It’s just after dawn, a time rarely seen on traditional beach holidays. Yet a group of guests has already gathered in front of the Rocktail Beach Dive Centre. I wander up - weight belt in one hand, cup of coffee in the other - and listen to the excited chatter about what lies ahead (or rather below): “There have been fantastic whale shark sightings recently!”; “Massive mantas circled us yesterday!”; “I hear the coral is incredible!”
We’re often asked by travellers what they should be booking by when to avoid disappointment. There’s nothing worse than having your heart set on doing a southern Africa safari with your kids for the Easter holidays and thinking you have oodles of time to arrange it all, only to find that all the best accommodation was booked up months previously. It’s no fun staring at the four walls of your living room when you could’ve have been watching endangered wild dogs take down an impala or a leopard snoozing peacefully in the branches of an acacia tree…
Dawn on an African savannah and the impala are cautious. Ears swivelling, the wide-eyed antelopes move closer together, staring at the tree line where shadowy figures lurk. The reason for their distress is suddenly clear. Streaking out from the trees come Africa’s most efficient predators, putting the impala into instant flight.
October in Africa and the weather is in charge. In East Africa the short rains have begun and the landscape replies with a blanket of fresh green grass. South of the Zambezi, however, it has barely rained since May and animals mill around the remaining waterholes, eyes wide and ears flicking at every snap of a twig.
Africa’s allure lies in its wide, open spaces and game-packed reserves. Many travel to this wild continent to get as far as possible from cities and buildings, people and noise. They come to seek out herds of elephant roaming free under a vast, blue sky; to feel their hearts beat faster as they watch a lion stalk its prey and to let life’s everyday niggles slot back into perspective in ink-black nights lit by the stars of the Milky Way.
The world was transfixed when Nelson Mandela was finally released to freedom in 1990 after 27 years in jail for his role in the struggle to overcome apartheid. Twenty-three years later, in 2013, the eyes and cameras of the world were once again on South Africa as this former president, Nobel Peace Prize winner, statesman and father figure to millions was laid to rest. None of us will ever again have the opportunity of interacting with this great-yet-humble man but we can visit some of the places that shaped his life and that are indelibly connected with his story.
Planning your safari is very exciting – there are so many bucket list experiences to choose from and natural wonders to see, every kind of accommodation you can imagine and as many different settings, from mountains to beaches, rainforests to deserts.
As one of the youngest major cities in the world – it was founded in 1886 – and with almost half the population under the age of 30, it’s no surprise that Johannesburg is home to some of South Africa’s most exciting and innovative street art.
If you’re planning an Africa safari vacation and doing research online, you’ll come across various types of tours – private, tailored, set departures and scheduled. The difference between these tour types isn’t always obvious and is made trickier by industry jargon. The reason you need to know the difference between tour types is to make sure you book a tour style that is right for you.