April 25, 2014

Sure Travel nominated for 2014 World Travel Awards

Sure Travel has been nominated in three categories in the 2014 World Travel Awards. The Awards, the travel industry’s version of the Oscars, serves to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the global travel and tourism industry.

Sure Travel has been nominated in three different categories under the Travel Agencies and Tour Operators section:
* Africa's Leading Travel Agency – listed as Sure Travel
* Africa's Leading Business Travel Agency 2014 – listed as Sure Corporate Travel
* South Africa's Leading Travel Management Company – listed as Sure Corporate Travel

To vote, simply register your details here and log into the voting system. You do not need to vote in every category – you can search by category and region – and choose to skip the other categories.
Travel industry voters – be sure to tick that you are a member of the industry as your votes count twice. 

Have you received excellent service from a Sure Travel agency? Comment below and let us know. 

April 24, 2014

Top 10 places to enjoy chocolate in the world

Top 10 places to enjoy chocolate in the world

For chocoholics the world over, travelling somewhere new and getting to sample the unique chocolate flavours is a real treat. From the biggest and best to the sweetest, these are some of the finest chocolate experiences you can sample from around the globe…

Home to the praline and more than 2,130 chocolate shops, this tiny country has a big fine chocolate reputation. The primary chocolate centre is the capital, Brussels, and to a lesser degree, Bruges. Must-visits in Brussels are the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate and Mary (this chocolatier has held a Royal Warrant since 1942 and if it’s got the royal stamp of approval, we approve too!)

Famed for creating milk chocolate and the chocolate fondue, Switzerland is home to world-class chocolatiers. Some of Zurich's chocolate shops have such chic and spectacular window displays they could be mistaken for art galleries.

Must-do: The Swiss Chocolate Train. This scenic train trip goes from Montreux on the Swiss Riviera to Broc, and tours the Nestle/Cailler chocolate factory.

Swiss Chocolate Train

Scenery from the Swiss Chocolate Train

Paris hosts the world’s largest consumer chocolate show, Salon du Chocolat, and the World Chocolate Masters Championships, cementing their reputation as a chocolate connoisseur city.

Taste a chocolate macaroon at Les Marquis de Ladurée, sample something at La Chocolaterie de Jacques Genin and Patrick Roger and do a chocolate walking tour while taking in the sights of the city.

The birthplace of chocolate! Drink hot chocolate Mayan style: thick, foamy, bittersweet, and flavoured with chili peppers. The Spanish conquistadors tempered the bitter brew with sugar, cinnamon, ground almonds, and milk. Try it both ways at a traditional chocolate factory.

New York City
Try Magnolia Bakery - this cozy little 1950s-style bakery shot to fame when the Sex and the City characters stopped by for a cupcake-fuelled sugar rush in one episode. And don’t leave without visiting the Max Brenner chocolate bar where you can taste everything from chocolate martinis to chocolate pizza.

Orlando, USA
Like much in the states (and Orlando), everything is larger than life. The World of Chocolate Museum and Café in Orlando is not fine chocolate, but there is a lot of it!

Vienna is home to the Sachertorte, reputedly the best chocolate cake in the world. A chocolate sponge cake, thinly coated by hand with apricot jam and then covered with dark chocolate icing, the dessert was named in 1832 after its inventor, Franz Sacher. See whether it lives up to its reputation at the Vienna’s elite Hotel Sacher: try it with unsweetened whipped cream and coffee or champagne.

Sachertorte at Hotel Sacher in Vienna

Perugia, Italy
Perugina House of Chocolate in Perugia is home to one of Italy’s most famous chocolatiers. Don’t leave without samping the famous Perugina Baci (kisses) - dark chocolate surrounding chocolate hazelnut cream.

Chocolate may not be your first thought when visiting Japan, but a trip to Royce' Chocolate is an absolute must. Hokkaido’s best-kept secret is secret no longer, with Royce’ chocolate shops opening in prestigious locations all over the world. Try their chocolate coated potato chips in chocolate, caramel, white chocolate or mild bitter.

Royce Chocolates in Japan

Visiting the Republica del Cacao should be on every chocoholic's bucket list! The Republica del Cacao is an Ecuadorian chocolate firm founded in 2004. It arose out of an effort to preserve the indigenous Arriba cacao plants grown predominantly on family farms in the Manabí, Los Ríos and El Oro regions of Ecuador. Their claim to fame is their single-origin dark chocolate bar, made with nothing but cacao, sugar and cocoa butter.

April 22, 2014

10 Fun chocolate facts

World map of chocolate

We’re sure you spent most of the weekend eating it, but how much do you know about chocolate? Here are 10 fun chocolatey facts from around the world to whet your appetite…

1. People in Mexico still prefer chocolate as a drink to start their day. Mexican chocolates are known for the different spices like cinnamon and chilies added to them to add flavour and to increase the aroma. The word “chocolate” comes from the Aztec word, “Xocolatl”, which ironically means “bitter water” and cacao beans were so valuable to the ancient Aztecs and Mayans that they were used as currency.

2. Spaniards were the first to use sugar cane to sweeten the bitter chocolate brought from Mexico.

3. The smell of chocolate has been proven to increase the brain waves which trigger relaxation.

4. White chocolate isn't technically chocolate as it contains no cocoa.

5. M&Ms were created in 1941 as a means for soldiers to enjoy chocolate without it melting.

6. Chocolate has an anti-bacterial effect on the mouth and protects against tooth decay.

7. There are around 2000 chocolate shops in Denmark. People in this country still prefer making chocolates by hand in the small chocolate shops spread all across the country. The country has also given us some of the most popular brands of chocolates such as Mars, Bounty, Snickers and Twix.

8. People in Switzerland are so fond of chocolates that the country has the highest per capita consumption of chocolate in the world.

9. Chocolate manufacturers currently use 40% of the world’s almonds and 20% of the world’s peanuts.

10. In some places in the world, you can buy potato chips dipped in milk chocolate

Chocolate dipped potato Lays chips

April 20, 2014

Easter traditions around the world

Chocolate, bunnies and Easter egg hunts are some of the Easter traditions we South Africans are familiar with. But what about other countries’ traditions? Here are some fun, quirky or just very different Easter traditions from around the world.......

Here Easter is a joyous affair celebrated by flying kites on Good Friday.


Australians have the “Easter Bilby” instead of the Easter Bunny - apparently to bring awareness to the almost-extinct little creature.

Easter Eggs from the Heart of Koprivnica, a small town with the most beautiful square in continental Croatia. Local artists paint two-meter-high Easter eggs in the traditional art style. The eggs are then sent to cities throughout Croatia and abroad to be displayed in public squares in time for Easter festivities.

Haux, France
Don’t forget a fork if you’re in this southern French town on Easter Monday. Each year a giant omelette is served up in the town’s main square. The omelette uses more than 4,500 eggs and feeds up to 1,000 people. The story goes, when Napoleon and his army were traveling through the south of France, they stopped in a small town and ate omelettes. Napoleon liked his so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather their eggs and make a giant omelette for his army the next day.

Communities make beautiful carpets of sawdust and flowers that are usually a mile long. These colourful and extremely detailed carpets take weeks of preparation leading up to Easter. Once it arrives, huge processions walk over the carpets as people make their way to the local church where mass is held.

Corfu, Greece
On the morning of Holy Saturday, the traditional “pot throwing” takes place on the Greek island of Corfu: People throw pots, pans and other earthenware out of their windows, smashing them on the street.

Pouring water on one another is a Polish Easter tradition called Smingus-Dyngus. On Easter Monday, boys try to drench other people with buckets of water, squirt guns or anything they can get their hands on. Legend says girls who get soaked will marry within the year.

Of all of the Easter traditions, it’s safe to say the Norwegians have the most thrilling. Påskekrim, or “Easter crime,” is a time when Norwegians read crime novels and consume crime “culture.” As peculiar as this tradition may sound, it’s rooted in history. In 1923, an editor bought ad space on the front page of a newspaper to advertise one of his authors’ crime novels. The ad appeared in large headline type as if it were an important news story, and readers quickly became fearful.

In Scotland, people roll their brightly decorated Easter eggs down a steep hill. The egg that gets the farthest without breaking wins!

The White House, USA
For 130 years, the White House has hosted the Easter Egg Roll on its South Lawn. The main activity involves rolling a coloured hard-boiled egg with a large serving spoon, but now the event boasts many more amusements, like musical groups, an egg hunt, sports and crafts.

Germans decorate trees with colorful hand-painted Easter eggs.

April 17, 2014

Local family travel in South Africa

There are some amazing local family holiday options for us South Africans, or for families visiting our beautiful country. Check out some of Sure Travel's suggestions for a great family holiday this Easter or the next school holidays...

In the Cape:
A little remote place called Simonskloof, just outside Montague. No cell phone reception, no 3G, no electricity; nothing except clean fresh air, mountains to climb, trails to hike, dams to swim in. They also offer the exciting geocaching* - great family fun to be had doing this activity.

*Geocaching is a form of a treasure hunt using GPS coordinates to find items hidden somewhere in the world.

Read about a holiday to Simonskloof Mountain Retreat here and a family holiday to Montagu Guano Cave Resort here.

Photo copyright: Abigail Pires.

Photo copyright: Abigail Pires.
Other alternatives are the great nature escapes offered on Cape Nature.
The Kogelberg Nature Reserve is a sublime option. This reserve really does have it all. The pristine beauty abounds all year round, even in summer when green is not what you expect to see, and in winter when rain and mist create beautiful waterfalls along the rock faces.

The whole area is one of more than 400 biosphere reserves worldwide. Kogelberg was South Africa’s first registered biosphere reserve and it encompasses the entire coastal area from Gordon’s Bay to the Bot River Vlei, and inland to Grabouw and the Groenland Mountain. There is also plenty to do here. Activities range from canoeing & kayaking to swimming, sightseeing, wildlife watching, cycling, mountain biking, whale watching and hiking.

Local cruises:
A great option for a family holiday is one of the local MSC Cruises - a favourite for families at the moment. Read about a family trip on the MSC Sinfonia here. More MSC traveller stories coming soon.

Options abound for family holidays, especially the beautiful Kruger National Park.
If you have not taken the family here yet, then make this a priority. There is nothing as spectacular as the bush for a great getaway, and a true escape too. Very little modern data interference here. The importance of showing our children their inheritance and the precious wildlife we have left in Southern Africa is so important. With cheetahs on the endangered list, Wild Dogs only numbering 450 left in South Africa (take a look at what we're doing to support Wild Dogs here) plus some of the rare antelope species, such as Roan and Sable, very near the extension list, this is a priority.

Visiting these parks with the family gives you the opportunity to really connect with nature and get your kids interested in this non-urban part of life. Accommodation on offer is at a great choice of camps to suit many budgets and can be self-catering or camping.

Look out for our next blog article: A bush break in Kruger.

The sightseeing in Mpumalanga is also quite spectacular, from Mac Mac Falls, Blyde River Canyon, Pilgrim's rest to God's Window. Don’t forget to stop at Petena’s Pancakes in Hazyview on your way through - this is a very old tradition and a must-see!

Our last suggestion offers great beach vacations, especially for those Gauteng folk looking to escape the hustle and bustle for a quick break. The South Coast has been a firm favourite for seaside holidays for many years now. If you're looking for a true escape without data and email interruptions, once again the national parks are a good choice.

The Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park is a fantastic option. Offering a wonderful opportunity to see our beautiful elephants, and of course the ever endangered Rhino, including black Rhinos. There are activities for the whole family such as educational game walks, cycling, hiking and many other outdoor adventures. Accommodation is available in chalets for the whole family or camping, which kids love.
Read about a Wildlife ACT volunteer experience in the park here

Parks on offer in KwaZulu-Natal are also not in short supply. In fact there is an option for all family types: wildlife parks, coastal parks and mountain parks.

The Free State:
The Free State offers the beautiful rugged landscape of the Golden Gate National Park. Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north eastern Free State, lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The park derives its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park's sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock, keeping vigil over the main rest camp.

The 11 600 hectares of unique environment is true highland habitat, It is home to a variety of mammals – black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell's zebra - and birds, including the rare bearded vulture (lammergeier) and the equally rare bald ibis, which breed on the ledges of the sandstone cliffs. Ribbokkop, the highest point in the park, reveals a breathtaking tapestry of red, yellow and purple hues as its warm shades merge with the cool mountain shadows towards evening.

Areas of special interest:
• The Van Reenen family graveyard
• The impressive Brandwag buttress rock formation
• Vulture Restaurant
• Cathedral Cave (guided walk)
• Interesting lookout points and viewpoints - Zuluhoek lookout point, Generaalskop viewpoint (the third highest point in the park), Oribi basin and Drakensberg view.

5 things to look out for:
1. Bearded Vulture
2. Bald Ibis
3. Black Wildebeest
4. Eland
5. Oribi 

Whichever option you choose, be sure to “escape” sufficiently and have great fun as a family in the outdoors. As in life, in the end, there is nothing more important than family!

Where is your favourite local family holiday spot? Comment and let us know. 

Browse and book local family holidays here.

April 7, 2014

How to stay healthy when you travel

Staying healthy while travelling isn't always the easiest thing to do. In honour of World Health Day, here are some general Sure Travel tips to make sure you stay fighting fit when away from home...

- Up your intake of fruit and veg, stock your hotel fridge with healthy snacks, allow yourself treats (food is such an important part of travelling after all!) but avoid "over treating" yourself and try pick the nutritious options from the menu.

- Try to balance your treats with some of the healthier options. Too much greasy, sugary or floury foods may well sap your energy - exactly what you don't want when on holiday or travelling for business.

- Limit fizzy drinks, alcohol, caffeine and salty snacks - these dehydrate your system just like the air on a plane.

- Ask the hotel concierge, or tour leader if you’re on an organised tour, where the locals eat.  Not only are these options often more affordable and nutritious, it also gives you the chance to really live like a local.

- Ensure you are well aware of the specific health requirements (eg; yellow fever, malaria) for the country you are visiting well before your departure date. Some vaccinations and medicines need to be taken a few weeks before and can only be administered by a travel health clinic. 

- If travelling to rural areas in Africa, take water purification tablets. Check with your Sure Travel consultant what is recommended for travel to the particular country. 

- Ensuring you have adequate travel insurance (covering the worst possible case scenarios) is the most important thing to take care of before travelling. If you break an ankle or are seriously sick when travelling, that peace of mind knowing that you are protected is worth every cent, and may even save your life.

- Pack a well-stocked medicine kit – be prepared for most common ailments. Trying to find over-the-counter medication in a foreign, non-English speaking country when you’re coming down with a cold or stomach bug is no fun at all.

- Up your immune boosters and multi vitamins a few days before leaving and continue taking them when travelling. Planes, particularly, are a breeding ground for germs so pack a few disinfectant wet wipes to clean your hands, wipe down your tray table, etc.

- One of the best things about travelling? Kilometres of city and beach to explore! Not only is walking often the best way to explore, it also helps keep you fit. If you’re a runner, ask your hotel’s reception desk where the locals run. You could discover a fantastic city park and a whole new neighbourhood. Take advantage of the hotel’s facilities or the natural surroundings to keep your body active. 

- Move as much as possible on the plane – do the leg exercises recommended in the airline’s magazine and walk around as much as you can to protect yourself from DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis).

- Pack your medication, toiletry essentials, comfortable clothing and footwear, good moisturizer, eye drops, eye mask, ear plugs and whatever you need to make yourself as comfortable as possible on the plane – whatever will help you relax and increase the chances of you falling asleep.

- To minimise jet lag, try eat a high protein breakfast, avoid alcohol and aim to drink at least 200ml of water every hour. When arriving at your destination, only go to bed at your usual bedtime in the new time zone (no matter how tempted you are to sneak in a nap). Going for a walk in the fresh air instead is a great way of getting a little energy boost.

- A sneaky tip from a regular Sure traveller: avoid taking sleeping tablets as they will make you feel groggy and “out of it” on arrival. Take an anti-nausea air sickness tablet instead. It will make you feel drowsy and sleep on the plane but without any of the side effects on landing and waking up.

Do you have any tips to keep healthy when travelling? Comment and let us know.

April 4, 2014

Dreaming of Ireland (in photos)

Lake in Ireland

Lush green rolling hills, castles and crumbling ruins from days gone by, a dramatic coastline, friendly locals, hearty food and beer and music and song that will have you up on your feet dancing in no time… Ireland’s mystical allure beckons visitors again and again. 

The Irish coastline

Trinity Library in Dublin, Ireland

Ireland houses and gardens

Ashford Castle in Ireland

View from Ashford Castle in Ireland

Irish ruins on the sea

Town in Ireland

Green hills and sheep in Ireland
Yellow Irish pub

Guinness Brewery in Ireland

City street in Dublin, Ireland

Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Castle in Ireland

Sunset in Ireland
Browse Ireland packages here

Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

April 3, 2014

British Airways' new lounge at Cape Town airport

New British Airways lounge at Cape Town International Airport

British Airways officially opened their new lounge in the International Departures side of Cape Town International Airport yesterday, Wednesday 2 April 2014.

The new lounge is twice the size of the previous one and can comfortably accommodate up to 148 BA First and Business class passengers.  The larger lounge comes at just the right time with BA increasing the direct Cape Town-London flights from seven to ten a week from May.

The R19.8 million lounge boasts two large bathrooms with luxury shower, numerous power outlets (90% of visitors will have their own outlet), a stylish wine bar filled with South African wines, and a new menu featuring more hot dishes.  It is the first lounge in South Africa to be modelled on the BA Galleries Lounges in Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

The lounge, designed by South African agency Tonic, incorporates the best of British and South African design. Huge floor to ceiling glass windows flood the space with light while also setting the scene for a spectacular sunset viewing.

Opening of the British Airways lounge at Cape Town International

New British Airways lounge at Cape Town International Airport

New British Airways lounge at Cape Town International Airport

New British Airways lounge at Cape Town International Airport

View from the new British Airways lounge at Cape Town International Airport

Wine bar in the British Airways lounge at Cape Town Airport

Wine bar in the British Airways lounge at Cape Town Airport

Food in the British Airways lounge at Cape Town Airport

Luxury bathroom in the British Airways lounge at Cape Town Airport

Denize McGregor, head of customer service and operations at BA, said that what sets the airline apart is their customer service and experience, including the customer experience on the ground. Lounges are a key feature in this with frequent flyers naming them as one of the most important aspects in loyalty programmes.

Alan Winde, Western Cape MEC for economic development and tourism, commended BA on their commitment to the South African and Western Cape economy. He called it a great partnership and applauded the airline on not leaving at the end of the busy summer season, but actually increasing frequencies. “The direct flights really mean a lot” said Winde.

Visiting the BA lounge soon? Comment and let us know what you think.

To take advantage of great British Airways flight offers, contact your nearest Sure Travel agency here
Browse and book flights directly on the Sure Travel website using the flight search facility.