#MyMzansiRoadtrip – leg 3

#MyMzansiRoadtrip

Grahamstown to Cape Town – leg 3

The third and final part of our #MyMzansiRoadtrip adventure saw us picking eight winners from Rhodes University who hopped onto the Baz Bus to head with us on to Jeffreys Bay – one of the most popular holiday destinations in South Africa for locals and tourists. In Jeffreys Bay we spent the night at Island Vibe Backpackers who were voted “Best Beach Experience in SA” in 2015. There are excellent surf spots on the doorstep of Island Vibe and when the swell pulls in, you’ll hear the crash of the ocean from your bed. There are also communal self-catering facilities and free WIFI, and a variety of activities (from surfing to horse riding to shopping and everything in between) on offer.

Island Vibe treated us to an awesome day of sandboarding and SUP (Stand Up Paddle) and a visit to a local waterfall where our winners got to try out the zipline and hike up the canyon. After an action packed day, we made our way to Plettenberg Bay where we’d call Amakaya Backpackers home for the evening.

Amakaya Backpackers is a clean, friendly and homely place where you can relax after an exhilarating day in the area. They have a great bar in their upstairs area where you can kick back and take in the view of the Tsitsikamma Mountains, the lagoon and the sea. They’re a 300m walk to the shops, restaurants and bars of Plettenberg Bay’s Main Street, and 800m from the popular Central Beach – which is super convenient.

Our time in Plett was exciting to say the least! Our morning started off with a trip to Africanyon where our winners navigated through the river shallows; jumped, zip-lined, and swam through fresh-water mountain pools; and abseiled in and around waterfalls as they dipped down into the river gorge. From here we ventured out to Bloukrans Bridge – the world’s highest bungy bridge (sitting pretty at 216m) – for our winners to experience the bungy jump of a lifetime thanks to FaceAdrenaline. What an incredible day!

From here we spent the night at Wild Spirit Backpackers Lodge in The Crags. This unique backpacker’s is located deep in the unspoiled heart of South Africa’s famous Garden Route, surrounded by the indigenous forests, pristine beaches and mountains of the Tsitsikamma National Park. Wild Spirit is a wonderful place if you’re looking to explore the local attractions or simply to kick back and embrace nature around you.

The next morning we packed up the Baz Bus and went on to enjoy beautiful views of Plett from a lookout point before making our way back to Grahamstown where the #MyMzansiRoadtrip came to an end for the Rhodes students.

Team STA Travel, Baz Bus and SA Tourism then continued on to Cape Town for our final campus activation at UCT, which went so well.

To everyone who helped make this #MyMzansiRoadtrip every bit incredible as it was, thank you!

Massive thanks must go to SA Tourism, Baz Bus, all of the backpacker and activity partners, and most importantly – to the students – who were ballsy enough to spin our adventure wheel and join in on our roadtrip of a lifetime at a moment’s notice!

 

#MyMzansiRoadtrip – leg 2

#MyMzansiRoadtrip

Durban to PE – leg 2

In case you missed our first blog post, we’ve just returned from an epic roadtrip aptly called #MyMzansiRoadtrip because we did exactly that – explored the very best that South Africa has to offer. This was part of a really cool campaign we ran together with South African Tourism and Baz Bus.

In part one, we covered the Drakensberg and Durban. Now, we take you through the second part of the #MyMzansiRoadtrip which kicked off on campus at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN.) We found our nine winners who hopped onto the Baz Bus and off we went to magical Coffee Bay.

Coffee Bay (a small town situated on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape Province of SA – about 250 kilometres south of Durban) is one of the best hidden gems in South Africa. We stayed at Coffee Shack, one of the most popular backpackers in the area, and it’s not hard to understand why. Coffee Shack is a backpackers’ tropical paradise located right on the beach at the Bomvu River mouth on the Transkei Wild Coast, a deeply traditional area of South Africa where you’ll experience a way of life far removed from Western culture. Coffee Shack has a reputation for being a fun, good-value hostel with excellent facilities and the most amazing, friendly staff.

Coffee Shack treated our winners to surfing lessons; a hike to the Hole in the Wall (where we had the most insane views of the Indian Ocean!) and a swim in the sea; rounding up the day with sundowners at a magnificent lookout point with the best views over the Bay.

Next we made our way to Chintsa (also in the Eastern Cape / Wild Coast) where we’d call Buccaneers Backpackers home. Overlooking the Chintsa lagoon and located 600m from the Chintsa beach (and 55 minutes from East London airport), Buccaneers Lodge & Backpackers features a bar, restaurant and outdoor swimming pool; and activities available include beach horse rides, an excellent surf school, divinely relaxing massages, and weekly visits to Bulugha Farm School for a heart-warming Xhosa concert and a chance for you to contribute to their feeding scheme. Right on their doorstep, the Inkwenkwezi Big 5 Game Reserve offers excellent game drives and a unique opportunity to get up close to elephants.

While in Chintsa, Buccaneers treated us to an epic beer tour at Emerald Vale Brewery; volleyball on the beach; canoeing and SUP in the Chintsa lagoon; and a beautiful concert by the students at Bulugha Farm School.

Once our fun in Chintsa ended it was time to head on to Port Elizabeth where we had a great walking city tour with John from Lungile Backpackers (which is where we’d spend the night while in PE.) With people flitting between the pool and the bar, the vibe at Lungile Backpackers is mellow and fun. The backpackers is 5km’s from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, 3km’s from Port Elizabeth International Airport and an 8-minute walk from the nearest beach. Lungile means ‘It’s all good’ in Xhosa. And you won’t be disappointed. This backpacker is definitely one of the most luxurious and welcoming in South Africa.

PE was the last stop on the second leg of the #MyMzansiRoadtrip. Next up – Rhodes University in Grahamstown for us to recruit our next eight winners to join us on the third and final leg of the roadtrip.

 

 

 

#MyMzansiRoadtrip – Leg 1

#MyMzansiRoadtrip

Jozi to Durban – leg 1

We’ve just returned from an epic roadtrip aptly called the #MyMzansiRoadtrip because we did exactly that – explored the very best that South Africa has to offer. This was part of a really cool campaign we ran together with South African Tourism and Baz Bus.

If you’ve never heard of Baz Bus, get ready to hear about something that will forever change the way you explore SA. Baz Bus is a unique hop-on hop-off, door-to-door bus service between 180 backpacking hostels in 40 different towns in South Africa and is perfect for travellers wanting to meet a bus load of people (literally) who share your passion for exploring and adventure.

The Baz Bus route is between Cape Town and Johannesburg, with stops along the coast, operating in both directions. The buses are 22 seater semi-luxury buses, all with on-board TV & DVDs, and trailers capable of carrying surfboards and bicycles. How does it work, you ask? Simply buy one Hop-on Hop-off ticket to your final destination and get on and off as many times as you want, wherever you want, in one direction, with no time limit. Alternatively, you can buy a ticket for a certain amount of days, or book packages with Baz Bus.

Baz Bus played a big part in us exploring some of the most beautiful places around SA as part of the #MyMzansiRoadtrip.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the beginning.

Our journey started at Wits University in Johannesburg where students had the opportunity to spin

our adventure wheel to stand a chance to win awesome prizes, including a spot on the #MyMzansiRoadTrip. This is where we found our first four roadtrip winners. Those who won a spot literally had an hour and a half to rush home, pack and be read to hop onto the Baz Bus – that same day!

Next we made our way to Tuks University where we found our final four winners who’d join us on the first leg of the roadtrip which would take us from Pretoria to Durban.

From Tuks, our Joburg and Pretoria winners and crew begun the roadtrip with Drakensberg being the first stop, where we spent the night in luxury tents at Ampitheatre Backpackers.

Midway between Johannesburg and Durban on an idyllic piece of land, encircled by awe-inspiring mountains you’ll find Amphitheatre Backpackers. The lodge takes its name from “The Amphitheatre,” the most famous geographic feature of the Northern Drakensberg. The Amphitheatre is widely regarded as one of the most impressive cliff faces on earth. The lodge looks directly onto its facade and on a clear day, after the rains, the Tugela Falls can be seen as it plunges 1km down the ancient rock face. The Drakensberg is a prime hiking destination in South Africa (with the Northern Drakensberg regarded by many as the most dramatic section of all) with access to the highest country in the world, “Lesotho”; the biggest indigenous forest in the berg; the largest consolidation of rock art in the world; and the 2nd highest waterfall on the planet. The Amphitheatre separates South Africa from Lesotho and it is here that the world famous Tugela Falls has its source, rising at Mont Aux Sources.

Our winners were treated to a whole host of activities like a hike through the Northern Drakensberg which took us to the top of the Tugela Falls; and more, all thanks to Ampitheatre Backpackers.

From here it was on to Durban where we’d call Curiocity Backpackers home for two nights. Curiocity Durban opened its doors in the spring of 2016. Housed in the historic 1930 British-Colonial Style building, Ambassador House, it really is one of the most incredible gems in the heart of Durban – and a short walk from popular destinations like the beach front, Durban International Convention Center (DICC) & Warwick Junction. The hostel (which has incorporated innovative design and has been influenced by Durban’s heritage) has a wide range of premium en-suite private rooms and shared dormitories, including yoga facilities, outdoor cinema, chill-out lounge spaces, the Surf co-working space, an urban spa, and Bar Curio.

Our winners Durban adventure kicked off with a visit to the Big Rush Big Swing (the tallest swing in the world) at Moses Mabhida Stadium; followed by lunch on the beachfront, a surfing lesson, a walking tour of Durban and a great braai and sundowners to end off an amazing day – thanks to Curiocity.

This is where we ended the first leg of our trip and we made our way to UKZN to pick our next nine winners to join us on the second leg of the #MyMzansiRoadtrip which would take us from Durban to Port Elizabeth.

FALL IN LOVE WITH LATIN AMERICA

South America has long been a firm favourite for South Africans not only because of the affordability aspect, but because of the variety it provides all travellers, regardless of travel style and preferences.

If culture, adventure and the outdoors is your vibe, South America should be at the top of your bucket list!

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

If the beach and good vibes is your thing, Brazil is the place to be. From the festivals and favelas of Rio de Janeiro to the steamy trails through the Amazon rainforest, Brazil is the big daddy of South America.

Keen to experience Rio Carnival first hand? Our 6-day Rio Carnival party package includes 6 nights’ accommodation, guides on hand, group escorts to the hottest street parties, Sambadrome Parade tickets, daily pre-carnival parties plus some drinks and a fancy dress party on your final night with complimentary caipirinhas and beers!

Outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs, our 4-day Amazon Adventure is just for you. Explore the jungle by boat or on dry land trails, swim in the lodge’s cool stream, or strap on a harness and rope up to the lodge’s tree platforms for a bird’s eye view of the forest—including close-ups of arboreal orchids., As if that wasn’t enticing enough, you’ll spend time in our exclusive G Lodge Amazon (located on the famously diverse Tambopata River in the Peruvian Amazon) which is both comfortable and intimate.

Looking for the ultimate photo opportunity? Look no further than Salar de Uyuni (most commonly known as the Bolivian salt flats) – the world’s largest salt flat! It’s the legacy of a prehistoric lake that went dry, leaving behind a desert-like, 11,000 square kilometre landscape of bright-white salt, rock formations and cacti-studded islands. Its otherworldly expanse can be observed from central Incahuasi Island. You’re unlikely to find any wildlife around the salt flats, but you’re bound to find many a pink flamingo. If we’ve got you itching to take epic pics of your own, our 11-day Bolivian Discovery will expose you to awe-inspiring geography, cities rich in colonial history and indigenous culture. From La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, travel to the crest of the Andes and the middle of nowhere for three days of incredible off-road exploration of the Uyuni Salt Flats.

Fancy a fiery tango and a football game? Best to plan a trip to Argentina. Be it the local championship, South American Champions League or just a friendly match – football in Buenos Aires is a big deal. Whatever the reason, any excuse is good enough to watch a match live. Every week Milhouse run a trip to the stadium to see Boca Juniors, River Plate or the National Team. While you’re in town, head on out with locals for a night of fine dining and signature Argentinian performance. Enjoy a delicious dinner with wine at the rustic ‘La Ventana’ in San Telmo. Accompanied by two live orchestras, enjoy a tango show including folklore groups, singers & dancers. We’ve got you covered for tours and outings across Argentina, just speak to us.

If the idea of deciding between Argentina and Brazil is giving you sleepless nights, why not cover them both?! We’ve got a really cool “Best of Both” tour where you can experience the magic of both destinations in this 11-day jam-packed trip. From tango in Buenos Aires to sun and surf in Rio, explore two of the continent’s most vibrant capitals. Marvel at the majesty of Iguassu Falls and let its power engulf you. Included in your price is: arrival transfer, guided city tour of Buenos Aires, Iguassu Falls Guided Tours of both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides, 8 nights’ accommodation, 2 overnight buses, selected meals and all transport between destinations and to/from included activities.

What we’ve outlined here is not even the tip of the iceberg. There really is so much to see and do on the continent, it’s just a matter of deciding what most floats your boat.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, check out our South America destination hub: http://www.statravel.co.za/travel-latin-america.htm

And if you’re worried about how to get there, fret not – you’ve got options. One ideal option is LATAM, Latin America’s largest airline (with the region’s most complete network) who was named the ‘Best Airline in South America’ in the recent Skytrax World Airline Awards at the Farnborough International Airshow. From 3 October 2016, they will be flying passengers between Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo International Airport and São Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport, three times a week. The flights between Johannesburg and São Paulo will be operated on their technologically-advanced Boeing 767-900. The aircraft features 191 seats in Economy Class and 30 in Premium Business. Premium Business passengers and passengers on qualifying oneworld tiers will have access to over 650 VIP lounges around the world through the oneworld partnership, offering you the chance to relax with a shower, catch up on business, or sample excellent cuisine before exploring over 1000 destinations in more than 150 countries. Not bad, right?

Now, what are you waiting for? Get in touch with us to book that trip!

#HeritageMonth: 10 unusual pitstops around SA

 

Cape Town – We know it, and you probably do too – South Africa is an awesome place.

Whether you’re looking to relax, sight see, head off on an adventure, embrace the outdoors or try something new – there’s something for everyone in this beautiful country.

Places:

Parys – Free State

Parys is a small vibrant town in South Africa with loads to do. From abseiling and fly fishing to hiking, berry picking, art classes and more! Many artists have settled in the town and many new interesting shops and attractions make it the ideal breakaway close to Gauteng. If you’re a lover of antiques, you need to make a stop in Parys.

Chintsa – Eastern Cape

Chintsa (formerly Cintsa) is a village in the Wild Coast region of the Eastern Cape, and is recognised as one of South Africa’s prime coastal destinations. With a clear 15km stretch of beach, epic outdoor adventures, natural forest, and many cultural encounters, there’s something for everyone in Chintsa.
Fun fact: The word “Chintsa” is a Xhosa word meaning ‘river of crumbling banks’, and it is pronounced in a very specific way. Most visitors say ‘Sintsa’, but the locals introduce a click sound at the beginning of the word.

Clarens – Free State

Clarens is a small town situated in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the Free State and is nicknamed the “Jewel of the Eastern Free State.” With so much beauty all around, it’s no wonder why many an artist finds inspiration in Clarens. From horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking, to playing golf, archery, or heading off on hot air balloon rides, the list of “things to do in Clarens” is endless.

Stanford – Western Cape

Looking for a chilled getaway with the family or your significant other? Stanford could be just what you’re looking for. Only 30 minutes from Hermanus, this little town is filled with antique stores, vineyards and coffee shops. For the outdoorsy type, there’s bird watching, shark cage diving and more!

Cullinan – Gauteng

Another small town in SA with so much beauty. A mere 30 minute drive from Pretoria, this well-preserved mining town along the diamond route has loads to offer the inquisitive traveller. Cullinan’s focal point is Oak Avenue, which is lined with jacaranda and oak trees, and cottages with intricate wrought-iron work. Add to that abseiling, bongo drumming, gorge gliding and quad trails – and you’re not likely to run out of things to do and see if you take a trip out to Cullinan.

Things to do:

The Big Pineapple in Bathurst – Eastern Cape

If “seeing the biggest artificial pineapple in the world” is on your bucket list, then you’ll be pleased to know that it may be a little easier to get to than you think. Located in Bathurst (one of the largest pineapple growing areas in South Africa) the 16.7 metre-tall pineapple makes for epic photos! And that’s not all. Inside of the giant pineapple is a pineapple museum. Cultural experiences for the win!
The Big Baobab in Modjadjiskloof – Limpopo

The Sunland Big Baobab, over 1 000 years old, is 10.64 metres in diameter and is 19 metres high. That’s big. Pretty big. This particular baobab located on the Sunland Farm is particularly famous because in its hollowed trunk there is a bar and a wine cellar! Definitely worth checking out.

Valley of Desolation in Graaff Reinet – Eastern Cape

Ever wondered what the product of volcanic and erosive forces of nature over 100 million years looked like? Well, wonder no more! The Valley of Desolation, a sheer cliff face, declared a national monument (that lies within the Camdeboo National Park – 14 kilometres outside of Graaf Reniet), is a geographical phenomenon with a unique Karoo landscape and ecosystem that creates a type of oasis in the midst of the aridness of the Karoo.

Spider Lady in Hanover – Northern Cape

If you’re someone with a fascination/love/obsession with spiders (we’re not judging you, we swear) you’ll be delighted to know that there’s a lady in Hanover (in the Northern Cape) who shares your fondness. Marie de Jager has learnt a lot about these creatures, and has transformed her house into a living museum. Locked in secure cages and tanks are a number of spiders and scorpions only of which five are venomous. The Spider crab is the most venomous one she has in her collection and it is nearly 10 years old. Some of the others she has are velvet spiders, a button spider and tarantula. (We got the heebeejeebies just writing this…)

Encounter deep canyons and towering dunes, diverse wildlife and fascinating tribal culture on this exciting tour through Namibia and the Cape, mixed with a host of adrenaline activities (including sand dune boarding) along the way.

Visit http://www.statravel.co.za/south-africa.htm for more info

New York- The city that never sleeps!

 

New York, New York
New York has been labelled the city that never sleeps – and for good reason! There’s so much to do in this city no matter your travel preference, tour style, or time available to explore.
Not sure where to start? We’ve got a whole bunch of options to help get you started planning your trip to The Big Apple.

Where to stay
New York is a big, big place. Picking the right accommodation from the thousands of options can be daunting. We’ve narrowed it down to some of our top picks:
• Wolcott Hotel Total
This beautiful Manhattan hotel is over 100 years old and still maintains the building’s original architectural details, which adds a wonderful charm and originality to your surroundings. Located just three blocks from the Empire State Building and within walking distance of Rockefeller Center, the Javits Center, and most subway lines and transportation hub, its location cannot be beat.

• Riviera Hotel
A 10-minute drive from Newark Liberty International Airport and 5 minutes from the Prudential Center and Manhattan-bound trains, the 1920s-era Riviera Hotel offers budget rooms in an urban neighbourhood.

• YMCA Vanderbilt
With a fabulous location in Midtown Manhattan, this New York hostel offers free WiFi and 24-hour security. United Nations Plaza is just 500 metres away.

• Amsterdam Court
In a renovated older building, this Theatre District hotel is 3 blocks from Radio City Music Hall and 4 blocks from the Times Square ticket booth; there are subway stops at either end of its block.

• Marrakech Hotel
This colourful budget hotel with a Moroccan theme is on the Upper West Side, a block from the subway and a 10-minute walk to Central Park.

• Astor On The Park
Facing the greenery of northern Central Park (and offering views thereof), this uptown budget hotel in quiet residential Manhattan Valley is 3 blocks from a subway station with stops at the Natural History Museum and the Theater District. It’s a 10-minute walk from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Columbia University.

Day trips and tours
Whether you have a few hours, a few days or a few weeks to kill in New York, we’ve got you covered. These are a few tour options we can assist you with:
• New York Pass:
The New York Pass will give you FREE entry to over 80 top attractions. The New York Pass offers not only great value and convenience, but also enables you to jump the queues at selected attractions. There are also over 40 special offers such as discounts on dining, shopping, Broadway shows and Helicopter tours. So if you enjoy museums or walking tours, boat cruises or behind the scene tours, The New York Pass has got you covered.
• City Pass New York:
The New York City Explorer Pass® is the best choice for maximum savings and flexibility. Save up to 45% off retail prices on admission to three, five, or seven attractions of your choice from over 50 options. Enjoy the flexibility to choose attractions as you go and take up to 30 days to use your pass. Attractions include a hop-on hop-off bus tour, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island ferry ticket, Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, the MET, and more.
• Neighbourhood Eats Tour: Brownstone Brooklyn:
Your adventure begins at the Downtown Heliport at Pier 6 when you board a luxury helicopter for a 15-minute helicopter flight. In the spring and summer, see the Manhattan skyline at sunset, offering you views of the magnificent New York skyline.
Listen to your friendly pilot share fascinating facts and anecdotes as you spot some of the city’s most famous sights. Marvel at sensational views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Soar over the Hudson River and spot the iconic Empire State Building and sprawling Central Park. Your flight also offers vistas of other Manhattan landmarks including the Chrysler Building, World Financial Center, Chelsea Piers, Time Warner Center and Ground Zero, as well as New Jersey attractions such as the Goldman Sachs Tower, Colgate Clock and Liberty State Park.
After your helicopter ride, you’ll be escorted on a short walk to Pier 16, where you’ll board a water taxi for a 1-hour evening cruise of New York Harbor. Hear narration by your knowledgeable guide as you delight in captivating views of the Manhattan skyline and cruise under the Brooklyn Bridge. As your boat passes in front of the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, toast your special night out on the town with a complimentary glass of Champagne.
Your magical New York experience concludes after nearly 2 hours with your return to Pier 16.

• Liberty Helicopter Tours:
This 2-hour tour offers a full dinner in 4 delicious, authentic New York shops and restaurants. First you’ll have thin-crust pizza with fresh tomato sauce, then enter Little Italy for the oldest cheese shop in America, for soppresata, an Italian salami and cheese.
Then you’ll cross the street and have a cannoli at Ferrara’s. Your tour continues with a walk down Mulberry street, the heart of Little Italy, a busy culinary destination for outdoor cafes. Crossing Canal Street, you’ll enter into Chinatown, the second largest Chinese neighborhood in the country. Your journey will be rewarded with great pork dumplings. Vegan option available.
Next, visit a historic cast-iron building in SoHo, dating back to 1872. This building was built to house sweat shops employing immigrant workers earning pennies an hour, and is now home to one of the greatest shopping districts in New York City. You’ll see the Church of the Most Precious Blood, which holds the statue of the Patron Saint of Rome, San Genaro, named for the feast held once a year in September.
All foods are included in the SoHo/Little Italy/Chinatown Dinner Tour, but beverages are additional.

Get in touch with us http://www.statravel.co.za/ today to start planning your ultimate New York adventure.

Roadtrippin’ the Western Cape with STA Travel and Acacia Adventures

I got the chance to join STA Travel, SA Tourism, Acacia Africa and Cape Extreme on a four day adventure travelling through the Western Cape.

We all gathered bright and early at the UCT middle campus in Cape Town to meet our fellow travellers that would be joining in on the four-day adventure. As I arrived at the pick-up spot I saw the massive Acacia Africa overland truck awaiting us. For someone who isn’t a morning person, this was very exciting as I’ve never been on a truck like this before.