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The Travel Butlers Blog

Perfect Places to Pop the Question

PaulCampbell - February 14, 2016

The thing about getting hitched these days is that the bar has been set pretty damn high and, let’s face it, getting down on one knee during dinner at your local restaurant just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Now we may be a teeny bit biased here (okay, very biased) but when it comes to what makes an amazing backdrop for a jaw-dropping proposal we think Africa has it all – incredible natural beauty, an air of magic and sunsets to die for.

So we’ve compiled a list of some of THE coolest places to propose that will virtually guarantee an answer in the affirmative and significantly increase your brownie points credit in the process.  Now all that’s left for you to do is to decide when and where to do it…

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-busy-dune-image2074464Stargazing in the Namib Desert One of the best places in the world for stargazing.  Relax in the comfort of your private ‘skybed’ and surprise your partner under a sky filled with a million stars.

Seal the Deal: head to Sossusvlei and climb to the top of the immense Dune 45.  It’s a toughie, but goodie and seeing the sun rise over the blood-orange desert dunes is a moment that will stay with you both forever.  Stay at Little Kulala, quite possibly the most romantic place on earth!

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-wreck-image12546920Where two oceans meet A proposal at the Southern-most tip of Africa will earn you a few good bragging rights and pave the way for an annual pilgrimage in future years to come.  Cape Agulhas is a beautiful stretch of coastline, easily accessible from Cape Town.

Seal the Deal: stop off for an overnight stay in Swellendam and enjoy a spot of wine tasting before heading back to the city.  Stay at De Kloof Luxury Estate or Jan Harmsgat Country House.  Wine tasting can be done at the Robertson wine route.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-hot-air-balloon-over-masai-mara-image6071658Hot air ballooning over the Masai Mara Your intended will be literally blown away by this one!  Experience the Mara with its spectacular wildlife from a totally different aspect and witness a sunrise like no other. Silently breath-taking is the best way to describe this experience.

Seal the Deal: come back to earth with a bump and enjoy a fantastic champagne breakfast to toast the happy event!  Stay at Mara Ngenche Safari Camp for a true ‘Out of Africa’ safari experience (they also make a pretty mean G&T).

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-victoria-falls-bridge-image13139680On a tandem bungee-jump at Victoria Falls If your chosen one is a thrill seeker why not mix this bucket list essential with the most important day of your life?  The spine-tingling thrill of a 120mph, four second free-fall will be nothing compared to hearing yours truly utters the words “I do”!

Seal the deal: keep the adrenaline pumping with a spot of white-water rafting down the Zambezi River.  Stay at Stanley Safari Lodge and kick back, sundowners in hand, to watch an amazing African sunset while you soak it all in.

 

SabiSand-Dreamstime-CopyrightFINALOn safari out in the African bush Those lucky enough to have experienced it will tell you that an African safari has a kind of inexplicable magic.  A sense of space and wildness coupled with mesmerizing sights, sounds and smells is guaranteed to awaken the senses.

Seal the Deal: arrange a night game drive before heading back to your private lodge.  Stay at the exclusive Londolozi Varty Camp or spend a night under the stars in your own luxury treehouse at Lion Sands Narina Lodge.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-table-mountain-summer-image1678888At the summit of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World Take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, with a chilled bottle of South African wine and a couple of glasses.  Expect enthusiastic applause (and a few damp eyes) from the inquisitive tourists who flock there every day.

Seal the deal: book a romantic dinner at The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, overlooking the ocean.  Stay at The Bay in Camps Bay or head back to the city and stay at The Table Bay Hotel (be sure to request a mountain-view room).

 

Breezes-CopyrightFINALOn a tropical island paradise For a truly barefoot proposal stay on the picture-postcard island of Zanzibar and propose at the ocean’s edge.  The icing on the cake will be returning to relive your memories on an African beach and safari honeymoon adventure!

Seal the deal: arrange a magical sunset cruise on board a traditional dhow. Stay at The Palms, an exclusive and intimate getaway which is the epitome of romance.

The Travel Butlers Top Ten of … Reasons to Go To Africa Soon

TraceyCampbell - June 10, 2015

Can you believe we are half-way through the year already – it seems like only yesterday I was hanging my stocking out for Santa!

So with 2015 well under way, and 2016 rapidly approaching, now might be the time to tick a few things off your Africa bucket list.

Reason 1 to Go To Africa – Going on Safari in the Kruger National Park
We are now in the middle of the winter months in the Kruger, and this is a wonderful time for guests to visit here. Not only are these months cool and dry, but they are possibly the best for game viewing.

Water is scarcer, so the animals are more reliant on waterholes or rivers, which means greater game viewing opportunities around these areas. Although the vegetation around these areas remains lush, the grass elsewhere becomes much drier and shorter, making it easier to spot the wildlife.

Whilst the daily temperatures range from 9 degrees C to 26 degrees C, the early mornings and nights can get very cold – so our advice is to take plenty of layers with you and even consider taking scarves, hats and gloves!

Several lodges also are running Stay/Pay packages too – which coupled with the Rand exchange rate at the moment means superb value for money!

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Reason 2 to Go To Africa – Whale Watching
The first of the whales are already starting to arrive into Hermanus, the whale-watching ‘capital’ of the Western Cape. The peak time, when daily sightings are virtually guaranteed, is during September and October, so availability over these months in the various guest houses and hotels in Hermanus is already getting scarce – so do move quickly if you want to include this in your holiday over this time.

We normally recommend 2 nights in Hermanus, which not only gives you the opportunity of going on an early morning whale watching boat trip, but also gives you the chance to enjoy the whale watching from the land – good whale watching vantage points are from the Old Harbour wall, or from the 12 km cliff path. Another great spot to watch the whales is at Bientang’s Cave restaurant, where from your table you can watch the whales frolic not more than 100m away in the Old Harbour.

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Reason 3 to Go To Africa – The Greatest Show on Earth
The famous, awe-inspiring Great Migration is now fully on the move. Often referred to as the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, the million or so wildebeest and accompanying zebra and gazelles are now in the Central Serengeti, heading rapidly towards Western Corridor and the Grumeti River, the first of the river crossings, where the local crocodiles have already started licking their lips in anticipation of a few freebie dinners…

dreamstime 28033753 MARA RIVER CROSSING

Reason 4 to Go To Africa – Mokoro Adventures
The Okavango Delta is filling rapidly with flood waters, so if you have always fancied the idea of floating through the reeds in a mokoro, the next few months is THE time to go to Botswana. Traditionally hand-carved from an ebony or sausage tree log, these shallow canoes are perfect for gliding through the calm waters in search of wildlife. A poler stands at the back of the mokoro so all you have to do is relax, look out for the wildlife and enjoy the experience.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-mokoro-boat-image15452549

Reason 5 to Go To Africa – White Water Rafting down the Zambezi
You could argue that there is no ‘bad’ time to visit one of the 7 Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls, but between July and September is one of the most popular times for visitors, because many people combine a trip here with a safari in Kruger. For adventure seekers, August through to December are also the best/only months to go white water rafting, as this activity is not run when the river is in full flood.

In addition, the new runway and terminal expansion at Victoria Falls Airport is imminent now, which will be an added boost for tourism to the Falls, as more international airlines will be able to fly directly here.

dreamstimelarge_29187662

Reason 6 to Go To Africa – Flower Power
September is the wild flower season in SA’s Namaqualand – an extraordinary spectacle of nature which turns the otherwise uninspiring landscape into a beautiful blanket of colour.

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Reason 7 to Go To Africa – Gorilla Trekking
July through to September are the most popular months to trek gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. These months fall immediately inbetween the main rainy seasons (though remember that the gorillas live in rainforests, so as the name suggests, be prepared for rain at any time!) but the real plus point are the fantastic low season permit rates – USD 350 per person per trek compared to USD 600 per person per trek outside of these months – what a fantastic saving! This almost means you can spend twice as long here (woman’s logic – what you save you can therefore immediately spend again…). Bwindi is home to almost half of the world’s surviving mountain wild gorilla population, but it is not just gorillas you can expect to see on your morning trek – watch out for duikers, bushbuck, monkeys, giant forest hogs and forest elephants, as well as a host of bird species.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-wild-gorilla-image2523984

Reason 8 to Go To Africa – Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters Flock Back in their Hundreds
These stunning African migrant birds return to their homeland and set up breeding colonies along river banks. Some of the best sightings are in South Luangwa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Some colonies can have over 10,000 birds.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-southern-carmine-bee-eater-image18390547

Reason 9 to Go To Africa – Turtle Safaris in KwaZulu-Natal
Witnessing literally hundreds of tiny new-born baby turtles making a mad dash for the ocean is not something you get to see every day. Only 2 breeds of Maputaland turtles lay their eggs on the KwaZulu-Natal shores – the Leatherback and Loggerhead.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-newly-hatched-baby-turtle-toward-ocean-image22466773

Reason 10 to Go To Africa – Namibia
A trip to Namibia is an adventure that can be done anytime of the year, in all honesty. Namibia is a beautiful country, with endless highlights – the red sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the wild desert elephants in Damaraland, the stunning Etosha National Park…You can drive for hours and encounter only a couple of cars on the road, making you seem magically and wonderfully alone in a barely-discovered Africa. Namibia is far more than just a holiday destination – it’s somewhere really special that is guaranteed to leave you wide-eyed and open-mouthed.

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Now if these aren’t Reasons to Be Cheerful – Part 3 – I don’t know what is…(only people over a certain age will understand this reference!).

All images copyright of TravelButlers via Dreamstime.com
#takemethere

South Africa Relax Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements

TraceyCampbell - February 6, 2015

It has been a good week for Zambia tourism!

On Saturday, following the World Health Assembly on Friday in Geneva, the South African Department of Health agreed to lift the yellow fever vaccination requirement for travellers entering South Africa from Zambia. The new ruling was effective immediately.

This decision came after the World Health Organisation officially confirmed that Zambia has a low yellow fever potential exposure status – which means that anyone now travelling to Zambia, be it for a short visit to the iconic Victoria Falls or to go on safari in Luangwa, Kafue or Lower Zambezi, no longer needs to carry a yellow fever vaccination certificate.

Tourism to Zambia has undoubtely suffered a bit over the past few years. Let’s be honest, the yellow fever vaccination is relatively expensive – I had one 2 years ago and said goodby to £80 – ouch (and ouch for the jab too, as it hurt a lot!). Many tourists who wanted to include a 2 night ‘bolt on’ trip to the Victoria Falls after their safari holiday in South Africa felt the same – and rather than not to go the Falls, they chose to stay on the Zimbabwe side instead.

For those wanting to combine South Africa with seeing the Victoria Falls from the Zambia side, you need to fly into Livingstone, which is serviced daily with direct flights from Johannesburg, taking just over 2 hours. Or, if you are ending your trip in SA with a safari in the Kruger National Park, you can also fly directly to Livingstone from Kruger Mpumalanga/Nelspruit (airport code MQP) on certain days. Which means you can begin your day with breakfast at your safari lodge overlooking the bush and end your day on an evening sunset cruise on the Zambezi! I could think of worst ways to start and end a day!

UNIVISA Launched Today

TraceyCampbell - November 28, 2014

Today, Friday 28th November, sees the launch of the new tourist Kavango Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA) UNIVISA – but let’s just call it the UNIVISA for ease!

I must say, the team at Travel Butlers are very excited about this. The UNIVISA is a comon tourist visa, which during its pilot launch (lasting 6 months), will enable tourists planning to visit Zimbabwe and Zambia to purchase just one visa, which will cover travel to both countries.  PLUS it also covers day trips into Botswana too.

So now, visitors wanting to stay on one side of Victoria Falls, and pop over the border to see the Falls from the other side, do not have to worry about expensive double entry visas.  What a result!  And what a boom for Victoria Falls tourism prospects, too.

The UNIVISA is available at the following 8 ports of entry across both countries:

Zimbabwe: Harare International Airport; Victoria Falls International Airport; Victoria Falls Land Border (to enter Zambia) and Kazangula Land Border (to enter Botswana).

Zambia: Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (Lusaka); Harry Mwaanga International Airport (Livingstone); Victoria Falls Land Border (to enter Zimbabwe) and Kazangula Land Border (to enter Botswana).

The UNIVISA costs US$50 (subject to change), payable in cash only. It will be valid for 30 days as long as you remain in Zimbabwe and Zambia, so you can cross between Zimbabwe and Zambia as frequently as you like within the period. As mentioned, it also covers those who wish to visit Botswana for a day trip through the Kazangula Land Border.

Citizens from the following 40 countries listed below are eligible for the UNIVISA:

United Kingdom; United States of America; Canada; Australia; New Zealand; Belgium; France; Monaco; Italy; Portugal; Netherlands; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Norway; Poland; Germany; Austria; Liechtenstein; Luxembourg; Czech Republic; Denmark; Finland; Greece; Hungary; Iceland; Argentina; Brazil; Brunei; Burundi; Cook Islands; Israel; Japan; Puerto Rico; Russia; Rwanda; Slovakia Republic; Slovenia Republic; UAE and Uruguay.

When you arrive at the port of entry, you will be directed to a dedicated counter where the special visa will be issued.

If you are a passport holder from another country, however, please contact your local Zambia or Zimbabwe High Commission or Embassy for up-to-date visa requirements.The normal visa is issued at any Zambia/Zimbabwe Embassy, or can be issued on arrival at an entry point. Please note that visas will also be required in this case for additional entries into neighbouring countries for day trips.

Please note that the current visa processes for Zambia and Zimbabwe are still available for any passport holder, however  we believe that the new UNIVISA will definately be a more cost effective and efficient way forward for every tourist.

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Zambia/Zimbabwe and have sufficient blank pages for entry/exit stamps.

Also, please note that if you are planning to enter South Africa before or after you visit Zambia or Zimbabwe, you should be aware that while South African authorities state officially that only one blank passport page is required for entry, some officials insist on 2 blank pages. Please therefore make sure you have an additional 2 blank pages in your passport if you are travelling through South Africa.

PLEASE NOTE: Travel Butlers have made every effort to ensure that the information displayed here is correct and accurate, but the onus still remains with the traveller to verify the information with their local Zambia/Zimbabwe High Commission or Embassy.

Should this initial pilot with the Zambia/Zimbabwe UNIVISA be a success, the plan is to then roll it out to include Angola, Botswana and Namibia, making travel between these SADC countries much easier.  The plan ongoing is that more countries will join the UNIVISA initiative at a later stage.

Travel Butlers’ Top 5 Travel Destinations For 2014

PaulCampbell - December 31, 2013

Every nook and cranny of Africa is packed with magic, from coast to coast and corner to corner. It’s totally timeless and full of eye-opening, heart-warming surprises at every turn. On safari in Africa, you’ll be a tiny presence in a land that’s larger than life, dwarfed by vast plains, mist-shrouded mountains, thundering falls and huge herds crossing the savanna. It’s bound to give you a whole new perspective and keep you coming back for more.

If you’ve never been to Africa before, now is the perfect time to sneak it onto your list of New Year’s Resolutions as a late addition. Waking up to the sounds of the bush, watching elephant roam at dusk and seeing playful lion cubs rough’n’tumble on the savanna will be something that stays with you forever. We know from experience that it will be life-changing and we guarantee that by the end of the year, you’ll be as hooked as we are! So here’s to 2014, the year of African adventures!

Choosing where to go in Africa is an altogether more tricky affair. The possibilities are almost as endless as the views over the Great Rift Valley. But fear not – help is at hand! We’ve been prowling high and low to find the best tips for visiting Africa in 2014. Here’s our Travel Butlers Top Five guide, from morning game drives to mountain gorillas and majestic falls.

1. Kruger National Park

Kruger

If you’re an animal lover or nature nut, Kruger is the place for you, with some of the best game viewing on the entire continent. Take sundowner safaris through the bush, sleep under a canopy of stars in a tented camp and get totally lost in a world of wild romance. If a Kruger safari has been forever on your wishlist but out of your financial reach, 2014 is the perfect time to go. As an added bonus, the South African currency is currently weak, making Kruger an amazing experience at amazing value for money!

2. The Great Migration in Kenya or Tanzania

GreatMigration

The Great Migration is something that has to be seen to be believed. It’s just impossible to imagine the immense sight or the deafening sound of 1.5 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras and 350,000 gazelles charging across the plains. Every single year, millions of hooves create an epic rumble and kick up a vast swirl of dust on the savanna as the greatest herd on earth travels to greener pastures. There just aren’t words to describe the feeling of seeing this firsthand. It’s incredible, humbling, hair-on-end stuff and we can’t recommend it highly enough for 2014 – or indeed for any other year!

3. Cape Town

CapeTown

Cities just don’t come better than Cape Town. With a coastline to die for, a remarkable cultural history and the magnificent backdrop of Table Mountain, it combines stunning natural beauty with a truly cosmopolitan buzz. The Lonely Planet has rated Cape Town of one of its Top Ten Cities for 2014, and we couldn’t agree more. Not only this, but 2014 marks the 20th Anniversary of the end of Apartheid, so go this year to honour the great Nelson Mandela and join a national celebration of hard-fought freedom and tolerance.

4. Mountain Gorillas and Chimps in East Africa

GorillasAndChimps

Trekking through tropical forest to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is a truly privileged, awe-inspiring affair. It’s something that few travellers are lucky enough to experience and, with only around 650 gorillas currently left in existence, it’s becoming rarer and rarer by the day. Visiting these extremely endangered silverbacks in north west Rwanda and Uganda is a great way to support their future, and right now they need your support more than ever. What better reason could there possibly be to travel?

5. Victoria Falls

VictoriaFalls

Thundering, roaring, cascading, bubbling, spraying – Victoria Falls has a life all of its own.  This is Mother Nature at her mightiest and 2014 is a great time to see her in all of her glory. Troubles in Zimbabwe have been steadily smoothing over and the introduction of the US dollar has made visiting the Zimbabwean side of the falls more economical, which has prompted The Lonely Planet to feature Victoria Falls on its Top Ten Regions for 2014. Moreover, Zimbabwe is planning to create what it calls a ‘Disneyland for Africa‘ next to the falls, so we implore you to get there now before it turns into a glitzy tourist playground!

So, there you have it – our top Africa tips for 2014. We hope this inspires you to set off on your very own African adventure for 2014 and we’re always here if you need a hand with the planning.

As Hemingway famously said, “I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy”. Wherever you choose in Africa, you can’t go far wrong. In other words – hakuna matata! Happy 2014 to one and all!

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