Namibia’s alluring diamond-mining ghost town, Kolmanskop
Oct15

Namibia’s alluring diamond-mining ghost town, Kolmanskop

Namibia has a wealth of cultural and natural history and it’s one of the most alluring countries to travel. With its “frozen in time” German colonial towns, uniquely adapted desert wildlife, rich mix of cultures, and its dramatic landscapes, it is nothing like other countries in Africa and offers something entirely unique. There is a lot of evidence of the past in Namibia, from old shipwrecks that have stood stranded where they met their end on the Skeleton Coast; there is ancient rock art left behind by the Bushmen thousands of years ago; and then there are the ghost towns that lie abandoned in the desert sand, decades after the diamond rush was over. All along the southern coast of Namibia, diamond mining settlements started to spring up during the turn of the 20th Century. Back then, the country was colonised by Germany and unfortunately the crimes related to the Scramble for Africa in the early 1900s were not absent from the diamond rush, which was spurred on by the discovery of a diamond in the desert in 1908. Zacharias Lewala, who was working for a German supervisor on a railway near Lüderitz, discovered something glinting in the sand and handed it over for inspection. Upon the confirmation that this “glass” stone was indeed a diamond,  Namibia’s booming diamond industry kicked off. While this industry would go on to sustain the country’s economy for generations, the many mining settlements that cropped up through the desert and along the coast would eventually fizzle out and become “ghost towns”. The most famous mining settlement, which expanded into an eccentric town complete with an ice factory, bowling alley, and a swimming pool and playground for children, thrived for only a short few decades before the diamond rush collapsed. Kolmanskop, today, is a tourist attraction and somewhat of an interactive museum, welcoming Namibian travellers to this tiny, disappearing town in the desert. In 1912, a few years after the first diamonds were found in the area around Lüderitz, Kolmanskop produced a million carats, which was the equivalent of almost 12% of the world’s supply at the time! It was no wonder that with the seemingly endless supply of wealth in the area, miners and prospectors began to settle and the town of Kolmanskop developed. There was so much wealth that rather than existing in the desert on the bare essentials, Kolmanskop grew into a town that serviced the elite and eventually it housed a hospital that was considered to be world class. It was an oasis in the desert! Fresh water was brought in, a butchery and a bakery went up quickly, an ice...

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South Africa joins Brazil and Indonesia as world’s most biodiverse nations
Oct10

South Africa joins Brazil and Indonesia as world’s most biodiverse nations

South Africans, indulge in a moment of national pride: ZA is ranked as the third most biodiverse country in the world! It comes in after Indonesia in second place, and Brazil, which takes the gold medal in the category. The land of biltong, Ouma rusks, the Vuvuzela, and Walkie-Talkies (not the two-way radio kind) is also one of the planet’s megadiverse countries, meaning it has at least 5000 species of endemic plants and borders marine ecosystems. Not only is South Africa considered megadiverse, it is ranked third in the world. Our biologically diverse country is surrounded by two oceans – Atlantic and Indian – and occupies only about 2% of the world’s land area, while it hosts an impressive 10% of the world’s plants, 7% of the reptiles, birds and mammals, and 15% of coastal marine species. While we’re talking numbers, wrap your head around 850 species of birds, and 300 species of mammals occurring across our landscape. We can also boast about our nine different biomes, three of which have been declared global biodiversity hotspots: the Cape Floristic Region, Succulent Karoo, and parts of the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany. The Eastern Cape of South Africa is one of the world’s top 10 coral reef hotspots, while the Cape Fold Belt is an important freshwater ecoregion. What animals are endemic to South Africa? A few famous examples of animals endemic to South Africa include the Cape grysbok, bontebok, and riverine rabbit in the mammals category; the Cape sugarbird, Cape parrot and Cape rockjumper for birds; the geometric tortoise and Knysna dwarf chameleon as endemic reptiles; and the Table Mountain ghost frog as one of our endemic amphibians. The list goes on with plenty of insects, invertebrates, fish, and of course endemic plants. Take a look at a more in depth list of unique species and genera in South Africa here. Urgency to protect this unique biodiversity This climb in the ranking to third place comes after the declaration of 20 new Marine Protected Areas in South Africa, which will now protect 90% of the country’s marine habitat species. This, of course, is good news as it is an indication of the steps being taken by government to keep these sensitive and globally significant ecosystems safe from unsustainable overfishing, unethical recreation, and poaching among other things. The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy said: “In terms of government priorities, these ocean parks will not only protect our rich marine biodiversity but will also contribute to the sustainability of our fisheries and our fishing industry – a perfect example of sustainable development, evidence-based policy-making, and a valuable outcome of the Operation Phakisa: Oceans...

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4 Good Reasons to Spend Christmas & New Year on Safari
Oct06

4 Good Reasons to Spend Christmas & New Year on Safari

It’s the time of year when half the population turns to Pinterest for their Christmas decor inspiration and menu planning, while the other half makes a quick U-turn out of the tinsel-strewn shopping mall and scans the web for any last minute flight specials to somewhere remote! We aren’t all cut from the same cloth, and while the bustling shops and festive music might give some people the warm and fuzzies, others start to dream of wide open spaces and silence instead. Sure, family time is the best time, but so are midday gin and tonics by the pool with absolutely nothing being asked of you for at least four hours. We get it; you’re torn between spending a week in near-pyjamas tripping over Christmas lights, and absorbing the African warmth under a big sun hat and a view of elephants parading across the savanna. Here are four good reasons to spend Christmas and New Year on safari. You’re welcome.     All the feasting without the cooking or cleaning Safaris are synonymous with overeating, in the best possible way. There is so much good food going around at every time of year and over the festive season, safari chefs really start churning out the special treatment. From early morning homemade rusks and shortbread, to fluffy frittatas, fresh fruit and mince pies, charcuterie platters and big, hearty flavours across the board, you’re definitely not going hungry. Food is so much a part of feeling nurtured and satisfied, and when you’re on safari – over Christmas time or not – you’re eating home-cooked meals that not only deliver in terms of comfort and flavour, you’re 100% on the receiving end and 0% on the prep! A safari Christmas means you have no kitchen duties assigned to you whatsoever, so forget the devilled eggs and the stewed fruit pudding you’re responsible for this year, and put those feet up! Where? Chinzombo Camp A rather appealing absence of (human) crowds We generally love our own humans, and the festive season allows absent aunts, uncles, and cousins to spend quality time together and lighten the load on parents of tots! But with long overdue family catch ups comes the exponential growth in general human traffic. A quick run for an emergency litre of milk on Boxing Day morning could turn into an hour-long affair with a few thousand people in the same predicament. Long queues of people in dire need of coffee with overtired kids in tow isn’t our idea of morning fun, but what we DO kind of like the sound of is birds. The deep, resonating drum of the ground hornbill enters...

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The 5 BEST things about a SUMMER safari
Aug08

The 5 BEST things about a SUMMER safari

Sure, African summers are notoriously harsh in terms of heat with temperatures that escalate well into the 40s (C), but the relief of big, heavy cumulonimbus clouds gathering in a rumble of humidity and electricity in the afternoons is one of the best sights, sounds, and smells in the world. Any African will tell you that. The fat droplets of rain that eventually burst from the weighty heavens simmer on the hot earth and refill waterholes and river beds with the liquid of life. Summer is by far the more beautiful of the safari seasons, but winter is the most popular time to travel. From July to October, water is scarce and animals migrate to find food sources. In national parks and reserves across Africa, tourism explodes as the game viewing becomes the best yet. Without thick, leafy trees blocking the view and with resources reduced to a minimum, the competition is high and predators have a field day. Winter certainly does have its perks, but summer should not be overlooked because it packs and incredible experience, if you can handle the heat and the bugs! We’ll tell you why… Birds, obviously We’re passionate about birding, and we know we’re not alone. Summer is the exciting time of year when we start to hear those familiar bird calls that have been absent for the rest of the year. Some of the crowd favourites in Southern Africa include the cuckoos, like the red-chested cuckoo’s “piet my vrou” chant, and the woodland kingfisher, whose high-pitched cascading song is one of the most recognisable in the summer bush. Beautiful, iridescent jewel tones of the emerald and Diederik cuckoos are almost unbelievable to see, and suddenly those abundant lilac-breasted rollers are joined by their cousins, the European rollers. Yellow-billed kites arrive early in the season and then are abundantly present. Amur falcons make the incredible journey all the way from north-eastern China and back again and are celebrated for their mammoth trans-equatorial flight. Quite amazingly, over 100 bird species migrate to South Africa every summer, some travelling over 10 000 kilometres in a matter of days. The warm African season is abundant with food and water for birds and it is the perfect breeding ground. If you’re into birds, you have to safari in summer. Better priced accommodation The “green season” prices for lodge accommodation (around January to March) are much lower than the peak season prices (June to October), giving you a lot more room in your budget. When the safari season calms down at the start of summer (November) and rooms begin to empty, the cost of your stay at a...

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Reopening of Selinda Camp is all about Earth, Fire, Air, and Water in the Delta
Aug07

Reopening of Selinda Camp is all about Earth, Fire, Air, and Water in the Delta

For the most exclusive getaway in Mother Nature’s pristine playground, look no further than Selinda Camp in northern Botswana. It is known and celebrated as both a barefoot luxury safari retreat and the location of wildlife documentary filmmaking by renowned conservationists, Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Now, Selinda Camp has unveiled a new look after closing for a touch-up, and the result is even more breathtaking than before. It retains that openness we’ve always loved, and the high A-frame thatched roofs that resemble the traditional look of the Sangwali village in the Caprivi Strip. The refurbishments have emphasised Robinson Crusoe-style design, and are grounded by the four elements: Earth, Fire, Air, and Water. Located in the 130 000-hectare Selinda Reserve, on the banks of the Selinda Spillway where it joins the Linyanti River, this is a place of pristine wilderness. Northern Botswana’s Okavango Delta wetland and associated channels and lagoons are rich in biodiversity and flourishing with wildlife. The presence of water being the source of all life here. Selinda Camp’s design pays homage to this essential natural element in the splashes of blue hues, pieces of drift wood, and inviting plunge pools outside each guest room. The element of air is evident in the architectural design, which has left so much open space and freedom for breezes to move through living areas. The thatched roofs rise high above the wooden floors of the main guest area and the lack of walls and doors lets all the fresh air in Selinda flow right on through. Rustic textures and raw wood bring everything down to earth, making inhabitants at Selinda Camp feel connected to the earth element of the natural world. Flickering lanterns, burning amber sunsets, and bare copper light fittings hint at the presence of fire – the fourth element – tying the camp’s new look together in a warm embrace. The ivory-coloured canvas walls and draped canvas ceilings in the bedrooms and parts of the dining and lounge area is classic nostalgia reminiscent of the old days of David Livingstone’s African explorations. Worn floor rugs blanket the wooden floors, large carved doors with brass knockers are items you’d expect to find in old Arabic cities, but that fit in just perfectly with Selinda’s inter-cultural atmosphere. African spears meet aged brass and shiny copper, bringing the Afro-European luxury to the walls and table tops decorated throughout the camp. Leather sofas and re-purposed wooden tables meet modern textiles and patterned materials to create a fusion of the old and the new. Nothing looks like it belongs, yet nothing looks out of place. A perfectly even victory of design. There are just...

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