Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Bucket List transport to Kruger National Park
May 15, 2013

You are looking at your “Bucket List” of things to do before you die and one sentence in particular is highlighted in fluorescent yellow: “Travel to South Africa to take a safari in the Kruger National Park.”

Actually, your dreams are only a flight away to South Africa on a reliable airline to Johannesburg’s Oliver Tambo International Airport and if you are a wily traveller, booking a sturdy 4×4 vehicle in advance off the Internet will give you the advantage of getting great savings on cheap car hire, where you can find the perfect vehicle to safely get you to and around the Kruger Park.

Once through airport customs and immigration, a friendly Rental Agent will be there to meet and greet you, making your arrival to South Africa a welcome one.

After sleeping over in Johannesburg you will set off on the first stage of your safari to Kruger, world-famous for its abundantly diverse wildlife. The Park’s magnificent scenery and unique wilderness with the “Big Five”; Elephant, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard and Rhino and array of other animals, makes it one of the few remaining areas where one feels as if they are in the true Africa of old, away from the noise of smoggy cities and the endless hum of traffic. Instead there is the peace of the bush, the sound of the African fish-eagle’s lament echoing out across the Olifants River and the rat-tap-tap of the tok-tok beetle as it trundles through the fallen leaves of the mopane trees.

There are so many places where you can stay in the Kruger Park and surrounding areas, with a range of accommodation from low budget to luxury game lodges. These can be booked through the South African Department of Tourism at the same time that you book your cheap car hire.

It is said that the Kruger National Park was the prototype of wildlife sanctuaries in Africa, offering a wildlife experience that ranks as one of the best in the entire continent. Established in 1898 to protect the animals in the Lowveld of South Africa, the park comprises nearly two million hectares and is unrivalled in its vast diversity of flora and fauna, with an estimate of some 336 trees, 114 reptiles, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 507 birds and 147 mammals.

It is also interesting to note that man has been part of the environment for centuries, from the bushman’s paintings that are still visible in rocky outcrops and caves to the fascinating archaeological sites of Masorini and Thulamela. Giving evidence of cultures before ours that lived and hunted in the vast tracts of land, and part of the proud conservation of the Kruger National Park.

Africa’s mysterious magic has always been its unique wildlife and the habitats in which they can be found. For you as the visitor, the African bush provides remarkably stirring experiences with only a few other African Game Parks as diverse as that of the Kruger National Park.

Reluctantly you will leave the Park on your homeward journey, dropping your 4×4 vehicle back at the airport where you will promise yourself a return to Africa where the old saying goes “the dust of Africa never leaves the soles of your feet.”

Susan Cook-Jahme©

The Beautiful Island of Mauritius, Part 5
May 7, 2013

 

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The food of Mauritius is varied, as there are so many different people of ethnic decadency from varied places around the world, with several distinctive styles of cooking. Most typically Mauritian is Creole cuisine. Boiled rice forms the basis of most Creole dishes, to this is added curry; meat or fish cooked with turmeric, aniseed, hot spices, onions and oil, and served with finely chopped tomatoes, hot chillies, and green mango. Another traditional savoury dish is a tasty green vegetable soup called bredes. Vegetables that are usually served with savoury dishes are patisson, or squash, boiled watercress and chou-chou, (a type of marrow.) Several restaurants on the island serve Creole food on their menu, so do give it a try.

 

Naturally, seafood is the speciality of Mauritian dishes; lobsters and shrimps top most of the menus, but also delicious is the local freshwater prawn, the camaron. I enjoy it in “sauce rouge”, which I recommend every person dining out when on the island, should eat at least once. Then there is a variety of Indian Ocean fish which are served, capitaine, gueule pave, damenerry, sacre chien, squid, urchins and tasty little oysters. From June to September venison are a speciality and some restaurants offer hare and wild boar. A delicious salad is Coeur de palmiste, (the heart of a seven-year old palm tree.) Try the beef that is brought into the island from the large island of Madagascar, the fillet in particular is tender and full of flavour. There is an abundant supply of exotic fruit, small, sweet pineapples, lychees, paw-paws, Chinese guavas, wild raspberries, mangoes, water-melons, custard-apples, bananas, and coconuts are some of the fresh fruit on offer. The bakeries sell French baguettes and brightly iced patisseries for the person with a sweet tooth. Wine from France, South Africa and many other countries can be found in a corner store, as well as the local rum. Of course there is always on offer the good old British cup of tea and delicious local coffee that is roasted in the way of the French.

 

The main recreational sport on the island is deep-sea fishing, with the main season falling in from October to March, but there is no closed season and a good catch can be had throughout the year. Fish caught are marlin, barracuda, tuna, wahoo, yellow fin and jack fish. Big game-fishing can be organised on line or at any large hotel group on the island. Full fishing gear is provided, along with an experienced crew. You can also find fishermen who helm their own pirogues, (the local fishing boats) who will take you out fishing for the day, which is what I prefer to do when visiting. For those of you who prefer not to fish, there are other things to do such as, golf, sailing, bowling, surfing, water skiing, swimming and sunbathing, and  one of the island’s other most important sports, skin diving. Skin diving was first started by the Sino-Mauritians in the 1940’s and now there is a very popular scuba-club which was founded by Australian, English and Mauritian divers. Some of the best underwater areas are Morne Brabant Reef, Black River, Whale Rock and Horseshoe Spit. As there are dozens of known wrecks around the coast dating back to 1615, it is a “must do” for anyone who enjoys this sport.

 

Don’t miss out on horse-racing at the Champ de Mars. The season is from May to October with the main meets being held at the end of May and August. Mauritius “Derby Day” is the Maiden Plate which is run in late August. Other popular sports are soccer, lawn tennis, sailing with regattas from July through to October, basketball, volleyball and athletics.

 

Nightclubs are situated all over the island, but the best are in the big-resort hotels, with cabaret, local d-j’s, dinner dancing and so forth. Unique to the Indian Ocean Island, is the sega, a dance accompanied by calypso-style singing, the musicians using drums, maracas and triangles, to accompany the dance. The sega first evolved by African slaves and is now part of Creole folk law. Performances are often organised and held at the big hotels, as is gambling which is also a huge attraction on the island. Casinos are situated in most of the large hotel groups.

 

For the shop-a-holics, the best places for souvenirs are the handicraft shops in Port Louis, but you can find them in the hotel shops at higher prices, which I try to avoid. Hire a small car or a taxi for the day and visit Rose Hill, Curepipe and the covered market in Port Louis. For a true Mauritian souvenir, consider a beautifully woven basket, applique pictures made from sugar cane leaves, woodcarvings of the do-do, finely embroidered tablecloths and napkins and an assortment of wall hangings and tapestries. Chinese tailors can be found in Port Louis and they run up beautiful shirts and suits in no time at all. Clothing shops stock a range of beach wear and chic French fashions which are reasonable in price.

 

The currency unit used on the island is the Mauritian Rupee, divided into 100 cents and most international banks can be found on the island.

 

Plaisance Airport is 27 miles from Port Louis. If staying at a hotel, they provide shuttles.

 

Hiring of vehicles can be done online or through various touring companies who have representatives on call at the airport and resorts. The roads are tarmac and good. Signs are in English.

 

Entry requirements are the usual passport and visas, (check if you need a visa online.) Visitors travelling through or from a yellow fever/cholera infected area must produce a yellow fever inoculation certificate.

 

©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer

 

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Beautiful Island of Mauritius, Part 4
May 5, 2013

Accommodation in Mauritius ranges from large resort hotels, small family hotels, guest houses, holiday rental apartments, bungalows and backpackers. With some exceptions, most of them have beautiful white coral sand beaches at their front doorsteps, making it easy for you to get out there and “catch the sun”, or enjoy the many water-sporting activities available. It all really comes down to your preference and what you have budgeted. The larger hotels offer all the modern amenities such as dining, dancing, and gambling and so on, whereas there are others that are less formal and laid back.

The larger resort hotels, Le Morne Brabant and Le Meridien are situated next door to each other on a peninsula which juts out into the sea at the foot of the breath taking Morne Mountain. They are located on one of the island’s most beautiful beaches and share various amenities: golf, horse-riding, sailing, aqua-diving, etc.

La Pirogue is found further up the beach at Flic en Flac, and is one of my preferred places to stay because of its charm. The chalets are thatched and shaped to resemble the sails of the local fishing boats, (pirogues) and set around a three story building comprising a large sun lounge, barbecue and dance terrace, restaurant and bar facilities. All the chalets are a short walk from the beach.

Troux aux Biches has a hotel bearing the same name, set in amidst a coconut grove by a lovely lagoon, and has beach bungalows, each of which has 3 to 4 bedrooms. (Very popular with visitors.) The amenities include hairdressing salons, shops, a bank, post office, casino, golf, tennis, sailing, water-skiing and many other sporting facilities.

In Grand Baie is the Merville, a complex of a large 4 storey hotel and delightful stone cottages set in a plantation of casuarina trees by a lovely stretch of beach. Amenities on offer are: a beautiful swimming pool and sauna. Another hotel in the area is Club Mediterranee, situated in a superb position at Grand Baie and provides all the usual CM amenities.

Along the coast, just above Belle Mare is St. Geran, its cool sun-lit central building leading out to a series of terraced rooms that are laid out in an ox-bow shape around lush tropical gardens rolling down to the beach. Amenities here: a fabulous swimming pool, huge dance-floor, barbecue area and casino.

Another favourite of mine is the Touessrok Hotel on the east coast, built on an islet in the middle of a crystal clear lagoon and reached by a wooden bridge. The bungalows are set upon tiers. The Ille au Cerfs can be reached by pirogue and has a beach with dazzling white sands. Set amongst casuarina trees is a boat house and snack bar for the hotel’s guests. Amenities are: golf and various water sports.

Further south, near the Plaisance Airport is Le Chaland with terraced bungalows and apartment blocks around a thatched central building. Sugar plantations hug the one side of the hotel and a long curved beach stretches out in the front of the hotel. Amenities here: horse-riding, tennis, sailing etc.

More intimate and small are:

Hotel Constance Belle Mare situated at the Belle Mare Plage with comfy bungalows nestles on the beach, close to the sea. Amenities are: a swimming pool, tennis and boating etc.

Auberge Miko at Grand Baie. Amenities there: swimming pool and a good beach.

On the shores of Tamarin Bay is the Tamarin, set in amongst lush forest, with terraced rooms and bungalows. Amenities are: a pool and tennis court.

At Black River is the La Mivoie which has chalets by the sea and specialises in deep sea fishing.

Etoile de Mer is found at Trou aux Biches and between here and Grand Baie is Casuarina Village which has Arabian-style cottages and is a short walk from the sea.

Flic en Flac you can stay at Villas Caroline.

Informal Small family Hotels:

At Cap Malhereux on the northern tip of the island you will find Kuxville, which offers 6 bungalows, each with 4 to 8 beds, 3 apartments, each with 2 or 3 beds. There you prepare your own food and groceries are brought to your door every morning by a vendor on a motor bike. Amenities: dive-school and kite centre.

For Bungalow and Apartments one of the best Internet Booking platforms I have discovered is “Home and Away”.

©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer

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The Beautiful Island of Mauritius (Part 2)
May 3, 2013

Mauritius is the result of a powerful volcanic eruption; flowing masses of basalt solidified and formed three chains of mountains running from northeast to southwest. Other masses of lava were flung farther afield to form solitary peaks, which are now beautiful mountains dominating the landscape of the island and are thickly forested with tropical green jungles. They rise up from the surrounding flat lands planted with fields of yellow-green sugar cane, their jagged indigo peaks touching the powder blue dome of the skies.

What I enjoy the most about these peaks that guard the island silently are their descriptive names, – Les Trois Mamelles, (the three breasts) Le Pouce, (the thumb) Le Morne (the mournful) and Lion Mountain. Nestled comfortably amidst these mountains rises a central plateau to some 1900ft. lying in the west and southeast are a series of gorges that divide the plateau. The main ones comprising fast flowing rivers and spectacular waterfalls are Grand River in the northwest and the Black River in the southwest.

The coastal areas of the island reveal rocky coves and bays, some fringed with white talcum-like sandy beaches, protected by a coral reef that wraps itself protectively around the entire island and in some places rising to 40ft above sea level. Languishing between the shore and the reef is the ocean that plays colours of turquoise, indigo and royal blue, dappled by silver sun stars playing on its tranquil surface.

Some two hundred years ago, Mauritius was home to a massive variety of birds, some of which, like the dodo had lost the power of flight and were easily shot for “the pot” by early sea-farers and eventually became extinct. A small number of the surviving species live in the indigenous forests, now National Reserves.

Animals that were imported in the years of the East India Spice Traders are the Indian hare and Mina bird, the Macaque Monkey from Malaysia and the Javanese deer. There are also 4 different kinds of snake that are harmless, and fifteen different types of lizards.

Sadly in the early years of discovery the island’s natural primeval forests were plundered for their natural hardwoods, but it is still cloaked in lush vegetation that is kept green all year round with rain showers. Tall palms and casuarinas, (locally called filaos) that cling to the sea’s edge and in the hills are eucalyptus and conifers. Villages are shaded by badamier, banyan, camphor and baobab trees with roads lined with avenues of flame trees, (originally from Madagascar.) All year round one is delighted by the flowering blooms of jacaranda, cassia, oleander, bougainvillea, hibiscus and a variety of other trees and shrubs.

Sugar cane covers two-fifths of the land, earning 93% of the revenue on the island, whilst the other crops, coffee, tea, tobacco and rice provide a living for a majority of the Mauritians.

There is an estimated population of 1,286 million living on the island, of which the majority are Indians of the Hindu faith, Creoles, (people of mixed European and African blood), Chinese traders,  and the minority who are Franco and Anglo Mauritian who descend from families who have lived on the island for over 200 years. The official business language is English, but the native language of Europeans and Creoles id French, or lingua franca, a Creole patois. Educated Indians and those in the tourism business are bi-lingual in French and English, as well as their native Hindi or Urdu.

Mauritius has a maritime climate which is cooled by the southeast Trade Winds from April to October. Between December to May, (the summer) temperatures reach the upper 80’s and the humidity is high with the hottest months being December to February. In the months of July to August, (winter) temperatures reach the upper 70’s.

It rains throughout the year, the wettest months being January to March and this is known as the Season of Cyclones and one visit I made to the island was in February where I sat out a cyclone in the Touessrok Hotel close to the Ille aux Cerfs which was an awesome and frightening experience, to put it mildly! Ever since then I have been prone to visit Mauritius in the months of April to May.

©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer

If you enjoy my writing, purchase my books and EBooks:

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/susancookjahme

Read my Blogs:

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http://barefootwhiteafrican.blogspot.com

https://happyscribbler.wordpress.com

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