Earth Day 2014 – My Beautiful Earth

Today is Earth Day 2014, and if you love to travel the world, visit exotic locations, take beautiful pictures, and breathe fresh air, now is definitely the time to make a stand and do your own little bit to help the planet.

Earth Day began in 1970, when some 20 million American citizens came together to raise awareness and highlight issues such as climate change, carbon emissions, depletion of natural resources, and loss of natural habitats. Fast-forward 44 years, and Earth Day is now a global event that is celebrated by more than 1 billion people worldwide, and yet we still have a very long way to go.

The Earth Day 2014 Website states:

“Education is at the heart of Earth Day. With initiatives that tackle sustainable school foods, develop innovative curriculum, implement green infrastructure solutions, and connect educators around the word, we educate and engage our future leaders, their teachers, and communities.”

Reducing energy consumption at home, refusing to buy disposable plastic bags and bottles, recycling, and donating to charities that save endangered species are just some of the things we can do to show our support for Earth Day 2014, and it we all take baby steps, we can stride into a secure and sustainable future.

As someone who loves to travel the world, I think it’s definitely worth fighting for… and here are just a few pictures of My Beautiful World – what does yours look like?

Earth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthClimbing Kilimanjaro 7 Day Machame Route Summit AttemptEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthA-Z of Travel - A is for AfricaEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthSelf Drive Holidays New Zealand

The African Sky at Night – Home to the Most Beautiful Sunsets in the World

We have been lucky enough to visit many countries in the world, but we have yet to find anywhere with more beautiful sunsets than Southern African.

A celebrated part of daily life, in South Africa at least, sunset is when friends and family come together to share their stories of the day and enjoy a ‘Sundowner’ as the sun disappears below the horizon and the sky changes from a vibrant blue to orange, pink, red, and finally midnight blue…

We managed to get some beautiful sunset shots during our recent trip to South Africa and Namibia, and while I would much rather start my Easter weekend watching the sunset over Africa with a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc… I’m here in the rain with these beautiful pictures instead!

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A Date with ‘Big Daddy’ in Sossusvlei

No trip to Namibia would be complete without a trip to the iconic landscapes and rust-red sands of Sossusvlei, and if you want to climb one of the world’s highest sand dunes, this is most definitely the place to do it!

img_3140Home to Dune 45, Big Mama, and of course, Big Daddy, Sossusvlei has some of the tallest sand dunes in the world, but if you want to climb the highest sand dune in the Namib Desert, you need to make your way to Dune 7, which currently stands at around 383 metres.

Tailor made holidays Namibia Self DriveBefore we even booked our recent self-drive trip to Namibia, we had decided we were going to tackle Big Daddy’s 325 metre peak, and while our guide tried his best to persuade us to go for the more ‘gentle’ Dune 45 at 80-metres, we had a date with the big guy, and we were not about to stand him up!

img_0245Climbing Big Daddy is not nearly as tough as it looks, and as it looms over Deadvlei, a magnificent white clay pan scattered with dead Acacia Trees almost 900 years old, the walk to the top offers amazing photo opportunities and breathtaking views.

img_3155Big Daddy’s first ridge is easy, especially if you are second in line and can hop in the footprints of the person in front of you, the second ridge is the toughest part due to softer, deeper sands, but it’s relatively short and once you have made it to the top, the third stretch is a breeze!

img_3127Of course, once you have reached the top of Big Daddy, there is only one way down, and if you have never sprinted down the sheer face of a 325-metre sand dune – you don’t know what you are missing! Terrifying – yes, but thrilling all the same!

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Last Minute Easter Holidays – There is still time to Escape to Cape Town!

We may only have a week to go until the Easter weekend, but if you would rather swop your chocolate bunny for a bikini, there is still time to book a last-minute Easter break!

IMG_1135With some destinations up to 25% cheaper than they were this time last year, you don’t have to spend a fortune to go away this Easter, and if the recent survey by Expedia is anything to go by, we can get our hands of the very best Easter deals by travelling further afield.

Morocco, Dubai and Disneyland Paris are all offering great value deals over the Easter Week, but the best deals are to be had in Cape Town, South Africa where you’ll get a whole lot of holiday for your money.

Last Minute Holidays Cape Town South AfricaThe reason… well, the South African Rand has plunged against the British Pounds during the past 12-months, and as Cape Town is moving out of its ‘peak season’, hotel rates are low, and you could even get a discount on your flight if you shop around.

And don’t let the ‘out of peak season’ put you off, Cape Town enjoyed a rather sweaty 35° degrees Celsius this past weekend, the popular attractions of Table Mountain and Robben Island are much less crowded, and you’ll find all sorts of ‘specials’ going on in the local restaurants to make your Pound’s stretch even further.

IMG_0691A week in Cape Town in a quality 4-Star hotel can cost well under £1000 per person, so if you have always dreamed of visiting South Africa, why not forego the Easter Eggs this year, and treat yourself to an Ostrich Egg instead!

A Gourmet Tour of Africa – This is why we LOVE to Travel!

One of the things we love most about travelling is trying different foods, new wines, and local delicacies that one just cannot get anywhere else in the world.

During our recent 5-week trip to South Africa and Namibia, we certainly made the most of the gourmet offerings (my expanded waistline is a testament to that fact!), so here are a few pictures of the tasty treats we got to enjoy during our stay…

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Sailing Holidays Mozambique – Island Hopping the Quirimbas Archipelago

Mozambique is fast becoming one of Africa’s “hippest” holiday destinations thanks to its endless beaches, excellent dive spots, lively cities, and magical offshore islands just waiting to be hopped on!

Island Hopping Holidays Mozambique

With over 2500km of coastline, you never have to worry about sharing your spot on the beach with other travellers in Mozambique, and with both the Bazaruto and the Quirimbas Archipelagos to sail your island hopping adventures can go on forever.

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Mozambique is still relatively unspoilt when it comes to tourism, and as such, most of the idyllic hideaways and luxury retreats actively promote sustainable tourism to ensure that the local communities benefit from our visit.

One such resort is the Ibo Island Lodge, one of the Quirimbas Islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of northern Mozambique. During the lodge build, Ibo also built a community school, which became the centre of numerous community schemes for the local people, providing training in tourism and hospitality.

Located in a prime waterfront position, Ibo Island Lodge offers travellers a unique and authentic Mozambican holiday experience, and when combined with a Dhow Island Hopping Safari in the Quirimbas Archipelago, this really is a holiday of a lifetime.

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Ibo Island Lodge is the only operator in Mozambique to offer fully guided island hopping tours for adventurous travellers.  While not 5-star, these fantastic tours aboard a traditional wooden dhow allow you to sleep under stars on an uninhabited tropical island, eat freshly caught seafood prepared by your crew, and snorkel off deserted white sandbanks in one of the last undeveloped places in Africa!

After 4-nights of island hopping, you return to the lodge for three further nights of rest and relaxation… Sound like a dream holiday to you?  Me too!

All photos courtesy of Ibo Island Lodge – http://www.iboisland.com

Self-Drive Tours Namibia – Do You Really Need a 4×4 or Can You Drive with a Normal Car?

A question I asked about a million people before heading to Namibia on our recent self-drive tour was, do we need a 4×4 vehicle or can we self-drive Namibia with a normal car?

Self Drive Holidays and Safaris Namibia

The answers were pretty much 50 / 50, in that half of those I asked said a 4×4 was essential, while the other half said a normal car was fine… But now that we have “been there, done that”, I feel I am in a position to answer this question for others, and the answer is… Yes and No!

After much deliberation, we chose to rent a regular car, and during our 12-day, 2500km journey, our trusty Volkswagen never had a single bump, scrape, chip, or flat tyre…although it was rather dusty! So while I can say ‘yes’ you can self-drive Namibia with a regular rental car, I would also like to mention the following…

Self-Drive Tours Namibia – Do You Really Need a 4x4 or Can You Drive with a Normal Car?

Namibia is the perfect country for self-drive tours, but as soon as you head out of the main cities, the tar roads turn to gravel roads, and you will remain on gravel roads for most of your journey.  As with anywhere in the world, some roads are better maintained than others are, and if you are to navigate Namibia’s gravel roads in a regular saloon car, you need to be an experienced driver.

That said, the gravel roads are extremely wide and you will be lucky to see more than three other vehicles during a five-hour drive, so the chances of an accident or a smashed windscreen due to other cars flicking up stones is low. However, gravel can put added stress onto the smaller wheels of a regular car, and so you need to watch out for sharp rocks and anything that might give you a puncture.

Driving Namibia in a saloon car can be a bumpy ride, especially if you head on down to Sossusvlei, so if you are looking for comfort, opt for a 2×4 car with relatively high clearance to absorb some of the bumps along the way – this is the option we will be going for next time.

With regard to self-driving Namibia in a 4×4, well, I guess if you want to head off-road and do a self-drive safari in Etosha National Park this is probably the best option, but the vehicle, the insurance and the gas will take up a big chunk of your holiday budget.

So if you are not heading off into the unknown, stick with a 2×4, and spend the money you save on some fantastic souvenirs!

Roaring above Cape Town on our Lions Head Tour!

There are so many things to see and do in Cape Town that you could easily spend a fortnight just exploring the city and its surrounds, but if there is one thing you shouldn’t miss during your stay in the Mother City (in my humble opinion!), it would have to be climbing Lions Head Mountain.

Tailor Made Holidays Cape Town South Africa

Table Mountain’s iconic little sister, Lions Head has no fancy cable cars, no restaurant at the top, and no long and winding routes to its peak (it’s straight up here!), yet the view from the top is quiet simply breathtaking, and you get the best view of Table Mountain in town!

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Whenever we are in Cape Town with our guests, we always encourage them to join us as we conquer the mighty Lion, and while it make look a little daunting from the base, this magical mountain has a large plateau at the top where you can enjoy a traditional South African picnic of Sauvignon Blanc and Biltong!

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The view from Lions Head is worth the climb – believe me! With Camps Bay on one side, the Harbour of Cape Town on the other and Table Mountain as a backdrop, it really is one of the best places in the world to sit back, relax, and enjoy the amazing vista.

Unlike Table Mountain, where one can simply glide to the top on the revolving cable car, Lions Head Mountain is not for sissies! You need to hike, climb and scramble your way to the top – which is perhaps why 90% of the people we know in Cape Town have never been up there!

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But you never know who you will meet at the top… A lovely couple asked me to take a photo of them on top of the mountain – and its only when our group of cycling enthusiasts ran over to meet my unsuspecting couple that I realised I was taking a photo of Jan Ullrich (Tour de France winner!) and his wife…

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Like us, they had just cycled the Cape Argus Cycle Tour on a Tandem!

Perfectly Paternoster

If, like us, you are a huge fan of South Africa, then you have probably already ticked Kruger Park, Sabi Sands, the Garden Route, Cape Town, and a whole host of inland treasures off your bucket list… but if you haven’t ventured up the west coast yet – you are in for a treat!

During our two-year placement in Cape Town we heard much about the windswept west coast, but never seemed to find the time to go there, so on our recent trip to South Africa we made sure our first two days were spent in one of the country’s oldest fishing villages – the quaint seaside retreat of Paternoster.

When it comes to describing Paternoster, idyllic, peaceful and romantic are just some of the words that spring to mind, and by treating ourselves to two nights at the exquisite Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel, we were able to relax and unwind in this beachside haven before heading to the chaos one only finds in Cape Town.

If walking on the beach, collecting shells, eating seafood, and drinking fine South African wines as the sun goes down sounds like your dream holiday, add a trip to Paternoster in your next itinerary, and enjoy a little bit of luxury at the Strandloper Ocean…

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Namibia – The Narnia of South-West Africa

Much like the fictional fantasy world of Narnia, the southern African country of Namibia is a world of magical landscapes, mysterious beasts, and a colourful history stemming back over thousands of years.

A unique destination that has much to offer international travellers, Namibia is big, beautiful and boasts some of the world’s most unusual flora and fauna, making it a paradise for photography lovers, and the fact that just 2.5 million inhabitants call this whopping 825,000km² Land home, means you are never short of elbow space!

Namibia might be a relatively new ‘holiday destination’, but it is one that is growing at an incredible rate, and during our 12-day journey across this magnificent country we met many ‘repeaters’ who return year upon year to enjoy the kaleidoscope of colours one can only find in the Namib Desert.

Safe and affordable, Namibia is the perfect destination for a self-drive trip, and while the majority of the roads are unpaved, the gravel roads are extremely well maintained, so much so that it is possible to self-drive Namibia with a regular rental car – no 4 x 4 required!

We will be blogging about each of the destinations we visited in Namibia over the coming weeks, but for now, here are a few of our favourite shots of this African wonderland…

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