Archive for South Africa

Nestled away in the stunning Drakensberg mountain range in the Kamberg Valley near Giant’s Castle, you will discover Cleopatras Mountain Farmhouse. This outstanding Gourmet mountain lodge is 200km from Durban airport and 450km from Johannesburg airport. I drove there from Johannesburg and the trip took me about five hours down the N3 toll road before turning off at Mooi River. From there, it was less than 30 miles and even though the directions were very good, it is better to make this part of the journey by daylight to make it simpler to pick up the landmarks that are referenced in the map.

In the end, I showed up but because it was dark, I was not able to thoroughly appreciate the beauty of its position until the following day. I’d also appeared far too late for the six course evening meal which was a pity. You will find eleven rooms at Cleopatras and every one is unique. I was checked into room two, the Scandinavian suite and it was eye-catching and fairly spacious. It had been a long day and so I soon found myself in my bed that had been warmed by an electric quilt and went to sleep.

I got up early on as I had a long drive to the Zulu Battlefields ahead of me but first of all I wanted to have a look round. The early morning mist hung about the surrounding mountains and I could very well see what a picturesque spot it was. I made my way to the breakfast area where a wonderful three course meal was served to set me up nicely for the busy day ahead. The chef at Cleopatras preps his meals with flavour as his primary aim and I have to say that I wasn’t let down. Actually, I don’t remember the last occasion I was offered such a great breakfast.

Next there was time for a quick trip up to the top of the mountain though the view would be limited. Even so, it was clear enough to see that for anybody wanting to spend some time out-of-doors and take pleasure in terrific food, Cleopatras is highly recommended as a place in the UKlahlamba Drakensberg to escape to for a few days. Activities include things like trekking in the Highmoor Nature Reserve, horseback riding, horse stud trips & local adventures, fishing, helicopter rides, Bushman rock art, Crane rehabilitation centre.

If you want to head out driving during the day, there are in excess of 180 visits along the Midlands Meander from wood turners, to potters, to cheesemakers, to weevers and much more.

Sometimes known as ‘Eikestad’ (Town of Oaks), Stellenbosch is considered the oldest town in South Africa immediately after Cape Town, a 45 minute drive away. Founded in 1679 by governor Simon van der Stel, the Stellenbosch Wine Route is South Africa’s earliest and arguably the most acclaimed. Having been established in 1971, it now offers 106 cellars in the wonderful Jonkershoek valley.

Modern-day Stellenbosch is a buzzing place populated by students, academics, business people and their familys. You shouldn’t miss Dorp Street, a national monument with among the longest rows of historically conserved properties – including Georgian, Cape Dutch and Victoria architecture – in South Africa.

With scores of open-air cafes, places to eat, galleries, retailers, hotels and guest houses – many housed in these ancient architectural structures – it is the ideal base for a winelands adventure. Then there is the wine route , with around 130 wineries and 5 sub-routes, known for their wine production – notably Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinotage and Chenin Blanc. The five sub-routes are Bottelary Hills, Greater Simonsberg, Helderberg, Stellenbosch Berg and Stellenbosch Hills.

Half and full day wine tours are incredibly popular and can be booked with the tourism office. Alternatively, you are more than welcome to drive yourself to one or more of the wine estates even though that would mean the driver missing out on sampling any of the wine.

You will find a wide range of hotels available in Stellenbosch from camp sites, youth hostels, B&Bs right up to luxury hotels. The requirements of each type of traveller are catered for in Stellenbosch which is perfect for the independent holidaymaker to use as a starting point to discover the various visitors attractions of the Western Cape.

The recommended means to orientate yourself in Stellenbosch is to join one of the normal walking excursions that depart from the tourism office at 11am and 3pm each and every day. As an alternative, you are able to investigate all on your own and footmaps can be obtained. As Stellenbosch lies in a valley, there are also hiking routes outside of the town which allow you to absorb some of the fantastic landscapes and nature of the Cape Winelands.


KwaZulu Natal Highlights

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KZN is a densely populated province of South Africa. It’s really an enticing sub-tropical area with wonderful scenery and popular points of interest like the outstanding beaches of Durban, the Drakensberg mountains and the famous battlefields from the wars among the British, Boers and Zulus.

The population of KwaZulu Natal is just about the most diverse in the country. The indigenous Zulu culture of the area is well recognised for their famous warrior custom. Even today, in the phonetic alphabet, “Zulu” is used to represent the letter “Z”.

Generally there is a distinct British influence in the province and various of the people who reside here have a British heritage. On top of that, in Durban you will also see without doubt one of the biggest populations of Indians outside of the sub-continent. Durban is also South Africa’s third largest metropolis and is the busiest port in Africa. The fabulous weather makes Durban a well known holiday destination all year long and following the accomplishment of the FIFA World Cup, Durban will almost definitely bid to host the 2020 Olympics.

For all those checking out KZN, Durban is a ‘must’ with so much to offer the tourist including markets, culture, shores and the newly opened uShaka Marineworld. It’s also a fine base from where you’re able to check out the region. Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve is the recommended spot to go on safari while the UKlahlamba mountains feature serenity and tranquillity in spectacular surroundings.

Tourists will discover Zulu culture in evidence right across the province and there are lots of opportunities to go to see traditional Zulu villages. There are close to four hundred miles of coastline in KwaZulu Natal with the place in the north of the province being especially unspoilt. The St Lucia Wetlands are a World Heritage Site with perfect lakes, estuaries, lagoons, woodland dunes and coral reefs.

The battlefields of KwaZulu Natal are well known with definitely the most commonly known spot being Rorkes Drift where only 140 British soldiers held off a prolonged attack by 4,000 Zulus.

Eventually, the Midlands Meander is a route for tourists to travel along stopping off at numerous craft shops, studios, galleries and a lot more established in the heart of the impressive UKlahlamba mountain range.

Located at the southern most tip of Africa where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet is South Africa’s mother city, Cape Town. It is South Africa’s number one destination with around 70% of visitors from the UK making Cape Town part of their itinerary.

Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest city and offers visitors fantastic shopping, eating out and other attractions all under the back drop of the iconic Table Mountain. The Victoria and Albert Waterfront is the ideal place for a bit of retail therapy before finding a restaurant where you can sit outside and watch the world go by even during the winter months.

Attractions in Cape Town include the Two Oceans aquarium, a craft market or you may want to watch the local artists perform at the amphitheatre. Robben Island was the prison where Nelson Mandela spent many years and it is open to visitors who can get there by a short boat journey.

Cape Point has claimed many shipwrecks over the years and it is well worth visiting the place that is at the very end of Africa. The drive over Chapman’s Peak is as spectacular as the view from Cape Point with its hairpin bends and sheer cliffs.

As well as finding plenty of things to do in Cape Town, it is also an excellent base to explore the surrounding area of the Western Cape. The winelands of Paarl, Franshoek and Stellenbosch are popular with both self drive and guided tours. Between July and October, the town of Hermanus is considered one of the best places in the world where you can whale watch from the shore.

The stunning scenery of Cape Town makes it an ideal place to spend your holiday for those in search of adventure, entertainment or relaxation. A full range of accommodation is available to suit all budgets.

The defining feature of the Free State is undoubtedly it’s fantastic sense of open spaces. It’s vast open plains combine with the Drakensberg mountains giving a spectacular contrast of scenery.

Evidence of the ancient San people who lived here thousands of years ago can still be seen in the rock art they left behind. This rock art heritage of South Africa is recognised by art historians as one of the world’s fantastic cultural treasures.

The capital of Free State is Bloemfontein and it lies in the very heart of the province offering a relaxed urban lifestyle with a country feel.

Outside of the city, there are a number of places that are highly recommended. The fantastic outdoors is a big attraction and one of the finest driving routes is the 150 mile stretch from Harrisburg through the fantastic Maluti Mountains passing through Ficksburg and Clocolan on the way.

The Golden Gate National Park is yet another of South Africa’s many national parks. This wondrous place features magnificent sandstone sculptures created by Mother Nature herself. There is also a museum, amphitheatre and tea garden but don’t forget to keep a look out for the magnificent Black Eagles and Bearded Vultures.

Another national park worth visiting in Free State is the QwaQwa National Park. Taking the Sentinel Trail through QwaQwa is one of the easiest ways to reach the Drakensberg plateau and on your way, why not drop into the Basutho Cultural Village to get a sense of how the indigenous people live.

The town of Clarens is a haven for artists. Surrounded by sandstone cliffs, there are several art studios, quaint craft shops, bars and eateries.

Overall, the pace of life in Free State is slower with the rhythm of the farming calendar dominating events. It’s a spot where you’ll be able to get pleasure from great food, fantastic hospitality within dazzling settings including the Golden Gate Park or even the Maluti Mountains.

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With it’s warm winters, hot summer weather and golden beaches stretching as far as the eye can see, Durban is a hugely popular leisure destination. It is a vibrant city where a blend of local cultures “African, Asian and European” is reflected in a mosaic of architectural styles, a melting pot of traditions and colourful cuisine to match any holiday-makers dream. Durban is less than an hours flying time from Johannesburg, it’s privileged location on the eastern seaboard making it South Africa’s only destination offering warm winters and subtropical summers.

Durban spans the area from the internationally known Umhlanga Rocks in the north to one of the best diving sites in the world, Aliwal Shoal, in the south and west to the majestic Valley of a Thousand Hills.

Durban was originally built round a natural harbour which is one of the finest in Africa. It is home to a large flotilla of yachts and pleasure craft, a temporary stop for cruise liners and the southern hemispheres busiest port. Pubs and restaurants make the most glorious waterfront setting.

Amanzimtoti has stretches of beach with dunes and rock pools, plus favourite fishing spots that provide sport and recreation for the adventurous. Durban is blessed with an abundance of vegetation and a subtropical climate with sunshine for at least 320 days a year and average temperatures up to 25 Celcius in the winter.

uShaka Marine World is the latest addition to Durban’s beachfront water family. It houses an underwater aquarium, a restaurant on a sunken shipwreck and loads of water activities not to mention a shopping arcade with dozens of speciality shops.

Durban is an active city providing an ideal venue and climate for all types of sports including the July Beach Festival with international surfing event, music concerts and numerous beach sports, the Comrades Marathon, the most gruelling marathon in the world with one of the largest fields of competitors.

Within the city, you will find a world-class sporting precinct incorporating rugby and football stadia, athletics tracks, Olympic swimming pools, cycling track, archery range, cricket stadium and a new award winning A1 Grand Prix street track.

Durban really is South Africa’s seaside playground.

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The Blue Train route operates between Pretoria and Cape Town and is a 27-hour route of 1,600 kms (994 miles), through part of the most different and stunning scenery provided by the African sub-continent. The high-class Blue Train transports travellers along the intriguing landscape that extends in between Pretoria and Cape Town providing service that includes exceptional meals and roomy cabins. The Blue Train has been in operation since 1939 and derives its title from its blue engines, railroad cars and leather seats. The Blue Train owes it’s beginnings to the Union Limited along with the Union Express, which, from 1923, connected Joburg together with the mail ships sailing from Cape Town for Britain. In days gone by when your Union Castle ship arrived at Cape Town, passengers might have taken the Blue Train to Johannesburg, South Africa’s financial giant figuratively and literally built on gold.

The new Blue Train is considered the most sumptuous train globally and the very best option to travel. In 1947 the three month long tour by the British Royal Family witnessed the ordering of 8 ivory-painted air-conditioned saloons from Great Britain, three of which were put together to Blue Train sleeping car requirements, and the remaining 5 were unique saloons to be used by the Royal Family and Field Marshal Jan Smuts, the Prime Minister of South Africa. It truly is no wonder these distinguished individuals catch the Blue Train. Falling asleep with a Karoo moon in the sky and getting up to a fresh pot of coffee as the Blue Train goes by Cape vineyards really is a sensation that is tough to beat.

The Blue Train suites live up to their reputable name for magnificence and splendour. The Blue train carries you to a timeless time of elegant living, mingling the allure of travelling by railroad while using the extravagance of a grand hotel. Much of the appeal with the Blue Train is based on its past and it can readily lay claim to being without doubt one of the top 3 deluxe trains across the world. The Blue Train rivals plenty of 5 star hotels in terms of elegance, grace, comfort and style with decorations created by a leading interior design business. An a la carte South African food selection is simply part of the Blue Train service which also incorporates butlers attending your every need along with a exquisite suite. Taking merely two days, the Blue Train travels from Pretoria to Cape Town or the opposite way round.

With menus having a selection of regional food, food on the Blue Train is surely an encounter itself – from Karoo lamb and ostrich fillet to Knysna oysters – combined with award-winning cultivars from the Cape Winelands. The royal blue menu cards with their gold cord are a colour portrayal of the area through which the Blue Train passengers are voyaging. The Blue Train is furnished with the highest quality bone china in white, cut-crystal and traditional silver cutlery engraved with the well known “B” insignia. Excellent South African wines enhance a gourment food selection offered in a sophisticated atmosphere making dinner a magnificent experience on the Blue Train. This is a showcase for South African wines and following thoughtful deliberation with top South African wine professionals were chosen to go with every course on the menu.

Passengers are expected to check-in 60 minutes ahead of leaving at the Blue Train lounges in Pretoria and Cape Town. The Blue Train management team is at your service to ensure every guest enjoys a remarkable experience during the journey. Your own personal suite brings together the desires and needs of the modern day world with the romance and classiness of traditional high-class coach travel in Africa. Your own Blue Train suite is a daytime luxurious lounge. Your Blue Train butler will convert your personal suite into a high class master bedroom through the night. The suites on the Blue Train live up to it’s good name with regard to magnificence and splendour.

The Blue Train still connects Pretoria and The Mother City a couple of times a week but these days is geared fairly and squarely at visitors. Blue Train passengers are offered an out of the ordinary trip in luxurious comfort and style which they may well reminisice over for many years. The mystique, the aura of extravagance and history that come with without doubt one of the globe’s most well-known trains is part of the attraction for first timers and repeat guests. The shop on the Blue Train is often a treasure trove of gemstones and minerals as rich as Africa itself. Particular branded gifts are given to Blue Train passengers on the close of their journey. As a memento guests receive an engraved sherry glass with the Blue Train logo. A lifetimes fantasy for several is a getaway on the notable Blue Train of South Africa.

Dawsons Game and Trout Lodge is located near to Badplaas around 4 hours from Joburg in a incredible location in the middle of hills as well as a trout lake. Along with the Lodge, there is also a cottage alongside the trout lake which is ideal for anyone who wants to fish for trout. Almost all of our friends stayed in the Lodge while I slept down in the thatched roof stone cottage. It is a self-catering property which is certainly wonderfully prepared and even has satellite tv. The size makes it well suited for a family of 4 or 5 people that desire their own living space.

We all arrived late afternoon thus there was not much time to achieve anything just after check-in before an evening meal was ready. Just before the meal, we were asked to observe the chef show us how to prepare a fish which even if I’m not a fish eater, it was very interesting. It is always astounding how easy professionals make their job appear.

Similar to everywhere we stayed, the meals were splendid and the whole group dined together on a single long table which added to the ambiance.

The next morning following the ideal breakfast, there was the plan to experience many different activities like archery, quad bikes and horse riding but most people decided to delight in the chance to sleep in a little longer than we had been able to all week. I had got up early to try and take some pics as the sun rose. It is an awesome sight in the African wilderness to rise as it gets light and then to observe the shadows thrown by the hills retreat as the sun advances. The early morning mist very quickly vanished and a glorious blue sky was rapidly in its place.

Unfortunately there was not much time to experience everything at Dawsons Lodge yet there are actually numerous activities at your disposal such as bird watching, game viewing (no predators), fly fishing, hiking and walking, horseback safaris, archery, clay pigeon shooting and quad biking. Dawsons Lodge is additionally an ideal setting for weddings in which the bride and groom can unwind soon after their big day in the spa and wellness facilities. If you plan to check out Mpumalanga, Dawsons Lodge is a remarkable destination to rest.

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The Western Cape is South Africa’s most famous holiday destination with strong reason. The biggest city of Cape Town or the ‘Mother City’ is visited by 70% of tourists who visit South Africa from the United Kingdom.

The fantastic city of Cape Town lies the shadow of Table Mountain at the point where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. The Mother City is many things to many people featuring culture, wine, landscapes, the seaside or many leisure pursuits.

Table Mountain rises to around 1,000m above the metropolis and it is certainly one of the most recognised destinations globally. More active people might take on the numerous backpacking paths to the summit or otherwise, there’s a cable car that takes merely 3 minutes to reach to summit.

The Winelands of the Western Cape are appreciated throughout the planet and the wineries of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl date back years. The several wine routes are complimented by numerous restaurants, coffee shops and guest houses with superb menus and substantial wine lists.

The prison at Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela as well as other members in the ANC were held for a number of years. Positioned eight miles off shore from Green Point, Robben Island is a museum honouring the heroic individuals that were held here. It was selected a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

Roughly one hour to the east of Cape Town is the town of Hermanus and it is regarded as one of the best areas worldwide to observe whales from the shoreline. Between June and November each and every year, the Southern Right Whales swim past Hermanus on their migration path.

Back in the Mother City, the Victoria and Albert Waterfront is the focus of the city with world class shopping, places to eat, coffee shops, discos and nightspots. The harbour offers several of the recommended hotels in Cape Town as well as the Two Oceans Aquarium.

For all those going to the Western Cape, the Garden Route is definitely a place that simply just has to be visited. This dazzling portion of coast between the Mother City and Port Elizabeth is one of the most favourite locations in South Africa. Tangled forested acres, cliffs, extraordinary cliffs and sandy beaches are all part of the landscapes. There are lots of little towns following the Garden Route giving many lodgings and cusine experiences.


Frank Bourne Rorkes Drift Hero

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The Battle of Rorkes Drift is certainly one of the most popular battles in the past of the British army. It was at this little mission station near the border of Zululand and Natal where a few thousand Zulu warriors attacked the garrison of around 140 British soldiers. The soldiers fought for their lives all night and by morning, the Zulus had withdrawn. The highest award for gallantry from the British Army is the Victoria Cross and the defence of Rorkes Drift saw twelve VCs awarded, greater than in any other single action in history.

The fight was portrayed in the Stanley Baker movie “Zulu” and one of several leading characters who acted with distinction at Rorkes Drift, in the end failed to receive a Victoria Cross. Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal that is ranked second behind the Victoria Cross. In addition, Bourne was also offered a commission although he turn it down. As Bourne was the eighth son in his family, there was no money on hand and this would have been a time when wealth was used to buy commissions for officers with the British Army.

Having said that, Bourne was destined to be a career soldier and an excellent one too. Following South Africa, he was posted to India and Burma prior to eventually earning his commission eleven years following the Battle of Rorkes Drift. He at long last retired from the British Army in 1907. Only seven years afterwards, The Great War broke out and Bourne re-enlisted in the army. By the conclusion of the Great War in 1918, Bourne had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and was made an OBE. Bourne left the military again, now for ever.

Due to the actor who portrayed Bourne in the motion picture Zulu, several people considered Frank Bourne to have been in his mid-50s during the time of the Battle of Rorkes Drift but in reality he was simply 24 years old. Just after the end of The Great War, he lived in retirement in Beckenham, South London and he was the final survivor of Rorkes Drift to pass away at the age of 91 on 8th May 1945, the very day the Second World War in Europe came to an end.

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