Visiting South Africa: The Cheetah Experience

South Africa is a country very well known for its strong protection of her wildlife and endangered species with dozens of specialised parks and nature reserves across the country to protect these amazing animals who find themselves on the brink of extinction due to human activities such as poaching and land encroachment.

Most of these protected and specialised areas are properties of government, founded by the state and run by the country’s body in charge of tourism. However, there are a few run by private organisations and also non-governmental bodies.

The Cheetah Experience, found in Bloemfontein is one of such centres, founded and run as a Non-governmental organisation that seeks to protect the Cheetah population of Bloemfontein as well as other wildlife belonging to the cat family.

Among the animal population at the park include the Lions, wildcats, a Siberian tiger, leopards, meerkats and cheetahs with the cheetah’s population dominating at the centre.

While it may be categorised as a tourist centre due to the high number of visitors and tourists the centre receives regularly, Cheetah Experience is also considered a learning centre. Tourists who visit the centre are usually taken around the facility to see the animals and take some memorable pictures for their memory albums, but beyond that, the tourists are taken through a series of lessons regarding wildlife protection.



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Mapungubwe National Park – South Africa

The Mapungubwe National Park is one of the many animal reserved parks in South Africa, located in the province of Limpopo, close to the Kolope River and about 16 km from the famous Venetia Diamond Mine.

Established in 1995, the iconic animal reserved park covers an area of 70 hectares and is among the most visited and documented attractions in Limpopo boasting of a rich and complex history that dates back to as far as the 15th century.

The park forms part of the bigger area known as the Greater Manpungubwe Transfontier Conservation Area; a cultural geographic area well known for its ancestral history with evidence of human settlement in the area dating back to some 1500 years ago.

Close to the park is another historical attraction, the Mapungubwe Hill which according to historians and archaeologists was the capital of the ancient Mapungubwe kingdom and home to the King of the tribe.

Unlike reserve parks where attractions are solely based on wildlife, the Mapungubwe National Park offers a different and unique experience to visitors as they can also make their way to the historical Hill town and see for themselves what ancient civilization was like.

The animal population within the park itself is also very impressive, with over 380 bird species taking residence in the dense forest section of the park where tall trees of different species abound.  Animals like Lions, Leopards, baboon, zebra, hyena, cheetah, giraffe, hippopotamus, rhinos and elephants can also be found in the park in large numbers while reptiles like agama, rock monitor lizard, gecko, cobra, crocodiles and python are also found in their numbers.

Most of the mammals roam from the park to neighbouring Botswana and Zimbabwe along the popular Limpopo River which lies close to the park. This is especially common when the river isn’t flooded and crossing is easy for the mammals.

The park and the entire area comprising of the river and Mapungubwe Hill have been listed by the United Nations (UN) as a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Marakele National Park – South Africa

The Marakele National Park was established in 1994 in the Limpopo Province as an eco-friendly site where humans and animals can interact on a daily basis in one close environment..

Historically, prior to the establishment of the park, the area was known to be home to several tribes during the iron-age settlement era. Archaeological excavations have been taken place in some sections of the park to learn more about the history of these early settlers, making some sections of the part inaccessible as research activities take place.

Originally the park was named as Kransberg National Park, before the change of name to Marakele National Park a year later in 1995. Its current land size of 670 square kilometres is almost four times the original size it had begun with in 1994 when the park size stood at 150 square kilometre.

Ostriches (Struthio camelus) in early morning light, Marakele National Park, South Africa
Ostriches (Struthio camelus) in early morning light, Marakele National Park, South Africa
Protea Caffra, the Common Suger Bush, a small tree growing on the mountains in the Marakele National Park, Limpopo, South Africa
Protea Caffra, the Common Suger Bush, a small tree growing on the mountains in the Marakele National Park, Limpopo, South Africa

In terms of animal population, Marakele National Park is not one of the most populated parks in South Africa and boasts of relatively smaller animal population when compared to other national parks and reserves like the Kruger National Park and     National Park.

A handful of buffalos and about sixteen species of antelopes are found in the park, together with some 250 species of birds with the most popular of them being the Cape griffon vultures.

Tourists who usually visit the park do so for camping purposes with animal watching usually being a secondary purpose. There are dozens of tents built in a special section of the park reserved for camping purposes, and as expected thousands of people throng to these camps to enjoy some quiet natural scenic environment away from the everyday city life.

While Marakele may not be the exotic national park filled with some incredible animal population, it offers families, friends, couples and colleagues an opportunity to camping in a serene natural environment.

Richtersveld National Park – South Africa

Camping is one of the most popular tourism activities anywhere in the world, and is usually seen as one of the best ways for families, love ones and small groups to spend memorable times together in a secluded yet natural environments, devoid of everyday human activities.

And in South Africa the best place to have this experience is at the Richtersveld National Park, located in north-east part of the Northern Cape Province of the rainbow nation.

The Richtersveld is a large desert land, situated near the South African border with Namibia and is geographically characterized by mountains, dry weather, sandy lands, rocks and few trees.

The river which runs through the area, the Orange River serves as the natural body which separates South Africa from Namibia.

Camping activities are usually held at the park by families and groups due to the uniqueness and quiet nature of the area. Even though many would argue there is nothing awesome about Richtersveld, it is one of the most unique landscapes in the world, recognised as the only arid biodiversity hotspot on the planet with a wonderful and stable weather that makes camping in the area enjoyable.

The 400,000 acres park is also home to some of the rarest plants in the world, with these plants being able to grow in the desert and rocky land.

The United Nations has declared the area a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Inside Kimberly: The Big Hole that Tells South Africa’s Diamond Mining Story

In the 1800s the people of South Africa, especially those living in the Kimberley area in the Northern Cape Province discovered that their lands were filled with the precious white metal called Diamond. The rest is history. A history that would become a core of South Africa for generation and centuries to come and one of such story is simply titled the Big Hole or Tim Kuilmine in Afrikaans.

The Big Hole perhaps is the best place to visit to really understand the story and history of diamond mining in South Africa. Regarded by many historians as the biggest and deepest hand dug pit in the world, the digging of the spot began in 1871 after it had been discovered to contain diamond.

Prior to that it was a farmland, however the discovery led to a mad rush and scramble for spot on the land. Within a short period of time, people from far and near were rushing to the area in a bid to mine diamond and enrich themselves.

This brought all the miners together to dig the land and search for diamonds individually. This worked well and went on for more than four  decades (roughly between 1871 and 1915) and by the time the mining activities had come to a standstill and the place closed down in 1914, more than 50,000 miners had taken part in the exploration, digging with shovels, hoes and picks for more than forty years.

The extent of the hole was measured at 790 ft deep from ground level and 462 metres wide making it one of the biggest hands dug holes in modern history even though some argue it is actually the biggest and not just one of the biggest.

Currently, the hole is filled with raining water and has become a major tourist attraction in Kimberley with tourists from far and near regularly visiting the site to see this huge whole with a unique story behind it.

Johannesburg Zoo – South Africa

The Johannesburg Zoo was established in 1904 to serve as a natural reserve and habitat and for rare and endangered wildlife species such as elephants, lions, deer, and bushbucks while also playing an important role of enhancing tourism in the country at a time when tourism was not seen as a major economy impacting sector in South Africa.

The center currently has a land size of 200 hectares, a great expansion on the original size when it was established in 1904, making it one of South Africa’s biggest wildlife centers with a grand animal population of 2000, involving 320 different species.

Statistically, the Johannesburg Zoo has one of the most impressive visitor populations, receiving an average of 500,000 tourists annually from different parts of the world and other parts of South Africa.

Note to Tourists

Johannesburg Zoo like most tourists attractions has no breaks and works all year round including holidays, with visiting time ranging between 8:30 am to 5:30 pm even though it is advisable to visit in the morning or at noon and at worse around 3pm if you do not intend to spend the night at the reserve.

Tourists are not allowed to tour the zoo on their own and must do so under the guidance of a tour guide; this is to ensure the safety of visitors and keep them from harm’s way as some sections of the zoo are deemed a No-Go area.

For tourists who would like to spend the night at the zoo, there are accommodation facilities in the park, readily available for rent at small fees.

Current Animal Statistics

As of 2017, the zoo had precisely 2096 animals made up of 5 species of spiders, 25 fish species, 128 bird species, 47 species of reptiles and 20 species of frogs, making it one of the most densely populated reserves in South Africa.

Salaga Slave Market: A historical market of iron and shackles

You probably have read a lot about the brutal 19th Century slave trade involving Africa, Europe and the Americas where Africans were taken from their homes and shipped to the Americas like Cargoes to work in plantations and manufacturing firms.

But even before this era, slave trade did exist in Africa in the 16th and 17th century, though under very humane conditions compared to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

One of the very few evidence of the existence of slave trade in Africa before the 19th century can be found in Salaga, specifically at a location now known as the Salaga Slave Market.

The Salaga slave market located in Salaga, the administrative capital of the Gonja East district in the Northern Region used to be an important West African city where traders from the northern part of Africa met with West African traders to trade in commodities such as cowries, beads, textiles, animal hide and gold.

However, in the later part of the 18th century, the nature of trade in Salaga changed to include the exchange of humans for commodities. People were sold to traders coming from the northern part of Africa in exchange for commodities like cowries, fine textile and leather.

The traders from the North who preferred to be paid with humans, mostly used them as house helps or assistants who would assist them in running their day to day trading activities, it was devoid of brutalities or violent as the sold slaves were generally treated well.

With the arrival of the Europeans in the eighteenth century and commencement of the dreaded Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Salaga slave market shifted its focus from trading with traders from the north to trading with Europeans who offered more for their slaves.

Today, the Salaga slave market is a pale shadow of itself, lacking in vibrant commercial activities and has been turned into motor park. Aside the Slave market, Salaga also boasts of other slave monuments including a famous slave cemetery and a slave warehouse. The slave warehouse was used to house and keep the slaves captive until they were transported to the coastal areas and sold off to the Europeans living on the coasts.

For any tourist wanting to learn more about slavery and how slave markets and centres looked like, Salaga, a town once famous for its trade in slaves and its vibrancy as a West African trading centre, is a must visit.

Thailand’s ‘Nzulezu’ Koh Panyi: Where football is played on water

Koh Panyi is a small village located in the Phang Nga Province in Thailand, noted for its stilt nature. The small fishing village is built on water with structures such as houses, schools, restaurants all supported by stilts which stand firmly rooted in the water just as the Nzulezu village in the Western Region of Ghana.

The village is never short of visitors as thousands of tourists regularly make their way to there everyday to see this unique and amazing town and its people who live their entire life in houses built on water.

Koh Panyi
Koh Panyi

And if you ever thought living on water meant they would be deprived of some of the finest and best sporting activities in the world, you are definitely wrong. The latest addition to their many facilities is a football pitch. Yes you read that right, A FOOTBALL PITCH.

The people have managed to build for themselves a small football pitch on the water capable of hosting five-a-side matches and it is an incredible sight to behold as the young kids in the village take to this strange pitch to kick football every day.

Here are a few photos we managed to get you from the newly created football park that hosts the village’s matches.

Koh Panyi football pitch
Koh Panyi football pitch
Koh Panyi football pitch
Koh Panyi football pitch

Poovar Island: Where Lake, River And Sea Meet

Poovar is a tourist town in the Southern tip of India. Poovar means River and Flower. The town is strategically situated that it has Lake, River and the Sea all meeting at one place. Its natural environment makes it a tourist spot.

The floating cottages like that of Ghana’s Nzulezu or Thailand’s Koh Panyi, the blue skies, sandy beach, an estuary, a stretch of coconut trees, are just some of the few reasons why one shouldn’t miss a trip to the Poovar Island once in India.

While on a boat ride on the lake, tourists enjoy birds watching, rest-stop on the lake for some coconut juice and floating restaurant to enjoy some seafood. There’s a sea side statue of the Holy Cross and an Elephant-like rock that has a cross too.

Tourists to Poovar are encouraged to add Maldives to their itinerary. Return flights from the nearest airport Trivandrum International Airport sell for less than $300. You will need a double-entry Indian visa if you intend visiting Maldives. Maldives is visa-free for all nationals. Learn how to apply for Indian Visa online.

Inside Johannesburg: The Mandela House

Johannesburg is home to many wonderful and incredible attractions; from amazing parks to wildlife reserves and museums, but perhaps the most standout of all these attractions is the Mandela House also known as the Mandela National Museum, located in Orlando West, on the Vilakazi Street.

The one-storey brisk house was originally built in 1945 and occupied by the former South African president and freedom fighter between 1946 and 1962 when he moved out following a series of attacks on his life in the building which left the brisk house ridden with bullets.

After successfully fighting the apartheid system and gaining his independence to lead the country into a new era of democracy in 1994, Mandela decided to donate the house to the state and did so officially in 1997, three years into his presidency.

Mandela National Museum
Mandela National Museum

The house was then converted into a museum which houses the records, letters, pictures and personal belongings of Nelson Mandela especially during the period when he lived in the house and was a leading political figure in the fight against apartheid.

More interesting, unlike most museums where artefacts had to be brought in from elsewhere, exhibitions within the Mandela House Museum such as furniture, citations, letters, and personal belongings were not brought in from elsewhere but were items that Mandela himself had placed in the house before its conversion into a museum.

Today, the facility is among the most visited tourist attractions in South Africa, with a visitor population that exceeds a million annually, a feat which made the United Nation recognize the house as a UNESCO Heritage Site.