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Emdoneni Lodge

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Emdoneni Lodge is a tranquil retreat found just two and a half hours from Durban and six hours from Johannesburg. Nestled in the Hluhluwe/ Imflozi game reserve, this lodge boasts elegantly decorated rondavals as well as chalets.

Facilities and Activities available

  • Relaxing Spa
  • Tours to the cat project
  • WIFI
  • Kids playroom
  • Kids ranger activities
  • pool
  • tours to St Lucia
  • Game drives

When you think about a “vacay”, or even a break, many of us think about jumping on a plane and traveling for hours to reach paradise, however, how many of us have pondered on exploring our own countries.

The truth is that South Africa is blessed with hidden gems, not just from a scenic view, but also its animals and diverse culture.

The last time I visited the St Lucia region in Kwazulu Natal was probably about twenty years ago. The truth is that I have become so accustomed to seeking adventure outside our borders that I have become blind to what stands in front of me.

My recent trip to the Emdoneni Lodge has fired up my curiosity to adventure and explore what is truly unique.

The Lodge itself is sheltered by the highest of high trees, what I can only describe as a sea of deep green plant life. I am a city sleeker so this had me in bewilderment the entire weekend.

On reaching Emdoneni Lodge, I was greeted by a jovial and friendly face who assisted me with a quick check in after which I was whisked away to the Zululand cat conservation project.

Zululand Cat Conservation Project

The project itself seeks to adopt orphaned or injured cats with the hope of rehabilitating the them. Once they have been rehabilitated, they are then released back into their habitat. If you appreciate cats, this place should definitely be on your bucket list.

Some of the cats that I encountered there were caracals, servals, wild cats and of-course my favourite, the cheetah.

During the tour, I was introduced to each animal and their stories. Some may never leave due to circumstances. The comforting thought is that for the cats that stay, there is love and a home.

I managed to get my adrenaline pumped when I got an opportunity to take a photograph with a cheetah. Talk about close encounters. The tour itself was 90 minutes but it was 90 minutes well spent, not only was I educated but I got to enjoy the playfulness of the cats.

Accommodation

The accommodation at Emdoneni Lodge was immaculate. Apart from the single rooms there are also chalets available that can accommodate families. Each room is equipped with a tea and coffee station as well as air conditioning. There are no TV’s in the rooms, however I did see a TV in the common area. With all honesty, I was so engrossed in the splendour of nature that there was no time for TV even if I did have one in my room.

The rooms have a makeup up and turn down service which adds to the comfort. The room I was in had a neat, well kept shower, however I was told that some rooms have both, a tub and shower.

Lets talk about the food, breakfast was served buffet style and there was enough variety to keep everyone happy. The lunch menu was small but satisfying and dinner was served buffet as well as ‘a la cart. The food was flavoursome so much so that I think I’ve put on a kg or two.

There was never a dull moment as the lodge provides many activities, apart from laying at the pool, I took long walks around the grounds exploring. If you are traveling with kids, the lodge offers a young rangers program that will keep the kids entertained for hours. And whilst the kids are being entertained the adults can enjoy some well deserved time out at the tranquil spa.

The spa was a relaxing experience where I was treated to a full body massage, and at this point let me add, never judge a book by its cover. I was greeted by a tiny young lady, Nontu who gave me one of the best massages I have had in a long time.

Boat Cruise

You can not go to St Lucia and not visit the hippos. There is about a 45 minute drive from the lodge where you can book a boat cruise with Heritage Tours and Safaris.. The lodge can facilitate the booking on your behalf. They were also very kind and packed a little picnic basket for me enjoy whilst exploring the wetlands. They probably realised that this little lady can eat a lot. I felt like Dora the Explorer in one of her adventures.

I was shaking with excitement as I marvelled at the gigantic sized hippos and the lazy buffalos hidding in the water. The birds chirpped and hopped from tree limb to tree limb. Let us not forget the ominous crocodiles hiding in the bushed.

My stay at Emdoneni Lodge was without a doubt a memorable experience. The service was impeccable, the friendliness of the staff was outstanding and the venue itself was extraordinary. Just one word of advice, carry mosquito repellent.

The evening sky and the Emdoneni atmosphere will leave you dreaming of your return.

A special thank you to everyone that made me feel at home.

Nondumiso (reservation)

Ingrid (Manager)

Desere’ (Assistant Manager)

Sindi (Head Chef)

Nyaradzo (Chef)

Nontokoza (Spa Therapist)

rpt

Slindile and Nomfundo (Waitresses)

For more information http://www.emdonenilodge.com

Social media handles:

Emdoneni Lodge

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/emdonenilodge/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/EmdoneniLodge

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/emdoneni/

Zululand Cat Conservation

Facebook – zululandcatconservation

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/zu

lulandcatconservation/

Heritage Tours & Safaris

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Heritagetoursandsafaris/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Heritagesafaris/

Bev – 035 590 1555

For more adventure of Maria follow http://www.vkatz.com/category/travel/

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Travel

Dubai

Vkatz Dubai 009

Dubai is one of those places that you have to visit, even if its just once. Did I always think that? No. In fact, I’ve travelled through Dubai so many times, it never once struck me to step out off the airport. Not until June of 2019.

Planning a European trip during the June/July period is not the wisest, at least not for me. It is summer time, which means that every place will be crammed with bustling tourists. If you did not know, I am agoraphobic, so as much as I enjoy being a tourist, I prefer off season periods. It just means less crowds and low anxiety levels.

The first stop was Dubai, and because I have heard so many incredible stories, I decided to stay there for ten days. Travelling with my son means that I prefer vacationing in a resort type of environment for ease and accessibility of various activities.

The resort of choice was the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai. As South Africans, traveling to the UAE means that we need to apply for Visas. The good news is that many of the hotels assist you directly with the application. One less stressful task you don’t have to worry about.

Dubai is known for its grandeur of everything, from the lavish lifestyle, breath taking architecture and insatiable shopping. However, there are certain things you need to know before getting to enjoy Dubai life.

Things you should know about Dubai

  • Dubai is extremely hot. During my visit, the temperatures soared at between 38 and 45 degrees Celsius making it difficult if not impossible to be outside during the day.
  • The UAE is one of the most expensive cities that I have visited to date, however baring in mind that I did stay at the Atlantis. There are most certainly cheaper accommodation if you are on a budget.
  • The religious view is that of Islam, so keeping that in mind consider carefully what you pack. It is acceptable however in resorts and tourist areas to bare a little more however in public areas, lack of modesty is shunned upon.
  • The Buraj Khalifa is the worlds tallest building and is without a doubt a sight that can not be missed.
  • Night life is Dubai will leave you gobsmacked. Although it is an Islamic city, Dubai is home to some of the most vibrant nightclubs. I however did not get to visit any of the clubs because of my son but I have been told that you need to dress to impress if you want to gain access.
  • I took Alex (my son) on a Desert safari, and honestly, this was the highlight of my trip. Apart from riding the dunes, the Arabic themed evening with the dinner and belly dancing was astounding.
  • I love travelling but there are places that I have visited where the cusine was not exactly my cup of tea. I most certainly did not have that problem in Dubai. And travelling with the most fussiest eater in the world was a breeze.
  • I definitely enjoyed the luxurious offerings of Dubai but I equally enjoyed the Old city which was filled with night markets.
  • Dubai Mall is every shopoholics dream. You can shop until you drop, literally.

Atlantis

One of the most luxurious resorts I have stayed in to date. The gigantic resorts boasts a “no need to leave the resort” attitude. I found myself in a constant daze. As soon as I thought that I have seen the entire resort I walk into a wing that I’ve never been in.

It is a very expensive resort, and tight budgets will most certainly not work here.

The suite that I stayed in was spacious, overlooking the the pool as well as the beach. The staff were all efficient and friendly.

In terms of adventure for you and the kids, the Atlantis has the Lost Chambers Aquarium, the Adventure water park, you can swim with the dolphins and even go diving. Alex and I opted for snorkelling, this is more our expertise level.

The resort also boasts home to a few celebrity restaurants, Nobu and of course Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen and Bar. Eating at these Gourmet outlets can be extremely expensive but on the flip side there are many “cheaper options available.

My stay at the Atlantis was a memorable one and I can highly recommend this resort. The only down point was having to wait four hours to be checked in, but this being said, I will definitely be going back.

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Travel

Granny Mouse Country House and Spa

VKATZ Granny Mouse Chapel

Granny Mouse Country House and Spa

Home away from home, that’s the ethos shared at Granny Mouse and thats precisely how I felt from the minute I walked into the reception area. I must admit that I was slightly alarmed by the instantaneous genuine attention I received as I opened the door, with an almost chorus like welcome  by my first name. Been a city girl, this sort of warmth can be unnerving but within seconds  my body relaxed as I realized “Dorothy was no longer in Kansas”

This was the perfect weekend to hide away in the Midlands, with the cold front hinting KwaZulu Natal, there was no perfect place to hibinate and see the freezing weather through. Snow had already set on the mountains of the berg, so the air was crisp and fresh.

Walking into a treasure nestled within the midlands meander , Granny Mouse Country House and spa is situated just one hour away from Durban. This magical spot started its journey in 1984, with the then owner Richard Pointing. One would be curious about the origins of the name, just as I was as I sat to have my interview with Sean Granger, the general manager. With the temperature outside sitting at 11 degrees Celsius, a good story was exactly what I was seeking. The story was unveiled as Sean acquainted me with evidence that Granny Mouse was actually derived from Mr Richard Pointing’s wife’s name which was “Mouse”. At that time the much smaller establishment was named “Granny Mouse’s” but as time passed the name evolved to what we know it to be at present, which is Granny Mouse Country House and Spa. This enchanting getaway is now owned since 2009 by Mr Altmann Allers.

The hotel boasts 32 rooms divided into

  • 8 garden rooms
  • 12 deluxe rooms
  • 12 deluxe suites

All rooms are equipped with all the modern facilities a city sleeker would require and yes,  WIFI is available in all rooms.

Granny Mouse County House and spa are hosts to some of the most extravagant weddings held at the midlands, one of which was that of a dear friend of mine. They also have a conference room perfect for those corporate brain storming sessions.

A getaway is never completed with out a spa treatment, so for those who are wanting a complete unwind, trust me when I say that your desires are catered for.

Within the common areas, the hotel exhibits a multitude of quaint lounge areas, equipped with fireplaces where one can enjoy the company of others or simply slide into a space of solitude to read a book.

There are two bars and two restaurants, the Bistro caters for the relaxed eating with The Eaves which is classed as the country fine dine restaurant.

During my enlightening interview with Sean, I asked him what set Granny Mouse apart, and he was very confident in his answer. It was simple he said, the staff. The staff treat every guest as family, making the environment conducive to the hotels central brand element, which is that everyone who walks through Granny Mouse is initiated into the Granny Mouse family. As family you are treated with love and respect. And I actually have to agree with Sean. During my stay I felt as though the staff were genuinely concerned with my day as well as my needs.

The Executive Culinary Artist is Chef Weyland who has made Granny Mouse his home for the last two years. Just as his title suggests, he is the “food artiste”.  The culinary expectation is that food is art with a twist of traditional home style cooking.

During my stay I got to partake in the Brandy and chocolate pairing. At this point I must add that I am not a brandy drinker, so all it took was two sips and I felt my self warm up from my tiny toes straight to my head in seconds. There was a selection of 3 brandys and 3 chocolates for the tasting. It was a light hearted affair and every time the lady asked me what I was tasting, I just nodded my head for fear that if I opened my mouth, I would breath fire. It was an awesome experience as we got to share our funny drinking stories, of which I had none, of course.

If you are a wine enthusiast like myself, you will find yourself getting lost in the wine cellar. The cellar houses in excess of 150 wines, there are International wines as well as vintage wines that you may not find in SA.

Granny Mouse Country House and Spa and won numerous awards

 

  • 2 AWARDS FOR THE FINEST LUXURY HOTEL AND SPA IN KZN
  • 3  AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE IN SERVICE
  • TRIP ADVISOR AWARD OF EXCELLENCE FOR 4 YEARS
  • EAT OUT TOP 500 RESTAURANTS TO EAT IN SA
  • HOSPITALITY MANAGER OF THE YEAR FOR 2017
  • DINERS CLUB WINE LIST OF THE YEAR DIAMOND AWARD 8 YEARS RUNNING (ONLY 6 OTHERS HAVE OWN IN KZN

 

Which brings me to my wine pairing experience.

I sat for a five course super indulgence of culinary heaven paired with some delicious wine, my favorite, I have to admit was the dessert paired with bubbly. The evening was perfect as each course was served, the waitress explained why the wine was paired with that dish. Unlike many pairings that I have attended, this one was slow and I was allowed to enjoy the experience at my own pace.

Granny Mouse Country House and Spa participate in many of the shows that happen within the country where they share their love for food and family and have recently launched their “POP UP KITCHEN” on the 17th of May 2017.

My experience at Granny Mouse was nothing short of complete relaxation, from the moment I arrived to the second I left I was made to feel like I was part of their family. The aesthetics add to the emotional attachment, sipping on wine in front of the fire place as the temperature dropped outside is without a doubt what a city girl like myself needed. The only regret I have is that I did not get to enjoy the spa treatments, however, there is always a next time.

I love the outdoor experience and although there isn’t many physical activities within the grounds, they do have a short hiking trail which was what I needed after indulging. The walk may have been short but it was scenic in that I walked along the river, listening for birds and keeping my eyes open for any wondering animals. The river unfortunately was dry due to season but I was told that during the summer it fills up. If you find yourself wanting to engage in other activities there are many things to do just outside of Granny Mouse.

Taking in the fresh air and watching if you could spot animals running in the bush is not a daily occurrence in my life, so getting out off the concrete rut was exactly what the doctor ordered.

A review can never be complete without me talking about my room. One word, PERFECT. My room was spacious, which included a balcony overlooking the fields. The balcony was without a doubt one of my favorite spots in the room. It was where I enjoyed my first cup of coffee as I took in the fresh crisp air. There was a fire place which was always stocked with wood so I never had to concern myself with the single digit  temperature outside. I also love that the bathroom had heated floors which made the night bathroom run so much more bearable.

The bar fridge was stocked with the basic needs, however should one require additional items, all it takes is a phone call to reception and miraculously they will appear. The bed was comfortable with good clean linen, and you may think it strange that I add this in, but it is one of the first things I look at when I walk into any hotel.

Home away from home is exactly what Granny Mouse Country House and spa is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Travel

Travel guide to Phuket

Maria Valaskatzis Phuket 013

It was definitely not my first visit to Phuket, but this time around my  travels to this exotic island was most definitely different. My first visit to Thailand was probably about 15 years ago. Before leaving South Africa, people warned me that Thailand would be a “culture” shock. Naive and filled with adventure, I thought nothing could shock me.

Well, I was wrong. Landing in Bangkok was the first eye opener. The city air was filled with smog and the crowding was something I could not get used to. From Bangkok, Phuket was about an hours flight. Phuket was noticeably quieter, but still busy.

The night life was crazy, with “walking street” being the place to be on as soon as the sunset. Filled with bars, nightclubs and restaurants, you are without a doubt spoilt for choice.

You can not visit Thailand and not attend their “ping pong shows”. Yes, that is what they are called and trust me, it is not what you are thinking.

But that was my past adventure, this time around my visit very different. This visit was with family and friends which included little kids, so ping pong shows were not on the cards. Thailand is known for its nightlife and crazy shows but hidden in the insane bustle lies the most breath taking family resorts.

We chose to stay at Pullman Khao Lak Katiliya Resort and spa, this tropical resort is situated an hour and 30 minutes from Phuket airport. Nestled amongst the rich vegetation and the endless white beach, this resort proved to be the ideal family getaway.

It was  on the second day at the resort that I learned that this particular resort was actually one on the hardest hit during the Tsunami. You can only guess what I was doing for the rest of the trip, waiting to hear warning sirens. The fact that you are reading this obviously means that there were none. Thank goodness.

January was monsoon time, so although there would be moments of rain, it would stop as fast as it started. The humidity levels are very high.

Places to visit in Phuket

  • Phang Nga Bay is known for its lime stone features but you will remember the James Bond Island which is the more famous spot
  • Bangla road is where the night comes alive and although I did not get to visit it this time around, I still have very interesting memories.
  • Phi Phi Island is a must.
  • Surin Island was one of the places I visited on this trip, and if there was a place that humbled the spirit, it was without a doubt Surin Island. The people there live on and off this island with very little contact to what happens off it, except for the contact that they have with the foreigners that visit. The people live such simple lives, content with whatever little they have. I witnessed young naked kids playing and carrying on with their own business whilst the older ones, and when I mean older, I speak of kids that are probably nine years old, sitting next to their homes selling curios. This place broke my heart.

 

Things you need to know about Phuket

  • Phuket is very expensive and a lot more costly than any other part of Thailand.
  • Patong Beach is the most famous beach in Phuket.
  • Many see Phuket as the sex change capital of Thailand.
  • The currency used is theThai Baht.
  • Phuket is a tropical island, therefore the humidity is insane. So if you are anything like me, carry your hair straightner.
  • Because it is tropical, combined with the humidity and warmth, expect mosquitos. And there are plenty. I suggest that you pack mosquito repellant from home.
  • So for those people traveling with technology, it is important to note that in Phuket you will need those 2 pinned plugs.

Thailand is one of my favorite places to visit, the food, the people, it all captivates my mind and spirit. This will most definitely not be my last visit.

 

 

 

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BlogTravel

Zakynthos Island

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Zakynthos, the island where post cards come to life. This picturesque  Greek island is located in the Ionian Sea. Zakynthos is a popular island for summer holidays with its stretched out beaches and crazy water sports.

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Traveling internationally from Durban is not as difficult as it used to be, with many international flights leaving directly out off Durban. The easiest for us was to travel to Istanbul and then transfer to Anthens. From Athens, it is a mere hour flight to Zakynthos, however the flights are not scheduled daily.  I was unfortunately unable to get a flight to Zakynthos from Anthens on the day we arrived, so we decided to hire a car at the airport and drive to the harbour where we would need to catch the fairy to take us to the Island. After flying 14 hours, the last thing anyone in their sane mind would want to do is drive 5 hours, but we did, and although we were exhausted from the flight, the drive through Greece was scenic and beautiful that we hardly felt the trip. From the harbour, the fairy ride to the island was another hour and a half. There was not a single moment on the boat that either person complained, we were completely and utterly taken aback by the sea. The different shades of blue and the clarity of the water does nothing else but entices you to want to rip off your clothes and jump into the sea.

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After travelling for 24 hours, we got into the hotel, showered ate dinner and crashed.

The next 10 days on Zakinthos Island was a dream.  The most busiest times to visit Greece is July and August when the temperatures are high and although we arrived late September, the weather was  marvelous.

We hired a boat and explored the sea as well as the little islands scattered around. When visiting the Island it is a good idea to hire a car or even a quad bike so that you can explore the island and visit the popular beaches with their entertaining beach bars. Some of the popular beaches that we visited was Agios Nikolaos, Alykanas and Tsilivi.

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As you drive to each beach, you get to encounter tiny villages scattered through the island. It is mind boggling as to the simplicity at which these people live their lives. Olive farms fill the island with many of the woman folk in the villages making olive oil to sell to the tourists. As you drive through the village you will notice the men, young and old gathering together, drinking coffee, smoking and having a good old chat. The roads themselves are so tiny and narrow, its hard to believe that 2 cars could pass each other, but somehow they do.

The Island is filled with the natural perfumes as the air bursts of the aromas of herbs growing on the sides of the streets. As warm as the day may have been it would be your disadvantage if you opted to drive with the windows up and air conditioning on. You would regrettably miss out on natures wonder.

We stopped off at the side of the road to take in and appreciate the aroma, and I remember plucking oregano, I have never smelt anything like that in my life, not even the shop bought “fresh” oregano.

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The Island is also filled with the most beautiful and historic churches, some date as far back as the 1800’s.  Having a tremendous affinity to churches and to be surrounded by them was a a blessing and a personal favourite.

When on the Island it is imperative that you visit the Cameo Beach Bar. You can spend the day swimming in the lagoon, sipping on cocktails whilst being entertained by their resident DJ. As the day progresses, the party picks up a few levels as the people become a little more intoxicated and inhibitions are lost. Thats when it becomes really interesting and the dancing begins.

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Navagio beach was made famous in 1980 with a great story and a shipwreck. The story goes something like this, please forgive me if the facts are slightly off however I relay the story as the story was told to me by the tour captain on the boat. So there was a ship carrying illegal contraband cigarettes, and the coastguards got wind of this. There was a sea chase and the Captain of the ship sailed it onto the rocks where is crashed. The captain and the crew escaped through the mountains, however was eventually caught. The cigarettes were destroyed and the ship was drained off all its oil and given to the fisher boats.  The shipwreck remains standing resting in a sandy cove framed by cliffs and the only way to access this beach is by boat. This is a beach that must be visited. You cannot spend the entire day on the beach however the tour boats give you about an hour only to explore the shipwreck and enjoy the water. This was without a doubt the most beautiful beach on the island with its white sand and turquoise water.

 

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The food on the Island is predominantly Greek however many restaurants do make an effort to widen the options available on their menus. I have seen restaurants offer Mexician, Italian and even Indian food. But if you are travelling to Greece, you would want to indulge in the authentic Greek food. Unfortunately, this is were the Island falls short for me. We ate in many restaurants, and although they offered us Greek food, it was not authentic. It was only at the end of the trip that we managed to find a restaurant on the Island that served us real Greek food. If you are not familiar with Greek cuisine, then it is possible that you will get away thinking that the food was  delectable, and it is, however not authentic.

greek-salad

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The days sped by swiftly and before I could digest this captivating Island it was time to leave.

On the long drive back to airport, we decided to stop off at the Ancient City of Olympia. This city was where the first Olympic games were played 500BC. It is fascinating  and mind blowing to be able to walk through such a historic and relevant place in our history.

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Interesting Facts about Zakynthos

  • Zakynthos is the Southern most and the third largest island in the Ionian sea.
  • Zakynthos was named after the son of Dardanus.
  • The island escaped Ottoman domination however was subject to the Republic of Venice for many centuries.
  • Zakynthos has only 1 town and 44 villages.
  • Zakynthos produces grapes, olive oil, raisins, wine and strawberries.
  • Two great poets come from the Island. Dionisios Solomos and Ugo Foskolo. Dionisios wrote the national anthem.

 

 

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BlogTravel

Drakensberg Sun Resort

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Drakensberg Sun Resort

The advantage of having my son at his present school is that their term and holiday dates do not coincide with many of the other schools, so during the winter vacation period, he had an extra week as compared to other schools. The upside is that we can schedule getaways at a time when the rush is over.

Winter in Kwazulu Natal, or should I correct myself and say Durban, is unlike the rest of South Africa. Where the rest of the country is experiencing a significant drop in temperatures, Durban still maintains its warmer climate. So to experience a little nip in the temperature, Durbanites often venture towards the mountains of Drakensburg. I am no different to the rest, taking my son at least once a year on the pilgrimage.

This winter vacation was no different, and although spoilt for choice, we settled on Drakensburg Sun Resort. The last time I visited this resort was eight years ago and reminiscing on those fond memories, my belief was that it was the perfect spot to shiver and shake for the next four days.

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The drive from Durban was  two and a half hours, but the scenery was worth every minute. The only problem with driving in that direction is the trucks not keeping to their designated lanes and road works. We hit slow traffic a few times but we were too excited to notice.

We finally reached our destination and it was just as I remembered it. Clean, neat with well mannered staff. We checked in and then headed off to grab some lunch.

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At this point I asked the waiter to recommend his best white wine and his response was simple, he could not recommend a wine because he did not drink wine. I giggled at his response and brushed it off to a lack of training. My son ordered a burger which arrived burnt, but that was not going to deter us from having a good time.

The next few days was spent bonding with Alex. The temperature was not as low as anticipated, with the days been a cool warm and the evening getting a bit colder. The resort is fully equipped for family fun. A game room with table tennis, a pool table, fuze ball machine and play station, if you are more of an outdoors person, they have great guided hiking trails which I would have loved to have done but having an eight year old does not allow for such strenuous activities. We did however sneak in some action putt putt and a few hours on the jungle gym. You also have the option of going horse riding which is not something I enjoy so that was struck off the bucket list. We definitely enjoyed the 20 minute boat ride around the little dam where if you wanted to, you could buy a fishing licence and fish for trout.

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The resort itself is tranquil and I can imagine great parties happening around the pool area during the hot days of summer.

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The downside side of the resort was that you had a limit on your internet access per day, so for someone like me who spends most of her days on the net, been rationed was torture. The resort also does not have a gym, which I found to be very weird. The food that I experienced during my stay was mediocre, however not so bad that you will lose weight. The resort has many monkeys who have a tendency to steal your food, so this is something you need to watch out for.

The one lesson I did learn was never to charge to your room and if you do, make sure that when you are paying you pay close attention to what you have been billed for. My account was incorrect, however after bringing it to the managers attention, he quickly sorted out the extra charges. However, how often do we pay and never really look at the bill in detail. So my advice for you is that make sure you know what you are paying for.

The manager and staff were all very accommodating and at the end I do recommend a visit to Drakensburg Sun Resort. It is a great little family break away and I am sure a little couple alone time at the resort could do no harm.

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BlogTravel

Mala Mala Private Game Reserve

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Mala Mala Private Game Reserve

Mala Mala Private Game Reserve is a luxury big 5 safari strategically located between the Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sand Reserve. An interesting fact is that Mala Mala is the largest Big 5 Game reserve in South Africa boasting 33 000 acres of land, it is one of the most prestigious reserves where many wild life documentaries have been filmed.

So when I was told I was getting to visit Mala Mala Private Game Reserve for myself, the little child in me came alive.

With all sincerity, I am not much of a bush baby, but I do relish in the occasional bush get away. As all bloggers, before diving into something, research must be done and just Googling Mala Mala Private Game Reserve was a holiday on its own, I got completely lost in their visual presentation that I did not pay much attention to their written accounts. But then out of sheer curiosity I decided to check on the rates. And this is when it all became very interesting. Looking at the price in American dollars per night, I fell out my chair.

Now the curiosity turned into fascination. What could possibly warrant this rate?

Anticipation in the air I finally hit air with my travel partner, and love of my life, my son, Alex. A quick 55 minute flight to Johannesburg after which we hoped onto a 40 minute flight to Skukuza airport. There, we were met by our ranger Timothy who transferred us to Mala Mala main camp. The road trip was around 40 minutes and on arrival we were quickly checked in, orientated and it was time for the first game drive. We left at 5pm, which was late but that been said we saw lionesses with cubs, many Impalas, bush bucks and Nyala. It quickly became dark and as soon as the sun disappeared the temperature dropped like a hot potato.

After a much needed shower and freshening up, Timothy met us for dinner.

Timothy John Jansen van Vuuren was our designated ranger for the duration of the stay, and accompanied us not only for the game drives but also formed company for when we dined. He was an absolute wealth of knowledge not only about the reserve, but also about the animals. His passion for his occupation can not be denied and he showed enthusiasm to answer all the questions that I had.

I remember at our first meeting he asked me about the animals I wanted to see, and I mentioned that elephants were my favorite. During the course of the next day he made it his duty to search out those elephants for me. I did not get to see them on the second game drive, however on my third and final drive, which was a late afternoon drive, I encountered the beauties in all their glory.

During my 2 night stay at Mala Mala Private Game Reserve, I encountered many wild life, which included leopards, hippos, cheetahs. Impalas, bush bucks, Kudus, Nyala, elephants, buffalos and zebras, just to name a few.

There were two highlighting moments during the game drive, the first been the elephants, I find them to be such exquisite animals.

The second was pursuing two leopards that were mating, apparently this is a rare sighting and if possible it should be experienced. So there we were, on hot pursuit of these mating leopards.

After at least 40 minutes on its scent we finally tracked them down, but at that time the male was perched high up on a tree devouring its fresh Impala kill. The female was completely forgotten about as she wondered the ground beneath him. This sounds like the story of our lives ladies.

As I mentioned previously, Timothy the ranger was incredible and sought to educate us as much as he possibly could. I learnt that there are some species that are monogamous whilst others are polygamous, which very much resembles the human world.

I also learned that during the Rutting season, male Impalas seek to mate with as many females as possible to ensure the survival of their genes. At this time he will accumulate as many females as possible for reasons of mating and any males threatening his plan will be fought off. Hmm, again the resemblance of the human world can not he denied, this is what many male humans would be happy with.

My favorite lesson had to be about how the lions fought for their territory, however just because a female was in that territory did not mean he had the right to mate with her. Oh no, he had to prove that he was a strong male and that he could protect his family. Apparently, other lions kill cubs that do not belong to them, thereby ensuring that their genes are strongest.Wild life rules, you got to love it.

Getting back to camp was always a pleasure, the rooms were luxurious, the staff were all happy and eager to assist. In terms of food, I found that a selection was available on all days. I must however warn you that the rooms do not have television, so if you are travelling with a little one, make sure you pack entertainment.

After two incredible nights at Mala Mala Game Reserve, I left with more than just a holiday, I left with a greater understanding and an appreciation of the animal world. Its was enlightening to see the similarities between the animal world and human world. As much as we like to think that the humans have evolved, after 2 nights in the bush, I beg to differ.

Mala Mala Private Game Reserve may not be an affordable holiday destination for most locals, but I do understand their rates. There is no other game reserve that people could go to and have the many encounters with wildlife as they do here. For foreign tourists visiting South Africa is a guaranteed destination for those seeking this experience. Despite the vast stretch of land, spotting the wild life in its habitat was frequent.

I salute those rangers that I met on this trip who not only love what they do, but they have a genuine interest in the well being of every animal on that reserve.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the following people who took the greatest care for both my son and myself.

Timothy John Jansen van Vuuren – Ranger

Ryan Brisling – Camp Manager

Alan Singh – Bar

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Travel

Champagne Sports Resort

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Champagne Sports Resort

Whilst searching for a quick weekend holiday destination in KZN, I remembered having a look at Champagne sports resort in 2015. At that time the resort was completely booked out. This intrigued me and my curiosity was aroused to a point that at the chance of the first quick weekend away, I decided that this is where I was going to book.

Champagne sports resort caters for both hotel and chalet guests, I opted to stay in the hotel, after all it was just going to be two people. Booking was a breeze and two emails later my reservation was confirmed. The process was handled professionally and after been dealt with in such a manner, I did not mind paying the price.

Escaping to the Drakensburg is always such a treat , one can feel completely removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. Champagne sports resort was going to be the ideal break away, just a 2 hour drive from Durban and if travelling from Johannesburg, just 4 hours away.

Road trips can be quite interesting especially when travelling with my 7-year-old son. Anyone that has a 7 year old knows that there is never a dull moment.

The drive from Durban was strikingly scenic, with everything being lush and green. It was hard to believe that KZN was and still is in the midst of a water shortage.

Two and half hours later, we were disembarking from the car and eager to get checked in and settled. The sight of the mountains were majestic and I suddenly realized how small I am in relation to the beauty that surrounded me.

The check-in process was a nightmare; the staff preferred talking to each other than actually assisting the guests waiting. After a long drive, this is not what I expected, however keeping my composure intact, I decided to brush it off. After all, I was on holiday.

I finally got my room key and was escorted to my living quarters. The room was adequate, neat and most importantly for me, the bathroom was clean. There were renovations taking place in the room above me, so any hope for a quick nap was definitely out of the question.

We then decided to get some sun, so we headed off to the pool area, which I might add is probably the best part of the entire resort. The service there was less than poor, with the waitrons less than eager to assist.

After a few hours of sun, it was time for a quick shower and dinner which was served buffet style. The food catered for all taste and I am sure all guests were happy.

As far as recreational activities was concerned, there is a pool, and a play area for kids which consisted of trampolines, putt putt and a jungle gym, golf enthusiasts will be pleased to know that the resort boasts an 18 hole championship golf course.

I felt that the resort lacked in this area which meant that we had to leave the resort in search of activities. In trying to book for one of the outside tours, I requested assistance from the receptionist who refused to help and advised me that I had to book on my own.

In terms of service, my experience at Champagne Sports Resort was unsatisfactory and the resort should look at investing in customer service training for their staff. The renovations above my room continued the entire weekend from 8am to 6pm, which made resting in the room impossible, there was no other alternative but to stay out.

In terms of the scenery, one can not fault Drakensburg, it feels like God spent a little more time there, the resort itself was neat and clean, however in business we always know that human resources can be a huge downfall.

What I expected and what I received was unfortunately very disappointing.

 

 

 

 

 

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Travel

Secrets to travelling like a local

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It’s that time of year again; you are sitting in front of your computer planning your next holiday. Where to go? It seems natural that the purpose of your vacation would be relaxation coupled with an experience of maybe a different culture.

The big problem is that everything is so expensive. You finally settle on a place, and try to get everything to fall within your budget.

Finally the day has arrived for you to leave, suit case in hand, camera steady over the neck, moon bag around the waist and off you go. STOP! Take a few steps back and check yourself in the mirror. You look like a tourist and a target to be taken advantage off.

To have a truly desirable travelling experience would be to embrace the destination you are traveling to, by being local.

Dress Local

Why do so many tourists feel the need to dress the part, as if they really want everyone to know that they are tourists? The secret to travelling like a local is first and foremost, STOP dressing up like a tourist. You know the type very well; they are hard to miss, in their khaki shorts, hiking shoes and camera around the neck. They might as well walk around with a big sign saying, “I will pay 10 times more than any other person, because I am a tourist.”

The secret to travelling like a local is to remain inconspicuous, so the first thing you need to do is to complete a full mirror check.

Travel Local

The next point to travelling like a local is to use public transport. Research the areas you are visiting and mark off the places and things you want to do and use their public transport to get around. The fare for a local and a tourist would pretty much remain the same.

Speak to the locals

Try to make a local friend, someone who can suggest places to shop, eat and visit. To experience the true culture of any given country, one only needs to hang out with and where the locals do.

Eat Local

Most tourists are afraid of trying out the authentic local cuisine and end up eating things that are “safe” or what they would find at home. This is pointless, firstly you will end up paying tourist prices and second, you are cheating yourself of the authentic experience.

Learn Local Language and Customs

Before leaving, try and learn about the local dress code and customs. Some countries are strict on what they allow, so don’t be caught in a situation where you find yourself been “spoken to.” Also learn a few words and phrases that may help you get around easier.

Rent Local

The new fad is to rent holiday rooms in peoples homes rather than staying in a hotel, if you don’t mind living with strangers, this is an excellent alternative, you automatically have a holiday family that will advise you on local places to visit, and chances are that the homes are generally not in the middle of the tourist attractions, but close enough to get around.

The secret to travelling like a tourist is to book your holiday during off peak season. There are many benefits to this; the more obvious ones would be cheaper rates and fewer tourists.

So, the secret to travelling like a local is in essence, to blend in, but remember that it is still your well deserved holiday, so let your hair down, fill your soul with the experience and enjoy every moment.

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