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Birds of a Feather

The unsung avian heroes of pollination. The bulk of our Southern African flowering species of plants (some 80% of the total) relies on insects as their primary pollen vectors.

We generally associate bees with pollination and rightfully so as they do make up the largest and probably the most important group of insect pollinators. However, there is a vast array of other insects including butterflies and moths that make an enormous contribution to flower pollination some having complex mutualisms including rewards to the pollinator. A few rare species of aloe are solely dependent on insects for pollination.

There is also a significant number of flowering plants in South Africa (estimated to be between (2% and 4% depending on the size and diversity of a particular regions’ floral kingdom) that have adapted to bird pollination. They supply copious amounts of nectar to feeding birds and all they ask for in return is that their pollen is spread far and wide to ensure successful pollination. It is amazing how certain genera or even groups of genera have become specialized to accommodate pollination by birds. 

Unlike the nectarivores of the new world like hummingbirds which can hover and are able to extract nectar from long straight tubular flowers our sunbirds need to perch when feeding. This requirement has resulted in most of our bird-pollinated flowers having slightly, curved and downward facing tubes and rigid stems to accommodate dedicated nectarivores like the sunbirds and sugarbirds.  There has been a long-standing belief that sunbirds are the only avian species that pollinate our trees and flowers.

While the aforementioned species probably make up the most important contribution to pollination, there is
a large group of about 70 known species of occasional nectarivores that make a significant contribution to pollination in South Africa.

Researchers have found that deep narrow tubular flowers are generally the ones visited by dedicated avian nectarivores while the wider and shorter tubular flowers are the ones pollinated by occasional nectarivores, an adaption to their shorter bills and tongues. This makes sense as when they do happen to visit short tubular flowers there is no transfer of pollen from the reproductive parts of the flower onto their heads and as a result, they provide no benefit to the flower at all.

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Zanzibar

Zanzibar - Island of sultans, slaves and spices

Visit Zanzibar and take a step back in time to a colonial Africa of Omani palaces, trading dhows and spice plantations. - Story and images by Justin Fox

ZANZIBAR. THE NAME ALONE IS A CALL TO THE EXOTIC, SEDUCTIVE AND TROPICAL. THIS AFRICAN ISLAND HAS A FLAMBOYANT HISTORY FILLED WITH SULTANS AND SLAVES, ARABIAN PRINCESSES AND THE STORY OF SPICES. TODAY, IT’S ONE OF EAST AFRICA’S FOREMOST TOURIST DESTINATION INCREASINGLY POPULAR WITH SOUTH AFRICANS.

My partner and I flew in to explore the island on a 10-day visit, staying on the east, west and north coasts, as well as in the capital, Stone Town. First up, was a lovely, small hotel in the northeast near the village of Matemwe. Azanzi was all wooden decks, makuti (palm-frond) roofs and hammocks, set on a sweep of beach where locals launched their ngalawas (outrigger canoes) and set sail for the outer reefs.

We spent our days lounging beside the pool sipping freshly-squeezed tropical juices or using the hotel’s mountain bikes to explore the beaches. When the tide was low, we walked or kayaked out to the bar-rier reef, where women scavenged for marine titbits. It was the rainy season and bruised thunderheads towered above, occasionally shower-ing us with hot rain. The play of light in the shallows and the sky was mesmerising.

Scubafish is a diving outfit based at Azanzi. We joined them for a trip to Mnemba Atoll and a day of snorkelling and diving. Our dhow anchored in turquoise water and I tipped over the side, descending to 16 metres where the reef teemed with lion fish, scorpion fish, moray eels, nudibranches and giant group-ers. In the deeper water, I spotted Napoleon wrasses, blue-fin trevallies and clouds of dancing bat fish.

Next, we moved to glamorous Sea Cliff on the west coast. This is a large resort-and-spa complex set in tropical gardens with rim-flow pools, a gazebo on stilts in the sea and terraces for relaxing and dining. Unique for Zanzibar, the resort also offers horse riding and golf.

The design and landscaping are elegant, with Arabian-style towers, makuti roofs and rolling lawns dot-ted with coconut palms. Buffet din-ners were themed, allowing guests to sample everything from Swahili to Italian. We managed to pack in a range of activities, including catamaran sailing and horse riding on the beach (the team running this professional outfit are from KwaZulu-Natal, so too the horses).

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Victoria Falls

MOSI-OA-TUNYA - The mighty smoke that thunders

“Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight” David Livingstone. Victoria Falls, rated as one of the most impressive waterfalls in the world; one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World; a bucket-list destination for many.

Victoria Falls is the single largest curtain of falling water in the world. With views of the mist rising from the gorge below the falls visible as you come in to land at Victoria Falls Airport, Zimbabwe, you know that you are about to witness one of the greatest natural spectacles in the world.

David Livingstone, a Scottish Missionary, and explorer is believed to have been the first European to view the falls back in November 1855. He and approximately 200 men pulled their canoes up on a small island, now known as Livingstone Island. They lay on their tummies, on the lip of the falls, and gazed down in wonder and awe at the raging torrent of water and magi-cal rainbows.

Zambian or Zimbabwean side

While we flew into Victoria Falls Airport, Zimbabwe, which is a short 90-minute flight from OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, the falls are also easily accessible from the Zambian side. Daily flights are available from Johannesburg into both Victoria Falls Airport and Livingstone Airport, with the falls being just a short road transfer away.

One-third of the falls lies on the Zambian side, along with Livingstone Island. The Knife-edge footbridge on the Zambian side allows you to experience the falls from a unique perspective, getting you to within 100 meters of the face of the falls. You are also able to walk down the gorge to the bottom of the falls on the Zambian side. However because the gorge determines how far you can walk your view of the falls is also limited.

With two-thirds of the falls being visible from the Zimbabwean side, you have a complete view of the falls from the Victoria Falls Bridge.

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Zambezi Queen - A Royal Experience

Considered by many as the ultimate houseboat experience, the Zambezi Queen provides its guests with five-star service, on board a five-star vessel and offers a five-star african safari experience. - Story by Liz Cox

We arrived at Kasane Immigration after a pleas-ant 90 min road transfer from Victoria Falls. Kasane International Airport, Botswana, is serviced by daily flights from OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg, making it easily accessible from South Africa.

As a first time visitor to this part of Botswana, the cus-toms and immigration formalities proved quite daunting and confusing at first as we tried to figure out if we were in Botswana or Namibia. Thankfully the Zambezi Queen staff were on hand as soon as we arrived at Kasane Immigration to assist us with immigration formalities.

The Chobe River forms the border between the Chobe National Park in Botswana and Namibia with one-half of the river belonging to Botswana and the other half to Namibia.

The Zambezi Queen’s mooring points are situated in the backwaters on the Namibian side of the river so once Kasane formalities were complete, we stepped straight onto an awaiting tender boat and were whisked off to the Namibian Immigration office further upstream, to complete immigra-tion formalities there; you can see why it gets confusing.

A Royal Welcome

“Her Majesty’s” loyal subjects welcomed us onboard with sing-ing and dancing as we drew up alongside her starboard side after a short tender boat transfer from Namibian immigration.

The Queen, as she is fondly known, has three decks. The upper deck is where you’ll find comfortable couches and arms chairs strategically placed in front of the floor to ceiling sliding glass doors; each window providing a different, unobstructed view of the beautiful African landscape depending on where you sit. The bar, dining room, splash pool and sundecks are also located on this deck.

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Glamping

Glamping - It’s all about the glamour

FOR MANY THE THOUGHT OF CAMPING CONJURES UP AN IMAGE OF SPENDING HOURS TRYING TO PITCH A TENT ONLY TO REALISE YOU’VE LEFT THE TENT POLES AT HOME. SPENDING ANOTHER HOUR BLOWING UP WHAT THINK TO BE A NICE COMFY MATTRESS TO SLEEP ON, ONLY TO HAVE IT DEFLATE DURING THE NIGHT LEAVING YOU LYING ON A COLD HARD FLOOR AND NEEDING TO TAKE A TRIP TO THE PHYSIO WHEN YOU WAKE UP BECAUSE YOUR BACK HAS GONE INTO SPASM.

If you love camping but wish you had a few of your home’s creature comforts to make it more comfortable, then glamping is the answer. Glamping takes the pain out of traditional camping and offers a wonderful way to experi-ence the great outdoors without sacrificing luxury.

Glamping is not a new trend. It can, in fact, be traced back all the way to the sixteenth century when the Scottish Duke of Atholl invited King James V and his mother to come and spend some time with him in lavish tents he had erected in the Scottish Highlands. The tents, complete with all the con-veniences and luxuries of his palace, provided the King with a luxurious glamping experience.

Fast forward centuries later and glamping is once again becoming increasingly popular with travellers who are looking to fuse the adventure and escapism of traditional camping with the luxuries they would find if they visited a plush hotel or resort.

Glamping accommodation ranges from luxurious safari-style tents to secluded tree houses, romantic old fashioned Airstream trailers and luxuriously refurbished train carriages. The options are endless.

Glamping rewards you, not only with unique accommoda-tion but fantastic views, and secluded landscapes with oppor-tunities to relax in comfortable beds, take luxurious bubble baths, indulge in spa treatments or escape to your own private beach.

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Franschoek

One of the oldest towns in South Africa, dating back to 1688, Franschhoek lies approximately 75km from Cape Town and rests peacefully in the valley initially called Olifantshoek (Elephants corner). In later years, it became known at le Coin Français (the French Corner) until finally it was changed to Franschhoek (Dutch for “French Corner”).

Franschhoek boasts 43 active wine farms along the Franschhoek Wine Route and includes well-known brands such as Boschendal and L’Ormarins. The Meditteranean climate ensures the vines produce outstanding sauvignon blanc, merlot, and chardonnay wines.

One of the best and most enjoyable ways to explore the Franschhoek wine route is by boarding the Franschhoek Wine Tram. It is “all aboard!” at the Franschhoek Wine Tram ticket office, situated in the heart of Franschhoek village before setting off on a delightful, hop-on, hop-off tour which takes you to numerous picturesque wine estates in the valley.

Award winning chefs, use fresh, locally produced ingredients to create, sumptuous gastronomical delights. With over 36 restaurants, including four of which have South African, five-star chefs at their helm, Franschhoek is known as the gourmet capital of South Africa.

Accommodation

Franschhoek offers a variety of accommodation establishments cater-ing for every need and budget. From the five-star elegance of luxury boutique style hotels to quaint, Cape Dutch style bed and breakfasts, country guesthouses and self-catering cottages which are ideal for fami-lies or groups of friends.

La Petite Dauphine offers a quintessential mix of luxury and comfort and can be found on a historical working farm approximately 2km out of Franschhoek village. Here accommodation comprises two and one bedroomed cottages, each with full en-suite bathrooms and private lounges set amongst the vineyards and plum orchards and two large tastefully decorated studio rooms offer visitors magnificent views of the Franschhoek Mountains.

 

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5 of the Best Dive Sites

5 of the best dive sites on the East Coast of Southern Africa

Offering some of the best dive locations in the world, we explore just a few of our favourite dive sites found on the Mozambique and KZN coastlines

 


1. CRECHE - PONTO DO OURO

Named Creche due to an abundance of juvenile fish found there, Creche in Ponta Bay is ideal for both novices and open water divers...

2. ANCHOR - PONTA MALONGANE

A small ledge runs along the inshore side of the reef and is home to Trumpet Fish, Raggy Scorpionfish, Shortspine Porcupinefish, Yellowback Fusilier, Trigger Fish and Angel Fish...


3. G-SPOT - PONTA MAMOLI

Ponta Momoli is one of Mozam-bique’s best-kept scuba-diving secrets...


4. ALIWAL SHOAL - KZN

Aliwal Shoal, rated as one of the top 10 dive spots in the world is situated at a depth of between 6m and 9m approximately 5km off the coast of the seaside villages of Umkomaas and Scottburgh...


5. PROTEA BANKS - KZN

Protea Banks lies at a depth of between 27 and 40 meters just off the coast of Shelly Beach...

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Eastern Cape - Adventure Province

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal” Paulo Coelho

The Eastern Cape Province in South Africa offers adrenaline junkies and adventure seekers a chance to truly live life on the wild side. Hold your breath and get ready for a glimpse of what this wild and untamed stretch of coastline has in store for you.

Let’s get straight to it and jump in at the deep end of the Eastern Cape adven-ture scene. Strap yourself into a full body harness, complete with ankle connec-tion; walk to the edge of the platform on the Bloukrans bridge and counting down three, two, one….Bungy! Off you go. You instantly lose connection with everything that’s stable, safe and secure in your life. The wind whips around your face as you plummet 200m into the pristine, forested gorge below where, after the initial feelings of anxiety and fear depart, you are left with a sense of total freedom and exhilaration.

Tubing on the Storms River

A tubing expedition down the Storms River is an absolute must for adventure seekers. Enjoy an action packed day of tubing, swim-ming and bouldering as you navigate your way past the point of no return into the “Narrow Gorge”, grade two rapids and optional tube jumps, arriving at the spectacular Storm River mouth four to five hours later.

Double the Fun

Africa’s longest, highest, fastest, double zip-line will leave you feeling exhilarated and is fun and safe for the whole family. From 60 meters above the Sunday’s River, you and a friend are launched from a platform along a 500m zip line, whizzing through the air at 80km/ hour across the river below. This activity at Adrenalin Addo is just perfect for anyone looking for a double dose of adrenaline.

 

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Hermanus

HERMANUS - South Africa’s Whale Watching Capital

Every year the magnificent southern right whales return to the small peaceful village of Hermanus, which lies on the southern coast of the Western Cape. It’s not only these giant, playful creatures of the sea that return to these shores on a regular basis though as this small town is much loved and visited by tourists from all over the world.

Located about 115km east of Cape Town, Hermanus was founded in 1820 by a teacher named Hermanus Pieters. The town was originally named Hermanuspietersfontein, however, the name proved too confusing and long for the postal services at the time, so it was shortened to Hermanus.

Ideally positioned along the shores of Walker Bay and surrounded by majestic mountain ranges and indigenous flora the small town of Hermanus attracts visitors all year round.

Whale watching is a favorite pastime between July and December. The whales come to breed and rear their young during this time. Female whales reach lengths of between 15 and 18m and can weigh anything from 47 to 80 tons. These hefty giants of the sea are very active on the surface of the water and often put on incredible displays for tourists as they thrash their tails and breach the surface, launching themselves into the air before flopping unceremoniously back down into the ocean causing huge splashes much to the delight of onlookers.

Hermanus is about much more than whale watching, though. Adventure seekers take pleasure in horseriding, shark cage diving, paragliding and hiking while those looking for a more sedate vacation spend hours exploring the quaint country shops, art galleries, and markets dotted around the town, all within easy walking distance of each other.

Panorama Nature’s Haven, situated in Franskraal, just outside of Hermanus provides the perfect venue for a fairytale wed-ding or al fresco dining at the Panorama Restuarant while overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

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Panorama Route

BREATHTAKING NATURAL BEAUTY

Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route is considered to be one of the most beautiful places in South Africa. Lofty mountain ranges, one of the world’s largest canyons, the Blyde River Canyon and a multitude of cascading waterfalls all contribute to making this area one, not only of exquisite beauty but one begging exploration.

THE PANORAMA ROUTE SPANS FROM WHITE RIVER IN THE SOUTH TO BLYDE RIVER CANYON IN THE NORTH AND FROM LYDENBURG IN THE WEST TO HAZYVIEW IN THE EAST.

Graskop, which is considered the ideal base from which to start your exploration of this area, is an easy and scenic four-hour drive from Johannesburg along either the N4 or N12 highway.

The origins of Graskop date back to 1843 when the Voortrekkers arrived in the area. Graskop was officially declared a town in 1914 after the first official railway opened earlier that same year.

Situated on the edge of the escarp-ment and 1400m above sea level, Graskop is often enveloped in a cloud of thick mist even in the summer months. Quaint village shops and coffee shops line the main road inviting potential customers to come and browse at lei-sure. Harry’s Pancakes serve the best pancakes in South Africa with delicious savory or sweet fillings to tempt your taste buds. My all time favourite is the black cherries in liquor and ice cream. Nothing better to warm your tummy on a chilly Graskop morning.

The Graskop Hotel situated in the heart of the town offers guests unique accommodation in their “Artists “ rooms with each room featuring works by contemporary South African artists.

NORTHERN ROUTE

From Graskop, you can follow the Panorama Route north along the R532, which offers the following spectacular sightseeing opportunities.

The Pinnacle

Here a quartzite buttress towers 30m above a lush indigenous forest below. To the right of the Pinnacle, the first of eight small waterfalls fed by the Ngwaritsane stream can be seen provided sufficient rain has fallen.
Entrance Fees:  R10 per car…

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