‘ Ebola in Africa ’ – our thoughts on the Ebola Virus & Safari Risks

We understand that you may be feeling a little scared about the outbreak of the Ebola virus in some parts of Africa at the moment, especially if you are considered a safari, or have already booked a safari. I think we are all concerned, not only for the beleaguered people of Liberia, Guinea and Sierre Leone, but also about the possible spread of the disease to other countries around the world. We have been arranging tailor-made safari holidays to Southern Africa for the last 20 years. During that time we have never compromised our client’s safety and we are not about to start now. If people have asked us whether a specific area is safe to travel to, we always tell them straight. So we appreciate our clients’ health concerns and we are committed to providing up to date information on this blog. However there’s also a lot of media misconceptions flying around about ” Ebola in Africa ” and so want to address the issue from where we stand, living at the southern tip of Africa.

Some Facts about ‘ Ebola in Africa ‘

Ebola is a scary virus which has got a grip in three of the very poorest countries in the world: Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. However the one consolation is that it is NOT an airborne disease. According to the World Health Organisation, Ebola spreads “through close and direct physical contact with infected bodily fluids.” The person has to be showing symptoms to be contagious and usually by the time they are contagious, they are too sick to travel much and need hospitalization. The Ebola virus got a hold in those three countries due to the slow declaration of the disease, a practise of caring for relatives at home and a lack of understanding on the part of the population, until it was too late. There have been isolated cases in Senegal, UK, Spain, USA and Nigeria so far. However quick preventative steps and good hygiene, as in Nigeria, has been shown to stop the halt of the virus. Nigeria, being a richer African country and because it has acted quickly, has been able to successfully stop the spread of the Ebola virus. One man entered the country in July and 20 other people contracted Ebola (eight of whom died). But as of now, the spread of the virus has been completely contained using clear procedures and there has not been a new case since late August, six weeks ago. This is also the case with Senegal. South Africa does not have a single case of Ebola at this stage.

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Smackdown – The Seychelles vs Mauritius for a honeymoon?

Forget the WWE final, here’s the definitive showdown between two Indian Ocean heavyweights – Seychelles vs Mauritius for a honeymoon or any sort of holiday  If you’re in the market for a holiday or vacation in a tropical island paradise, especially if you are combining it with an African safari, you will probably already considered these stunning islands.

Both punch above their weight in terms of delivering a world class island experience.  But if any fight, which should YOU bet on?  Unlike the WWE, one of these islands is not going to be declared the World Champion, both have their strengths and their relative vulnerabilities.   The real question is which is best for YOU…


Mauritius Ile aux CerfsSo what muscles can Mauritius flex in this upcoming fight?   Mauritius boasts a coral-fringed coastline of white sandy beaches, pretty bays and shimmering azure waters. Coral reefs form a protected barrier around the island so that Mauritius offers long safe, sandy beaches and superb water sports on the calm lagoon waters. Scuba diving takes place on the reefs and deep-sea fishing beyond.




Most resort hotels offer the full range of water sports such as water-skiing, windsurfing, scuba diving, kayaking, kite-surfing and hobie cat or laser sailing with most non-motorised activities being complimentary.   Mauritius is also justly famed for its hospitality, its well-run resort hotels including many that cater brilliantly for families with a range of activities and morning to night kids clubs.

The Seychelles

Seychelles La RepaireThe Seychelles lies further north, closer to the equator, and is as close to a natural visual paradise as you can ever hope to see. It is geographically and botanically diverse – with a rich bird and marine-life and superb snorkelling and diving.   The many islands of the Seychelles offer lots of contrasts; some are like tiny emeralds dropped in the azure ocean, home only to birds and indolent holiday-makers. Others have rainforests and waterfalls to beckon you away from the white powder beaches. Searching for the perfect viewpoint becomes as addictive as the hunt for the perfect undiscovered beach.   The Seychelles appeal is more to the nature-lover than the glamour-seeker. It’s a place to see things rather than to be seen. And of course, the pampering and delicious seafood appeals to honeymooners and all romantics.  So hopefully you are already getting a sense of which would suit you more? But let’s suggest a couple of specific contests and predict the likely winners…

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Mari’s Blog on Young Explorers – Botswana Safari

If you want to take your family on a Botswana Safari look no further than the Young Explorers programme. This is a specially designed family safari that allows families the opportunity to discover the wonders of the African wilderness together, without the distractions of modern day stresses and modern day technology.

Mokoro Fishing BotswanaIt’s headed up by Paul Moleseng, a well known guide whose patience, understanding and expertise makes for the rarest of teachers. He’s someone who can impart often complex information in a way that is practical, fun, interactive and relevant. Young Explorers takes children from 7 years upwards (although, on a child-by-child basis, it has been known to accommodate even younger children).

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Near but ‘far’ – 7 off the beaten track places close to Cape Town

We all love the tantalising notion of getting ‘off the beaten track’, exploring places that make you feel that you are only ones around, that you’ve stripped off the scales of life’s trials and tribulations and emerged revitalized and invigorated – able to see for miles and miles, literally and figuratively.

But then reality sets in. Off the beaten track sometimes means just that: no ‘track ‘ means it takes ages to get to your chosen hideaway. And sometimes we just don’t have the  time. If the journey to a lodge seriously starts to eat into your precious holiday, then you start to question the choice.

So with this in mind, here are some ‘off the beaten track’ places within 3-4 hours driving of Cape Town. Some are considerably closer!

De Hoop Collection

De Hoop CollectionThe De Hoop Collection, with its richly varied fynbos floral kingdom, lies in the little-known and untouched De Hoop Nature Reserve on the Southern coast east of cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa. Here the main highway has headed inland leaving this stunning coastal reserve to its indigenous wildlife of bontebok, zebra, eland, red hartebeest and ostrich. Even within this already remote setting  you have a choice of small cottages , manor house rooms, or the aptly named ‘Koppie Alleen’ house (meaning lonely hill) standing in serene isolation in a separate part of the reserve. The many activities include endless miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, horse riding or simply enjoying the utterly empty sandy beaches.

Time from Cape Town: 3 hours

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve

Bushmans KloofThis one is close to our hearts and to our home in the Cederberg Mountains. It is only about 260 km from Cape Town on a good tarred road, but the two mountain passes in between means that it feels like a different world! You leave the Mediterranean climate of the Cape and enter a rugged African wilderness with endless views of the folded mountains that stretch into the distance. Here, in this unexpected setting, you find a five star retreat with supremely comfortable rooms and suites, excellent cuisine and an inviting spa. But it is the staggeringly beautiful surrounds which draw you there with glorious tranquillity guaranteed. Mountain biking, walking trails, guided rock art walks and sunset nature drives all ensure that humdrum everyday life is left firmly at home. A South African natural heritage site, Bushmans Kloof Reserve also offers Africa’s largest open air art gallery with more than 130 pristine San (Bushmen) rock art sites.

Time from Cape Town: 3+ hours


Tintswalo Atlantic

Tintswalo AtlanticTintswalo Atlantic still lies (just) within the city limits of Cape Town but if you weren’t staying here, you wouldn’t even know it existed. It lies hidden away in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve just below the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive. You cannot even get there in a normal car and need to be collected from their gates. This exquisite, luxurious beach lodge is tucked away right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean giving glorious views across Hout Bay. Indeed once you are ensconced in your beachside suite, you would hardly know you were so close to the city. Only the twinkly lights across the bay at night time would give you any clue.

Time from Cape Town: 30-40 minutes

Bartholomeus Klip

Bartholomeus KlipAnother option which won’t wear out the rubber of your tyres is Bartholomeus Klip which lies between the Cape Winelands and the picturesque village of Tulbagh. This beautifully restored Victorian country homestead is set in its own private nature reserve with walking, nature drives, canoeing and mountain biking on offer. Or you can just park out by its tranquil farm dam with a ripping read in hand. Bartholomeus Klip is a winning smorgasbord of excellent cuisine, charming accommodation and utter tranquillity.

Time from Cape Town: 1½ hours


Sanbona Game Reserve

Dwyka Tented CampThere are other game lodges which are closer to Cape Town but this one is the real McCoy. Because of its location off the road less travelled, the scenic R62, as well as the sheer size of Sanbona Game Reserve, you really do feel like you are away from all civilization. Sanbona offers 54,000 ha of undulating mountains and plains, indigenous wild flowers and San (Bushman) rock art as well as surprisingly good game-viewing. This includes all of the ‘Big Five’ and is certainly the best wildlife reserve in the Western Cape. There’s a choice of three lodges but for a true sense of wilderness, we recommend Dwyka Tented Camp , a luxurious tented camp set in a remote rocky kloof.

Time from Cape Town: 3-4 hours

Abalone House

Abalone HouseAbalone House is not ‘off the beaten track’ in itself, but the picturesque fishing village of Paternoster certainly is. This is the place to utterly relax either at the beginning, or the end, of a Cape holiday. There’s not a myriad things ‘to do’ so you will feel no guilt for not doing them. A lonely walk along the 7 km of sandy beach, a visit to Columbine nature reserve for its glorious spring flowers and fynbos, a bracing swim in the waves of the Atlantic ocean or a quiet seafood lunch at a local restaurant – that’s about all that’s on offer here. What a hardship! Abalone House is a small luxury retreat with just ten rooms, an exuberantly furnished main lodge and a great little restaurant.

Time from Cape Town: 2 hours


Oudrif Farm

Oudrif FarmYes I know – another lodge in the Cederberg mountains. What can I say; I am biased and proud of it! Oudrif Farm is a real gem. The greatest attraction of Oudrif has to be its complete isolation within a hidden kloof (valley) offering complete relaxation for weary city slickers and adventurers alike. Even their directions give you a sense of this as you are instructed to ‘turn right at the large painted rock and then left at an old wheel’…However Oudrif has lots to entice guests: natural rock pools for swimming year round, spring flowers, the odd spot of fishing, rock art sites amongst indigenous fynbos, walking, star-gazing and delicious meals rustled up by your host Bill in his seemingly effortless manner.

Time from Cape Town: 3 hours

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2nd time we’ve encounted Cape Mountain Leopard in the Cederberg!

On Sunday one of my colleagues, Michelle, was with some clients in the central Cederberg mountains heading up the beautiful Uitkyk Pass towards the Cederberg Wine Estate when they saw a Cape Mountain leopard bound across the road in front of them. The sighting was fleeting but very clear.  Michelle was understandably very excited as she is one of very few people to have seen one.

In reminded me of the time when one of our Cederberg Heritage Route guides was taking clients from the USA on the Pakhuis Trail which is one of the Cederberg Heritage Route trails. They were on the 18km trail from the top of Pakhuis to the Boskloof valley. This is one of the most scenic walking trails in the whole of the Cederberg (and that’s saying something. ) This is what she said about the walk:

“This trail is roughly 18km and very indulating but overall downhill. I can’t stress enough how amazing the views are along this route.

In May I walked with clients from the USA, Mr & Mrs Johnston – two really awesome people. Mrs Johnson is a horticulturist so plants are her thing. Luckily it had rained for 2 days straight before the arrived so there was new life along the hike.

We started early the morning round 8am. Air was nice and crisp but clear blue skies and not a cloud in sight. Key point I always say to any clients is look out for the rock formations and let your imagination run wild. The protruding rocks make for fantastic creatures and faces to spot.

We enjoyed looking at the many protea species on the route and after 30 minutes or so we turned right and onto the single file path. This is where the walk gets exciting.

We drop down quite a lot here (steep downhill for about 45 minutes) to our first stop at a running stream to have a light snack and fill up on cool running water.

On our way up the hill I started noticing foot prints in the damp sand. Not just any prints but very fresh leopard prints. Amazing! I was so excited as on previous trips so many people had wanted to see a leopard print, but instead we only saw dried droppings.The print of the Cape Mountain leopard was ahead of us the whole time. Sometimes the cat went off the path and we lost it. But we always seemed to find it again. Second stop and this leopard was still on our trail ahead of us. ‘Armed’ with just a pocket knife, I was hoping that the mantra “It’s more scared of you that you are of it!” was true.

Clear prints and very fresh we carried on towards our lunch stop. Sadly all the April fools plants had passed so Mrs. Johnson only got to see some of the leftovers. But the real thing in full bloom is breath taking. We did see what she called a Bileaf flat plant. This also seemed to be following us. Finally we got to see one of these in full bloom with fruit on. No leopard had snacked on this beauty yet!

After lunch we headed down for the second quite tricky descent of the day. All of a sudden these two massive eagles flew up and away from the path! I couldn’t hep but think they had seen the leopard because, yes, we still had the prints ahead of us. Later we came across what seemed to be the remains of a Dassie: its inside, scull and a paw. Very graphic – I know. The eagles had heard us coming and left their lunch!

Then as we got to the bottom heading to our last stream to cross, there are the foot prints again. In all kind of directions. I though I saw a glimpse of something ahead of us but I can’t be sure. However I am saying it was a leopard. Certainly the leopard had been there and not too long before us judging by the tracks.

Needless to say we had a fantastic days walk. New plants were discovered, leopard prints were photographed and followed and I reckon I actually saw one in the distance.”

The Cape Leopard Trust
The Cape Mountain leopard is a highly endangered species and survives in the remote mountainous areas of the Western Cape. As such, the Cederberg Wilderness is the perfect environment for it as our arid stark climate means that farming is not as commercially viable as in other areas of the province. The Cape Leopard Trust based in the Cederberg undertakes much needed research into the animals but trapping, collaring and releasing selected animals so that they can monitor their vast ranges.  It is estimated that there are no more than 1000 Cape Mountain leopards left in the world, with perhaps 50 of these or more in the Cederberg mountains.

It is incredibly rare to see a Cape Mountain leopard as they are far more scared of humans than we are of them but if you are lucky you can often find both their droppings and their spore. In the case of Michelle and Lare, sometimes you get to see them as well!

See www.capeleopard.org.za for more info…

Cederberg Heritage Route
The Cederberg Heritage Route is a not-for-profit organization for which we do the bookings for the walking trails. There are five different shorter “slackpacking” trails ranging from 2 to 4 nights. You stay overnight either at the Moravian mission villages in very simple B&B accommodation with starting or finishing nights being at guesthouses in Clanwilliam.  There is also the epic Cederberg 100 which combines two trails to form a 100km traverse through the Cederberg mountain range.

Contact us for more information, or if you want to book one of the walking trails, or check out www.cedheroute.co.za

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South Africa Safari Special: Cape Town, Zulus & Pearl

Thanda Safari LodgeBeing a tailormade safari specialist, I sometimes feel that I am a walking encyclopedia of safari specials:  long stay specials, family specials, honeymoon specials. You name it – we know it!It’s my job to know about all the safari specials and to add them into my client’s itineraries so that they are getting the best possible deal. But here’s the catch. Most hotels and game lodges only offer specials at certain times of year, usually quieter times. So though we can combine available specials for a tailormade request, we usually cannot promote & market them.So imagine my joy when some of our preferred suppliers decided to bite the bullet and offer specials over a more extended period of time. In celebration of this fact, we have put together some South Africa safari offers which offer really compelling value.

So first in an occasional series I present our Cape Town, Zulus and Pearls safari special.

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Kate Bergh is co-founder of Cedarberg African Travel, a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa.

She heads up the South African office, having lived in South Africa since 1993. Her home looks up to the Cedarberg Mountains, where she enjoys hiking and cycling, when she’s not out discovering new places to visit, with her three children in tow. Kate has travelled extensively throughout the region to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as most areas of South Africa. She also loves history, meeting people and a good thriller...


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