Tuesday, May 31, 2016

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Travel Tip - SOUTHERN AFRICA TRAVEL TIPS - MAUSLEBAII (Mossel Bay)

Mauslebaii (or Mossel Bay) is a small fishing town along the southern coast of South Africa.  It's located on the world famous Garden Route, and is a great example of why this area is said to be some of the most picturesque in the world.  Mauslebaii looks like a very traditional fishing village, and like many picturesque fishing villages it's adapted to tourists.  The community here is very focused on helping tourists spend their money, however it still maintains a quaintness to it.  Prices can be fairly high for food, hotels and any kind of souvenirs you might be thinking of, particularly when you compare it to other parts of South Africa.  It is well worth a visit though as it gives you western comforts, without being an overwhelming city.

Probably the one tourist attraction that everyone seems to do here is a quick visit to Seal Island.  As you can imagine it's an island full of seals.  It's not a very big island at all, in fact it's more like several large rocks sticking out of the bay.  There are boats that will take you out around seal island, but none will stop at the island as that's illegal.  When you boat around the island you'll see hundreds of seals, and depending on which direction the wind is going you'll smell them too.  It's a fairly impressive sight when you go around the island, but it's a short trip not more than about 10 minutes.  The trip is also dependent on the weather, so if the seas are rough you'll want to plan it for another day. Mauslebaii is also a very popular place to take a great white shark tour since the waters in this area are full of them.

Another spot worth visiting, but not so tourist filled as the Seal Island cruises is the trail along the cliffs near the lighthouse.  If you walk to the base of the lighthouse, then take the stairs up through the caves, you'll come across a trail that takes you along the top of the cliffs.  The cliffs make up the back of the town of Mauslebaii, and the view of the ocean is spectacular.  If you look closely you might even catch sight of whales breaching out in the distance.  There is also some very impressive bird and flower life around this area, you might even come across a dassie (a small rodent looking animals that's actually related to the elephant).  The walk can be a little difficult for some, but the slightly experienced hiker should have no problems at all. To get back you can either re-trace your steps, or there are some paths that lead back to the town.

Later

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday Travel Tip - SOUTHERN AFRICA TRAVEL TIPS - MAKGADIKGADI SALT PANS

When you think about salt pans, think of a giant area of land that is full of salt and water.  The amount of water depends on the season, in Africa there's generally a dry and wet season.  When it's wet it's a kind of lake, when it's dry it's more like a crusty salt desert.  The Makgadikgadi salt pans located just outside of Nata are one of the largest salt pans in the world.  This is a place where life is harsh, however still plentiful.  Because of this it's a very fascinating place to visit.

If you plan on visiting the Makgadikgadi salt pans, it's best if you take a safari.  There is a campsite near the entrance, and it's a fine place to stay, however if you plan on exploring deeper into the pans it's best if you have a guide.  While the ground seems hard and durable, particularly during the dry season, this isn't always the case.  Sometimes the ground may look thick, but it's not, and if you drive on this ground you're like to break through the hard layer and get stuck in the soft wet salty earth below.  Getting out of this mess isn't impossible, but may require a tow.  Safari guides are very good at reading the ground, and also have the proper vehicles to get through the difficult sections.  These drivers also know where it's safe to walk and where it's not.

The animals in the Makgadikgadi salt pans are much more sparse than you might find on other safaris, but maybe more interesting.  With the high salt content of the water when it is there, only certain animals can survive, and those that do can sometimes thrive.  Most of the animals on the salt planes are birds, most abundant are flamingos.  Wherever there's water you'll find these beautiful pink birds, and thousands of them.  There are so many that the horizon appears to have a pink glow to it.  You'll also find some ostriches, and antelopes in the area, and apparently there are sometimes lions as well.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday Travel Tip - SOUTHERN AFRICA TRAVEL TIPS - KAROO NATIONAL PARK

In area, Karoo national park is fairly small compared to other parks in Southern Africa, but that's not a reason to skip it.  In fact it's smaller size is part of its charm.  The small charm of the park is reflected in the friendliness of the people working there, and the style of accommodations at the park.  If you're looking for excitement in a national park, it may not be for you, but if you're looking for a place to unwind it's perfect.

If you're looking for a place with a relaxed feel and a pace that's a little slower than most parks, this is the park for you.  This is easily reflected in the accommodations at the park.  Rather than have a huge hotel with villas and tents surrounding it, Karoo is much more like a small neighbouhood.  There are several different styles of cabins available in the park, some large enough for a family, other's that are perfect for couples.  These cabins have thatched roofs, beautiful kitchens, outdoor BBQs, and likely the most beautiful views you'll ever see.  The great thing about the accommodations is that there aren't too many of them, and they're very spread out.  There are also campsites available, for those looking to rough it a little.

If you're looking to get away and explore the local surroundings, the park is perfect for the relaxed traveler.  There are several safaris available, and they'll take you pretty deep into the park, however there are other alternatives that are much more relaxed.  The park offers two safaris that can be self driven in two wheel drive cars.  The longer route is a little bit challenging, but if you take it slow it's not too bad.  There is also a picnic spot about halfway through with bathrooms and BBQs.  The shorter route is much easier to drive, but still has plenty to see.  It too has a rest stop with the added bonus of a pool.  Both of these trails are a great way to see the surroundings at your own pace.

Just because these trails are easily accessible, doesn't mean you wont see any impressive animals.  As with most parks at the main lodge there is a board where people will mark animals sightings, and lions at Karoo are rare, but are around.  Zebra, various antelopes, and ostriches are very common all over the place.  In fact you'll likely come across a heard of animals on your way from the front gate to the lodge.  There is also a great variety of birds in the park.  If you're interested in learning more, the park has an information station near the campgrounds that features some interesting displays about the wildlife that's found there and the history of the park.

Later

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