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South Africa and Mauritius Itinerary

10 Dec

Are you interested in traveling to South Africa and Mauritius?  Well, check out my 2 week itinerary!

Day 1:  Depart for Cape Town.

Day 2:  Arrive in Cape Town.  Hotel:  An African Villa.  Transportation from airport provided by Discovery Tours.

Day 3:  Cape Point morning tour with Hylton Ross (penguins, Cape of Good Hope).  Lunch at V&A waterfront (in particular, the market).  City & Table Mountain afternoon tour with Hylton Ross of Cape Town including Table Mountain, Camps Bay, City Hall, a market, and Malay quarter.  Dinner at V&A Waterfront.

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Day 4:  Great White Shark cage diving with Great White Shark Tours.  4:10am pick up.  Returned to Cape Town around 3pm.  Dinner near hotel – Sawadee (Thai food).

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Day 5:  All day wine tour with lunch through Wine Flies.

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Day 6:  All day Cape Town cultural and Robben Island tour through Hylton Ross.  Visited District Six Museum, Langa Township, and Robben Island.  Dinner at Raj in Camps Bay.

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Day 7:  Depart Cape Town for Kapama Game Reserve.   Hotel:  Kapama Karula.  Afternoon game drive.

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Day 8:  Morning elephant-backed safari.  Afternoon game drive.

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Day 9:  Morning game drive.  4+ hours at the spa.  Afternoon game drive.

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Day 10:  Morning game drive.  Afternoon depart for Johannesburg.  Hotel:  D’Oreale Grande Peermont.

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Day 11:  Depart Johannesburg for Mauritius.  Hotel:  Sugar Beach Resort.

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Day 12:  Beach day.

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Day 13:  Beach day.

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Day 14:  Catamaran – snorkeling, see dolphins, visit an island and lunch.

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Day 15:  Beach day.

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Day 16:  Depart Mauritius.  Return home.   7 hour layover in Johannesburg was spent exploring airport shops, lunch at City Lodge Hotel, and working out at Phela Live Wellness Centre.

Day 17:  Arrive home.

Options for a Layover in Johannesburg

8 Dec

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Stuck at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg for a while?   Well, we were too.  So, I created a list of some of the options for layovers.  Please note that the pricing may have changed.  Enjoy!

Have only an hour or two before your next flight?  I would just stay in the airport – there are quite a few stores and restaurants.  However, make sure that if you sit at a restaurant to let them know when your flight is.  We thought we had plenty of time – about 50 minutes before our flight started boarding – but the food came out after our flight was already boarding.

Want to workout?  Right outside the airport (it’s really across the street – walkable) is Phela Live Wellness Centre (see picture above).  They charged us $15 per person to use their gym for the day.   The gym is great: lots of treadmills and other cardio and weights.  They also have classes, but not while we were there.  In addition, they have a spa.  At the time we were there (November 2013) they had a great deal – $40 for two half hour sessions (for example, 1/2 hour foot massage followed with 1/2 hour head massage).   This is a great option if you have three + hours between flights.

Have a while and you want to rest, maybe hang by a pool, possibly even workout?   Head to City Lodge OR Tambo.  It’s about a block or two away (there are signs – it’s walkable).  City Lodge was going to charge us $60 total for a day pass (until 6pm) where we could get a room to wash up & rest, use the pool and utilize the gym.  Also, their restaurant had good food.

Have 1/2 a day or more?   Check out Emperor’s Palace – there are restaurants, a casino, shops, and a movie theater.  There is also a free shuttle from the airport.

Have almost a full day?  Check with local tourist agencies and book a day or 1/2 day tour of Johannesburg, Soweto, or the other sites nearby.

Are you arriving in the afternoon and leaving the next morning?  I recommend getting a room at the Emperor’s Palace complex.  We stayed at D’oreale Grande Peermont and really enjoyed it.  We slept well, had dinner at the Italian restaurant and were able to workout.  There is also a movie theater, a free shuttle to and from the airport,  a pool, shows, a casino, restaurants and shops.

Hope this helps!   Enjoy JoBurg!

Video

Our Honeymoon to South Africa and Mauritius

2 Dec

 

I created a video of our honeymoon to give you an idea of what can be done in two weeks in South Africa and Mauritius.   Soon I will be posting our itinerary and more detailed information about each of the locations.  Stay tuned to CourtneyMara.com!

Arusha, Tanzania

27 Oct

In 2007, when I was living in Kenya I took a bus to Arusha, Tanzania for a weekend.  The bus ride from Nairobi to Arusha is about 3 1/2 – 4 hours. On the ride you will see giraffes walking in the fields and Mt. Kilimanjaro.  I spent the weekend with my friends walking around Arusha and visiting a boys orphanage.  We also went out at night and shopped the markets.  Arusha was a calm, peaceful city.  It is a good place to start before a journey to Mt Kilimanjaro.  Please take note of visa requirements; visas for U.S. citizens are $100.

Around the World Embassy Tour

9 May

Last Saturday, Erika, Stacia and I hit up Embassy Row in Washington, DC, for the Around the World Embassy Tour, which was part of Passport DC. Here are some of my comments about the embassies that we visited:

Brazil:  The Capoeira was entertaining.  The ambassador’s residence was beautiful.  Disappointed by the lack of food and drinks especially for a country that has such great food and drinks.

 Turkey:  Great art and booths about the different areas of the country and Northern Cyprus.  Wine tasting was not so great, but appreciated.  There were some food samples that were ok.

Japan:  Cool exhibits, such as the tsunami exhibit.

Chad:  You kind of just walk in and then walk out.  Super small space, but interesting to learn about a less familiar country.

Cote d’Ivoire:  We were treated like queens at this embassy.  The financial attache took a picture of us with guys dressed in traditional outfits.  We were given a good size plate of food.

Belize:  Not impressed.  Food for sale. No entertainment when we were there.  I think/hope they were still getting set up.

Indonesia:  Beautiful building.  The stairwell took our breathe away.

Mozambique:  Good info.  I really want to go to this country.

Peru:  Free drinks.  Food outside looked good, but they were charging.  Llamas were adorable.  This is a great embassy to visit.

Rwanda:  Supposedly great coffee (they ran out by the time we got there).  Beautiful brochure.  Not much to the embassy.

Venezuela:  GREAT juice!  The guava juice was amazing.  There was a tour, then juice outside, then music, then a tourism room.  Great set up.

Australia:  Best overall experience.  Got fake tattoos.  Did a wine tasting (great wine).  Tried some good cheese.  Saw some lizards.  Great exhibits.

Don’t forget that THIS SATURDAY is Shortcut to Europe: European Union Embassies’ Open House!  I hope to see you out there!

Kenya by Terence

6 May

Kenya believe it? I was fortunate enough to know someone that was going to be in Kenya and it gave me a chance to go to there whilst a friend was there at the same time.

To get around the city there is a common mode of transportation called a Matatu. It is basically a minivan or small bus that goes through the city making stops at every street corner. You pretty much have to know which ones to catch to get to your destination. They are fairly inexpensive and safe for foreign travelers.

I needed to fill my insatiable appetite for going off the beaten path and indulge in the local culture so riding on one of them was a must. If you don’t feel safe taking the local transportation there are always taxis. If you can, make a deal for the fare before entering the taxi. You will find that they are always eager to make a deal.

 (Riding on a Matatu through Eastleigh, Nairobi)

(Eastleigh)

Be sure to visit an orphanage while there. I was able to visit Mama Fatuma’s orphanage in Nairobi as I had a friend who knew someone who was volunteering there.

If you can, please try to donate tooth brushes, tooth paste, over the counter medicines, educational items, pens, paper, crayons, etc. These are the essential items needed but there are a lot more items necessary so try to coordinate with the volunteers and aid coordinators to see what they need and what you can afford to donate.

Please also try to interact with the staff and orphans. Everyone there was a pleasure to interact with. They were always ready to share a meal with me and were very eager to share their stories. Take the time to sit, listen, play and read to them.

These might seem like simple things to you and me but they vastly improve the lives of the orphans.

The orphanage I was at is in a suburb of Nairobi called Eastleigh. I encountered no problems during the day walking through the streets. You should take care if traveling through there at night. If you travel by taxi you should be ok.

(Mama Fatuma’s orphanage, Nairobi)

My first day at the orphanage they were having lamb and rice. It was very tasty. The second day I tried something more staple called ugali. It’s a starchy food that kind of looks like mashed potatoes. It was served with a side of spinach. I was told to add salt to make the flavor of the ugali pop.

Another local staple I tried was something called a samosa. It is made of fried dough and stuffed with minced meat and onions. Very delicious. For a snack the locals usually have what is called a mandazi. It is pretty much a donut. Also very delicious. Samosas and mandazis can be bought from street vendors and are fairly inexpensive.

Other than orphanages, in Nairobi itself, make sure you visit the New Central Bank Tower, the tallest structure in Nairobi. You can see most of the city from atop the tower. In the city there are many stores and restaurants and you should be able to find something to everyone’s taste. My friend and I managed to find a Thai restaurant within walking distance from the New Central Bank Tower.

(View from atop the New Central Bank Tower, Nairobi)

Just outside the city there are plenty of sights to see. One such site on the outskirts of the city is the Nairobi National Park. There you can see rhinos, zebras, lions and more. I was fortunate enough to see a mother rhino and her calf.

(Nairobi National Park)

There is also the Nairobi animal orphanage which has rescue animals that were either mistreated or orphaned. You can see Lions, Cheetahs, Leopards and more. If you are lucky enough you can get to play with a Cheetah. I was not as lucky as the park was about to close for the day.

(Nairobi animal orphanage)

Another place to see is the Elephant orphanage where they care for baby elephants. You can see the handlers feed them and you can also pet them.

(Elephant orphanage, Nairobi)

(Wild Boars at the Elephant orphanage, Nairobi)

One place not to miss is the Giraffe Center where you can hand feed giraffes. The Giraffe Center was started to educate the local population about the Rothschild Giraffe which is indigenous to the area. The Giraffe Center is a hands on experience. You are able to hand feed and pet them. One trick that the handlers want you to experience is when you place the giraffe food between your lips, the giraffe will gently take the food from you.

Giraffe Center, Nairobi)

(Giraffe Center, Nairobi)

About an hour from Nairobi is the beautiful Lake Naivasha. It is well worth the ride to see the wildlife. While riding along the trails you will see giraffes feeding on the acacia trees and zebras resting.  If you take a boat ride on the lake you will see the hippos.

(Lake Naivasha)

(Giraffes at Lake Naivasha)

(Zebra at Lake Naivasha)

(Hippos at Lake Naivasha)

While in Kenya I tried to see as much as possible. Once I visited the usual areas in and around Nairobi I decided to expand my sightseeing beyond the capital.

I met a few locals who had a small safari tour business. Their prices were ridiculously low compared to the bigger companies. One thing with the smaller tour companies though, you have to make sure they are safe. The crime rate in Kenya is high so tourists should make sure anyone they are paying money to are reputable.

The first place the tour guide took me to was Nanyuki. On the way there you really get to experience the local culture and the sights. I was able to go off the beaten path and experience things beyond the usual tourist areas.

We had stopped at a local street fruit market to stretch our legs from the long ride. The fruits were all fresh and delicious. One thing to note, if you stop at a fruit market, expect to be swarmed by dozens of children trying to sell you theirs. I was completely swarmed with I think the whole local kid population of the area with bananas and mangos shoved in my face. You can really make great deals for fresh fruit either at the market or with the kids. Free enterprise is alive and well there.

(Fresh fruit stand, Nanyuki)

(Great Rift Valley)

Further down the road from the fruit markets we entered the outskirts of Nanyuki. On the side of the road was a big sign claiming it was the area of the equator. Being the tourist that I am I had to stop to get a picture. There are a lot of locals hanging around the sign waiting for the unsuspecting tourists such as myself wanting to get paid to have your picture taken at the sign. Don’t fall for it. It doesn’t cost anything to have your picture taken but I did feel compelled to donate something as I was blessed with the life I lead and felt that giving what I can would help someone feed their family.

(Equator, Nanyuki)

Also in Nanyuki is Mount Kenya. I spent the better half of the day hiking up a very small part of the mountain. The temperature was high and also my heart rate. The nature hike is well worth it though. If you are lucky you will see elephants and Colobus monkeys. I was fortunate enough to see the Colobus monkeys but I wasn’t fast enough with the camera to capture them. They are very loud and very fast.

If you decide to do a hike on Mt. Kenya, bring lots of water and dress appropriately. While the climate is hot and muggy, I suggest wearing a hat, jeans and a light jacket or at least a long sleeve shirt. The brush is unforgiving and will thrash your skin. The long pants and sleeves also help keep the bugs (mosquitoes) off you. Also bring something to snack on as the hike took me eight hours total and you will get hungry.

(Mt. Kenya footbridge)

(Waterfall on Mt. Kenya)

Another spot outside of Nairobi is Lake Nakuru. It took about three hours from Nanyuki to Lake Nakuru and again, well worth it. This spot is famous for it’s thousands of pink flamingos. You will also see rhinos, baboons, zebras, Cape buffalo and yellow acacia trees.

(Flamingos at Lake Nakuru)

(Baboons at Lake Nakuru)

(Baboon enjoying the sights overlooking Lake Nakuru)

(Lake Nakuru)

Not everyone is as adventurous as I am. Be very careful hand feeding the wildlife as they are very unpredictable.

Kenya is a wondrous place. The wild life and views are stunning. The whole trip was surreal. If you ever get a chance to go to Africa please do, Kenya is a must on everyone’s list. My stay was pretty short and I managed to see quite a few places even without a set schedule. I just wish my stay was longer and was able to see more. Maybe one day I will make it back.

Previous Post

23 Feb

Great post by Sarai Quiel about a trip to Morrocco! Check out her blog!

Little Brown Wonder

[I apologize for the excess photos but there were too many favorites! Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I do]

Sooooo.. About a month ago, Lenny and I took a trip to Morocco. Morocco?! Why Morocco?! Well, back in 2009, Lenny and I went to Tangier for a day trip. Tangier to Morocco is like Tijuana to Mexico. Of course we loved Tangier so we decided to sniff and investigate Morocco more in-depth. After doing extensive research between going with Discover Sevilla or We Love Spain, we opted to go with We Love Spain and do the Sahara Desert Adventure. For €390, we got:

4 nights in bitchin’ hotels
1 night sleeping in tents in the Sahara Desert
Breakfast and dinner
Transportation from Malaga to all the destinations in Morocco
Guided tours throughout the 6 days
I’m going to break down our trip by the cities we visited…

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