Ahh yes, it’s that time again; that time of the year when we’re all reflecting, remembering the highlights of 2017, thinking of the memories we’ve made, the people we’ve met, the highs and even the lows, the places we’ve visited, the things we’ve learnt and the things we’re grateful for.
Don’t ask me why, but over the years I’ve gotten into the habit of counting the number of beds I’ve slept on during the year, as well as the number of flights and places I’ve visited. So in the spirit of keeping track of things and counting like last year, 2017 can be summed up in: 15 flights, 43 beds and 2 countries (plus a whole lot of the Eastern Cape). 2017 was a good year and just like last year, I am forever grateful for the opportunities along the way which made it a year filled with abundant memories, adventures, challenges and new opportunities.
To every single person who has visited this website and read, shared, commented and supported me, a massive thank you. I am forever grateful and forever inspired to discover treasures and share my experiences, destinations and affordable ways to explore the world in slow motion. I trust that 2018 will be a year that will knock the socks off your feet, a year filled with adventures, joy, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, meeting like-minded-souls, heaps of opportunities, peace, warm and fuzzy feelings.
Without further ado, here are the top travel highlights of 2017; may some of these destinations and/or activities find a spot on your list of places you still want to visit (or revisit).
Top Travel Highlights of 2017
Cheetah tracking in Mountain Zebra National Park
I had the opportunity to go cheetah tracking in Mountain Zebra National Park in Cradock for the celebration of World Cheetah Day (4th of December). What an experience it was to get within 8 meters (after just walking for about 2 km) of a cat in the wild. Mountain Zebra National Park has done some incredible conservation work with cheetahs and 2017 also marks the 10th year since cheetahs were reintroduced to the park.
Cheetah tracking is about 4 hour excursion and costs R400 per person. There are camp sites available in the park as well as family cottages, rock chalets and more rustic accommodation that will require a high clearance vehicle (the blog post about this activity will come in January 2018, stay tuned).
Sharing a trip with my brother
I’ve shared work trips (or semi-work-related trips) with friends and my parents before, but I’ve never had the opportunity to do such a trip with my brother. But that all changed during the Isuzu Heritage Weekend; it involved a tough bakkie, a bit of off-road, mud, nature and the Wild Coast and there was no better person to share this trip with than my brother, the perfect co-pilot.
Watch the video: WILD COAST Heritage Adventure with ISUZU
Off-roading with Isuzu
Dirt roads will always be my favourite type of road and working with Isuzu in 2017 was definitely one of the highest highlights of 2017 (and not just because I enjoyed the height-advantage of the bakkie). Thanks to this bakkie I could venture across passes, over rocky terrain and into nearly forsaken parts of our country with peace of mind that wherever I went, all will be fine. I’ve made a few videos and written numerous blog posts about my time spent in the red beast of a KB300 (automatic) and in the white horse KB300 (manual).
My trip to Gamkaskloof (also known as Die Hel) was by far the most memorable off-road adventure of 2017.
Read: Discover Ann’s Villa (via Zuurberg Pass), Explore the Eastern Cape on ONE tank of fuel, Eye on the road, eye on the Isuzu, Gamkaskloof: Going Off the Grid, Snowy Swartberg Pass, Diesel and Dust in Baviaanskloof and Behind the scenes with Isuzu.
Watch the videos: The Road to Ann’s Villa, ONE Isuzu, ONE tank of diesel, ONE epic road trip, WILD COAST Heritage Adventure with ISUZU, GAMKASKLOOF: It’s not about the destination, but the journey, An AFRICAMPS adventure at Pat Busch Mountain Reserve and Bumping through Baviaanskloof.
Getting behind the scenes with the bees
This year I got a glimpse of what goes on behind the beekeeping scenes; I got suited up (and not very willingly at first). My brother is a beekeeper and it was a real eye opener to see and experience a bit of what goes into getting that pot of gold at the end of the day. Needless to say, I am a proud sister. About two months ago he launched family beekeeping tours, outdoor boma classes for schools as well as his Farm Shoppe (which sells honey on tap, beekeeping equipment etc.)
Watch the video: Family Bee Tours – Apiarist Farm Shoppe.
What a place! Bedford gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling and I was lucky enough to visit the small town in the beginning of the year and again towards the end of 2017. It’s a town of synonymous with growth, beauty, soulful souls and it is oozing passion for everything that is green from edible plants to pretty flowers to recycling. Also, I’m not a foodie and I don’t have a green thumb but when Kim van Niekerk cooks up a storm (best meal I’ve had in 2017) and basically all the ingredients originate from her garden I can’t help to long for my own veggie garden. Kim, alongside Cathy and Susie, started with Thrive in Bedford this year and they’re offering retreats for mind, body and soul – click here to find out more.
Travelling to Lagos
I got my yellow fever injection, sent off my passport for a Nigerian visa and then Lagos – or rather Gidi as the locals call it – happened. Google hosted a group of African influencers and media hailing from Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa and they went out of their way to give us an unforgettable experience, from cooking with Chef Eros to visiting markets, the old prison, Fela Kuti’s house and a conservation centre. Lagos is a city of contrasts and while the world does not have the best perception of Nigeria (especially Lagos) I’ve discovered that there is a lot beauty if you scratch the surface of preconceived thoughts. One thing that is true about the world’s perception of this country is that it is hot and humid like no other place I’ve ever visited before.
Watch the video: Gidi with Google.
Nieu Bethesda and its people
This year I visited Nieu Bethesda for the third time, I also visited the owl house for the third time and discovered that there is more to Nieu Bethesda than just the Owl House, but there is also more to the Owl House than meets the eye. They highlight of the trip was meeting Vellies (Kasper). I kept going back to his stall in front of the Owl House where he sells “windpomp” crafts from tin and wire. Vellies is a storyteller with an infectious smile and made time stand still as he talked about his time working in the Knysna Forest, the elusive elephants, his time on the road, nature, his faith, family, health and his two dogs – Vlooi and Soekie – who follows him wherever he goes.
Watch the video: Into the Karoo, Nieu Bethesda.
Glamping with AfriCamps
One thing is certain, when they say that glamping is glamours camping, they definitely don’t lie. And my experience with Africamps at Pat Busch Mountain Reserve did not disappoint with its spacious built-in kitchen, en-suite bathroom, two separate bedrooms, fireplace, the picture-perfect breakfast baskets and the view of the Langeberg Mountains. Plus it’s conveniently close to Robertson and McGregor for wine-tasting and a visit to the Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary.
Exploring the Wild Coast
I took a walk on the Wild Coat’s side twice this year and already pulling a map closer to make it happen in 2018 again. Waterfalls, gorges, cliffs, rock formations, forests, landscapes, land and sea animals, culture, traditions, rivers, crashing waves, sunsets, sunrises, mangrove swamps and beaches; there is nothing plastic or man-made about the Wild Coast’s entertainment, it is 100% organic, 100% raw, 100% South African.
Birdwatching in Magoebaskloof
I went on my first guided birdwatching tour in Magoebaskloof with Paul Nkhumane from Kurisa Moya, one of the top five guides in the country, and we searched for feathered beauties in the Woodbush Forest. To this day I still don’t know what was a bigger treat, Paul’s knowledge or getting to experience it all in the magical, green, mystical, enchanting and every-adjective-under-the-sun Woodbush Forest.
Feeling the heat in Kruger National Park
There’s a reason why Kruger National Park is usually packed with South Africans in the June/July school vacation; it is simply the best time – weather-wise – to visit. But when Andrea Rees, Canadian friend and the one behind the Heart of a Woman Project and Wandering iPhone, invited me along for a trip in early March I could not say no. Going along came at a price though – a hot price – and the Canadian will probably never forget that time when I let out a “I’m dying” while reaching for the aircon button when the temperature read 27°C. It surely felt like 47°C. But going in March did have its perks, especially in terms of bird watching and a quieter park.
Watch the video: Kruger National Park.
Ending the year with an old memory: The Apple Express
The Apple Express Rail is back in Nelson Mandela Bay and while it’s advertised as a one hour ride from King’s Beach to the airport and back, it is so much more. It is a step back in time, a trip down memory lane, a “do you remember” here and an old photo there. The train ride brings back all the memories; the rhythmic sway, the open-shutter windows, the sight of the steam and the sound of the wheels on the tracks; a real trip down memory lane.
Watch the video: The Apple Express.
Final 2017 thoughts
At the end of 2016 I said to myself that I would like to discover more of the Eastern Cape, and seeing that more than half of 2017’s blog posts (and more than half of the highlights of 2017) are based on the Eastern Cape I think it is safe to say that I’ve met that goal.
I hope to continue to discover the Eastern Cape’s small towns, natural beauty and dirt roads in 2018; this province has so much to offer not only to international tourists and South Africans, but also to those living in the Eastern Cape. We have a world of wonders right on our doorsteps; wonders we can explore for a week, explore for a weekend, or even on a day trip. Don’t let the opportunity to discover what we have, right here, right now, go by.
I also want to hear from you! What were your highlights of 2017 and what places are you looking forward to visiting in 2018?