Wednesday, June 17, 2015

South Africa offering unique safaris

By Jimoh Babatunde
Few countries can offer as much as South Africa when it comes to safari . From getting up close to lions and leopards on a luxury safari to tasting fine wines, whale watching and experiencing the stunning coastline of the Capes.
South Africa has some of the most moving, distinct and dramatic landscapes this world has to offer, which can all be enjoyed from the smooth gait of a luxury locomotive pulling along its plains, swallowing up the savannah and coursing along its coastlines. Jimoh Babatunde tries to capture his experience of enjoyable Rovos train safari to Ballon safari as well as Elephants and Lion safaris.
Rovos train safari
No cell phones in the public places on the train. “ We do not want you to be disturbed on the train. No wi fi on the train as you are here to relax.” That was Rohan Vos, the only person to own a private luxury train in Africa, while welcoming our team on board the Rovos luxury train from Durban to Pretoria.

Team members having lunch aboard Rovos luxury train
In an attempt to encourage bonding and relaxation on board the train, the owner of the train discouraged phone usage except in your rooms and that worked wonders as many later confessed after the trip.
As the steam locomotive pulled along the tracks after the debriefing by Vos and the porters elegantly dressed in their green jackets had taken the bags to the different suits, I slept off like a baby after I had been showed round my private , Cutebela, suite, by my hostess , Bianca.
Wow!!!. The facilities in the suite can compete with any five star hotel’s room anywhere in the world. I was jotted back to life when others had taken their positions for lunch and I was no where to be found. With heavy know on the door, “Sir. It is time for lunch. Others are already at the restaurant.” I struggled out of the bed and headed for the restaurant. There is one bar and restaurant on the train while the meal and drink were great.
Tourists on board could not have asked for more with the train manager, Mart Marais, leading about 20 dedicated staff tending to less than 30 guests. One cannot but agree with John Steinbreder who said it is exceedingly difficult to find a line that harkens back so eloquently to a bygone era including leisurely meals and luxurious naps while setting a rhythm that agreeably relieves all travellers of any sense of times. As we traverse a series of tunnels, the journey was broken at Lion River for a tour of some attractions in the Bushveld.
Under rain and cold we set out to tour the site where Nelson Mandela was captured in the town of Howick in KwaZulu-Natal . An innovative sculpture is at the heart of the centre. 50 steel column constructions up to 9.5 metres tall come into alignment to form a portrait of Nelson Mandela against a backdrop of rolling hills and valleys.
The sculpture commemorates the arrest of Nelson Mandela in 1962, the arrest set in motion his trial and subsequent and long walk to freedom.
As I marvelled at the sacrifice of Mandela after the arrest and the great mind of the extraordinary sculpture by artist Marco Cianfanelli in capturing that sacrifice, we were already at Admore Ceramics where   a group of young artists and crafts settled in the hills and valleys of the KwaZulu Natal Midlands attracted by the region’s natural beauty and prospect of alternative, country based lifestyle.
They built homes, workshops and studios and set about producing original works of art and craft at a place that has become known as Admore Ceramic . Fee Halstead Berning was said to have developed the style that has made Admore ceramic famous today by creating the environment that encourages the expression of artists imagination based on nature and tradition of the Zulus.
The oldest engine in the stable and still in occasional use pulled us back to the Rovos station as we arrived in Pretoria. Rohan Vos disclosed it is one of the oldest machine working locos in the world built in 1894. As we made to leave the station, a friend, Tayo told me “this train ride is the icing on the cake, especially with the service on board and the feel one gets while on board is as old world as the classic carriages carrying them.”
For Ikechi Uko “Travelling from Durban to Pretoria on Rovos is the highest level of luxury on any moving object. I kept expecting James Bond to pop up at the dinner train carriage or at the lounge. The luxury train reminds so much of a James Bond movie set.”
Ballon Safari
Imagine having to wake up by 4am after the train ride from Durban to Pretoria just to catch the early morning ballon flight. For me, it was a once in a lifetime experience as we flew with Capt Tracy, one of the most experienced female Balloon pilot in the world with over 35 years of flying experience over Magaliesberg.
The picturesque Magalies-berg area boasts a range of mountains that are almost a 100 times older than Everest , and are literally thousands of millions of years old. An area of significant South African and geological history, its vastness and beauty can only really be appreciated from the air.
Elephant Safari
After about 35 minute in the air, we landed to have breakfast before moving to the Elephant sanctuary where we were taken on the tour of the sanctuary after being made to sign indemnity form. The tour guild, Simba, took us on tutorial about Elephants as we set to touch the elephants. I had fantastic insight into how intelligent the elephants are .
Not only can their sub-sonic rumbling communication system be heard over 10km, but the family unit of the animals is so strong. It was the closet I have ever been to wild animals, to say it was staggering experience was an understatement.
Walking with lions
Nowhere can you get closer to a pride of Lions and other animals and still be completely safe. See the animals up close in all the activities that the Lion Park offers, whether you go on a self-drive tour, guided tour or in the new electric silent vehicle – they guarantee that you will get super close to the animals.
Tayo Adelaja and Muhammed playing with one of the cubs
So it was as we were hoarded into the vehicle to catch glimpse of the white lions and the celebtity one that acted in the movie White Lions. It was given five lionesses for its role in the said movie. When it was time to have photo shots with cubs, my mind raced back to the activity of the self styled Daniel at the Ibadan Zoo some years ago, who was devoured by the Lion.
Though, I finally summoned courage to go into the cub enclave with Tayo Adelaja for the shot, I was hurried out by Tayo who was dammed scared.
- See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/05/south-africa-offering-unique-safaris/#sthash.IvCMfQpq.dpuf
By Jimoh Babatunde
Few countries can offer as much as South Africa when it comes to safari . From getting up close to lions and leopards on a luxury safari to tasting fine wines, whale watching and experiencing the stunning coastline of the Capes.
South Africa has some of the most moving, distinct and dramatic landscapes this world has to offer, which can all be enjoyed from the smooth gait of a luxury locomotive pulling along its plains, swallowing up the savannah and coursing along its coastlines. Jimoh Babatunde tries to capture his experience of enjoyable Rovos train safari to Ballon safari as well as Elephants and Lion safaris.
Rovos train safari
- See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/05/south-africa-offering-unique-safaris/#sthash.IvCMfQpq.dpuf