December 24, 2013

Sure Travel’s memorable travel experiences of 2013

Can you believe 2013 is almost done and dusted? With the year winding down, we reflect on the amazing travel experiences some of the Sure Travel Head Office staff have had this year.

Read our memorable travel highlights from 2012 here.

Odete Jackson: Operations Manager
Favourite travel destination of 2013:
My favourite destination is a local one. Every year we land up back at Arniston - an unspoilt sea side village located close to the famous whale trail and De Hoop Nature Reserve.  We generally go in September when the bay is full of whales on their way to Hermanus. We love to sit on our deck and watch them breach and hit their tails on the water all day long.  

An unforgettable moment from your 2013 travels:
Our trip to Beachcomber's Le Victoria in Mauritius with our 4 year old daughter. Read about it here. Our daughter loved this island and so enjoyed swimming in the warm waters and water-skiing. I also had my first paragliding experience at the hotel and loved it!

On my travel list for 2014:
I would love to go to New Zealand or Australia. I have family there and it’s about time I discovered that side of the world.

Read about Odete’s family holiday to Mauritius here.

Abigail Pires: Group Solutions Manager
2013 Travel highlights:
I only managed to squeeze in one international trip to Turkey, which was "awesome" to quote my husband. This is a destination we definitely plan to go back to and I can highly recommend it to anyone considering visiting.

Read about the Blue Allure of Turkey here and Abigail’s Club Med Turkey experience here.

However, it was a great year for me to explore some local delights for a change. I started the year with a fantastic Kruger Park trip. Nothing beats the bush in Africa! Great cat sightings, beautiful hot weather and gorgeous sunsets. It’s hard to pick a highlight of that trip; maybe the leopard and cheetahs on the bridge right in front of us. This natural beauty in our own back yard should definitely be enjoyed before it's too late!

Closer to home, and a great trip up the West Coast, is Paternoster. Another travel highlight from 2013.

Shoneeze Lottering: Sure Online Ticketing Consultant
Favourite travel destination of 2013:
I went to Zanzibar this year and it was definitely an awesome experience. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania and only a 3.5 hour/4 hour flight from Johannesburg. People compare Zanzibar to Mauritius which is a huge “no no”. Zanzibar still has that old African rugged feel where fishing and agriculture is still a huge source of income for many. Tourism only recently started taking off thus Zanzibar is not as commercialised as Mauritius.

An unforgettable moment from your 2013 travels:
There was so much to do. I went on the Stone Town tour – this old city got its name after the first coral stoned buildings were built in the 19th century in a very old fishing village. Walking down the narrow alleyways is like taking a step back into the past as life there is still lived very much as in the past. Stone Town is also known for its beautiful architecture which can be seen in its old dilapidated tall buildings and its stunning wooden carved doors. A must visit is the Freddie Mercury house and Mercury restaurant, the old fort and Darajani bazaar (a shopping strip) if you are good at bargaining.

Another highlight was snorkelling at Mnemba Atoll – the sea life is so diverse and colourful and the water clear – followed by a barbeque on a nearby deserted island – there is nothing better than freshly caught fish.

A spice tour is also a must do as Zanzibar is after all the “Spice mecca!”

On my travel list for 2014:
I would love to travel through either Europe or the Far East – or both ;-)

Geraldine Boshoff: Contract & Marketing Manager
An unforgettable moment from your 2013 travels:
The Brighton Fringe! In May I had to attend a conference in Malaga, Spain. I travelled via the UK (the best way to get to Malaga) and decided to break my journey in Brighton (an hour outside London) for 3 days. I was very excited that I would be visiting Brighton at the time that the Brighton Fringe festival was taking place. Brighton Fringe is the largest arts festival in England and one of the largest fringe festivals in the world. What a great experience! It’s a must-do for all lovers of any form of music, art and theatre. A bonus was the great spring weather.

More about Geraldine’s Brighton Fringe experience coming soon

Jenna Berndt: Social Media Co-Ordinator
Favourite travel destination of 2013:
Due to my amazing Contiki Eastern Europe experience last year, this year was quiet travel-wise. I did, however, have an unforgettable local experience volunteering with Wildlife ACT and tracking African Wild Dogs/Painted Dogs in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park – the oldest proclaimed park in Africa – in KZN.

An unforgettable moment from your 2013 travels:
Eventually seeing the Wild Dog Pack after days of searching for them with no luck – albeit from a distance – in Hluhluwe.

Read about Jenna’s experience volunteering with Wildlife ACT here.

Searching for a signal for the Wild Dog pack

On my travel list for 2014:
Still Thailand or island hopping in Croatia, although I am now also tempted to visit the USA next year!

What has been your favourite destination for 2012? What unforgettable travel moments have you had? And where do you want to head off to next year? Let us know!

December 23, 2013

A day on Cape Town’s Hop On-Hop Off blue sightseeing tour

For someone that has lived in Cape Town for about 4 years now, it’s quite shocking that until this weekend I hadn’t done the Hop On-Hop Off city sightseeing tours. So with the family visiting for Christmas, it was the perfect time to hop on board and be a tourist in my city.

You can win a city sightseeing ticket! Enter here.

We chose to do the Blue Mini Peninsula Tour which departs from the Two Oceans Aquarium at the Waterfront and then winds on a scenic route to Kirstenbosch, the Constantia Wine Valley, Hout Bay and then along the Atlantic Seaboard and back to the Waterfront. Tickets can be bought at the tour office in front of the Aquarium (online discounted tickets are usually available for sale but this facility is closed during the busy Christmas season). Please note that although this is the “Blue Tour”, the buses are still the usual red double decker ones – the route name will be on the front and sides of the bus.

Read more about the City Sightseeing buses in Cape Town and Johannesburg here

I have done various Hop On-Hop Off city sightseeing bus tours in the UK and Europe so was curious to see how our Cape Town version fared. I am pleased to report that they certainly lived up to their international counterparts – the experience was fun and informative and the staff were very helpful and professional as one would expect from a tourist-focused operation.

If you were a tourist visiting our shores the commentary would have given a good overview of the life and history of the areas of Cape Town we passed through. Even for a seasoned local, the bus is a great way to take in your city from a different perspective – it’s amazing how much more you can see from the top of a double decker bus! And I’m sure you will learn at least one historical snippet you didn’t know.

The bus stops at Gate 2 at Kirstenbosch.

One of the highlights of the Blue Tour seems to be the Constantia Wine Bus. A free extension, you can change buses at Constantia Nek and get on a bus that takes you to Groot Constantia, Eagles Nest and Beau Constantia. You need to pay to do any wine tastings, etc although you  get a discount when presenting your bus ticket at some of the estates. Groot Constantia is one of my favourite places in Cape Town so I’m so glad they included a stop there. For history buffs like myself, the Groot Constantia Manor House and Museum is a must-see. The manor house is furnished as the home of an affluent farmer in the 18th to early 19th century would have been.  The Wine Museum, in the historic wine cellar, has a display of storage and wine vessels as well as a carriage collection. The Jonkershuis Restaurant is a perfect place to enjoy some delicious food under the trees while taking in the view - on a clear day you can see the sea in the distance
(and the cheesecake is to die-for!)

The back view of the Groot Constantia Manor House

Another great place to stop for lunch would be Mariner's Wharf in Hout Bay (the bus stops right there) and then hopping off for a lazy sundowner drink in Camps Bay would be a fantastic way to end the day.

It got too hot sitting in the open so these photos were taken through the bus windows.

So if you haven’t spent a day being a tourist in your city on a sightseeing bus, definitely give it a try. Fun for the whole family! I’m already planning when I’m going to do the Red City Tour and Night Tour…

A tip if you’re doing the bus in summer: take lots of sunscreen. If you sit at the top of the bus, only the front part is shaded and the sun seems particularly fierce up there. Also, remember a hat or light scarf – it can get rather windy on the top deck.

It all began when a 16-year-old Jenna got on a plane for the first time and headed to L√ľneburg, Germany, for 2 weeks. Returning well and truly bitten by the travel bug, after finishing school she hopped on a plane and headed off to London. Since then, she has eaten her way through Eastern Europe, dozed in a hammock on a tiny island dotted in Lake Malawi, tracked Wild Dogs through the hills of Zululand, and explored the major sights of her first love – Europe.

December 19, 2013

You could win a City Sightseeing Bus ticket

This competition is now closed. The lucky winners are… Kashmiri Beesham, Tayyabah Mungalee, Bernie Joemat, Lara Livesey, Astrid Julies, Andrew Lynch, Tracy Jacobs, Theesan Vedan, Ross Howard and Joy Niemack – congratulations! Please email to claim your prize. 

Be a tourist in your own city & make #SummerMemories with your family! You could win a 1-day Hop On – Hop Off City Sightseeing bus ticket for one adult on either the Red City Tour, Blue Mini Peninsula Tour or Night Sunset Tour in Cape Town or the Red City Tour in Johannesburg.

To enter, comment on this post (with your full name) and tell us which attraction (on either the Cape Town or Joburg routes) you would most like to hop off at and visit? Read about the sightseeing buses and the attractions they stop at here. Share the competition on social media using the hashtags #SureTravel and #SummerMemories.

For an extra entry into the competition, share your favourite #SummerMemories with us - post a pic or tell us what you’re up to on our Facebook page or on Twitter. Good luck!

10 Winners will each receive one 1-Day City Sightseeing bus ticket (worth R150) for one adult. You can choose to do either the Red City Tour, Blue Mini Peninsula Tour or Night Sunset Tour in Cape Town or the Red City Tour in Johannesburg.

- Competition closes at 12 noon on Monday 23 December 2013.
- Prize winners will be announced on the Sure Travel blog and on the Sure Travel Facebook page on Monday 23 December 2013.
- Prize excludes travel costs and any other costs the prize winner may incur in the taking up of the ticket.
- Prize winners have to email the address specified and have up until 15 January 2014 to claim their prize.
- Competition is open to South African citizens currently residing in South Africa, 18 years and older. Only one entry allowed per individual. Competition spammers and companies will be disqualified. Prize is non-transferrable and cannot be exchanged.
- Terms and Conditions apply. Entry into the competition constitutes your acceptance and understanding of Sure Travel’s standard competition terms and conditions as on the Sure Travel website - read them here.

Please note: Tickets are valid for 14 days from the selected date of travel (you can choose when you would like the tickets to be issued up until end February 2014) and cannot be refunded. Seat availability on buses is not guaranteed. No City Sightseeing Joburg Tours will operate from 22 December 2013 until 7 January 2014. The Night Tour in Cape Town does not operate on 28 Dec-02 Jan and on 09 March. Tickets are subject to standard City Sightseeing Terms and Conditions.

City Sightseeing buses in Cape Town & Joburg

Not going away these holidays? No problem! We live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world – how often do you explore your city? If you’re in Cape Town or Johannesburg, one of the best ways to be a tourist is by hopping on a city sightseeing bus.

The buses stop at some of the most popular tourist attractions in the 2 cities and work on a hop on-hop off basis so you can explore at your own pace. They work in just the same way as the city sightseeing buses do in other cities around the world.

The Cape Town Red City Tour visits the Aquarium, the Convention Centre, St George's Cathedral, a selection of museums, Mount Nelson Hotel, the Castle, the Table Mountain Cableway and stops on the Atlantic Seaboard including Camps Bay and Sea Point.

Table Mountain. Photo courtesy Cape Town Tourism 

Greenmarket Square. Photo courtesy Cape Town Tourism
The Blue Mini Peninsula Tour visits selected stops in the city and then makes its way to Kirstenbosch Gardens, the Constantia Valley (changing to a Wine Bus that takes you through some wine estates), Hout Bay, Camps Bay and Sea Point.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Photo courtesy Cape Town Tourism
The Night Tour, only running through the summer months, takes you past all the best night time attractions, stopping at Signal Hill to enjoy a picnic as the sun sets over the breathtaking view. Read more about the stops on the Cape Town routes here.

In Joburg, the Red City Tour takes in 12 stops around the city including the Apartheid Museum and there is an option to get a combo deal including a tour to Soweto. The tour stops at Gandhi Square, Carlton Centre, James Hall Transport Museum, Gold Reef City, Apartheid Museum, Mining District Walk, Newtown, Origins Centre at Wits, Braamfontein and Consititution Hill. Read more about the Joburg route here.

So go on, make the most of our beautiful South African summers and enjoy being a tourist for a day in your own city. The buses make for a really fun day out and are a great way to entertain visiting family members and friends.

Have you been on one of the South African sightseeing buses? Let us know by commenting below.
Photo credits: All photos taken from City Sightseeing South Africa, unless otherwise indicated.