Adventure

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Flying through the air with the greatest ease

You’d have to be a little mad to allow yourself to be strapped into a harness, hoisted 30 metres into the air, then pulling a release cord that sends you plummeting into a free fall at up to 90km an hour, right?

Either that, or you can just be conned into it without knowing the details. Shame, that’s what I did to my best friend Christy the last time we went to Ratanga Junction.

The theme park will open on Friday (September 28) for the school holidays and is without a doubt, one of the funnest (yes, it is a real word) day out you can have with your clothes on. The ride to which I am referring above is the Sling Shot. Ratanga is probably most famous for its Cobra rollercoaster – now branded with a sponsored name but it will always be the Cobra to me – but the Sling Shot delivers a massive dose of adrenaline. Continue reading

“The colour of adventure”

Anyone who’s ever felt the desire to hop into the basket of a hot air balloon will find this picture by Jayme Vasconcellos, taken at the Kruger Adventure Lodge, particularly inspiring! Nothing says adventure quite like a colourful hot air balloon taking off into the sky! See more Instagrams under “Photos” here: http://safindit.co.za/kruger-adventure-lodge

10 things to do this Heritage Weekend

Whether you’re staying at home this Heritage Day long weekend or you’re heading out to explore South Africa, we’ve got some ideas of places you can visit and events you can enjoy to celebrate!

In KZN…

1. White Mountain Festival

Acoustic music in the mountains… what more could you ask for? Brought to you by the same experienced crew that produce Splashy Fen every year, White Mountain is its’ smaller, mellow cousin. Discover new local artists or support your favourites, all while indulging in the magical mountain vista. Take the family for an unforgettable experience.

2. Witness Hilton Arts Festival

Broadly considered to be KZN’s premier arts and culture festival the annual Witness Hilton Arts Festivaland produces a sterling programme of drama, comedy, music, cabaret, arts and crafts, children’s theatre, Mindscapes discussions, workshops, films and exhibitions appealing to all who visit the festival each year. This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the festival.

3. Fun in the Sun

For the fourth year running over 3000 KZN electronic music lovers will once again gather on the banks of the Hazelmere Dam for a massive outdoor festival involving two days of house, dance and electronic music, Swimming, Tanning, Partying and fun times.

Gauteng

4. The Cradle Festival

Head to where it all began to celebrate in the ultimate Heritage Day place. Expect musical performances from the likes of Louise Carver, and Idol’s winner, Elvis Blue as well as the Cradle Festival Wine Weekend, which includes cheese and wine tastings, as well as loads of fun activities and competitions for the whole family to enjoy. The daily kids programme offers parents peace-of-mind and a day-off to spoil themselves and relax while being able to enjoy the live entertainment, cheeses and wines. A Craft Expo allows exhibitors from the Cradle and surrounding areas to showcase their business and service offerings. Continue reading

Reconnect at Rhino River Lodge

The African bushveld feels like a vast and never-ending space when you’re in the midst of it, but it’s at these times that you feel the most intimate connection to this natural environment and its inhabitants.

At Rhino River Lodge in Zululand, the small team aims to give each guest that uniquely personal nature high.
“We want them to get an intimate look at nature, so that all of our guests leave with a renewed appreciation of the bush, mindful of the importance of conservation and how it can play a role creating a space where people can relax, and hopefully re-awakening that childlike thrill of seeing a special nature moment – be it as simple as examining an intricate leaf or looking up at the stars, or as complex as negotiating a bush walk round an extremely rate and hugely endangered black rhino,” says manager Shona Lawson.

She’s one of a group of just 15 people who total the workforce at this quaint lodge within the 23,000 hectare Zululand Rhino Reserve. The lodge consists of four luxury en-suite rooms plus there are also two rustic family cottages that can accommodate up to four people.
Reserve manager Dale Airton leads the team with Shona, head ranger Isaac Gumede and support rangers Jenine and Jason take on the wildlife and bushveld challenges. In addition there are 3 trackers who also work on the grounds and 7 ladies who run the kitchen and housekeeping services. Continue reading

Dive into an underwater wonderland

The Two Oceans Aquarium is, I believe, one of the shining jewels in Cape Town’s tourism crown.
But being Monday and all, allow me a small confession: I live in Cape Town. I love Cape Town. But man, oh man, I hate the holiday crowds. This especially includes children.

Yes, I know – they’ll be unleashed on the world once again next week and you’ll be looking for somewhere to take them; the aquarium is perfect for that. It’s pretty and it’s educational. Fun and awe inspiring even. But if you are like me and prefer to take your edification without being surrounded by hoards of screaming waist-high, ice scream-smeared creatures, then do yourself a favour and sneak off for a few self-indulgent and calming hours.

Entrance to the aquarium is not cheap, but if you plan to go regularly, get yourself a Soul Mates annual pass which offers unlimited access for a fraction of the price. They’re sneaky; you’re going to have to delve into their website a bit to find it, but it’s there and represents huge savings. Even buying your normal day ticket online is less expensive, so do your research.

Inside the aquarium a world of underwater wonder awaits you. The “Nemo” tank near the entrance, with its clear cavity into which you can immerse yourself in a cloud of swirling clown fish is a huge attraction for young and old. I suspect there are plenty of adults who wish they could fit in there.

Again, doing this with little ones or doing it as a grown up are two different things. As the latter, you can take your time and appreciate the magical beauty of marine life you’d never otherwise experience. Not all of us are cut out to be scuba divers. Continue reading

Saving Rietvlei for a Summer’s Day

Johannesburg is a city with limited entertainment resources. This densely populated hub leaves one to choose between malls and public parks for any form of amusement – especially for children. While a coastal destination would make an ideal alternative, a drive to the Rietvlei Zoo Farm easily ignites the excitement in anticipation of warmer Summer days.

September 1 marked the beginning of Spring and our enthusiasm as mothers led us to pack our babies and picnic baskets into our cars and spend the day in the outdoors- to Rietvlei Farm, the perfect place for family picnics, provides vast space for chairs, tables, gazebos and picnic blankets.

Situated in the south of Johannesburg on Swartkoppies Road, the farm offers boundless recreation. It receives an influx of visitors during the hottest months of Summer when the grass is beautifully green, the flowers have blossomed and the trees are renewed. The first day of Spring came with great disappointment as the farm was not ready yet to host visitors. The wind was harsh sending dry and flaky grass into our neatly packed baskets. Trees were still dull and the rest of the farm looked arid and barren. It seemed we were too eager for the warmth of Spring.

Nonetheless we salvaged what we could and made the most of the day. The tail end chills of Winter prompted us to steal an unoccupied lapa that became the best solution to keeping the children warm. Continue reading

Daily Collection

Route 62 – the Great Karoo!

It’s an area of South Africa that many who live elsewhere may not even have thought of, let alone visited, but this scenic tourist route covering the Western Cape and Eastern Cape is one that could keep you good and lost from civilization for some time.

Adventure is never far away on Route 62 where you’re surrounded by a wealth of natural resources from mountains, passes, rivers to vineyards and orchards.

This collection contains just a small selection of some of the more interesting places, sights and activities you could sample on your Route 62 road trip like adventure activities, wine farms, antiques and collectables, nature reserves, animals and water sports- just enough to peak your interest in the magical Karoo…

Thrill-seekers get a rush with Extreme Scene

When Gavin Pfister’s professional rugby career came to an end after playing at Currie Cup level in South Africa and at premiership and Celtic league level in the UK, there was never any doubt he would return to Cape Town.

As a lifelong adrenaline junkie, it was a logical progression to follow his passion and start an adventure tours company.

In 2009, he opened Extreme Scene Tours and together with his right-hand lady Lauren, they have become a top choice for local & international thrill-seekers in the Western Cape.

Xtra: What makes Extreme Scene unique?
Gavin: We are unique because we are a small team. We are both local, with a passion for the place that we live in and the desire to show guests this by means of extreme activities. We are also both very hands on with all of our clients bookings (from start to finish).

X: Of your achievements as a business, what are you most proud of?
G: I am very proud of the fact that we have become a top agent in a relatively short space of time and in a very competitive market.

X: What kind of person does it take to work in your field?
G: A person that is passionate about the area that they are working in, the outdoors and most of all people! You have to be able to communicate effectively with people across the globe.

X: Would you say your business has a definite target market?
G: Yes and no. You will always find in this industry, that your age group is relatively young. As extreme sports and activities are becoming more visible, we are looking at clients across the board. Continue reading

Just blending into the bushveld

You’ve got to learn to tread lightly and keep your senses on high alert if you want to experience the real Africa on foot.
That’s according to field guide Ivor van Rooyen of Zululand Walking Safaris.

With over 1600 hours of on-foot guiding and more than 10 years experience behind him, he’s the guy you’d want to listen to at all times during your adventure!

Zululand Walking Safaris is based at Leopard Mountain Game Lodge high up in the 23 000ha Zululand Rhino Reserve and was started by the local Vivier family who wanted to allow their guests to get a more one on one experience with nature. Together with Ryan Vivier, who has worked for the past 15 years in a Big 5 reserve doing guiding and conservation work, the two are in charge of the walking trails.

“We want our guests to experience Africa naturally, without the drone of a vehicles engine in the background. We encourage our guests to walk in silence and use their five senses to get the ‘whole picture”. Explanations about interesting things are done in whispers so that we do not distract from what is happening around us,” explained Ivor.

Zululand Walking Safaris is one of the few operators who are legally qualified to take guests into a ‘Dangerous Game’ area – that means a Big 5 zone!
“We do take firearms with us on the Walking Safaris but they are a last resort,” Ivor said, “The aim of the walking safaris is not to get close to dangerous game. We do come across dangerous animals but have never had an incident. We try and view animals without them being aware of our presence, for us a good sighting is to leave the animal without it knowing that we were there.” Continue reading

Percy Tours adds passion to the package

Passion and enthusiasm are all part of the package when you book a trip with Percy Tours.
Named after owner and operator Percy Heywood, a seasoned traveller himself, the business opened in 2004 to give tourists a personalised and unique South African experience.

Originally from England, Percy went backpacking non-stop for 16 months, exploring 16 different countries during 1999, 2000 and 2001, ending in South Africa for 5 months. His SA trip took him from Durban to Cape Town, up to Pretoria and North into Africa. Along the way, Percy fell in love with the Western Cape. He returned to London to sell all his worldly belongings and settle in the seaside town of Hermanus.
“With over 8 months of travelling around this incredible region as a tourist, I could clearly see a vast amount of potential in starting a tour operator to show tourists the massive amount of excellence that the Western Cape (and South Africa) have to offer,” he says.

But it wasn’t that simple. Percy first had to complete his tour guide qualifications, which took two years, wine exams with the Cape Wine Academy, first aid training and more!
Nowadays Percy and his wife Ronel take tourists on a range of tours and travel experiences, the most popular of which include the Wine Tours, Cape Town city centre, Cape Point, Whales and Shark boat trips, Safaris and great restaurants, according to Percy.
“The Western Cape has so much to offer the tourist that not a single minute will ever be boring and every person’s interests are catered for – from babies to 98 year old grannies! – They will all be astonished by the massive amount of things to see, do and explore, which makes my life equally as interesting, as I get to do and see thousands of amazing places and activities too – it really is a dream job!”

It’s a good thing that Percy is as energetic as he is though, because he says it’s a crucial attribute to have, as well as positivity, people skills and major organisational talents. Percy feels he has what it takes to deliver the kind of experience every traveller would dream of though.
“Firstly, I have worked all my life (35 years) in sales and marketing, which has always brought me in contact with people. I truly am a people-person. After working in London for 25 years I think I am able to (hopefully) understand how and what foreign visitors will love to see in SA.” Continue reading

Daily Collection

Extreme SA – The need for Speed!

Some people love speed. For others it’s the thrill of soaring through the air at enormous heights. Some people get their kicks from being in close proximity to deadly creatures and then there are those who like it all!

Whatever your adrenaline fix, we’re here to indulge your inner speed-freak.

We’ve collected more than 20 places that you can go and experience all kinds of crazy and heart-stopping action, from bouncing down a hill in a giant inflatable ball to hurling yourself off the precipice of the legendary Soweto cooling towers.

Just try stay safe while you’re at it, mmkay?

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The Wild Life – SA’s top game-viewing spots!

We may not have some of the cool first-world things that other countries have like high speed internet and free healthcare, but we do have five things that make all of those countries jealous of us: Lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo…

Many of our country’s troubles simply seem to drift away when we’re confronted with the power and magnificence of these creatures in their natural habitat.

We are so lucky to have game lodges, reserves and farms just a few hours and sometimes minutes outside of all our major cities. We put this collection together to point you in the direction of some of the country’s best game-viewing locations.

Every now and then it’s important for us South Africans to venture out into the true Africa and remember what makes this continent so unique and magical.

Daily Collection

Friendly Plett – A Garden Route Great!

TripAdvisor recently recognised Plettenberg Bay as the number three most popular ‘Beach & Sun Destination in Africa’ and the 8th most popular ‘Outdoor & Adventure Destinations in Africa’, but its no surprise to those who live and holiday there regularly.
Nature and adventure are synonymous with Plett from the famous flora and forests to wildlife sanctuaries and breath-taking ocean life. For those with a taste for adrenaline, sky-diving, kayaking, shark-diving, motorcycling and bungee jumping are just a few of the activities on offer.

According to kulula.com, Plett is also the friendliest holiday destination in South Africa. After undertaking their ‘Friendliest Destinations Survey’ in 2011, surveying over 1500 people from across the country, Plett locals were found to give the biggest smiles and warmest welcome.

In our collection, you’ll find a sample of what’s on offer in Friendly Plett, but you’ll need to go there to experience it first-hand!

Drakensberg’s Amphitheatre of Dreams

It all started with one lonely and lost German backpacker. Ilsa Roberts and Linda Haley found the poor soul hitchhiking near their Mooi River cottage in 1998 and offered him a place to stay and a humble meal of roasted mielies.

But word got out and soon more tourists were arriving on their doorstep and, thanks to their own travel experiences, they seemed to know just how to entertain their visiting friends.
Within three years their modest home was just not big enough to accommodate the tourists and so Ilse and Linda set out to find a new venue for their budding hospitality business.

That perfect spot was found in the same location as Africa’s highest waterfall, high up in the Northern Drakensberg. Fortuitously KZN Wildlife was on the lookout for guardians who could oversee a neglected sub-section of Royal Natal National Park, called Pocolane Nature Reserve. They hoped this new partnership would bring more foreign travellers into the area and stimulate new work opportunities for the local community.

Pocolane had everything you could want from a backpacker venue: an awe-inspiring mountain panorama and a wealth of natural sights and activities from hiking to San rock art.
The partnership was approved in 2000 and, from modest beginnings with one vehicle and two staff members, Amphitheatre Backpackers was born. Continue reading

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Midlands Attractions – Start Meandering!

Quaint, peaceful, picturesque… The KZN Midlands is a place where you could think that time had simply stood still. Cows moo lazily as you drive past and locals smile & wave. It’s the kind of place you wish you could be when deadlines are looming on a Friday morning.

It’s also a hub of culture and artistic and creative talent. Pick up a Meander Map and we guarantee you’ll find something that interests you – from pottery and leather goods to textiles, African crafts & even fashion.

The Meander is also a foodie’s dream. Whether you yearn for high cuisine or fresh goats cheese straight off the farm, home-made biltong & preserves or renowned craft beer, it’s all there – just a couple of hours outside of Durban.