Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dhow chasing goes global on the Mozambique coast

The Northern Mozambique Channel Islands have so much to offer. Naturally pristine and historically rich, they make an ideal destination for an incentive group or event. Rani Resorts have created a unique themed adventure - when Amazing Race, meets Survivor on a private Island, you get the most incredible experience of your life – Survivor Dhow Chasing. Here teams, or ‘crews’ will sail the turquoise waters in genuine dhows with their precious cargo of ‘hostages’, visiting a number of ‘hostage exchanges’ (pre-determined stops) where they will battle or bargain to retain or increase their wealth.

Also included is the option of the very realistic and true-to-format version of ‘Survivor’ where ‘tribes’ or teams participate in challenges that unfold to outwit and outplay in true dramatic format.

An added aspect to Matemo that makes this location so alluring is Ibo Island. Just 30 minutes away from Matemo, Ibo Island’s old fortress, complete with original canon on the battlements, conjures up visions so vivid it could be the ideal location for a Treasure Hunt. This unique teambuild challenge can be run from  Paradise Island (Location of the last real Survivor Celebrity SA), Matemo Island, Indigo Bay, Medjumbe Private Island and Vilanculos Beach Lodge.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Luxury New Train for KwaZulu-Natal

The Sisonke Stimela “experience” is a magnificently restored luxury steam train that offers a choice of  trips through the unspoilt splendour of the southern KwaZulu Natal Midlands and Drakensberg. The journey passes through grasslands, mist belts, indigenous forests and nature reserves, with this magnificent scenery being interspersed with traditional Zulu villages, allowing the traveller glimpses of African Life.
Sisonke, after which the train is named, is one of the 11 district municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal, situated in the south of the province and includes the southern most part of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg National Park, adjacent to Lesotho to the west and the Eastern Cape Province to the south.
The Sisonke region is home to over 18 amazing Trappist monasteries and cathedrals built at the turn of the nineteenth century. Centecow Mission in Creighton is one of the largest mission centres established by the Trappist brothers with other better known missions being Reichenau, Emmaus and Kavelear. Built in 1894 Emmaus Mission was the very last major achievement of Abbot Francis and currently an art gallery is being built to feature the work of Gerald Bhengu, an internationally recognized artist with his artwork featured in public and private collections both locally and abroad.
There is choice of a 1 night or 2 night journey. With 21 luxury, air-conditioned suites, which were previously fitted by Rovos, and a 42-seater dining carriage, this could definitely be a great incentive option.

The train is based at Creighton Station, approximately 2.5 hours drive from Durban.
Highlights of the 2 night programme include:
  • Off-train experience is based on story telling, local community entertainment and star gazing
  • Dinner, weather permitting, is held off the train in true "Out Of Africa" style or if inclement weather prevails, it will be on the train in the dining car
  • Visit to Sani Pass with lunch enjoyed on the "Roof of Lesotho" on the summit of Sani Pass
Highlights of the 1 night programme include:
  • Off-train experience is based on story telling, local community entertainment and star gazing
  • Dinner, weather permitting, is held off the train in true "Out Of Africa" style or if inclement weather prevails, it will be on the train in the dining car

Take the Green Route to EAST AFRICA

“It’s the place of massive vistas that evokes Out of Africa visions of a by-gone era. It’s the place that offers some of the greatest safari moments of the planet. And Green Route, Africa’s pioneering and SITE award-winning specialist DMC, is there to create and deliver extraordinary incentives – memories that will last a lifetime! 

If it’s a Big 5 safari you desire in Tanzania or Kenya, the idyllic beach at Zanzibar, a conference in Uganda or the thrill of seeing the gorillas in Rwanda then Green Route awaits the opportunity to bid for your business. We’ll give you something you never knew you wanted!”
The untamed wilderness of Kenya boasts an incredible range of landscapes, unique geographical features and thrilling game. This beautiful country offers visitors a mix of exhilarating adventures; from viewing the awe-inspiring migratory herds on the open savannah, the abundant birdlife or the colourful marine life in the sparkling Indian Ocean. The spectacular landscape comprises of lush tropical forest, majestic mountains, lakes hiding hippos, and unspoilt deserts on the northern frontier.
One of the most famous attractions is the annual migration of around 1.3 million Wildebeest gathering to calve at the end of June. This natural cycle sees these magnificent creatures converge into a huge single herd, which at the same time replenishes and renews the grasslands of East Africa. 

This awe-inspiring migration takes place in the world-famous Masai Mara National Reserve.  Inspiring films such as “Out of Africa”, and numerous Discovery documentaries, this vast reserve encompasses over 1510 square km’s and an even larger area referred to as the dispersal area North East of the reserve. 

Apart from the annual migration, the Masai Mara provides thrilling game viewing. The grassy plains of the reserve are densely populated with game, including the Big Five, zebra, giraffe, and hartebeest. The rivers are filled with fearsome hippo and crocodiles, and the birdlife is prolific, with more than 450 species of bird recorded in the area.

Kenya is not only for the wildlife enthusiast. The capital, Nairobi boasts many 5 star hotels and state-of-the-art facilities, such as the Kenya International Conference Centre (KICC) located in the central business district. The centre has hosted numerous prestigious events, such as the Rotary International Peace Conference and Common Wealth Law Conference. The newly renovated venue boasts 24-hour security, 8 meeting rooms, modern equipment and furnishings, and a plenary hall, which can accommodate up to 5000 delegates for a cocktail reception.

Perched on the edge of the African continent, facing the India Ocean, the beautiful country of Tanzania has much to offer. From thrilling safari’s on the Serengeti plains to the tropical beaches of Zanzibar.

Visitors to Tanzania can partake in an endless amount of activities, from mountain climbing, safari adventures, scuba diving, fishing, and hiking.
Spice tours are a firm favourite. Travelers visit the various coconut and spice plantations in the country, which grow fragrant and aromatic spices, such as cloves, nutmeg, ginger, chilies, black pepper and cinnamon.

The exotic shores of Zanzibar are perfect for an idyllic beach experience. Whether it’s lazing on the pristine beaches or scuba-diving the colourful coral reefs, or swimming in the turquoise waters, Zanzibar is sure to please. 

Uganda, known as the jewel of Africa, is an extraordinary destination. Visitors can track chimpanzees through the rainforest, navigate rivers teeming with hippo and crocs, or climb misty mountains to view mountain gorilla.

Ugandan countryside is as eclectic as its wildlife. Visitors can view the source of the mighty Nile and Murchison Falls, and take part in thrilling white river rafting. Or for a testing challenge, avid mountaineers climb the snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountain range, or hike the Virunga Volcanoes and Mount Elgon. 

Uganda’s capital city, Kampala is a growing metropolis and a major hub for business in Central and East Africa.  This beautiful city has retained its traditional charm, and boasts a growing commercial district. Many international hotels, quality restaurants and state-of-the-art conference facilities, are available. The Uganda International Conference Centre can accommodate up to 1,500 delegates, and offers the latest equipment and support facilities for a hassle-free and well managed conference. The venue is conveniently located close to many 5 star hotels and restaurants.

Rwanda is a country of breathtaking beauty, boasting two mighty rivers, the Nile and the Congo; impressive mountain ranges, a volcanic chain, and numerous lakes. Recovering successfully from its dark history, Rwanda has much to offer the adventure traveler. 

It is most famous for gorilla trekking in the various national parks. The plight of these magnificent and gentle creatures is attributed to the work of Dian Fossey, who is buried at Karisoke, alongside some of the animals to which she dedicated her life. Fossey became a household name following the release of the biographical film Gorillas in the Mist, which was shot on location in the Parc National des Volcans. 

Gorilla trekking is very popular in both Rwanda and Uganda. A visit can entail a 1 to 4-hour trek through the forest led by experienced trackers. Visitors spend an hour with these gentle giants as they go about their daily life, feeding, playing, resting, and raising their young.

The Real Rwanda - Beyond Kigali

Leaving the capital, Kigali, by road, the overwhelming feeling is of surprise and wonder. Rwanda is completely African and yet not, at the same time. The little landlocked country, sandwiched between Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Burundi, has an excellent tarred road network linking towns and there is cellphone reception all over.

As you travel south from Kigali to the intellectual capital Butare, with a fine university and even finer market that bustles with second-hand clothes, fresh bananas and household utensils. The architecture hints that missionaries have been here too.

Venture to Lake Kivu on the border with DRC. A few dozen boats lie just offshore, parked in perfectly neat rows, and the fishermen on board are rhythmically beating the water with whip-like fishing rods, as if chasing sand from a carpet. The cheerful fishermen are merrily catching tilapia, a staple food for people living around the lake.

The ancient Nyungwe rainforest is one of the oldest in Africa and is today the largest single tract of montane forest remaining in East and Central Africa, covering nearly 1000 km2. It’s a true rainforest because it receives over 2 000 mm of rain per year and boasts magnificent biodiversity.

There are 75 mammal species just in Nyungwe, which include 13 species of primate and a population of 500 chimpanzees; 275 bird species; 120 species of butterfly and over 100 species of orchid. This forest canopy comprises 200 tree species, most often cloaked in soft cloud.

With most of Rwanda lying at between 1 500 m and 2 500 m above sea level, much too high for malaria, Akagera is quite different. A place of low-lying undulating plains and woodland, dotted with lakes, it’s a stark contrast to Nyungwe and the Virungas with very different offerings too, a variety of unusual antelope which include Defassa waterbuck, topi, Roan antelope, Bohor reedbuck, oribi and sitatunga.

This unusual and blossoming country has not forgotten its tempest past. The atrocities of the 1994 genocide are remembered in the numerous memorials dotted across the country, which honour the million Tutsis who died in the 100-day genocide. Mass graves have been opened and bodies displayed in stark racks in cool cement rooms. The sentiment is similar to the holocaust memorials in Germany; the intention is also the same.

Rwandans are completely united in looking forward and forging a positive future, ensuring history never repeats itself. For over a decade now, Rwanda has been perfectly peaceful as genocide perpetrators languish in jails.

Rwanda has a new lease on life, a new president, a new flag and only Rwandans; no tribal differences are ever noted. The country is the epitome of peaceful coexistence, and increasing foreign investment bears testimony to this stability. International hotel chains have built in Kigali and along Lake Kivu so tourism is growing accordingly.

Rwandans are doing a remarkable job in turning tragedy into prosperity. Everyone wears a smile, a positive attitude and a work ethic that’s hard to match in Africa. Rwanda is a modern tale of a Phoenix from the ashes on a continent that often has little positive news.

Words by Keri Harvey

To Rwanda

If you look at a piece of crystalline carbon, it’s not all that impressive. Yet when cut and polished it becomes a diamond, and Rwanda is fast becoming one of Africa’s tourism diamonds.

WEATHER: Rwanda has the type of weather that most countries envy. Temperatures rarely rise above 30ºC during the day or drop below 15ºC at night throughout the year. February to May is wet, July to September the dry season.

VISA: You will need a valid passport, but will not need a visa if you’re travelling on a South African passport. You will also need a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever. Malaria is not a major concern, but the disease is still present and prophylactics are recommended. Stick to bottled water rather than drinking tap water.

CURRENCY: While the local currency is Rwanda franc, the US dollar is still the currency of preference. Credit cards are usually only accepted at major hotels in Kigali.

LANGUAGE: The indigenous language of Kinyarwanda, French and English are the official languages.

THE CAPITAL: Kigali is one of the safest and friendliest African capitals, and the ideal springboard from which to explore the rest of the country. The low-rise city centre surrounds a busy market where tourists can souvenir shop to their hearts content. A wide range of hotels is on offer to suit almost any taste and budget.

TRANSPORT: Rwanda probably has the best roads in East Africa. All the major centres are connected by local or luxury bus services and air charter is available anywhere in the country.

HIGHLIGHTS: No visit to Rwanda is complete without a trip to Parc National des Volcans (Volcanoes National Park). This 125 km2 of mountain forest is home to the six Virunga Volcanoes, and is also home to the world famous mountain gorillas. This is where conservationist Diane Fossey spent 18 years of her life protecting these animals.

Musanze, the base point for gorilla visits, is a 90-minute drive from Kigali. While you can take a taxi from Kigali to Musanze, you will need to organise your own transport from there to the park boundaries, from where you will continue on foot.

A gorilla visit can entail anything from a 1 - 4 hour hike through the forest. While the walk is breathtaking, the high point and on of the greatest wildlife experiences is meeting the giant gorillas as the go about their daily lives. Nothing can prepare one for the impact of encountering a fully-grown silverback gorilla, up to three times the size of an average man, yet remarkably peaceable and tolerant of human visitors.

Words by Malcolm Theunissen