Do’s and Don’ts of Matobo National Park

Composing an area of 44 500 hectares, the Matobo National Park is situated in the stunning Matobo Hills, just 35 km from Bulawayo. One of the most under-rated parks in Zimbabwe, the landscape is littered with granite kopjes, balancing rocks, smooth whale-back dwalas, and lush vegetation.

Matobo National ParkA vast granite plateau subjected to millions of years of weathering forms the base of this picturesque landscape.

What’s certain is that this is one of Africa’ must-visit destinations. To further persuade you, or to provide you with a helpful guide, we’ve put together a few Do’s and Don’ts for this magnificent region.

DO make the trek up to World’s View

Following his death in 1902, Cecil John Rhodes was buried at the summit of Malindidzimu or World’s View – a granite hill in the centre of the park. The burial site, however controversial, boasts one of the most breath-taking vistas in Zimbabwe – an awe-inspiring 360° view of the park.

World's View MatoposLook out for the rainbow-coloured Platysaurus lizards, which hide under the humongous boulder which dot the summit. The gently sloping walk from the parking lot is suitable for all levels of fitness, and a small entry fee is payable before you set out.

DON’T expect to see ALL the Big Five

While the Matobo National Park is home to a diverse variety of wildlife, they are but three short of the Big Five. The park contains black and white rhino, and leopard, but there are no lion, elephant, or buffalo. Don’t despair though, this fact is made up by the large presence of giraffe, kudu, sable, eland, wildebeest, and waterbuck.

Rhinos Matobo National ParkMore infrequent visitors include hyena, cheetah, ostrich, and hippo. To stand at chance of spotting most of these, DO book yourself on a guided game drive.

DO explore the numerous caves

With over 3000 registered rock art sites in the Matobo Hills, it is of vital historical importance to the country, and local Mwari religion. Paintings can be found along many cave walls in the park, which shine light on day-to-day life as far back as 13000 years ago. Same examples of those to visit include Pomongwe Cave, Inanka Cave, Bambata Cave, and White Rhino Shelter.

Cave Paintings MatoposDON’T forget your camera

Featuring unique, spectacular rock formations, tranquil dams, various lofty viewpoints, and incredible wildlife, the Matobo National Park is one of the most snap-worthy destinations in Africa. While it’s difficult to capture the devastating beauty of this land in a mere snapshot, it’s definitely worth a try. Make sure to take a wide angle lens with you, in an attempt to get it all in.

Matobo HillsDO pack your hiking boots

There are a variety of hiking trails around the park, catering to a range of fitness levels. For a relatively east and short hike suitable for exercise novices, climb the Pomongwe Hill, situated near Maleme Dam, and gaze upon stunning aerial views of the central park. While you’re in the area, set off on a walk from the Maleme Dam to explore the the Pomongwe Cave rock paintings. For a more challenging day’s out, table Mount Shumbashawa, near Gordon Park.

To book your Bulawayo accommodation nearby the Matobo National Park, or to find out more about exploring the area, contact Cresta Churchill on +263 924 4244, or reservations@churchill.cresta.co.zw.

Top 5 Chobe National Park Activities

If the Chobe National Park isn’t on your Bucket List, then it should be. One of the largest, and most beautiful game reserves in Botswana, encompassing vast floodplains, marshy swamps, and lush woodlands, it covers an area of approximately 11 700km.

Chobe National ParkTo provide you with the holiday of a lifetime, here are our top 5 picks for things to do in the Chobe:

1. Go on a Game Drive

A safari-lover’s paradise, the Chobe National Park boasts one of the largest concentrations of wildlife in Africa, teeming with a wide variety of different game.

Take full advantage of this fact in the best way possible – with a guided Chobe game drive. Among some of the animals you stand a chance to spot are lion, cheetah, leopard, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, and hyena. More uncommon antelope species to be found in the park include tsessebe, sable, Roan, puku, Red Lechwe, and the elusive Chobe bushbuck.

Chobe Game DriveMost excitingly, however, is the opportunity to observe part of the world’s largest elephant population. Tens of thousands of elephants move between the Chobe and Hwange National Park along their seasonal migration routes each year.

The best time to spot these majestic animals in the Chobe is now, during the region’s rainy season, as large herds gather in the south-eastern area of the park.

2. Take a Cruise

Nothing quite says relaxation like slowly drifting down the Chobe River onboard a lavish river cruiser.

Chobe River CruiseThe Chobe River skirts around the edge of the park, and provides sustenance for a vast array of game in the area, as well as playing host to large pods of hippo, crocodile, and the occasional ele’ having a bath.  The river is also a popular birding destination, with large numbers of carmine bee eaters, spoonbills, ibis, African Fish Eagles, Openbill Storks, and other waterfowl.

Celebrate the end of another fantastic day in Africa, watching the wildlife along the river banks, and the sun go down – drink in hand!

3. Grab a Rod

A trip to the Chobe would be incomplete without a morning spent Tiger Fishing along the river. The elusive Tiger Fish, known to be one of the finest fighting fish in the world, eludes capture more often than not.  However, there’s much fun to be had in the attempt.

Chobe FishingWhile fishing is not allowed in the Chobe National Park itself, Cresta Mowana take guests to a stretch of river adjacent to the park, to try their luck.

4. Take a Walk on the Wild Side of Life

For a chance to experience the Chobe wilderness up-close-and-personal, opt for a revealing guided bush walk. The team at Cresta Mowana can easily arrange this exciting activity for you, setting you up with an experienced safari guide, who will provide you with endless bush tales and interesting tid-bits.Chobe Bush Walk5. Unleash Your Inner Ornithologist

Home to over 460 different bird species, the Chobe National Park is one of Botswana’s finest birding destinations. Common species to be spotted include Egyptian Geese, Sacred Ibis, Spur-winged Geese, the Martial Eagle, and the Pel’s Fishing Owl.

Rarer sightings include the Racket-tailed Roller, the Pygmy Goose, the Coppery Sunbird, the Pinkt-hroated Longclaw, and the Brown Firefinch.

Chobe Bird WatchingTo book any one of these Chobe activities, or to find out a little more about things to do in the region, simply visit the Cresta Mowana website, email resmowana@cresta.co.bw, or phone +267 625 0300.

Image Credit:
Michael Jansen, Di Gazdar, Philip Milne, Steven dosRemedios, Brendon Cremer

Zimbabwe Bucket List

It’s been said before, and we’ll say it again – Zimbabwe is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, boasting a stunning variety of scenic landscapes, and an abundance of wildlife. Many of the country’s most iconic destinations are centred around unbridled wilderness areas and game reserves, and the largely untouched nature of these regions is part of what makes Zimbabwe so appealing.

To showcase the beauty of Zimbabwe, and to provide you with some travel inspiration, we’ve put together a photo blog of the places you should add to your Bucket List.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls Accommodation

Bungee Jumping Victoria Falls

Lake Kariba

Lake KaribaKariba FishingNyanga National Park

Nyanga ZimbabweVisit NyangaMatobo National Park

Matopos ZimbabweMatobo HillsGreat Zimbabwe

Great ZimbabweVisit Great ZimbabweMana Pools

Mana Pools ZimbabweVisit Mana PoolsHwange National Park

Hwange ZimbabweHwange ElephantsLike what you see? Fortunately for you, Cresta Hotels have five Zimbabwe accommodation establishments, scattered across the country. Three can be found in Harare, the country’s capital, one is located in Bulawayo, and the last is perfectly situated in tourism hub of Victoria Falls.

To book your Zimbabwe holiday today, simply email reservations@cresta.co.zw, or phone +263 4 788 161/2.

Image Credits:
Tee La Rosa, Christina Chan, Aristocrats-hat, Harvey Barrison, Annette Lyn O’Neil, Andrew Ashton, Susan E Adams, tfengreen, Andrew Ashton, Richard Pluck, Peter Glenday, Vince O’Sullivan, Terry Feuerborn

Day Trips from Francistown

Are you looking to add something new to your Botswana travel? Take a trip out of town for a day and explore the attractions within reach of Francistown.

Tachila Nature Reserve An easy 20 minute drive takes you to Tachila Nature Reserve, which is found just 18km from Francistown. Here you will find an unexpected patch of wilderness, covering 8 200 hectares of pristine Botswana bushveld, with naturally occurring game species like hyena, kudu, impala, bushbuck, warthog, steenbok, klipspringer, leopard and rock dassies.

As the reserve is developed, it is intended for sought-after species like rhino, sable and roan antelope, cheetah, zebra, wildebeest, eland and giraffe to join the fray. Enjoy a drive around the reserve and the opportunity to relax in nature with a picnic in the boma area.

Veda PhotographyIf you are looking for big game action right away, take the two hour drive to Khama Rhino Sanctuary at Serowe, which is roughly 200 km away from Francistown. Here you can appreciate rhino in their natural habitat on walks, guided drives and self-drive excursions> Have a picnic at the main rest camp and browse in the curio shop.

Domboshaba Ruins archaeological site is reminiscent of the Great Zimbabwe period and may be found along the Masunga-Kalamati Road about an hour’s drive (80km) from Francistown.

Great ArchaeologyHere you can investigate a series of stone walls dating back to 1450AD, which have stood the test of time, despite being created using no cement. Apart from their enduring nature, the walls are meticulously built, precisely styled and beautifully adorned with motifs. Take a trip back in time to reflect on and admire these amazing structures.

For more information on day trips from Francistown, simply visit the reception desk at Cresta Thapama, or Cresta Marang Gardens, or your Francistown accommodation of choice.

Image Credits:
Veda Photography
Tachila Nature Reserve
Great Archaeology

Zambia Travel Tips

The new year is upon us; ripe with opportunities to visit a host of exciting destinations both near and far. Are you planning to travel to Zambia in 2016? If so, here are a few travel tips to keep in mind before you set off.

Image Credit - Andy AppletonVisas

All foreign visitors except SADC (Southern African Development Community) passport holders, require a Visa, which costs the equivalent of US$50 for a one-month single entry visa.  If you plan to stay longer, you must apply at the Zambian embassy or high commission.

If you plan to cross over the Zambezi to visit the other side of Victoria Falls, request a KASAVISA which is valid for one month and also costs US$50. The KASAVISA is available at major airports and border posts.

Flights to Victoria FallsCurrency

As of July 2012, all transactions in Zambia must be in the new Zambian Kwacha.  Although some tourist activities are advertised in US Dollars, payment must still be made in the legal tender – ZMW. International flights may be paid for in US Dollars.

Kwachas are not available outside of Zambia and should be purchased at a bank on arrival. One US dollar buys you 4800 ZMW and a British pound is worth 7900 ZMW.

Shopping and Tipping

Bargaining is accepted practice in Zambia and expected, don’t be afraid to ask for a better price. It is also customary to receive something free (mbasela) if you buy more than one item.

Image Credit - Ninara2Tipping was illegal at one stage but is widely accepted now, 10% is the norm.  Always give tips directly to the person involved as tips are pooled and they may not receive the full benefit of your generosity.

Health

Anti-malaria treatment is advised and a yellow fever inoculation is required for travel to Zambia. Your family doctor will be able to assist you with these. Although pharmacies and chemists are available at most centres of tourism in Zambia, travellers to the country are advised to carry a basic supply of general medicines and first aid supplies – just in case! Likewise, ensure your International Medical Insurance is up to date and organised before you arrive.

Dress

Casual wear is the norm in most tourist centres, but short skirts and shorts are considered inappropriate dress for ladies.

Zambian WildlifeIf you have any questions about staying in Zamiba, simply visit the reception desk at Cresta Golfview, and our friendly receptionists should be able to assist you in anyway possible.

The Bright Night Lights Of Gaborone

Everybody needs a night on the town once in a while, and while staying at one of the finer hotels in Gaborone, you will find a few places where you can paint the town red at least once during your stay.

Chatters BarChoose one or more of many entertaining things to do in Gaborone, while staying in this interesting and diverse city:

Chatters Bar, located in the Cresta Lodge Gaborone, is a classy establishment featuring easy-on-the-ear live performances on most nights of the week, which can be enjoyed while savouring something cool from the well-stocked bar.

You will find No.1 Ladies’ Opera House just south of Gaborone on the Lobatse Road.  At this quaint establishment, which is the brainchild of author Alexander McCall Smith, you can sit back and enjoy satisfying local performances such as community theatre, Setswana singing and even the occasional full scale opera.  Nip into Bean Bag Café at half time for good coffee, scrumptious cakes and light meals.

Image Credit - Grand Palm WebsiteFeeling lucky? The Grand Palm Casino on Molepolole Rd provides a range of Gaborone activities and makes for an elegant outing with upmarket Gaborone restaurants, 150 slot machines, blackjack tables, and even a cinema for your amusement.

Also located in this complex, the Kalahari Cocktail Lounge is the spot for hip and happening Gaborone nightlife featuring a range of cocktails, smoothies and snacks to be enjoyed in the company of the city’s up and coming young professionals.

If you have youngsters of your own in tow, head for an evening of family friendly fun at Kart City located at Airport Junction Mall. Children love whizzing around the tracks on these motorised go-karts and adults are welcome to take up the challenge too.

Image Credit - afrotourismHave you booked accommodation in Gaborone this festive season?  Even if you are passing through en-route to one of Botswana’s wonderful wilderness destinations, select one of many Gaborone activities and enjoy a taste of African city life before hitting the bush.

Cresta Hotels Christmas Specials

Cresta Hotels will be spoiling their guests over the holiday season, with a range of Christmas events and accommodation specials.Image Credit - Jason Devaun See below for Cresta Hotels Christmas specials to be offered at the various hotels.

Cresta Jameson – Christmas Dinner

Time    18h00 – 22h00
Price    $25 per person and $15 children under 10 years old

Cresta Jameson’s decadent Christmas feast is a lunch-time affair this year – a decadent buffet with traditional trimming – ideally complimented by tunes from the United Family International Choir (UFIC) choir.

This Harare hotel will also be running an exclusive festive accommodation special for cash payments: $65 per night (Single), and $80 per night (Double) on a Bed & Breakfast basis. Rates available until 31st January, 2016.

Contact – reservations@jameson.cresta.co.zw / +263 864 4122148

Cresta Mahalapye – Christmas Day Lunch

Price    Single P190 (Excluding Drinks) and Double P375 (Excluding Drinks)Mahalapye HotelAs well as featuring a delicious Christmas Day Lunch, Cresta Mahalapye will be running two enticing accommodation specials over the festive season. Between 15 December 2015, and 15 January 2015, Cresta Card Holders experience a 50% discount on accommodation, while Non Cresta Card Holders experience a 40% discount on accommodation.

Contact – resmahlapye@cresta.co.bw / +267 47190000

Cresta Jwaneng – Holiday Accommodation Specials

In much the same way, between 15th December 2015, and 15th January 2015, Cresta Jwaneng are offering Cresta Card Holders a fantastic discount of 50% on accommodation. For Non Club Card Holders, a discount of 40% applies – a fact sure to fill even stoniest heart with Christmas cheer.

Contact – resjwaneng@cresta.co.bw / +267 588 1946

Cresta Golfview – Christmas Family Lunch

Time    12h00 – 16h00
Price    K260 per adult and K130 per childLusaka HotelIn addition to holiday a sumptuous Christmas lunch, complete with all the traditional offerings, Cresta Golfview in Lusaka will also feature lots of exciting activities for kids this year. A jungle gym, jumping castle, and the on-site swimming pool are sure to check your kids occupied, while you enjoy a range of delectable Christmas dishes.

Contact – resgolfview@cresta.co.zm / 290770

Cresta Lodge Gaborone – Christmas Day Lunch

Time    12h30 – 14h30
Price    P250 per person and R125 children under 12

Cresta Lodge Gaborone’s festival season accommodation special is a real stand-out this year. Enjoy a stay at this stunning Gaborone lodge for only P799 per room, per night. This rate is valid from 20 December 2015 – 20 January 2016.

Contact – grealtionslodge@cresta.co.bw / 3975375

Cresta Riley’s Christmas Day Lunch

Time    12h30 – 15h00
Price    P180 per person and P90 children under 12Maun HotelCelebrate your Christmas Day in style with a mouth-watering Christmas lunch feast at Cresta Riley’s in Maun. Excitingly, Cresta Card Holders can also take advantage of 10% discounts (for 2 people) and 15% discounts (for 3 people+) on meals.

Contact – resrileys@cresta.co.bw / 6860204

Cresta Botsalo – Christmas Lunch

Time    12h30 – 15h00
Price    P160 per person and P80 children under 12

Contact – grelationsbotsalo@cresta.co.bw / +267 4920245Botsalo dining

Cresta Oasis – Christmas Luncheon

Time    12h00 – 17h00
Menu    Buffet
Price    $25 per person and $15 children under 12

As well as offering a delicious, buffet-style Christmas lunch, Cresta Oasis in Harare will also provide entertainment by gospel singer Baba na Mai Charamba for guests. For kids, the hotel will feature various prizes and giveaways, a visit by Father Christmas himself, jumping castles and games.

Contact – functions@oasis.cresta.co.za / +263 4 790861

Family Fun at Cresta Mowana

Located on the banks of the Chobe River in Kasane, and surrounded by the lush African wilderness, Cresta Mowana Safari Resort and Spa is the perfect location for an unforgettable Botswana family safari.

Chobe WildlifeChildren are welcomed at this luxury Chobe riverfront hotel and are welcome to take part in most of the activities offered. One of the most attractive of these is a full or half day game drive into the Chobe National Park, which departs from Reception daily. Children older than four years old are invited to tag along in the company of their parents, although twelve is the recommended age for the full day trip.

Chobe Game DriveThe Chobe National Park, is well-known as an excellent destination for viewing large herds of elephant, along with lion, leopard, giraffe, cheetah, buffalo, puku and Chobe bushbuck. Self-drive trips into the park are another option for those wanting the freedom to safari for as little, or long, as they please.

Closer to home, aside from the popular game drives, a number of family friendly activities are offered at the Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa. Bird watching, nature walks and mountain-biking are available, while a morning fishing along the banks of the river is a real treat. For the competitive families at heart, the onsite tennis courts, and nearby golf-course are a brilliant way to pass the time.

Chobe Golf CourseSimilarly, make sure to book yourself and your family onboard a tranquil Chobe River cruise. The Chobe River provides sustenance for various wildlife in the region surrounding Cresta Mowana, and these animals often make their way down to the river to replenish themselves.

Chobe River CruiseIf you were hoping to sneak in a round of golf on your own, or an escape to the bliss of the onsite spa, a child-minder can be arranged.  The Cresta Mowana children’s club also presents daily activities free of charge to entertain the youngsters such as treasure hunts, nature activities and games. Additional features include a kiddie’s pool, and a same day laundry service for those inevitable spills and splashes.

Chobe Family SafariAccommodation at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort and Spa is available in a range of configurations including family rooms equipped with a double bed and a sofa bed for the youngsters.

To book you next family holiday at Cresta Mowana, or to find out more about this luxurious resort, phone +267 625 0300, or email resmowana@cresta.co.bw.

Botswana is Best in Travel for 2016

To round off an incredible year for the country’s tourism sector, last month, Botswana were declared the top country in the world to visit for 2016 by Lonely Planet. Image Credit - lwh50The country received the accolade in Lonely Planet’s eagerly anticipated Best in Travel 2016 – an agenda-setting collection of the world’s hottest destinations, travel trends, journeys, and overall experiences for the coming year.

While the announcement was made by means of a goosebump-inducing, whirlwind video put together by Kamp Grizzly, the full list of top 10 countries, cities, and regions can be found in the latest edition of the annual Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016 guidebook, which comes in the form of paperback, eBook, and individual PDF chapters. Also recognised was Kotor, Montenegro, for Top City, and Transylvania, Romania, for Top Region.Image Credit - SaparevoIn a nutshell, Botswana was awarded the top spot because it is “a unique destination: an unusual combination of desert and delta that draws an immense concentrations of wildlife.”

This stunning quote can be found within the book:

“Botswana is so full of life-changing experiences it would be easier to list the things that aren’t remarkable. Here is a real wilderness that puts you in touch with palpable primitive thrills and fears, whether it’s being poled by an African gondolier in a mokoro past pods of sunbathing hippos in the Okavango Delta; or feeling the spirit of the first men in the thousand -year-beauty of Kubu Island’s ancient baobabs backlit by incandescent constellations in a vast night sky.”

Image Credit - Anton MattheeFortunately, the Cresta Hotels group present you with numerous bases from which to explore beautiful Botswana in all its greatness, with 10 hotels scattered across the country. To mention just a few: Cresta Riley’s is situated at the gateway to the Okavango Delta – Maun; the four-star Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa nestled on the banks of the mighty Chobe River, and Cresta President, located in the heart of the country’s bustling capital – Gaborone.Image Credit - WendyIn recent years, the Botswana tourism sector has steadily been on the rise, with more and more visitors making their way to the country each year. Similarly representative of this growth, the town of Kasane will play host to the 3rd annual Botswana Travel and Tourism Expo (BTTE) on 1 and 2 December, 2015. The aim of this popular event, which will host representatives from the USA, UK, Europe, and Australia, is to educate, increase destination packages, and product knowledge amongst the global trade.

It goes without saying that Botswana has made, and continues to make, strides in the international travel sector, overcoming countless challenges along the way.Image Credit - Andrew AshtonAs Lonely Planet contributor, Tom Hall, explains: “Botswana has remained off the radar for most people, who believe it’s too expensive, too difficult to get to or doesn’t cater for families. But that isn’t true. Go now! Go in the green season or go in the dry season – at any time of year, this stunning country is just waiting to be explored.”

To find out more about planning your first, or next, Botswana adventure, visit the Cresta Hotels website, email enquiry@crestahotels.com, or simply phone +27 11 881 1200 to speak to one of our trusted team members.

Image Credits:
Flickr/Anton Matthee
Flickr/Saparevo
Flickr/Wendy
Flickr/lwh50
Flickr/Andrew Ashton

Eating out in Francistown

Although most Francistown hotels will more than cater for your needs while visiting Botswana, you are bound to feel like a meal on the town at some stage during your trip, and you will find a good selection of restaurants in Francistown to suit your needs.

Cresta ThapamaBarbara’s Bistro, a popular choice with locals, dishes up a range of delicious European style dishes from its location overlooking the manicured grounds of Francistown Country Club, for about P55 per main course.

Image credit - Chelsea VermaakCresta Marang Gardens’ restaurant is known for its exceptional views of the river, smiling efficient service, an uncomplicated menu and outstanding buffets. Stunningly located on the banks of the Tati River, this Francistown hotel features idyllic gardens, river views, and a tranquil experience away from the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life.

Next up is Thorn Tree Café in the Village Mall where you can enjoy simple, delicious café-style fare such as burgers, salads, jacket potatoes, fresh fish and great coffee, overlooking the city views from a spacious terrace. Expect to pay between P25 and P60 for your meal.

Cresta Marang Gardens

The Ivory Grill at Francistown’s well-known Cresta Thapama hotel is another venue which lays on a great spread, with delicious buffet and a la carte lunches and dinners in sophisticated urban surroundings. Enjoy this delicious fare in the restaurant itself, elsewise opt to dine poolside, under the shade of the trees in the hotel’s leafy garden.

The jovial-sounding Merilicious (aka Roots of Africa) is just that – a friendly laid-back garden venue on Guy Street, where you can enjoy delicious pancakes and wraps in a lovely garden setting. Meals here are in the price range of P50 to P150 depending on how big you want to go.

Cresta ThapamaFans of Asian cuisine, should head for Tandurie which offers both a take-away and sit down menu featuring Indian and Chinese delights.

Whether you are seeking home-style goodness, familiar fast food, deli-style fare, or a dose of fine dining, Francistown has something to soothe every kind of craving, come mealtimes.