My top 15 list of Child Friendly activities around Cape Town

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So yet another hiatus taken after yet another baby, I became a proud member of the two under two club (2 boys now) but I’m determined to get my blog back on track. There’s so much I want to say and share and so much that has happened.

In addition to adding another little boisterous boy to our family we also relocated to the beautiful Western Cape, and what a year it’s been! I actually can’t even fathom why anyone with children would want to live anywhere else in the world. This place literally has it all!

I thought I’d summarize the top places to take kids too, and bear with me as this list is quite long. Jozi you have A LOT to learn when it comes to making things kid friendly. There is an abundance of places to take the kids and almost every farm is child friendly. After living in Johannesburg for so long I really am left in awe.

I will  write longer reviews on each place, but for now, here’s my top 15 list (in no specific order).

  1. World of Birds – Constantia – This is the largest bird park in Africa and its home to something like 3000 birds and quite a number of reptiles! All of the owls and predator birds are adopted and none of them have been bred in captivity. My toddler was in awe of all the colours and the monkey interaction is entertaining for everyone!1741
  2. Butterfly World – Stellenbosch – Best to go on a sunny day when all the glorious butterfly’s fly about in their element! There are also a number of other animals on display including reptiles (some colourful iguanas), tarantula’s, birds, small monkeys and LOTS of guinea pigs. BEST part is kids under 3 are free!

     

  3. Monkey Town – Somerset West – This place kinda has it all! Yes the park is a little “run down” BUT these places do rely on visitors for funding so go and visit! Not only do they have like 200 different primates, they also have Chimpanzees ! (Don’t worry they have been rehabilitated after various horrible stories). Monkey Town also has a small Petting animal section a huge garden with numerous Jungle Gyms AND you can picnic and braai there.988
  4. The Giraffe House – Stellenbosch – Despite its name the Giraffe house is home to Zebra, Ostrich, crocodile, Jackals and a number of other animals too. We made the mistake of going on a “slight breezy” winters day with a 6 week old baby. Safe to say, dad did the tour with the toddler who was in his element and mum sat in the car for most of the time because the wind was reminiscint of Artic Gail force winds !
  5. Vergelegen Wine Farm (They have the most amazing playground) – Have a lunch at Stables restaurant while your kids play in the most artistic Play area. A little stream for them to splash in , a giants bird nest, and a maze – what more do you need? Oh and they offer picnics in the forest as well.
  6. Vergenoegd Wine Farm (Famous for its Runner ducks and kids activities). Vergenoegd keeps about 1100 Indian “Runner Ducks”. These ducks head out each day into the vineyards and they eat all the snails and harmful pests that destroy the grapes, on their journey the give a little “Parade” which the kids adore! Vergenoegd also has dedicated child minders so you can enjoy your picnic in the most beautiful surroundings while your kids play a number of games and activities.956
  7. Visit the penguins – dependent on which side of Cape Town you are there is the Stony Point Colony at Bettys Bay and of course the famous Boulders Beach in Simons Town. Its not often that you get to swim with Penguins, Ive taken my toddler back 3 times J Did you know that there are only 3 land based breeding grounds for African penguins? Well here are two of them! I find Betty’s Bay a little more quiet as opposed to the ever popular Boulders Beach.
  8. Two oceans aquarium – Aquarium – enough said!Sharks, Penguins, Turtles and Sting rays, what more does a kid want? Right in the heart of the V+A Waterfront its pays tribute to both the Atlantic and the Indian oceans. Visit at about 3pm daily and the kids will get a chance to see the raggies being fed !1465
  9. Cheetah Outreach Program – 2 minutes from my doorstep, and you can take your toddlers in to stroke the Cheetahs ! I was super apprehensive, you can even tell from my picture 🙂 The Cheetah Outreach is an organization that is working to preserve Cheetah in the wild.  Many farmers use traps, poison and hunting techniques to keep the cheetahs away from their farm and livestock, as a result, the cheetah population is dwindling. Here you learn about Cheetah conservation and the Famous Anatolian Shepherd Dogs, These are  very very, VERY large dogs that are used as Shepard dogs and protect livestock.By doing so you can save Cheetahs !IMG_20160229_152516
  10. Spier Wine farm and the Eagle encounters – Another famously Child friendly wine farm. Spier wine farm offers literally the FULL experience. For non wine drinkers like us they offer grape juice tasting, 2 awesome restaurants and a range of activities for the kids. Best part is the Eagle encounters where you can learn more about these glorious predators and get to see them up close.
  11. Green point Park –Seriously, This is where Joburg Parks needs to catch a wake up! Green Points playground is insane ! You can visit green pint for a picnic, walk or run, theres an outdoor gym, s play park and an adventure park for the kids (with about 7 different slides). Evening and Morning Yoga and a whole zen garden section. Did I mention its free?IMG_20160329_130156
  12. The Blue Train and Mouille point park – Probably one of Mouille Point’s oldest attractions, a ticket on the blue train costs just R15 and takes you on two trips around the park. The Blue Train Park borders The Mouille Point park which has a lovely jungle gym and play area for the kids. The blue train park offers yet more play areas as well as a mini ice rink! My toddler loved the choo choo with the sea side views! Afterwards you can ride your bikes and have an ice cream and walk along the famous Green Point Promenade !
  13. Table Mountain Cable Way – Its not Cape Town without Table Mountain. My husband was the most apprehensive about going up Table Mountain with 2 small kids. We prebooked out tickets online (MUST DO) so the line wasn’t that tedious (I think about 45 minutes?) By the time we got to the front my 2 year old was so impatient to go on the “Plane” (the cablecar) that the kind lady in front scanned us through to the next leaving cart. (If you read this THANK YOU!). Much to my husbands delight there were no sheer drops for the pram to roll off at the top 🙂  There was entertainment in the form of a live bank which the toddler loved and we even got to appreciate the views! Once again I am forever grateful as we managed to get a concierge service off the cable car on the way down to the lift and skipped the exit line 🙂758
  14. Root 44 Market – Great Food, Live bands, artisian food and craft and to a huge world of adventure for kids! No less than 5 play areas for kids, a massive indoor soft play area, wate activities and putt putt. SERIOUSLY – Root 44 offers a BUSY day! OPEN EVERY SATURDAY AND SUNDAY FROM 10:00 – 16:00 Tel: 021 881 3052 Email: info@root44.co.za Audacia Wines, Corner of R44 & Annandale Road, Stellenbosch, 7600
  15. The Beaches ! All of them ! There is no explanation needed! Water + Sand is a great combination for any child and it offers free entertainment for hours! The Western Cape offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

 

I must also make honorary mentions to the following places: Tokara Estate (unique little playground and they have heaps of toys around the restaurant for kids to play with), Polkadraai Strawberry Farm for strawberry picking, Helderberg plaas (one of the oldest farms in the region and it has a cute petting farm for the kids to feed the animals).

Western Cape – I am not finished with my explorations and I cannot wait to uncover all that you have to offer (though I don’t think ill ever get through it all!) Are there any places you would mention?

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Magical Mauritius

Ok so here it is, my long awaited next blog, and thankfully, it’s a bit more light-hearted then my last.

A LOT has happened since my last post, a whole season, a couple of holidays and my wedding ! That alone will be a blog in its own, I can go on for days about functions 🙂

For our honeymoon we went to Mauritius, its so cliché for honeymooners I’m almost embarrassed, but so well worth it ! The embarrassment probably stems from the “all-inclusive” beachcombers package we took.
When I lived in the Caribbean we used to laugh at the Sandals tourists as all they would do is swim in the pool and stay in the hotel 🙂

Beaches

I don’t actually know where to begin with Mauritius is certainly has all the same “French” influences as the Caribbean, in fact my husband got sick of me as around every corner I would say “wow the buildings are so similar to the Caribbean”. Its famous for things like vanilla tea (yummy), and being the last ever place that Dodo’s exsisted

We stayed at the Medium ranged (in terms of price, not quality) Le Victoria Hotel, its rated 4.5 stars and is part of the beachcombers group. We wanted to explore as much as we could, and knew we wouldn’t be in the rooms that much (although we could have as they were lovely). The drive from the airport was horrendously long though, and in peak traffic (probably the only downfall of the entire trip).

What stood out the most in Mauritius was the service. 5 star all the way, attentive , hard working, polite. All round; so refreshing !

Secondly there is so so much to do ! So much so that on our 4th day all my husband wanted to do was sleep! He came on honeymoon to “relax” and not to explore all day 🙂

Picture Perfect

So what to do there?
Mauritius undoubtedly provides the A-list treatment – you can walk with lions on a safari tour, take a helicopter over the island, swing on a 6,800m golf course or dine by candlelight on the beach. There really is something for everyone. Keen on Water sports? Mauritius is surrounded by water and has every water sport imaginable. Adrenalin junkie? Climb the Mountain or parasail, or for the braver try kiteboarding. Spa Treatments? Check again. Amazing snorkelling? The water is so clear and temperate you can literally spend the entire day and not even notice. Nature Lover? Mauritius Safari and Bird Park, Yemen Natural Reserve Park, safari quad-biking adventures the list goes on..

A definite must? A trip on a catamaran to one of the nearby islands, we did the popular trip to Gabriel Island. It was a full day of relaxation, a brilliant fish braai and a chance to see some of the most beautiful and preserved islands of Mauritius. Our crew were friendly, vibey and our entertainment was provided by some French tourists that had a fabulous time with the rum punch 🙂

 

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Of course you cannot come to Mauritius without taking a dip in the turquoise sea and lie on the white silky sand. In the north the beaches are mainly white, fine sand, but as you go east, the beaches change colour and texture and the sea changes from calm lagoon to full on “surfing” Ocean.

Do not let this beauty full you however, Mauritius is surrounded by coral reefs and as a result there is an awful amount of coral off most beaches. For a shorty like me, this wasn’t that much of a problem as I couldn’t stand most places, but for the taller folk such as my husband, aquatic shoes are a NON Negotiable. Certain individuals ended up with cuts on their feet and it tends to ruin walking on the beach or swimming in the sea at all.

Grande bay is picturesquely beautiful and reminded me a lot of the Spanish colonized islands in the Caribbean, window boxes with flowers and thin cobbled streets. Its also the hub for clubs/ restaurants/ cafés. We attempted to cycle there one day from our hotel; Not even a Kilometer from the hotel, with sweat dripping down we decided to turn back due to the heat 🙂
The Best part of the trip? Swimming with dolphins! What a magical, surreal experience; to swim with wild dolphins and to see them playing in their natural habitat. You have to a strong swimmer to keep up with them, and if the current is too rough the tour guides won’t let you jump in, but just the experience alone of being surrounded by about 200 hundred wild dolphins is extraordinary.
After the 2 hours outing with the dolphins, we travelled to L’ile aux Benitiers for lunch on the beach (a fish braai again followed by yummy banana/ coconut dessert) . The afternoon was spent snorkeling and swimming in the magnificent lagoon. We also visited the Crystal Rock and you could jump off it into “the swimming pool” around it.

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Come 17h30 every day we were in the glorious pool at the hotel, sipping cocktails, where we stayed for hours on end. Every evening we were blessed with a short rain shower, with warm drops of fresh tropical rain falling. It was glorious. Big contrast to sitting in rush hour traffic on your way home from work 🙂

Downsides?
Prices are shocking in the hotels, they will try and spin you for every ride they can! If you can go into town and stock up on your waters/ drinks etc,
Every island has its “ugly”, thankfully if you are a typical “package” tourist you wont even notice them. Gridlocked traffic. Unchecked pollution. Dirty Grey walls, Debilitating shortages. Slight racism and definite corruption !

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I think ill write a separate blog on the fantastic Le Victoria Hotel, it needs its own dedication. The Food was insanely amazing (not at the big generic restaurant) , but at the two smaller “smarter” restaurants. L’Horizon, which specializes in seafood and we got to experience Marlon Carpaccio, and the Italian restaurant of La Casa. The hotel would be the PERFECT destination for a whole group of friends/ family as well. It boasts a kids club, Gym, Tennis courts, Bikes for Hire, Boats, paddle boats, jet skiing, beach volleyball, table tennis, pool tables, the list goes on and on… It was an absolute dream! But more on that later xx

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What are you waiting for? Explore Mauritius and for South Africans it’s a mere 4 hour flight ! Im definitely going back, there is no better way to spend your days then canoeing, paddle boating, snorkling x bliss xx

Romeing Rome ….

This time last week I was getting ready for my girls night out in London (bachelorette number 1 🙂 ), now I’m siting at my desk wishing I could be walking the streets of Europe once again.

I’ve been contemplating for a while how do I best summarize Rome, from a tourists point of view, in one blog. THERE IS JUST SO MUCH to write about.

The best way may be just to summarize the top 5, or rather, my top 5 things to see/do:

1) Trastevere

DESPITE the distance, it’s only actually about a 10 minute walk from Campo dei Fiori. A beautiful area FILLED with beautiful café’s/ bars washed in yellows and covered in ivy. Here you can get lost in the many alleyways filled with bars, café’s, restaurants and of course, gelateria’s. Around the main piazza (Piazza Santa Maria, surprise surprise) there is always a vibey atmosphere with the obligatory grand fountain and exquisite church. This area is absolutely beautiful and popular with both locals and tourists alike. Sit and people watch for hours on end and soak in the electric atmosphere

2) Pantheon/ Campo Marzio/ Spagna

No matter how short your stay you need a day to do this area! By far one of the poshest areas, but certainly per square meterage this area is RICH in history. Must see in this 2 block area include the Pantheon, the majestic Trevi Fountain, The Spanish steps, Piazza Navona and numerous piazza’s filled with well-heeled Italians. Its home to some of the coolest nightclubs and bars too. After surrendering to one of the many coffee bars in the area you can head to Bar Della Pace or Bar del Fico (just off Piazza Navona) two of the most popular area’s filled with gorgeous Italians, drinking, flirting and filling the entire piazza. Closest Metro stop is Spagna. In this cobblestoned area you will also come across Via dei Condotti (for designer labels) and Via dei Corso (more high-street). GOOD LUCK NAVIGATING YOUR STILETTOS ON THESE COBBLES. Suggestion? Low Wedges!

3) St. Peter’s/ The Vatican

How could I write about Rome and not include this powerhouse? A MUST see for believers and non-believers alike. If you can I would certainly suggest a tour guide for the visit; allows you to jump most of the queues and the knowledge they have is unsurpassable. The vatican is absolutely jaw – dropping, there are no words to describe the magnificence of the halls and the Sistene Chapel. Did you know the main reason for photographs being banned in the Sistene chapel is NOT due to the flash of the camera’s damaging the artwork? It IS infact, due to the fact that a certain Japanese Camera Company bought the RIGHTS to the images of the Sistene years ago? For something like 500 Billion Euros or something insane like that. Did you also know those rights just expired? Hence i ignored the “NO-PHOTOS” guard 🙂 But shhh you didnt hear it from me!

St Peter’s whether by day or night, is simply spectacular. When it comes to shopping or eating though AVOID – products in this area are generally catered to tourists and prices are testimony to that. Highlight of the day, an over friendly waiter, while serving us a Café Latte slight spilled it and exclaimed “ahh you see, you are so beautiful, my body shakes for you !”

4) Campo dei Fiori

Ahhhh where do I start with this eclectic little Piazza? Funnily enough it was one of those places that we literally kept on accidently “stumbling across” (while trying to get to Trastevere or Navona) Its actually very close to Piazza Navona, if you don’t get lost in the alleyways. This Piazza is a MUST SEE. No matter what time of night you arrive 2/ 3/ 4 am the surrounding streets are always buzzing and are hugely popular with tourists and locals alike.

The Big draw card (in the day) is a very famous open air market offering flowers, vegetables, cheap clothes and touristy knickknacks. By night it transforms into a hive of activity with bars/ café’s and teenagers hanging out on the square. Really worth the trip. JUST around the corner is Piazza Farnese, a more tranquil piazza which is home to the jaw-dropping French Embassy “Palazzo Farnese”. The palace was first designed in 1517 for the Farnese Family. Just outside you’ll also see the exquisite bathtub fountains made of granite believed to be from the Baths of Caracalla. If you are a woman, DO NOT walk these ally’s alone , you will get mobbed. There were there of us and we still got mobbed (in a nice way) by about 10 young italian men trying to get us back to the party….

5) Colleseum and the Roman Forum

Often ranked number 1 in the top things to do in Rome.

Every time I visit Rome I have been lucky enough to stay in the Grand Hotel Palatino, which is literally a stone’s throw away. You will also need a full day to visit both of these heritage sites.

The Colosseum was actually originally built as the largest man-made lake under the rule of the Emperor Vespasain around 70–72 AD. The site chosen was a flat area on the floor of a low valley, through which a stream ran. It was devastated by the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, following which Nero seized much of the area to add to his personal domain. Although the Colossus was preserved, much of the Domus Aurea was torn down. The lake was filled in and the land reused as the location for the new Flavian Amphitheatre Again for the Colosseum I would recommend paying an extra 5 Euros for the official tour which takes you to the “dungeons” where the animals were kept and right to the top. DON’T be fooled by all the “tour guides” outside who will try and charge you double.

The Colosseum is the most extraordinary of all Rome’s monuments. It’s not just the amazing completeness of the place, or its size, but the sense of its gory history that resonates: it was here that gladiators met in mortal combat and condemned prisoners fought off hungry lions and elephants. Two thousand or so years on, it’s still hauling in the crowds. Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for contests and public spectacles such as, animal hunts, executions, few people also realize that they actually staged “mock” sea-battles here and the arena would be filled with water! Incredible.

The Roman Forum is located in a valley that is between the Palatine hill and the Capitoline hill. It originally was a marsh, but the Romans drained the area and turned it into a center of political and social activity. The Roman Forum is situated in the area between Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Starting from the Arch of Septimius Severus, the pathway winds through the most unique place in the world and passes beside the imposing Basilica di Massenzio, one of the most magnificent buildings of Imperial Rome, and ends near the Arch of Titus, where you will get a glimpse of the unmistakable Colloseum.

There’s my top 5 things to do ! Ill post more tips on how to get around, places to eat and all the rest. For now, I have to start planning my next Italian trip! Don’t forget another non-negotiable is to eat your body weight in Gelato every single day 🙂 arrivederci xx

Vision Boards – Turning Dreams into Reality

Is anyone familiar with vision boards? Does anyone use vision boards to help them to achieve their goals and dreams?

I have to admit i work for a pretty fabulous company, in many many ways. The first thing you would probably notice walking around is that every single one of our walls is a different colour. The Second would be that everyone has a “Vision Board” Hanging above their desks. We call them “Dream Boards”.

If you are not familiar with a vision board, or have never even heard of the term before, let me explain ..

A vision board is a board (poster board, cork board…) where you put images that you aspire towards. They can be images of things you want out of life (a dream vacation, a beautiful house, a fancy car) or they can be visions of things that you want to achieve (one of mine is a working woman, running in stilettos, changing a diaper). Some people have been known to create vision boards of images that they are not 100% sure why they are attracted to them but hold on to them to see if their purpose and meaning becomes clear to them one day.

The purpose of the board is to keep your mind focused on the things you want to achieve in life, or to use it as motivation. The vision board gives your “vision” clarity and helps to keep your attention on your intentions. If you look at it every day it helps you to keep your “eye on the prize”, so to speak. It can also be used as a force to help reinforce your daily affirmations.

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Making a vision board is really easy. You can make a simple one with some poster board. Or you can use a large cork board. I like choosing a colour for the board that resonates with me.

Once you have the board you are going to use the next step is to go through magazines and cut out images that stand out to you and that you are drawn too. Perhaps it’s a photo of a beautiful beach, that M3 we would all love to drive. If you are like me, Jimmy Choos would probably feature alot, in amongst the shiny rings.

After you have finished collecting pictures your next step is create a collage or arrange them on the board. I also have cut out letters to spell words that are important to me, “Happiness” and “Travel”. The board is YOURS so it has to make sense to you and only you. Don’t worry about what others think.

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Once you have the pictures arranged you need to attach them to the board. Glue if its a board, pins if a cork board. You get the picture, i dont need to do step by step.

After your board is complete you need to hang it some place where you can look at it each and every day.

Look back and update it every 3 years or so. Vision board is kind of similar to writing down your top 10 goals for the year and looking back at what you have achieved. It kind of links in to “The Secret” with putting your dreams into the universe. You will be amazed at how much you can achieve if your dreams are hanging in front of you!

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Do you have a vision board? I would love to hear about it. If you have been inspired to make one for yourself, what kind of images do you think your board would have?

Here’s one step closer to living our dreams x

Beautiful Botswana

One of the biggest things that I love about Africa is that you are never far from nature. Seriously, in Botswana you have to slow down on our “highway” for baboons and warthog to cross the road 🙂

For me, moving to the city from the “bush”; being with Nature is probably something I miss the most. Things like having a proper garden, being surrounded by thick veld and waking up in the middle of the night because some bushbaby is making a weird noise 🙂 So every year I try and get back to that. (Even though it involves close encounters with Snakes and Scorpions 🙂 )

 This Blog is owed to “Beautiful Botswana”. My Heart, my Life, My soul is with this dusty, heat filled country 🙂

This year I want to encourage all people that live in Botswana to also “keep it local”. So often with small towns, all you want to do for a holiday is make a break for it overseas or out of the country. I realised after speaking to so many expats living there how incredibly blessed we are in Botswana, and how much by living there you take it for granted. We have the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park, Nxai Pans and even the vast emptiness of the Tuli Block we literally are spoilt for choice when it comes to “Bush Breaks”.

Nxai (the x= a clicking sound) Pan is 2500 square kilometer game reserve. It is a large area of very flat savannah/grasslands. I shockingly have never even been there myself!
In Botswana, most places during the rainy season are not the time to go, but Nxai Pan blossoms. Thousands of Zebra migrate to the area with their young.
It is also the only place you will see both springbok and impala in the same area.
Nxai pan has many different species including: gemsbock, giraffe, impala, springbok, lions (lots of them) cheetahs
leopard,  Wildebeest, bat eared fox, jackals, honeybadgers, hearteebeast, etc… So for all the “mini-breaks” this year why not explore what we have? GOAL FOR THIS YEAR? GO CAMPING IN THE NXAI PANS! Anyone keen to join me?

I love Africa. I love Botswana.

Tuli Block is an area of land in the far Southeastern border of Botswana and South Africa. It acted a barrier between Bechuanaland (Botswana) and the South African Boer Farmers in 1895.In the Tuli block the Limpopo River and the Notwane River converge. Tuli today is made up of multiple private game reserves and private farms/residences. Little of the area is fences and the animals are allowed to roam . This is true Botswana, Red Soil, Miles of Thorn trees and random animals everywhere!

  Chobe National Park. Chobe is over 11700 square kilometres of protected area and rated one of the best safaries in Africa it has the largest population of elephants about 120,000. Infact they are causing a bit of a problem in the area ! Its also a bird lovers’ paradise. You’ll also probably get to see the most Hippo’s out of water you have ever seen!

I recently visited Chobe for the 2nd year in a row in December. The Chobe River is the border between Botswana and Nambia. The people who live on the Botswana side are the Sibiya and the Namibian side are the Lozi. There is an island called Sidudu at the border between Botswana and Namibia where buffalos, impala, lechewe, Puku (if you are lucky) and elephants and Hippos graze.

Elephant casually crossing the Road
Fish Eagles galore
Hitching a Lift
The rare Puku

Finally, In Botswana there is not a single day that passes where we do not see an amazing sunrise or sunset.
During the day the sky is a crisp blue. Some days…..a clear blue sky that goes forever….Other days full of cute puffy cotton ball clouds.

The sky is even amazing during rain. The thunderstorms here are AWESOME displays of lighting and thunder with enormous clouds looming and you see rain falling kilometers off in the distance.

So Keep it Local Guys, we are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful place. For those readers that have never been to Botswana, it will change your world forever 🙂 The people, the culture, the hot air. It gets under your skin and will never leave xx

PS: Two great websites about Botswana? www.gaboronecity.com and www.safaris-in-botswana.com