Rock On!

Ancient Rock Formation

Humala River Lodge is tucked away in a most extraordinary spot, a magical 124,000-acre African wilderness – Songimvelo Game Reserve. Though wonderfully remote, there is much to do: Witness elephants and other magnificent wildlife on safari; angle for wild Yellow Fish in the river; catch some rays at the pool, and be pampered at the bush spa. But a unique highlight here is the opportunity to view Stone Age art carved and painted on rocks that are 3.5 billion years old.

20th Century scientists unearthed the deep significance of these 1,000-year-old paintings that were created by the San, the earliest inhabitants of South Africa. Once thought to be primitive pictorial diaries of daily life, studies have yielded the well-supported theory that much of this art symbolizes the spirit world journeys and experiences of the San shamans.

Using fine brushes made from animal hair and paints mixed with powerful substances such as egg whites and Eland blood, the shamans created potent images that allowed them to draw on their spiritual powers.

San Rock Painting

The art, along with ancient rock formations, artifacts and numerous walled village-type ruins, has garnered Songimvelo international acclaim among scientists. The preservation of some rock exposures in the reserve reveal vital information regarding the origin and evolution of the earth’s crust and the nature of early life, as well as the character and development of the ocean and atmosphere. Despite the rocks being billions of years old, they are so well preserved that their fossils record the earliest life forms on the planet. So it’s not surprising that this region is referred to as “The Genesis of Life”.

Songimvelo is the largest provincial reserve in South Africa. In addition to its archaeological, historical and cultural value, it is graced with grassy savannas, cascading waterfalls, and the spectacular gorges of the Komati, Msoli and Lomati rivers, making it one of the most diverse and aesthetically pleasing wilderness areas in the country.

 

 

Cheers to South African Wine – the Healthy Choice

South African Red and White Wines

When your doctor recommends a glass of wine a day for good health, if it’s South African wine, you can enjoy two! This is because while sulfites are present in all wine, South African wine has the lowest amount. As we all know, sulfites can trigger allergies. Travelers often tell us that they don’t get the headaches from South African wines that they often experience with wines from other regions.

Beyond this happy fact, the South African Government long ago legalized the use of ultraviolet light energy for wine purification. Winemakers replaced traditional filtration systems with photo cleansing technology, rendering South African wine even healthier.

Native South African and wine connoisseur Deon Barnard (a.k.a., The Safari Guy) offers his recommendations on some great selections and where to find them:

I was born in South Africa and for the past 28 years, as a Travel Specialist, I have been introducing people from all over the globe to South Africa, the Adventure Capital of the World. Wine is often a talking point. Travelers asks me, ‘Where can I find some of our favorite wines we tasted on the tour?’

Bold Red

One of my recommendations is Neethlingshof Pinotage. The Pinotage variety is unique to South Africa, and once you taste it, you will fall in love. An Intense ruby red in color, this Pinotage exudes rich aromas of ripe banana and plum as well as notes of cinnamon. These aromas continue on the palate; intense berry nuances perfect the taste adventure. This wine ends with a great balance between strong tannins and fruity notes. Enjoy it on its own, or combine it with cheese patters or savory dishes with dark meat.

Light White

Did you know? South Africa is the world’s largest producer of Chenin Blanc, a fragrant light-bodied white. Also referred to as Steen in South Africa, this dry white has subtle hints of tropical fruit and is very versatile. When in the states (or in South Africa) I often choose Spier Chenin Blanc. Serve it chilled with vegetarian entrees, fish or poultry.

Guess what? Both the Neethlingshof Pinotage and Spier Chenin Blanc are available for about $15 each at Total Wine & More, and they’re fabulous. I also frequent sabestwines.com for great deals on quality South African wines. It’s owned and managed by South Africans living in the US and they ship the wine straight to your home.

 

Don’t Fence Me In

Elephants Walking

If wild animals could sing, they might just be found bellowing the lyrics of this classic Cole Porter song:

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above, don’t fence me in…

Wildlife needs a whole lot of room to roam. This is especially important during migration, when they trek great distances to find food, water and safe areas to birth and care for their little ones. In the case of the African elephant, their “little ones” are about 200 pounds when born. And full-grown African elephants range from 2.5 – 7 tons. Since they travel and forage in herds of up to 500, they require vast amounts of wilderness.

South Africa’s animal conservation efforts are all about keeping the “wild” in wilderness. Fences around game reserves are coming down… not only are they expensive and challenging to maintain, but since they block natural migration routes, they can actually serve to threaten rather than protect.  National parks are expanding and linking together with the help of private land owners to provide safe connective routes, known as natural corridors.

Rhino

Mega-reserves are the next big thing, with the Baviaanskloof setting a stellar standard. As you might presume, “mega-reserve” means “more land”.  The stunningly beautiful Baviaanskloof mega-reserve is comprised of 1,200,000 acres of contiguous government-protected lands, including the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve, the Baviaanskloof Forest Reserve, the Groendal Nature Reserve and the Formosa Nature Reserve, and also encompasses private land.

Addo Elephant Park was once just a spit of land used to care for the 11 remaining elephants in the area. Today it is the third largest national park in South Africa, stretches all the way from bush to beach, and is home to the Big 7 – Elephant, Rhino, Cape Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Southern Right Whale and Great White Shark.

Another pioneering conservation concept in South Africa is transfrontier parks; those that share boundaries with other countries. For example, the Songimvelo Game Reserve in Barberton is linked to the Malolotja Nature Reserve in Swaziland, forming the Songimvelo-Malolotja Transfrontier Conservation Area.

Bucks at Humala River Lodge in Songimvelo

As governments and private sectors continue to harmonize their efforts, conservationists won’t be the only ones to sing a happy tune. To paraphrase a lyric,

Let me be with my herd in the evening breeze,

And listen to the murmur of the baobab trees

…don’t fence me in.”

A Whale of a Good Time

Whale Tail

Did you hear a very large splash? You bet you did! Your Cape Town Experience includes the thrilling spectacle of whale watching in Hermanus, the Whale Watching Capital of the World. Whale watching is a close encounter of the Hermanus kind, where people and our marine visitors get to know each other up close and personal.

From June to November southern right whales arrive off the coast of Hermanus in the protection of Walker Bay to rest, mate and give birth to their calves. Their daily arrival is heralded by the one and only world-famous whale crier, who sounds his horn to proclaim the good news.

He blows his horn to alert the throngs of tourists who arrive annually to view the whales, which come very close to shore. His sandwich board tells whale watchers how to interpret the Morse code of the horn to find where the whales have been sighted and how many may be seen.

The anticipation and excitement is touchable…. standing on the shore and scanning the seas for any sign of the familiar V-shaped spray. Then, right before you, a southern right whale lifts its head out of the water are stares at you! This is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience that you will remember and cherish for the rest of your life.

The quaint village of Hermanus, though quite famous, is a charming and unpretentious stop during your tour, with shops, restaurants and a warm and welcoming vibe. It’s literally a whale of a good time.

The Soul of South Africa

South Africa’s townships are infused with the spirit of Ubuntu, which means: “I am, because we are.” A term for neighborliness, and a proudly South African humanist philosophy, it is a wisdom widely embraced by all South Africans today. The townships of South Africa are where the heart of the nation beats. This is the real South Africa.

Cape Township

 

While the plusher suburbs have more of a polished veneer and may serve up more in the way of consumer conveniences, it is the townships where you discover the emotional connection, the conviviality and the sense of camaraderie that underpins South Africa’s working class.

 

Your Cape Town Tour includes visits to several townships, where you will have the privilege to experience first-hand the humanity, hospitality and warmth of the people who live there.

 

We begin with District Six, where a community of over 60,000 people were forcibly removed during apartheid. Next we proceed to the predominantly black township of Langa. Here we have an in-depth experience including a walking tour, a home visit and where appropriate, a visit to a crèche or orphanage.

Cape Township Kids

Then we visit Bonteheuwel, where we compare and contrast a colored township with your recent experience in Langa. Note that unlike in western countries, the term “colored” is treated as a neutral description in Southern Africa, classifying people of mixed ethnic origin who possess ancestry from Europe, Asia and various Khoisan and Bantu tribes of Southern Africa.

Finally, before returning to Cape Town, we visit Guguletu, where you will learn about anti-apartheid activists, Amy Biehl and the Guguletu Seven.

Our townships tours are profoundly personal and interactive. When you arrive, you will be warmly welcomed. When you leave, it will be with a deeper understanding of Ubuntu.

“A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed” ~ Desmond Tutu

Portions of this post excerpted from our partners, southafrica.net and gocamissa.co.za.

The African Clawless is Otterly Adorable

African Clawlwess Otter

One by one, furry little heads appear above the water’s surface. The critters pop up and down like kids in a bounce house. And they’re having just as much fun.

Wander along a Cape Town beach and you’ll probably see their large, long, unmistakable footprints in the sand. African Clawless Otters are the most widely distributed otter species in Africa. Also known as Cape Otters, these clever creatures are as amusing as they are cute. They are playful and energetic, often swimming, playing with their food and play-fighting just for kicks. You might also catch them basking in the warmth of the sun.

 

You’ll know one when you see one

Their distinctive coloring makes them easy to identify. Their chocolate brown coats are silky, thick and shiny, with white markings on the sides of the face, throat, belly and lower ears, as well as on the upper lips. Their luxurious hair is designed to keep them warm and dry, with two layers of very different hair types to keep out the water. Cape Otters average 5 feet in length – including their tails, and range from 26 – 36 pounds.

As the name suggests, these otters have no claws, but their forefeet are dexterous and hand-like, with very long fingers and slight webbing. Their hind feet are more heavily webbed. Primarily considered a fresh-water species, Cape Otters also flourish in a marine environment as long as there is fresh water nearby. Key to their survival is fresh water to drink as well as to clean salt from their fur to maintain their natural insulation.

My, what big teeth you have

These guys love to feast on crabs, snails, clams and other crustaceans, putting to good use their super-sized molars and powerful jaws, which they use to crush the shells of their prey. They will either nibble on their food while floating on their backs or swim ashore to chow down.

Though in urban areas they prefer to catch their z’s during daylight, you just might see some scavenging along the beach on Day 4 of your Cape Town Tour.

 

From the Roadway to the Runway: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town 2017

 

 

Model

Style mavens, it’s here! The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town 2017 starts today. Even better, this year’s venue is Camps Bay, Cape Town’s chichi spot to see and be seen. Set at the Camps Bay Sports Complex, the Fashion Week tent emulates the likes of Bryant Park for New York Fashion Week, and this edgy setup houses a host of exciting experiences from the 23rd through the 25th of March 2017.

Rub shoulders with the masterminds behind the masterpieces, sip on stylish molecular cocktails and talk fashion with those who create it, all while jiving to unplugged sessions from some of Cape Town’s finest musicians.

Guys Fashion

The sensory overload doesn’t stop there. An enticing selection of artisanal food vendors are on site to provide tasty replenishment. Relax between shows and reflect on the fashion offerings from the design deck overlooking cosmopolitan Camps Bay beach.

Visit the Designer Boutique and Privé platform to peruse Pan-African pieces, with a carefully curated and designed collection of fusion fabrics, eclectic accessories and handbags. Take advantage of the complimentary Wi-Fi and charging stations. You won’t want to miss snapping selfies with your friends amid the metallic Fashion Week balloons during this sensational annual event.

CatwalkAfrican Fashion International (AFI) has partnered with Mercedes-Benz South Africa to host this world-class event that aims to engage, entertain and inspire audiences long after taking in the collection on the catwalk. With the best of everything that fashion has to offer from an experiential point of view, inclusive innovation will ensure that each guest enjoys this extraordinary experience with fashion as the focus. Step out in style. See you there!

Visit The French Corner of South Africa

Franschhoek: The Heart of South African Food & Wine

Nestled between towering mountains in the beautiful Cape Winelands, lies the magnificent Franschhoek Valley. This is the food and wine heartland of the country, where splendid wines are grown and top chefs create international cuisine. Here, breathtaking scenery, warm hospitality, world class cuisine and the finest wines all combine to create lasting memories.

Franschhoek Valley, known as South Africa's food and wine capital.

Franschhoek, known as South Africa’s food and wine capital.

Top 9 Tips For An Amazing Vacation

Travel South Africa On the Road To Happiness

Does the thought of going on vacation inspire feelings of joy? It should! There are nine secrets to a happy vacation, according to the new “Road to Happiness Study,” which quantifies the connection between happiness and travel. Results of the study revealed some key elements of the happiest vacations. We think our range of experiences in South Africa make a perfect fit!

Fly South African Airways from Washington Dulles or New York's Kennedy Airport to Johannesburg

Fly South African Airways from Washington Dulles or New York’s JFK to Johannesburg.

 

Tip #1: Plan Ahead

When you plan ahead, you get a double benefit: better prices and more availability. A recent CheapAir.com report monitored 4 million flights and found that the average lowest fares surfaced 54 days before travel. And, according to the Road to Happiness Study, 90 percent of the happiest vacationers planned more than a month in advance, leaving plenty of time to savor the delicious pre-vacation anticipation.