cape town tour

Fresh Finds

Daily news and travel ideas for South Africa !


African bathtubs - soak yourself sexy!

Blessed with such a splendid climate and vast open spaces as we are in South Africa, it's perhaps not a surprise that the idea of taking a bath outside has become so very popular.  Now the most exclusive lodges and game reserves in the region have started to compete for the most outlandish, fantastic and wonderful locations and views from their bathrubs.

Would you like to watch a herd of elephants crossing a river whilst taking a bath?  Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa can offer that.  Like to watch the Zambezi River cruise by and listen to Victoria Falls in the distance as you soak? Then you'll like Tongabezi Lodge in Zambia.

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Spectacular walking in Mpumalanga

Spectacular walking in Mpumalanga

Walking in South Africa, even if you only do it for half a day, is just such a must-do that sometimes it seems as if hardly a month goes by before another jaw-droppingly spectacular hiking route is opened!

This one, the Blue Swallow Trail in Mpumalanga near Nelspruit, is no exception: actually a four-day hike (and quite a strenuous one at that), you can still do sections of it day by day.  

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The little Cape you didn't know about

The little Cape you didn't know about

Way down on the south coast of South Africa, there is another peninsula, different from its more famous cousin at the Cape, that's perhaps even more beautiful.

Cape St. Francis is a tiny spit of land about four hours from Cape Town to the west which offers an beautiful village setting.  There are strict regulations on what styles of property can be built, meaning that the houses and shops all fit with the original fisherman's village of whitewashed rough plaster houses with black, normally thatched, roofs.  This has meant that the village really does feel like one, not just a collection of enormous millionaire's summer houses.

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Take a 3 minute South Africa holiday...

Take a 3 minute South Africa holiday...

It's often a little hard for visitors to South Africa to get a sense of the scale and beauty of the natural environment in the country, particularly in the countryside where still photos often don't do the places justice.

That's why we particularly liked this superb video made recently of The Otter Trail by Etienne Schoeman.  It's really worth watching so grab a cup of tea and take a 3 minute holiday!

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The Diepwalle Forest

The Diepwalle Forest

Sometimes it's not so much the destinations but the things you do on the way that make a trip truly magical - the drive from the south coast, Garden Route, to the inland Karoo towns of Oudtshoorn and De Rust is a very popular one, going as it does through some spectacular mountain scenery.

However, there's a beautiful secret forest on the way just outside of Knysna which few people know about. 

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Aloe aloe!

Aloe aloe!

The aloe industry in South Africa is one of the least understood or visited - aloes are a huge family of plants but the ones that are used in cosmetics are aloe vera and the aloe ferox, commonly known as bitter aloe.  The ferox (fire) variety) is indigenous (but not endemic) to Southern Africa, particularly to the more arid regions of the Karoo and Eastern Cape.  

For a long time, only wild aloes were harvested but these days they are actually cultivated on large farms, not least because of the massive increase in demand in the medicinal (it's used extensively in dermatology) and cosmetic industries. The ancient Egyptians used it extensively in animal and human medicine and its been shown to have anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

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The Karoo meets urban chic

The Karoo meets urban chic

We were very impressed with a new additional to accommodation possiblities in the Karoo area of the Eastern Cape.  The Karoo is a semi-desert region that offers wonderful remote retreats but increasingly more and more high end offerings in terms of food and accommodation.

One of the most beautiful and historic Karoo farmhouses in the area have now been restored and modernised by the architect owner to create a new look with 21st century touches in design and furnishing to accommodate guests in this great part of the world.  The result is De Aap Farm Lodge.

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Two fires - with tragic results.

Two fires - with tragic results.

Travellers of ours sent us two articles from the Western media recently about two types of fire in South Africa: first the forest fires in George, on the Garden Route and then also the train fires in Cape Town.  A bit of context always helps to fill in the blanks with a news report, so here's our take on the stories.

The reason why so many innocent victims get killed in forest fires is often because of insufficient housing or overcrowding where they live, meaning that they live illegally in national parks such as forests.  Also, with dependency on open fires for cooking, people often stray into national parks for firewood and then get caught in the fires.  Then there are those who volunteer to help combat the fires but aren’t trained or properly equipped and get overcome normally first by smoke and then get trapped.  This kind of problem is only going to get worse until provincial government corruption gets stopped, which is in itself a mammoth task.

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A rural escape in the Western Cape

A rural escape in the Western Cape

A little bit of extra effort goes a long way in the Western Cape: just adding another hour's drive from the city of Cape Town transports you into a truly magical 'away from it all' set of locations.

This particular one crossed our path recently, being beautifully located between two mountain ranges and three nature reserves, yet not so far from habitation as to be impossibly remote.  Palmietvlei Farm in Wolsely, near to Ceres and Tulbagh, is a blueberry and pear farm, on which you can stay as a guest in a totally detached dwelling. FamTin, as this particular house is called, is actually two shipping containers converted into a house. Sounds awful? You'd be wrong!

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Active conservation safaris - an engaging way to go on safari

Active conservation safaris - an engaging way to go on safari

Safari – originally a Swahili word simply meaning ‘journey’, it’s taken on a whole new range of meanings in the last 50 years.  But have you ever considered an active conservation safari?

Several private game reserves across South Africa have recently begun offering some very innovative ways to take the concept of ‘safari’ to another level.

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South Africa - how to make a fairer country

South Africa - how to make a fairer country

How does one rebuild a formally colonised country? It's perhaps the biggest unanswered question up and down the African continent - much of the 20th century was concerned with self-rule and independence movements which lead in many cases to military juntas and anti-democratic governance and protracted civil wars.

In South Africa, we managed through some very shrewd brinkmanship to avoid both a war and a dictatorship: whilst that was a massive achievement, the massive inequalities present in colonial times have unfortunately only worsened, even if some of the beneficiaries now have black skins.

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Knysna - sustainable and fun things to do!

Knysna - sustainable and fun things to do!

What's so impressive about Knysna? This pretty town on the Garden Route, South Africa, is a whole destination in itself where one can easily spend an entire holiday.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the beautiful natural harbour that is the Knysna Lagoon but the town itself has so much to offer too. The high street and shopping centres are full of small, owner-managed shops coupled with the convenience of national chains but there’s also a sophisticated range of dining options and trips that you can take around the town.

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Cape Town dams are overflowing!

Cape Town dams are overflowing!

The long drought is over and Africa’s most cosmopolitan city welcomes you with open arms.

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Explore South Africa's largest wilderness with ease

Explore South Africa's largest wilderness with ease

The inland section of South Africa north of the Garden Route (i.e. not along the coastline) holds so many treasures.

This week, whilst planning a trip for two of our clients, we came across this super offering near Willowmore. This small town in the Western Cape is the gateway to the Baviaanskloof Wilderness, an enormous public park and largest wilderness reserve in the country.

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Follow in the footsteps of the world's oldest extant human culture

Follow in the footsteps of the world's oldest extant human culture

Follow in the footsteps of the oldest extant human culture

A wilderness safari in the Kalahari Desert, Botswana

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Franschhoek - beyond the libation and mastication!

Franschhoek - beyond the libation and mastication!

Franschhoek - known to most people for two key things: its gourmet food and its superb wine experiences.

However, Franschhoek has far more to offer than just libation and mastication: its utterly splendid rural location is in itself worth exploring either by bike or on foot.  We particularly like the offering of the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve.

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Solitaire - the gateway to the Namib

Solitaire - the gateway to the Namib

We just can't get enough of Namibia at Where It All Began - and who can blame us?

Whilst building a trip for Swiss family this month, we came across the newly-built Solitaire site. This is a tiny settlement on the borders of the Namib-Naukluft which is the largest game reserve in Africa (yes, bigger than the Kruger, bigger than the Serengeti and Masai Mara) and is in total about the size of Switzerland.

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Montagu - surprises at every turn.

Montagu - surprises at every turn.

We're writing an itinerary for Irish travellers this week: they're being driven from Addo in the Eastern Cape to the Winelands in the Western Cape by our guide, Chris Hannival.

On the way, we're suggesting they stop off at Montagu, one of the many villages on the eastern side of the winelands, about two hours from Cape Town.

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Desert Wine (no, not dessert wine!)

Desert Wine (no, not dessert wine!)

The Karoo Desert is famous for a lot of things: long, lonely landscapes, amazing rock formations, art festivals and sheep! One thing it's perhaps less famous for is wine.

Despite this, for the third year in a row,the Karoo Art Hotel in Barrydale has won the Diner's Club Wine List Diamond Award, which celebrates those establishments that offer a creative and dynamic wine list that pairs wines as part and parcel of the food menu. Considering that most of the establishments in South Africa who win this award are urban, five-star hotels, this is a major achievement.

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Safari meets Cuisine

Safari meets Cuisine

The concept of safari is rapidly changing in South Africa: many private game reserves and lodges are realising that whilst the wildlife and environment are the major attraction, the really innovative establishments are offering learning experiences as part of their stays.

One that crossed our desk recently is that of Kwandwe in the Eastern Cape, who now offer a Campfire Cooking Course as part of any three night stay there.

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Wellington - the South African winelands town you didn't know about

Wellington - the South African winelands town you didn't know about

Anyone who's been to South Africa even if it's just once will have heard of the famous winelands towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

But there are many more lesser-known, smaller towns which have a great variety of offerings, for instance Wellington. This particular town has none of the over-marketed feel of its more famous cousins yet is less than an hour from Cape Town.

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Why ethical tourism so important to rural communities

Why ethical tourism so important to rural communities

Ethical travel and tourism has the ability to change the lives of entire communities - as the story below shows.

The Pilanesberg National Park is a small state-owned reserve about 90 minutes' drive from Johannesburg. It's particularly famous for its proximity to the love-it-or-hate-it Sun City, South Africa's answer to Las Vegas.

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The San community of the Kalahari

The San community of the Kalahari

A splendid photo sent to us today by travelers who have just returned from Botswana.

It's of a guide called Joseph, a member of the San community living in the Kalahari Desert, Botswana. He and his tribe live near Deception Valley Lodge, one of only two formal lodges you can stay in across the whole desert.

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South Africa's Gandhi legacy

South Africa's Gandhi legacy

It comes as a surprise to many visitors to South Africa to learn that Mahatma Gandhi who famously liberated India from colonial British rule began his resistance to racial oppression as a young lawyer in South Africa.  In fact, he lived in South Africa for no less than 21 years. This part of his life is alluded to in the Richard Attenborough film where Gandhi was famously thrown off a train for sitting in the First Class carriage (which he had paid for) during the apartheid era.

Much of the Gandhi legacy is to be found in the KwaZulu Natal province (more on that another time) but not many people know that Gandhi also lived for a time in Johannesburg at what is now called Satyagarha House.

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Living on the edge - ethically!

Living on the edge - ethically!

We're always looking for ethical alternatives to the run-of-the-mill offerings and came across Gorges Lodge today. It’s run by Imvelo Safari Lodges which is corporate but only (we feel) in a positive sense. They run a series of five medium-sized lodges in the Hwange National Park area (Zimbabwe, close to Victoria Falls), all of which operate on community owned land by concession and have, since inception (1996), been about working not only in harmony with but actually creating direct benefits for the communities that live in the park. One notable example is the water program, where ironically, despite the Zambezi actually flowing through the park, there is little other water for communities to access or for the lodges to use. As such, the boreholes that Imvelo has sunk serve their lodges and the communities’ water needs in tandem.

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Affordable eco-chic, South African style.

Affordable eco-chic, South African style.

A new accommodation offering came across our path today: from its name, you might think this was some kind of hippy relic from the 1970s, whereas in fact Purple Haze Eco Lodge is an avant-garde, and highly affordable, accommodation choice.

Surrounded by beautiful wild land (protected Amathole coastal forest) during the day there is almost total silence other than birdsong and the crashing of waves – while the nights are dark, except for the moon and stars. The views of the Indian Ocean from this hillside are magnificent, as is sunset and sunrise, with early mornings accompanied by the smell of wet earth and crisp, fresh air. This is the start of the Wild Coast, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

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Limpopo and the Mapungubwe Rhinoceros

Limpopo and the Mapungubwe Rhinoceros

We’ve clients travelling in the northernmost part of South Africa this week as we said yesterday, in the province of Limpopo.

The story of the Limpopo border region between South African and Zimbabwe is a fascinating one, playing out over the last 800 years, and it’s all centered round a tiny golden rhinoceros.

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Northern South Africa - an untouched paradise

Northern South Africa - an untouched paradise

Really a very impressive photo today from American clients of ours travelling in the north of South Africa.

This particular shot was taken not at sunset but at sunrise (hence the rather alluring pinkish hue to the sky): we think they've done very well to capture the sillhouette without losing the foreground detail. The photo was taken at Umlani Bush Camp in Timbavati Reserve, Greater Kruger.

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The Wild Coast - paradise untamed

The Wild Coast - paradise untamed

Ever been to the Wild Coast? No? Well you should!

The Wild Coast in South Africa lives up to its name in so many ways. It's a beautiful stretch of coastline over 600km long that stretches from East London in the south to Port Shepstone in the north.

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Game reserves - small is beautiful!

Game reserves - small is beautiful!

A week or so ago, we posted on the benefits of visiting the smaller nature reserves in South Africa over the larger and better known ones.

Continuing with that theme, you might like Masebe Nature Reserve in Limpopo which is small but has some very interesting attractions and good facilities.

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Contact Us

26 Brunswick Road
Tamboerskloof, Cape Town

Office +27 21 424 5347
Cell +27 72 136 9096

WhatsApp +27 72 136 9096

Email: travel@whereitallbegan.co.za

Skype: philrendel

About

We’re an ethical private travel planning company focused on Southern Africa.

We offer ready-made and also customised holidays and journeys across this unique region of the world.

When our clients travel with us, they are assured that their travel spend is directly supporting local African companies that offer sustainable products and services, both in terms of people and planet.

Ethos

Our logo is an image of a skull found in the Rising Star Cave System in Gauteng, South Africa in 2013. It was named ‘homo naledi’, meaning ‘human of the stars’.

The cave system has so far given rise to the remains of over 15 individuals, making it the largest hominid fossil remains site ever discovered.

Travelling to Southern Africa is truly a return to the source of humankind, to Where It All Began.