Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Dar Es Salaam

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Dar Es Salaam is the largest and richest city in Tanzania. When you translate its name, it means House of Peace in Arabic. The city was formerly named Mzizima, before the Sultan of Zanzibar needed a port on the mainland. Dar Es Salaam grew fast after World War II. It is located on the east on a natural harbour on the Indian Ocean and has a population of around two million people.

Dar Es Salaam is not the official capital city of Tanzania. The city is however home to the head offices of various governmental organisations. Most tourists see the city as a necessary stop, but it has lots of things to offer. It is a busy place with a great atmosphere, culture, beaches, markets and historical buildings. The harbour looks very picturesque and you can visit water parks. You can easily go shopping and eat at good restaurants. The city has a mix of African, Arabic and South Asian influences, and has Swahili roots, which offers many great sights around the centre.

The main sights of the city are the interesting Kariakoo market, the National Museum and the Botanical Gardens. You can also visit the Makumbusho Village Museum, the Askari Monument and Kivukoni Front. Or go see the Karimjee Hall, the Azania Front Lutheran Church and the St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The largest building in the city is the Benjamin William Mkapa Pension Tower that has more than 21 stores. When you are done walking through the city, you can relax at the beaches. Or you can enjoy scuba diving or deep sea fishing. Nearby sites close to the city are Bagamoyo, Bongoyo Island and Mbudja.

It is best to check the official website of Tanzania’s embassy in the United States for the latest information. Dar Es Salaam has relatively stable temperatures during day and night. It has a tropical wet and dry climate, as well as one short and one long rainy season. Most of the year it is hot and humid. The best time to visit is between June till early October, when it is dry and cool.


Friday, February 12th, 2010

Casablanca (الدارالبيضاء) is the capital of the Greater Casablanca Region, located in the west of Morocco. The city is known to have several names, “White house” where Blanca means white, and Casa means house, locally it’s known as Caza. Casablanca is also considered the economic capital of Morocco, as it holds the heart of Moroccan business. The political capital of Morocco is Rabat. As of latest measurement the city of Casablanca has a population of 3.8 million people.

Many travelers have expectations of Casablanca being an romantic city, perhaps because the classic Humphrey Bogart film by the name of Casa (which was actually shot in Florida). Although once arrived, one will soon enough realize it’s the opposite of romance, it’s an industrial city where time stood still. But regardless to the fact it isn’t an romantic city, doesn’t mean it’s not fun, exciting and especially adventurous. There’s several fun things to do in the city, of which one is shopping. Many small markets hidden in narrow streets, along with gigantic market squares, always as lively, and loud with low prices for goods from bags, t-shirts to watches and shoes.

There’s several sightseeing’s in the city that are interesting to one and another including; The King Hassan II Mosque (It’s the largest mosque in Morocco and the third largest in the world), Old Medina (a small and traditional town in the north of Casablanca), The Corniche (resort beach area), The Shrine of Sidi Abderrahman (off limits to non-Muslims but accessible by visitors). Most travelers experience Casablanca to be nothing like nearby cities like Fez or Marrakech, and is this case after circling several days around the city I have to agree.

Travelers to Casablanca are required a valid passport, most nationals are only required passport which is at least 6 months valid, and a return ticket. Travelers are advised to contact the Moroccan embassy before a trip. The city has two seasons with a hot and humid summers and white, snowy winters.


Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Abidjan is the former official capital of the Ivory Coast, the current one is Yamoussoukro. But it’s also the largest city and an important economic center within the nation, as well the third largest French speaking city in the world. The city of Abidjan is considered a cultural hub of West Africa, nowadays it’s characterized by high industrialization and urbanization. The city is situated in Ébrié Lagoon on several converging peninsulas and islands which are connected by bridges. As of latest measurement the city of Abidjan has a population of 3.9 million people.

Abidjan is the commercial capital of the Ivory coast and is an easy from reach from several international destinations with regular flights from Paris, Dubai (via Accra) and Lagos. Travelers from other destinations need to book an connecting flight. The international airport is nearby the city center, once arrived to your hotel it’s easy to get round the city. The most convenient way is by orange taxi. They’re relatively cheap, with average prices of CFA 1000 (about $2.10us). From the airport it should be right around CFA 3000 (about $6.30us). Of course drivers will try to overcharge tourists, but if you insist on regular fares usually they will accept. Ask locals for the latest fare measurements.

The city of Abidjan is sometimes referred to as “Paris of West Africa”, and after repeat visits for multiple years you can actually see continues growth and that the city has flourished. Although the political instability and civil war have taken their toll on the city as well. Most of the buildings have been on low maintenance, and it’s massive amounts of foreigners may seem like the city has lost it glory. Still, the city has managed to outlive all of these troubles. The popular Bassam beach, is still as popular as years ago. And it’s public zoo also remains an interesting place to see many exotic animals for just 200 CAF (about $0.42us). Further more it’s really worth trying several meals on the local cuisine menu’s in one of the many restaurants, for example along the boulevard of Bassam beach.

If you are visiting the Ivory Coast, you need to bring a passport, which is valid for at least six months, along with your round trip tickets. You must also present an invitation coming from hosts living in the country or any proof of hotel reservations. You need to present a vaccination certificate for yellow fever. Visa requirements also include two accomplished application forms and two passport photos.

Benin City

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Benin City, not to confuse with Benin is the capital of the Edo State in the south of Nigeria. The city is situated approximately 25 miles north of the Benin River and 200 miles east of Lagos by road. Benin City is the center of two Nigerian industries including processing palm nuts for oil and the rubber industry. As of latest measurement the city has a population of 1,3 million people.

Benin City was once, one of West Africa’s most important cities until the British came and robbed the city’s valuables. Nowadays the city is still an important center of traditional African arts. The national museum for example, nearby the Oba Palace are both great locations to view Benin City’s finest pieces of arts, even of which the British stole most. The particular beauty of Benin City is the surrounding moats which are historical like the great walls of China, and were used as defense against enemies. The moat has taken over three years before it was complete, further more is the city of Benin known for having the “Best Bronze Casters” in West Africa.

The city center of Benin is rather compact, therefore it’s easy to get around. Although some rules apply, especially when traveling alone. Keep a look at the taxi’s, officially these should be painted red, rather than wine in the body, and yellow on the roof. If a taxi isn’t painted red/yellow they aren’t a official taxi, beware of stepping in. Getting around at night, is pretty much the same as daytime, yet if a commercial vehicle carries no passengers, feel skeptical about entering or stepping in. Besides buses and taxis you can also travel on motor bikes. Be aware that by law the movement of commercial motorbikes between the hours of 7PM and 6AM is not allowed.

Furthermore while in Benin City; try eating Suya which is baked meat, kinda like BBQ but much better, as well pounded yam and obgolo soup named Draw soup and try drinking Palm wine straight from the farmers, as the bottle wine doesn’t taste as good.

To get a Nigerian visa, you must have a passport that is valid for up to at least six months. You must also present your yellow card or current vaccination certificate along with evidence of sufficient funding for your stay. Round trip tickets are also necessary to show that you are planning to stay in Nigeria for only a certain period.

Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

A visit to the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is an unforgettable experience. Its known from National Geographic Channel. Moholoholo is located at the base of the Drakensberg in the Limpopo Province. Hoedspruit is the nearest town, about 20 miles away. On a Game Farm owned by wildlife enthusiast Mr. Strijdom, the center was started in 1992. Brian Jones was managing the place with a crowned eagle. One day people brought a old zebra, who needed special care. From there word got out that Brian was able to care and release animals and birds which is how the rehab center started.

The center provides a home for many of South Africa’s abandoned, injured and poisoned wildlife animals and is a highly regarded contributor to wildlife conservation in the country. From all corners of South Africa wildlife is brought to the center, and once healthy enough re-introduced into their natural environments. Those creatures who cannot be returned to the wild due to the nature and extent of their injuries, are cared for at the center and are used to educate the many tourists who visit the center each year, both from across South Africa and abroad. The aim is to get to the public awareness of the plight of the Environment in Southern Africa. The rehabilitation center has birds of prey, lions, wild dogs, hyena’s, cheetah’s, rhino’s, a leopard as well many other different species.

Another important function of the center is breeding. Moholoholo runs a successful breeding program, over 150 of these cats have been bred and released back into natural areas. Some of the females have since mated with wild males in the area, so was reported. They also have successfully bred and released into the wild the endangered crowned eagle, Moholoholo is for now the only facility in South Africa which can do that. The taita falcon, one of the rarest falcon species in Africa, is also part of the breeding program. The conservation efforts of Moholoholo make a huge difference to many species, including raptors.

The Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre is a non-profit organization, relying completely on the support of the public. At first donations where welcomed, but as the rehab grew, the costs have been high, so they decided to also ask an entrance fee. The money is used for medicines, keep up of the cages and the expense of feeding. The management and staff are very committed to the preservation of wildlife. Their knowledge of the animals, they so lovingly care for and protect, is nothing less than impressive.

The tour guide shows all the animals they have and explains the conservation efforts they are pursuing. Almost all of the animals are close enough to touch. You can get in the cage whit the vultures to feed them. That’s is really a exiting experience, they are quit heavy and large when they are sitting on your arm. Last year (2009) they had also little rhino’s which you could pet, little baby’s weigh 200 pound, but so charming.

The entrance fees are for a child 45 rand (about $6.00 US) and for grownups 95 rand (about $12,70 US).

Balule Nature Reserve

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Balule nature reserve is situated in the Limpopo province of South Africa. Southwest of Phalaborwa, and north of Hoedspruit. The Balule Private Nature Reserve was created when a few enterprising farm owners decided to drop the game fences between their farms. This has grown into a 40 thousand hectare Private Nature Reserve, with the Olifants River flowing for about 12.5 miles through the center of the reserve. Balule nature reserve forms a part of the 2 million hectare Greater Kruger Park ecosystem, the fence between the two has been removed. Because all fences are dropped the animals are allowed to roam freely between the Kruger Park and the private reserve on its western boundary.

Large numbers of lion, cheetah, leopard as well elephant, buffalo and rhino now move freely between Balule and the eastern border of the Kruger Park. A game drive experience is very exciting. Search for animals on a game-drive, conducted by a qualified guide. Experience nature from an open vehicle and enjoy the African bush. Your guide will give you information about animals, birds and more. At sunset there is a stop for a sun-downer after which the safari continues in the dark, looking for nocturnal animals such as civet, genet, bush baby and owls. A game drive can be arranged by the lodge where your staying.

In Balule there are several accommodations, we stayed at Amukela Game Lodge, located deep in the African bush. Amukela means ‘welcome’ in the local language Shangane. Amukela is ideal located to explore the diverse sightseeing and attractions in the region or for a self safari in Kruger park. They have a nice terrace to relax, covered in shade by 2 large trees. There’s a small swimming pool to cool down. Both have a view on the small waterhole which is lit by a spotlight at night. Then there is the Mercury star deck from where you can see the Milky way in all of its glamor. The southern hemisphere is perfect for star gazing and the owners of Amukela can tell you a lot about it. More information about the Amukela Game Lodge you can find at

From Johannesburg it’s a beautiful drive to Balule, you take the N12 towards Witbank, here it becomes the N4, follow this road until Belfast. At Belfast you take the R540 towards Dulstroom and Lydenburg. In Lydenburg follow the R36 leading to Ohrigstad then take the R527 to Hoedspruit. In Hoedspruit you follow the road until you have reached a 4-way stop , turn left here towards Phalaborwa on the R40. After 16 km you see on your right-hand side the sign Balule – Olifants West Gate, turn right here. You are now at the entrance gate of the Balule game reserve.

The main entrance gate of Balule is situated just 10 miles. north of Hoedspruit. An entrance-fee of R60 per vehicle is payable at the gate. There is also the possibility to take a plane to Eastgate Airport, near Hoedspruit, then it’s just a half an hour drive.

Panorama Route

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The Panorama Route is one of the most beautiful travel sightseeing’s in South Africa. It leads right through the rugged mountain range of the northern Drakensberg in the Mpumalanga province. The view from the Drakensbergen shows a huge, abrupt elevation, which ensures fantastic views of the plains of the Lowveld a thousands of ft below. The panorama route takes you along the Blyde river canyon, Bourke’s Luck potholes and Gods windows. Other highlights are the waterfalls in Graskop and Sabie as well the lovely towns Hazeview, Ohrigstad and Pelgrim’s rest.

Blyde river canyon cuts through the Mpumalanga part of the Drakensberg mountain range, one of the seven major mountain systems in Africa. Blyde river canyon is the third largest canyon in the world and one of the most spectacular sights in Africa. There are magnificent panoramic views over cliffs rising thousands of ft above river bed. The wonders of these views can be witnessed while walking the unforgettable trails laid out on the rocks. The Three Rondavels are huge rock spirals rising out of the far wall of the canyon. They consist slate under a hood of hard quartz where pine trees grow. They have been named after the traditional cabins from de Xhosa tribe, because they look alike.

The ‘Pinnacle’ is a single quartzite column rising almost 100 ft out of the deep wooded canyon. The Blyde river canyon nature gives home to spectacular wildlife, bird-life and plant-life. Klipspringer and dassies find food and shelter in the rocky areas. The grassland supports grey roebuck, rodents, reptiles, seed-eating birds and plenty of insects.

Bourke’s Luck Potholes are named after gold digger Tom Bourke who found some at this place. He thought that there would be more, but it didn’t make him rich. The potholes where created by the water, at the meeting point of the Blyde River and the Treur River the swirling water carved strange cylindrical sculptures. The smooth red and yellow rocks stand in contrast with the dark pools.

God’s windows is a spectacular viewpoint of canyons, waterfalls and rock formations. God’s Window is a small part of a 155 miles long earthwork of sheer cliffs and extravagant beauty. One can observe the hills and forests as far as the eye can see. There are curio stalls and toilet facilities at the parking area. Wonder view is at 5700 ft, the highest viewpoint along the Panorama route.

Pilgrims Rest is a beautiful and romantic spot in a world where a gold rush took place, it has been declared a National Monument. Near Sabie there are some impressive waterfalls like the “Bridal Veil Falls”, the “Horseshoe Falls” or the 230 ft high “Lone Creek Falls”. Particularly beautiful are the “Mac Mac Falls” between Sabie and Graskop, they are twin waterfalls with a height of 180 ft. Graskop lies above the Kowyn’s Pass, it was founded in 1880 as a settlement for gold diggers like many other villages in this area. It a very nice town , with shops, restaurants and curio stalls. For a wonderful cultural experience visit Shangana Cultural Village in Hazyview. Shangana offers tours during the day, traditional lunches and a festival at night.

Eastgate Airport

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport (SA) lies just outside Hoedspruit, a little town in South Africa. Its situated in the province Limpopo, at the foot of the Klein Drakensberg. Eastgate Airport is part of the Air Force Base Hoedspruit which is an airbase of the South African Air Force. The base was officially opened on 1th of July 1978. It was designed to be a highly protected wartime base, therefore it has underground hangars close to the runway.

The base gained international media attention in 2000, when it hosted the United States Air Force in order to provide rescue and humanitarian support to areas of Mozambique, devastated by the severe flooding caused by Cyclone Eline. It is also an emergency landing site for the Space Shuttle. In the late 1990s an unused portion of the base was converted into a civilian airport which we know as Eastgate Airport. The airport is located within a double fence, with a watch tower at the gate.

Eastgate airport is used for civilian domestic flights. Eastgate can accommodate any sized aircraft from an private aircraft to an Airbus. In 2003 the former premier of Limpopo, Ngoako Ramathlodi, announced his approval of an international license for Eastgate Airport, but nothing has come of it. The tourism and agricultural sectors have been identified economic growth points for the region and international status for Eastgate is crucial for servicing these sectors.

Eastgate Airport service daily scheduled flights from and towards Johannesburg as well Cape town by South African Airways. There are also other domestic carriers who have regular flights to this airport. Eastgate Airport is also ideally suited to the handling of private charter flights. Eastgate Airport services over 65 luxury accommodations, B&B and lodges nearby the airport as well close to the world famous Kruger National Park, the towns Hoedspruit, Tzaneen and Phalaborwa.

From Johannesburg it’s just an 1 hour and 15 minutes flight. Because it’s a short flight, the plane flies lower than usual creating beautiful sightseeing over tropical African landscapes. Tourists can sometimes spot cheetah’s while landing on Eastgate Airport. They have been plotted in the field nearby, to chase away the birds and other animals.

Once the plane has landed safely, passengers proceed walking towards the arrival halls while the luggage is brought by tractor and trailer. The arrival hall is the same area where security screening is taking place which doesn’t go like the usual. No X-Ray machinery to check your carry on luggage. Military will do examination of your bags while staff are casual and friendly checking your passport and paperwork. There’s a restaurant on the airport which serves light meals, as well a curio shop and foreign currency exchange office. Travelers have the ability to rent a car from Avis or choose from one of the many airport taxi’s which can bring you to your next destination.


Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Arusha is a city located in the north of Tanzania, situated below Mount Meru nearby the Great Rift Valley. The city has a pleasant climate since it’s close to Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Olduvai Gorge, Tarangire National Park, and Mount Kilimanjaro. Arusha is being surrounded by some of Africa most famous landscapes and national parks. As of latest measurement the city has a population of 310 thousand people.

Arusha is known by locals as “A Town”, which helps understanding that Arusha is not a particularly attractive city. The city is often used by travelers as a stop over before safaris and sightseeing elsewhere in Tanzania. However, it’s natural charm and ambiance of the Tanzanians locals and the buzz of the fast growing city life makes Arusha having plenty to offer to travelers who are willing to see beyond air conditioned hotel rooms and safari trucks.

Arusha has two airports, the Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) which has regular flights from Amsterdam with KLM and other international travel destinations, and the Arusha Municipal Airport (ARK) which is only in use for domestic destinations. Before continuing to your next destination or safari try to enjoy the following sightseeing’s including climbing Mount Meru, such trip can be done in 2 to 4 days. Contact the Tanzania Tourist Board in order to arrange it. Another highlight of the town, besides various markets, malls, and nightlife is the Century Cinema.

It is best to check the official website of Tanzania’s embassy in the United States for the latest information. As of early 2010, Visas-on-arrival are available at Kilimanjaro International Airport for $50, or $100 for U.S. nationals.


Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Kairouan (القيروان) by locals also known as Kirwan, Al Qayrawan, is the capital city of the Kairouan Governorate in Tunisia. The city has been founded by the Arabs in the year 670. After its establishment, the city became an important center for Islamic and Quranic studies, which attracted a large number of Muslims from all over the globe, next to Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Kairouan was the Islamic Cultural Capital of the year 2009. As of latest measurement the city has a population of 175 thousand people.

The city of Kairouan offers history and culture, especially on the subject Islam. It’s reputed among Muslims that seven visits to the city, stands even to one in Mecca. The mosques and history has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city can be easily reached from domestic destinations within Tunisian by bus, car or private taxi. City center can be easily explored on foot, where loud noise, many people and markets rule the street sight. Especially when coming closer to the main mosque, The Medina.

You might wonder what kind of sightseeing Kairouan has to offer. The main sightseeing include mosques which are The Great Mosque, The Mosque of the Three Doors, Medressas, Bi’r Barouta which is a holy Well directed linked to the ZamZam Well in Mecca. When the excitement of sightseeing or the streets gets too much, find your way to the Main Gate of the city center to find several traditional Tea Houses in order to enjoy a cup of tea in combination with a Kairouan cuisine specialty called “makrouhd” which is a tasty sticky pastry. If you’re in need of an carpet, Kairouan is the city to buy one. It’s worldwide famous for carpets as many shops are spread out over the city. The carpet price are graded by their fineness, Silk carpets are the most expensive one.

To visit Tunisia, you need a passport valid for at least six months and a ticket proving that you are moving on to your next destination or that you are returning to your home country after a certain period. If you are from the United States, you do not need a visa to stay in Tunisia for up to four months.