Sunday 18 January 2009
Friday 12 October 2007
This little jewel hidden away within the very busy Durban Harbour is my absolute favourite stop when down in Durbs.
Wilson’s Wharf is situated on a boating marina with working slipways, tucked in next to the yacht club. A decent selection of restaurants, a craft market, shops and even a theatre are what can be found here.
What I really like about this place is that even though they attract their fair share of tourists, it is not a ‘tourist trap’ by any means. A lot of the local Durbanites go there for lunch, dinner or a few drinks on a regular basis. The best part of the day for me to sit and enjoy a few glasses of wine and something fishy is late afternoon and over sunset.
I have not been to all the restaurants there yet, so I will only mention the ones that I normally frequent:
The Pirates Arms serve the best fish and chips, UK style, in SA as far as Tony’s palate is concerned. Very generous, fresh portions are always on offer. This is by no means all they serve, the menu is varied but I seem to always choose either the hake and chips or the eisbein… Although the service is good, they take extra care when preparing your meal so the wait is often a bit longer than one may be used to. This allows one to first soak up the atmosphere and imbibe a few drinks before eating, the way it should be done... I also give them top awards for the best themed restaurant on the Wharf, filled with odds and ends from the seafarer’s trade.
The Oyster Bar is my absolute favourite – it boasts the best view for one thing. There is a counter all round the outside of this little restaurant where one can sit and enjoy the view, as well as a deck area. The menu offers a decent range of fresh oysters, mussel dishes and sushi. The wine list will also not be found wanting, a lot of thought has gone into offering the perfect selection of wines and champagnes to accompany the setting and menu. Waitresses like Tsidi deliver perfect service coupled with a smile.
I enjoy the view most over sunset, when the working harbour’s skyline slowly transforms into a fairy tale playground because of the lights on all the cranes. A very romantic setting! Take your partner, order a bottle of wine and bulk up on some oysters – the rest will be history…
Charlie Crofts A little more up market, this is also one of the bigger venues on the wharf. Many a pleasurable afternoon has been spent there over a few bottles of wine. They often have live entertainment so this one is a must if you like to listen to a bit of live jazz while enjoying a good meal.
When in Durban, if left with only one choice of where to go for a few hours I will always pick Wilson’s Wharf – a definite ‘must go.’
For more info, visit the website: http://www.wilsonswharf.co.za/
Wednesday 10 October 2007
If you ever find yourself on the Kwazulu Natal South Coast, a visit to the Oribi Gorge is an absolute must! Only a short drive away from Port Shepstone (29km’s) one will find the Oribi Gorge. Another jewel in South Africa’s heavily adorned crown… Although there are many places to visit in this relatively unknown area I am going to focus on the Oribi Gorge Hotel and Wild 5 Site in this post.
There are quite a few activities available at this lodge – my favourite is the Wild Swing…
The Wild 5 site offers as main attraction, a 100m gorge swing, the highest swing of its kind in the world… The free fall is a mind numbing 75 meters!
For somebody with a natural fear of heights, it constantly amazes me that I have fallen in love with ‘getting some air.’ (Thanks for the phrase Noel!)
Standing on the edge of a 130 meter high cliff, just before you launch yourself over the edge is a very sobering experience indeed. Questions about mortality, responsibility and the meaning of life in general flash through your brain like lightning, all to be pushed aside when the jump master starts to count ‘THREE! (You must be crazy – I’m not going), TWO! (Didn’t you hear me!? This is madness!!) ONE! (Oh no, please don’t say it…) BUNGEE!! (Aaaaaaaarrrrgghhh….)
Panic, total panic sets in for a moment as the earth falls away in front of you while feet and arms scramble for a non existent hold on terra firma. After what feels like and eternity, the cable starts to tighten and the lateral acceleration starts (the story that your body experiences a jerk is an old wives tale and promoters of this theory should be hung, drawn and quartered.) By this time one has normally recovered from the first shock, as you realise that ‘It’s holding! I’m not going to hit the ground!’ Skimming the tree tops at close to 180km’s an hour is really something one should try at least once in your life. Scared? Nothing wrong with that – if you’re not, go see a shrink… I believe the whole success of this kind of activity is the complete turnaround between total panic and euphoria. Do this, and you will see life in perspective again. All the obstacles in your life suddenly seem small and insignificant. You will often hear people say – ‘if I can do this, I can do anything!’ Complete with the broadest smile they’ve had in years…
The Wild 5 site also offers Abseiling, the Wild Slide (for the more cautious), off-road go-carting, horse riding- and walking trails as well as White Water Rafting in season. Just sitting back and enjoying the beautiful scenery, or watching the braver souls do their thing is also worthy way of spending the day. Just watch out, you may find yourself joining the fun sooner than you expected… It's exhilirating even for the watchers!
Noel (who runs the Wild 5 site) breathes exuberance into the whole experience with his vibrant and enthusiastic approach, clearly indicating a passion for this part of the world and the operation he is running. Talking to him there is no mistaking that he is someone with a serious ‘lust for life.’ His excitement about the Gorge and the beautiful natural resources of the area is highly contagious and I found leaving the area quite hard after spending some time with him on the edge of the gorge… This same attitude is also very prominent in the rest of his crew who also do their best to make one’s experience as pleasurable as possible. Two thumbs up for Noel, the crew and the Wild 5 site! Thanks for a great time guys!
So, no more dilly dallying – get there as quick as possible and earn your wings…
All of the best and happy trails until we speak again.
Monday 24 September 2007
Kwazulu Natal boasts many fine holiday destinations and offers a whole variety of different types of nature to explore – from the Drakensberg Mountains, to the rolling hills of Zululand, to the fine subtropical coast line and warm ocean. There are also a lot of different nature conservation areas – I am personally convinced that KZN Wildlife and KZN Tourism are the most effective organisations of their kind in SA…
On a recent fact finding mission to the KwaZulu Natal South Coast, I was fortunate to spend a few great days again in an area where we used to spend summer holidays when I was still at school. The Hibiscus Coast used to be the main holiday destination for most of the South Africans that live inland. With the advent of the Cape Coast and Cape Town as the main coastal destination in SA, things have quietened down a fair bit in this very lush, balmy part of SA and I will advise any one with a bit of time on their hands to spend some time here on the SA East Coast.
For this post I will focus on the KZN South Coast (Hibiscus Coast) as to talk about the whole province will take ages.
The Hibiscus Coast offers a whole lot of fine, sandy beaches – too many to name really. A few of the better known ones are: Margate, Uvongo, Shelly Beach, Port Shepstone, Port Edward etc…
The Mozambique current that flows southwards down the Eastern Coast of SA ensures that the water temperature is pleasant right throughout the year. Surfers especially love this part of our coastline. Water temperatures vary between approx 20˚C in winter, to 25˚C+ in summertime. Combine this with long stretches of sandy beach, and you’re in for a beach holiday that you won’t soon forget!
This is one of the main winter attractions on this part of the coast. Due to changes in the current (I am not going to give the full lecture explaining exactly why here – read all about it on SardineRun.net.) The end result is that whales, dolphins, sharks and basically all the ocean animals that fancy a little sardine snack are found in abundance on this coast line. Conditions are ideal for whale/dolphin/shark watching, as well as scuba diving and fishing – a lovely winter getaway!
All you golfers out there – this is a real golfer’s paradise with a lot of world class golf courses dotting this part of the coast. To name a few: Wild Coast, San Lameer, Southbroom and Selborn Country Clubs. Here is a link to a site with more info re the golf courses: Golf Courses
The Hibiscus Coast boasts many other attractions like cultural villages, flea markets (a lot of), a crocodile farm, coffee- and sugar cane plantations as well as a lot of good restaurants. There is also the Oribi Gorge, but this deserves a post all to itself…
Another fun day out is catching a ride on the Banana Express down the coastline.
If you find yourself in the Ramsgate area – a visit to Pistols Saloon and Wild West Museum is an absolute must! This is a pub with a great atmosphere and do not be surprised if Huckleberry, the resident donkey, joins you in the restaurant for some quick refreshment…
From bright lights to complete silence – you will find it all on the Hibiscus Coast!
With the busy events season and lovely springtime that has arrived, I’ve been running around all over the place like a man possessed these last six weeks… Felt like I was constantly going at 100 miles an hour with my hair on fire!
Between the Natal South Coast, Namibia (6000km driving safari, mostly desert) and the Eastern Cape Wild Coast, there has been very little time to sit down and assimilate my thoughts.
Between adventures, I have managed to create quite a lot of ‘1st drafts’ which just need a little refining before I’ll inflict them on you. Luckily I have a small break in my schedule over the next week, so there are quite a few posts on the way.
Watch this space!
Monday 23 July 2007
The Sea Gypsy Café
A day or so after our disastrous first attempt at finding a decent piece of fish (see Something Fishy – Part 1) we again found ourselves in Mossel Bay over lunchtime. Steering well clear of The Point, I decided to go and take a look at the harbour region. From past experience I’ve found that there are normally very good fish shops, restaurants or at least a fish ‘take away’ at the fishing harbours themselves.
On this occasion we were handsomely rewarded by finding The Sea Gypsy Café.
Situated on the harbour wall in an unassuming building, with deck, this restaurant is perfectly situated to give one an unparalleled view over the bay. On the occasion when we visited we were also entertained by the antics of a few seals frolicking in the water right in front and below us.
Even though this little restaurant attracts a reasonable amount of tourists, it has still managed to retain its authentic atmosphere and is still frequented by the locals as well. This is definitely no ‘tourist trap,’ but the real deal!
They have quite a comprehensive menu, which includes a good selection of fresh seafood that is also well prepared and presented. Looking at the right hand column of the menu, I was also immediately struck by the very reasonable figures reflected there…
The staff are all friendly and the service was satisfactory.
I went for the fish and chips option and was impressed with the quality, size and price of the dish. Coupled with the mussels in a creamy garlic sauce as a starter and an ice cold white wine - I was in culinary heaven. A great piece of fresh hake that was well prepared at last!
The ambience, view and food makes this a definite stop for a meal (or just a few glasses of wine) if you are ever in the Mossel Bay area. Be sure to leave yourself enough time to spend! I can see myself easily squandering a whole afternoon here with a bottle of wine and some good company…
This was definitely one of the main dining highlights of our extended trip covering the Garden Route, and all the way to Cape Town.
This restaurant is also within easy walking distance of the Dias Museum Complex which is an absolute must when in Mossel Bay. Take a tour of the Museum and round it off with a memorable (and very affordable) visit to the Sea Gypsy Café afterward – a day well spent!
The Sea Gypsy gets a ‘two thumbs up’ from me and I will definitely always go back when in the area. Well done guys – it was a pleasure to visit you!
Tuesday 19 June 2007
Just a quick update on the previous posting Something Fishy - Part 1.
I have been contacted by Mossel Bay Marketing regarding the review on Tidals Seafood Restaurant.
They have invited yours truly to go on an inspection visit/tour of the various tourist and hospitality businesses in the area, in order to present more (and more informed) information of what this popular destination has on offer.
Look out for my reports after the tour (which is scheduled to happen early October), I am sure that I will have lots and lots of great information to entertain you with after this 'fact finding mission.'
I have also heard (unconfirmed, through the grapevine) that the premises where Tidals is currently located is under new ownership, and that the new owners are planning a complete revamp of the site to put a 'vibey, trendy' venue in place.
Let's all hope my information is correct - I, for one, can't wait to see what transpires as this is still the best physical location in Mossel Bay as far as I am concerned...
I am still a long way from done with the Something Fishy series (as promised). You can start looking out for the next chapter in a day or two.
Wednesday 13 June 2007
Yes, it’s fresh!
Planning to do the Garden Route in the Southern Cape soon? Like to eat fish? This one’s just for you…
Earlier this year I spent some time in the Knysna area with guests. On the way there we stopped in Mossel Bay for lunch.
Before I carry on, the run-up to this lunch has to be explained.
I firmly believe that to understand dining in South Africa, one should know the following:
The Northern half of the country’s inhabitants probably know more about preparing beef than anywhere else due to the availability of some of the very best beef produced in the world. Lamb is also prevalent in the central (and Southern) part of SA. Ask anyone who has ever had a decent SA beef steak or lamb chop, done by any local on his braai (bbq) at home – we know our story and have an absolute passion for red meat!
The Southern half (Western and Eastern Cape), on the other hand, produces the best lamb (Karoo lamb) to be had on this earth as far as I am concerned… Unfortunately no beef worth mentioning and in the coastal areas one can’t always be sure of the lamb either.
This is by no means a negative comment on restaurants in places like the Garden Route or Cape Town. There are hordes of excellent, world class restaurants to be found there. We South Africans are passionate about food after all! But, on average the steaks are better up north - that's just the way it is.
Apart from the coastal areas, one should avoid fish except in some of the better (and more expensive) restaurants in Pretoria and Johannesburg. If you like seafood, you’ll love the dining experiences offered in SA’s coastal towns and cities!
Due to the above, I always live on fish and the occasional lamb chop when in the Southern Cape. On this trip we were all looking forward to our first bona fide Hake & Chips (a hangover from our days as a British Colony) in the Southern Cape. I personally have been looking forward to this for quite a while, and was constantly enticing my guests with mouth watering tales of the treat we were in for…
Upon arrival in Mossel Bay, we first visited the Dias Museum (an absolute must!) to work up an appetite before we started scouting for a restaurant. The idea was to find a place with a nice view that served fish & chips.
After driving around a bit, looking at possible venues, we decided on a little place with a great view, at what is definitely one of the best locations in Mossel Bay – Tidals Seafood Restaurant. Situated right below the lighthouse and Bat Cave, right on the rocks, one certainly can’t ask for a better view or location. I’ve been to this place before (years ago), and had a below average experience with a seafood platter. Following my motto of trying everything at least twice, hoping that things may have changed and reasoning that preparing a plain fish and chips isn’t exactly rocket science, we entered…
The smell of decay and the stickiness of the floor should have warned me, but nooo, we give everybody a second chance, remember? A sticky floor is by no means always a deterrent for me. For example: I firmly believe one should only buy a bunny chow in Durban from a place with a sticky feel to it…
The tepid (and slightly sour) beer should have been another indication of all not being well in paradise but we bravely persevered while enjoying the perfect weather and splendid view of the waves crashing on the rocks right in front and below us.
When it was time to order, I felt that I should at least make sure of what we were actually getting, all things considered.
The conversation went something like this:
Waitress: What would you like to order?
Tony: Tell me about your fish & chips please. Do you serve them fried or grilled?
Waitress: Only fried in batter, we don’t do grilled.
Tony: Fair enough. Tell me - are they nice and fresh hake fillets? When were they delivered? (Remember that we could actually see the fishing harbour from where we were sitting.)
Waitress: Yes, very fresh. They were delivered this morning.
Tony: Great, we’ll take three and some cold beers this time please.
When our order finally arrived, I was extremely dismayed (to say the least) to behold the following on my plate: A half cooked, less than palm sized excuse for a hake fillet in a sticky batter. It was plain to see that these fillets came directly out of a box of pre battered frozen fish fillets as found in the supermarket, and were not even done the courtesy of being fried in oil or baked in an oven – definitely microwaved, there can be no other explanation for the batter's texture. These attempts at ‘fried fish’ where accompanied by what could at best be described as microwave chips (we are talking English chips here, not crisps) that did not have the benefit of even seeing a microwave oven, but were rather boiled or steamed or something…
In all the exitement I nearly forgot to mention the tartar sauce that had already started to turn brown from old age - disgusting stuff!
Tony: Delivered this morning, you said? Fresh, you said? Tell me – were they delivered freshly frozen from the supermarket, pre battered in boxes?
Waitress: Yes, fresh from I & J*.
(The rest of the conversation cannot be repeated in polite conversation, as I am trying to keep this blog at least ‘PG’ rated.)
*(A note about I&J for those of you not familiar with the brand (Irvin&Johnson). They are a very respectable frozen foods company and probably the best known frozen foods brand to be found in shops in SA. Their quality is always good, so one must actually go to trouble to degrade it to the point where we received it. If I was a branding manager for I&J, I would sue Tidals, or at least prevent them from using my brand name in any way at all…)
While there is physically nothing wrong with frozen fish fillets, it's a lenghty cry away from fish that were still swimming in the sea that morning and has never been frozen, no matter how you look at it.
After not accepting the fish & chips, we opted for beef burgers (without the chips thank you) and those nearly made us long for the fish again…
It is a real pity that such a nice venue should be allowed to become such an embarrassment. We can all just hope that they go bankrupt soon and that new owners will do justice to the venue.
I am definitely awarding this place (I do not have the vocabulary to fully express my feelings here...) with both my 'Lemon Award' as well as the more select 'Festering Pit' award, reserved for the absolute 'worst of the worst' I accidentally stumble across. A most definite 'avoid at all possible costs', as far as I am personally concerned.
This story has a happy ending though. After our terrible experience in this nest of incompetence, masquerading as a restaurant, I started looking for the kind of place that I knew had to exist somewhere in Mossel Bay, and found it!
This answer to my fish & chip (and other seafood treats) prayers is called the (to be revealed) A lovely, lovely, lovely place! Definitely worth a posting all by itself, I would hate to detract from their reputation by even mentioning them in this article…
Look out for ‘Something Fishy – Part2’ to be posted next.
Thursday 10 May 2007
When planning a self drive safari, there are a few things to take into account when deciding on a vehicle.
Due to the varying road conditions, it will always be a good idea to research this part a bit more.
In South Africa, the roads are generally in a very good condition, but there are many out of the way areas that can only be reached by 4 x 4 or a vehicle with decent clearance.
In a lot of the other African countries, you will be well advised to go for the 4 x 4 option as the only reasonable road surfaces are close to the major cities. In Mozambique, for instance, you will often be hard pressed to reach your coastal destination, as one usually encounters a stretch of sand on the last leg of your journey – 4 x 4 is an absolute must if you are considering Mozambique as a destination and would like to explore a bit.
There are a few ways of acquiring vehicles for your trip.
All the major car rental agencies are represented throughout Africa, as well as other, local agencies. A Google search will present you with more options than you may care for…
Specialist rental agencies like Britz Africa will supply you with 4 x 4 vehicles that are fully equipped for your overland safari, add some food, put a few beers in the cooler and you’re ready to roll!
If you are planning an extended safari, it may be a bit more cost effective to go for a ‘buy back’ option. Drive Africa is an example of a company that offers buy back options, as well as short term lease options. This is a company that I fully endorse as the whole experience while dealing with them is one of German excellence… The rates are very good as well.
So, if you are planning to visit South Africa you will probably have a great holiday in the small, budget compact available from the rental agency.
For the more adventurous, this will not be enough.
Have no fear, for I have identified the perfect touring vehicle, that is a bit easier on the budget as well – the Toyota Condor! (Featured in the picture to the left.)
These are available in 2x4 and 4x4 versions. South Africa Rent is one of the companies that I know of where they can be rented from at a very good rate.
These vehicles are spacious, trustworthy and are very reasonably priced. 4 x 4 capabilities and clearance are more than ample for the average tourists' needs. If your proposed safari requires something with better 4 x 4 capabilities than the Condor, you hopefully know enough not to need advice from me on this issue anyway…
Using a vehicle with off-road capabilities, or even just decent clearance above the ground, adds spice to any trip as there are simply just more possibilities to investigate. The most impressive places are often a short distance off one of the main routes, but inaccessable with a normal car.
Thursday 26 April 2007
After reading my article titled ‘Here be monsters…’ my sister (who is a passionate Cape Townian) contacted me and took me to task for my shameless slandering of the Cape Point Nature Reserve because of the baboon issue. What can I say? It is a problem and people should be made aware of it…
She is also right though. The Cape Point is one of the most awesome nature scenes to be found out there. So I have decided to write for three reasons: Firstly to tell you how great it is, secondly to tell you what had happened between me and the clan Papio Ursinus (despicable beasts, no matter how you look at it…) and thirdly to tell you how to visit the reserve and have a baboon free experience!
Described by Sir Francis Drake as ' the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.'
The first time I ever went to Cape Point, it was the same sister mentioned above that took me there. During the drive down through Simonstown, it was already apparent that we were in a breathtakingly beautiful part of the Cape.
Visitors to the reserve can take a nice, brisk walk up to the old lighthouse that was built there in 1860. Due to the fierce weather conditions (fog) there, it was not always visible and a new one was built, a bit lower, in 1914. This is the most powerful light house on the South African coast. There is a funicular available if you aren’t much into walking up steep slopes…
Next to the car park, there is the reputable Two Oceans Restaurant where one can enjoy a lovely lunch or glass of our fine Cape Wines while looking out on the awesome scenery. The restaurant has also been ‘baboon proofed’, so harassment won’t be included in the bill…
There is also a curio shop on the premises.
All over the reserve there are short looped walks as well as a few delightful little beaches.
Birders will thrill at the sight of peregrine falcons plummeting down from the cliff tops, African black oystercatchers hopping about the rocky shore, ocean birds soaring about and sunbirds flitting amongst the fynbos.
Various antelope species like the endemic bontebok, blesbuck and Cape Mountain Zebras roam the reserve and ostriches are often seen striding along the beaches.
Although the restaurant, main parking and lighthouse areas are well guarded by rangers, the walks and beaches are not… This brings us to the next section:
On a recent trip to Cape Town, my girlfriend and I decided to spend a day relaxing on one of the little beaches in the reserve. Buffalo Bay – the little white patch in the picture to the left. The view is from the restaurant deck, looking back towards Simonstown over False Bay.
When we got to the parking space at the completely deserted little beach, it looked like we were in for an idyllic day! I quickly got out our fishing gear and headed out to make my first cast of the day as quickly as possible (something I just do…) leaving my girlfriend sitting next to our rental car, busy organising her equipment.
After a few minutes I looked up just in time to see an elongated snout peek over her blissfully unaware shoulder to see what she had in her hands! Seeing that it was nothing edible, it turned its beady little eyes towards the car…
We had made the mistake of not immediately winding up the windows and one of the back windows was still open - without further ado it leapt right in. Luckily I always keep most of my valuables and loose items in the trunk of the car, except for a packet of sugar we used for our coffee on this occasion. A baboons’ sweet tooth is as finely developed as any I’ve seen…
A few seconds later, the second, much larger baboon also hopped into the car despite us screaming like pure bred banshees and dancing around with waving arms. I now had to deal with two baboons in the car, one sneaking up behind me, and another ten or twelve busy ambling along in our direction. At that time I was wearing only my swim shorts and a fishing rod…
It’s amazing how naked one feels without a shirt or shoes when staring into beady little eyes, filled with malice, backed up with large yellow fangs and a nasty attitude. I was running around like a true cave man with only a big rock for defence, chasing off the circling baboons all the while trying to intimidate the car occupying duo into retreat!
Baboons have a nasty habit of ripping, tearing, biting, scratching and defecating on (then smearing) everything they come across. I’ve had this happen to me once in Zambia and I can tell you, the smell takes a looong time to go away, no matter how often you wash the car.
At one stage, after the large male decided to leave the car, the smaller one actually got out of the car and stormed me! After my strategic retreat, it calmly climbed right back in and carried on. Trying to throw these beasts with rocks was also very frustrating. The clever buggers sit and watch the trajectory of your hurled projectile, and then lightly step aside at the last moment…
After what seemed an eternity, I eventually got the main troublemaker out of the car with beast-like cries and threatening gesticulations. Adrenaline charged and full of vinegar we both uttered victory yells that would have done Tarzan extremely proud!
After the whole incident, the whole troop retreated a bit, probably to hold council on what the next angle of attack will be... That signalled the end of our Cape Point day (at 8:30 am) so we headed on to Hout Bay (via the absolutely stunning Chapman's Peak Drive) for a seafood lunch and drinks to settle the nerves.
Baboon free experience
You can ‘baboon proof’ your visit to Cape point, or similar places by keeping the following in mind.
Baboons are primarily attracted to food; the best preventative is to keep food out of sight.
Don’t walk around with anything edible in your hands. They will try to grab it off you.
Don’t pack out a picnic in an area where there are baboons, but no rangers.
Always keep your eyes open. In areas where baboons are nuisances, there are often signs posted.
Keep your car closed and the windows wound up. Very important! :-)
Try and stay in areas where there is supervision by rangers.
Cape Point is visited by thousands of people each year, and the baboon incidents only occur every now and then, and always involve food.
Chances are that you may not even see one… Do yourself a favour and go there, the Cape Point is truly well worth the effort!
Wednesday 25 April 2007
As you all may or may not know, malaria is caused by a parasite that is transferred into the blood stream during a mosquito bite. When in a malaria risk area, it does not mean that every single mosquito has the malaria parasite, ready to deliver into your unsuspecting veins. The occurrence of malaria mosquitoes are often as low as one malaria mosquito for every thousand in a specific area – before you start relaxing, remember that they all bite, so it’s purely a matter of time….
Anti - Malaria pills (prophylactics)
An absolute must! This is so important that I am not even going to waste time elaborating on it.
Simply put: just go to your doctor and get a prescription. People visiting a malaria risk area for longer than 3 months should discuss this with the doctor as long term use of malaria pills may have side effects. Malaria pills often have disagreeable side effects and the kidneys and liver take serious punishment with some kinds of pills.
If for some reason you decide not to get the malaria pills, all is definitely not lost. I personally never take them and have been fortunate so far in avoiding malaria while people around me were dropping like flies… I believe this is because I religiously follow all the steps below (especially the g&t part!)
Also remember that special care should be taken close to water and swamps, at sundown and when there is no wind.
Tony’s malaria avoidance plan
Malaria is no joke, take my word for it, or do a little bit of research. I don’t want to scare anybody so I’ll leave out the horror stories, but this is a serious risk that can be easily avoided with a little care:
The best way to prevent malaria is simply to avoid the bite… This can be done by taking the following precautions:
Unless you are going to a resort that specifies mosquito nets, it is always a good idea to have one handy. They retail for around R100-00 in SA (roughly $15 US) are light and compact when folded up. Rather risk never having to use it than be stuck somewhere without it.
Use lots of insect repellent!
A definite must! If you can find a product (spray or stick) called Peaceful Sleep , get some. Out off all the chemical repellents, I find it works the best and should be your first line of defence in case one of the buggers gets through…. Spray it on as many times a day as you like, but make sure you’re well covered as the evening approaches and at night. It may initially have a strong smell, but it’s a small price to pay if you consider the alternative… (It can most definitely be used as an alternative to MACE – powerful stuff!)
Also look out for some of the herbal alternatives (to compliment the Peaceful Sleep, not always 100% effective). If you can get soap, aqueous creams, or spray with Citronella and Lemon grass as ingredients, grab it! There is a product available that is a citronella and lemongrass oil based sun block. Just spray it on twice a day and you’re covered! (Still looking for their site, will update this as soon as I find it.)
The glycerine based citronella soap has a fresh, crisp smell and offers a reasonable amount of protection. It also makes your hair feel nice and soft if you choose to use it as a shampoo…
Take particular care that your arms, legs, hands (including the back of your fingers) and feet are well sprayed! These are the mozzy target areas. Best is to make sure your whole body is covered. The aqueous cream lotion is also good for the skin in general, and you can always get someone to help you apply it all over after a shower…
Here is a link to a site that sells Citronella soap. I will update links as I find them on the web. Please contact me if I have not updated the links and you urgently need the info. http://www.npbcontrust.co.za/gifts.htm
There are other forms of insect repellents available like:
They give me a headache if used while I sleep, and they don’t always work – not worth it in my opinion.
Citronella oil candles:
Might as well get a few.
Anti mozzy wear
It is always a good idea to have a few light weight, loose fitting and long sleeve shirts when travelling in a malaria risk area. During the day when it’s hot, you can roll up your sleeves, but at sundown you can roll your sleeves down. I do not know why, but the mozzy attacks are always the worst right after sundown, especially if it is wind still. I call it ‘mozzy happy hour…’
If you get hold of the modern, light weight fishing shirts, they usually have a handy ‘flip-up’ collar for extra protection of the neck area.
This is a hard one, because it’s a terrible thing to have to wear long trousers/skirts in the African heat… I always go with shorts, and pleeenty mosquito repellent.
More bad news if you like wearing sandals. The sad fact is that feet and ankles are the main mozzy targets. Regular and liberal applications of repellent to the feet may do the trick, but ankle high boots and socks are the best option. This is generally true for all aspects of the footwear issue.
Anti mozzy diet
A very effective way of battling Africa’s nr.1 killer. (And you all thought it was the hippo…) Battling the mozzy through your diet has a lot of obvious advantages and one (or two) minor discomforts attached to it. Suffice it to say that as proven by the repellents, smell is a very effective agent…
Repel mozzys and humans alike, but lots of lovely garlic is a winner!
Gin and tonics (g&t’s):
Tonic Water contains quinine, which is used to combat malaria once in the blood. The gin helps to get the tonic down, thin the blood and I am sure that mozzys don’t like the smell of gin in your sweat either. Have a few during the day to keep the levels up, it refreshes like nothing else during hot days spent lazing in the sun…
Same as garlic. Beware: This is not an option for the feint hearted – over application may result in random bouts of uncivilized behaviour or other radical changes in behaviour. These attacks are usually short lived but can be extreme. Recovery is normally coupled with remorse and embarrassment. Liberal doses of g&t next to a swimming pool the next day will normally speed up recovery.
If there is a fan nearby, switch it on. Mozzys have trouble flying in moving air, that’s why they are more active in wind still areas. If you have a ceiling fan in your room or chalet, keep it on, even if it means using an extra blanket. With the air constantly in motion over your bed, you are 100% sure of waking up bite free even without a mozzy net.
Keep the fly sheets zipped up at all times, don’t let them sneak in during the day.
Keep the windows closed when the car is standing still, especially at night. Nothing worse than being repeatedly bitten by all the mozzys that were hiding beneath your car seats during the next day’s driving!
Take special care at sunset (as well as the rest of the night) and wear protective clothing if possible. Always try to apply a fresh layer of insect repellent just before sunset.
Once, while camping on the banks of the Zambezi River (that year there was some of the worst mosquito action I’ve ever encountered), we got into the habit of spending sundown and the two hours after in our tents toasting another fine day with g&t’s. Later a breeze would come up and we could go sit outside by the campfire.
Ok, that about sums it up for now. I will appreciate any comments you may have regarding this article.
Remember: malaria doesn’t have to be an issue; a little discipline is all it takes!
Sunday 22 April 2007
It sometimes happens that visitors to Africa get attacked (and often eaten) by the wildlife that we have over here…
This is normally due to inexperience with wild animals and recklessness. A man was killed in one of our nature reserves when he got out of his car to take pictures of a lioness busy giving birth right below a bridge that he was crossing. He probably reasoned that she was 'otherwise engaged' and had to cover a distance of approx 200meters to get to him.
I suppose he was quite suprised to find out that she could easily cover that distance and kill him before he could get back in his vehicle…
This is just one example of what people get up to in wildlife parks in attempts to shorten their holidays.
In short – when out on safari or in a game reserve: do not get out of the car! The tragedy above is definitely not the first of its kind and quite a few would be nature photographers and daredevils have ended up as an easy lunch…
The image used in my First Post is of of a lion that has had a person for lunch before, not far from where I took the picture...
Always listen to your qualified ranger when on a wildlife safari – these people have skills and knowledge that should be respected. Too many guides that I get into contact with have a horror story or two because tourists on their safaris don’t listen, and get into trouble.
A while ago a few tourists from Europe on a walking safari through the Kruger National Park, were attacked by elephants because the ladies would not listen to the guide, and separated from the group to get a closer look at Dumbo… A bit too late they realised that these animals are the real deal and not circus trained! The end result: the game ranger had to shoot a beautiful elephant bull to save irresponsible tourists… They got lucky and escaped with no fatalities that time.
Feeding of wild animals is another serious problem that we have. Too many visitors’ feed (especially baboons and monkeys) wild animals because they’re so cute… Don’t! The problem is that once you start doing this, these animals start to associate humans with food as well as losing their natural fear for us. Next step a troop of baboons spots a little girl with a bag of sweets and I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate on the possible consequences – nobody ever taught these animals how to ask nicely and it’s survival of the fittest out there…
I often get asked how dangerous a baboon can be. Once you look a baboon in the eye from up close and see the size of their fangs and claws, you will never ask such a silly question again. I will personally rather deal with two pit bull terriers than one grown male baboon! The Cape Point Nature Reserve is a good example of this – the baboons have become a huge problem and I personally know a few people that have had bad experiences with the accursed beasts there.
The unfortunate reality is this - once baboons lose their respect for humans, and become a problem, the only solution is to shoot the whole troop... Feeding of wild animals often result in a death sentence for them. (And sometimes also for their 'beneficiaries...')
I had a bad run in with a troop of baboons at Cape Point during Feb this year (luckily there were no casualties, but it was close!) resulting in me not taking any clients there again without a 'negotiating tool' of sorts (I would prefer a large gun, but am busy practising with my high powered slingshot) – safety is the important factor here. I would rather go walking through a reserve with predators etc. than go to Cape Point where humans are targeted relentlessly by these black hearted fiends...
A very entertaining and humoristic book about baboons (a 'must read') is: 'A Primates Memoir: Love death and baboons in East Africa' by Robert M. Sapolsky. Do yourself a favour and get a copy for more insight into the dark souls of these creatures...
OK, so this was a long rendition of the following advice: when in an area where there are wild animals – don’t expose yourself unnecessarily.
Greetings, Ill be back...
Thursday 05 April 2007
Tuesday 03 April 2007
This post won’t be of much use to people who prefer to travel with large tour operators and groups, but read it anyway – you may just decide to go Kawaya - Waya’ing* through Africa on your own wits in the true tradition of heroes like Livingstone.
*(Zambian version of the Australian ‘walkabout.’ The expression is always accompanied by a snake like motion with the hand, as if simulating the way a snake moves through reeds...)
Best to avoid
Public Transport (government controlled)
The level of public transport service in Africa can differ in the extreme. Again this is a matter which will require some research due to the different conditions throughout Africa.
As a general rule it is best not to make use of bus (excepting luxury coach liners, where available) and train services (also excepting the luxury options) unless you are a determined backpacker that loves to ‘travel on the edge’ as they say…
Trains in particular can be very dangerous due to crime and overcrowding. I have not been to every country in Africa yet, but this seems to be the case pretty much everywhere.
A few viable options
There are regular flights scheduled between most African cities that are operated by respectable major airlines. A few of these are SAA, Air Namibia and Egypt Air. International carriers like British Airways also service quite a few routes. For smaller distances there are also a myriad of air charter companies available. Example
Not very many destinations you may choose to visit have safe, reliable coach services. Better developed countries like South Africa and Egypt have them in abundance. Best make sure first.
Luxury Trains (Highly advisable)
Not the fastest option, but a luxurious train safari en route to your next destination can be very rewarding. These trains do not carry regular commuters, only leisure passengers and is an absolute must if the old stylish mode of travel appeals to you. This option is not available everywhere, but check out the companies listed below. They may just be going your way…
Blue train (Arguably the best in the world)
Rovos Rail (Highest recommendation)
Premier Classe (Great value)
For the destination minded tourist (resort based holidays) this is probably the best option, and is generally available wherever you find an airport, resort or major centre. Best to arrange transfers through your booking agent or the accommodation venue that you want to use. Although this is one of the most effective ways of getting from A to B, it’s also one of the most expensive… For more than one person it’s often cheaper to just rent a car. (See the Self Drive post.)
For the budget minded traveller and backpackers, there are quite a lot of minibus services available. The Bazbus is a classic example.
Car hire/Self drive (Now we’re talking!)
This is by far the best way of getting around –and the only real way to actually experience the wonder that is Africa. This section deserves a post by itself. A definite must read!
Monday 02 April 2007
Ok, let’s face it – we all watch the TV news and read the papers and yes, Africa has its problems… As elsewhere, tourists make easy targets.
NB! Most important!
No matter who you are or what special abilities you may have, you too will become a crime statistic if you are not vigilant. Trust me on this one... Rather leave the vanity at home and have a well deserved, safe holiday in the most awesome setting on mother earth, Africa.
Wars and Political Instability:
While things have quieted down in a lot of strife torn African countries, old issues flame up from time to time. It will be of no use to list all the areas to avoid as they may not be current when you read this. My best advice will be to contact the embassies of the countries you are planning to visit beforehand and try to get some info on current events in the particular country. Try to do a search of local newspapers, and the CNN site can also be helpful.
I personally won’t like landing in Harare the day before Zimbabwe’s next general election…
Although there are significant levels of crime throughout Africa, it is not the same everywhere and with a little ‘street smarts’ one can reduce the risk of becoming a victim.
Know where you are:
As with most places in the world, crime is not distributed evenly. Sometimes the difference between a dangerous and safe area is a matter of two or three city blocks. If you plan to go out and about, speak to your guide, guest house proprietor or hotel manager first. Find out where the local danger spots are, and the kind of threats to look out for. Just recognising a name on a signpost may avert disaster.
Don’t tempt them:
It is important to realise that poverty is a real issue in Africa. If you insist on dangling all your expensive belongings in front of people who could be fed for a few months on income generated by a new camera and set of diamond earrings, you are asking for trouble. If you leave your valuables unattended, they will most probably disappear…. Always keep the items about your person to a minimum, and you don’t have to ‘dress to impress’ – it’s Africa and you are on holiday!
The same rule applies for your vehicle. Never have valuables lying around on your car seats – this invites the ‘smash and grab’ specialists, and believe me, it happens as fast as lightning!
It's a good habit to keep windows wound up nearly all the way, but leave a small gap - it makes it much harder for the would be robber to break the window.
In a lot of places there are loads of beggars and street vendors that crowd your vehicle when you stop at parking lots and traffic intersections. It is important to keep your car windows wound up (as above) in such instances to prevent the sneaking hand that will sooner or later try to pilfer something from the unsuspecting traveller. Many a camera, laptop, cell phone or wallet has gone missing this way!
When leaving your car unattended anywhere, lock whatever you don’t take with you in the back and make sure there is nothing visible inside the car. It is good to keep most items locked in the boot all the time. Arriving somewhere and then displaying the whole content of the boot in front of watchful eyes is also not advisable for obvious reasons.
If you can lock something up - do it, and keep it locked. Get into the habit of putting things away and locking it up. It is a pain in the neck, but will help to prevent tears later on…
If you are like me, you probably like living on the edge a bit and to investigate all aspects of what a country may offer...
This is a lot of fun, but can be very dangerous if you are not familiar with the local conditions, and alone.
It’s probably best to avoid the interesting dark alleys and more shadowy areas altogether. While they may promise adventure and unknown delights, chances are that you will find a nasty surprise instead. NEVER follow ANYBODY you have just met into a quiet corner, alley or other concealed area no matter what may lie at the end of the rainbow… (Remember, these guys have been waiting for you and in a lot of cases they are very good at what they do, as well as ruthless.)
Try to stay in groups wherever possible – the larger the group, the better.
When travelling the countryside, be wary when stopping at deserted tourist stops, take a good look around before stepping out of your vehicle, and be on the lookout at all times.
Try to avoid large congregations of people, especially on weekends when the beer is doing a lot of the talking…
Do not, ever, pick up hitch hikers. Not even police officers. Why expose yourself?
Fraud and con artists:
Come on people, we live in an enlightened age and should know better. I am constantly amazed at some of the scams that people get caught with. I have one golden rule – if it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t….
No local in possession of a real diamond, gold nugget, emerald, tanzanite or any other valuable item (and his sanity) is going to be as ignorant as to give it away for small change. Any such ‘amazing deal’ is 100% guaranteed to end in misfortune for you. Still I have come across otherwise intelligent and successful people who believed that they can buy a real 100 carat diamond for only a handful of dollars! Greed truly is a terrible thing...
If you are looking for gem stones etc, first acquaint yourself with the local laws. With a bit of investigative research one can find what you are looking for at a good price, legally.
Another good habit is to never change money on the street. It’s a hassle, but rather stay with changing currency at banks, exchange bureaus, hotels and businesses. While you may often receive fair treatment on the street, chances are that you are going to lose out somehow.
One of the scams I often come across is the following: the guy approaches you with a whole song and dance about them not being able to exchange currency legally for some or other reason and will therefore offer you an exchange rate much higher than the going rate. At first he may even exchange a little bit at the promised rate. When you go and do the main transaction (usually around the corner, in the back of a parking lot or someplace similar), the guy hands you the money in a bag, and it’s often a roll of notes. As soon as you want to check the cash, they suddenly start panicking about the ‘policeman’ that is on his way to arrest everyone before they start running. Back at the hotel, after your ‘narrow escape’ - you discover that the roll of notes is actually a roll of paper, with one or two real notes around the outside. Congratulations, you have just traded US$ for Zim$ at 20:1!
If you are unlucky, the ‘policeman’ is real and you get arrested. If you are really unlucky, the ‘policeman’ is real and in on the scam… This will result in a heavy bribe and intolerable levels of harassment to be endured.
On my very first visit to Zambia (1992), on my first day in Lusaka, I walked right into the middle of a nasty one – the same idea as above, but there were three corrupt cops involved and they gave it the slant that I was selling fake US Dollars on the street. A huge bribe and a few hours of very stressful negotiating later, the young Tony (21) had a lot more to tell in his letter home than he had bargained for! Not worth it, in my opinion…
If something like the above ever happens to you (because you just couldn't resist it, could you?), remember - the moment you lose your temper with an African police officer, corrupt or not, it gets very expensive - time, tolerance and/or money wise...
After all the doom and gloom I would like to say that I have have been on a lot of safaris in different parts of Africa (I live in South Africa) and have had a few brushes with petty crime, but almost all my trips have been uneventful crimewise thus far.
If you have had a similar experience, let us know by leaving a comment.
With a little guidance, caution, vigilance and common sense one need not fear becoming a statistic.
Also read the article on Secure and Anonymous travel. (To be posted soon)
Sunday 01 April 2007
To start off with, I will mention a few basics that you have to give careful consideration to before coming to Africa – ask your trip advisor (or me) about these, and get as much info as possible beforehand. I will deal with each of these issues individually in later posts. For now, just a few lines.
This is obviously not an issue if you are going on a guided safari, or package tour. If you plan to do your own thing (the best way, in my opinion), there are a few things to consider:
Public transport is not as accessible in a lot of African countries as we would like it. It will be worth your while to do a little homework regarding your options in this department.
Get the right vehicle for the job! Road conditions vary from country to country. Renting the budget 2 x 4 hatchback and going to the Mozambique coast for instance may result in an extremely eventful holiday in a very limited part of the country…
Read the getting around post for more info on this.
I cannot stress the importance of this enough! We’re not talking about sunburn prevention here; suntan lotion is a must on any holiday anyway…
Get all relevant information on rain patterns and seasonal conditions before deciding on a date. Most booking sites have this advice available; otherwise you can visit the website for the country in questions’ weather service.
For example: You often see great specials advertised, only to make the painful discovery (usually after arrival) that the particular country in question receives 80% of its high rainfall during that month…
Another example: Due to the holiday season Cape Town is very popular during December, but the weather is much nicer (less wind) during February and March. (You don’t get trampled by hordes of other tourists then either!)
If you look at average temperatures and rainfall figures; fall, spring and winter are actually much more pleasant than summer in large parts of Africa. (Prices are often lower as well…)
Malaria and other interesting diseases
Normally you can get good advice from your closest tropical disease centre. It is important to keep in mind that most doctors in USA and Europe have never encountered malaria or some of the other diseases you may be exposed to during your visit, so please consult a specialist wherever possible for the right inoculations and advice. Most countries specify which inoculations are needed, and they may be required for your visa application.
Yellow Fever, Tetanus and Tuberculosis inoculations are a must in all cases.
Here is a link to the Centre for Disease Control Website.
It is of extreme importance to find out if the area you are planning to visit is a ‘malaria area.’ (Most of central Africa) Because there is no inoculation against malaria available, it is of extreme importance to ensure that you take the right precautions – the malaria parasite is most definitely not something you want to take home with you, it stays with you for years, and never really goes away… By taking a few basic precautions, the malaria risk can be avoided completely.
Look out for the post on malaria, it’s a must read!
It’s a sad fact that due to the poverty in most African countries, there is a bit more crime than you may be used to… As with any other country in the world – tourists make easy targets. The biggest threats by far are theft and fraud. It is important to bear in mind that a lot of these criminals are extremely poor and will take a chance if tempted, but will not necessarily do anything if you are alert. Don’t leave your valuables unattended, don’t leave items on the seat of the vehicle and keep the items about your person to a minimum. Most important – be aware of your surroundings and remember that you are in a different country – the same rules don’t always apply…
If you follow these few steps, you will be ok in most instances. Read the post on crime and political instability.
Contact me for elaboration on (or assistance with) any of the above.
Saturday 31 March 2007
Well, I decided to start a blog - created it, and now here we are....
Due to absolutely no advance planning on how to structure the content whatsoever (being new to the blogging/website scene an' all), I have decided to approach the whole project with the same spirit and method of the traditional African Safari - get your gear together and boldly set forth, deal with all challenges on a 'first come, first served' basis...
I apologise for the haphazard way I will be approaching this project, but the aim is to offer helpful tips in a relaxed forum atmosphere. Hopefully the blog content will shape out nicely as we go. (I have a designer working on a website type blog framework for me as we speak and we will shortly present you with a shiny new blog, complete with the new logo!)
If there is a specific topic, venue, restaurant or any travel related issue (in Africa) that any of you would like to know more about, just send me a quick mail and I will either respond personally, or post an article, depending on the nature of the enquiry. Please feel free to comment on any of my postings.
I believe in total frankness and honesty - there will be absolutely no taboo subjects, and no sugarcoating in order to make something or somewhere sound more appealing. My aim is to offer practical advice in order for you to get the most out of your experience in Africa.
After my recent tour of the South African Cape South Coast, and Cape Town, I have quite a few things I would like to get off my chest. (Cape Town is most definitely not on my list of favourite places) Don't worry - I won't go 'Cape Town bashing,' (not more than necessary anyway) there are a lot of positives in Cape Town's favour as well, and I believe everybody should go there at least twice in their life....