5 Star Bush luxury at Noko Camp

Picture yourself relaxing in an infinity pool with a drink in hand soaking in infinite vistas of the tranquil 48 000 hectare reserve and Palala river below. Or outside on your private deck with a cup of steaming hot coffee, while the morning sun warms your face and birds serenade you with song. One of South Africa’s premier , malaria free Big 5 Game reserves , nestled in the heart Lapalala provides breathtaking natural beauty.

Sunrise at Noko Camp

This is what dreams are made of. Situated in the Lalapala Reserve is the Noko Camp. A 5 star luxurious retreat in the middle of the African bush,where you can not only see some of the most unspoilt natural splendour and an abundance of wildlife, but also indulge in three scrumptious meals a day prepared by first class chefs, relaxing massages, cocktails with a view and two games drives a day with a professional and knowledgable ranger.

Noko Camp
Noko Camp

Noka Camp comprises of 4 tented and stilted luxury villas complete with a private heated plunge pool and one family villa. The meticulously clean rooms boast a modern bush style with contemporary furniture made from sustainable , South African products , crafts and textiles where possible. Products have been sourced from the skilled, local community. The Mogalakwena Development Foundation is a community project based in the Limpopo Province not far from Lepogo Lodges.  The Foundation was established to enrich the lives of underprivileged people enabling them to learn a skill and better their lives.  The Montebello Design Centre is where Mogalakwena also exhibit their work.  Talented craftsmen and women have made the bed mats that lie by the bed and the colourful table mats on the tables.  The palm they use is Palala Palm taken from the winding Palala River which is the river flowing under the lodge. One of my favourite locally produced products was the hydrating hair oil in our room made from fabled baobab and mooring trees, perfect for the knots in my long hair after a game drive.

Noko Camp
Lounge area of the villa
Twin room at Noko Camp

The rooms are spacious with an open - plan bathroom featuring under floor heating and a sunken bath that has uninterrupted views of the wilderness. Air con is standard as is wifi through out the property. Lodge facilities include a cosy library, curio shop, viewing platforms overlooking the park, lounge deck, wine cellar and tree top gym. The room is filled with surprises including bottle holders and slippers that are made from recycled plastic - the most comfortable pair of hotel slippers I have ever slid my feet into. The best part is we could take them home. The gold coloured water bottles personalised for each guest with their name written underneath was another WOW gift. Perfect for the game drives, once home it became ideal for the office desk.

Sunken bath at Noko Camp

A wide variety of activities are available which include safaris, bird watching, bush walks, boat safaris, bush camping, photographic safaris, iron age site, bushman paintings, yoga deck, spa facilities, star gazing, whiskey and gin tasting and a visit to the Lapalala Wilderness School.

Out door tree top gym and yoga area
Noko Camp
Cosy Library

There is ample wildlife, so be sure to carry your camera at all times, there are many species of game including cheetah, rhino, elephant, lion , zebra , baboons, jackal , giraffe, buck and 235 beautiful bird species to name but a few.

Giraffe at Noko Camp
Zebra at Noko Camp
Lion at Noko Camp

As the sun retreats and the moon comes out, enjoy a glass of African wine under the darkest skies and admire the twinkling sky with the clearest constellations. On a clear night one can see the 7 sisters, and some of the planets in our solar system.

Sleep under the stars and wake up to a magnificent sunrise

Two of the most critical factors of any African safari are the game viewing and lodges. On a perfect safari they should complement each other, and Noko Camp does just that. This is a not - for - profit lodge, where 100% of the financial gains are reinvested back into the Lapalala Wilderness for the benefit of the wildlife , conservation and future generations. Lepogo Lodges is entirely off-grid and all energy is self- generated through the bespoke 250m solar walkway. It is believed that they have the first solar walkway in South Africa. Attention to detail is every where like the bathroom aloe garden created from the little aloes that were moved during the building of the villas.

Solar walkway
Noko Camp

For an authentic and wild safari experience Noko Camp is ideal. Here is where your imagination becomes reality and the experience is life - changing.

Views from the villa at Noko Camp

For info and bookings go to : https://lepogolodges.com/noka-camp

info@lepogolodges.com

Call : +27 87 094 5869

African Synergy : + 27 11 782 0636

 


Exploring the Midlands in 48 hours

Last minute getaways are the best, I often find that we over plan for holidays and still land up forgetting the essentials. I decided on a weekend away in the Natal Midlands, one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa with its endless rolling green hills with quaint towns dotted along the route. We packed our bags and within 10 minutes were on the road, what we didn't have we would make a plan - that’s our family philosophy.

Blossoms in Rosetta

Nottingham Road

I have always said this charming, heart -melting town has a weather system of its own. It’s recommended to have a jacket close by at all times. Winding down the road from the postcard - pretty village of Rosetta one enters this picturesque chilly town with its abundance of lush green pastures for dairy farms and sheep. The Junction has retained its origins as a country farm stall. This shopping village in the heart of the Midlands Meander is a perfect stop to stretch ones legs and get a quick bite at the spacious restaurant with a playground for the kids. A gaggle of geese waddled towards the pond rather intrigued by my boisterous boys.There is so much to see in this part of the Midlands that a drive through does not do justice. South Africa’s most successful Micro Brewery nestles in the shady grounds of the elegant Rawdons Hotel. This thriving brewery has been delighting visitors since 1996 and they claim their success lies in the purest spring water drawn from the artesian well on their property combined with the use of the finest quality hops and malted barley.

The Junction in Nottingham Road
The Junction at Nottingham Road

Ixopo

Originally called “ Stuartstown” the original Zulu name of “ Ixopo “ has prevailed. laid out in 1878 Ixopo is most famously described by Alan Paton in the opening lines of Cry,The Beloved County : “ There is a lovely road which runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass covered and rolling , and they are lovely beyond any singing of it . “ This delightful town is not a major tourist attraction and is often often overlooked by those wondering though the Midlands. Some things worth seeing are the two churches built in the 1800’s that are still in use, the striking landmark Cross that was erected on Medal Hill in 1972 to promote goodwill among men, a memorial sundial located in the grounds of the magistrates court, Dead Men’s tree which stands outside the Old Post Office Buildings and Ixopo Prison which grew from the remains of an early fort in 1900. Nearby is the Buddhist retreat Centre where people have been visiting for over 20 years. Not far from the dam is the breeding site of the rare Blue Swallow, the Endangered Wildlife Trust has appointed the Buddhist centre as custodian of these rare swallows. Former President Nelson Mandela declared the Centre a Natural Heritage Site. The old Railway station caught my eye,I have always loved train travel. It served the area until the mid 1980s, the steam train that offers day trips is called Paton Express and was lovingly restored by entrepreneur Julian Pereira, still travels the same route through the tall gum trees and natural forests that Alan Paton referred to in his writings as the “ small toy train “ climbing from the Umzimkulu Valley. I jumped from the platform onto the old locomotive, visualising the mist swirling gently into the sky as the train clunked and screeched out of the station. The Zero 39 Lounge is the cosy restaurant that runs from the immaculate station building,don’t leave without savouring one of their juicy burgers.

Paton's Train Station
Paton's Railway
Patons Express

Mariathal Trappist Mission School

The mission founded in 1887 , served as the first seminary for priests who had studied overseas. Its present site is on the road to Richmond and Umzimkulu. Built by Francis Pfanner it now functions as a public school and as a gathering point for the local community. This combined boarding school in 2020 had 1146 learners with 35 teachers. Boarding facilities are provided for the female students. The perimeter of the property has a neglected cemetery where previous Brothers and Bishops are buried. A peaceful property filled with smiling, friendly faces that pop out of all corners its well worth the stop. The church and structure have been maintained and leave one in awe as you look up at the bell tower.

Mariathal Missonery School
Mariathal Missionary Church
Mariathal Missionery

Richmond

Situated on the banks of the upper Illovo River it was established in 1850 by British Byrne Settlers. The best way to explore this town is on foot. Walking the streets ones sees so much more. The Old Court House with the dilapidated prison cells in the back garden is for the adventurous. The St Marys Church built in 1853 stands proudly amongst manicured gardens . This unspoilt building with its low wall is inviting and peaceful. The Museum down the road with a tank that stands to attention in the front garden is only a teaser of whats inside. The curator has put a lot a lot of effort into maintaining and gathering artefacts. I found it very interesting to see snippets of the formal colonial way of life from these areas.

St Mary's Church in Richmond
Old Court House in Richmond

Winterton

Founded in 1905 , this town is situated on the banks of the Tugela River. A fairly small town, the drive down the wide tree - lined main road is scenic. Nestled at the foothills of the majestic Drakensburg this was always our last stop before arriving in the Central Drakensburg as children. Cosy coffee shops, a well looked after museum and other little shops of interest add character to this otherwise laid back town.

Entering the town of Winterton
Winterton Museum

Warm and welcoming is the best way to describe each town. Unique in their own way they are all oozing with character and happy to welcome local visitors who may pass through or linger a little longer.


Fashion District & Little Addis Tour

One of the most colourful and interesting tours in Joburg.
Browse the inner - city’s fabulous array of colour and designs on a 5 hour walking tour of exclusive boutiques, fabric stores and cutting - edge studios in the historic garment district. Walking with our fashionista guide through the vibrant heart of Johannesburg we got an insider’s take on latest fabrics and designs.

The Fashion District

Perfect for art, cultural and fashion buffs, this tour has no large crowded groups or big busses. Just small, intimate groups with a passion for Africa and its communities. Introductions aside at the Thunderwalker, we walked over to Ghandi square where the statue of Ghandi is one of only two statues in the world that depicts Ghandi as a young lawyer.

Ghandi Square

Urban Zulu ( Urban Heaven ) fashion which officially opened in 2002 and Urban backpackers was our next stop. Founder and director, Papy Kaluw has a fascinating story of how his little empire grew. It started out with the clothes his mother would sew for him back home in The Congo, he launched his business with no formal qualification and taught himself to design clothes from scratch. With hard work and determination he is surely the mouthpiece for South African urban culture now. The brand produces quality yet affordable fashion items, walking around inside the Urban backpackers , which is within walking distance of Ghandi square precinct one comes across designers hard at work. The sun terrace offers the best vibes and views of the city where one can enjoy the city’s buzz, this is the gathering place for people from all corners of the globe.

Urban Zulu
Urban Zulu

While walking through the fashion precinct one discovers independent , beautifully made, unique fashion - all ethically made and / or designed in South Africa. Look out for the Sheshwe fabrics, these are printed dyed cotton fabric which is widely used for traditional Southern African clothing. Originally dyed indigo, the fabric is manufactured in a variety of colours and printing designs characterised by intricate geometric patterns. Da Gama textiles is the only producer of Shweshwe worldwide, the fabric designs are part of their Three cats range. Their hallmark is its niche market branded merchandise that has become synonymous with quality. Walking through @109 , a one stop sewing shop on the tour one will see the beautiful collection of Shweshwe fabrics which are very reasonably priced.

@109 one stop sewing shop
Sheshwe fabrics

Weaving through the maze of shops, it is said there are over 100 small to medium scale shops with distinctive creations, to the new trend of Afro- chic , these shops are treasure troves of fabrics and accessories. This concentrated area of shops and services relating to the fashion industry is the largest on the continent. My favourite stop was at Dianna Fashion, the sea of colour from all around the continent is out of this world. She has been in business for 15 years now selling fabrics, it’s a true Aladdin’s cave when you walk into her shop.

Fabrics inside of Dianna's
Dianna, has been running her fabric business for 15 years

We visited the Fashion Kapitol with 30 shops, offices and studios. The arcade that links Pritchard and Market streets through this closed space was set to be Africa’s Fashion capital when plans started coming together in 2008. Rees Mann one of the people who has been a driving force behind the revamping of Johannesburg’s fashion district, is the third generation from his family of garment entrepreneurs in this area. His family having started out here in 1948. Speaking to him at his shop , his passion for the industry and inner city is evident as he shares with the tour group stories of the city that is so close to his heart. His vision is the city’s rebirth as a pan-African, cosmopolitan hive of energy.

At The Fashion Kapitol
The Fashion Kapitol

The three heritage buildings at The Kapitol are two houses dating back to 1892 and 1895 and the cabinet makers workshop and furniture store built in 1928 the year Johannesburg gained city status. Look out for the blue plaque on the wall while admiring the colourful wall of images depicting scenes from the city.

Painted wall at The Fashion Kapitol

Moving onto the Ethiopian quarter in the Medical Arts Centre we enjoyed the smell and flavour of good Ethiopian coffee, this lengthy process starts with the roasting of coffee beans in a flat pan over a tiny charcoal stove, the pungent smell mingling with the heavy scent of incense that is always burning during the ceremony . Did you know that only women make the coffee in Ethiopia ? the coffee production in Ethiopia is a longstanding tradition which dates back dozens of centuries. Ethiopia is where coffea arabica , the coffee plant originates.This building was a labyrinth, with multiple floors of everything Ethiopian from clothes, to music, jewellery and the delicious little restaurants and bakeries tucked away in corners I felt like I had arrived in Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopian mall
Ethiopian coffee served with popcorn

All good things come to an end. The tour finishes off back at the Thunderwalker were everyone is taken down stairs to Zwipi Underground to view the famous bank vault.

The Thunderwalker

This tour gets the 3 “ f’s “ from me
Fun
Fabulous
Fascinating

For more info on this tour and other Inner City tours contact www.joburgplaces.com


Experience Soweto through the eyes of Lebo

If it’s fun and interactive that you crave then this is the best way to see Soweto.Daily tours take you into the heart of this vibrant and historical township or “kasi “. Oozing with colour and friendly people who warmly welcome adventurous travellers’ this is a one stop location that will cater for all your needs.

Lebo's Soweto backpackers
Leo's bicycle tours in Soweto

Lebo Malepa started the backpackers from his family home in Orlando West in 1999, since 2003 it has been officially open when tourism was just starting to take off in Soweto. A new concept to both locals and visitors, Lebo went on to open South Africa’s first accommodation for backpackers that is situated in a township. Now 20 years on, he and his wife Maria from Sweden run a business that not only provides for them but also contributes to the local community through employment and by supporting local businesses. One could say, Lebo had a dream that he has watched grow over the years.

Lebo Malepa with his tuk tuks

A variety of tour options that reveal off - the - beaten - track spots means there is something that will appeal to everyone. The bicycle tours are both half day and full day. They offer an on - the - ground experience which includes many stops to appreciate the history and the public art that can be spotted on many walls. Walking tours are relaxed and the the best way to meet and interact with the local people while tasting local foods, doing some shopping and learning some township lingo “ Tsotsi Taal “.
All tours are guided by local, knowledgeable guides who can speak the local languages and explain the area to you.They are charismatic and energetic, not only do they tell you about the “ obvious spots “ but they also share what many would say is the unwritten story of Soweto from a locals perspective.

Children of Mzihlophe

My favourite was the sunset tuk tuk tour through some of the backstreets of Soweto. The tour included Vilakazi street.The most famous street in Soweto, it has been rejuvenated to a brightly-lit weekend entertainment hub with dance clubs, live music venues and popular drinking spots. This is the only street in the world to have two Nobel Prize winners as its residents. It is within walking distance of the Hector Pieterson Memorial museum and includes attractions like the Mandela House , the Tutu’s former home and Winnie Mandela’s house is not far away either.

Vilikazi Street

Riding in a quirky yellow tuk tuk through the streets of Mzihlophe which loosely translates as “ white village “ I was told how it was previously a hostel for around 10 000 men who lived here and worked on the mines, in local municipalities etc. Change started to take place from 1996 when the hostels became homes to families . This predominately Zulu speaking community is bustling with energy, children run in the streets, women carry all sorts of items on their heads and the men sit in groups socialising at shebeens and playing games. Amidst all this, the township finds time to breathe and relax in the beautiful open spaces and parks just like the one behind Lebo’s with its mural covered walls.

The streets of Mzihlophe in Soweto
Mzihlophe in Soweto

For a full and un - rushed experience the best is to stay overnight. There is a variety of accommodation ranging from budget style dormitories, to private double and single rooms, camping and camp chalets. I stayed in the double en suite room, this immaculately clean room with a private bathroom and quaint cosy garden outside was just perfect. Complete with Wifi I found my comfy spot in the garden and watched the heavy storm clouds roll in.

En Suite double room at Lebo's
Courtyard area around rooms at Lebo's

One gets the feeling you have arrived in a village with its deep sense of homeliness. From the sheep that had a lot to say to me, to the hammock swaying gently in the cool ambiance of the tropical type garden, with its vibey Beach Bar and the smiley, friendly staff. Brewing of home made beer and the aroma of the delicious potjiekos being prepared on the fire . All this combined with the laughter of children close by makes one feel relaxed and welcome. This is home away from home.

Leo's camp site

Soweto is an experience like no other. Staying at Lebo’s where the activities, tastes and sounds encourage you to linger longer and spend more time exploring this hip urban lifestyle were tradition and customs have merged with modern day living.

www.sowetobackpackers.com

#betheexperience


Shabani Cottage - Doornkloof Nature Reserve

Astoundingly beautiful natural scenery that surrounds Shabani Cottage is the best way to describe this inviting property tucked away amidst the mountains of Doornkop Fish & Wildlife Nature reserve. Modern decor with a touch of Africa gives it a cozy feel making it an ideal destination for all seasons of the year. Warm - hearted hospitality welcomes you to this intimate , luxurious property. We were met with a beaming smile from Denzel the complimentary chef who also showed us the ropes.

DoornKloof Nature Reserve

Popular activities while residing at the cottage include daily game drives that are conducted in search of the various wild animals as well as the elusive giraffe which we were supper excited to spot on our final day. He gracefully walked across the road in front of us with yellow billed oxpeckers hanging on. They are known to have a beneficial relationship that provides the giraffe with a cleaner, healthier skin. Other recommend activities include the hiking trails in the 2000 hectares as well as mountain bike riding , horse riding and fly fishing at one of the numerous well stocked dams. To expand your knowledge of the area put your feet up while swaying gently in the hammock with one of the many books founds on the bookshelf. Indulge in sheer relaxation as you unwind next to the pool overlooking the African bush veld .

Doornkloof Nature Reserve
Shabani Cottage @ Doornkloof Nature Reserve
Shabani Cottage

An ideal family destination for for up to 8 people you have the entire property to yourself . For the less adventurous they can enjoy the activities in the man cave like table tennis, watching TV , a game of darts and kids can play in the garden building sand castles, jumping on the trampoline and swinging to their hearts content.

Shabani Cottage
Shabani Cottage

After a day out exploring there is nothing better than walking into a house to the sound of french fires sizzling in a greasy skillet. mmmmm. The grand feast of a holiday lunch isn't complete if there is no banana split : three scoops of ice cream with banana halves on either side and a big mound of whipped cream on top, laced with chocolate sauce and sprinkled with chopped nuts- all topped off with a plump red cherry. Chef Denzel works magic with his hands , from the fresh chilled summer fruit in the fridge - its colourful, juicy and sweet to the rich, aromatic smell of fried russians. Every meal was a treat and his presence makes the holiday complete.

Chef Denzel
Shabani Cottage

A mere 20km away is the town of Carolina in Mpumulanga which was established as a trading post in 1886 on Groenvlei and Goede Hoep farms, but another story tells the tale of Cornelis Coetzee who offered parts of his farm, Steynsdraai, for the establishment of the village, but only on the condition that it be named after his wife. Although the town was almost completely destroyed during the second Anglo-Boer War, it was rebuilt shortly afterwards and still has a few of its original sandstone buildings around the church square. A statue stands outside the church in commemoration of lives lost during the war.

Statue from Boer War in Carolina

Carolina is the resting place of internationally-acclaimed painter Bertha Bonnefoi of the Everard group of artists. Driving through town one can’t miss the bright red repurposed double decker bus. The internationally-acclaimed Everard group of artists, who lived in the nearby hamlet of Bonnefoi which has since been abandoned, can be viewed with a private tour that paints the picture of the ghost town at its peak in the 1900s – and you can imagine the goings about of the manor house, hotel and post office. Painter Bertha Bonnefoi (nee Everard) is buried in the Carolina cemetery.

The red bus in Carolina

Another option for a tour is of the surrounding region where you will learn about the intriguing Bokoni civilisation or 'the forgotten people of Mpumalanga' as they are known, who inhabited the area for 500 years until the early 19th century. They ruled over large portions of Mpumalanga's escarpment and built concentric stone-walled enclosures, roads and terraces that have made the area of particular interest to archaeologists and historians.

The Safariguys at Shabani Cottage

Mpumulanga, just like the rest of the country, fuses the views and landscapes with a splash of magic. Guests can immerse themselves in the wild side while enjoying the spoils and comfort of this exclusive and unforgettable adventure.

Double bed room in Shabani Cottage

For more information on this holiday cottage and other tailored African adventures go to www.thesafariguys.com


Joburg Story Telling

The eternal African tradition of telling stories around a fire has not been lost. The environment may be different but the art of oral storytelling has made it possible for our various cultures to pass knowledge , history and experiences on from one generation to the next. Storytelling is a shared event where people gather together, listen and participate in accounts of past events, beliefs, taboos and myths. The story teller creates a series of mental images associated with words. Drawn in to the words woven together with voice and gestures, the listeners find themselves smiling, nodding their heads in acknowledgement and leaning forward to hear more as they hang on every word being uttered.

The Thunder Walker

African storytelling not only provides entertainment, it also satisfies the curiosity of people and teaches important lessons about every day life.Telling stories is one of the most powerful means to influence, teach and inspire others. It forges connections among people, conveys culture and values that unite people.

The Thunder Walker

Inner city tour guides JoburgPlaces offer this unique experience coupled with an indulgent dinning experience about stories of the rebellious city of Johannesburg. Descending into the bank vault through an eye catching red door, one gets a shiver down the spine as you think about all the secrets that have been locked in these boxes.The city that I call home, has fascinated for me for as long as I can remember so I am always eager to hear stories about it. Anyone who has lived or passed through this vibrant city of migrants has a story to tell. From the man who discovered his was adopted when his father showed him the original birth certificate that was locked up in the vault of this incredible building. To the many hundreds if not thousands of feet that passed through this once glass - roofed arcade from the square to Fox street. The building was a typical Edwardian building with a touch of Victorian and Art Nouveau influences. It was one of the smaller arcade buildings in the city. The bank offices were upstairs and the infamous vault downstairs. Everyone has a story to share.

As Charlie Moyo ( the story teller ) mentions the city is now in its 7th stage of transformation. It has been a Victorian shanty town, then fashionable London, when London lost its thrill the city decided New York was the new sparkle and so this constant face lifting of the city continued over the years. People moved out, companies moved out, students moved in and slowly business returned. The life cycle of a city never stops, if only the walls, floors and doors could speak imagine what they could share.

Charlie Moyo @Joburgplaces

Built in the historic Ghandi Square in the Johannesburg CBD , Somerset House , a historic bank building from 1904 was the head office of the then United Building Society. One could rent a safety deposit box for 2£ 2s per annum.In the 1930’s prominent law firm Bowman’s was founded here. At this time the vault was sold off into private ownership and was operated in a private capacity until 1978 when it closed down. There was a “ great bank robbery “ that was believed to be an inside job, when the insurance company didn't pay out the company went bankrupt.

The Thunder Walker

The building has been renamed the Thunder Walker to reflect the diverse, dynamic, energetic City of Migrants that Johannesburg has forever been renowned for. The name is based on a poem written by Gerald Garner that pays homage to the migrant women of the city. The backbone of the city , these women have travelled from all corners of the country in search of a better life, she yearns for home and when the Jozi thunderstorms happen in the summer time she can be spotted standing on a rooftop. The Thunder Walker has become a city slicker but her homeland still pulsates through her veins.

Fox Street in Johannesburg

While listening to the stories told by Charlie we enjoyed a delicious three course meal served by the excellent chefs. They got the balance correct knowing that seasoning doesn't define but accentuates a dish , there is a fine line between enough and too much. Time seemed to pass so quickly as Charlie shared impactful stories of the city and its people as well as the history of the building. I could have sat for many more hours listening. But sadly all good things come to an end.

Gerald and his team have made a career out of their passion - The City of Joburg. They are well informed , offer thoughtful opinions, let their ideas simmer with guests and have learnt their world. They know exactly why they do it and what they need to do. This is a trademark of mastery, and they have it.

To enjoy this rich tradition of oral story telling have a look at their website joburgplaces.com to find out more about this event and the various tours that are offered in the city. If you just want to experience the fascinating building and its vault, pop in for lunch where you can sit on the sidewalk and enjoy the people watching. You won’t be disappointed.

www.joburgplaces.com

Email: gerald@joburgplaces.com


One road, 2 major attractions

Cruising along the single lane road, at the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountain range in the North West province I was elated to see that there are numerous great attractions on this one stretch of road. Only an hour from Johannesburg and 45 from minutes from Pretoria who could turn down a day trip like this ?

I decided to focus on two of them but if you have time its recommend to stay over at Leopard lodge and also visit the castle at Camelot Wedding venue.

Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre

This amazing facility was established in 1971 by Ann and was originally known as the De Wildt Cheetah Research centre, it was then changed in 2010. Over the years it has gained international recognition for assisting in bringing the cheetah back from the brink of extinction through its captive breeding programs.

Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre

Over the years, close to 600 cubs have been born at the centre and reintroduced into the wild. The centre is also home to a pair of hyenas that were relocated from Bloemfontein when the zoo closed down. There are wild dogs and and a few other rare and endangered animal species including the rare Egyptian vulture and Cape vultures.

Hyena at Ann Van Dyk

Unlike most animals facilities this one is not a petting zoo. You won’t be cuddling up to a cheetah or walking with cheetahs. The aim after all is to have as little human contact as possible so that they can be reintroduced into the wild. If you want to see the cheetahs run, book a tour on a Wednesday ( Bryan Habana tried to race a cheetah in 2007 here but lost dismally ) He was after all trying to race the fastest land animal that reaches speeds of up to 120km/h in just three seconds.With a body built for speed , the cheetah is faster than what a sports car accelerates. It has long legs, a big heart,an elongated spine, adapted claws and a long tail for balance.

Cheetah - Built for speed

The Ann Van Dyk centre currently has 86 cheetahs and 21 wild dogs ( the second most endangered carnivore in Africa )

I fell in love with the two king cheetahs. They are magnificent and dare I say they know it. The cheetahs we know have anywhere between 2000 to 3000 spots. The king cheetah has a mutated fur pattern and is one of the rarest animals in the world. It is believed that there are 30 left in the world and two are found at at this facility. Heathcliff, the male lay on the ground purring while I took multiple pictures of him. Jules, who is kept in another enclosure lay biting her nails and rolling around for me all the while purring in contentment.

Cheetah at Ann Van Dyk

The centre is a non profit organisation and receives no government funding. Income is generated
through tours, an adoption programme, donations and sponsorship. I highly recommend booking a walking tour and learning more about these animals.

Heathcliff the Male king Cheetah

Ann is 90 years old now and stays in a retirement home. This remarkable lady dedicated her life to these animals, she never married or had children. The centre is now run by her nephew. Paging through two of the many books she written we can only be grateful for her commitment and endurance to ensure these animals live on in Africa.

Egyptian Vulture

Margaret Roberts Herbal Centre

Established in 1982, the herbal centre is known first and foremost for lavender. I have always dreamt of seeing fields of lavender. As Sandra Roberts, daughter of Margaret Roberts explained to me, water shortages are a problem but she would also love to have fields bursting in purple all year round.

Margaret Roberts Lavender

Walking around the farm that is only open on Wednesdays to the public I was immediately struck by the calm and exuberant tranquility of my surroundings. Buzzing Bees surf the open spaces from flower to flower, desperately seeking pollen.The tall lavender stalks sway with a salsa rhythm, nodding their heads in delight as butterflies flutter through the air with their velvet wings.

Margaret Roberts

The Margaret Roberts lavender is registered in South Africa , it flowers nearly all year round and fully hardy. Its an upright, fast growing lavender that took Margaret 15 years to cultivate.The tough lavender will survive the harshest of South African weather conditions.

Further on, behind the Chapel is the very curious labyrinth. Take the time to put your cell phone away and walk it, breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sounds of nature. With carefully laid out paths for easy access to all areas , its a pleasure to wonder through the nursery, then amble on towards the tea garden ( where they serve delicious cheese cake and fresh herbal teas ). Not to be forgotten is the shop that is a real treasure trove of goodies. They say one must keep the best for last and how right it is. My last stop was the Fairy gallery, which houses the Fairy Castle that is built in a 1:12 scale. The fairies that were all handmade by Margaret and Sandra are from an exhibition that started in 1982, they have travelled all over the world. It’s a little girls dream come true walking into this magical fairy land.

Labyrinth at Margaret Roberts Centre

The herbal centre is one of South Africa’s top ten gardens. With the aim of building wellness through herbs, medicine foods, organic farming, education and books. Margaret Roberts, the plant whisperer passed away in March 2017 but her legacy lives on through her daughter and grand daughter who both share the same love for herbs and health products.

The Chapel

We live in a beautiful country and are so spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do. Conservation of both fauna and flora are so important for future generations, lets take the time to appreciate this beauty in our back yard and preserve it.

Flower Fairy at Margaret Roberts
Margaret Roberts Herbal Centre
The Blue Crane, national bird of South Africa at Ann Van Dyk
Entrance of Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre

Must do in Gauteng

Traversing the streets of Jozi , I can hear the heart beat of the city. It energises me and teases me with new discoveries constantly. Around every corner is something photo worthy with a comment of “ Wow, I didn't know this was here “ I will never get tired of the city and its people . These are five of my favourites at the moment.

The Thunder Walker

Found inside Somerset House , Joburg Places runs Scatterings Restaurant and in the near future the Balcony Gardens Hotel. The building dates back to 1904 when it was the offices of United Building Society , the reason for the magnificent bank vault that is found downstairs. United Bank became United Building Society and then to what we now know it as ABSA Bank. Law Firm Bowman’s was also a resident of the building at one time after the 1970’s. Joburg Places have been here since 2017 and have turned it into a destination that anyone and everyone in Jozi should be seen at. Whether you choose to sit on the sidewalk and watch passing traffic or descend to the bank vault to view the 1000 or so locked safety deposit boxes and listen to stories about the city of gold, there is something that will attract you and have you constantly returning. The Thunder Walker is named after a mythical figure - a migrant women who resides in Johannesburg and is often seen atop the roofs of the inner city’s buildings, just after it has rained. She longs for the distant plains of Southern Africa, but she is now a city hustler who calls this concrete jungle her home.

Thunder Walker

Ornate Coffee shop

A gem in the city, Corner House building at 77 Commissioner street is one of the most prestigious property developments in Johannesburg and a landmark building in Africa. It began its life as Beit’s Building, a wooden shack which was transformed into something more solid in 1889. Conveniently positioned in the heart of the city’s financial district, it is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. It became home to Hermann Eckstein and Company . Ecksteinn was instrumental in establishing the Chamber of Mines . The 10 storey high building was Johannesburg’s first sky scraper. Today, it has an amazing vibe. Ornate coffee shop is one of the building tenants, a perfect refuge from the bustling streets of Jozi with its magnificent dome ceiling, and the coffee , the music and smile of the friendly staff make it a piece of heaven. A place where you find your tribe amongst the noises of people, their scent, occasional glances and chatter of baristas. To sit and drink in the aroma in this warm and cheery spot will create a depth of memories for any visitor.

Ornate Coffee Shop

Cradle Moon Lodge

For a bush experience just outside the city this location is ideal. Whether you go for a day visit or stay over in a bungalow you will love it. Cradle Moon conservancy was created with the sole goal of rehabilitation and environmental ethics. The Conservancy is made up of the farms of Zwartkop and Driefontmein incorporating Cradle Moon Lakeside Lodge .
I visited many years ago when it was still called Heia Safari Ranch and never forgot what it was like to sit at the pool of the restaurant and watch the zebra close by on the vast lawns. The friendliness of the zebras hasn't changed, I came into contact with them while doing a 5km hike. A protective mom kept her baby close by but curiosity still brought her right up to us with the skittish wildebeest watching, ready to dart at any moment.
With the largest stone dam in Africa , Cradle Moon Lake is well worth a visit. All the stones used to construct the dam where taken from the site, 50 000 bags of cement were used when the stones were packed in place by hand. The dam wall stands 20m high and is 300m wide and just short of 10m thick. The dam comprises of five crests with a walkway along one of them that allows visitors to stand in awe and appreciate the magnitude of the dam wall.

Cradle Moon Dam

Heritage House

Located on the Langermann Drive in Kensington this is a shoppers paradise if you are into bargain hunting. The auction house operates weekly. All sorts of household goods can be found. My main interest was the shoe department, I have never seen so many pairs of ladies high heels for sale, some even dangling from the window bars of this old house. It is said that women judge men’s shoes twice as much as men judge woman’s shoes.They are after all the window to just about everything. Shoes reflect something about a person be it slip on shoes with socks ( laziness ) untied sneakers ( oblivious ) or some stylish high heels ( class and sophistication ) stop by just to ooh and aah over the collection. In another room of the house is a collectibles shop, my spoil was a vintage camera, a beautiful old Minolta that was made before I was born ( giving away my age probably ) This spot needs a visit at least one a month to keep up with the rotating stock.

Heritage House

African Corner

When in Africa , eat African food. Something I have always found to be the best way to learn more about a culture is to indulge in their cuisine. This rather unknown gem is found in Yeoville and serves up some mouthwatering Ghanaian food. Ghanaians enjoy a rather simple , but flavoured cuisine. The majority of meals consist of thick, well - seasoned stews usually accompanied by staple foods like rice or yams. Meat is considered a sign of wealth and luxury in this West African country and is seldom eaten. Fish, especially near the coast, is found more often in every day dishes and stews. I admit the fish was my favourite dish served but the decision was difficult. Attention to detail and hygiene are of the utmost importance here. The wooden plates and cups caught my eye , they must come from Ghana as I haven't seen them before. I thoroughly enjoyed not only the food but the friendliness of the people also.

African Corner

Keeping up with the ever changing businesses and spots to visit in Johannesburg can be mind boggling at times, but that is why the city never gets boring. Its my home and I love it.


Cradle Moon Lodge

For a bush experience just outside the city this location is ideal. Cradle Moon conservancy was created with the sole goal of rehabilitation and environmental ethics. The Conservancy is made up of the farms of Zwartkop and Driefontmein incorporating Cradle Moon Lakeside Lodge .

Cradle Moon Lodge , The Crocodile River

I visited many years ago when it was still called Heia Safari Ranch and never forgot what it was like to sit at the pool of the restaurant and watch the zebra close by on the vast lawns. The friendliness of the zebras hasn't changed, I came into contact with them while doing a 5km hike. A protective mom kept her baby close by but curiosity still brought her right up to us with the skittish wildebeest watching, ready to dart at any moment.

Cradle Moon lodge, Zebra

The multitude of game includes rhino, leopard, eland, kudu, springbuck, brown hyena, jackal, aardwolf, impala and duiker. The best way to see them is to book a game drive with an experienced game ranger who will take you around the 1600 hectare property. Boat cruises are also available for those who want to enjoy the birdlife away from the banks of the dam.

Cradle Moon Lake

With the largest stone dam in Africa , Cradle Moon Lake is well worth a visit. All the stones used to construct the dam where taken from the site, 50 000 bags of cement were used when the stones were packed in place by hand. The dam wall stands 20m high and is 300m wide and just short of 10m thick. The dam comprises of five crests with a walkway along one of them that allows visitors to stand in awe and appreciate the magnitude of the dam wall.

Cradle Moon Lake, dam wall

The three middle crests are of different levels , with the middle one being the lowest. It is constantly flowing with astonishing rainbows of colour that form as the water crashes down the wall creating a mist that sprays in visitors faces, cooling them off after a good hike.The crest on the left hand side only flows during the heavy rainfall season, and is a sight to be hold.

Cradle Moon Dam

Built on the Crocodile River , this natural water feature with sparkling blue waters has attracted various species of birds including a pair of fish eagles.

Cradle Moon dam

With so much to do on the property the African style bungalows are perfect . The 50 thatched rondavels are an escape from city life, with no televisions one can enjoy the sounds of nature. Early morning is the start of a new day filled with endless possibilities the question is which activity to start with, will it be early morning fly fishing , a walk along either the 5km or 9km route, a cycle on designated routes, or maybe a swim in the dam that has been used for various events including the Midmar Mile qualification rounds.

Cradle Moon Lodge

Stopping of at the dam wall for a longer than whats normal photo session with my boys we moved onto the new restaurant situated on the dam wall. Sweeping views of the dam and sounds of chatter and laughter from the near by beach ( yes a beach in the middle of the bush ) reminded me of how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful country.

The beach

Although most people go for a day outing there is so much to do here I would suggest a full weekend to appreciate all the offerings. Being in the bush relaxes a person, taking it slow means smelling the flora which will create a memory that will reignite a desire to return each time you get a whiff of it.

Cradle Moon dam