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South African culture, history, and heritage in Durban

MD Staff

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Think of South Africa, and images of majestic savanna landscapes and roaming wildlife may come to mind. A South African safari is an unforgettable experience, but no visit to the country is truly complete without a cultural immersion. Luckily, the vibrant city of Durban combines the best of both worlds in the most stunning of settings. Located along the Indian Ocean coast just an hour from Johannesburg by air, Durban offers an eclectic array of activities where you can explore the city’s important role in world history, the rich heritage of its Zulu people, and innumerable natural wonders – from the beach to the bush.

Experience authentic Zulu culture in the Valley of 1,000 Hills

Named for its dramatic surrounding landscape, the Valley of 1,000 Hills has been home to the Zulu people, South Africa’s largest ethnic group, for centuries.

Visitors can take an organized tour deep into tribal lands to experience Zulu culture with its exuberant ceremonies, traditional music, and dancing. You’ll learn about Zulu beliefs and healing practices, break bread with local families, and learn the hidden meanings behind their colorful beadwork. Those seeking a truly transformative experience can arrange one-on-one sessions with the village healer or spend the night with a Zulu family in their home. The natural scenery in the Valley of 1,000 Hills will take your breath away, and the welcoming nature of the Zulu people will stay in your heart forever.

Walk in the footsteps of Gandhi and Mandela

Not everyone is aware that Mahatma Ghandi’s life work was inspired by his experiences in Durban. In 1893, he arrived as a young lawyer, and the discrimination he witnessed personally and against his fellow Indians drove him to start his worldwide movement of passive resistance as he fought for the legal and civil rights of the Indian population. At the Phoenix Settlement, you will see Gandhi’s house and the printing press he used to publish his newspaper, The Indian Opinion. Many of the more than one million Indians living in the city make the pilgrimage to this important historical site alongside visitors from around the world.

Five years after his death, the great Nelson Mandela remains South Africa’s most revered public figure. 2018 marks a year-long celebration of his life and what would have been his 100th birthday on July 18. Honor his work when you’re in Durban by visiting the Nelson Mandela Capture Site, located at the exact spot where he began his “Long Walk to Freedom” after being arrested for anti-Apartheid activism in 1952. The focal point of the site is a striking monument, and an educational exhibition walks you through Mandela’s life and role in establishing a democratic South Africa.

Hit the beach at Umhlanga Rocks

To play amongst the ocean-loving locals, head to Umhlanga Rocks, Durban’s laidback beach village. Located on a picturesque stretch of the Indian Ocean, Umhlanga Rocks beckons visitors with a scenic promenade that passes by local landmarks including Umhlanga Lighthouse and Whale Bone Pier. A walkable downtown area makes dining and nightlife easily accessible from the area’s many upscale boutique hotels and guesthouses, and opportunities to get on the water abound – from surfing to deep sea fishing, scuba diving, whale watching, and kiteboarding.

Discover an underwater wonderland at Aliwal Shoal

Those intrigued by the underwater world can get their adrenaline pumping on Aliwal Shoal. Consistently rated one of the top warm water diving and snorkeling sites in the world, Aliwal Shoal is also the spot to get up close and personal with blacktip reef sharks. Those brave enough can swim or dive alongside these mysterious creatures in the open ocean, but viewing from inside a cage is always an option.

Witness stunning wildlife on a Big Five safari

Back on land, the South African bush is less than four hours away by car. A number of private game reserves offer high-end safari lodge accommodations, minimal crowds, and optimal chances for getting the perfect photos of the “Big Five” – elephants, rhinos, water buffalo, lions and leopards. In iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hippos, crocodiles, pelicans, and flamingos roam Lake St. Lucia, while elephants, giraffes, and leopards inhabit the adjacent grasslands.

Is Durban, South Africa calling you?

Visit www.durbanexperience.co.za to start planning your journey.

Cities

Why world travelers are going cashless

MD Staff

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What’s your dream vacation? Whether you live to travel or only manage to get away for a couple of long weekends every year, you probably have a bucket list of places to go and sites to see.Sometimes it feels like there might be too many options.

For some people, it’s adventure travel in Basque Country, exploring the caves of Urkiola, paddle boarding around the Urdaibai Estuary and indulging in world-renowned cuisine; for others, it’s a relaxing vacation in Thailand, including a meditation course, spa day and island hopping through the Phi Phi Islands. Either trip would rejuvenate travelers, yet they are quite different from one another. But no matter where you go in the world, there’s one thing that’s the same: People are going cash-free.

Going cash-free saves money

Part of traveling to a foreign country is exchanging money. With new coins and bills in your pocket, you can spend freely, buy souvenirs, meals, whatever you like.

Research shows that 87 percent of travelers have leftover cash after their trips, so most of us have experienced the mad dash to spend your foreign cash before you board your flight home.

But that doesn’t always happen.

Only 29 percent of travelers convert their foreign cash back to U.S. dollars. On average, this leaves $123 on the table.

That’s a costly souvenir.

Not to mention that getting foreign currency before your trip is just one more thing to do in the pre-planning process. And while 72 percent of respondents in the study said they get cash, many of them also admitted that, with the ease of traveling without cash, it was a waste of time. Skip the cash to save time and money by using your Visa credit card internationally. Plus, you can use your Visa card to pay in local currency, you are ensuring you get a competitive exchange rate and aren’t stuck with hidden currency conversion fees.

Peace of mind

Even if you’re diligent and always exchange your cash at the end of every trip, one of the biggest perks to traveling without cash is security.

Virtually every traveler worries about leaving their money in the hotel room or losing it in some way or another. There’s no easy way around it: Traveling with cash is stressful, and can impact an otherwise great trip.

Why go through the hassle? Accepted nearly everywhere in the world, travelers can use Visa to make purchases with confidence anytime, virtually anywhere in the world. Unlike cash, your Visa card can be replaced if lost or stolen to provide greater freedom for people to enjoy their travel experiences.

Explore the world differently

For travel enthusiasts looking to explore the world cash-free, The Visa Cashless Challenge: International Travel Edition Search will send one lucky winner on a cash-free adventure across the globe. Visa has partnered with Arden Cho (@arden_cho) and brothers Alex and Marko Ayling (@TheVagaBrothers) to create two unique trips that will show the winner what it’s like to travel the world cash free.

The winner of the challenge will choose between a relaxing trip to Thailand or an adventurous journey through Spain’s Basque Country. The winner will have the opportunity to decide between destinations, but once they do, will experience firsthand the ease of traveling cashless in the 21st century, and receive pro-tips on how best to document their journey along the way.

For more information visit: www.visa.com/cashlesstravel

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Sri Lanka: From My Eyes and Experiences

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Midigama Beach, Sri Lanka. Photo by sasha set on Unsplash

Sri Lanka, an island country in south Asian, located to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea, has been interestingly attracting Russian tourists over the two decades. The tourism industry, apart from tea exports, is very important as it brings revenue to the national budget. The economic changes seen as a huge opportunity for promoting tourism business in Russia.

As middle class Russians are travelling for their vacations in Asian countries, so also the business is all year round booming. The main reason for this scenario is the growth in incomes and the tendency in increase of vacationers during the past years. Simply, the overall economic changes in Russia positively affect the outbound travelling. According to my point of view, overall economic development in Russia will continue creating a lot of opportunities for expanding the tourism industry.

For the time of my stay here, Russian tourist traffic to Sri Lanka has increased more than 10 times. Exotic destinations are becoming more and more popular among Russians and Sri Lanka is one of the most attractive Asian countries. Of course, it seems that the global instability and financial crisis affected all economic spheres and, to some extent, tourism as well.

Despite this situation, people still make their choices more carefully and seriously, and give their preference to the countries they have never been before. Sri Lanka is a developing destination on the Russian travel market and I can say that there is a great future ahead.

Stability and strength are the best indicator at the present difficult times and this give us a power to express optimism about the future in Sri Lankan tourism sphere. The number of Russian tourists travelling to Sri Lanka is increasing year by year, and in leaps and bounds.  In 2017, the growth was about 10% in spite of the crisis.  Experts at the Russian Tourism Agency told me that the figure for first quarter of 2018, for instance, is not so impressive but attributed to the policy of Russian tour operators and air companies.

Personally, I have every reason to say that Sri Lanka is a small miracle. Nearly all Russians who have visited the island talked about the natural beauty of Sri Lanka. There are three main reasons that make the country a very popular destination among foreign and Russian vacationers.

First is that there is summer all year round. An average temperature is about 26-30 degrees Celcius (and there is no raining season) which attracts travellers the whole year round. In some seasons, rain might start suddenly in any part of the Island and stops short as well. You are able to see the climate changes from tropical on the coastline of the Indian Ocean until the temperate in highland of the island where some frost observed at night.

Second reason for its popularity is that Sri Lanka has splendid nature and rich cultural heritage. Travellers who enjoy a cognitive tourism are able to see historical heritage, museums, ancient cities, Buddhist temples and national dance show. Numerous national parks, mountain peaks, waterfalls, rain forests and jungles with an infinite number of animals and nature variety attract nature-lovers. For adventure tourism, Sri Lanka offers climbing to the mountains peaks, rafting, diving surfing and other kind of water sport.

Third reason of Sri Lanka’s attractiveness is the local hospitality and friendliness of Sri Lankan people. Sri Lankan hotels provide a well-known Asian service and comfortable accommodation. People smile right from the bottom of their hearts.

The government’s key policy on tourism promotion and strategies that have adopted to sell the country’s tourism destinations has pushed potential tourists to choose Sri Lanka. My interaction with Sri Lankan diaspora, the idea to set up a tourism department at the embassy began in 2008, and it was so because the diplomatic officials have seen a great opportunities in expanding tourism for Sri Lanka.

The Embassy of Sri Lanka in the Russian Federation takes an active part in promoting the country on the Russian travel market. Over the ten years, I have seen them participate in workshops for travel agents and talk about Sri Lanka to the managers of travel companies. The officials communicate with journalists with great pleasure and contribute to make for their farm trips around Sri Lanka as well.

The government officials organize and support direct flights to Sri Lanka. There are two direct flights organized by Aeroflot airlines from Moscow and airlines from St. Petersburg. In interview discussions with a few Sri Lanka officials, they told me that they have given all kinds of support for those flights and tried to minimize ticket’s rate by the reducing handling costs in Sri Lanka airport.

Sri Lanka regularly participates in Moscow International Travel and Tourism exhibitions in March and Leisure exhibitions in September. During these business events, officials arrange regular meetings with leadership of tour operators for discussing vital problems and help with solutions. The main objective is to support the integration of all members of the travel market.

Further, officials give assistance to Sri Lankan hotels in attracting Russian speaking staff and Russian translation of hotels information. Quite recently, I have noticed that audio guides issued in Russian language including virtual excursions to places of interest in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka tourism industry seeks investors worldwide to invest in the tourism industry. There are attractive schemes to facilitate investors for the tourism infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. Interested Russian investors could invest in those projects. There is high perspectives about the economic sphere in cooperation with Russia. The most important is to have an agreement signed in the field of tourism between Russia and Sri Lanka.

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Adventurers and travelers: Add Western Australia’s Kimberley to your list

MD Staff

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Let your soul experience one of the most stunning and pristine places on earth, Western Australia’s Kimberley. Its coastline is so unspoiled, dinosaur footprints still smatter the rocks. Its oceans are so untouched, whales nurse their young in its warm waters. Its indigenous culture is so ancient, no other can match it. The Kimberley is more than a remarkable region in Western Australia; it’s one of the most fascinating and least explored places in the world. As world travelers seek unexplored destinations, The Kimberley has been added to their bucket list of dream vacations. This is a place that commands explorers to indulge in its many wonders.

A last true wilderness

Both magical and rugged, Western Australia’s Kimberley is one of the few last wilderness areas, like Alaska, Galapagos, Antarctica and the Amazon, where you feel the rawness of the earth and the wonder of nature with an ancient story. Immediately, there is a deep intangible presence in the Kimberley that is at once powerful yet calming. Night-blooming flowers from the giant Boab trees make the air fragrant while the night sky glitters with millions of stars.

The gateway to the Kimberley is the small pearling town of Broome, home to some of the largest and most prized pearls, where camel rides on Cable Beach is part of everyday life and where nine sets of dinosaur footprints cast as massive fossils. The influence of the pearling industry, with its melting pot of cultures and cuisines, has helped to create the distinctive character and charm of Broome, which offers select beach resorts, a unique calendar of events and exquisite dining options, including locally caught fresh seafood.

Modern means of exploration

The best way to experience the Kimberley is through expedition cruising. A unique collection of companies operate boats that take passengers to the region’s most pristine beaches and reefs, to towering waterfalls so close you can feel the fresh mist on your face, through ancient gorges, and to 350-million-year-old rock formations. Through expedition cruising, you will likely place your footstep where no one before you has ever been.

In this remote setting, visitors can encounter the true icons in Western Australia’s North West, including the natural phenomenon of the Horizontal Falls, the majestic 260-foot-tall King George Falls, and the Rowley Shoals featuring coral atolls home to 700 tropical fish species and considered among the best dive spots in the world, where not more than 500 people visit in a year.

Adventure need not be rugged

Just because you’re exploring one of the last untouched wildernesses on the planet doesn’t mean you can’t indulge.

Both adventurous and luxurious, Kimberley cruises bring the savvy traveler to places few humans have seen while offering them the comforts of a delicious meal showcasing local flavors (or your own catch of the day), soft beds, and services that connect travelers with the people and the land.

Every cruise is different. Many have on-board naturalists and experts that guide excursions and open the wonders of the region to curious passengers. Some high-end cruises have a helicopter to take you to the top of the cliffs and give you an unrivaled view of this unforgettable world.

Before heading to the Kimberley, explore Western Australia’s capital city Perth, home to many extraordinary experiences, including one of the world’s largest inner city parks, stunning metro beaches, a lively food and wine scene, marine encounters, and the State’s oldest wine region. Perth is the fastest-growing (and sunniest!) city in Australia.

To find the cruise that’s right for you, check out the Kimberley Expedition Cruise Guide, an invaluable resource that showcases a number of companies offering world-class excursions throughout this stunning region, or visit Down Under Answers, Qantas Vacations and Southern World.

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