.com

By LeloB

Jaguar

Anyone who has followed my blogging career will know that I’ve test driven a lot of cars but nothing quite prepared me for the experience I had with Jaguar. And this is not a sponsored blog bafethu, I’m sharing!

A few weeks ago, Jaguar SA asked me to go on the ultimate Jaguar XF test drive and to put to the test, their claim that the car can go 1,400 KM with just one tank of fuel! Giving me a luxury car with a full tank to drive to a memorable destination during Tourism Month? There was no way I was gonna turn that offer down so off I went to Hartford House in the Natal Midlands.

Jaguar

At first my son and I were worried about the 450km drive as the furthest I’ve ever driven is between Welkom to JHB (not a fan of driving), plus I have a policy of not driving anywhere I can fly. The XF R-Sport however, was such a pleasant drive. Stylish, red seats, a sexy interior and oh so powerful on the road, I felt like royalty driving it. What annoyed me where the zig zag bends on the N3, like bathong couldn’t we just get a straight road? Yhu…

And I must say, I kinda enjoyed the attention I received from fellow drivers on the road, the car guards and petrol attendants – I didn’t know people reacted this positively to Jaguar. To be honest, I had never even considered it till this test drive because I’ve always thought it was an expensive car meant for rich people so was surprised to discover that its entry level, the XE is around R560k.

I wonder though if it would have my favorite features like how the XF automatically shuts its door if you don’t close it properly, the way you lock it with just your fingers, and of course the in-car wifi… it’s a beauty man, and these are probably basic features, but they sure got me!

Anyway, on to our destination!

Hartford House is a country side 5 star hotel in a beautiful Mooi River farm, surrounded by horses. If you’re looking for peace, quiet and tranquility, you will enjoy it. They have the most amazing food too.. The restaurant doesn’t have a set menu, every day the Chef Constantijn Hahndiek and his team come up with ideas for their 5 course dinner, so each evening is a major treat and surprise.

Jaguar

How gorgeous!

Jaguar

There’s also this tijnhuis where guests can enjoy high tea surrounded by that beauty.

Jaguar

We stayed at one of their lakeside suites, which is built like a traditional rondavel and has its own pool. I had initial reservations with its open design, it takes some getting used to.

Jaguar

We didn’t spend all our time indoors, we also went on a horse ride around the farm. Horse riding has definitely become one of my favorite things to do. The feeling of being on a horse nje, and the relationship you sort of form with it during that time – I love, love it and look forward to riding some more.

Jaguar

We also drove around to take in the scenic Natal Midlands routes and went to visit the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Horwick.

Jaguar

There is no entrance fee to to the Capture Site but they do accept donations from those willing. You can read more about the capture site HERE. In short, it is where Madiba was caught by the apartheid police after being on the run for months. I blogged about this location before after my first visit 2 years ago. This time I went so my son could also see it, am trying to get him interested in travel, it’s quite the mission.

Jaguar

Peaceful surroundings…

Jaguar

…and after a long day, the bathtub was the perfect place to take it all in and just breathe. Talk about Queening!

Jaguar

The XF is a gorgeous car and I am besotted. Thank you to Jaguar for a great introduction to their luxurious art of performance, they certainly have a new fan in me.

You can see more of my journey via #xfjourneys on my Instagram & Twitter @MsLeloB

 

** All pictures captured with the Huawei P10 Plus

#IdoTourism

#CHICATravel

I spent four days in Mpumalanga marveling at God’s creation and the splendor that is our country.

SA Tourism took us up to Mpumalanga to launch Tourism month for September and when the invite came through, I was sold at wildlife and scenic beauty so my trip included going to Nkangala district and Ehlanzeni district.

#IDoTourism

Our first destination was Dullstroom; EMAKHAZENI (The name speaks for itself), I didn’t know there’s a place that’s THAT cold in Mpumalanga. The launch event emphasized how important it is for South Africans to see what the world sees when they visit our shores. Most of us go on holidays and are busy planning holidays abroad; why don’t we start with a shotleft? While we at it, we will contribute to our own economy.

#IDoTourism

The days were loaded with wildlife and scenic beauty experiences. We saw the Geotrail in Barberton which is rich with history. We spent a night in Kruger National Park; were we arose to a early morning Game drive with thee sweetest guide.

#IDoTourism

Not forgetting culture; from the performances we saw during the launch to visiting the Shangana cultural village, I was reminded of the diversity of our country.

#IDoTourism

If you want the perfect wildlife and scenic experience, Mpumalanga is your destination. This province is worth exploring; with so much to give.

The sight seeing left me speechless. I experienced nature from a new perspective. The Panorama route in Graskop is so beautiful. I was literally breath taken: Lisbon falls, Three Rondavels, Bourke’s luck potholes and God’s window. These sights are a work of art. My advice to anyone that goes there; is to have enough time to take it all in!

The adventures pushed me to total surrender. I did zipline, river rafting and my highlight was the big swing. I came back fearless from the big swing; the certificate says “Congratulations Gugu Manqele you’ve conquered your fear” it is truly so! If I can trust a rope with my life surely I can do anything. Anytime fear tries to visit me, I’ll look at that video and remember I am fearless.

 

A post shared by @gugumanqele on

 

Just like that I discovered a bit of heaven in my own doorstep.

SA is a gem and all South African’s should experience it by traveling.

Join the movement, explore SA and follow the conversation on social media through #WeDoTourism and #IDoTourism

 

By Gugu 

Having to share about my travel experiences feels like those days in school when we had to write an essay about our holiday. Growing up in the village of Ga-Masemola, with no access to many resources such as electricity, it meant that we did not have access to television. Therefore, the only access to information was through radio and reading. I could only produce an imaginary holiday. I am grateful that we were allowed to dream fearlessly.

Now that I have had a taste of travel and still have the hunger to travel some more, it is comforting to know that the village helped me to go to places I could only dream of in my childhood.

My travels started when I arrived in Pretoria in 1998. Having not been exposed much to the city life, I made it my mission to know the city in its entirety. I started to travel to its townships and the upmarket areas by taxi. And through that, myself and my girlfriends started organising domestic travel. Our first trip was going to Mpumalanga, we went to the Crystal springs, visited the Kruger National Park and God’s window. It was such a great experience. The downside of the trip was agreeing on what groceries to buy and activities of the day. As the accommodation was self-catering, but overall great.

Then it was different cities across the country and I am still doing that to this day.

Travel Adventures

Then came the time I went to the Kingdom of Lesotho. That was the first time my passport was tattooed and the excitement was out of this world. There is just something about Lesotho that I become speechless to explain it. I told my father that the environment will make you believe that God is alive. I went to Afriski, WOW, what an amazing experience. From Afriski I went to Katse Dam and had their trout… If you haven’t been there, just make sure you eat that in your next trip.

adventures
And I knew then that, that was not my last trip. I made friendship that I went back many more times. My last trip was going to Mohale Dam and surrounding areas as well as their annual music festival in Roma. What a beautiful experience. That would be the time I acquired the taste of beer, drinking Maluti 😊. I have more stories to tell… And by the way I am going to Maliba lodge for my birthday on the 23rd of July 💃🏿. Downside was, you need an offroad car when in Lesotho to access certain areas.

Then came a trip to Maputo, it was very spontaneous. I had just started a new job and it was my first month in the position that fell into my birthday weekend. I Asked my boss if I could take the Friday off. I lied that I had already planned a weekend away 🙈. In that week, myself, my younger sister and two friends decided we are going to Mozambique. The one friend is from Maputo and the other one from Lesotho. We did not even have accommodation bookings made. Call it adrenaline… It was the 22nd of July. We drove into Maputo and when we got there it was 12 mid-night, it was my birthday and went straight to a party at the airport. One thing I can tell you is, Mozambicans can party. We left the party straight to breakfast 😂😂. Yes I said it. And we started looking for accommodation after breakfast. We got a nice place in Matola which was accessible to all the amenities we needed. I loved the food and the people of Mozambique. The challenge is the language, they hardly speak English and the Tsonga they speak is totally different from the Giyani Tsonga. The other downside is the speed limits… That is a topic for another day. Little did I know that I will go again to Xai-Xai last year for my birthday… Beautiful island… And yes their beer 2M is great

And there was Swaziland… I had a blast. Connected to the country like I was one with it. You can’t go to Swaziland and not go to Ngwenya glass. Of course I am obsessed with beautiful glasses and I bought myself beer glasses.

adventures

I wanted to buy candles but my sinuses failed me. But beautiful craft. The pineapple 🍍 of that region are delicious, don’t say I did not tell. And their beer Sibebe was tasty, and myself and beautiful cousin we had our Ngud 😊. The people are warm-hearted. I am still due to go back for Bushfire experience as well as the biker’s rally. Will have more to tell.

When in Swaziland, I told my cousin and friends that I will be going to Europe the following year chasing summer. They thought I was joking. That January I made enquiries and found Expat travel. Communication started and got a quotation. I made my first deposit as they allow you to pay in parts if you don’t have the whole amount. It cost me R14,000 in 2014 and flights was R8,000 return. That was SAA to Heathrow. The tour packages included all breakfast and some days dinner on arrival to a new country. We had the following places to visit: Amsterdam, Germany, Italy (Pisa, Florence and Venice), Switzerland, Paris and London. I will write a separate post to share my experience of each country/city.

In all of the travelling experience, I have come to appreciate my country so much. And I now know that I am not the same person that I was before I travelled. Travelling is life changing if I could, I would do it every quarter of the year.

By Pinky

IG: @Pinky_Bapela/ Twitter: @pinkzaza

Mexico

To celebrate surviving my first semester in graduate school in Florida I decide to go on a solo trip. Well, it was not supposed to be a solo trip but became one due to clashing schedules etc. I had never been on a solo trip and had read mixed reviews about Mexico but decided to be brave and give it a try anyway. I have been on holidays abroad with friends but have never researched a trip more than I did for this one!! I wanted to know everything before I got there!. I even googled how solo travelers take their own pictures. I bought a selfie stick *cringe*.

Mexico

The choice on Mexico was largely based on the prices for flights, accommodation and food as well as the BEACH!! I booked return flights for $221 using a search engine called skyscanner where you can literally search for cheapest flights and can put “anywhere” on the destination tab and find the cheapest month to go anywhere in the world. This was a trip of firsts, I also decided to stay at an airbnb to save on costs, support locals and have company because I didn’t want to be alone in a hotel room. The airbnb hosts were amazing and gave me lots of advice and recommendation for places to see, where to go eat and how to get around on a budget. For 5 nights @ $15 each night I was going to pay $77 but found a $40 discount coupon on the internet so only paid $47!

Tip: Search for airbnb discount coupons, people post these for anyone to use because when you use their link for the discount they get airbnb credit (win-win).

I flew jetblue and only packed carry-on (you pay more for checking in luggage but for a week long holiday I wanted to master my packing skills and packed one of those bags that fold into themselves when you are done with them. It packed a lot though, I even had 2 extra outfits I didnt get to wear after the trip :). I flew out on Tuesday (cheapest day to fly) and landed in Cancun International Airport around 16:30, took a shuttle bus to downtown Cancun for $72 Mexican pesos which is about $4 USD. The bus has aircondition (which you need, Cancun is sooo hot!) and usb ports (we need this in SA public transport!). My airbnb hosts had told me how to get to their house from downtown I walked a bit to see the place but it was too hot so I took a cab. The apartment was nice and clean, homely and the hosts were lovely. The lady prepared amazing breakfasts every morning.

Mexico

There’s lot archaelogical sites where you find the history of the Mayan people. I didnt know enough about this to appreciate the history but the ruins were beautiful. You pay about $50 Mxn pesos (about $3 usd) to get into these sites. The beaches in Cancun are found in a strip called the Hotel Zone where all the fancy all-inclusive hotels are located. Some parts of the beach in front of these hotels can only be accessed by the hotel guests but there are access points to the beach for the public. It is easy to get around Downtown Cancun because there are R-2/R1 (refers to route) buses every few minutes either going towards the hotel zone or away from the hotel zone and they only costs $10.5 Mxn pesos. The airbnb was about 15-20 minutes away from the hotel zone. The first morning there I tried to be a better person and go for a morning run to see the area but it was already about 30 degrees celcius at 7:30 AM so it fast became a leisurely walk around the neighborhood.

Mexico

The second full day I was there I went to an island called Isla Mujeres (Island of the women). It’s a 20 min ferry ride from downtown Cancun on a nice ferry called the Ultramar and the return trip was $300 Mxn pesos. Prior to my departure from Florida I had made friends with another solo lady traveler on a ladies travel group on FB. We found out we were both going to be in Cancun at the same time so decided to go to Isla Mujeres together. That was so cool, meeting new people; even though we were both travelling alone we were able to meet up and spend the day together. We also split the cost of hiring a golf cart (700 Mxn pesos) for the whole day to explore the island from one end to another.

Mexico

The island has cute little churches perfect for a destination wedding 🙂 🙂 and for lunch we went to a beach lounge and club where you can use the beach sunbeds and umbrellas for free just because you are dining or drinking there. Otherwise you have to rent these at $300 Mxn pesos. The beach is gentle and shallow, you can wade in a long way in and the water will still be at you waist to chest area. Good for those of us who are not the best swimmers.

Mexico

On the Friday I got on an ADO bus (same company that operates the airport shuttle) to go 2.5 hours from Cancun to a city/town called Tulum. Tip: the cost of any bus trip is half price if you book a day or 2 before departure date. In Tulum I visited another archaeological site which has the most amazing beach!

Tulum Mexico

It was so HOT and the beach has no shade whatsoever. Entrance to the Tulum archaeological site is $70 Mxn pesos. The beach was amazing though!

Mexico

On my return to Cancun that evening I went to a tacos place downtown and discovered a night market! I spent a few hours there, they had live music, kiddie’s arena and lots of food stalls. I ate sooooo much on this trip and it was both cheap and good!

Mexico

I made friends with two local girls while listening to a guy who was doing cover songs for a well-known Mexican band. I found it so easy to strike up conversation with randoms, something I never do generally.

On my last full day in Cancun I wanted to take things easy and went to a local beach in the Hotel Zone called Playa Tortugas (Tortoise Beach), found a beach-side restaurant with sunbeds and spent the whole day people watching, eating and swimming….the life I was promised 🙂

Mexico

I finally was able to take it all in; traveling alone and being okay! I had not only survived but greatly enjoyed my first solo trip. What an amazing feeling! After the day at the beach I went back to the night market for a final visit, they had performances by school kids. I flew back to the US on Sunday afternoon.

Mexico

I never felt I was in any danger while in Cancun, I was as cautious as I am at home and anywhere else really. I believe every place has dangerous areas and being out at night anywhere can be dangerous. You just have to be extra careful. When I was out at night I was at the night market will many other people around and I called an uber to get me home so I wouldn’t have to try get a cab and give directions because my Spanish was bad and not all taxi drivers knew English.

Tip: do learn some Spanish, at least how to greet and say thanks. Locals in most places love it when you at least try.

Mexico

The food was amazing and this was a real budget trip but I never felt like I was cutting corners. Before leaving the US I had converted $210 USD worth of money into Mxn pesos and that is all I used on this trip, I even had change when I came back!

By Zoe

When in Dubai

A few weeks ago, I was afforded the incredible opportunity to partake in a work training programme that necessitated me to spend five days in Dubai. Despite it being a work trip, my innate adventurous spirit was adamant to make the very best of being in the land of the Arabs, which I believe I did. Because not everyone is enticed by the idea of planning a trip from scratch, if you’re heading to the UAE anytime soon, I have detailed my experience in the hope that it will serve as a starting point to someone’s itinerary.

When in Dubai

First off, the things you should know:

  • The flight to the UAE is 08:10 long from SA.
  • Dubai is 2 hours ahead of SA time
  • The currency used is United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED): 1 AED is R 3.49.
  • Cabs & the metro are the preferred mode of transport. I used an Uber on my first night and soon learnt that Cabs are cheaper. The cost difference in one trip was 43.5 UAE via an Uber vs. 30.5 via Cab.
  • Needless to mention, Dubai is hot and humid. The city boasts temperatures of 32 degrees in the evenings and 41 degrees in the afternoon. I was literally sweating just waiting for my Uber at midnight but my body seemed to adapt the next day. I suffered at the hands of the temperature extremes: it is extremely cold inside each building due to the air cons and completely scorching outside.
  • 90% of the population is made up of expats. It is very rare to see Emirate people expect at the airport which seemed to have many locals.
  • There are three parts of Dubai: Old Dubai, New Dubai and the desert. All the fantastic new architecture and the working hub is in new Dubai. I stayed at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, a very popular main road in new Dubai.
  • It is very safe.

Met with a shocking humidity, a Duty Free with average discounts and a cold reception from immigration, I made it safe and sound into Dubai at 00:00 on Monday.

Day 1: Shopping and Desert.

Needless to say Dubai is one of, if not the, shopping capitals of the world. With its earned reputation of the lavish lifestyle, it boasts multiple shopping experiences, most of which come with a hefty price tag. Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates are the two biggest malls with markets such as Gold Souk, Karama and the Dragon City (a Chinese market) offering a more affordable shopping experience. I spent my morning at Gold Souk (the gold market) which is a huge arcade housing many shops that offer bags, clothes, weaves, souvenirs and like the name suggests, gold for dayyyys.

When IN Dubai

 

Did I mention that this is Real gold. It is one of the biggest gold trading markets in ASIA and I was flabbergasted at the magnificent displays of gold being sold in every other shop. I found myself questioning why on earth anyone in their right mind would buy a gold dress or a neckpiece that extravagant. Where would one wear such an ostentatious piece of jewellery? I also saw the biggest gold ring in the world. It holds the Guinness World Record and weighs 58.68KGs. Like, why?

When in dubai

When in dubai

I then realized that it wasn’t for people in my tax bracket and for that reason, I could never understand.

I had the luxury of a ‘shop guide’ in the form of a man from India who stuck to me like a magnet. Eager to help me navigate the market, he led me to all the shops that sold all the things I had requested to see. Naturally, at every shop we were met with persistent salesmen with which I had to fight and over-explain the reasons I was not  able to buy what was being offered; bargaining was a real tool that is necessary here. My plan to get a fewer things than I ended up buying attests to the true power of the Asian Salesman. I managed to get a couple souvenirs, handbags and random hippie pants.

When in dubai

 

Earlier that morning, I made reservations for a Desert Safari tour http://www.desertsafaridubai.com/ which includes a myriad of experiences.  The booking process was quite simple and the lead times so amazing that after some back and forth via email, my booking was confirmed. Five hours later, a tour guide came to pick me up at the hotel. It’s 135 UAE if you choose to share your experience with randoms and 1, 000 AED for a private experiences. Because I chose the first option, we had to rush off to another hotel from which an Indian family emerged and, off we went. The desert is about 45 minutes out of the city. It was incredible to see. Once we got there, we went into a supermarket where we were urged to stock up on some water and use the toilet. I took the liberty of stocking up on snacks (which I still haven’t eaten).

When in Dubai

We then went off to what is called the Red Desert. As the name suggests the sand is a brownish red/ burgundy with no live animals. The first activity comprised of 20-30 minutes of Dune bashing which is basically a 4 x 4, whose wheels have been relieved of some air, being spun around and driven along the dunes on the desert. It was fun but scary at first. The driver provided us with some plastics in which to throw up. Heh? People actually throw up? Luckily there were no reported pukers in our ride.

This was followed by a photo opp and a drive to the white desert which housed some camels, quad biking facilities and a camp. The demarcated camp space housed dinner tables for the buffet, a shisha (hubbly bubbly) space, a bar, a stage for belly dancing, a henna hut and a ‘sand art exhibit’.  I didn’t get a chance to quad bike as I was so exhausted but I did brave a camel ride. Yes, the 135 UAE was for this entire all-inclusive experience which lasted for 6 hours.

When in dubai

Day 2: Work, Burj Khalifa and Nike Run Club Dubai

My training started on Tuesday which meant I spent about nine hours in the confines of an office- so couldn’t explore much. Since our offices are in Burj downtown, an office district, we had the amazing Burj Khalifa as a background. A rare and beautiful site, Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. To my knowledge, it is 148 floors high which one can buy a ticket to explore (I didn’t). Because everyone comes to Dubai to work, the work ethic is very high. It is evident in the service that you receive across the board. Everything works and, well.

When in dubai

Later I joined the Nike Run Club team in Zabeel Park for a speed run. Since I am a part of the NRC in Joburg, this was a must-do for me. There are two NRCs in the UAE, one in Dubai and the other in Abu Dhabi. I was met with a lot of hospitality and again, met people from all over the world who shared the same interests. Really fun team.

When in dubai

Day 3: Work and Aprons and Hammers

After work, the ladies on the programme and I headed to Aprons and Hammers.

It is a seafood restaurant on a boat on the Dubai Marina. I have never seen prawns so large in my life. As per the name, you are handed over an apron to wear and a hammer to use with the crabs. Such an incredible experience. Since Dubai doesn’t have alcohol, I had a taste of the local beer from Singapore

The Dubai skyline offers a beautiful view on this side of town. The architecture is incredible.

Day 4: Work and the Dhow Cruise

The Dhow cruise was another easy-to-book experience. Although a little bit more expensive, this luxury dining experience on board Bateux Dubai was another incredible way to explore Dubai. The experiences offers 5 course meal to be enjoyed as the boat sails past many am attraction on the creek.

Day 5: Karama Souk, Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach

Day 5 was a short one considering my flight was in the afternoon. I was lucky enough to have my cab driver change into my tour guide for the morning; he was more than happy to lead me to my last minute must-sees. Karama is a market on the other side of town which holds many shops with handbags, clothes, sunglasses and souvenirs. Naturally, many great quality counterfeits are made available here.

When in Dubai

Burj Al Arab

Burj Al Arab is famous for being the world’s only seven star hotel and also resembling a boat. There is a water park at the front of the hotel which I didn’t get the chance to experience. The view of Al Arab was on Jumeirah beach which, like the Creek and Marina, offers a still-water experience (vs. the waves in SA).

When in dubaiJumeirah Beach

Dubai was truly an amazing experience. I always love to immerse myself in different cultures so it is a bit disappointing in its lack of true culture. Not a lot of natural elements as almost everything is man-made. The government is working hard to compensate for everything that the city doesn’t offer naturally through big development plans. And, after the five days, I realized that perhaps the culture of Dubai lies in how it offers a taste of the entire world and maybe , that is ok.

 

By Lerato

Lesotho

The #SAfricansTravelToo crew recently got an opportunity to travel to the Basotho Kingdom, Lesotho and all I could think of leading up to the trip were beautiful mountains, horse riding and the Maletsunyane Falls, which I’ve always wanted to see.

Lesotho

 

Getting to Lesotho was fairly easy, if you don’t mind a whole lot of potholes on the way there, if you’re driving from Johannesburg. I wonder if there will ever be a time when Free State municipalities give a damn about fixing roads. I experience it when I go home to Welkom, and we kept having to dodge potholes all the way to Lesotho, driving through Free State towns.

Lesotho

… but thanks to our transport partner, ISUZU, we were able to navigate and comfortably drive through all those hurdles to reach Maseru safely.

I must say, the Maseru border was a breeze compared to the chaos we experienced getting into Maputo. Within a few minutes we were in the Kingdom and almost immediately regretted having picked such a cold weekend to visit. Temperatures were as low as 7 degrees when we arrived.

Lesotho
Pic supplied

A short drive from the border gate and we were right outside our hotel, the 4 Star AVANI Lesotho Hotel and Casino, which is part of the Minor Hotel Group. If you are visiting Maseru, I would recommend that you explore this particular as one of your options. There is also Avani Maseru, which is a few meters away from this one, but it is currently going through an upgrade so maybe in a year, it will also be at this level.

Lesotho
pic supplied

The one thing that stood out for me at this hotel, besides comfort and class, was the hospitality from the staff. Having grew up in the Free State, I know that humility and respect are the two traits Basotho can absolutely be credited for but it was really amazing to be back there and be reminded of it.

The hotel boasts 150 rooms, a gym, swimming pool and of course the Casino and a few restaurants options.

My favorite was the Ying Tao restaurant where we enjoyed the most amazing Chinese meal I’d ever had! The only thing I order when I say I feel like having Chinese, is chow mein or Sushi and I got schooled and found out that Sushi isn’t even Chinese, it’s Japanese. Hehehe Am I the only one who did not know this??

 

Enough about the logistics, let me tell you what we got up to!

Excited as I was about going to the Maletsunyane Falls, we unfortunately couldn’t go as snow had fallen and the mountain was a no go. Our next best option was to visit the Thaba Bosiu Cultural Village.

Lesotho

The cultural village is situated right opposite Thaba Bosiu mountain, which is an important historical site for Basotho as it was where King Moshoeshoe 1 and his people settled after migrating from Butha Buthe in the 1824. There is also a museum in the village where you can learn about Basotho and where they come from, it’s an inspiring story and you will fall in love with King Moshoeshoe when you realize what a peace loving man he was. His grave is also on this mountain.

 

Lesotho

For those who aren’t familiar with a typical village, you’ll also get see the huts Basotho chiefs and villagers lived in, as well as Lekhotla, the court.

It was also interesting to learn about the different Basotho clans and how they came about – I mean I know of  Bakgatla, Bafokeng, Bakwena and so on, but all very interesting to trace their origins.

Lesotho

To be honest, I didn’t expect to learn anything going here as I thought it was more for “foreign” tourists but I am amazed at just how little we know of one another as Africans and South Africans. We have a rich and interesting history and we should try read up on it.

And is anyone going to King Moshoeshoe’s story? Make a film about it? I think it was especially interesting how he ended up with SO many wives, just because he wanted to keep peace!

Lesotho
With our host Maba

And of course, the highlight of our trip for me was this one here!!

Lesotho

We may not have been able to go to the Falls but I got to ride a horse in the land of Majapere heheh.

Lesotho

Judging from this pic, I wasn’t the only one whose dream was coming true heheh.

All in all, I loved Lesotho and I will definitely go back again but that will be in Summer because I would love to experience the Maletsunyane Falls and the Kome Caves (Ha Kome). I am not bold enough to go Skiing but for those of you who are, there is Afriski Mountain Resort where you can ski, snowboard and do a whole range of other winter activities. Friends, you don’t need to travel overseas to see snow and ski!

Have you been Lesotho?

By LeloB

Travel Goals

What is it about travel posts that makes you curious, happy and yet so unbelievably jealous? Or is it just me ? Hahah.

Jealous because I am not there with them, having as much fun as they are having!

These 3 ladies have been out and about lately and I just couldn’t ignore their travels! The fun, the class, and pure joy one could taste just from their pics.

Thando Thabethe In Brazil 

IG: Thando_Thabethe

Travel aside, I am falling more and more in love with Thando Thabethe these days man. Love sure looks good on her and her love for travel just elevates her to the top of my favorite people list. I love the way she does travel, especially because she does it with the Bae! I feel like she’s living my travel dreams.

Travel Goals

And has she always been this sexy? Yum!

So Thando went to Rio de Jainero in Brazil and here are a few facts to know if you’d like to visit:

Brazil: 

  • There is no Visa requirement for South Africans travelling to Brazil
  • Yellow fever certificate is required
  • You could pay as little as R6,500 for a flight depending on how quick you want to get there.
  • The time difference is 5 hours in winter (October – February) and 4 hours in Summer (March – September)
  • The currency used is Real (R$) and 1 Brazilian Real is = around R4
  • The main language spoken by locals is Portuguese

If you’ve been wanting to visit Brazil, I’d  guess that the best time to go would be around Rio Carnival? The 2018 dates are February 9 – February 13. Details HERE

Kelly Khumalo In Bali 

IG: KellyKhumaloZA

Travel Goals

I won’t even talk about what a gorgeous baby Kelly has, I will skip right through to her #BestieCation with Thami Kotlolo. Their beach holidays are everything. I think they went to Thailand last year and had as epic a time as they seemed to have on this trip.

I’ve been to Bali bathing but everyone who’s been going there lately has made me feel like I need a do-over! Like I didn’t explore and experience it as best as I could have, I mean my trip was good but I didn’t have the crazy fun Thami and Kelly had and I want that. So anyone wanna sponsor my trip to Bali? hehehe

Travel Goals

Bali

  • There is no visa requirement, provided you stay only up to 30 days.
  • You could pay between R6,300 – R8,500 for a flight to Bali. I don’t think we have direct flights so you’ll have to make a stop in say Singapore or Hong Kong. When I went a few years ago, we had about 2 days in Hong Kong. I didn’t enjoy that place much.
  • Bali is 6 hours ahead of South Africa
  • Currency is Indonesian Rupiah and for R1 you get 1,013.96 Rp
  • Main languages spoken Balinese and Indonesian, with English as the third most spoken language.

Rethabile in Jamaica

IG: Retini

Travel Goals

I am obsessed with Rethabile! I look at her instagram page and wish we were friends, she seems to ALWAYS be having fun, even when she’s talking about having to work, it sounds fun!

You know there are people who pretend they are having fun so they can take a picture (I know, I’ve done it) and then there are people who have fun and take pictures of those moments, she has a jol!

You only need to read through this interview I did with her to see how much I obsess over her travels – Chica Travel With Rethabile Ramaphakela  in that interview she says she’d like to go to Jamaica and less than a year later she has made it happen! My Travel HERO!

Travel Goals

Rethabile has just been on a trip to Jamaica with 3 of her friends and as always, her pictures gave me the most FOMO!

The list of places I want to travel to includes whatever places she’s been to so I’ve just conveniently remembered that I’ve always wanted to go to Jamaica, Morocco, Mexico and where ever else she’s going to next!

Travel Goals

Jamaica

  • There is no visa requirement for up to 90 days.
  • Expect a super long journey, anything from 21 to 29 hours (if not more) and to flight prices start around R16,000 upwards. So it’s not a place you can just go to for a weekend.
  • South Africa is 7 hours ahead of Jamaica.
  • There are some required vaccinations e.g. hepatitis A, so please check before you travel.
  • The currency used is Jamaican Dollar and for R1 you get 9.79 JMD
  • English is the official language but locals also speak Jamaican Creole or Patois.

Any Insta travelers you love following on the gram? Where are you traveling to next?

By LeloB

Nan Hua Temple

And no, that picture that led you here wasn’t taken in China or some other Asian country, it’s from right here in Gauteng! Bronkhorstpruit to be exact, but let’s start from the beginning 🙂

Nan Hua Bucket List

What can you do with R500,00 these days? Not much, right?

Wrong!

A challenge was set for me to explore my city and tick off something on my bucket list, all on a R500 budget and you might think it’s impossible given the value of our rand but hey I took up the challenge and did something really incredible. I partnered with Budget Rent A Car, hopped into one of their vehicles and drove to Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstpruit for a 2 day Meditation Retreat.

Nan Hua

I had never heard of the temple before a conversation I had with a friend about some of the stresses and anxieties we are both experiencing, so when the retreat idea came up, it sounded like the perfect thing to do.

Nan Hua Bucket List

And just as I’m sure you are, I was shocked to find out that I could experience all that we did for R400. See, I still had a bit of change from my original R500 🙂

Nan Hua Bucket List

The beautiful Nan Hua Buddhist Temple is a non-profit organisation and also the African headquarters of the Fo Guang Shan Order, whose mission is to spread humanistic Buddhism all over the world. Their offerings include different type of retreats and I will tell you about the one I attended.

Nan Hua Bucket List

My reason for wanting to go on the Retreat was more because I struggle with mindfulness, anxiety and just being able to relax in general and meditation has been recommended as an alternative way to overcome anxiety without medication. It was really the best thing I could have done for myself.

I attended the Beginners Meditation Retreat which in essence is a beginner’s course in Meditation that takes place from a Saturday morning to Sunday lunch time. Participants are taught zen meditation and relaxation exercises, Tai Chi is included as well as Yoga. There are different kinds of meditation taught including sitting, tea drinking, music meditation and it was interesting being exposed to this whole world that is completely new to me.
There is an introduction talk at the beginning of the retreat to sort of explain how things are done and why and there’s a Q&A at the end for us to ask the Monk questions related to our experience and Buddhism in general.

Nan Hua Bucket List

The retreat is not at all religious, as you know Buddhism is presented more as a practice and way of life than it is religion. I was intrigued to learn about the story of the Buddha and how it all began for him. You can read it HERE.

Included in the R400 I’ve been throwing around are:

  • Shared overnight Accommodation
  • Meals – Vegetarian because no meat is allowed at the temple
  • The 2 Day Meditation Course

I shared a room with my friend but if you are looking for a private chalet, you pay a bit extra and get your own place or room, depending on your preference and there’s even a “Silent” sticker should you want complete silence throughout the retreat.

Nan Hua Bucket List

The rooms were nice and comfortable and came with a lounge, kitchen, shower and en suite bathroom in one of the bedrooms. Not too bad neh?

Nan Hua Bucket List

What’s also included is a tour of the Temple at the end of the retreat and I laughed at how even my friends thought I’d gone overseas when they saw my pics hehe.

Nan Hua Bucket List

Unfortunately no pictures are allowed inside the Shrine but we had the pleasure of attending and witnessing the Monks’ early morning Chanting procedure. An enlightening experience.

Nan Hua Bucket List

There is also a museum inside the property so you can get a bit more information, I was more intrigued about how Buddha was Indian yet the practice was adopted more by the Chinese.

Chinese Bells

The tour of temple is free of charge to the public, and if you’re keen on joining the monks for lunch on a Sunday, it’s only R30 for the meal and I recommend you try it so as to observe their mealtimes, and don’t worry, if you can’t use chopsticks they have folks heheh.

We were actually advised in the guidelines that mealtimes are not meant for idle talk or socializing but they were times for contemplation and practice. And though it was hard to sit next to a friend during lunch and not be able to chat, I found that it gave us the opportunity to really enjoy the food and become aware of every bit of their texture and taste.

The point of this post is simple ; You do not have to leave your city to find interesting places and things to do on a budget. Adventure is often right at your doorstep. Or Bronkhorstpruit. Who would’ve thought hehehe.

Nan Hua Bucket List

Check out #BudgetBucketList on Twitter & Facebook to see what other folk are doing in their cities for less moola and please do let me know in the comments:

What awesome things have you ticked off your bucket list on a budget?

LeloB

zanzibar

I’ve beeeeeeeeeeen wanting to go to Zanzibar and finally this dream materialized in December 2016. It was one of those trips that were planned well ahead because we booked flights as early as August. I think once you book the flights, even if that’s all the money you have at the time, you will hustle for the rest of the holiday money, somehow. So go ahead and book that flight 🙂

The one mistake I made though, with booking our flights was to not book a direct flight but go via Nairobi, Kenya.

zanzibar

This made the trip 7 hours long, when it could have been a quick 4 hour flight with Mango. I know now for next time but also because Mango only flies between SA & Zanzibar, 2 times a week, it would have meant my holiday needed to be 4 or 7 nights long instead of the 6 nights we had booked.

The Mango flight (+- R7,500) is also around R1,500 more expensive than the Kenya Airways flight (R5,900), and if you consider that plus the fact that I would have had to also pay accommodation for an extra night, the extra 3 hours added to my flight were worth it.

So whether you take a direct flight or one with a layover depends on what you value most : time or money!

Once the flights were booked, it was now time for us to pick a hotel.

A friend of mine once stayed at Diamonds La Gemma and having seen its pictures, it’s where I wanted to stay too but one look at their prices and I knew there was no way I was gonna afford it so off to Booking.com I went.

Having heard that Nungwi, which is in the North of Zanzibar, is the most lively place to be, I looked around for hotels in that area and finally settled on Smiles Beach Hotel, which looked like a really nice small hotel with gorgeous views. Part of my accommodation research involves reading Booking.com & TripAdvisor reviews and I’m so grateful for all the people who take the time to leave feedback, I’ve also joined them and after a trip I go to either of the sites to leave a review as well. These help!

When I booked there was only a Triple room available and for the 6 nights, the total cost was R17,100, meaning R5,700 per person for the total 6 nights & breakfast. I reckon a R11k holiday is not bad for peak season.

zanzibar smiles beach

Fast forward to 28 December, we arrived at Smiles and it was beautiful! 100% the way it was in the pictures, if not better! They only have 16 rooms in total so these 4 blocks on this picture are the hotel, then you have the restaurant in front of the beach as well as a spa on the left.

.
zanzibar

Doesn’t this look like heaven??

Zanzibar

The gorgeous white sand beaches… The best part about being here was how the hotels, bars and restaurants are all lined up along the beach… so you just take a walk to the different places and the best part is you can do it all in your bikini 🙂

Zanzibar

I was obviously not bold enough…

Zanzibar

The people we met were super friendly… and so cool. Oh guys and things are cheap in Zanzibar, I bought 2 of these Masaai cloths (shuka) for R300 and there was a particular night where we spent just under R500 for a dinner for 3 with drinks. I actually commented that this is one trip where I came back with some cash.

Zanzibar stonetown

We also went to walk through the narrow streets of the famous Stone Town and it turned out to be a disappointment. Because we didn’t know much about it and its history, we got a Tour Guide to take us around and besides that we couldn’t hear half of what the guy was saying, and after he walked us to death, we realized that he was taking us around the same block over and over again… I was so annoyed. I wanted to hear about the town’s history from a local.

zanzibar stone town

Our fong kong tour guide at least took us to this nice hotel called Maru Maru where we stopped for a drink and enjoyed breathtaking views of Stone Town.

Well, I meant great views of the beach really coz there wasn’t much else that was beautiful for me in Stone Town except these huge gorgeous doors.

Zanzibar Stone Town

The brass-studded doors were the highlight of my Stone Town visit.

A bit about them:

“These massive teak or mahogany structures grace the front of almost every building of note, and their style has been copied all over the world. The original Zanzibar doors owe their distinctive brass studs to India – the studs originated as a defence against war elephants, used to batter down fortified doors in the tribal wars of Punjabi history. Needless to say, this distinctive feature of Stone Town’s doors has always been purely decorative.”  – EastAfrica.co.za

zanzibar

Back at Nungwi – we also visited the Nungwi Aquarium

I could not get over how beautiful it all was!

Oh and if you’ve never seen how they pick a coconut from a tree, here you go:

 

This coconut business is an extreme sport mos… 🌴

A video posted by LeloB (@mslelob) on

Crazy!!!

zanzibar

For those who don’t find joy staring at the sea like I do, there are watersports – snorkeling/diving and fishing for adventure lovers. We took a sunset island cruise that took us to see other parts of the island. We even rode past this amazing hotel and when I asked our captain what it was, he said ” Diamonds La Gemma” sigh… my poor heart!  One day!!!

The dinners on the beach were just so amazing! The ambience nje with the soft music in the background, marvellous.

zanzibar

On our last day we took a boat trip from Stone Town to Prison Island and I wished we had more time there to enjoy that beautiful beach.

Zanzibar

Prison Island was meant to be used as a prison for rebellious slaves in the 1860’s but it’s now home to giant tortoises and has been converted into a tourist resort.

All in all, I enjoyed the trip and I think you should go experience Zanzibar at least once.

zanzbar

Would I go back to Zanzibar? Absolutely and it will be very soon!

Lelo