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The Travel Butlers Blog

No such thing as a safari on a budget? Think again.

PaulCampbell - March 27, 2016

Mention the words ‘bucket list’ to almost anyone and if they haven’t done it already it’s highly likely that an African safari will feature somewhere on their list. That said, there is a common misconception that private safaris are a privilege of only the wealthy and although it’s true that in the context of a private safari holiday ‘cheap’ is a relative term, the truth is you won’t have to re-mortgage your house to make the dream a reality.

When it comes to perfect safari destinations in Africa, you are never short of choices, but for a truly affordable private safari option we think South Africa is a great place to start. Travel critics have been heaping awards on South Africa as one of the world’s best travel destinations and for good reason; this is a country guaranteed to get under your skin from the moment you arrive. With the added bonus of favourable exchange rates and no jet lag to worry about there really are few places better to experience your first safari adventure.

Now if you think a safari on a budget means you’ll be slumming it then think again. We’ve done a round up of some of the very best private safari destinations in South Africa for travellers on a budget.

ShindzelaBest Tented Safari Experience

Shindzela Tented Safari Camp is set in the Timbavati Game Reserve and offers an affordable Kruger safari experience, without compromising on excitement and thrills. There is something enchanting about staying in a tent on safari.  For an extra charge real wildlife junkies can book a ‘Sleep Out’ experience at the Shindzela Hide overlooking the Main Dam at Shindzela.  From here you can soak up the magic of the African night and enjoy front row seats from which to witness breath-taking night action.

Prices start from £79 per person per night, including all meals, tea/coffee and shared safari activities.

Africa on FootBest Alternative Safari

For a true wilderness experience few things beat a walking safari. Situated in Klaserie Private Nature Reserve in the heart of Greater Kruger, Africa on Foot  specialises in walking safaris. Sharing unfenced borders with Kruger National Park means animals roam freely. Some of Africa’s most superb predators are found here and there is nothing more thrilling than walking in the open where a feeling of being in the wild is ever-present.  The more adventurous can book a stay in a treehouse at no extra cost.

Prices start from £115 per person per night, including all meals, tea/coffee, game walks and shared drives.

9e-nThambo-Tree-Camp-accommodation13Best for Romance

To escape the realities of daily life and immerse yourself in the true spirit of Africa look no further that nThambo Tree Camp.  Situated in the heart of Southern Klaserie, this intimate and eco-friendly camp shares unfenced borders with Kruger National Park, making it prime Big Five viewing territory. Each of its five private chalets are raised on stilts and come complete with a four poster bed and private veranda overlooking the plains; the perfect escape for those seeking romance and adventure.

Prices start from £132 per person per night, including all meals, tea/coffee, game walks and morning/afternoon shared game drives (prices valid for the whole of 2016).

Garonga Safari Camp2 - CopyrightFINALBest for Honeymoons

Honeymooners looking for an exhilarating and alternative way to kick start married life should look no further than Garonga Safari Camp. Set in the Makalali Conservancy, this unassuming sanctuary promises a more intimate wildlife encounter in an unhurried environment. Its luxury tents each have a wooden deck complete with hammock and spectacular views.  For a truly unique experience enjoy a bath in the bush followed by a night sleeping under the stars!

Prices start at £170 per person per night, including all meals and drinks (house wine), game drives, bush walks, bush baths, sleep-outs, picnics and even your laundry!

SONY DSCBest ‘Out of Africa’ Experience

If you want to reconnect with nature and experience the real magic of Africa then Umlani Bushcamp is for you. Located in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and the heart of Big Five territory, this beautifully designed eco lodge is off the grid and the beaten track of tourists that flock to Kruger. For exclusive tranquillity there is a tree house about 2.5 km from the camp overlooking a dam, where the lodge can leave you for an hour or two with blankets, big comfortable pillows and a cooler box filled with drinks.

Prices start from £129 per person per night, including all meals, two private game drives, optional bush walk and all local brand drinks.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-fun-outdoor-children-playing-image26170490Best Family Safari

Forget Disney World and consider a family safari adventure, such as an authentic bushveld experience at Gomo Gomo Game Lodge. This laid-back, family-friendly lodge overlooks a waterhole, so when you’re not out in search of the Big Five you can sit and watch your kids faces light up with excitement as animals come to drink here.  You might even be lucky enough to see the odd baby elephant frolicking by the water’s edge.

Prices start from £97 per person per night (adult), including all meals, tea/coffee, morning and afternoon/evening shared game drives and bush walks.  Children under 13 go half price.

Has this got you thinking that a safari could be for you? If so our friendly and knowledgeable team is on hand to chat to you about planning the ultimate African adventure!

 

Double the fun or double the trouble? Five tips for planning the perfect family safari.

PaulCampbell - March 13, 2016

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-fun-outdoor-children-playing-image26170490As much as documentaries such as Big Cat Diaries may inspire you to want to see the real thing, parents often dismiss the idea of a safari with nippers in tow because of concerns about safety, enjoyment and the general hassle factor. So is it possible to embark on a family safari holiday that is rewarding and enjoyable for all involved? Well we believe it is and done right the whole family will be buzzing from their bush adventures for years to come.

Safaris really are a holiday like no other and just like us big kids, your little kids will go totally wild for the wildlife.  Nothing can prepare you for the real thing and watching their little faces beaming with excitement and hearing their gasps of sheer amazement at the sights and sounds of the bush makes for double the adventure and double the fun.  Not only that, there’s a huge amount for kids to learn, from identifying animal tracks and dung to understanding the habits and appreciating the plight of the wildlife in Africa.  This makes for a unique educational experience where storybooks will literally come alive before their very eyes.

So if you think a family safari is for you here are our five dos and don’ts for planning the perfect adventure.

Lalibela Game Reserve - Mark's Camp - CopyrightFINAL1. DO your research

When it comes to safaris some lodges have strict minimum age requirements so be sure to check that the lodges on your wish list cater for children.  Across South Africa, there are a number of safari lodges that offer excellent programmes for kids so while you take a well deserved break by the pool between game drives, your children can set off on ‘bush bumbles’ that will get eyes popping and set minds spinning.

 

 Amakhala Sunset2. DON’T risk malaria

South Africa is, without doubt, the best place for young families; there is no jet lag to slow you down, the roads are excellent meaning you can self-drive and set your own pace and, most importantly, a number of the country’s ‘Big Five’ game reserves are malaria free so you won’t have to worry about malaria medication and can take the odd mosquito bite in your stride.

 

Lalibela Game Reserve - Mark's Camp - CopyrightFINAL23. DO know when enough is enough

As well as adjusting to the new routine of early morning and late afternoon game drives, safaris require long periods of silent anticipation.  For children under the age of ten we advise three days’ safari action, providing plenty of opportunity to immerse yourselves in the magic of big game spotting without seeing the excitement fade and turn to boredom.  A combined safari and beach holiday could strike the perfect balance.

 

FamilySafaris-Shamwari-CopyrightFINAL4. DO get on their wavelength

Build up the excitement through books and wildlife documentaries.  As mentioned, many lodges offer specially designed kids programmes with activities that are both educational and entertaining, from bush walks to junior tracking courses and themed bush picnics in between. Traditional folklore storytelling about ‘Why The Elephant Has A Trunk’ or ‘Why The Warthog Is So Ugly’ add to the fun.  Depending on age a pair of binoculars and/or a camera will let them get fully immersed in capturing the moment.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-southern-right-sailing-1-3-image16316165. DON’T forget the other treats that South Africa has to offer

High on the ‘must see’ list of any visitor to South Africa is a trip along the Garden Route.   If you think this is only for the green-fingered holiday makers among us think again.  The Garden Route followed by a Big Five safari is a winning combination for families.   From shore-based whale and dolphin spotting to close encounters of a furry kind at Monkeyland and meeting elephants at Addo National Park, a trip along this stunning stretch of coastline is a feast for the eyes and perfect for a family adventure.

 

If you need help choosing a lodge or would like advice on planning your family adventure, our friendly and experienced team can help.

 

24 Hours in…Cape Town

TraceyCampbell - July 22, 2015

Cape Town is one of the world’s most beautiful cities – with a magnificent mountain as its centre, miles of sandy beaches, a colourful and moving history, and countless bars and restaurants, Cape Town captures the hearts of visitors. We normally recommend a minimum of 3-4 nights, so that you can really get to see everything that the city has to offer… but if you only have 24 hours here, this is a list of what we consider you just HAVE to try and fit in!

1. On arrival head for Table Mountain! This really is one of the main highlights of Cape Town, and you really cannot come to Cape Town without having taken a cable car ride to the top and back down again.

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2. The V&A Waterfront is a good place to start in the morning, where you can also catch a City Sightseeing Hop on/Hop off bus trip OR canal cruise, or just stroll around and take in the buzzy atmosphere of the shops, restaurants and food markets, and the cheerful working harbour. In the afternoon, head out to Cape Point, and take a drive along the Southern Peninsula, maybe stopping along the way at Boulders Beach, home to a huge nesting colony of penguins. The main viewing platforms allow you get right into the middle of the breeding colony where you can observe and photograph the penguins at close quarters; the second beach is smaller and lesser known, but you can actually get onto the sand and into the sea here and there are usually a few dozen penguins mixing with the bathers. You can then make your way back to town along the Atlantic coast enjoying the GREAT sights of Chapmans Peak.

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3. If you’re feeling peckish, Cape Town has some TOP restaurants. Check out NV-80 in Seapoint if you fancy a rib eye steak, oysters or shrimp. Or Belthazar Restaurant in the V&A Waterfront for a really succulent steak, or if you want to sample some authentic African cuisine, then head to Gold Restaurant.

4. On a rainy day don’t despair, there is still tonnes of things to do! Such as winetastings – Cape Town has many wine farms with excellent wines – or visit the iconic Mount Nelson Hotel for afternoon high tea. Families can head to the Two Oceans Aquarium to watch the feeding (check the times first!).

Wine pouring into a wine glass

5. Whatever you do, don’t leave without a helicopter flip/ride around the Peninsula.

6. For the best sunset photograph, the sunset is really amazing from Milnerton as you see Table Mountain and the last bit of sun rays beaming down on the mountain with all it’s different colours. It is also beautiful sitting at one of the cocktail bars in Camps Bay.

7. The best place to go for cocktails is Leopard Bar at Twelve Apostles (with the added attraction of great sunsets too!), or check out the popular Shimmy Beach.

8. Cape Town’s hidden claim to fame are the Protea Fire & Ice milkshakes – don’t leave without trying one!

9. Not a lot of people know this…the insider’s tip to Cape Town is Richards Supper Stage & Bistro – a unique theatre venue and dining experience.

10. And finally, this list would not be complete without mentioning our most favourite places in Cape Town in terms of where to stay. For a great guest house, you can’t go wrong with Floreal House, in Oranjezicht – friendly staff, beautiful location at the foot of Table Mountain, and lovely rooms. For a great value hotel, then for us the Protea Breakwater wins hands down. Situated right in the heart of the Waterfront, this hotel is steeped in history but it is the location (and the frequent Stay/Pay deals!) that makes it a perfect place to stay. And finally, for one of the best 5* luxury experiences, it has to be the Cape Grace – stylish and luxurious, with a working harbour to one side and a multi-millionaire yacht basin on the other – it is just wonderful.

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Aanari – A Calm Hideaway

TraceyCampbell - December 17, 2014

Aanari Hotel sits in the heart of Flic en Flac, a holidaymaker hotspot in Mauritius. Hugging the West Coast of the island, the beach is bright, white and wide, with plenty of space to stretch out in the tropical sunshine and watch the local kids playing football on the sand. The whole town breathes a lighthearted holiday feeling, with small live music bars, coffee shops, rum shacks and restaurants lining the street opposite the beach. It’s an ideal base on the island for anyone after a more lively experience in Mauritius.

Flic en Flac isn’t for everyone, and if you’re in the market for a quiet castaway break in Mauritius, this isn’t the beach for you. However, it has a charm all of its own with plenty of local flair. The crowd here is slightly younger than you’ll find in most Mauritian resorts, so there’s a unique energy to the place that isn’t so easy to find elsewhere on the island. You’ll find a vast range of restaurants, a casino, a supermarket and a shopping complex right on your doorstep. For fun as well as sun, it’s a real winner.

The hotel itself is a calm little oasis amidst the hub of Flic en Flac activity. It has a laid back and welcoming aura, with design influenced heavily by Mauritian tradition and its Hindu heritage. There’s almost something Balinese about the place. Natural materials have been used wherever possible, giving the hotel an earthy, organic atmosphere. The outdoor bar and dining area are filled with tropical plants, coconut trees and tiny ponds, making it brilliant for long, lazy breakfasts and indulgent afternoon cocktails.

The swimming pool is small and surrounded with a smattering of comfy loungers. It can get a little crowded as the day goes on, so it’s best to get there early. However, while the pool may be on the small side, it’s perfect for a refreshing plunge. And if you can’t nab a spot by the pool, do not despair. There are plenty of other chilled out pockets across the hotel, with a couple of sun beds scattered here and there amongst the shady rooftop gardens. The beach is merely footsteps away, so you can spend your days happily hopping between the two.

Flic en Flac is awash with local companies offering island-hopping trips and sightseeing tours, making the Aanari Hotel an excellent strategic base for exploring Mauritius. The tours are affordable as well as exciting, giving you the chance to visit rum distilleries and sugar factories, see the stunning Seven Coloured Earths, take a walk around the Sacred Lake and drop in on some unbelievable islands, such as the Île aux Cerfs and Îlot Gabriel. Sundowner cruises leave every evening while dolphin-spotting trips leave each morning. Suffice to say, you won’t be short on options.

The rooms themselves range from basic to brilliant, and it’s definitely worth paying for the upgrade. While the Superior and Deluxe are kitted out with everything you’ll need to make your stay comfortable, the 15 Clubrooms come complete with balconies and a more generous sense of space. If you’re planning on spending some real time in your room, opt for a Club and you won’t be sorry. They’re far more inviting places to while away some sun-drenched time. Clubrooms also include free entrance to the spa area of the hotel. This is a major perk.

The spa area is a dreamy patch of the Aanari Hotel. Up on the rooftop, far from the bustle of the street below with views across to the mist-swirled hills, there’s no better place to relax. As well as a full-range of massages and body treatments, the spa areas boasts 2 jacuzzi baths with panoramic backdrops. Grab something bubbly to sip on, head for the spa and spend a few hours in jacuzzi-soaked bliss. While Clubroom guests can use the jacuzzis free of charge, other room types will need to book a treatment or pay an entrance fee to the area. It’s worth it either way. Trust me.

Evenings are an upbeat affair at Aanari, with live music playing almost every night and a really varied buffet to boot. The theme of the buffet changes on a weekly basis, so if you stay for seven nights you’re guaranteed a surprise every day. Breakfast is beautifully laid-back, with a wide range of choices and local coffee that will certainly set you up for the day. The quality of cuisine across both dinner and breakfast is unwaveringly tasty, so you’re sure to eat well. Don’t forget to try the local favourites – the coconut tapioca is to die for.

So, while you might not get postcard-perfect peace here, the beach is inviting, the water is warm and the hotel is brilliantly affordable. If you’re after serenity, you’ll need a different stretch of sand, but fun-loving couples, groups of friends and good-time travellers will have a blast staying here. While Flic and Flac might be a love or hate destination, Aanari is a great choice for all. It’s a calm hideaway in a otherwise hedonistic setting, and a lovely place to rest your head.

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Sofitel So – The Lap of Lushury

TraceyCampbell - December 11, 2014

Hidden amongst the untamed beaches of Bel Ombre in Southern Mauritius, Sofitel So has to be one of the most lushurious places on the planet. And that’s what it’s all about – lushury – a term coined by Sofitel themselves. Sophisticated luxury in a wild and natural setting – the very best of both worlds. That’s why, as the hotel claims, life here really is magnifique.

The backdrop is all kinds of beautiful. Bel Ombre is an untouched swathe of sparkling coastline dotted with palm trees that create calm, private coves. The hotel lets the landscape speak for itself, leaving the beach to bask in its raw, natural glory. Loungers, romantic daybeds and coconut-thatched parasols are sprinkled throughout the secluded spots, giving you the chance to laze in undisturbed tranquility.

The water is a series of clear, turquoise stripes and it’s possible to swim and snorkel straight off the beach. There’s a jetty for boat trips and fishing adventures, and the best part is that you’ll feel almost alone. It’s pretty much your own private paradise. The hotel has even created a zone of complete ocean hush offshore, with no motorboats, hawkers, dogs or noise pollution to be heard. Even mosquitoes are banished from the hotel grounds by daily fumigation. The peace is total.

Designed by Kenzo Takada of highly-scented fame, this 5* oasis seamlessly slides its fresh, contemporary lines into the tropical landscape of the island. The blend is beyond perfection. Every tiny detail, angle, texture and shape holds a story of thoughtful design. It’s these careful considerations that set the hotel apart – a loving fusion of first-class luxury and local flavour. As such, Sofitel So is so much more than somewhere to rest your head. It’s a work of art.

The 84 lushury rooms and 6 beach suites are essentially eco-chic pods decked out in clean whites, with accents of lime green and orange, creating a calm but energising atmosphere. There’s a feeling of light and space flowing through the open-plan design of each room, with indoor and outdoor showers and private baths scattered with fragrant petals in the garden. The espresso coffee machines make a top class cuppa, and the safe comes complete with a built-in iPod charger. The genius lies in all these little things, combining to make a breathtaking whole.

The bed is the centrepiece of each room and, oh my, what a bed it is. Sofitel’s bespoke ‘My Bed’ concept is brought to life in every single room. Comfortable doesn’t even begin to cover it. The mattresses, duvets and pillows are made using a magical mixture of layers from duck feathers to down in order to create the perfect cocoon. The effect is amazing. It’s sort of like sleeping on a cloud, so you can catch up on lost sleep in true style. It may well be the best night’s sleep you will ever have.

The public spaces of the hotel are equally ingenious, all with brilliant backstories of their own. The rim-flow swimming pool that runs all the way down to the beach is shaped like a ‘panga’ knife, a traditional Mauritian tool for cutting sugarcane. Around the pool, you’ll find an assortment of loungers, citrus-coloured full-size beanbags and cosy couches, all made for sumptuous sun-soaking.

Tranquil water flows all around the impossibly high-ceilinged Flamboyant restaurant and Takamaka bar area to create a natural cooling system and preserve the sense of absolute peace. Inside and outside merge effortlessly as the tropical Mauritian air flows between the 2. The ultra-modern bar stocks all kinds of homemade rum used to make signature cocktails, often with the addition of Mauritian hibiscus flowers.  Our recommendation – try the vanilla and citronella rum.

The food itself is understated elegance, with evening buffets – but not as you know them. Here you’ll find delicately-spiced fish fillets, immaculately cooked steaks, steaming heaps of inviting vegetables and everything in between. The desserts range from dainty pots of bright raspberry soup to indulgent opera cake and traditional tapioca. Every night, the buffet theme changes, keeping things constantly new and exciting.

For more laid-back beach eats, La Playa is the place to head for lunch. An open-air restaurant spilling out onto a peaceful slice of breezy beach, it’s a great spot to unwind with a book and grab a sunny afternoon light bite. The menu, like the island itself, is eclectic, with mussels ‘en cocotte’, ruby snapper and beef teriyaki. It’s castaway cuisine at its best.

Just like the space, the experience of staying at Sofitel So is seamless. Every effort is put into making your trip to the island totally stressless. You’ll have your own personal butler to cater for your every whim, book your island tours and grant your every request. When you arrive, you’ll be whisked off to an intimate private space for a welcome drink while your admin is taken care of behind the scenes. The staff are discreet, attentive and full of easy smiles. The service level really is second to none.

For honeymooners, it couldn’t be more perfect. If you’re looking for a quiet, intimate honeymoon away beyond city bright lights, Sofitel So will tick every box. It’s deliciously sleepy and ridiculously high on romance. There are extra touches and surprises in store for honeymooners (we won’t say anymore for fear of spoiling the mystery), but mostly, you can be wonderfully, lushuriously alone. Lively it isn’t, so if you’re after an upbeat adventure, look elsewhere, but it’s certainly peaceful par excellence.

For an evening to really remember, try a magic table, possibly our favourite feature. It’s a new development, but it sounds like a real keeper. Here, to celebrate a honeymoon, or indeed, any kind of special occasion, you can book your own private themed meal on the beach – whether it’s Indian, French or traditional Mauritian. A daybed and table hidden between the palm trees will be decorated according to your theme, with twinkling lights strung between palm trees, candles and all kinds of colourful textiles. You can dine in perfect privacy under starry skies while the waves whisper in the background. What, we ask you, could be better?

While the hotel clientele is heavy on the honeymooners, it’s also popular with families, and deservedly so. Kids are welcomed here with open arms, and there is plenty to keep them occupied. The Kids Villa is every child’s dream, a house where toys reach up to the rafters with their very own inflatable-filled pool out back. The caring staff are simply brilliant, elbowing themselves into the hearts of every family with complete ease. Mauritian traditions are woven into each day, with activities like henna painting to give the kids some background on the island culture.

With the kids expertly taken care of, parents can take some serious time out. The spa is a serene setting for some supreme pampering, with a range of traditional Mauritian treatments using local, natural products. If you’re in the mood, you can even try Chinese acupuncture with golden needles. It’s all pretty darn heavenly and certainly not to be missed. Afterwards, you can lie in the sunshine with a glass of lemongrass tea and melt into the pleasures of the good life.

All in all, Sofitel So Mauritius is so much more than a hotel. It’s a state of mind and a rare chance to slow down to a sunny halt. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s pocket of total lushury that you’ll be very hard-pushed to find elsewhere on the planet. Go there. Let go. And love every minute.

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