Friday, April 29, 2016

5 of the best venues in Botswana and Namibia

Conferencing in Namibia and Botswana is fast gaining ground as new venues open their doors, extending the choice available to corporates.

1. Strand Hotel, Swakopmund 

The new four-star beachfront hotel has been well received by business travellers. Situated on the iconic Swakopmund promenade, it offers spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and most of its 125 rooms and suites offer uninterrupted sea views. There is a small park outside the hotel, through which it is a short five-minute walk to the historic centre of this charming town, with all its shops, cafés, restaurants and bars. A state-of-the-art multipurpose conferencing and banqueting facility completes the offering. Spread over 440 sqm and able to seat more than 100 delegates – or 200 standing – the facility can be tailor made to suit any particular conferencing or meeting style.

2. The Delight, Swakopmund

Gondwana Collection’s new hotel is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air in the Namibian desert. With its colourful design and décor this new establishment is uplifting and inspiring. With 44 light, modern double rooms and 10 loft family rooms it is ideally situated in the town to access the wide range of restaurants and other attractions. A range of conference and meeting facilities are available.

3. The SeaSide Hotel, Swakopmund

One of the largest conference venues along the Namibian coast, the SeaSide Hotel’s facility has a sea view and can accommodate up to 250 people cinema-style. The venue also caters for year-end and team-building events. With an in-house restaurant, superb cuisine is part and parcel of the offering. There are 30 sea-facing rooms and six luxury suites for delegates who want to stay over. All ground-floor suites have direct access to the beach and the sea.

4. Indaba Lodge, Gaborone

With a 14-seat executive boardroom and state-of-the-art equipment, the Indaba Lodge offers the ideal location for executive meetings or small conferences. A variety of packages are available, ranging from boardroom hire to conference and meal packages. The lodge has 84 bedrooms that offer quality accommodation for the growing business travel sector.

5. Aquarian Tide, Gaborone

This hotel’s proximity to the airport, the business centre and several other centres of attraction in Gaborone puts it in the unique position of being able to facilitate guests wanting to take advantage of the city. The 110 guest rooms offer ample accommodation and the hotel is in the process of adding conference facilities and executive meeting rooms.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Time to rethink lion interactions?

Running a trade association is not always easy. With over 600 members everyone has a right to a view. Certainly all associations should represent their members. But when the issues are highly inflammatory our intervention can sometimes fuel the flames rather than put them out. The cry is nearly always that our association, promoting tourism to Africa, should only spread positive images of our industry, never negative. For that reason despite requests from some members we have not openly engaged in the debate on canned hunting in Southern Africa.

Then last November the Born Free Foundation partnered with the film ‘Blood Lions, Bred for the Bullet’, which was screened in London in front of leading members of the tourist industry at the Royal Geographical Society, of which I am a proud Fellow. Having seen the film and after a detailed briefing at ITB Berlin, I am convinced that our industry must speak out about this appalling practice.

So what is it all about? The answer is simply the way we humans interact with wild animals. In this case canned hunting, the breeding of lions for slaughter, a huge business in South Africa. The film tells the story of a safari operator and an American hunter on their journey to uncover predator breeding for canned hunting. The figures are unbelievable, with over 6 000 lions hand reared, of which 99% are being bred for the bullet.

Will Travers, son of Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, the actors who played George and Joy Adamson, and who is now President of The Born Free Foundation, commented at the RGS screening of Blood Lions, saying: “It lays bare the truth behind the canned hunting industry, which, far from contributing to the future survival of the species, may, in fact, accelerate extinction in the wild, leaving behind a trail littered with rotting corpses of its helpless and hopeless victims.”
This is indeed a multimillion-dollar industry, fuelled by a few with no regard for human or animal rights. But how can it possibly reap such huge rewards for the operator, you might ask? Well, to start with it’s a quick easy kill for the hunter, who pays around $5 000 for a lioness and $65 000 for a big black-maned lion. I say partly, as that is not their only source of revenue. The hand-reared cubs are first used as tourist attractions, nursed by paying volunteers, who naively believe they are saving ‘Africa’s lions’. These well-meaning animal lovers, mostly gap-year students in their teens or early twenties, have no idea what really is going on. They innocently pay up to $3 300 per month to work on game farms, bottle feeding and hand rearing these cubs like pets. The figures are staggering, with some (and there are over 200 breeding facilities across the country) employing 35 students at a time, which alone earns $115 000 per month, well over $1million per year.

Hosting a networking event at ITB Berlin, I publicly spoke on this subject for the first time. I was amazed when afterwards one delegate came up and explained that in her gap year, she was one of two students working on one of these farms. At first she believed she was contributing to conservation, dazzled by the whole ‘lion king’ media hype. She left disillusioned, as many of her questions were not answered. Returning for a few hours the following year she found not two, but over 20 students at this one small farm, all bottle feeding and petting the cubs. They were captive breeding for commercial return as those cubs are eventually sold to fenced game farms where they cannot escape the inevitable bullet.

Another offshoot of this industry, which has developed dramatically over the last few years, is ‘walking with lions’.  Unsuspecting tourists are paying $30 to $45 to walk with lions that have literally been trained like circus animals to pose on rocks and tree trunks so that tourists can stop to take photographs and selfies for their Facebook pages. The lions have very often been taught to climb trees for chunks of meat, offered to them at the end of sticks, for the same social media purposes. These tours run throughout the day, catering for around 12 to 15 tourists at a time. This continues until the animal is around two years of age when they are fully grown. Most of these lions are then shot for trophy and their bones shipped to the East to support the ‘tiger bone wine industry’.

These malpractices overshadow all conservation efforts and are beginning to do untold damage to Brand South Africa, where the revenue from tourism provides food for one in seven of the population. This is one reason why I believe we must all get involved.
The industry should come together to put huge pressure on the South African government to make canned hunting illegal. The questions these farms must be asked are: do they breed, do they trade, do they interact with wildlife? If the answer is yes, they are linked to canned hunting. The proof being that none of these breeding facilities are able to say where the ‘orphaned’ cubs come from, or where the adult lions have been ‘rewilded’, as they tell tourists and volunteers alike. In addition, as an association based in Europe we too must work to raise awareness across the gap year industry through print and social media.

We all know the well-publicised slogan ‘a dog is not just for Christmas’. Perhaps this message should be that ‘Wildlife must be kept wild – if you pet a cub, you kill a lion’.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Affordable luxury at the Entrance to Etosha National Park

Etosha Village

Prime destination for nature lovers combined with excellent service and cuisine! Etosha Village, uniquely combines affordability with comfort and delivers the perfect safari style experience in a private and protected reserve directly adjacent to the Etosha National Park, near Okaukuejo.
At Etosha Village nature and luxury are in perfect harmony through design and comfort. Besides the 40 accommodation units and Camping facilities, Etosha Village has three restaurant seating areas, a unique bar with a big screen television, a sparkling pool plus two kiddies pools as well as a well-stocked utility and curio shop.
The individual canvas suites offer a fully air-conditioned bedroom with a unique semi-open en-suite bathroom and a patio to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.
The Etosha Village Camp Site is nestled in the spectacular green and gold Mopani forests surrounding Etosha National Park, and caters for both Groups as well as individual travellers.

The Etosha Village Camp Site is nestled in the spectacular green and gold Mopani forests surrounding Etosha National Park, and caters for both Groups as well as Individual travellers.

The 2 spacious Group Camp Sites are ideal for larger groups and can accommodate a maximum of 25 – 30 tents. These sites are equipped with Power Outlets, Running Water, Lights, Barbeque area and separate Ladies and Gents Bathroom facilities each featuring toilets, wash basins and showers.
The 4 Individual Camp Sites are also equipped with Power Outlets, Running Water, Lights, Barbeque and a well-kept shared ablution. 

Inspiring cuisine can be enjoyed at the Etosha Village Restaurant situated walking distance from the Camp Site. On-site facilities include swimming pools and a bar area with a big-screen television as well as a fully stocked utility and curio shop. Guided excursions to Etosha and sundowner drives can also be booked at reception.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Desert Quiver Camp - Gateway to Sossusvlei

Desert Quiver Camp uniquely combines modern self-catering accommodation with comfort and style. Conveniently located a mere 5km from the entrance gate to Sossusvlei, the inspiring scenery characterised by granite outcrops, spectacular views and roaming wildlife will captivate your senses.

The 24 uniquely designed self-catering accommodation units have spacious bedrooms, en-suite bathrooms, shaded patio areas and private parking. Each twin-bedded room features a fold-out sleeper couch to accommodate 2 small children (under 12) free of charge when sharing with 2 full paying adults. The patio is equipped with a barbeque facility, a fitted kitchenette with under counter fridge, 2 plate hob and a wooden bench for seating. Utility boxes with most utensils needed are available at reception and fresh food supplies can be ordered daily.

Facilities at the main building include a fully stocked bar with a big screen television, a sparkling swimming pool and 2 communal boma-areas which are perfect to cater for groups travelling together. 

Meals can be enjoyed at the nearby Sossusvlei Lodge restaurant and their Adventure Centre offers a range of exciting desert activities to explore the area. 

A fully stocked shop, fuel and an Internet café is available at the Sossus Oasis Service Station.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

10 Things You Absolutely Must Do With Your Kids Before They Turn 18

There are only so many years that your children will be under your care before you set them off on their own. Some even say that we have just 18 summers with our kids, so it’s a must to make the most of the time we’ve been given. Here are 10 things you absolutely must do with your kids before they turn 18 and head out into the world.


Monday, April 11, 2016

A fossil adventure at Mesosaurus

Plan for a fossil adventure 40 km from Keetmanshoop, where you can join a short tour to view the ancient Mesosaurus fossils, overnight in the peaceful Namibian countryside and wander through a quirky quiver tree forest.

We had driven through several farm gates, passing a herd of goats that eyed me inquisitively, before reaching an arrow-shaped hill and a mountain dotted with broccoli-shaped quiver trees. He continued:  “While I was working on the tractor, my ten-year-old son noticed a rock with marks on it and brought it over to me. I hit it on a crack and it fell open, revealing a piece of fossil.”
Initially Giel thought it was a salamander fossil. He showed it to his brother-in-law, a zoology professor at Stellenbosch University, who took the sample with him back to the university. There, Dr Oelofson, who had studied the fossils extensively for his PhD thesis, identified it as an animal from the genus Mesosaurus, a small creature that resembled a crocodile with a long snout and long, needle-like teeth.


Giel briefly condensed millions of years of geological history into a few short minutes and explained that 320 million years ago southern Africa, then part of the supercontinent of Gondwana, was covered with a thick layer of ice. As the weather warmed, the ice started to melt and formed a shallow inland sea covering what is southern Africa and South America today. According to Giel, Mesosaurus lived in this shallow sea 270 million years ago and is considered to be one of the oldest reptile fossils found in southern Africa. It died out approximately 250 million years ago – long before the dinosaurs disappeared around 65 million years ago.
I marvelled at this infinite Earth journey as the wind blew the bleached grass around us into a butter-coloured sea. Standing next to the grave of a German colonial soldier buried on the farm in 1904 after altercations with the Nama in the area (relatively recent history), Giel showed me a rock that had cracked open exactly along a fissure – like a crystal geode – to reveal two perfect parts of a fossil. “You are welcome to take photos”, he told me and laughed. “It’s not often that you see two fossils in a fossil’s hand,” he said, referring light-heartedly to his advanced age.
He also pointed out coprolite, fossilised excrement, which under a microscope reveals what these creatures had eaten for breakfast so many millennia ago.
Before we moved on, Giel added some fascinating information about the Mesosaurus fossils that have been found both in southern Africa and South America. They are evidence that the two continents were once joined as one landmass and thus support Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift.


The fun-filled tour was by no means over yet. We carried on along the farm road until we reached a quiver tree forest where the trees grow abundantly among dark dolerite boulders. The sun generously coated the landscape in a wash of gold as we wandered through the hardy aloe trees. Giel continued to educate me by telling me about the dolerite that had bubbled up as magma below the surface of the earth, before cooling off – and the quiver trees, their hollow branches once used by the early hunter-gatherers to make quivers for their arrows. Small pockets of trees grace southern Namibia and the arid Northern Cape in South Africa.
“I want to play you some music on the rocks.” Giel stood in front of two large slabs of dolerite, surrounded by quiver trees, black rocks and a vast blue sky that was quickly turning into a pastel masterpiece. While I gawked incredulously from a short distance away, he picked up a small stone and began to play the popular tune of Frère Jacques, followed by Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica. I stood in awe as the hollow sound rang clearly through the quiet afternoon and I hummed the words to myself. Yes, God bless Africa.
He broke my reverie, turning around with his blue eyes shining. I applauded. “You know, I’m not a very good musician,” he said humbly. “I’ve played these rocks for ten years now and can only play two songs!”
The sun dipped and the colours deepened around us. The short stop at the Mesosaurus Fossil Site had been a highlight of my trip to southern Namibia, a mix of exciting discovery, like unearthing an old treasure-chest full of gold doubloons, and a celebration of this unusual arboreal arena – with an amusing guide to add to the experience.
I had yet to overnight in the rustic and charming chalets under a star-studded sky and to wake to the melodic call of Namaqua sandgrouse on their way to the waterhole. Yet, I wanted to keep the experience somewhere safe in the recesses of my memory. I wouldn’t be able to preserve it for 250 million years, but I wanted some of the simple, natural magic to linger with me for a while longer.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Namibian Landscapes

Namibia Namibia has some of the world’s most spectacular desert ecosystems and contains a wide range of landscapes, wildlife and people.

its stark, magical beauty and diversity of culture combine to make it one arid, expansive paradise. between the inhospitable Namib desert lining the atlantic coast and the escarpment of the interior plateau hides a panorama of richly coloured sand dunes, vast plains, savannahs teeming with african game and rugged brown mountains.


This landscape comprises some of the most pristine wilderness on the globe. the first country in the world to enshrine environmental protection in its national constitution, Namibia’s articles 93 and 95 ensure that the roughly 15 percent of the territory that is designated as national parkland is safeguarded from commercial or agricultural development. enforcement and general administration of these areas comes under the ministry of environment and tourism. with proper management, the future of Namibia’s wildlife and associated tourist industry is assured.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Namibia is The Best!

Namibia - the land in the south-west of Africa between the Orange River in the south and the Kunene River in the north - is a barren land, like from another star, but still inviting and strangely familiar. Namibia is a paradise for photographers, a land of contrasts and clear colours. Those who are looking for peace and stillness and enjoy mesmerising landscapes and wide desert expanse, are going to fall in love with Namibia, one of the least populated countries in the world. 

Namibia is Africa at its best, with friendly, natural people, with endless savannah and bushland and an amazingly diverse animal world, protected in the vast Etosha National Park and in many other game reserves. Namibia is an adventure, but one doesn't need to be an adventurer to experience this country. A well maintained road network, comfortable hotels, lodges and guestfarms make travelling a pleasure.