A journey through time at Great Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a country steeped in history and wildlife and we have two tours that visit this amazing country.  The Zimbabwe Botswana Game Tracker is an accommodated tour and the Zimbabwe Game Trail a camping tour, both tours explore the amazing culture and natural beauty of these countries.

Gerrit has recently returned from a Zimbabwe Botswana Game Tracker tour and here is his account of Great Zimbabwe, a ruined city in the South Eastern hills of Zimbabwe.

“A highlight on the tour is our visit to the Great Zimbabwe ruins, located near (Michieu Lourens) (72)Lake Mutirikwe and the town of Masvingo which was known as the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the countries late iron age.

Construction of the monument started in the 11th century and continued for over 300 years spanning an area of over 700 hectares. The property is divided into 3 groups the Hill Ruins, Great Enclosure and Valley Ruins. The Hill Ruins is considered to be the ‘Royal City’ where the chief and his warriors lived, this complex was built in a defensive view with narrow corridors which could be defended by one warrior and easily defendable rooms. Six steatite upright posts topped with birds have been found these were considered to serve as a ritual purpose. The Great Enclosure comprise of huts built within stone enclosure walls, which marked off each families area. The Valley Ruins a series of living ensembles scattered throughout the valley dating back to the 19th century. With each ensemble having similar characteristics, many of these constructions are built in brick and drystone walls.11-06 to 11 zim bots 899

ZBSOS 733Research has shown Great Zimbabwe was a principal city of a major state extending over the gold-rich plateaux with its population exceeding 10 000 inhabitants. The capital was abandoned in about 1450 after the hinterland could no longer furnish food for the overpopulated city.

The ruins bear testimony to the lost civilization of the Shona people. Zimbabwe has identified with this ensemble and adopted the steatite bird as its emblem. The method of construction used is unique in African architecture and emulates the prehistoric people. The Shona word Zimbabwe means ‘small stone houses’ and was adopted as the name of the country. If a person could turn back time I would choose to go back to Great Zimbabwe and witness the building of this remarkable monument and to see the strength and wisdom shown by the Shona people.”



What happens on a game drive

Going on an African Safari is an iconic holiday. What could be more magical than going home with personal experiences and memories that are similar and better than all the documentaries you have been watching for years?

But, you have many questions because this experience is new.  What clothes should I take?  I wonder what the etiquette is for a game drive? Is there etiquette?  All these questions can be quite overwhelming.

So over the next few weeks we will break down some of the frequently asked questions and give you some more insight in what you need to know.

What happens on a game drive and how should I act?

Game drives are normally in the early morning or late afternoon.  These are the best times to view animals as they are generally more active during these times and it leaves you time to relax over lunch during the heat of the day.

When you travel with Sunway Safaris you are either in one of our red trucks  (which have large vertical sliding windows for unobstructed viewing and photography )or in traditional open game vehicles.  Both are perfect for game viewing.

Sunway South Africa truck interior (Graham Hood) 014Unfortunately, seeing game can never be guaranteed.  Game reserves are large and the animals move so your guide will do their very best to track and spot animals giving you the very best sightings possible.  Try and remember that everyone is excited and everyone has their own wish list of animals and birds (big or small), so be patient and considerate.  You will stop for some sightings that you are maybe not interested in, but then other times you will stop for what you want.  You need to communicate to your guide what you are interested in so he/she knows what everyone wants to see.  Also, don’t be shy to ask your guide to stop or move the vehicle to try and get the best light for your photo.  You are on safari to get the best experience possible and sometimes it takes a little manoeuvring.

If you can, switch off all the tones on your camera and speak quietly.   Animals have acute hearing and noise can spook them and could potentially ruin your sighting.

Please do not stand or get out of the vehicle unless you have asked your guide first.    Animals are very conscious of you (even if they look like they are not) and standing can make them nervous and either cause them to run or change their behaviour.  The primary aim of a game drive is to give you sightings of animals in their natural state in their environment.  You do not want to make them uncomfortable or encroach in their personal space – you want to view them as if you were not there.

We also ask you to please not take your mobile phone.  Use these game drives as a time to switch off from the world, enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the bush.  There is nothing more amazing than being able to hear the deep rumble of elephants, the sound of a kudu tearing leaves and branches off a tree or hear the call of a fish eagle.  This is why you are on safari, to stop and absorb!  You friends and family will be just as excited to see your pictures when you get home, you don’t need to post the pictures in real time.

One last must have item that will round off your safari:  Your binoculars.   Game viewingSightings of game are not always right next to your vehicle and so your binoculars are very important.  They also allow you to see the small details.  With your binoculars you will be able to see the beautiful looong eyelashes of a giraffe, or the detailed colours of a lilac-breasted roller and the tough hairs on top of an elephants head!  Details like these are what stay with you forever.

Game drives can last between three and four hours so remember to take water, sunscreen (even in winter) a hat and sunglasses.

There seem to be lots of don’ts rather than do’s, but this will only enhance your experience.  So,  take as many pictures as possible and remember to share them with us when you get home!  We love seeing what our you have taken and hearing about your incredible bush experiences.  Rather have too many pictures than too few and wish you had taken just one more.

Written by Jayne Harley

The humble ‘bunny’

Why do you travel?  The older I get, the more reasons I have for traveling.   First and formost for me is nature and wildlife, then history, culture and you might find this surprising, but my newest reason – is food!  To explore a countries local flavours, street dishes and traditional foods brings texture to my travel experience.  So we’re introducing food into our blog.  We will be sharing local food/street food/recipes and more from the countries we at Sunway Safaris visit.  You can try these recipes out for yourself, share them with your friends and when you travel with us test out the “real-deal”.

So today, I am introducing to you the humble “Bunny Chow”, more affectionately known as a “bunny” or “let’s get bunnies for lunch”.

This, oddly named but delicious, traditional on-the-go meal has become the icon of local food in Durban, South Africa.   A trip to Durban would not be complete without having a bunny.

Bunny Chow was born out of the 40’s and the reasons for its birth are many and Bunny+Chows-03-+PS1varied, however there are two common stories.  Some say it originated in a “Bania” (a name used by the Gujarati speaking people) restaurant in Grey street, Durban during Apartheid, when Africans were not allowed enter restaurants and they needed to be able to take their food away.  One clever Indian restaurant owner devised the half loaf container. Others believe that migrant workers needed some sort of container for their vegetable curry while they were walking to work.  The migrants had originally carried their bean curry in a roti that broke easily…and so the robust quarter and half loaf bunnies were born.

Whatever the story, whichever you would prefer to believe, Bunny Chow has made its way into the books of GREAT local food.

bunny-620x414What is it?  It is a hollowed out half-loaf of bread, filled with mouth watering curry.  Chicken, beef, mutton, vegetable or bean.  The best bunnies are those where the sauce soaks into the walls of the bread.  How do you eat it?  Well, this can be a messy affair as sometimes it is not even served with a fork.  You tear chunks of bread off the sides, using the piece of bread on-top to scoop out the curry being careful not to spill the contents.  This meal of champions is best when paired with an ice-cold beer or coke.

There is a great saying in South Africa “local is lekker!”.  Be sure to enrich your stay and dine on some mouth-watering bunnies.south africa team - 006

Bunny Chow with Lamb Curry

  • 2 white loaves of bread – halved(big appetites) or quartered(smaller appetites).
  • 1 kg mutton – neck or knuckles (or beef cubes)
  • 1 Tbs curry powder
  • 1 thumb size piece root ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 medium onion, chopped.
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil.
  • 2 cups vegetable or mutton stock
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a big cast iron pot, saute onion, garlic and all spices in oil.

Add meat and brown.

Add stock and put lid on.

Simmer until meat is tender. Add potatoes and cook until done.

Now make the following sauce

  • 1 level Tbs flour
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 3 Tbs chutney
  • 3 Tbs good Tomato ketchup
  • 3 Tbs vinegar
  • 3 Tbs apricot jam

Stir sauce into stew and cook through. Add seasoning to taste. Now hollow out the quarter or half loaf, leaving some bread at the base. Spread the inside lavishly with butter and fill to the brim with hot spicy curry.

Recipe courtesy of: www.my-easy-cooking.com Nina Tim.

The new faces at Sunway Safaris

We have a couple of new faces here at Sunway Safaris. This week we introduce you to Robert Swanepoel and Jayne Harley. Robert (Rob as he likes to be known as) is joining us as an HR Manager and Jayne has joined the ever growing marketing department at Sunway Safaris.

Here is a small introduction to both Robert and Jayne.

In rob’s words, “I was born in Zimbabwe, but grew up in Zululand. It was my parents who first got me interested in conservation, wildlife and the big outdoors. During my school years I was involved in our schools wildlife society. After school I decided to study Business Management but ended up working in Hospitality in various positions, one of these was a Soux Chef at a Roblodge in Zululand this was where I realized that been a guide was far more interesting than being in the kitchen. I left the kitchen to pursue a career in guiding and worked for my father who owned a small tour operator business. From there I got a job for a large safari operator in Johannesburg where I guided for 8 years and was eventually promoted to lodge manager at 2 separate lodges for about 2 years.
I then decided to leave the safari business and try my hand at corporate life after all I had studied business, after a couple of years I realized that this was not where my heart was and took the leap and resigned from the corporate world. In January 2014 I joined Sunway Safaris as HR Manager for the guides.
When not working I can be found mountain biking, fishing on the coast or following my other love of photography.”

This is what Jayne has to say

Jayne“ I am an adventure traveler at heart, love meeting new people, inherent nature lover, have an insatiable appetite for knowledge and the African bush is my soul food. My travelling adventure started as a child and was the driving force behind me becoming a tour guide, guiding through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. I could not wait to get to know these countries more intimately and loved being able to share my passion and make the clients fall as deeply in love with Southern Africa as I am.  After guiding I did a brief stint in London, I then came back to Johannesburg and entered the world of exhibitions.  But, the travel industry has a certain allure and was calling me back! So I have followed my passion and returned home to the travel industry, only rather than on the road, through marketing. I spend my time with family and friends (home is where the heart is), planning my next travel adventure (close to home or abroad) and being as active as possible in a very busy Johannesburg. I am thrilled to be part of the Sunway Safari team!”

Lion road block

Nicole and Kulani have just returned from a Botswana Wildside camping safari. Here they share their experience about Moremi Game Reserve.

This is what they had to say:

“Moremi Game Reserve rests on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta and combines permanent water with drier areas which 20140128_183130create some unique contrasts. During the Botswana rainy season the bush can become a magical place. Just before a thunderstorm approaches the skies turn dark with the sun trying to peak out from behind the massive rain filled clouds. The grass looks shiny and the dirt roads glisten red.

Despite the rain we had experienced on the tour we were still lucky enough to 20140126_181610witness some amazing sightings. While on route to our campsite in the northern sections of Moremi Game Reserve we came across two male lions who were lazily lying in the middle of the road. These two lions looked very well fed and exhausted as they did not attempt to make much movement from their spot.

20140126_074437Our two lions were most probably full and tired from the previous nights hunting. This time of the year can be an easy time for these predators as many animals have recently given birth. Unfortunately for these young ones they not experienced or fast enough to get away from predators and can easily become some lions next meal. It may seem cruel  but this is natures way of keeping balance among the animals by making sure only the fittest survive.”

SOS Children’s Weekend

This past weekend Sunway Safaris took a group of 4 underprivileged children from the SOS Childrens Village in Ennerdale Johannesburg on an excursion to Pilanesberg Nature Reserve in the Northwest province of South Africa.

Johan, Albert, Tony and Chris Z all had the fantastic opportunity of spending a weekend with these children and teaching them about the tourism industry in Africa.

Here is what Johan and Tony had to say about the weekend:

“Once a year Sunway Safaris takes a group of 20 children and their 4 caregivers Sunway South Africa Pilanesberg SOS (Ruan Mey)Pilanesberg Nature Reserve on an educational visit to teach them about the career opportunities available in the tourism industry.  Pilanesberg lies on an extinct volcano which experienced eruptions over 1,200 million years ago and is now home to many of Africa’s Big 5.

Setting up camp at Manyane we quickly taught the children how to set up their tents. Once this was done we took the children on an afternoon game drive where they were lucky enough to spot Zebra, Springbok, Impala, Bushbuck and a chameleon. However the most exciting sighting that day was a male leopard resting on a branch of a Marula tree.  We took the opportunity to explain to them about this shy predator, his hunting techniques and how incredibly lucky they were to see a leopard at such close range. The happiness on the faces of the children was fantastic as they lapped up this rare experience.

That evening we prepared a traditional South African “braai” and sat around a camp fire discussing what we had spotted that day.

Early the next morning the children were taken through to Manyane camp reception where they got to meet the local staff and were shown how a camp runs and what jobs are available in the tourism industry. After this the head ranger Robert explained the difference between a ranger and guide to the children as well as the difference between conservation and tourism. We were also greeted by one of the 11 female rangers that currently control the park, both rangers discussed the epidemic of rhino poaching in South Africa and explained how they had a rhino poached 3 days prior to our visit. The children all showed a great interest in conversation.

That afternoon we took the children out on another game drive and to our delight we caught a glimpse of a white rhino. The children could hardly contain their excitement at spotting this majestic but endangered creature.

Our Sunday morning drive we dedicated our game drive to finding the endangered rhino and once again to our luck we found 5 white rhino, perhaps the best sighting of all was a mother and her calf gently grazing on the side of the road a perfect opportunity to explain how they can play a role in the conservation of this beautiful animal.

Sunway South Africa Pilanesberg SOS Truck (Ruan Mey)Upon heading back to Johannesburg we had 2 Sunway trucks full of smiles and possibly some future guides and game rangers. This is where we realized how fulfilled we felt after been able to give the children this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Loggerhead turtle in Kosi Bay

This week CJ tells us about a rare experience encountered on the Mozambique Beach & Bush accommodated tour.

Here is what CJ had to say:

“Early on into the tour we visit Kosi Bay a nature reserve covering regions of fertile estuaries, mangroves, dune forest and tidal lakes, we take time to explore this beautiful eco-system.

It was a cloudy but warm evening on the remote beach of Banga Neck in the iSimangaliso wetland park. The air was full of excitement as we set out along the beach in darkness.

After a good 2 hours of walking we found a female Loggerhead turtle digging in the sand by the tree line. This female was oblivious to our presence as she industriously dug a hole to lay her eggs in the sand. Instantly as if in a trance she started popping out turtle eggs in short bursts rapidly filling the hole.

This is one of two stretches of beach on the African East Coast where this phenomenon can be Sunway Kosi Bay Chris Cosnett (1)witnessed. Female loggerhead turtles return to the beaches to lay eggs. Once the eggs have been laid they cover the egg chamber and return to the sea. Leaving their eggs in an area safe from nest predators”