The best places to view rock art in South Africa
Oct30

The best places to view rock art in South Africa

The best places to view rock art in South Africa are in the Drakensberg mountains on the border of KwaZulu Natal and Lesotho, in the Cape Cederberg area, and in the Karoo. There are places scattered across the country that are renowned for either paintings or engravings left by the San (Bushman) or the Khoekhoen (Herders), and if you’re travelling in more remote parts of South Africa and have a cultural interest in the country, it would be worth your while to check out the details for some of these sites. In this article, we’re highlighting three rock art sites that are more or less on the popular tourist route, making them easy to access if you’re hitting the safari destinations of the Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, or heading up on a cross-border road trip to Botswana or Zimbabwe. South Africa has a large amount of paintings and engravings, some of which date back thousands of years, but most significant are the etchings in ochre that were discovered in a limestone cave on the southern Cape coast. These discoveries in Blombos Cave are known to be some of the oldest prehistoric art in the world, dating back well over 70 000 years! These are some of the best places to view rock art in South Africa Western Cape: Cederberg, Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Area Bushman’s Kloof is in custody of an incredible piece of heritage; over 130 different rock art sites have been identified here, some of which have been dated to as far back as 10 000 years. The reserve is a Grade 1 South African National Heritage Site and fortunately for us ancient art seekers, we can go and see these protected and conserved paintings that were made by staining rocks with oxide pigments. The paintings here depict elements of the Bushman culture, lifestyle, and spiritual beliefs that were all a part of their lives in these ancestral mountains. Bushman’s Kloof is a destination in itself, and viewing the sites is a privilege of the guests who stay at the lodge. It isn’t open to the public and is protected under the responsibility of the reserve, so to see the ancient sites, guests of the luxury lodge will go on a guided excursion into the mountains and benefit from an interpretive guide. Afterwards, you’ll sit down to a delicious breakfast in the bush and hear more stories about the fascinating, ancient surroundings. KwaZulu Natal: Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg National Park and World Heritage Site Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg National Park is the country’s capital of Stone Age art. It has some of the most beautiful rock paintings in the world on its ancient,...

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Add Mozambique to your South African safari
Oct28

Add Mozambique to your South African safari

The top reason people add Mozambique to their South African safari is to achieve that all-too-amazing recipe of “beach meets bush”. Often, the perfect holiday entails a certain amount of actively experiencing, and a certain amount of doing as little as possible. Beaches are great for the latter. The shores of Mozambique area pearly and the ocean is azure, and there are grass-thatched beach huts stocking cold 2Ms and freshly baked pão. You’ll pair that with chargrilled peri-peri chicken or garlicky tiger prawns in no time! Mozambique is a fusion of relaxed, sandy-toed beach vibes and colourful, bustling local culture. It can be serene and chaotic all at once; you’ve just got to know where to go to find which side of the scale you’re looking for. (We’ve got you covered). Bottom line is, combining the Kruger National Park and Mozambique is 100% a good idea. We’ll give you some good reasons to add this Afro-Portuguese paradise to your next South African safari itinerary. Read on. Scuba diving And snorkelling, and sea kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding, and boat cruises… the list goes on! This is a sea-lovers dream with incredibly biodiverse marine protected areas, like the Bazaruto Archipelago, that support and sustain sea-life. In particular, these coastal waters are known to have whale sharks in residence during certain times of the year. October to April is the best time to swim with these giants of the sea in Bazaruto, and it will go down as one of the single-most majestic experiences of your life. Huge (±14 metres) pyjama-clad ocean beings with wide, toothless mouths move slowly and serenely through the water, often tailed by a number of feeder fish, and they are entirely unaggressive. Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the sea and they eat small schooling fish close to the surface of the sea. You don’t have to scuba dive to get to these creatures because they stay shallow, so often you’ll just need to jump off the boat wearing your mask and snorkel to bank this bucket list experience. Where to stay? Azura Benguerra Island hopping in the Quirimbas Archipelago Up north where the regular tourist routes fizzle out, island life gets a little more pristine. This is an off-the-beaten-track part of Mozambique that deserves to be explored for those who are looking for something a bit less diluted. The water is crystal clear, the beaches are vast, snow-white stretches of turtle-nesting territory, and mangrove forests bring birdlife and species diversity to both marine and land life. There are 32 islands in Quirimbas, strewn across the sea and creating this network of biodiversity. There is...

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Find Out How to Pack for a Purpose When Visiting Africa
Oct18

Find Out How to Pack for a Purpose When Visiting Africa

Pack for a Purpose is a charity initiative encouraging people to pack specific supplies for struggling communities in the countries that they are visiting. The Pack for a Purpose website provides a list of supplies needed in each region, making it quite easy to source country-specific items.  Numerous hotels, camps and lodges within various countries across the globe have joined this highly successful and much needed initiative. You simply check the website to see if your hotel/lodge is part of the program, click on the link to see the projects that they’re involved in, and then build up a package containing their list of items needed. Pack for a Purpose bridges the gap between people wanting to donate material items to communities, and what is actually needed by those communities. If you follow the guidelines laid out by the charity, there won’t be a surplus of unnecessary items – and communities in dire straits will receive exactly what they need to survive and thrive within the educational, conservation and medical sectors.  Africa is a large continent with contrasting countries, unique cultures and mixed economies. This is vibrant continent and melting pot so rich in resources and natural beauty, but poor in monetary wealth. It’s not uncommon for pockets of rural communities to live without water, electricity and food. Communities urgently need donations from first world countries, but their list of items often differs from what we think they might need. The on-the-ground teams in each country keep inventory of what surrounding communities need, and constantly update the Pack for a Purpose website. Pack for a Purpose guides visitors towards the information needed to contribute effectively to communities – and don’t forget, a small contribution can have a massive impact. Below are a few of the items needed in popular safari destinations, with a handful of the lodges that Sun Safaris books on a regular basis. Each of the listed lodges has specific projects that they are involved in, which you can read about when you click on specific links. Pack for a Purpose in Botswana  Botswana is focussed on improving education and providing basic classroom supplies to the underprivileged. You are encouraged to donate school supplies, writing utensils, knitting utensils and notebooks.  3 lodges in Botswana involved in Pack for a Purpose. Click on the links to read the list of what is needed at each camp’s delivery point, and what projects are currently underway. Jao Camp in the heart of the Okavango Delta Duba Plains Camp is part of Great Plains Conservation and is located in the Okavango Delta. Vumbura Plains on the edge of the floodplains in...

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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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3 Epic Hiking Trails in Southern Africa
Oct01

3 Epic Hiking Trails in Southern Africa

Southern Africa has some world-class hiking trails ranging in terrain, difficulty, and duration. There are coastal climbs, forest treks, and mountain excursions and canyons that take the keen outdoorsman through some of the region’s most magnificent natural scenery. These are adventures that make you breathe hard, sweat more, and marvel in a state of awe the most. A physical challenge is as good as a holiday, ridding your mind, body and soul of anything that is no longer serving you and realigning your life. Many people treat the outdoors as medicine, fuel, nutrition for the mind, and we couldn’t agree more. Get lost and found in nature on one of these three hikes plotted out in different countries in Southern Africa! Fish River Canyon, Namibia Carry-all (including drinking water), marvel at the stars, and leave no trace. Distance: It is 90km or less if you take the official demarcated short cuts along the way. Taking all shortcuts will reduce the distance to about 75km, but while shorter routes may cut the kilometres the routes are sometimes more challenging than the flat hike along the canyon floor. Duration: 5 Days on average, while some challenge themselves to do it in 4 days and others plan to take it easier and complete the mileage in 6 days. Difficulty: This 5-day hike is a challenge in terms of heat and some days covering rather demanding terrain, like soft river sand and boulders. The first two days are slow-going with some boulder and rock jumping, and then things flatten out for a bit and you’ll cover more ground, and come day four, there is a bit of varying terrain which keeps you guessing and keeps you challenged. A steep descent into the canyon on the first day is tough for some people, while more experienced hikers won’t find it a problem. Overall, a moderate level of fitness is required to complete this hike, and you are likely to be nursing blisters in a euphoric state of “I did it!” at the end. Season: The hike is closed during the summer rainfall season between October and March because conditions are too harsh.  Winter is the time to hike the Fish River Canyon (between May to mid-September) and while temperatures during the day are mild in comparison to summer, they can reach 30 degrees or more at midday, so prepare to get hot. Night time can be on the opposite end of the spectrum and get very cold in the middle of winter, so come prepared, but you might get lucky and have rather balmy weather. Try and check out the water levels of the...

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Namibia’s alluring diamond-mining ghost town, Kolmanskop
Sep15

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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