Category Archives: Travel

GETTING PACKED FOR TRAVEL

Now that you have planned that travel, taken a break from work and seem ready to go, you are not quite sure about how many shoes to take with you, or if that quilt will fit in your bag. You are also concerned about your luggage exceeding the weight limit set by the airline. Well, there is no need to worry; we are here to help you decide on what to pack and what not to. Focus on the Essentials. Make a checklist of all the important documents and papers you are expected to carry. Keep your passport, visa, plane ticket, address list, phone numbers, prescription papers (if any) and accommodation details ready. These are things you need easy access to during your departure and arrival, so pack them in your hand luggage.

If you are planning to carry a lot of money, then consider getting yourself a handy travel pouch for added safety. Some of them come with a strap that can be attached to your waist; you can purchase one online at Flipkart or Jabong.

Keep it Light

Most of us end up over-packing clothes because we fear we’ll run out of something; so by listing out what you really need, the sorting out part becomes easier. Segregate your clothes according to their different purposes — separate the inner wear from the outer, and casuals from the formals. Keep your socks, ties, shawls, towels, jackets, swimwear and winter wear separately. Take into account just how many you need under each segment and pack accordingly.

Next, start arranging all the clothes you’ve chosen in your bag and see how much space they occupy. If they are taking up too much space, then lose some of the optional garments. Ideally, you want to make sure that you are travelling as light as possible.

Tips

To save some luggage space, you could wear one of your heavier jackets on the day you are boarding your plane.

Don’t forget to pack adequate winter wear if the destination you are landing in is cold. You may even need it as soon as you land there.

Compartmentalise the items based on the urgency of your needs; this would make it easier for you to unpack once you land there. This comes in handy if you are trying to extract only a few items from your luggage. An example: If you need to take out only your towel once you reach your accommodation, you don’t have to unpack everything right away to get it.

Consider packing a set of clothes in your hand luggage in case you have to stay at a hotel or some other form of temporary accommodation, once you land there.

Press your clothes with an iron box so it becomes easier to fold or pack them.

Buy a bag that is lightweight and durable so it doesn’t eat into your overall baggage weight. Oftentimes, a suitcase is heavier than a trolley.

Pack less formal wear because you are likely to use them sparingly. You could pack maybe two full sleeve shirts, a blazer, a tie and two trousers. You are only going to use them on formal gatherings like the placement day, graduation day and cultural events. You will be wearing your casuals and semi-formals more often.

Leave out anything you feel is not a necessity. We can’t stress this enough. You can always buy those goods in the country you are moving to. That extra pair of shoes and additional toiletries can always be purchased once you settle into your new place.

Carry fragile and expensive items like your laptop and camera in your hand luggage, so they aren’t damaged by any reckless handling of your flight baggage, by the airport staff.

Kitchen appliances like an electric rice cooker, induction stove and vessels take up a lot of space and weight; so even if you are the type that cooks, it is better to avoid taking these with you. You could either purchase them abroad or get yourself a place furnished with kitchen appliances.

Electronic Items

One important accessory to carry is a universal power adapter for your electronic devices to function without issues; so get yourself one from online stores like Flipkart.

Apart from your laptop and camera, you will have to find some space to pack in your chargers (both for the phone and camera), an MP3 player (optional) and electric shaver. If you don’t already own any of these gadgets, then consider buying them in the country you are travelling to. That should save you some much-needed space in your luggage.

Optional Items

There are some goods that fall between the must-carry and must-not list. Take a call on items like books, stationery, DVDs and recreational products (like a gaming console) based on the space you have left, after packing in the rest.

A lot of toiletries and items like lotions, creams and make-up can be decided upon based on your urgency of needs. You’ll definitely need shoes and slippers, but you can limit the number of pairs you carry based on your requirements and space left in the baggage.

Leave behind anything you feel is in excess to your immediate needs. You can always purchase the same abroad.

What to Avoid:

Avoid packing jewellery in your luggage; wear them on you if you feel the need to take some.

Leave behind sharp objects like knives, scissors and blades. These items are banned on most flights.

Don’t pack any food or other perishable goods; it could get messy if they leak in your luggage.

Don’t carry deodorants, extra bars of soap, shampoos and other toiletries. You could purchase them all abroad.

Items like quilts, blankets, pillow covers and bedspreads can be avoided. It is likely that your accommodation will provide you with all of these, but if you feel compelled to carry one among these, then make it a light bedspread.

Bon Voyage

Make a list of the items you are carrying and keep that piece of paper with you in your hand-luggage. In the unfortunate event that the airline loses your luggage upon arrival, you may need to list out the stuff you’ve packed and its total value to receive compensation.

The ideal packing solution: Don’t carry more than two bags and one hand-luggage. Carry only the essentials and have bags that don’t weigh much and are easy to carry.

6 THRIFTY WAYS TO STRETCH YOUR TRAVEL

The economy at present may be unstable but the desire and dream to travel remain zealously strong and brawny for good and pleasurable reasons. In travelling, what often matters is how well you manage your travel budget and how you enjoy each place you visit at minimal spent adventures. It is often how you use your innate traveler skills that would create a better and memorable trip. To play your cards right by spending less will lower the hindrances that will separate you from the culture you have traveled to experience. Start by knowing the basics in availing cheap tickets for your dream destination.

To help you keep your dream vacations affordable, here are 6 thrifty ways to stretch your travel budget by finding means on availing cheap tickets in any country you visit:

1. Subscribe to airline sites for free email updates

With the site subscription, you’ll get pinged when prices fall and receive some excellent deals. Email subscription to airline sites will regularly allow you to check promo rates on airfare thus cutting bigger amount on the cost of your airline tickets. You may also bookmark sites that compare prices and alert you via e-mail if a selected fare has changed. One site I have used personally is travelocity.com when I traveled to Hongkong.

2. Go INCOGNITO

There is always an option to go incognito in your current webpage for a consistent airline pricing. A number of airlines would keep track of your IP address that will alert them that you have already visited and checked for their online prices thus the more often you visit the site, the more inconsistent the prices rise.

3. Take the Red-Eye

An overnight or late-night flight on a commercial airline will usually offer you discounted rates. You may also fly very early or very late since the first flight of the morning is usually the cheapest , the next-cheapest flight times are during or after lunch or past dinner time. This is primarily due to the supply and demand, it is going to be more expensive to fly during a convenient time like around10 a.m. than in the middle of the night at 11 p.m.

4. Follow the six-week Rule

Book 42 days in advance. According to studies cited by The New York Times and the Airlines Reporting Corporation, most international flights have been at the cheapest rates six weeks in advance of the time of travel.

5. Travel Off season

During months when a certain destination see a lower volume of visitors, they respond by lowering ticket prices so as to attract tourists.

6. Look for the best search engines

You have to search for as many flight search websites as you can to further ensure you are leaving no stone unturned. Several search sites don’t list budget carriers because those airlines refuse to pay a booking commission. It is therefore important to check a few more sites before you book, as you’ll often see differences and variations in prices, and you don’t want to miss or fall short on deals. The best search engines are the ones that have no affiliation with any airline and those that make their money via advertising and not through bookings.

– Dex

GAMBIA: THE SMILING COAST OF AFRICA

Banjul

The Gambia is located at the far end of the West Coast of Africa. It is a small country where English is widely spoken. To the West is the Atlantic Ocean, to the East is Senegal, to the South is Senegal and to the North is Senegal. If you are considering travel destinations in Africa, then this is one place to visit. Below are some of the memorable places to go whenever you are in Gambia.

Rare among African wildlife reserves is the Abuko Wildlife Reserve. It is tiny, easy to reach and you do not need a car to go in. With amazing diversity of vegetation and animals, this well-managed reserve is one of the region’s best.

Abuko Nature Reserve

Wander around the frenzied market known as the Albert Market in Banjul and make sure your haggling skills are polished. It’s never calm here but it is less frenzied in the early morning or late afternoon. You will definitely have somebody offer to be your guide. Whilst it really isn’t at all necessary, taking a guide will ensure you don’t get unwanted attention from a steady stream of bumsters.

The Albert Market

The Gambia is a twitcher’s paradise. With over 540 species you’ll see exotic and colourful birds without even leaving your resort’s garden. If you want to see a few more species in their natural habitat, half day or full day’s tours are easily arranged or check out the Tanji Bird Reserve under your own steam.

Gambian Birds

A small reserve and community forest is a lovely escape from the heat, hustle and bustle and only a short distance from Senegambia. With over 4 km of well-maintained trails, you’ll be led through lush vegetation and forest, towards the coastal sand dunes. You’ll see cheeky green vervet, red colobus and patas monkeys, monitor lizards and an abundant bird life. My advice, go with your binoculars!

One of Gambia’s most popular tourist attractions and for the locals is the Kachikally Crocodile Park. It is a sacred site. To Gambians, crocodiles represent the power of fertility. Women who experience difficulties in conceiving often come here to pray and wash. A child conceived following a visit to the park, is named Kachikally to demonstrate the power of prayer. There are about 80 adult Nile crocodiles at the park and a few smaller ones.

Crocodile Park

A 30 minutes drive from Kololi is the home to the biggest fishing village in The Gambia, the Tanji Fishing village. There are many colourful wooden boats owned by individuals and families; most interestingly, you can see the whole process of preserving the freshly caught fish. Witness the day’s catch being brought ashore, the smoke houses in action and the drying of the fish with salt.  This is a working village and a fascinating insight to the culture of Gambians.

Fish Smoking

 

Whilst this is no Stonehenge, the site is a fascinating evidence of ancient African culture. There are 11 circles at Wassu, the tallest of which is almost 3 metres. It’s believed to be the ancient burial ground of kings and chiefs from over 1200 years ago. Local legend has it that there is a curse on anyone who disturbs those laid to rest there, which is probably why they are still intact.

The Stones

Previously known as James Island, Kunta Kinteh Island is located at the mouth of the Gambia River. The ruins of an old fort and prison which once belonged to colonial Britain, it was from here that many African slaves were transported to America. It’s a popular tourist attraction these days but to consider this was the last the slaves saw of the African continent before being confined to the lower decks of ships that took them to their life of slavery in America is a thought provoking one indeed.

Kunta Kinteh Island

Most visitors to The Gambia will stay in the northern area known as the Kombo district which has 10km of Atlantic coastline. There are several beaches here, most of which are located next to luxurious hotels. Soft white sand, palm trees and fruit sellers make for an idyllic day on the beach.

Beach

Words of warning: Swimming may not be advised at some of these beaches due to the undercurrents. Don’t be surprised if you have lots of attention from the bumsters, particularly on Kotu Beach.

Up river Cruise will surely be a highlight of your trip. Take a pirogue (long narrow boat) for a relaxing trip up the Gambia River to Tendaba. You’ll spot plenty of birdlife and maybe some monkeys and crocodiles on the banks of the river.

Boat Cruise

While your western palate will be catered for in The Gambia, what better way to get to know a country than through its food? Our favourite was the domada: made from peanuts with tomato paste, mustard, black pepper and onions, this sauce will be served with meat or fish and served on a huge bowl of rice. So long as you don’t have a nut allergy, you’ll become a hooked on this dish.

The Gambia is the smallest country on the continent of Africa and so no place is far away. It’s a beautiful country, in our opinion made so by its people. You will get so much more out of your holiday if you make time to chat to some of the Gambian’s you meet. Listen to their stories, how they live their lives; how big their smiles are and how welcoming their hearts are. Then consider your own way of life. We think The Gambia will leave you with so much more to smile about when you get back home. It is called the smiling coast of Africa for this reason!

A TRIP TO MADAGASCAR

Madagascar is a large island Nation, located in the Indian Ocean off the south eastern coast of Africa. It is the fourth largest island in the world. The first people who arrived on the island arrived between 350 BC and 550 AD from Borneo on outrigger canoes. These Austronesian first settlers were joined around 1000 AD by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel. Other groups such as Arabs, Indians, and Chinese continued to settle on Madagascar over time and making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. The Malagasy way of thinking includes a mixture of cultures, as well as their appearance and fashion style. It is a melting pot. Madagascar is part of the African Union, but that is now being reconsidered due to the recent 2009 political turmoil regarding the African Union members.

When you take a trip to Madagascar, you discover that its long isolation from the neighbouring continents has resulted in a unique mix of plants and animals, many found nowhere else in the world. This has led some ecologists to refer to Madagascar as the “eighth continent”. Of the 10,000 plants native to Madagascar, 90% are found nowhere else in the world. Madagascar’s varied fauna and flora are endangered by human activity, as a third of its native vegetation has disappeared since the 1970s and since the arrival of humans 2,000 years ago, Madagascar has lost more than 90% of its original forest. Most lemurs are listed as endangered or threatened species.

The eastern, or windward side of the island is home to tropical rainforests, while the western and southern sides, which lie in the rain shadow of the central highlands, are home to tropical dry forests, thorn forests, and deserts and xeric shrub lands. Madagascar’s dry deciduous rain forest has been preserved generally better than the eastern rainforests or the high central plateau, presumably due to historically low population densities.

Madagascar has no parallel: an extraordinary storehouse of natural and cultural riches, it makes experienced travellers question what it means to say a country is unique. Separated from Africa and Asia at the time of the dinosaurs, animal life here has evolved in a startling myriad of forms, creating a profusion of endemic species found nowhere else on earth. Humans were not part of that process: they first colonized this huge island less than 2000 years ago, when it was a primal Eden, inhabited only by its bizarre and marvellous zoological cornucopia. As biologists discover more and more about this remarkable place, calling it the eighth continent barely does it justice: another planet seems more appropriate.

Being a part of Africa, Madagascar’s distinctiveness is apparent from the moment you arrive: in the glinting lakes and rice fields; the brightly painted, double-storeyed, balconied houses; the rickshaws and zebu carts; and above all in the people themselves, with their Austronesian features and jangling, guttural language, spoken throughout the island. Nevertheless, where the natural vegetation remains, Madagascar’s landscapes often present entrancing tableaux. Dripping emerald rainforests, baobab trees like giant windmills towering over the savannah and crazy outcroppings of limestone pinnacles, like a million wonky Gothic church spires competing for your attention as you move north and south and through the island’s climatic zones.

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If the national parks can look like some artwork created by Roger Dean for a particularly intense Yes album cover, the human landscapes are equally captivating: in the highlands, a thousand shades of green dazzle from the terraced rice fields, framed by dykes of red earth; water-filled nursery paddies reflect a cerulean blue sky and towering granite mountains, daubed by the pastel images of rows of multicoloured Hauts Plateaux houses. On the east coast, you’ll find golden beaches framed by huge boulders and palm trees, lapped by the warm Indian Ocean – and pummelled by annual tropical storms. Out to the west and south, rolling plains of dry savannah and range lands are interspersed by dense and alien spiny forest and carved by broad meandering rivers.

 

10 Top Destinations in South Africa

If you are looking for a place to holiday, South Africa is the place to visit. We have put together 10 of the top destinations in South Africa to visit whenever you choose to visit.

Howick Falls

This stunning 95 metre waterfall is set in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands, near the town of Howick, and is surrounded by scenic rivers, lakes, dams and luscious forest. A perfect spot for a picnic walk and shop around at the many arts and craft outlets, which include carpet weavers, leather works and many others. Entrance is free, and the falls are easily accessible from the N3 Highway near Midmar Dam.

Blyde River Canyon

The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is the world’s third largest canyon and one of the most beautiful. As you look down on scenic waterfalls and abundant vegetation, the view from the aptly named God’s Window is biblical. Near to the Kruger National Park, the Mpumalanga Nature Reserve covers almost 29 000 hectares and offers activities ranging from hiking, biking, fishing and abseiling, to white-water rafting, boat trips and much more.

Sun City Valley of Waves

Luxury personified! Its entrance consists of stunning mosaic frescos and golden zebra hide upholstered furniture, and its renowned towers are embellished with elephant tusks. This Palace was inspired by a lost African tribe fantasy and is currently rated one of the Leading Hotels of the World. From here, you can avail yourself of casinos, safaris, golf, first class restaurants and accommodation, least of all, the Sun City Valley of Waves water park. With its choice of luxury and adventure for all ages, it is perfect for a family holiday in South Africa.

Bill Harrop’s Baloon

Slowly float over the Cradle of Mankind, the Magalies River Valley and the Hartbeespoort Dam with Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris. Passengers assemble at dawn in the Skeerpoort balloon launch area for a snack of hot drinks and biscuits before embarking on the hour long ride, with a first class champagne breakfast to look forward to once back at base. This is an unforgettable journey over some of the world’s most beautiful countryside and one which will linger in your memory for a very long time! Price: R2310 per person.
Harties Cableway

Take the ‘Harties Cableway’ and get a fabulous view of the Hartbeespoort Dam and the stunning Magaliesberg mountain range from an exhilarating cable car trip! The longest mono-cableway in Africa, it offers a lot of fun activities from the base to the top. From walking (great for nature lovers) to hiking, together with an educational mountain walkway, a KidsZone and the Dassie Loop walkway for the kids, not to mention shopping and dining, the Harties Cableway is a must if you’re looking for things to do in this region of South Africa!
The Sterkfontein Caves

 consist of a set of limestone caves situated in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, near Maropeng. Interesting discoveries have been made within the caves, including the world renowned “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot”, which is an almost complete 3 million year old Australopithecus skeleton! Go back in time by taking a fascinating tour deep into the caves themselves – an educational experience for the whole family.

Maropeng

The Maropeng Exhibition in the Tumulus Building within the Cradle of Humankind Heritage Site is an hour’s drive from Johannesburg, and is one of eight World Heritage sites in South Africa. The 47 000 hectare complex, having revealed and answered many questions about our ancestors, exhibits clear and thought provoking exhibits, including stone tools, original fossils and engraved rocks. Their technology suggests that they originate from the Stone Age, approximately 1 million years ago! This is a fascinating learning experience for the whole family.

Nelson Mandela Square

Within Nelson Mandela Square, at the core of Africa’s most influential economic district, stands a six metre tall statue of the eponymous beloved grandfather of South Africa. The square is situated in Johannesburg’s European-styled piazza of the same name, in lively Sandton, Gauteng Province. It is home to a variety of chic boutiques, upmarket shops, fashionable African, Italian, Greek and French restaurants and water fountains for the kids’ amusement, with the statue standing centre of it all. What a wonderful opportunity to have your photo taken side by side with a giant ode to the great man!

Apartheid Museum

Designed to illustrate life under South Africa’s Apartheid regime from 1948 until 1990, within the Apartheid Museum there are photographs, film footage, text panels and 22 individual exhibitions which include visuals of life as it was then in the townships, including the forced removal of local residents. Many of the exhibitions are quite explicit and therefore children under 11 are not allowed to attend. This is well worth a visit for all those who wish to learn more about this challenging time in South African history.

Agrabies Falls

The formidable and thunderous flow of Augrabies Falls courses down the Orange River when it is in full flood. The 55 000 hectares on both sides provide plenty to explore for hikers and nature and animal lovers. The eerie looking kokerboom (quiver trees) have made their home here, together with many succulents, birds, zebras, springbok, gemspok, giraffes and various reptiles. Take a walk to the summit of Moon Rock to see one of the park’s best views.

 

 

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EPUPA FALLS NAMIBIA

The Epupa Falls (also known as Monte Negro Falls in Angola) are created by the Kunene River on the border of Angola and Namibia, in the Kaokoland area of the Kunene Region. The river is 0.5 km wide and drops in a series of waterfalls spread over 1.5 km, with the greatest single drop being 37 m. The name “Epupa” is a Herero word for “foam”, in reference to the foam created by the falling water.

Epupa Falls is known for nomadic people, the Ovahimba people. While there are further tribes like Ovatjimba, Ovazemba and Ovatwe people. Migration to Epupa Falls is constantly increasing due to high Tourism growth, which further sees tribes like Herero and Oshiwambo speaking people migrate to the area.

There are four lodges namely Kapika Waterfall Lodge, Omarunga Camp Lodge, Epupa Camp Lodge and Epupa Falls Campsite Lodge. All these lodges have campsites except Kapika waterfall lodge plus Motjikutu campsite, which is a locally owned campsite.

Epupa falls are featured in the 8th episode of the first season of The Grand Tour, being the arrival point of a journey in beach buggies through Namibia.

 

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THE WORLD’S LONGEST WATER FALL: VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE

One of the greatest attractions in Africa and one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River, the fourth largest river in Africa, which is also defining the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls is the only waterfall in the world with a length of more than a kilometer and a height of more than hundred meters. It is also considered to be the largest fall in the world.

The noise of Victoria Falls can be heard from a distance of 40 kilometers, while the spray and mist from the falling water is rising to a height of over 400 meters and can be seen from a distance of 50 kilometers. No wonder that the local tribes used to call the waterfall Mosi-o-Tunya “The smoke that thunders”. Scottish missionary and famous explorer of Africa David Livingstone (1813-1873) named it after Queen Victoria. Livingstone who was the first European to cross Africa from south to north discovered this awe-inspiring waterfall in 1855, while preaching Christianity in Africa. That is why Livingstone wasn’t very pleased with his discovery: it was just an obstacle on his way.

Despite the inconveniences, he was fascinated by the beauty of the falls. In 1857 Livingstone wrote that no one in England can even imagine the beauty of this scene. Religious Livingstone also wrote that most probably angels are admiring the scenery while flying nearby. He was accompanied by soldiers but only two of them took the risk of approaching the waterfalls with Livingstone. For centuries local African tribes had a sacral fear from the waterfall.

The waterfall was hardly visited by people up until 1905, when a railway to Bulawayo was constructed. Since then Victoria Falls quickly gained popularity until the end of the British colonial rule. At the end of the 1960s the number of tourists started to decrease due to the guerrilla struggle in Zimbabwe. After Zimbabwe gained independence the region has been in relative peace and Victoria Falls started to attract a new wave of tourism.

By the end of 1990 nearly 300,000 people were visiting the falls each year. Victoria Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the citizens of both Zambia and Zimbabwe no longer have fear of the “the smoke that thunders”, and are successfully developing the tourism on both sides of the river.
The falls were formed in a zone of crustal faults. On the crest of the fall numerous islands divide the main flow into several branches. During floods, the water flow capacity reaches half a million liters of water per minute.

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The water level varies throughout the year; it is at its peak in April, at the end of the rainy season when on average 500,000,000 liters of water flow and it is at its lowest level in October and early November.Interestingly, during the dry season the water level in the Zambezi River drops sharply, and it becomes possible to walk through some parts of the waterfall. However, during the rest of the year Victoria Falls is a roaring machine that strikes anyone with its power.