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ZB Travel – South Africa Sep 14

Mike Yardley’s travel notes, as profiled on Newstalk ZB’s Jack Tame Show.

Is Nelson Mandela’s imprint ever-present across the nation?

island mural

His influence, his shadow, his image and his name is omni-present. In Johannesburg, I drove past his leafy Houghton mansion, like a shameless rubber-necker. The world’s media are camped out on the manicured footpaths in their droves, to Lindo Wing royal baby watch proportions. And across South Africa, he is never far from the lips of the local conversation.

Kids at Constitution Hill Mandela.

Are people anxious about a post-Mandela South Africa?

Over the course of a week, I spoke to about 50 locals about the state of the nation, which is racked with troubles. Particularly the flood of unskilled migrants, rampant crime, high unemployment and corruption. I met no-one who respected President Zuma and his 6 wives & 20 children. And the overwhelming feeling is that when Mandela is pronounced dead, there could be real civil strife, and the ANC could rip itself apart.

Focusing on two big experiences, Safaris and The Blue Train. What tips would give you people about selecting where to go on safari?


The choice of safari experiences is bewildering. South Africa seems to have about the same number of game reserves and safari lodges, as Italy does Catholic churches. So, you need to do some homework. Accommodation spans the spectrum from 5star lux to shoestring. I stumped for a mid-range experience in very comfortable tented accommodation. The camp only took 12 people at a time, so it was very intimate. And that’s the key. Whatever standard of accommodation you plump for, go boutique, so you don’t have to share the safari experiences with hordes of people. Less is more.

my tent in krugersundowner

What regions are trending amongst the safari set?

Wildlife watching is unquestionably addictive. And amongst the safari junkies I came across, they were unanimous – spend a couple of nights in two or three different game reserves. In addition to South Africa’s spoil of offerings, the northern neighbours, Botswana and Namibia earned heaps of accolades. The other key trend which I think is fantastic, is that many camps will incorporate village visits into their packages. So you can get an authentic flavour of remote African village life, and interact with the community. Here are some direct links to some recommended operators.

You chose Kruger, right?

Yes, I’m a Hemingway fan, and he waxed lyrical about the grand old Kruger National Park. I stayed at the Manyeleti Game Reserve’s Honeyguide Camp  which was magical, and teeming with wildlife, including the Big 5, and hordes of monkeys who did a home invasion on my tented abode. Something which is very sad about Kruger is that everyday, 2 white rhinos are hacked to death by poachers, such is the craving for rhino horn in China. So, many rhinos are now being transferred to private game reserves to protect them.  And you can aid this process, by co-adopting a white rhino for Christmas.

elephant upclose

What about South Africa’s luxury trains?  Where do they go?

Yes, the country has two luxury train services. Rovos and the Blue Train. So if you want to mix up the mind-numbing monotony of domestic air travel, jump on one of these trains They are extremely sociable, they attract all age groups, the scenery is eye-opening and the cuisine is terrific. The trains connect Durban and Cape Town with Pretoria and Victoria Falls.

waiters2 blue train cocktail

How old is The Blue Train? It’s been on the rails for over 50 years, and exudes that time-honoured elegance, with 5star lux comforts. But surprisingly well-priced, compared to the Orient –Express.

Best time to go?

Now. August to December is best. It’s the dry season, and before the sizzling summer heat reaches fever pitch.

For further travel insights, tips and advice, check out the website of New Zealand’s premier travel magazine, For the Love of Travel.

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