Africa

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Africa.

Arijiju: The Top Luxury Safari Of Africa

Although Laikipia county in the Kenyan highlands is just a few miles north of the equator, the early-morning air is cool and tangy. When the sun reaches its zenith, shining brightly in arching, china-blue skies daubed with high, scudding clouds, there is a clarity to the light that makes it possible to see over great distances, and in incredible detail. The views from here, on the western reaches of the 32,000-acrearijiju Borana Conservancy, are of seasonal river valleys coated in acacia and wild olive trees across naked savannah and rolling foothills to magnificent Mount Kenya, etched on the horizon like an engraving.

The owner of this extraordinary house, who prefers to remain nameless, says he first came to Laikipia because the landscape reminded him of his childhood home in central Nigeria, where his English mother, a chemistry teacher, and Nigerian father, a lawyer, raised him and his two sisters. His parents, who met and married in England, moved to Nigeria shortly after it gained independence from Britain in 1960. Later that decade, when the country was torn apart by the Biafra War, he and his mother and siblings were rescued by Swedish aid workers and flown to the volcanic island of Sao Tome, and from there to Portugal before finally reaching England. His father stood his ground, and when the war ended the family were reunited in the peaceful highlands around the city of Jos. It was there, as a young lad set free in the African bush, that the owner says he had ‘the most idyllic childhood, running around with a catapult chasing guinea fowl. At that age – about 14 or so – all I wanted to be was a game ranger.’

Instead, he would go to Yale and then Harvard Law School, where he met the Norwegian woman who would become his wife. He got a job at McKinsey & Company in New York as a management consultant and, as a reward for his progress, was sent to Johannesburg to head up the company’s strategy for the Standard Bank of South Africa after Mandela came to power. The posting re-ignited his love for Africa, and so he took leave of absence from McKinsey and went off in search of investment opportunities in Nigeria – which he found. Many years later, he is now the CEO of an ethical energy company dealing with solar, wind and gas projects in the country of his birth. But he’s never forgotten his childhood dream of becoming a game ranger.

Arijiju – the house takes its name from the Maasai word for the hill on which it was built – stands on the Borana Conservancy, owned by Michael Dyer, a third-generation Kenyan. Originally a cattle ranch, like much of the land around here, it shares a boundary with Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, which has been at the forefront of rhino conservation in Kenya for more than two decades. Borana operates both as a working cattle ranch, traversed by the nomadic Maasai with their cows and goats, and as a wildlife sanctuary. It’s a balancing act that’s anathema to safari purists who prefer even the illusion of pristine wilderness, devoid of any sign of human habitation, but with the commitment and involvement of local communities it has proved a successful conservation model. The property is well stocked with plains game – zebra, giraffe, Grant’s gazelle, eland and hartebeest- as well as lion and enormous herds of elephant. But the big news is it recently became home to 22 black rhinos, translocated from Lake Nakuru National Park and neighbouring Lewa – which had reached its own carrying capacity of 70.

arijiju

Arijiju, Kenya

With rhinos constantly under threat from armed poachers, Borana has had to invest heavily in security to protect them, including an anti-poaching unit. To help raise the money, Dyer decided to lease three parcels of land to like-minded investors on which to build private homes, on the understanding that the houses would be made available to paying guests, the profits from which are fed back into conservation projects on the land. The owner of this, the most beautiful house of all, had already been visiting Borana for 12 years when the opportunity to build his own home came up. He says he wanted his London-based children to know Africa, and to experience the joy and freedom he himself felt as a child, and, with central Nigeria now too dangerous to return to, the highlands of Kenya have given the family a key to the continent. For the owner, the complex world of conservation is gradually taking precedence over high finance. ‘I am finally starting to do what I always wanted to do,’ he says.

Sunlight hits the bedrooms at Arijiju first and arrives at the cantilevered swimming pool and its reed-covered terrace in the afternoon. It took the owner three years to settle on this precise spot. Before any building got underway, he tested for wind direction and watched how the light fell and cast shadows. He tells the story of how a group of chameleons under an old olive tree, sheltered from the prevailing wind and warmed by the afternoon sun, helped mark the position of one of the verandahs. As for the structure, the owner knew what he didn’t want -an old-fashioned, A-frame, thatch-and-brick safari house – but other than that, little came to mind. Working with two architects Nick Plewman from Johannesburg and Alex Michaelis from London – ideas were teased out, discussed, ruminated on.

If an A-frame roof was out of the question, then it should be flat, but that ended up looking too modern; the owner was keen to create something unobtrusive and embedded in the landscape, so the flat roof was topped with turf, creating something more nuanced. Gradually, other ideas and influences began to emerge. Michaelis had always been inspired by Le Thoronet Abbey, a Cistercian monastery built in Provence in the 12th century, distinctive for its lack of embellishment. References to the buried, rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia came out to play; the owner’s need for peace and privacy were noted. And so the concept of this highly reductive retreat, almost spiritual in its simplicity and beauty, took shape. For five years he says he spent every free waking hour thinking about, or working on, the house. During its construction, he was on site every six weeks.‘Yes, he was very hands-on,’ says Plewman.‘He has real vision and was the driving force behind everything.

Lake Nakuru National Park

Lake Nakuru National Park

It turned out to be an amazing collaboration, with a big team of creatives and craftsmen all working together.’ Both architects credit local contractor Ben Jackson with delivering something which has far exceeded their expectations: a 21st-century house built with 12th-century craftsmanship – all the quarried Meru stone was hand-chiselled by local masons – that feels ancient and wise, honest and elemental, but also very contemporary. It is truly remarkable how well Arijiju sits in its landscape. Literally cut into the bedrock, it is reached down a winding path created by the British garden designer Jinny Blom; the heavy, studded front door is triple height, arched and reticent; the entrance hall like a tunnel into an ancient fortress. Within, the intense, equatorial light cascades into a cloistered courtyard, illuminating the living rooms and bedrooms that lie easily around it; above it, to one side, is a roof terrace reached by a hidden stairway.

Outside, smooth-cobbled verandahs lead off all the rooms; the pool terrace fans out at the base of a flight of wide stairs, and beyond that, obscured from view, is the gym, a traditional hamman and spa. Two exquisite guest cottages set discreetly apart from the main house. The interior design is by Johannesburg-based Maira Koutsoudakis, who also created the smart-but-relaxed look at North Island in the Seychelles – considered by many the benchmark for all private-island hideaways – and Segera Retreat, also in Laikipia and owned by the conservationist Jochen Zeitz, former CEO of Puma. Where the internal walls have been left bare, all polished concrete or exposed rock, Koutsoudakis has introduced opulence in the form of large-scale chandeliers (even in the smallest rooms in the house and cottages), enormous French mirrors, limited-edition bronze tables from Cape Town, leather-and-raffia carpets from Morocco and outsize leather Campaign wardrobes and desks from India.

‘Nothing shouts, but everything carries enormous weight, or is richly textured, or has a smooth lustre that is restful on the eye,’ she says.‘Because the owner has roots on both continents, and is a very elegant man himself, it felt right to fuse the finesse of Europe with the rusticity of Africa.’ A keen runner and sportsman, the owner sent his regular masseuse (the best in London, he says) to train an already-brilliant therapist he found by chance in the nearby market town of Nanyuki. He made sure the gym equipment was up to his exacting standards, and the house has both tennis and squash courts. Beyond that, there are also traditional morning and evening game drives, guided walks, mountain biking on well-established trails, and horseback safaris across Borana and beyond.

Laikipia

Laikipia County

The owner is keen for Arijiju to be used as a base for exploration rather than a static safari lodge (‘A bit like a Colorado dude ranch with wildlife,’ he says). Each year he and his family have discovered new adventures on Borana. One of their favourites is a day out at Ngare Ndare Forest, on the south-eastern boundary of Borana, where a tree-top-canopy walkway meanders through towering red cedars and deep swimming holes are the colour of Tanzanite, edged with emerald ferns fed by rumbling waterfalls. But perhaps the best way to absorb the immensity of Laikipia County and the diverse East African landscape is to take a helicopter expedition with one of the scions of a well-known Kenyan family,

Jamie Roberts (his brother Willie has Sirikoi camp on Lewa; one of his other brothers owns Richard’s Camp in the Maasai Mara). In a Roberts helicopter it is possible to explore the snow-covered Batian and Nelion peaks of Mount Kenya and go fly-fishing on the mountain’s almost inaccessible Lake Michaelson, or follow the Ewaso Nyiro River north over Samburu County, landing on Ol Lolokwe mountain – which rises suddenly from the volcanic plains that surround it – with its primordial cycad forests and astonishing views north to LakeTurkana and Ethiopia. These are phenomenally high-octane, adrenalin-pumping safaris and easily completed in a day if you wish. So it’s good to know that beautiful Arijiju stands waiting, candles lit, logs crackling in the baronial fireplaces, the bar open for pre-supper drinks on the roof terrace under the stars. There can surely be few sights more serene, or welcoming, in all of Africa.

Babylonstoren – Franschhoek, South Africa

This is so much more than a hotel: it’s a working fruit farm with a historic Cape Dutch homestead, a destination restaurant, an award-winning vineyard, a brilliant bakery and, above all, a sensational garden. Over the past 10 years, owner Koos Bekker and his wife Karen Roos have transformed what was once a derelict, 300-year-old farm at the foot of the Simonsberg mountains into the coolest destination in the Cape winelands. The couple recruited Patrice Taravella, responsible for Le Prieure d’Orsan cloistered garden in the Loire Valley, to establish the 3.5-hectare walled kitchen garden that is the core of the property and which supplies the restaurant, known for its fresh, inventive salads and vegetables picked young and cooked whole.

babylonstoren-room

Babylonstoren, South Africa

The hotel itself is small, with just 13 suites carved out of old farm-workers’ cottages which line the oak-tree-edged avenue bordering the garden; the original farmer’s house was recently converted into a nine-bedroom lodge. Roos delights in combining the historical – small, shuttered windows and rough-hewn stable doors set in thick white washed walls-with the contemporary. Kitchens in the cottages are essentially clipped-on glass boxes that jut into the little private gardens; a Philippe Starck Ghost chair presides over a traditional fire-blackened hearth; on a modern four-poster bed is a handmade crochet blanket, and everywhere the sound of water running through culverts in a gravity-fed irrigation system that dates back to ancient Babylon itself. Nowhere else in the winelands manages to feel as fresh or relevant as Babylonstoren.

cape-town

Resetting the Cape Compass – Cape Town

Incredible birdlife. Ancient rock art. Wild rapids. We head north from Cape Town to discover there’s more to South Africa’s buzziest area than the eastern Winelands …

There was nothing cute and fluffy about Big Bunny. It rumbled ominously and spat water over the rust-coloured boulders that clogged the river downstream. Ian Morgan, my rafting guide, led us to the riverbank where we beached our inflatable kayaks and set off on foot to scout out the rapid. Clambering over terraces of gneiss rock, polished smooth by floodwaters, we reached a viewpoint over the room stretch of churning water. Big Bunny gnashed its teeth and I felt my stomach tighten.

On the previous day of our four-night Orange River expedition we had tackled Scorpion, Corkscrew and Screwdriver – rapids that you expected to have a few twists and turns, or a sting in their tail. We had prepared ourselves for the ups and downs of Dolly Parton and had no choice but to portage around Ritchie Falls. But as hard as I stared at Big Bunny, I couldn’t find anything that resembled a fluffy white tail. Instead, Ian pointed out stopper waves, boils, strainers and a particularly vicious looking boulder half-obscured by the flying spittle of the rapid.

orange-river

Orange River at Sunset

My two other guides, Jan and Geoff, went first, paddling kayaks heavily laden with food and camping gear. For a moment it looked as if they might make it. Their kayaks bucked and spun, almost vanishing from view as they clawed through the rapid. Then Big Bunny bit back. The half-hidden boulder caught both kayaks broadside and, with a sharp kick, flipped them over.

I watched the upturned rafts disappear downstream, Jan and Geoff clinging on, helpless to do anything until Big Bunny had finished chewing them over. Ian gave a wry smile and scratched the stubble on his chin. “Maybe we should try a different route through the rapid,” he murmured.

As we walked back to where we’d left the inflatables, my mouth felt dry, but there was a ripple of anticipation spreading through my body. Ten days earlier, I had set out from Cape Town following an unorthodox route north in search of a wilder, more rugged and adventure-packed corner of South Africa Big Bunny seemed like a fitting climax.

Explore The Wild Beauty Of Uganda

We heard him before we could see him. A rhythmic drumming rang through the forest, echoing my pounding heart. Then 250 kilogrammes of silverback came charging through the undergrowth, football-sized fists hitting the ground with thunderous bangs, vegetation flying in all directions. I’d been warned to ignore my gut instinct – which was to run as fast as possible in the opposite direction -and just duck down and stay quiet. But like a decidedly less glamorous, latter-day Fay Wray, [couldn’t stop a short, high-pitched squeal escaping as l cowered in the bushes, head lowered demurely and eyes fixed on the ground. But Bikingyi stopped short of our small posse of Homo sapiens and, power order established, turned on his heels with a disdainful backward glance.

When I dared to look up, I saw the breadth of his retreating back, streaked with a band of silvery-white hair below the silhouette of his conical head and distinctive bulging brow. He was a familiar sight from wildlife programmes but, in the flesh, his sheer size and primordial power still took me by surprise. “He’s enormous!” I gasped, much to the amusement of my guide, Augustine. We were deep in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda. After hours of tracking, we’d caught up with a family of mountain gorillas undergoing habituation’ that gets primates used to limited human presence. Taking up to five years, this process will allow them to be observed at close quarters by researchers, as well as by those in search of one of the planet’s ultimate wildlife experiences.

A Rushegura gorilla tucks into lunch

A Rushegura gorilla tucks into lunch

Normally, face time with the gorillas is limited to just an hour but, thanks to the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s (UWA) new Gorilla Habituation Programme, l was allowed to spend up-to four hours with a family just 18 months in to the process, an exciting variation on the standard permit that enables researchers – and a limited number of travellers – to spend more time observing the gorillas. I’d also get the opportunity to spend an hour with a group more used to humans, but – as I was discovering – the longer alternative offered a very different experience from conventional gorilla tracking.

Hitting the trail – On trips to see habituated groups, usually the trackers go out at first light to find the gorillas’ nests from the night before and, soon after, the location of the apes themselves, which they radio in to the waiting guides. But there were no shortcuts on this trek, l was helping Augustine and four machete-wielding trackers to search for nests, joined by two rangers – each dressed head to toe in camouflage, with rifles slung over their shoulders in case we bumped into any aggressive forest elephants – and Stephen, my well-dressed, long-legged porter. As the sun rose, l was driven south from my lodge in Nkuringoto Rubuguri. To reach the area where we might find the Bikingyi Group, we first had to tackle the mountain that loomed over the small town.

Hikingup the rocky pathway, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between the verdant forest and the patchwork of farmed plots that clung to the steep deforested slopes. Habitat loss created by humans is one of the mountain gorillas’ main threats, but conservation initiatives, including habituating gorilla families for tourism, have meant that the number of these critically endangered animals is slowly increasing. Reaching the mountaintop, there was no park gate or fence – the farmland simply ended and Bwindi began. This ancient, UNESCO-protected forest spreads around 320 square kilometres and is home to almost half the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, an estimated 360 at the last census, as well as 120 other mammals. It’s known in the local language as the ‘dark place’, but it has become a shining light to primatologists over the years.

As we walked, a shy black-backed duiker – a small antelope -slipped by in a flash of russet. Dragonflies the size of small birds hovered above puddles that had formed in a forest elephant’s footprints and vociferous chimps hooted in the distance. The deeper we went into Bwindi, the denser and wilder the forest became, until we finally left the comparatively open trail and began to make our own way with machetes. It soon felt like I’d stepped on to a fantastical set from a Tarzan film. Everywhere was a maze of shifting greens, where vegetation dripped from towering hardwoods, thick lianas coiled and twined and delicate feather-like ferns came armed with vicious spiked trunks.

Gorilla Forest Camp

Gorilla Forest Camp

Before long, Stephen, who’d arrived wearing a black suit jacket, was carrying everything but me. When the going got vertical, he would hold out his hand as if he were inviting me to dance. Regardless, I pitched myself inelegantly down the precipitous slopes and scrambled back up, being whipped by wayward branches, planting my feet in seemingly bottomless tangles of roots and nearly losing a boot to the glutinous mud. But it was worth it. After several hours walking in a giant loop through the forest, we came across the gorillas’ nests not far from where we’d started.

A musty smell had led the t rackets to a group of raised piles of intertwined leaves and branches, which each gorilla builds every night, sleeps and defecates in, then abandons the following morning – only infants deep accompanied, camping in the same nest as their mothers. From these simple structures the rangers could tell how many gorillas were in the troop, and often their size and sex. By this point in the trek, at wig bed was starting to look like an appealing spot for some much- needed rest. These primates have a wide eating range, so it was a relief to know that, nests found, there was a 90 per cent chance of discovering gorillas within the hour.

Egypt – Meander Bazaars And Ancient Sights

Grab a glimpse into an ancient world with G Adventures’ Best of Egypt trip, as Egyptologist and guide Samer Saled narrates the incredible tales behind the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Sphinx and a collection of the country’s most majestic temples – Abu Simbel, Edfu and Karnak to name a few. Then sail the Nile on a felucca (traditional sail boat), dining with a local family and wandering the bustling bazaars of Luxor and Aswan.

When: 11 Feb 2017

How long: 8 days

How much: From £769 (exd flights)

Private-Island Resorts – Get Some Alone Time

Bawah Private Island, Indonesia – A part of Indonesia’s largely unknown and untouched Anambas Archipelago, Bawah seems primed to become a bragging-rights destination when it opens in 2017. Thirteen empty beaches and epic dive sites are a quick ferry and a one-hour flight from Singapore, meaning you can wrap up business meetings in the morning and unwind in one of 24 tented safari-style villas for the weekend before flying back to the States. From $2,500 for two.

Four Seasons Maldives Private Island Voavah at Baa Atoll, Maldives – When this seven-bedroom retreat opens this month, it’s certain to be the most laze-around-and-be-spoiled experience in the Maldives. It has a dive center, a spa, and a 62-foot yacht that can take you to surf spots. Want to Napa-up the food? They’ll fly in Thomas Keller. Want a celeb to join you? They’ll bring one in. Seriously. From $38,000.

Maldives

Maldives

Kokomo Island, Fiji – The cultural appeal here goes way beyond the Fijian burre-inspired design of the 21 villas (all with their own pool), which will open in mid-2017 onto the South Pacific’s Great Astrolabe Reef, the fourth largest in the world and a phenomenal dive site. Guests can explore the island’s archaeological site, and if you’re lucky you’ll come across some kava (yes, that’s the alcoholic mud the locals drink). From $2,600.

Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles – Once they open next year, these three- and four-bed-room villas on Felicite in the Seychelles are where you’ll want to put up the family. While adults zen out in the spa’s rock pool and hammocks that swing over the sea, kids can play pirate in a two-story tree house and go on treasure hunts. And when you’re ready to bond, your butler can make a family swim with sea turtles happen, too. From $1,340.

Seychelles

Six Senses Zil Pasyon

Thanda Island, East Africa – About 18 miles off the Tanzanian coast, it’s a sanctuary with one five-suite villa— and the dugongs, whale sharks, and sea turtles that call the surrounding marine reserve home. Guests can balance indulgence (copper tub bubble baths on the beach) with conservation projects like turtle tagging. From $10,000.

fez-morocco

Feasting in Fés

A gastronomic journey at once humble and regal

It is said that in order for a nation to develop a great cuisine, it must have four prerequisites: a rich land from which to draw upon an abundant range of ingredients; a variety of foreign cultural influences; a great civilization; and lastly, a refined palace with royal kitchens to inspire the nation’s cooks. Morocco has it all, and is home to some of the most tantalizing food imaginable. From robust roasts to rich aromatic stews, spiced or sweetened salads to savoury pastries and fragrant mounds of couscous, there is such a wide variety to choose from. One great example of the country’s cuisine is bastilla, an exquisite blend of shredded pigeon and spiced onion sauce with saffron and herbs encased in a flaky, filo-like pastry, topped with cinnamon and sugar – an intricate dish that epitomises everything that is grand and extravagant in Moroccan cooking.

One of the most interesting ways to absorb the delights and diversity of the country’s cuisine is to visit the souks (markets) and where better than Fés, often regarded as Morocco’s culinary capital. To wander through the myriad of laneways that make up the medina of Fés el Bali (old Fés) sampling the food on offer, is to take a gastronomic journey through Morocco itself.

Early morning is a wonderful time to be out and about and I set off to get thoroughly lost. Sunlight streams in slanted rays through the woven bamboo shades covering the narrow alleyways, catching the steam rising from the many cookers. Street vendors are preparing for the day’s trade and already the air is awash with all manner of exotic- aromas, the hustle and bustle as stalls are set up and neighbours greet one another.

Great crusty rounds of warm khboz (bread) are on display at the feet of an old man crouching behind his produce. Munching on this doughy aniseed-flavoured bread is perfect for strolling the medina. In most Moroccan homes bread is prepared every morning, kneaded in unglazed red clay pans and sent to the community bakery on the heads of children on their way to school.

fes-el-bali

Fés el-Bali (old Fés) comprises 9,400 narrow streets and lanes

Close to the city gate of Bab Bou Jaloud one stallholder is already busy at trade cooking and selling one the most common forms of Moroccan breakfasts, miklee. With deft handwork he pinches small balls of dough and presses them into a paper-thin squares covered with oil. Folded, then folded again he slips them onto a skillet sizzling with oil where they materialise into flaky pancakes and are served to eagerly waiting customers with butter and honey.

In a fruit and vegetable souk, produce of every kind lines the street. There are juicy oranges, lemons and grapefruits from the sun-drenched groves of Agadir, golden melons, vine-ripened tomatoes, clementines, crisp celery and plump mounds of grapes, preserved fruits and nuts. Entire shops are jam-packed with nothing but olives – of every flavour, size, quality and colour or bunch of fresh mint displayed in baskets and hanging from ceilings.

domaine-del-bel-ombre

Active Interest, Mauritius

A holiday in Mauritius doesn’t have to just mean a week in the sun. With Heritage Resorts you’ll discover the country’s adventurous side, with quad biking and more …

Think Mauritius is just a place to laze on a sun-lounger, taking in a glorious white-sand beach? Think again. Of course, this is a country full of beautiful turquoise-hued coastline, but beyond that you’ll find an incredible array of activities sure to suit the demands of any restless adventurer.

Located at the foothills of the rugged mountains of south Mauritius, and flanked by a crystal-clear lagoon, the Domaine de Bel Ombre region of this spectacular country is the perfect base for your holiday. That’s where you’ll find Heritage Resorts – a collection of two five-star hotels – Heritage Le Tefair and Heritage Awali – and the luxurious Heritage The Villas. With elegant interiors and an outstanding setting in their own private nature reserve, they are the perfect base from which to explore the lush landscapes of the country’s wild south.

Here, you’ll also be spoilt for choice with activity options. Adventurous guests can try fast-paced quad biking, mountain biking, hiking the forests or a 4×4 discovery tour. For those looking for something a little less taxing, Heritage Resorts also offers photography treks (a chance to photograph wild boar, rusa deer and echo parakeets), wellness walks through the lush trees and also forest bathing. Along with that, Heritage Golf Club, an award-winning 27-hole golf course on site offers sensational lagoon and nature reserve views.

On the water, there’s a variety of watersports to keep you entertained. Try out kitesurfing, or make the most of Heritage Resort s free activities, including wind surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking and snorkelling. Need to relax? With three hotel and villa options, there’s something to suit every couple, family, beach lover and sports enthusiast at Heritage Resorts.

kenya-beach

Coast Wanted

For idyllic, white-sand beaches, extraordinary wildlife-crammed national parks and the trip of a lifetime, look no further than the tawny savannahs and turquoise waters of Kenya

A visit to Kenya will open your eyes to some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes – from the wildlife-packed savannahs of the Masai Mara National Reserve, to the dramatic vistas dominated by the peak of Africa’s second-highest mountain, Mount Kenya. Beyond the Big Five and incredible views, there’s 500km of dazzling Indian Ocean coastline to explore, meaning if you’re travelling for a full-on beach break, or a twin-centre adventure, you’ll find yourself in exactly the right place.

Just 45 minutes from Moi international airport in Mombasa you’ll find the popular beach resorts of Nyali and Shanzu, the perfect places to check in to a hotel and relax on a lounger with cool sea views. For wide, picture-perfect white-sand beaches, why not try Diani beach? Its handy location close to Ukunda airstrip makes it a perfect partner for a safari and beach break in one.

funzi-island

Funzi Island

Further along the unspoiled coast you’ll discover the secluded beaches of Galu and Kinondo, Msambweni and Funzi Island. Here, turquoise ocean breaks on to remote stretches of soft sand, and pretty boutique guesthouses make the ideal place to stay after a busy day of relaxing and discovering the shore’s villages.

Just a two-hour drive north of Mombasa you can explore Malindi, a small town that sits in the middle of the idyllic beaches on the north coast. Then 30 minutes further south is the sleepy village of Watamu, which boasts wide, white beaches and villa-style accommodation. A trip here can also be twinned with a visit to the Marine National Park, home to over 600 species of sea life and the inspiring Watamu turtle rehabilitation centre.

Prefer an active break? Trade winds along the coast make Kenya a great place to hone your kite-surfing skills, while the country’s numerous safari parks are only a short air transfer away. With so much variety, it’s whatever type of holiday you want it to be.

 

Free State NBG: South Africa’s Most Precious Garden

ABOUT THE GARDEN

Early in South African history the site of the Free State National Botanical Garden was inhabited by Iron Age Basotho dwellers. Remains of their pottery have been found and are on display in the Education Centre. The Free State National Botanical Garden dates back to 1965, and is one of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)’s ten national botanical gardens in South Africa. SANBI is a statutory body whose mandated focus is on South Africa’s national biodiversity heritage.

nbg-garden

The garden spans a valley between dolerite koppies (small hills) capped with rocky outcrops – typical of the area.

The natural vegetation is composed of grassland, woodland and fascinating Karoo plants. Succulents and bulbous plants form a natural garden amongst the rocks on the koppies and can be seen along the scenic nature trails.

The garden has an abundance of wildlife, including over 140 bird species, 54 reptile species and about 32 mammal species, with over 300 plant species in the developed area.

GARDEN FEATURES

Lapa: The lapa can be used for social functions such as birth-day parties, weddings, year-end functions, etc. it is equipped with chairs and tables, a stove with oven, and a fridge.

Marquee area: A picturesque marquee lawn is available for big functions. The lawn is 35 m wide and 70 m long. This area is suitable for functions such as weddings, concerts, meetings, birthday parties, etc.

Walking trails: We encourage all visitors to walk the beautiful Motshetshe and Garden View trails. These will showcase the beauty and diversity of our Free State plants.

Nursery: We encourage the use of indigenous plants in home gardens by making them available at competitive prices. This service is available daily. A special plant sale is held annually, usually late September, with the full support of the Botanical Society of South Africa.

SANBI

Specialists are working on a DNA barcoding project in order to help law enforcement and officials to identify

Braai area: A braai area is available for visitors who want to dine alfresco.

Environmental education: To further the vision of environmental education for sustainable living, our programmes offer learners hands-on experience in the garden environment Guided tours: Guided tours for schools and other interest groups require prior arrangements with the administration office, during working hours. Restaurant: The restaurant operates privately. Visitors can bring the whole family and enjoy good service from the restaurant with a stunning view of the garden. The kids can play on the lawns in front of the restaurant while you relax with a sundowner.

SO MUCH TO SEE

The water-wise demonstration garden illustrates the use of indigenous Free State plants to conserve water in domestic gardens. A self-guided tree route introduces visitors to 43 of South Africa’s beautiful indigenous trees along our two walking trails.

HOW TO ENJOY THE GARDEN

  • Watch the bird life from the bird hide at the dam.
  • Be intrigued by the fascinating Medicinal Garden. This section houses replicas of Basotho and Boer dwellings, and a range of intriguing plants with medicinal properties.
  • Walk the Motshetshe and Garden View trails. Both trails are approximately 2.1 km long.
  • Experience the uniqueness of the Succulent Garden and the Garden of Hope.
  • Keep to the pathways and lawns; do not walk in the beds.
  • Take note of our ‘Picnic in, Litter Out’ policy. Please take home everything you bring in.
  • The garden serves as an important conservation area. For this reason we do not allow the following into the garden: balls, bats, bikes, kites, frisbees, skateboards, rollerblades, scooters, fires, gas braais, dogs, cats, musical instruments, or radios/CD players.