Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Big Five Reserve on outskirts of Johannesburg

South Africa's Gauteng Regional Tourism announced that THE DINOKENG GAME RESERVE now has BIG 5 roaming freely through its more than 18'000 hectares.
What this means is you can now potentially come face to face with Africa's most dangerous royal game - lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant within 60 minutes of clearing your luggage from OR Tambo or 30 minutes from leaving Pretoria. 
In addition Hayward's Grand Safari Company has its headquarters at the Bobbejaansberg Private Nature Reserve, (itself renowned as a walking with wildlife venue). This is a few kilometres from the Dinokeng Reserve's main gate.
Dinokeng has also introduced free roaming cheetah, sable antelope, vast herds of wildebeest and hartebeest, giraffe and zebra, hippo and crocs. Good rhino populations are also present. This bush veld region known as the Waterberg Biosphere has magnificent bushveld trees and landscapes and is malaria free.
Dinokeng also has one of South Africa's highest 24 hour bird species counts totalling over 350 and access into tribal heartlands of the Ndebele, Pedi, Tswana and Sotho.
Hayward's plays a decisive role in the future of Dinokeng, offering large VIP groups of up to 200 explorers access into this region, on exciting alternatives such as steam safaris with Rovos Rail to the historic diamond mining town of Cullinan from where they get to see the world's biggest diamond pit containing the worlds biggest diamonds and visit the old trading shops before heading to Hayward's a mere stone throw away.

Lion Sand’s dream becomes a reality

The owners of More Hotel have had a dream to combine Tinga Game Lodge (in the Kruger National Park) and Lion Sands Private Game Reserve (in the Sabi Sand Reserve) into one single safari experience.  This would afford guests the 'once in a lifetime' experience to enjoy both the Kruger and Sabi Sand in one single game drive. The added benefit is access to 37 kilometers of Sabie and Sand river frontage.
They have informed us that their dream is now a reality.
The first step that they have taken with immediate effect is the renaming of Tinga as Lion Sands. Lion Sands Game Reserve will therefore now have a stable of five Lodges; 1933 (4 suites), Ivory Lodge (6 suites), Narina Lodge (9 suites), Tinga Lodge (9 suites – previously known as Legends) and River Lodge (20 rooms). Lion Sands Game Reserve will be regionalized into Lion Sands Sabi Sand and Lion Sands Kruger National Park.

They have proceeded with the application for traversing between Lion Sands Kruger National Park and Lion Sands Sabi Sand. The timing for being granted permission for Lion Sands Kruger National Park traversing within the Sabi Sand will be advised in due course.

Over and above the introduction of the redefined brand of Lion Sands Game Reserve (with 5 lodges in the Sabi Sand and Kruger National Park), we are also really excited about the reopening of Skukuza Airfield as a scheduled regional airport on the 1st November 2013. This will allow for easier access to the lodges.

Tsogo Sun – Merger of two hotels to make the biggest hotel in Southern Africa

Tsogo Sun is retaining its commitment to Durban through the refurbishment, consolidation and relaunch of the Southern Sun Elangeni and Southern Sun North Beach hotels into one magnificent complex – Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani.
The first phase of the project, which will be completed in time for the Tourism Indaba in May 2013.
The complex facilities  include 734 stylish bedrooms; two well-equipped gyms; three swimming pools, with one heated pool; free Wi Fi connectivity; 17 meeting and conference rooms; two fully- equipped business centres; and eleven restaurants and bars offering a variety of a la carte and buffet meal options.

The restaurants will include new offerings ranging from  The Grill Jichana, a modern and stylish Grill House with great food in a convivial ambience; the Panorama Bar & Pool Deck, a bar and light food zone with views of the coastline, serving cocktails, mezes, ice creams, granitas and light meals throughout the day; the Ocean Breeze Restaurant, a laid-back Indian Ocean Island styled restaurant with a view second to none where guests can indulge in an Island-style buffet, with the emphasis on seafood and line-fish to flatbreads and crispy pizza, fresh out of the authentic pizza oven; to old favourites such as Daruma, Durban’s iconic Japanese restaurant, the Lingela Restaurant which, from breakfast to dinner, is one of the top traditional buffet restaurants in the country, offering a variety of dishes to suit every palate; and Piatto Mediterranean Kitchen, offering an a la carte menu for both lunch and dinner, serving traditional Italian, Greek, and Portuguese cuisine.
Phase two will see the opening in the third quarter of 2013, of The Camelot Spa, which will feature five treatment rooms, a double treatment room with a hydro therapy bath and a Himalayan salt room in the Elangeni Tower.
The historic Raffles area is being transformed into a multipurpose venue on top of the Maharani Tower available for conferences, launches, themed evenings and a myriad of other events with breathtaking views.
The final phase will include a refurbishment of the Elangeni rooms and additional public areas and once complete, Tsogo Sun would have invested a total of R220 million.

Villa Rosa Kempinski Nairobi to open in Nairobi in July 2013

The Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel is located on Chiromo Road, within the commercial centre of Nairobi, 20 Kms from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The hotel will have 200 rooms and suites distributed throughout 10 floors, including a Presidential Suite on the top floor. The hotel will feature 88 the Pan Asian Restaurant, the Italian Bistro Lucca and Tambourin which is the Arabic Rooftop Lounge, in addition to Cafe Villa Rosa - All Day Dining restaurant, K Lounge and a Cigar Lounge.
With state-of-the-art banqueting and conference facilities, the hotel’s pillar-less grand ballroom will be able to seat 500 people. Additional facilities for smaller gatherings such as conferences, meetings and other events will also be available. The hotel will boast a spa with nine treatment rooms, and a fully equipped fitness centre.

Green Route Africa’s favourite beach-side resorts & hotels

We often get asked by our clients for an island-style, beach resort in South Africa. Not as easy as one would think, considering the extent of our coastline. South Africa does not offer any island-style resort, in the true sense of the word, if one is envisaging swaying palm trees, aquamarine seas and warm water. Fortunately we can most definitely offer this ideal in Mozambique and Mauritius, a mere 1hr and 4hr flight away respectively. What we do have in abundance are “beach-side” hotels that cater to all budgets and requirements, from Northern KwaZulu-Natal to Cape Town. We thought we would take a look at a few on offer, to showcase their unique attributes, and how you can include them in future programmes. For the purists we have also included a few of our favourite island-style beach resorts.

Tintswalo Atlantic – Cape Town
This magnificent 11 bedroomed, all suite, luxury lodge is situated in one of the most stunning locations in Southern Africa! Positioned at the base of Chapman’s Peak, Tintswalo Atlantic overlooks the quaint fishing village of Hout Bay, Cape Town. Each suite pays homage to an iconic island. It is ideal for small incentives, family groups and FIT’s.

Conrad Pezula Resort & Spa – Knysna, Garden Route
Located on the Eastern head of Knysna on South Africa’s legendary Garden Route, Conrad Pezula Resort & Spa is set in a lush paradise of ancient indigenous forests, mountains, lakes, and pristine beaches on the prestigious Pezula Private Estate.
The hotel features 83 rooms and is easily accessible either via George Airport, or a 5 hour drive from Cape Town. Pezula Championship Golf Course offers 18 holes of challenging and rewarding golf in a sensational location. For a meeting with a difference, the hotel has three unique venues.

Oyster Box – Umhlanga KwaZulu Natal
The Oyster Box Hotel is well situated on the ocean’s edge, a brief 5 minutes’ walk from Umhlanga Village Centre, a mere 15 minutes to the Durban CBD and 20 minutes to King Shaka International Airport as well as numerous stylish shopping centres…yet the hotel still has a feeling of classical charm and elegance.
The hotel has 86 different rooms to choose from.
We have successfully utilised The Oyster Box in “Beach & Bush” style programmes, as well as in combination with the gracious Rovos Rail, which travels from Pretoria to Durban over a 2 night programme.

Phinda – beach and bush in KwaZulu-Natal
Located in KwaZulu-Natal and showcasing one of the continents finest Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) game viewing experiences, Phinda is described as “Seven Worlds of Wonder” due to its seven distinct habitats. A magnificent tapestry of woodland, grassland, wetland and forest, interspersed with mountain ranges, river courses, marshes and pans, Phinda has a rich diversity of ecosystems and wildlife. Access is via Richards Bay Airport, or a 3 ½ hour drive from Durban.
Whilst primarily a game reserve, the reason we have included Phinda in this list is that it is located near the Indian Ocean and groups can have a fun day event on the beach, in conjunction with a Big Five safari.

Indigo Bay – Bazaruto Island - Mozambique
For a true island resort, it does not get much better than Indigo Bay. Located on Bazaruto Island, off the coast of Mozambique, Indigo Bay has 29 Mozambique styled thatched Beach Chalets, 12 two-roomed Bay View Villas, an Executive Suite, Presidential Villa, and Honeymoon chalet.
Access is via a short air hop from Vilancoulos to Bazaruto Island. SAA Airlink is now offering direct flights from Johannesburg to Vilancoulos.
Ideal for incentive groups, the resort offers a variety of fun activities including a Survivor-style team build programme.

“Rwanda – Land of a 1000 Hills”.

Bonny Robb, our intrepid General Manager, recently undertook an extensive visit to Rwanda and came back totally inspired by the Land of a 1000 Hills. Rwanda is a small landlocked country, bordered by Uganda to the North, Tanzania to the East, Burundi to the South and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the West.
Even though it’s one of Africa’s smallest countries, it has approx. 10 million inhabitants, making it one of the most densely populated.

Key Areas:

KigaliThe capital city, Kigali, was completely destroyed during the genocide in 1994.  There is now a lot of construction going on and a buoyant rejuvenation of the city centre. Our favourite hotel was the Serena Hotel Kigali which boasts an 800-seater auditorium for conferences. The Rwandan Genocide Museum is a stark reminder of a turbulent past but well worth a visit. Kigali Airport, the main hub for all flights coming into Rwanda, is a short 20minute ride from the city centre.

Nyungwe National Park
Located about a five hour drive from Kigali, Nyungwe Forest is predominantly an area you would visit to enjoy guided nature trails and walks in the spectacular indigenous mountain rain forest.  The forest is acclaimed for its biodiversity and for being one of the most endemic species-rich areas in all of Africa. The forest protects one of the region’s largest and oldest remaining patches of montane rainforest.
Accommodation is recommended at the Nyungwe Forest Lodge, part of the Shamwari Collection. It is beautifully laid out on the edge of the spectacular indigenous forest and set on the tranquil grounds of a tea plantation.  The lovely, large sized rooms have been carefully designed to be eco-friendly.

Chimpanzee Trekking is also available at three different areas of the park, although a separate section of forest, known as Cyamudongo Forest, approx. 40minute drive from the lodge, is known as the best viewing area.
The chimpanzees are still not that habituated to man so you have a 50/50 chance of seeing them. We see this developing into a more formal activity in the next two years.  You definitely need to be physically fit to enjoy this excursion.
Other activities include a visit to Banda Village, Canopy Tree Top Experience and a tea estate tour.

Lake Kivu & the town of Kibuye
Kibuye is a picturesque town on the shores of Lake Kivu and has been put on the map, due to a first-ever methane gas to electricity conversion process. This was developed in Rwanda and is now considered a tourist attraction because of its uniqueness and ecological value by contributing to energy saving....It currently produces more than 4% of the country’s electricity supply.
Another lake-side town is Gisenyi, sold as the “St Tropez of Africa”. This may take a while to live up to its name.

Volcanoes National Park and the Gorillas
Musanze is the nearest town for departure of the Gorilla Trekking, approx. a 25 minute drive. This is approx. a two to three hour drive from Kigali.
The Gorilla trekking day starts with a 7am registration, followed by a ranger briefing on the lawns.
Of the 13 groups of Gorillas in the area, 7 – 10 of the groups are visited by tourists during trekking. Three are still not habituated and the other three are being used for research purposes and are seldom exposed to tourists. Gorilla families are very territorial and will generally be found in a similar region. With this knowledge, the park rangers have categorised the various gorilla treks into easy, medium and hard treks. 
Easy generally means a 20minute walk up to the edge of the park through farm land areas and a further 15- 30 minute walk inside the actual forest. 
Medium generally means a 20 minute walk up to the edge of the park through the farm and then a 45 – 75 minute walk uphill, inside the actual forest.
Hard – means a 20 minute walk up to the edge of the park through the farms and then a serious climb up to the top reach of the mountains.  These are generally not offered, except in the peak season, and guests would need to be really fit to reach these Gorillas.
Once you reach your family of Gorilla’s a few rules are in place; to minimise the possibility if transmitting human diseases, visitors are asked to maintain a distance of 7m from the gorillas. Guests need to be fit and healthy when visiting the gorillas.
Viewing time is limited to one hour and a maximum of 8 visitors are allowed per group. Photography is allowed, although no flash photography of the gorillas is permitted.
We do not recommend a day trip from Kigali as it is an early start (you need to leave your nearby accommodation at least by 6am to reach the starting point) and you finish the trek around 1pm. It is worth spending at least 2 nights in this region – apart from the Gorillas, there is also the opportunity to trek Golden Monkeys and a visit to Dian Fosseys grave.  The area really offers very beautiful scenery.

There is a lot of accommodation in the area to choose from.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge (5 double cottages, 2 suites and a family cottage) * highly recommended
Gorilla Mountain View Lodge (36 rooms) * 3 star but very close to National Park entrance
Shamwari Gorilla Nest Lodge (currently under renovation)
Virunga Lodge (8 chalets with spectacular views) *highly recommended, although furthest from the National Park entrance

Weather: Rwanda has a temperate climate with two rainy seasons from February to May and October to December.  It has two dry seasons: the short dry season – January and the long dry season from June – August

Interesting Fact: Plastic bags are banned in Rwanda – making it a very clean country.  Guests should be advised to leave all plastic bags behind else they will be confiscated on entry.

Getting around: Generally guests would drive between destinations in 5-seater 4x4 vehicles. Charter flights are available in some area, although very expensive.

Our thoughts:
This most definitely is a niche destination, but it is an once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is off the beaten track and it most certainly is wild!
If these attributes “tick the boxes” for your next incentive, then Rwanda may just be the destination you are looking for.  

54 on Bath opens in Johannesburg

Johannesburg, which up till recently has been considered a one night stop-over, is fast becoming a destination in its own right. One of the newest hotel offerings is 54 on Bath, located in the shopping precinct of Rosebank. Previously known as The Grace, it has been completely renovated into a modern, boutique style property ideal for small groups and conferences. The hotel offers 75 rooms in total.

What our staff had to say:

“I was really impressed with 54 on Bath.  The attention to detail in design and decor is immaculate and their valuable art collection adds a special touch.
What impressed me the most is the added services they offer such as gym bags with shoes and gym clothes and even iPods that you can use if you left your workout attire at home.” Annelize

Hotel Lobby

“Glamping!!” - Glamourous Camping – our favourite tented camp.

If the idea of communing with nature appeals to you, but the idea of pitching a tent does not – we offer “glamping”, or glamorous camping. The tents boast everything from en-suite bathrooms to comfortable beds adorned with pure cotton linen, with the chance to sleep in the middle of the bush, often in very remote areas. It truly offers an “Out of Africa” experience for both groups and individual travellers.
There are many deluxe tented camps in both Southern and East Africa to choose from.
My top three favourite are:

Honeyguide Tented Safari Lodge – Timbavati, South Africa (24 tents)
Bordering the Kruger National Park and situated between the Timbavati and the Sabi Sand Reserves lies the 23 000 hectare Manyeleti Game Reserve.  Manyeleti means, “The Place of the Stars” in the local Shangaan language. The Manyeleti Reserve is home to two tented camps, Honeyguide Khoka Moya Camp (12 tents) and Honeyguide Mantobeni Camp (12 tents). 
The camps offer breath-taking wildlife experiences at the same time as pampering the senses with meticulous service and superb cuisine. 

Camp Moremi - Okavango, Botswana (11 tents)
Raised high above the ground, overlooking the beautiful Xakanaxa lagoon, in the eastern section of the Okavango Delta, is Camp Moremi. This spectacular lodge offers its guests a multitude of exhilarating wildlife adventures as well as fine accommodation and mouth-watering menus. Guests can relax in the comfort of an East African-style safari tent, which is raised on a teak platform, providing mesmerising views of the lodge surrounds. Each tent has its own viewing deck and a private adjacent bathroom.

Fairmont Mara Safari Club – Masai Mara, Kenya (50 tents)
Surrounded on three sides by the Mara River, and on the edge of the world’s Seventh “New” Wonder of the World – the Masai Mara - Fairmont Mara Safari Club is the epitome of tented luxury. In 2012, Travel & Leisure Magazine rated the resort among the Top 20 in the prestigious 'T + L 500' List. 
Please let us know if you need any more details on any of these properties.

Ellerman House Update

I recently had an opportunity to revisit one of my favourite properties in Cape Town – Ellerman House.
Perched on a cliff-edge, with commanding views of the Atlantic Ocean, this gorgeous, boutique style property is ideal for the well-travelled and discerning traveller. It is small enough to feel exclusive, yet the terraced gardens and public areas, offer a wonderful sense of opulence. Apart from the beautiful rooms, they have a 3 bedroom villa that really does offer “everything” and now are currently completing a second 5-bedroomed villa, due for completion from 1 December 2013.
Above all else, what continues to impresses me is the extensive art collection dotted throughout the property. They also have a private gallery showcasing original artworks from paintings to sculptures.
We have been advised that that they have simplified their room categories. They now have six categories:

Classic House Room – Room 6 (Classic room)
Superior House Room – Room 3 (Ocean view room)
Deluxe Spa Rooms – Spa Deck & Spa Pool (Ocean view with deck)
Deluxe House Rooms – Room 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10 (Ocean view with terrace)
Ellerman House Suites – Suites 7 & 11 (Ocean view with terrace, lounge & dining area)
Ellerman House Villa – 3 bedroom & 5 bedroom option

Latest Flight News

Airlink takes over Johannesburg // Vilancoulos (Mozambique) flight route
Many passengers have been concerned that Fed Air have withdrawn from the Johannesburg // Vilancoulos, Mozambique route.
The GOOD NEWS for 2013 is that SAA AIRLINK has now gained authority to take the route which will operate under an SAA flight code. This is good news as passengers travelling from most key markets will be able to interline luggage direct to Vilancoulos and get boarding passes for all sectors on check in!
Vilanculos is the gateway to the tropical Bazaruto Archipelago. Indigo Bay is perhaps the most well know resort.
Airlink will fly 3 times per week from 22 March 2013 and 5 times per week from 31 July 2013

In other news SAA Airlink has also announced it will be introducing a Johannesburg / Kasane, Botswana route.
The town of Kasane is the gateway to the Chobe lodges in Botswana and just 1hr 30minutes road transfer from Victoria Falls. One could also charter into the Okavango from Kasane.
Airlink will fly 4 times per week from 22 March 2013 and daily from 31 July 2013

Skukuza Airport to reopen 1st November 2013
This has been spoken about for several years however we are pleased to officially confirm that South African National Parks are to reopen Skukuza Airport to commercial air traffic from 1st November 2013. This news is much welcomed and significant for access to the popular lodges in the Sabi Sands region. It is likely that SA Airlink or SA Express will operate this route allowing for greater capacity and therefore affordability including the ability to ticket all the way through to the lodges. We will keep you updated as news unfolds.

Two exciting venues in Cape Town

1.   Tjing Tjing Rooftop Bar and Dear Me Restaurant
This is a Bohemian-Chic restaurant in Longmarket Street in the heart of Cape Town. It is located in a narrow building over 3 floors. On the ground floor is Dear Me, a breakfast, lunch and coffee spot. The Mezzanine level has a unique, all-white, private room seating 40 guests, which can be hired out for private events. They also do a 9-course wine pairing dinner on a Thursday. They have a semi private dining table and lounge. The Roof Top Terrace can host about 80 guests for cocktails and tapas. They do have comfy sofa’s and both inside and outside space. This is very much an aspect of city living. Sunday & Monday are fine for private venue hire, but Tuesday to Saturday is their busy days so we would need to negotiate exclusivity if required. This venue is great for a young, funky group looking for a “taste of Cape Town” – it is also within walking distance of the bars in Long Street for those in search of a late night party.
2.   Shimmy Beach
There has been much hype about this venue, located at the V&A Waterfront on the harbour edge – access is past the Cape Grace and the Clock Tower entrance. Shimmy Beach opened in Dec 2012. It is well situated at the main entrance of the harbour, so great to watch all the ships and boats going past.
It is a large venue, with bars, a restaurant, a man-made beach and infinity pool. It has a private crèche for the kids, a whiskey tasting room / conference boardroom and soon an Ice Vodka Bar. The beach has a central stage with a hydraulic lift for launches and events. Many of the smaller venues, some seating as little as 20 guests, can be separated with concertina glass doors, each having their own sound and AV system. A few of these venues have private entrances for those clients who want total privacy.
It has a private mooring for yacht arrival and they have a Hummer vehicle to fetch patrons that may arrive by heli at the nearby heli pad.
To hire the whole venue you need a minimum of 500 guests and you could go up to 1800/2000 with a full span marquee over the beach
You can have access to the venue for an approx. EURO12 entrance fee, which we think is a good idea for guests who have a late departures or early arrival. They have change rooms, pool, restaurant, 150 deck recliners etc.

White Pearl Beach Resort, Southern Mozambique

White Pearl Resorts, Ponta Mamoli, offers the ultimate in barefoot luxury in Africa. Experience elegant simplicity at this exclusive beach resort set in the dunes of the untouched shores of southern Mozambique. The resort is situated just 100km south of the Mozambican capital, Maputo, and 25km north of the Kosi Bay/South Africa border. A retreat from the real world, the resort is surrounded by natural beauty and overlooks a secluded bay on Mozambique’s Lagoon Coast.
The journey from Kosi Bay to the resort takes approximately 1-1.5 hours with an overland 4x4 transfer. The drive from Durban to the Kosi Bay border is approximately 5 hrs. Alternatively drive from Richards Bay Airport which is about 2hrs. Thirty minute helicopter transfers can be arranged from Maputo International Airport direct to the resort. 
The 22 stylish pool suites, each with a private plunge pool and air-conditioning, offer a spectacular view of the Indian Ocean.
The striking beach bar is at the heart of this resort. Stretch out on one of the beautiful oversized day beds or comfortable loungers while you indulge in a refreshing cocktail overlooking the ocean.
Discover a world of thrilling adventure in a place surrounded by nature and blessed with year-round sunshine. Whether you're a scuba diver, intrepid kayaker or Big Game Fisherman, the resort beckons with its warm, clear waters and pristine beaches.
Swim in the beautiful depths of the ocean alongside majestic dolphins, glide over exquisite coral reefs on a diving expedition, paddle the waters in a kayak or soar in a helicopter above a glistening ocean that stretches to the horizon.
Explore the natural bush surrounding White Pearl Resorts, Ponta Mamoli on horseback. Gallop along a bush trail, weaving through indigenous flora and fauna and enjoy spectacular views of the ocean from high-up vantage points.
Surrounded by soothing sounds and calming scents, experience a variety of in-room massage treatments. Feel all tension evaporate with a massage designed to ease your muscles and relax body and mind.