cape town tour

What's the difference between and game drive and bush walk?

We were asked an interesting question by one of our travellers yesterday: what's the difference between a game drive and a game walk? The obvious answer is that one involves a vehicle and the other involves your legs - but the distinction is actually a little more subtle.

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Tranquil beach and nature reserve - only 20 minutes from the city

Thunzi Bush Lodge manages to achieve something rather special: located not even 20 minutes’ drive from the heart of an industrial city but utterly tranquil, private and 10 minutes from a beautiful unspoilt beach and river mouth.

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Putting the 'ah' back into 'villa'

Rural does not have to mean rustic – if you’re a lover of the countryside and wide open space, but don’t like basic accommodation, Barton Villas in Caledon, South Africa may be just the place for you.

Situated right between the western winelands, the beautiful Overberg coastal region and the Atlantic Ocean, yet under an hour from Cape Town International, you really do get the best of both worlds here.

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An inspiring South Africa story - domestic worker to graduate

If it’s your first day back at work today after the Festive Season and you need cheering up, you’ll love the story of Ntombizodwa Mahlangu: with support and encouragement from her family, employer and colleagues, she made the transition despite being a single parent from domestic worker to graduate in under ten years.

That’s a huge achievement in South Africa where educational standards between the rich and poor vary vastly and as such, the gap between school and university for most is a chasm that’s simply too big to cross.

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A dream safari in Limpopo

“Once you walk in here, the rest of the world disappears”.  So said one guest of the wonderful Toro Yaka Bush Lodge (meaning ‘my dream’ in Sotho, one of South Africa’s many official languages). 

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Deep space meets Planet Earth in South Africa

Southern Africa has a habit of playing host to many 'world's biggest', 'world's oldest', 'world's most...'.  It's a region of amazing things found nowhere else in the world, one of which is the world's largest evidence of Earth's collision with an object from deep space.

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A tropical paradise just south of Durban

When you name your guesthouse after the Garden of Eden, you'd better be pretty sure it's special.  And so, in this case, it is: owned and built by Tony and Sharon, Eden River Lodge on the eastern coast of South Africa, near the city of Durban, are both keen bikers and full of stories from their travels… touring in Scotland for instance, or in Bali, where they have a second home.

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A secret valley, just 4 hours from Johannesburg

Whenever one mentions the word 'secret' in travel writing, one is immediately aware that it's rather self defeating to write about secrets!  But in this case, the Magoebaskloof is the secret that Joburgers don't want too many international visitors to know about.

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Roam, Roam, on the Karoo range.

The wonderfully-named Roam is a splendid haven of isolation, wildlife and landscape.  The 5,000 hectares farm has only recently been converted in an eco-tourism destination, having been a conventional sheep farm, then a hunting lodge for many years. We don't normally feature establishments that aren't totally independent (this one is managed by Sun Destinations) but here we needed to make an exception.

It sits just south of the town of Beaufort West, famous for not a lot other than that it's a stop off on the road between Johannesberg and Cape Town.  However it's also just a couple of hours from the busy Garden Route coast and George Airport and makes such a welcome break at this time of year from the crowds. 

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A world-class boutique hotel in Franschhoek, South Africa.

Named simply after the street in which it is to be found, Akademie Street has such an unassuming exterior that you’d probably walk right past it on a walk through Franschhoek (filled as it is with pretty Victorian settler cottages almost everywhere you go).

However, this would be an oversight: it’s again and again been listed as one of the Top 25 Boutique Hotels in the world and is showered with praise by TripAdvisor winning Traveller’s Choice Awards every year since the awards started.

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Lady Anne Barnard - the Cape's rock star from the 18th century!

Whilst Lady Gaga may have countless millions of hits on YouTube, in her day, Lady Anne Barnard was the 18th century equivalent of a rock star.

This enigmatic lady came to live in Cape Town for just five years in 1797, as the wife of Andrew Barnard, who was 12 years her junior (so it seems she was a cougar too?).  She was the one who got him the job of Colonial Secretary to the Cape of Good Hope (so this was definitely not a case of 'with wife in tow') and proceded to wow the society of the Cape at the time with her impressive artistic skill, sharp and erudite conversation, incisive social commentary (much of which took the form of letters to the British government of the time) and lavish society gatherings.

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How to tell if a wild animal is in fact wild.

As more and more travellers become aware of the ethical issues surrounding wildlife tourim, and with South Africa still offering some of the best wildlife tourism in the world, so research into the ethics of wildlife tourism is having to up its game to stay ahead of changes on the ground.

One ground-breaking piece of research published recently entitled "Associated with Cruelty" is based on research conducted by Professor Xavier Font of the University of Surrey.  It reports that only six out of 62 travel trade associations worldwide provide information on the importance of animal welfare. ABTA (UK) and ANVR (Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators) are the only travel associations to have animal welfare guidelines. By contrast, 16 associations feature pictures of wild animals being used as tourist attractions and interacting with tourists in their literature.

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Peace on Earth in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

South Africa has a vast range of accommodation types, styles and standards and one of our many roles at Where It All Began is to shine a light on the lesser-known and more imaginative ones.

We were delighted to get an email from a past traveller of ours telling us about research he's doing for his PhD in botany about Khula Dharma.

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Minimalist chic in Joburg's trendy Mellville

With a delightfully tongue-in-cheek attitude to life, (e.g.naming your eatery 'Pablo's Egg-Go-Bar'), coupled with a sophisticated design sense and hosting plomb, do yourself a favour and consider Pablo's House for your next stay in Joburg.

Located in the trendy and integrated district of Mellville, it has amazingly views over one of the world's largest man-made forests, Joburg.  There are 7 suites to choose from, all delightfully decorated in mid-century modern, minimalist chic, but with plenty of bold colour and texture to make the rooms feel comforting and personal.

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Wines to Whales - a bike ride like no other!

One of the fastest-growing reasons for visiting South Africa are the almost permanently excellent cycling conditions: and with that brilliant climate come the events, which seem to get bigger and better and more spectacular every year.

A particularly famous one which is a mass participation event is the Wines To Whales ride: this goes from the Winelands in the north of the Cape down to the Overberg coast, and what an utterly spectacular ride that is! One of the best things about it is that it's very easy for non-cyclists to accompany cyclists along the route as the area abounds with affordable and pleasant places to stay.

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South African schools - a very different national monument to visit

One of the most inspiring things about South Africa is how the oppression of apartheid was overthrown to make way for democracy: but this was not just the ANC's or Mandela's achievement.

Across South Africa, the struggle was real and daily, not least in the school classrooms of Cape Town. Students and teaches organised boycotts of the curriculum and mass protests as forced evictions. Some of these schools were so pivotal in the resistance to apartheid that they have now been declared National Heritage sites.

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Farmstalls you must visit in South Africa

We posted a couple of days ago about farmstalls: small rural shops near big roads traditionally selling produce from a local farm.

These days farmstalls are a massive industry all on their own, some having grown into fine dining establishments replete with boutique hotel rooms and even wedding venues attached.  Some remain delightfully tiny, selling literally only one product, e.g. pineapples.  But the one thing that unites them is a fetish for exceptionally fresh, exceptionally simple and delish fast food.

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A very special Christmas party - and you're invited!

"You know you must be doing something right if old people like you" : so said Dave Chappelle, a comedian from the United States, and how right he was! Putting this concept into practice, and having done so for over ten years, is UthandoSA, an umbrella organisation for several grass-roots community groups in vulnerable communities in Cape Town.

Uthando organises a Christmas Party not for but hosted by The Seniors at the NOAHs across the city (Neighbourhood Old Age Homes).  These parties are serious fun - you will be entertained by the choir, spun off your feet by the dancers and gorged to satisfaction by the excellent food.  Having been to one of these parties myself, I can assure you that South African seniors pull no punches - many of the guests are floored by the energy of their hosts!

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Farmstalls - a South African obsession

South Africans have an obsession with ‘padkos’, which literally translated from the Afrikaans means ‘roadfood’, but that doesn’t sound too appetising!  A better translation is ‘snacks to eat whilst on the way to somewhere.’  Padkos is fundamental to life itself. It is not possible to get in a car and go somewhere with a South African without food in the car.  You simply have to stop for food.

Before the advent of petrol stations that sold food, the only places to buy food, particularly in the agricultural areas, was a farm stall: these used to simply be a hut where farm workers would sell on over supply or produce from their own plots or the odd enterprising farmer’s wife might sell some home-made jam.

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The 'country store' concept in South Africa

In any road trip across South Africa one comes across some weird and wonderful country shops, many of which are just so delightful they deserve a bit of a spotlight for their boldness and sheer joie de vivre. These places often started out as literally the only store in town centuries ago, selling anything and everything that the local farming community needed.

Now they've moved with the times and offer more of a lifestyle shopping experience, selling food, hosting small events and also interior decor amongst many other things.

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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

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

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...

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

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!

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

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.

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 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

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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Belleville, Cape Town

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WhatsApp +27 72 136 9096


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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.


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.

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