Tailor-made Holidays

Tailor-made Holidays

Travel Butlers will ensure you have a fantastic holiday that is tailored to your individual interests and budget.

Safari and Beach

Safari and Beach

Combine Africa's amazing wildlife with the white sand beaches and crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean for the perfect holiday

Holidays in South Africa

Holidays in South Africa

Cosmopolitan cities, stunning wildlife and deserted beaches - South Africa has it all.

Tanzania Safari And Beach

Tanzania Safari And Beach

Migrating wildebeest, idyllic palm-fringed beaches, and snow-capped mountains ... these could be YOUR Tanzania holiday memories!

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African Safari And Beach Holiday News.

The Travel Butlers Blog

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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Saruni Ocean – Kenya’s Latest Offering

TraceyCampbell - December 1, 2014

Kenya has certainly had a rough ride this year, but one company thankfully has the foresight and investment to believe that tourism will recover.

The new Saruni Ocean is due to open this month, and is the latest edition to the Saruni safari family, offering a complete solution for couples and families looking for a traditional safari and beach combo holiday.

Situated on the southern coast of Kenya, this luxury beach lodge occupies a prime position overlooking the beautiful and deserted Msambweni Beach.  There are 18 air-conditioned suites in total, split between 7 individual ‘houses’.  Each suite has its own private entrance, making your stay here totally private.

If you are feeling socialable, wander up to the main lodge areas and relax around the infinity pool, or for those in need of some pamper time, visit the Sarunity Thermae & Spa for a reinvigorating thalassotherapy treatment using the natural elements from the ocean.

Go snorkelling or diving, wander along the 6 km of white sandy beach (without worrying that you will be harrassed by beach vendors), visit traditional local villages, try your hand at big game fishing, or do a trip out to the nearby Funzi Island, the green sea turtle’s favourite nesting site.  If you haven’t had enough of a safari fix, you can also visit the Shimba Hills National Reserve to spot elephant, sable antelope and buffalo.

Only a short drive (20 km) from the Diani/Ukunda Airstrip, guests can fly here from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport if you want to start with your beach downtime, or if you are looking to end with time on the beach, you can fly directly from your safari in the Masai Mara – either way, you do not have to pass through the busy Mombasa Airport at all.  Flights back to Nairobi depart from the airstrip in the late afternoon, leaving you with a glorious last morning to spend on the beach before you battle with the masses at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as you check in for your international flight home.

We would like to wish everyone at Saruni Ocean all the very best for their new venture, and we look forward to sending Travel Butlers guests to you very soon.

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Family Safaris – Top Tips for Taking The Kids On Safari

Paul Campbell - April 7, 2014

Safaris are not just for big kids – far from it! Little kids will go wild for the wildlife in Africa, so a family safari is a fantastic, fun-packed experience for all. Watching the eyes of your children widen with excitement as they encounter their first elephant and hearing them giggle as the vervets get up to some monkey business in the treetops is just wonderful. These are precious moments for any parent and your kids will be buzzing from their bush adventures for weeks on end.

So travelling with kids actually doubles the magic of Africa, as you’ll see it all once from your own perspective and twice through the shocked reactions of your little ones. You’ll be spellbound by their open-mouthed astonishment and amused by their total amazement. They might even be rendered speechless for a while – a rare occurrence no doubt!

Not only that, but there’s a whole lot for kids to learn on safari, from identifying animal tracks to understanding the habits of the wildlife in Africa. This makes it an excellent educational adventure for your cheeky monkeys and they’ll feel as though their storybooks have come alive before their very eyes! It’s heart-swelling stuff and we can’t recommend it highly enough.

If you do decide to jump in a jeep and head off a family safari in Africa, we have a few bite-sized chunks of advice that will help you have the holiday of a lifetime. We’ve been around the safari block more times than we can remember, so we ought to know a thing or two! This is what we’ve picked up from our years in the Big Five business about taking your youngsters out in the wild. We hope our tips set you on course for a truly show-stopping safari.

Kids safari at Kwandwe Kids on safari

1.OLDER IS WISER
It is understandably tempting to take your toddlers on safari, but from our reams of family feedback, we’ve found that children just slightly older get far more out of a safari than really little ones. If you can manage to wait until they hit the age of 6yrs or so, you’ll find your family experience a thousand times more rewarding. There’s no need to rush it while they’re tiny.

This is partly down to general lodge policy, which often states that only children over 6yrs can join adult game drives. For kids under this age, a four hour game drive is just too long and demands more stillness and silence than you can reasonably ask from really little ones. Safaris can also become boring for kids, as there are plenty of moments when you need to sit quietly and wait for some animal magic to happen. Sudden noise can compromise safety and scare the animals away, so it’s not such a great set up for toddlers.

2. START WITH SOUTH AFRICA OR KENYA
These two destinations are hugely popular with families, and for very good reason. If you’re a first-timer to family safaris, these are superb spots to try before heading anywhere more challenging.

There are a handful of brilliant Big Five game reserves across South Africa that are completely free from malaria. This is a massive draw for anyone travelling with their little clan in tow. By opting for one of these reserves, you don’t have to worry about malaria medication and you can take the odd mosquito bite in your stride. Being parents, you’ll already have 101 things to think about before heading to the airport, so at least this will take one thing off your plate.

Kenya and South Africa also have a wide range of reserves and lodges that welcome children with open arms, and this makes all the difference when you’re taking your kids on safari. The more family-friendly the lodge, the more they’ll keep your kids entertained and occupied with all kinds of bush activities. This means that you’ll get more time to yourselves as parents and, after all, it’s your holiday too! Doing some research about family lodges beforehand and choosing one that really loves children will completely pay off in the end.

3. GET WITH THE KIDS PROGRAMME
Across South Africa and Kenya, there’s a smattering of safari lodges with excellent programmes for kids. While you take a well deserved break at the pool between game drives, your children can set off some ‘bush bumbles’ that will get their eyes popping and set their minds spinning. Afterwards, your kids will be a-buzz with tales from their mini bush adventures and your batteries will be blissfully recharged. What could be better?

Kids programmes provide a huge assortment of activities that are both educational and entertaining for children – every parent’s dream. They involve nature walks to spot insects around the lodge, junior tracking courses with unmissable chances to pick up zebra poo (!) and themed bush picnics. Often, there are cooking lessons for budding chefs to whip up cookies, as well as traditional storytelling about ‘Why The Elephant Has A Trunk’ or ‘Why The Warthog Is So Ugly’.

We recommending choosing a lodge with a really active and engaging kids programme, as you’ll find that the whole family benefits in the end. Your children will be happy, you’ll be relaxed and you’ll all be eager to run straight back to the bush on your next holiday.

4. KNOW WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
Small children are not naturally made for the rhythm of safari life, which is packed with very early mornings and late afternoon game drives. While it’s wonderful for a few days, it definitely disrupts family routine, so it’s important to recognise when enough is enough.

Your kids will love the excitement of their safari experience, but the dawn wake up calls will take their toll after a couple of days. We normally recommend safaris of one to three days for families with children under the age of ten. This is just enough time to feel the magic of a Big Five safari without your rug rats getting ratty and overtired. It’s the perfect middle ground.

5. GO FOR CAPE TOWN AND THE GARDEN ROUTE
A trip along Garden Route ending with a Big Five safari is a killer combination for little kids. The Garden Route is natural playground for children, so it’s a perfect place for a family adventure. As you drive along the stunningly scenic coastline, your little ones can monkey around in Monkeyland, enjoy interactive elephant experiences, wander amongst tropical birds, cuddle baby cheetahs, stay on a working ostrich farms and spot dolphins in the surf. The list just goes on and on!

The Garden Route really is the stuff of family holiday fantasies, and topping the trip off with a Big Five safari in one of the malaria-free reserves of the Eastern Cape will be the icing on the cake. So, if you’re in doubt about where to take your youngsters this year, go for the Garden Route. It’s a real treat for big kids and little kids alike.

So that’s it – our top five tips for a first-class family safari. It goes without saying that if you need a hand choosing a lodge or a chat about any parental concerns, we’ll be right on the end of the phone. Feel free to give us a call on 0044 1932 428380 and we’ll help in any we can.

5 Reasons to visit Hazyview in Mpumalanga

TraceyCampbell - October 4, 2012

Not many people really consider Hazyview as a key holiday destination, but we think that should change!  Why?  Well, here are our Top 5 reasons why anyone should include a night or two here.

The Kruger National Park – need I say any more?  Hazyview is a mere 15 minute drive from the Phalabeni Gate into the Park, or about an hour tops to the main Paul Kruger Gate, so ideally placed for a day visit on a self-drive safari in this famous Park.

The Kruger National Park is the premier self-drive safari destination in South Africa, with an unbeatable variety of wildlife and habitats to explore, an excellent infrastructure of roads and accommodation, and a feeling of huge, wide-open spaces.  Self-drive in Kruger is a wonderful experience – the thrill of driving along a road by yourself and coming across a pride of lions basking under a nearby tree, or waiting at a peaceful waterhole and having a sighting all to yourself is hard to beat.  Inside the Park, there is an excellent infrastructure of roads, some of which are tarred, others gravel. Good, clear signposts help to make the driving experience easy and enjoyable.

Panarama Route – the highly promoted ‘Panorama Route‘ is a self-drive route, which can be done from Hazyview in a day, and this route takes in many of the scenic sights, which include:

The Blyde River Canyon – estimated to be 60 million years old, and is over 25 km long and up to 800m wide in places. The Reserve is a spectacularly beautiful area, with many waterfalls, lush forest areas, and fascinating geological formations sculptured by years of erosion.

Bourke’s Luck Potholes – spectacular smooth sided cylindrical potholes have been carved naturally into the rock bed of the river, some of which are 30m (100ft) deep.

The Three Rondavels – an impressive and much-photographed rock formation, which rise out of the canyon.

God’s Window – offering stunning panoramic views over the Lowveld as far as the Kruger National Park.

The traditional villages of Shangana – home to families who invite guests to experience their culture and way of life.

Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centrea sanctuary for injured, abandoned and poisoned birds and other wildlife, and a must for anyone interested in raptors and birds of prey.  Wildlife is brought to the centre from all corners of South Africa, and once healthy enough are re-introduced into their natural environments.  Animals who cannot be returned to the wild for any reason are cared for at the centre.

Hoedspruit Endangered Species Foundationthis is a unique project that conducts essential research on endangered species, and provides visitors with the opportunity to view animals, such as wild dog and cheetah, that have found a home here within natural surroundings.  The tours are an educational experience, but as well also emphasise the important role that everyone has to play in the conservation of South Africa’s wildlife.

And finally, you need a place to stay, so our recommendation is Rissington Inn – a great guest house, that we have worked with now since we very first started Travel Butlers.   Just on the outskirts of Hazyview, Rissington is the perfect place to base yourself to explore the area.

Going on Safari – At the Start or the End of your Trip?

TraceyCampbell - September 11, 2012

One of the more frequent questions we get asked by our customers when they are in the early stages of planning their safari holiday is ‘Should we do the safari at the start or the end of the trip?’.

It is, of course, a personal decision and choice, but I always tend to advise doing the safari at the end of a trip.

If you are like me, and you hold down a full time job, then I can guarantee that in the week/2 week build up to your holiday, you will be frantically scrabbling around in the office place, trying to finish all those tasks that suddenly just cannot wait until you return from your holiday.  Rather than enjoying the build up to your holiday, you end up actually cursing the fact that you have this time off, and the thought may fleetingly cross your mind ‘Dammit, if only I wasn’t going away…’

Or else you are trying to sort out the rest of the family in terms of what they want to take, you are faced with a mountain of washing that needs to be done, laundered AND ironed before you head off into the sun, you may have to arrange petcare for the dog or the cat, remember to empty and clean the fridge before you leave… let’s face it, unless you are a 5 year old child who only has to worry about which teddy bear to bring along with you, as an adult the build up to the holiday can be quite stressful!

The majority of the flights to South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania tend to be overnight, so at least once you get on the plane and settle into your seat, there is the opportunity to catch a few hours kip as your natural body clock will be telling you that you should be closing your eyes and drifting off to the land of nod – providing you can ignore the sound of the jet engines.  And hopefully the person next to you is well behaved rather than constantly elbowing you in the ribs, or the person in the seat behind doesn’t have twitchy leg syndrome and is therefore constantly kicking your chair.

When you land in your safari country, if you have not slept very well, the chances are all you will want to do is get to a hotel, put your head down on a cool pillow in a comfy air-conditioned room, and just sleep for the rest of the day.  Then wake up in time to go out for a nice dinner, a relaxing few drinks, then head straight back to the same pillow and bed, for a proper nights sleep.   By which time, you have caught up on all the sleep you need, and you are ready to start your holiday proper.  For some people, it may also take a few days to just relax into the routine of being on holiday, rather than a work routine.

A safari will, no doubt, be one, if not THE, main highlight of your holiday.  Seeing lions and leopards close too, having a baby elephant mock charge your vehicle in an attempt to make themselves look big and threatening whilst all the time about the size and cuteness of Dumbo, or watching hippos wallow in the water are memories that will last with you a lifetime, and for some, they are once-in-a-lifetime experience.  You want to make sure you are fully refreshed and alert by the time you arrive at your safari destination, in order to really make the most of your few days on safari.

Especially if you are staying in a private lodge, the safari experience can be quite ‘full on’.  The very first time we went on safari was a lot of years ago, to Savanna Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sands Reserve in South Africa, and I was just not prepared at all for how little time I actually had ‘on my own’.  All lodges are different, of course, but each one tends to offer the same sort of structure.  You find yourself with other guests for breakfast, lunch, high tea, and dinner, not to mention the 3 hour game drives or the bush walks, so you do have to be prepared to be sociable most of the day!   The drives, whilst exciting and exhilarating, are on dusty bumpy roads, so you can get a bit of a bone shaking too!

And did I mention the 5am wake up calls, as you tend to head out on your first game drive by about 6am, as the animals are most active then before the sun gets higher in the sky and the temperatures start to soar.  And the obligatory sitting around the open fire after dinner, having a few drinks, and suddenly realising that it is nearly midnight and you have to be up again in 5 hours time…?

So really, in all honesty, the more refreshed and relaxed you are by the time you arrive at your safari lodge, the better the experience will be for you – and your fellow guests and the lodge staff too!

Don’t get me wrong, being on safari is also incredibly relaxing – you do not have to lift a finger at all to do anything apart from order your next sundowner drink, you can abdicate all responsibility for driving and finding the wildlife to your tracker and ranger, and inbetween game drives, walks and eating, you can relax around the pool or in your room, and just listen to the pure sounds of nature and the bush.  And let your mind drift to thinking about absolutely nothing.

And what better way to end your holiday than going on a game drive the morning you are leaving, and seeing that elusive leopard for the first time, or sitting watching a pride of lions regally basking in the morning light.  Knowing that in 24 hours time, you will be landing at your home airport and back to the reality of normal life again.   It really is the perfect way to finish off a holiday.

If you are thinking about going on safari, and want to know more about what it is like to stay at a private safari lodge, you can read more about it here:

https://www.travelbutlers.com/safari/what-to-expect-from-a-private-safari-lodge.asp

Of course, everyone is different.  You may feel that the excitement of going on safari is too much to bear, so it has to be done at the start of the trip.  Neither way is right or wrong, it is just all down to personal preference.

What do you think?