Welcome to our bumper 2017 Spring edition! It has been a while since you last heard from us so we have a lot to catch up on...
2016 was our busiest year to date with southern Africa coming to the fore as our most popular travel destination. The Sally and Alice Travel Co. team also followed the travel trend, migrating to South Africa and Australia for a few glorious sun-filled months over the UK winter, visiting some fabulous properties both old and new along the way (our full report on family travel in South Africa to follow). We are now back in the office and this beautiful Spring weather is reviving our travel lust - it's time to come out of hibernation and dust off those passports! Here are just a few of the destinations that are coming in to bloom in 2017...
It's a beautiful time of year to be in Morocco with the sun shining and temperatures already in the 20s. A few months ago we went to stay at our old favourite Kasbah Bab Ourika (a boutique hotel in the Atlas Mountains only 45 minutes from Marrakech) to check out their latest additions - two new pool suites and a private five bedroom Villa Retreat.
The Kasbah is surrounded by remote Berber villages and from its hilltop eyrie has spectacular, dramatic and unrivalled 360 views of the Ourika Valley, the Salt National Park and the snow capped Atlas Mountains.
TOP TIP: Bab Ourika owners Stevie and Beatriz also have a fabulous three bedroom bolthole, Dar Faracha 'The House of the Butterflies', in the oasis of Skoura. Dar Faracha can be rented as a whole or on a room by room basis.
There's nothing we like better than a holiday destination that caters equally well to all members of the family - young and old. At Azura Benguerra in southern Mozambique parents can relax at the beach bar while the kids are enjoying a splash in the pool, and guests of all ages can enjoy fishing trips, diving and snorkelling the magnificent reefs around Azura, exploring the island on foot or visiting the Azura Rainbow Fund School. If you have been umming and aaahing about a family beach holiday then now is the time - Azura Retreats have a great offer on for all stays in March, April, May and June - 2 kids stay free at Azura Benguerra (or the sister property Azura Quilalea) when sharing a villa with parents, including their two new royal beach villas. Kids must not be older than 16 to share with parents or they can stay in their own villa and pay just 50% of the normal rate instead of 90%.
Further south, Machangulo Beach Lodge has enjoyed a fantastic makeover over the past few months with a lot of time, effort and investment going in to soft refurbishments and enhancing the overall look with vibrant colours and textures. The lodge also welcomed Jacques and Tish van Eck as its new management couple towards the end of last year - they have years of experience between them and Jacques is also an amazing chef so this has taken the cuisine at Machangulo to a new level (Jacques has a real passion for sourcing local ingredients and loves to serve up fresh seafood straight from the ocean).
There is a full activity centre on site here with activities like scuba diving, snorkelling, Dhow cruises, fishing (on and off shore), dune walks and canoeing on offer. Excursions can include visits to Santa Maria village, Bemji’s Beach Bar for a sundowner, a picnic and tour of Inhaca Island. The lodge is just around a 90-minute boat trip from Maputo Marina making it far more easily accessible and affordable beach option than most areas of Mozambique, and Machangulo also has some great special offers in 2017, including pay for 4 stay for 5, 50% off for the bride on honeymoon and for families, one child under the age of 12 stays free with parents.
TOP TIP: From the end of this month Airlink will be increasing the frequency of their flights between Kruger in South Africa and Vilanculos in Mozambique, meaning it's even easier to combine a safari holiday or honeymoon with time on the beach.
Having worked at Norman Carr Safaris for a season way back when, we will admittedly always have a soft spot for the beautiful South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.
One of the best things about South Luangwa and a great point of difference is the opportunity to do a walking safari. Norman Carr Safaris offers a "Week on the Wildside" itinerary, a seven night safari spent between at least three Norman Carr Safaris Camps. Camps include Luwi Bush Camp (rustic bush camp), Nsolo Bush Camp (thatched bush camp on raised decks), Kakuli Bush Camp (riverside bush camp under thatch) and Mchenja Camp (ultimate luxury in the bush). We would also encourage a few nights at the divine Chinzombo which opened in early June 2013, designed by two of the safari industry's leading designer/architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens (who count top Botswana camps like Jao and Mombo amongst their credits, as well as the iconic North Island in the Seychelles).
TOP TIP: Seasonsed safari-goers looking for something new and wishing to avoid the crowds completely should make a note to visit the brand new King Lewankia Lodge which is set to open next month in the west of Zambia in Liuwa Plain National Park. In addition to its famed lions, Liuwa is home to the second biggest wildebeest migration in Africa, recovering cheetah numbers, a burgeoning hyena population, wild dogs, abundant zebra, buffalo, red lechwe and tessebe herds and more than 300 bird species. This is the only lodge in the whole National Park which is probably the least visited in Zambia having never been developed before.
Having long been fans of what the Machaba brand has brought to Botswana, the newest edition to their portfolio - Gomoti Plains - has got us incredibly excited. Set in a private concession known for its large concentrations of wildlife, those looking for an exclusive safari experience will be wowed by this wild and pristine area, whether safari-ing by boat or vehicle with some of the top guides in the area.
TOP TIP: Having had so much rain over the last few months (seems a complete contrast to this time last year) we are in no doubt that Gomoti Plains will be a huge hit. Make use of Gomoti's great opening offer - book 3 nights Machaba and 3 nights Gomoti and not only will Machaba's lower rate will apply but your internal flight between the camps will also be free of charge.
If you want to Spring clean your 2017 travel plans...