Archive for the ‘Experiences’ Category

Hidden away in a valley in the Klein Karoo lies a luxurious homestead overlooking rolling green lawns, a large swimming pool and surrounded by mountains. Wind your way out of the little town of Calitzdorp for 9km past vineyards, orchards and ostriches and discover the Daniels Kraal Farm, encased by rambling vineyards, olive trees and the Karoo bush.

Built in 1836, the historical building features a thatched roof, thick walls and an expansive veranda. Charming bedrooms, chic bathrooms and spacious living areas make for a comfortable, relaxing and restful living space that has been stylishly decorated with antique furniture and collected trinkets from the owner’s extensive travels. Just what Explorers Club is all about….

Spend the days playing boules, relaxing under the shade of the Silver Oak by the pool or flop on the deep sofas on the open stoep, playing board games or reading. The space provides the perfect setting for G&Ts by the pool in summer and hearty red wine by the crackling wood fire in winter.

This peaceful and private haven sits on 2300 hectares of pristine wilderness and is home to a variety of fauna and flora as well as many fossils. Spot over 100 species of birds and small game such as giant leopard tortoises, klipspringers, hares and caracal. If you are the active type, there is walking and mountain biking.

The Old Caledonskloof wagon route went through the farm, it was a treacherous route for Ox wagons to get through to Cape Town and was the only way through until 1898. At that time a wagon-wheel maker lived on the farm, called Daniels Kraal. Rates are R5,000.00 per night, excluding Christmas, New Year and Easter.

For more information CLICK HERE



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Twelve months ago we started plotting an expedition over lunch, on a rain-soaked day in the Franschhoek Valley. The resulting brief was to combine good exercise with a pioneering adventure and an exhilarating wildlife experience – the old school way. The redoubtable James Varden was to lead this inaugural adventure into the unknown. Its purpose was to test-run future mini-expeditions for our guests and create some lasting memories for us, so we threw together a motley crew for the first run in June and told them absolutely nothing apart from:

• We are going to Zimbabwe
• We will walk +/- 20 km per day in a remote wilderness area, thick with wildlife
• Bring a day pack which carries at least 3 litres of water
• We stay in bush-camps
• Make sure you wear in your boots and bring bush-coloured attire, and a sense of humour!

This was no ordinary walk, traversing three blocks, in the remote Savé Conservancy, in the lowveld of South East Zimbabwe. James had gone down in advance to recce a route, between four bush-camps, and we drove down to meet him from Harare for six nights in the bush absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of Africa. We heard lion every night and morning, tracked black and white rhino, navigated through herds of ellies and around buffalo and walked through some magnificent scenery. The food and hospitality was superb and we all came away beaming, knowing we had been privileged to have sole access to this wonderful part of Africa, for a piece of time.

This year we are organising the same walk for two groups of four to six people, led by James, between the months of May and July. You need to be bush savvy (it is in an area of dangerous game) and be prepared to walk 20 km per day for five days. It is led by one of the best guides in the business for his knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for his country and its flora and fauna, not to mention his pranks. This is an adults only walk but older children may be considered. The overview is below and for some drone footage of the Chishakwe area we walked in CLICK HERE


You will be walking through the bush on bush trails and the occasional dirt track through parts of the Save Conservancy in South East Zimbabwe. It is a Big 5 area so there is a possibility of bumping into animals considered to be dangerous game. James will be armed and will know how best to react in this eventuality.

In addition to Big 5 the Conservancy is home to a large diversity of game animals and you are likely to see zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, eland, kudu, impala, waterbuck, sable, bush buck, nyala, duiker, warthog etc. You may well see wild dog, hyena (brown and spotted), jackal, serval etc too. Though it is rare you might see cheetah.

The bird life is spectacular and those who are interested will not be disappointed. James will be able to point out a myriad of small species (mongoose, squirrel, porcupine etc). Naturally there is also abundant insect and reptile life which can also be a source of fascination.

Save Valley Conservancy is famous for its huge and abundant baobabs and there are at least two trees which are recorded in books for their size and age. It is also well known for its vast mopane forests … in fact a BBC documentary was made on them just after our walk.

You will not see roan antelope, tsesebe, hartebeest, gemsbok or blesbok as they do not occur in the conservancy.
There is no shortage of any of the big 5 species in the conservancy so there is a reasonably strong chance of you see seeing most or all of these species. They would say you are pretty much guaranteed elephant and buffalo, the cats will be trickier as you will be moving around in the daylight. Rhino tend to be very secretive but it is not that uncommon to come across them, but you will have the opportunity of tracking them. One of the highlights of the walk.


James has established himself as one of Southern Africa’s pre-eminent guides. He has conducted walking trails in Mana Pools, Hwange and Matusadona, all dangerous wildlife areas. His passion for all aspects of nature, particularly birding and botany, combined with a keen emphasis on very active, adventurous and energetic safaris meant that guests left with as full a safari experience as one could get.

From November 1997 until now, James has focused on the guiding (including on horseback and on water) and wildlife issues, becoming more involved in issues that threaten wilderness values and areas. James and his wife Janine have started Community Projects in the Mavhuradonha Wilderness 600 sq.km boundary, including Honey for Money.

James has guided in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Uganda. Twice scaled Kilimanjaro and done the three main peaks of the Ruwenzori Mountains.
He has also birded extensively in the Far East, Australia and visited Antarctica. Sir Ranulph Feinnes has been one of James’s clients. More info on http://www.vardensafaris.com

There will be an opportunity to fish for bass, bream and barbel

It might or might not be possible to see the dogs on foot depending on where they den. If we are lucky and they are near a camp you are staying in you will be able to go out of foot. We can arrange a visit to the dog den with the researchers, or perhaps we convince them to join you for dinner. This is a rare occurrence and is charged separately by the African Wildlife Conservation Fund should you want to do it.

Guests arrange flights to Harare and can either take road transfer in, between 5 and 6 hours, or you can private charter from Harare into a bush airstrip. We would recommend a road transfer one way to see some lovely scenery on the way down and private charter out.

+/-$220 – 250 per person per day for accommodation and food. Not including drinks (6 nights x $250 = $1500 pp)
$500 per day for guide – split between you
$50 per day for guide accommodation and food – split between you

Extras – Drinks, flights, transfers, hunting, wild dog research


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Having seen close to fifteen years of innovation in our valley it is surprising we see the bar still being lifted each year. A few years ago, during the World Cup hosted in South Africa, a new visitor fell in love with Franschhoek. Since then he has been busy, quietly amassing a hospitality portfolio that he has transformed into a step above the rest. That man is Analjit Singh.

Not only has he and his team created two outstanding new hotels, but he has acquired, and is revamping, the iconic Le Quartier Francais and Tasting Room. He has opened a Micro-Brewery called Tuk-Tuk and is introducing North Indian cuisine into the valley through a new restaurant called Marigold in November of this year. If that is not enough he has formed a partnership with Mullineux, the 2016 Winery of the Year. With an impressive team of architects, landscape and interior designers, they have launched the Leeu Collection, with an extensive collection of art.

We had the fortune of spending a night recently and decided to sample an informative wine tasting at The Wine Studio followed by a massage in the dreamy Spa, and dinner at The Dining Room…. it was my birthday of course… thanks Sarah! We slept like hibernating bears and dropped downstairs reluctantly to say goodbye, but not after a sumptuous breakfast on the terrace on a sunny day in winter.

We should do this more often. It was very spoiling. If you want to stay… let Sarah know….www.sarahjamestravel.com


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Ash has just completed the 2nd stage of the Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands) today. She has been training for two years.

It is a six-day, 251 km (156 mi) ultramarathon, which is the equivalent of six regular marathons. The longest single stage (2009) is 91 km (57 mi) long. This multiday race is held every year in southern Morocco, in the Sahara Desert, close to the Algerian border. It is considered the toughest foot race on Earth. Some would consider her tough as nuts, others just plain nuts!

Message from Ash before first stage ..‘Very windy night and very cold I had to really layer up. Packed weighed in at 7.5kg which is ok. The first day is the massive chebbi dunes which is quite scary. Tent mates are great.’

Here’s a pic of those dunes they all faced yesterday, on the first stage, and the founder, on arrival in Morocco, Patrick Bauer and a pic of her reaching end of stage 2 a few minutes ago.….

You can see James Cracknells’ Documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0Qak8e4vYA

If you would like to donate, here is a message from Ash below photos.

Dear All,

I wanted to give you all un update on fundraising… incredibly I have now managed to smash my target of £3275.00… with 75 donations…. TODAY I tipped over the £5,000 mark (with gift aid) I am honestly speechless and so blown away by the incredible generosity and kindness. THANKYOU everyone…. for all your messages as well it is just the best motivation…


So, with only 2 days to go until I leave home… I thought I would send you all some race info incase you want to track me… I the leave the UK on the 8th April to travel to the race start deep in the desert. The race begins on Sunday 10th And there are a number of ways you can track me if you are interested during the following 7 days.

The important info is that my race bib number is 1149 and full name Ashley Sinfield (GBR)

Website : Each day on our website we publish everything you need to know about MDS: details of each stage, overall and stage rankings, portraits, interviews, live streaming of competitors passing the finish line. 
→ http://marathondessables.com
For friends and family keen to get a taste of the MARATHON DES SABLES adventure from the inside, nothing could be easier: tell them to sign up at the address below. They will then be able to follow the race live starting from 10 April, in two different, complementary ways:
[if !supportLists]§  [endif]Live tracking: simply select the runners you want to follow and get information on the fly;
[if !supportLists]§  [endif]Geolocalization: in real time, your supporters can follow your progress on the field, as if they were at your side. Or follow my dot on the screen to make sure it is still moving!!!! I will also try to wave at the camera at the end of each stage if I can.
→ To follow MDS 2016: http://live.marathondessables.com
The course will be long on the 31st MARATHON DES SABLES: 257 km to be exact. That is, if you don’t wander off the most direct route. To keep up your spirits, each evening you can receive encouragement from your loved ones. How does it work? Once again, it’s very simple: from 09 to 15 April (i.e. from the technical control day to the penultimate day of the race), they can go on the MDS website and the section “Write to a competitor”, then just follow the instructions, indicating the first and last names and bib number of the person they want to follow. No file attachments possible. Their messages will be given to you on the bivouac every evening, on paper.
→ To send a message to a loved-one:

Thanks you all again.

With much love Ash xxx

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The Dogcatcher was sitting idle, in Kasane on the northern Botswana border with Zimbabwe and Zambia, and it needed to return to roost in Franschhoek, some 2,400 kilometres across the central Kalahari. A very generous extended pink ticket was granted to me, so I asked my nine-fingered friend, Dorian Hoy, who runs Great Plains Conservation in Botswana, if he needed some help. I had two weeks to fill, before the drive.

His answer was surprisingly swift and encouraging “I am sure we can, and I will get back to you next week.” That’s when my mind started racing. I had visited the Selinda Reserve a number of times over the last five years and the area is remote and very, very special. It is the size of the Masai Mara, with two all-year-round camps and one seasonal tented camp, it also operates an incredible canoe safari, and a total of just sixteen tents. In my heightened sense of anticipation I could not think of much else, but being in that environment.

This is the first in a series of dispatches from the region, and some of the memories, of previous visits, are depicted below.

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Rear-Admiral Dorian Hoy, able-fisherman master Sam Hoy and I (tackle-master, bottle washer, deck-scrubber) threw caution to the wind and took off up a channel from Maun to see how far we could get into the swamps in a day.

Laden with drinks, snacks, binos and fishing tackle we launched at dawn, following a GPS route which we had downloaded from a contact in Maun. Our aim was to get to Gunns Camp, in the middle of the swamps, about 90 km from riverbank in Maun, and come back via an adjoining channel, stop for a swim, lunch and catch as many species of fish that time would allow. It made for an interesting day out carving through forests of papyrus and keeping on track – it is very easy to lose yourself in the maze of channels with no clear landmarks to identify.

The first third of the journey was getting up to the Moremi Reserve post and after that point the wildlife began appearing in greater quantities. The water is clear and cool and very inviting. Once the coast had been checked for all manner of beasts we climbed in, fished, ate and drank some cold beers. Altogether it took around 8 hours and I landed my first African Pike. We hardly saw a soul.

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Patricia Glyn returns to Franschhoek to give a more in-depth insight into the plight of a family of Khomani Bushmen when they returned, for two months, to their ancestral hunting grounds of the southern Kalahari, in the Kgalagadi National Park, from which they had been evicted.

It was a moving and memorable expedition during which the two elders of the family taught their youngsters about important heritage sites and rituals. Patricia learned a great deal about their traumatic history and fast-disappearing culture and her latest illustrated presentation is about this journey.  Her book about this life-changing trip is called What Dawid Knew: A Journey with the Kruipers.

Patricia made her name as a broadcaster on South African radio and TV where she hosted news and actuality programmes, did profile interviews, music shows, quizzes and documentaries.

Time: 6.30 pm

Date: Monday 25 November

Venue: The Library, 16 Wilhelmina Street, Franschhoek

Cost: R150, including some delicious curry

Drinks: Pay bar available

Charity: proceeds go to Khomani Heritage Preservation Trust

To reserve tickets please email bandoola@mweb.co.za

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