cape town tour

A new approach to a winelands tour

Many visitors to Cape Town go on at least one 'wine experience' during their visit: and why ever not? Not just the city but the entire province is literally bursting with wine in countless shapes and forms.  However, one winelands tour can feel very much like another, particularly if you're serious about wine and have been in such trips in other countries.

Enter Coffeebeans Routes, a company we've been working closely with for a while and their Biodynamic and Natural Wine Route. Very much in keeping with our ethos of sustainability to people and planet, this journey starts with the premis that most of us would prefer food that is organically or biodynamically produced as far as possible.  So why not take this logic into wine?

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KwaZulu Natal as you've never seen it before

It's always such a pleasure to discover/learn of somewhere new, particularly in KZN, the 'tropical province' of South Africa.

Karkloof Safari Villas is a five-star offering about 45 minutes from Pietermaritzburg, which is itself about 40 minutes north of Durban.  Set in the rolling countryside of the KZN Midlands, and within easy reach of the beautiful collection of villages and small town that make up the Midlands Meander, Karkloof offers a very interesting combination of wellness, retreat and safari all at one establishment.  

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Wilderness - the gem of the Garden Route, South Africa

Undoubtedly one of South Africa’s most spectacular locations, Wilderness is a small town on the Garden Route, which is the stretch of road that goes from Cape Town all the way to Addo (just to the east of Port Elizabeth). 

Wilderness is particularly famous for its beach, the length of which is visible from the Kaaiman’s Pass as you descend from the Cape Town side and guarantees a ‘Wow!’ from everyone in the car everytime! However Wilderness also has one of the most beautiful river settings, opening out into two freshwater lakes, behind the main dunes which add a whole other element onto the stay.  Add on to this some great food options and you’ve got a whole holiday right there.

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Miracles of the Eastern Cape

We're very excited today to be launching a new journey: this one is actually the brainchild of Khonaye Tunswa of Camissa Tours.  They've asked us to build more journeys for them beyond their immediate area, which is Cape Town and of course we're delighted to do.

This particular trip takes you to the heart (both geographically and spiritually) of the country, which is the Eastern Cape.  Sadly, this area is almost completely overlooked by most visitors who 'fly over' from Port Elizabeth to Durban.  What they miss is perhaps the most important part of the country, if you want to stand any chance at all of understanding this country and its political future.

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South Africa's minimum wage

If you've been following local news in South Africa, you'll see that we have sadly returned to mass strike action on the part of our major unions.  The issue under the spotlight is the proposed national minimum wage.

Contrary to what is being reported, South Africa does already have a minimum wage, only they are what is called 'sectoral determinations'. This means that each industry gets to set a minimum wage that it finds appropriate for that industry.  For example, hospitality has a minimum wage of ZAR3 193 per month for companies with fewer than ten employees.

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What exactly is 'ethical travel'?

At Where It All Began, we only create African journeys that are ethical.  But what exactly does that mean? 

‘Ethical travel’ is a relatively new concept, especially in Africa: it doesn’t mean ‘eco-tourism’ or ‘voluntourism’.  For us, ethical travel means travelling in such a way that one is mindful of how tourism and travel can have a negative impact on both people and planet.  It also means actively taking steps to not only mitigate that impact, but actually turn it into a positive and mutually beneficial impact.

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Affordable South African safaris!

Despite the myth perpetuated by some game lodges that you 'have to spend' at least $4,000 a night to see truly wild animals and stay in decent quality accommodation, there are not only affordable ways to go on safari in but exceptionally pleasant ones too.

Yes, they do exist!  We have just finished building a journey for clients that takes them on a private, guided safari over two days with a local guide for ZAR4600 per day, for a full day trip.  They are also staying at the excellent Nselwini Bush Lodge (which is a public lodge run by KZN Wildlife on the banks of the Mfolozi River) for ZAR2000 per day. Admittedly that's self-catering but the quality of the accommodation is a comfortable four-star and you can drive less than 8km to get food at the Mpila resort is you can't be bothered to cook.

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The Steve Biko legacy

We're building a homecoming for one of our clients this week: she was born in the Eastern Cape but grew up in Switzerland. We've suggested a trip with Velile Ndlumbini who offers tours of the eastern half of the Eastern Cape (it's a massive region), especially to Steve Biko region.

Biko's name was immortalised after his murder by the apartheid regime in 1977 and by no less than four recordings of the Peter Gabriel song 'Biko' by Paul Simon amongst others. He was also the central character of Cry Freedom, the 1987 Richard Attenborough film.  His legacy as the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement is felt all across the world to this day.

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Affordable beach, snorkelling and diving in South Africa

Whilst South Africa has one of the longest coastlines of any country in the world, and whilst that coastline is visually stunning, much of the water is very cold and not conducive to a tropical beach holiday.

However, for those who are looking for a 'white sand beach palm tree and cocktail' experience as part of their journey, look no further than the KZN North Coast, near to the Mozambique border.  

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Bored? Madagascar!

If you think you've seen it all and done it all in Southern Africa, think again.  We've now teamed up with a company we met at WTM this week to offer journeys to Madagascar.

Whilst being an island, few people appreciate just how big it is.  Madagascar is enormous.  It’s as long as the distance from the Limpopo River (the border with Zimbabwe) all the way down to Port Elizabeth.  So it’s literally as long as South Africa is tall, but with much worse infrastructure (in fact outside of ‘Tana’ (Antananarivo, the capital) as the locals call it, it’s strictly 4x4 only).

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Snowed under with African travel ideas!

All this week we've been at the World Travel Market - Africa which is happening in Cape Town.  It's a trade only show and my word have we come across some amazing new things.  The best part is that much what we've found are new destinations and ideas being offered by people we've known personally for ages. 

It just feels like Southern Africa is on fire with ideas and positivity at the moment.  Here's a great example, a 4x4 route (self-drive) offered by TransFrontier Parks Destinations.  This is arguably the most successful public/private partnership that we've ever seen, where travel industry professionals take over failing government owned establishments and turn them around.

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Coastal slackpacking in South Africa

This week we're at the World Travel Market in Cape Town, checking out what everyone else is offering in the ethical travel sphere.  Being a specialist travel company, trade shows don't really get us terribly excited as most of what's on offer isn't ethical or is too mass market.  But there are some jems out there that we'll share with you as we come across them!

Here's one: we've sent Finnish clients on this journey already as a bespoke trip but now we're considering turning it into a ready-made journey.

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Saving the Sea Turtles

If you love marine wildlife, this story is for you.  Tenikwa (near Plettenberg Bay) and the Two Oceans Aquarium (in Cape Town) are teaming up in a collaborative effort to save turtles. Every year, thousands of loggerhead and leatherback turtles hatch on the beaches of northern KwaZulu-Natal.

They head to sea and are carried southward along the coast by the warm Agulhas Current. Facing high levels of predation and strong currents, many hatchlings find themselves off the Cape's south coast - stunned by the cold, weak and often injured. Many inevitably wash up and are stranded on our beaches. Without help, these stranded hatchlings have no chance of survival.

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Mother of the Nation

The whole nation has been turned on its head for the last week since the passing, and yesterday the funeral, of perhaps the most controversial of all the freedom fighters that South Africa gave birth to.

Nomzamo Madikizela, better known as Winnie Madikizela Mandela, was both the shining light in the otherwise total darkness of the 1970s to 1980s and in her prison cell (she still holds the 'record' for the longest official solitary confinement ever) and the shameful darkness when all around her was light and hope in the post 1994 era.

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New Art Trails arrive in Cape Town

Always something new going on in the world of ethical travel! We just heard about Art Trails, a company recently by Diana Williams, a leading local art expert. Focused on the burgeoning art and cultural offerings in Cape Town, Diana is a certified tourist guide providing insight into the local arts and craft industry. With the opening of the first contemporary African art museum on the continent in Cape Town, the Zeitz MOCAA in the Silo District last September, more and more visitors are interested in the South African art landscape.

Art Trails introduces clients to practicing artists and curators and goes ‘behind-the-scenes’ to where art happens – studios, collectives, leading art galleries and hidden collections in private museums and houses. In addition, Art Trails offers winelands tours showcasing some top collections in the vineyard estates and galleries of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek including the extraordinary Dylan Lewis’ sculpture garden just outside Stellenbosch.

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Conservation as a social imperative

What does conservation mean to you?  Does it mean preserving habitats? Does it mean protecting endangered species? Who should ‘do’ conservation? Business? Charities? Government?

‘Conservation’ is a very big word, especially in this part of the world, where it’s so often misappropriated for the sake of tourism dollars – so many safari offerings in South Africa claim to be ‘deeply involved in conservation’ but very few do more than the minimum they need to do to be able to claim some moral credit with their clients.  After all, conservation is always controversial (what do you conserve, and at the expense of what, and whose agenda are you following?).

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Sensational discount in Hout Bay

Like to stay in nice places in Cape Town? Like to pay even less than Trivago, Booking.com and Expedia? You've come to the right place!

Where It All Began has an offer on Victorskloof Lodge today: book and pay for ANY room before 31st November 2018 and receive a whopping 15% discount on the booking straight away.

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Waterberg and surrounds

We're working on a journey at the moment for clients who don't have a lot of time to travel through South Africa (in fact they have only 10 days) but want to mix game viewing with natural splendour and a rural retreat.

We suggested starting at Madikwe Game Reserve (more on that in a later post) and then driving across the northern side of Johannesburg to the Blyde River Canyon area in Mpumalanga.

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Sustainability South Africa style

We're excited to have set up a meeting today with Iain Harris of Coffeebeans Routes, Cape Town's most highly awarded tour company: we're meeting him at the Lynedoch Sustainability Institute which is located between the airport and Stellenbosch.

Lynedoch is a very interesting and most unusual development: it describes itself as an 'ecologically designed, socially mixed community built around a learning precinct'.  There is the village, in which you can apply to live and then can build a house according to strict environmental guidelines set by the community, is completely off-grid. It harvests rainwater and processes its own sewage on site, as well as using solar energy to heat water and generate electricity.  The villagers undertake to be personally involved in the maintenance of these systems.

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Day Zero and Water Heroes

It seems that the water crisis in Cape Town is getting more and more traction across the globe, but now the focus has shifted from the rather sensationalist 'death of Cape Town' to the more important story of how Cape Town has not only bucked the global trend but is actually leading the world in water conservation and strategy.

We were most interested to discover this article in, of all places, the Los Angeles Timesm which makes the case that Cape Town's management, and most particularly the citizens personal and unwaivering engagement with water conservation, has actually put California (and for that matter Australia) to shame.  This remarkable achievement was not an easy battle: it involved very clever social media and marketing campaigns directed at different communities in different ways as well as a strong stick in the form of water police and heft fines for using municipal water.

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Penguins!

If you don’t already have a soft spot for penguins, you should! In South Africa, we don’t have the large emperor penguins that you find in the Antartic: the ones in the photo are African penguins, (Spheniscus demersus), more commonly called the ‘jackass penguin’, not (as you would think) because of their hilarious behaviour but because of the braying sound they make which to early explorers sounded like a donkey.

They are endangered, mainly due to problems with fish stock on the Cape Peninsula, and it’s for this reason that we’d recommend not visiting the Simonstown colony (very touristy, crowded and bad for the birds) but rather making the trip to the Stoney Point reserve (in the Overberg) which can be done in a day trip from Cape Town (we arrange guided trips of rental vehicles as you prefer).

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Cape Town’s water crisis – the facts!

Yes it’s true that we will have a Day Zero, which is 22nd April, when technically the taps will run dry. In fact, this isn’t strictly true because Cape Town has for too long abandoned its traditional water supply mechanisms (some of which were designed and built by John Parker, the same mayor that built Parker Cottage). We do need to save water, but realistically, we cannot save as much as we need to because we’re dependent on rainfall, despite literally sitting on virtually infinite reserves of water.

When Cape Town became a city rather than just a port, several decisions were made: to prevent cholera, all natural streams that flow through the city were buried in culverts (one of them runs in the street outside my house which has a flow rate of around 3000 litres a minute) to prevent transmission. Additionally, dams and reservoirs were built on top of Table Mountain, which were connected to a pumping station above Camps Bay, and used to fill the Molteno Dam in Oranjezicht. For the population of the city in the early 1900s, this water was more than enough for the year even in low rainfall years.

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What is a Braai ?

Happy Heritage Day! One of South Africa's many public holidays which is supposed to celebrate our unity in diversity. However, since about 2000 it has basically focused on the one thing which really unites all South Africans in our diversity and that is a braai (barbeque)! Unofficially, it's been redubbed National Braai Day.


A braai is a seriously important part of South African national culture and our myriad sub cultures. It means much more here than simply grilling meat (or vegetables) outside. If you are invited to someone's house for a braai, this is a big sign of social acceptance, a little like being invited to Diwali or Thanksgiving in other cultures. You never turn down a braai invitation: it's considered very rude indeed.

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Malaria in South Africa

Malaria is prevalent in South Africa and if you’re travelling to this part of the world, you need to be aware of the risk. Malaria is not present in most of South Africa, only sections of Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Kwazulu Natal. There is no malaria in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape or the Free State and a few other provinces.

Visiting a Malarial Area

One of the most frequented destinations in South Africa is Kruger Park, famous not only for its size (it’s as big as Israel) but also the fact that it’s a trans-frontier park (the border fences to Zimbabwe and Mozambique have been removed, meaning that you are actually visiting three countries in Kruger. If you look at the malarial map, you will see that the eastern border of Kruger in Mozambique is definitely malarial. Kruger itself is seasonally malarial (October to May).and Greater Kruger (western border) is low risk malarial.

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Whale Watching

You don’t need to go to Hermanus and the southern coast of the Overberg (which is a two-hour drive from Cape Town, one way) to see the whales. At this time of year, they are so prevalent that they can even be seen from cafes at the V&A Waterfront (although that is rare and obviously land-based). It will take you pretty much the whole day to get to Hermanus, get out on the boat, see the whales, come back, have lunch, and come home. If you don’t have a full day to dedicate to this, let us know and we’ll suggest alternative locations closer to town.

Weather and sea state (not necessarily related!) play a big part in a successful expedition. You want wind-free days with little or no swell and preferably slightly overcast. This brings the whales to the surface a lot. So ideally, you want to have in your sights about three days in which you can go whale watching (big swells normally roll through False Bay in about three days) and pick the best of them. Going out in a big swell is really just a massive waste of time. You’ll barely see anything, pay a lot of money for the ‘pleasure’ and then come home but lots of operators will take you out anyway.

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African Wild Cats

You may have heard that wonderful song which goes under various names, most famously ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight. It was written by a South African, Solomon Linda, about Shaka Zulu, which includes that immortal line ‘in the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight’. Well, hear’s some news just in: lions don’t live in jungles! However, a lot of big cats do but not on the African continent.

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African Safari Checklist

So you’re heading off on your first African safari? Or perhaps it’s not your first and you’re thinking about how to make things easier this time.

Generally speaking, when it comes to travel in Africa, you need to work on the principle of ‘less is more’. Everything you take with you needs to have a particular function and if it doesn’t, don’t take it. Whilst space is generally not a problem when you arrive at your lodge or camp, moving a lot of bulk and weight will start to irritate you from day one.

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African Safari Tours with kids

Ever thought about taking the family to Africa? If you simply go online and find a place that looks nice to go on safari, you’ll be surprised to find that little or no mention is made of children being welcome or not. It’s sadly generally the case that most game reserves do not welcome children of any age (and by ‘child’ we mean any person up to 12 years old).

This can be a little exasperating because of course one of the main reasons to come to Africa in the first place is for the game viewing and of course, all children love animals! So many couples wrongly assume that they have to do one African trip without the kids and then another with them.

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Walking Safaris

With game viewing being one of the main reasons visitors travel to South Africa, it's a pity that many do not know about the most engaging way to see game: by going on a walking safari.

The advantages are fairly obvious: no vehicle noise to scare away the animals, having as little negative impact as possible on the environment and being able to get so much closer than you would otherwise be able to do to the animals. So what's holding you back?

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Paying for your South African Holiday

South Africa uses its own currency, which is called the Rand (named after the Witswatersrand, the place where the currency was created). The international code for this is ZAR, which we abbreviate to a single capital letter ‘R’.

Currency

Confusingly for foreigners, South Africa uses a decimal point to separate the rands from the cents but doesn’t use a comma to separate the thousands. Instead, we use a space. As such, prices can get a little confusing to the foreign eye. For instance, the figure of ‘ten thousand rand’ is written ‘R10 000.00’ or more commonly just ‘R10 000’. It is not written ‘R10,000’. Often our clients get a bit confused between the ‘R’ and the number straight after it, thinking that combined they are the currency’s symbol (the confusion doubtless created by the use of the space instead of the comma). So for example, they see ‘R1 800’ and think the price is eight hundred rand, when in fact it’s one thousand eight hundred rand. Just remember that the ‘R’ is the equivalent of the ‘$’ or ‘€’ sign then it will be clear what the price is.

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Belleville, Cape Town
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Email: travel@whereitallbegan.co.za

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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.