Phinda Homestead is the sole-use bush villa of your safari dreams
Dec11

Phinda Homestead is the sole-use bush villa of your safari dreams

When Phinda Homestead was damaged in a fire in December 2016, it closed for renovations and has emerged more alluring than ever before. Each of the six luxury lodges on Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal is imaginatively curated, indulgent, intricately detailed, yet soft and comforting in its beautiful natural environment. It could only have been expected that after the fire, Homestead – Phinda’s sole-use luxury villa – would rise like a phoenix and leave us all agog at the next level luxury and well thought-out features that now characterise this exclusive safari destination. There are four bedrooms making it just right for families or a small group of friends looking to get away into pristine wilderness with no one but themselves and the lodge’s elite team of staff making sure everything you need or want is not more than an arm’s length away. The extensive use of glass in the form of large sliding doors and floor-to-ceiling windows ensures that everything you’ve come to see outside is represented indoors. Being able to watch the birds from your bath tub is certainly an elevating experience, and to see and feel organic textures indoors is grounding and connective. In each bedroom, the use of wood, bamboo, and Swazi grass come together to set a natural tone to each room. A floating headboard, highly textured scatter cushions and curtains, giant glass lampshades, and local Nguni hides tie the elements of these bedrooms together in perfect harmony. Raw timber has been treated only so slightly as to smooth the edges and refine the look, but the evidence of its previous life is represented in its wrinkles and lines which decorate its surface. The dining table is an enormous slab of pale wood, patterned with natural grain and celebrated as the centrepiece of every meal. It glows gently under a handful of large, hanging basket lights which hover above it, and it matches the incredible double sliding doors, which themselves are singular slabs of the same wood extending from ceiling to floor. Behind them: the interactive kitchen with edgy cork bar stools lined up along the preparation counter to invite company into the cooking area.  The ceilings throughout the lodge pulls in organic material once again: bamboo poles laid side by side cover the ceiling above your head. The dining chars and carpet bring a traditional shade of ochre to the scene, which is cut with a pale stone hue of the painted brick walls. The Homestead’s living spaces are about togetherness and community, bringing together the family in comfort and style that matches the mix of Zulu celebration and identity with...

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Contrasts of Chile: desert, pumas, art and architecture
Dec11

Contrasts of Chile: desert, pumas, art and architecture

Chile is a country of contrasting extremes, wedged along the Pacific Coast along a world-famous mountain range with a lunar-landscape desert in the north, and icy peaks and pumas in the south.  In between, a cultural hubbub of colourful street art, powerful poetry, ancient architecture, and award-winning wineries. From rural cowboys riding untamed horses, to glaciers iced into jagged mountains, Chile’s wild side is exciting and full of adventure, while its cities are a combination of modern-day chaos and moments frozen in time. On this 12-night trip, we discover the contrasts of Chile and make sure we cover the bases to ensure one unforgettable experience of this rich and rugged South American territory. We’re going from the northern Atacama Desert and to southern alpine Patagonia to experience the adventure, all tied together with the bohemian street art experience of Valparaiso and the combined historic and modern-day bustle of capital city, Santiago. The trip offers the perfect blend of outdoor excursions, adrenalin and adventure activities in the arid desert and the alpine lake region of icy Patagonia, broken up by enriching city tours that portray the colourful cultural history of the Chilean people. Luxurious accommodation and gastronomy at Relais & Chateaux hotels in Atacama and Patagonia bring indulgence and comfort to the experience. Valparaiso An old, eclectic port town surrounded by 17 tall hills is a colourful, bohemian part of Chile that celebrates the arts. Valparaiso was once the home of famous Chilean poet and writer, Pablo Neruda. It is bustling, cluttered, vibrant, and somewhat neglected, so it has immense character and is best explored on foot along the many old pathways, or on the ancient bus routes through town.  The towering hills surrounding the port are full of colourful houses and facades built into the cliffs overlooking the bay. The town is lathered in interesting street art that covers everything from walls to staircases, buses, rooftops, and the many old funiculars that journey up and down the hillside, transporting people to the top and down again. These “elevator trams” date back to the 1800s when they used to be run on coal and are a fascinating and integral part of the Valparaiso experience.  Visit Caleta Portales – the traditional fishing village of Valparaiso – to eat and enjoy local fare or watch the fishing boats come in first thing in the morning and purchase daily catch off the boat. Also visit Cerro Alegre – a mythical mountain and cultural capital of Valparaiso – reach it via a funicular and arrive to see locals and tourists alike contributing to artwork, making music and poetry in the streets. Atacama Desert The driest...

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Puma Tracking at Torres del Paine in Patagonia
Nov30

Puma Tracking at Torres del Paine in Patagonia

Patagonia is the southernmost point of the world, after Antarctica, and it is one of the adventure capitals of the planet, housing some of the most magnificent, scenic hiking trails, alpine forests, glacier lakes, icy peaks, and possessing a fascinating human history. This southern tip of South America sprawls over Chile and Argentina with the Andes mountains along its western boundary and rugged, arid steppe of Argentina in the east. Patagonia, with its hostile climate, icy rain and winds, is the home of the puma, or mountain lion, and this is where tourists flock to see them on foot. Puma tracking is a speciality activity in Chilean Patagonia where the mighty Torres del Paine National Park covers an area of mighty granite peaks capped in snow, turquoise lakes, and rocky hillsides with rugged underbrush – pumas’ perfect territory! These are the largest cats of Patagonia and the regions greatest predators, and they thrive in this chilly climate because there is an abundance of guanaco, the cats’ favoured prey species. The shrill sound of a guanaco whistling its alarm call carries through the wind and has become an iconic sound associated with the presence of the silent, stalking puma. To see a puma in Patagonia is one, big bucket-list check, and specialised guided trek is the only way to go to guarantee your puma tracking experience. Torres del Paine has a network of hiking trails that wander along the lower slopes of the Andes, where rugged rocks and narrow caves create the perfect habitat for pumas. While these cats can be spotted on independent hiking trails if you’re lucky, this is not a guaranteed and professional puma tracking activity. Tracking these cats on foot, armed with binoculars and led by an experienced guide who knows how to follow and find these mountain lions is the only way to go if you’re looking for the authentic experience and quality sightings. Off-road puma tracking gives hikers the best chances of seeing the cats, as you are led off the beaten track into can follow tracks that lead further off the road. This advantage is only permitted on private land that borders Torres del Paine, so your best chances of getting great results from your tracking experience is on these private reserves where special tracking activities are conducted, and the most luxurious accommodation is there to welcome you upon your return from the chilly mountain air. Awasi Patagonia is located in one such private reserve, overlooking the monumental Torres del Paine, and housing guests in 14 unique villas, each equipped with its own private guide with the experience to conduct hiking, cycling, and 4×4...

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Botswana “Best in Show” Safari Destination 2018
Nov20

Botswana “Best in Show” Safari Destination 2018

Safari Bookings has just named Botswana the number one safari destination in Africa! Through an analysis of reviews, ratings, and statistics, it is revealed that 2018’s best overall safari spot is the beautiful Botswana. Tanzania was a hair’s breadth away from first place, and it remains the best destination for wildlife viewing, but Botswana’s diverse landscape, variety of habitats, incredible birding, and wealth of unique wildlife are what gave it this prestigious title. And we are behind the decision one hundred percent! In celebration of this amazing country, we want to show off some of her most beautiful and unique assets, so that there is no wondering why Botswana is recognised as this year’s most superior spot for African wildlife and nature-based travel.  The Kalahari Starting with the great big semi-arid desert that takes up the majority of the country: the Kalahari is a seasonal desert that transforms from a waterless hinterland to a thriving, green oasis in the summer rain. It gets bitterly cold at night in winter, and blisteringly hot in summer. The stars are nothing short of magical, and the wildlife is abundant, especially in summer when the baby antelope are born. Here is where you can see black-maned lion, gemsbok, cheetah, springbok, ostrich, bat-eared fox, pale-chanting goshawk, sociable weavers, brown hyena, and weird and wonderful plant life. One of our top choices for a Kalahari stay is Tau Pan in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The transformation from silver grassland to green oasis is astounding, and the views from the lodge are purely spectacular. Star gazing, guided walks with the Bushman, predator-filled game drives, and total relaxation in wide open wilderness. The Kalahari gives us an unapologetic show of just how contrasting the seasons can be, demonstrating the dehydration of winter, cracked clay pans, dried skeletal remains of animals that couldn’t withstand the drought. Then it bursts into life and sprinkles dew drops of fresh blossoms, feeding every creature with renewed goodness presented by the rain. Perhaps most fascinating of all is the fact this is where Africa’s first people lived and thrived for thousands of years until very recently, following in their ancestors’ resilient footsteps. The San Bushman know the Kalahari as well as every indigenous animal, and the beauty of a desert safari here is the opportunity to walk with the San and learn how they survived in one of the harshest environments on the planet. Okavango Delta The Okavango Delta, life blood of the Kalahari, panning out into the northern reaches of the desert and feeding it with nutrients and sustaining great populations of wetland and savannah species alike. Long acknowledged as one of...

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Safari Sophistication at RockFig luxury lodge in the Timbavati
Nov17

Safari Sophistication at RockFig luxury lodge in the Timbavati

A long-adored family getaway in the bush that merged lovingly into one of the finest safari offerings in the Timbavati, RockFig Safari Lodge is something very special. Only six luxury suites makes this an exclusive retreat for a family or a small group, and promises to provide all the the service and style you’ll need to completely relax and unwind surrounded by the wild. RockFig’s 2018 relaunch received a full round of applause, and it has certainly earned its place on the radar of this highly sought after part of the Greater Kruger. Named after a resident leopardess who likes to hangout in trees, RockFig has retained its family values and the essence of togetherness that made it so special to begin with. The luxurious additions have taken it into a new league of style and sophistication, but it still proves to be a place the whole family can enjoy. The interactive kitchen is a favourite feature of the main living area where the open-plan setup invites an audience while excellent, fresh produce is cooked up and served in creative and delicious meals. Kids will love this element of design, and it adds a real homely feel to the whole place. When it’s time to eat, there is a gorgeously made up dining table under a crafty rectangular chandelier indoors, and another long table under thatch outside, plus, there are spectacularly stellar bush dining experiences sure to impress. The work of the architect and the interior design team has truly created the ambience of sophistication in nature, with natural textiles and materials being used to build the structure of the lodge and bedroom units, and to decorate and furnish every area with suitably nurturing style. A colour wheel of greens that speak to all seasons of the Timbavati bush weave in and out of the ivory sand base palette, while the thatched roof controls brings the sweet scent of the grass into the bedroom. The en suite bathrooms are worthy of long baths in the tub, which enjoys a view of the wilderness, or a shower under the open skies with the invigorating presence of nature. There is an inside shower which is gloriously steamy on chilly nights, and a matching pair of cotton robes to slip into afterwards. If you’re looking to socialise, or for a new place to relax and absorb the abundant surrounds, the heart of RockFig is where you would expect: at its centre. Where the large wooden dining tables and beautiful open-plan kitchen are housed, there is a large outdoor lounge sprawled under a thatched roof and furnished with a variety of comfortable sofas...

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