Monday, 30 July 2007

Pilanesberg Game Reserve - Family friendly and fun

One of the joys of living in Johannesburg is the proximity of some of the country's finest game parks. Just a 2 hour drive away in the North-West Province is the Pilanesberg Nature Reserve. Situated right next door to Sun City, this peaceful, well-run park is a joy to visit.

This past weekend we packed up the motorhome and headed out to the Pilanesberg. Arriving on Friday morning we spent time setting up the caravan site in the Manyane Resort, had lunch and headed out into the park for some game viewing. We were able to spot rhino, giraffe (right next to the car), hippo, warthog, impala, a number of bird species and wildebeest. It did take some time though to find all these animals and I was terribly disappointed not to find any elephant or predators. Still it was a great way to spend an afternoon.

The permit to enter the park cost us R100 - that included entrance for 2 adults, 2 pensioners, 2 children under 5, the entry cost for the vehicle and a park map. The permit was valid for 2 days. This seemed a reasonable cost to me. Bearing in mind that the camp site cost was R100 per day, this is a very reasonably priced family get-away.

The Manyane camp and caravan park is a lovely family-friendly resort to have as base camp while visiting the reserve. The facilities are clean and well-maintained. The ablution block we used was cleaned regularly by friendly staff who also were on standby to assist with the setting up of tents and so forth. There is also a mini-golf course and walk-in aviary on the property. Unfortunately on Saturday morning there was nobody manning the mini-golf course so my 4-year old and I just enjoyed a morning stroll!

There is something very special about being away from the city and communing with the bush. It is almost as though the worries and stresses of daily life are lifted as you enjoy taking it all in.

This is a great weekend get-away. We will be going back regularly!

Thursday, 26 July 2007

New Blog Of The Week - #4

(A day earlier than normal - going way until Saturday!)

This week's featured site deals with a subject that generates much discussion and debate, perhaps more so in the South African context - Transracial adoption.

The site is known as Adoptree and is a place for those with adopted children to share their stories, gain inspiration from the stories of others and find resources to assist them in their parenting.

Visitors can choose between these pages :

* Articles, TV, Plays etc
* Adoption Around The World
* Who can I contact about adopting?
* Upcoming events
* What can I do to help?
* Stories
* Interesting Reads

This site has tremendous potential to become the place to go to for those considering adoption or who may already be parenting an adopted child.

I really also want to highlight what is on the Upcoming Events page as the event to raise funds for the Princess Alice Children's Home in Johannesburg has been organised by two Grade 7 boys from The Ridge School -

Family Kite Day - 29 July 2007 - Fundraising for Princess Alice
Adoption Home.

Bring your own kites and picnic baskets. We are holding a kite flying
and family picnic day to raise funds for The Princess Alice Adoption Home. Not
only is it a kite flying day but also a day for young boys and girls to

Soft drinks and Danish hot dogs will be on sale to supplement your
picnic basket.

All profit from this special day will go to The Princess Alice Adoption
Home’s babies in need.
This will be a great day for all!

Date: Sunday 29th July 2007
Venue: A beautiful farm south of
Johannesburg (± 30 minute drive) see map attached.
Time: 10.30am-
Entrance fee: R15 Adults R10 Children

For bookings and collection of tickets please contact
011 646 5641 or
Michele 082 883 2411
Noelle 082 568 2226
Please RSVP by
the 22nd July 2007

This event has been initiated by Nicholas Benecke and Murray Conway,
two Grade Seven boys at The Ridge School as part of their Leadership Programme.

NPO no. 000566

Looks like a great way to have a fun day with the family and help a worthy institution. Why not make it a day with the family this coming Sunday?

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Airport Communications - When It Suits Them

On 11 July I posted about an experience I had while visiting the OR Tambo International Airport

I wrote to the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) for a response to my blog post via their website and was promised a reply within 72 hours (a bit long in my opinion but nonetheless). Needless to say I have not yet received a response - almost 2 weeks later!

I see today that the ACSA Communications Manager, Nothemba Noruwana, has been quick off the mark to quell rumours that the airport is to be scrapped and another built. Given that a public participation meeting regarding the airport expansion was attended only by the public on June 19 (no ACSA officials present), one would think that public relations would be high on the agenda, not just when a media report is circulating.

This is the struggle I have with monopolies. ACSA controls the major airports in South Africa and so Joe Public has to utilise their facilities as do the major domestic and international airlines. To ignore the public, in a community forum or through the medium of their website, shows blatant disregard and disrespect for those whose use the facilities

To see recent comments by travellers through OR Tambo, take a look at this forum on the SkyTrax site.

I generally enjoy visiting the airport but this non-communication has left a sour taste in my mouth! Come on ACSA! Give your customers a little bit more respect!

As always, comments welcome. I would love to hear your experiences of South Africa's airports (good and bad!).

Monday, 23 July 2007

Audio Tour Guides For Cape Town

Whenever I have travelled to a foreign city for longer than one day, I have always taken along a guide book such as the Eyewitness Travel Guide I used in London. This has entailed packing yet another item into an already full backpack. Now things are changing ... Just pack your iPod or other MP3 player into your kit with previously downloaded audio tours already installed.

This way you can listen to a friendly voice guide you around the city at your own pace. These audio tours can be downloaded from a variety of sources. I happened to come across a company that has tours for Cape Town in their inventory. The tours cost about R70 to download and range from 22-49 minutes in length. There is also a free introductory tour available as soon as you register - no cost for registration either.

This is a marvelous resource even for those who live in Cape Town. It is a city so full of interesting things to see that even the locals can miss out if not guided. An added bonus is a map which becomes available for you to download and print once you have downloaded your mp3 file.

Tour guides from a particular city are able to sign up with Tourcaster and produce their own tours in their areas of expertise. At present the only South African city represented on Tourcaster is Cape Town. I am sure there are plenty of tour guides in our other cities to produce some outstanding audio tours - come on guys....

Just so that those up north don't feel neglected, I also managed to find this iPod guide to Johannesburg!

Now if only I could find my car keys . . .

Friday, 20 July 2007

New Blog Of The Week - #3

I love seeing ordinary people attempting extraordinary things to make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others. The author of this week's "New Blog Of The Week" is certainly doing that.

Taken from the heading of his blog :

Ordinary people tri-ing to do extra-ordinary things to make a difference in the lives of others. We are a group of amateur athletes who have each chosen an extremely difficult event that we will 'tri' and complete in order to raise money for our chosen charity. Our chosen charity is The Smile Foundation, another group of ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things to make a difference in the lives of children in South Africa.

The blog is entitled "Tri-ing To Make A Difference" and details not only the physical journey of the author towards SA Ironman 2008 but also gives an insight into how difficult it is from an emotional point of view.

I will be putting the feed of this blog into my Google Reader to track the author's progress.

Why not drop the author a quick email to give him a wish of encouragement?

I salute those athletes taking part who are putting themselves on the line to help those less fortunate. Well done to them - my best wishes and support to them.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

How To Stop Traffic Fines - But Don't Complain About Crime

Fact #1 - South Africa's crime rate is unacceptably high.

Fact #2 - Many of the people who complain about Fact #1 are the same who regularly flout the law by speaking on their cellphones while driving, by cheating on their taxes, by offering bribes to police, and so on.

Fact #3 - Many of the people mentioned in Fact #3 think they are clever/smart by breaking the law and getting away with it. In fact they are contributing to a mindset of lawlessness in the country and are the first to complain when they are affected by a crime such as burglary or mugging (or rape and murder).

We need to stand together against crime. There are some fabulous initiatives in South Africa that stand together with law enforcement to create a better future for ourselves and our children. Of course there are problems in the South African Police Service and various Metro police units but let's stand with them and support them.

For these reasons I am disgusted by the promotion through various media of a product which blocks the reading of number plates by traffic cameras. It works by reflecting the flash of the camera back to the camera thereby rendering the photograph useless.
This is a clear way to subvert the law and gives the user licence to drive at any speed along our roads without fear of being issued with a camera fine.

What sickens me is that everyday families are robbed of their loved ones by drivers travelling at excessive speeds and yet there are people getting rich by selling this product. There is something not right here.

According to the Photoblocker website, South African law allows for this product to be used! Isn't it time this was declared illegal?

What do you think?

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Rugby World Cup Guide For Wives / Girlfriends

The 2007 edition of the Rugby World Cup is a mere two months away. While I am certainly no male chauvinist, I do realise that the couch is going to become a popular place of residence for most South African males. I also realise that this is bound to cause some upset for some relationships!

For the cause of domestic bliss, allow me to direct you to Rugby World Cup Rules For Women - a wonderful piece of writing I found on the SA Rugby Blogs site.

To whet your appetite, here is Rule #1 -

1. From 7 Sep to 20 October 2007, you should read the sports section of the newspaper so that you are aware of what is going on regarding the World Cup, and that way you will be able to join in the conversations. If you fail to do this, then you will be looked at in a bad way, or you will be totally ignored. DO NOT complain about not receiving any attention.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Making A Point In The Cape

The drive from the Southern suburbs of Cape Town around Cape Point and along the coast to the city is one of my favourite drives in South Africa. Depending on the season, you will encounter whales, baboons, quaint antique shops, penguins at Boulders Beach, lighthouses, farm stalls selling delectable eats, camel rides at Imhoff Farm, glorious sea views and so much more.

It is truly a delightful way to spend an afternoon with the family. I was thrilled to see the website Cape Point Route which gives locals and visitors more than enough information to keep them busy. With accommodation, sightseeing, activities, travel guides and more, this site should be the first port of call for anyone wanting to tour around this part of the Cape.

The site is neatly laid out and has excellent navigation. Icons guide your accommodation decision-making and the sightseeing guides are well-written and very useful.

Cape Point Route now boasts its own blog - unfortunately it only has two posts! The last one dated 1 June 2007. I really do hope this blog is updated regularly. It would be a wonderful companion to a truly well-run site.

Next time you're in Cape Town and want something to do with the family, take a look at this site - you'll be glad you did!

Saturday, 14 July 2007

I Am An African (video)

If this doesn't stir your patriotic blood, nothing will! It is so important to keep our heads high, claim our African identity and work towards making our rainbow nation the place to be on the world stage.

Thabo Mbeki - president of the Republic of South Africa

Friday, 13 July 2007

New Blog Of The Week - #2

The South African Internet Guide blog is designed

to focus attention to South African web sites, blogs and entrepreneurs
The few posts that are already up do make for interesting reading. It is a pity that the weekly posting guide mentioned on the blog does not seem to have been followed. I think that if this was done it would make this blog a daily must-read. I understand that this is a labour intensive process but the designers may be able to develop a system whereby guest bloggers could give submissions to fill the required space.

It would be really good to see this blog take flight into the blogosphere! I look forward to seeing this happen in the near future.

(Update 14/07 - a response was received in the comments - this blog is now self-hosted - click here)


Thursday, 12 July 2007

Spread The Love

Need to send a quick e-card to someone special? Don't want the hassle of registration and confirmation emails? Head over to Spread The Love where you can choose from a large selection of creative and quirky images.

The process is extremely quick and efficient. Make someone's day special - send an e-card today!

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

50 Best South African websites recently released their "50 Best Websites of 2007". I thought it would be fun to generate our own list of 50 Best South African Websites of 2007.

I invite you to leave your suggestions in the comments of this post. I will collate the responses at the end of this month and post the results in August.

Rules :

1) The site must be based in South Africa
2) The site must be a current site - regularly updated

There are some awesome South African sites out there - lets honour them by giving them our vote!

(Update - 12 July - I have created a Facebook group for this project - click here - feel free to join this group and leave your recommendations there)

I look forward to reading your recommendations!

Where Can I See The Aeroplanes?

I am a commercial aviation fan! Fun on a Sunday afternoon involves packing the family into the car and heading off to either Lanseria or OR Tambo International Airports!

I was very disappointed at OR Tambo yesterday when I discovered that at least 50% of the available space to stand and watch aeroplanes landing and taking off has been taken away. There is already precious little space to watch the planes and this has just made it even harder. You can now barely see the international section and the view of the domestic planes is restricted too.

I cannot understand this - surely ACSA must realise the economic effect of having people stay longer in the airport to see their loved ones take off to some or other destination? Many people come along to watch the planes with their children and I have seen plane spotters there armed with cameras and logbooks on many occasions. The longer they stay in the airport, the more likely they are to spend money at the various stores.

The international security climate aside, surely it is in the interests of ACSA to make the viewing of the comings and goings on of its airports accessible?

Planespotting is a hobby enjoyed by thousands all over the world. Take a look at some of these sites to get some idea of its popularity :

1) Aircraft
2) Plane Spotting World
3) Plane

Travel Insurance

Monday, 09 July 2007

Schools - Is There Hope?

Schools come with a reputation - either it is a school to which you would like to send your child or it isn't - its that simple! The reality is that many school in South Africa find themselves understaffed, battling dwindling resources, trying to maintain aging facilities and struggling to keep up staff morale in light of poor state salaries and increasing class sizes.

It is not all doom and gloom however. Throughout our country schools in various socio-economic settings are making a difference. Learners are receiving good education, educators are going the extra mile and true holistic education is happening.

So what then differentiates the really good schools from the mediocre ones? What is the "x-factor" that makes the difference between a great school in a rural setting and one which is falling apart?

I believe that the difference lies with the person responsible for the school - the headmaster/headmistress. The key is leadership. In 2001 the Sunday Times reported on a school in a remote area of the Eastern Cape, Sandi Senior Secondary School, which improved its matric pass rate from 4% to 93% in just three years! At that time the school did not have electricity, telephones or running water and could only be reached by travelling 40km on a rough gravel road. A young headmaster, 24 years old at the time, Bongi Penyana, began to make some significant changes in the school which brought about this change. He personally recruited 75% of the school's teachers. He encouraged his learners to take subjects at higher-grade level and instilled a love of teaching into his staff. So much so that his team of educators go way beyond expectation to build into the lives of the learner - they come in during the holidays to give extra-lessons, they give their pupils English newspapers to help develop language skills, they take their learners to the doctor when needed and some even bring in chairs from their homes for their classrooms.

If it can happen at Sandi Secondary, why not everywhere else? I truly believe to my core that the key lies with the person at the helm.

This view is shared by the previous headmaster of Westerford High and Queens Park High - both in Cape Town. Alan Clarke spent 16 years as headmaster at both these schools and has just written a book entitled "The Handbook of School Management". In this book he makes the point that schools need to be places where the learners feel they want to be. He also makes the point that large class size should not be as big a stumbling block as some would like it to be. He calls on the government to ensure that adequate help is given to those school heads who have given up hope and who have allowed their schools to degenerate. Read an extract here - "Words Of Wisdom"

For those who sit on the sidelines and criticise the education ministry and the local school, here is a challenge - get out there and visit your local school's head - offer practical support where you can, mobilise community support and be part of the solution!

Friday, 06 July 2007

New Blog Of The Week - #1

I would like to introduce a new feature on this blog - "New Blog Of The Week". This will be a new blog relating to South Africa which just happens to take my interest. No fancy judging criteria, no points for style or content - it must just appeal to me! Hey, I author the site so I get to choose! Of course any submissions via email will also be considered!

I am considering a badge which could be displayed on the winning blog showing their new status as the OnlineTrek New Blog Of The Week. Any thoughts on this are welcome!

So then ... onto this week's winner!

"Holiday Blog" - this is a very new site which highlights various holiday destinations in South Africa. The site is easy on the eye and, if updated on a regular basis, could become a favourite amongst blog readers looking for a place to spend on holiday. With the Christmas holidays not many months away, the authors of this blog need to ensure consistent, regular postings to ensure a loyal readership who will utilise their services in the months to come.

Thursday, 05 July 2007

Aren't All Police Involved In Crime Fighting?

Those who know me know that I have a strange sense of humour at times and this morning I saw something that just made me have a giggle.

We have seen police cars with their respective divisions/unit printed on the side. Driving past my house this morning was a police car with the following printed on the side - "Crime Prevention Unit"

Is that not stating the obvious?? If that is the Crime Prevention Unit, what are the other police units doing?

Wednesday, 04 July 2007

Do You Really Want To Eat That Fish?

One of South Africa's greatest assests is her incredible fauna and flora. One of the often forgotten aspects of this is the myriad of life found in the oceans off our coastline. Our oceans are teeming with the most incredible life-forms which are also in need of conservation. Harbours that were once overflowing with fish stock now bring in small amounts of fish due to the over-fishing in years gone by.

Various initiatives over the years have drawn attention to the plight of many of our fish species. However most of us, myself included, give little attention to conservation issues when we place our order at the local seafood restuarant. We don't think about how the fish was caught, if it is on the endangered list, if it was purchased legally or where the fish comes from. All we want to do is enjoy a beautifully prepared plate of delicious seafood.

You now have a way to check before ordering!

The South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) has launched an SMS service to inform consumers about the choices they are making with regard to their choice of seafood. All you do is SMS the name of your choice of fish to 079 499 8795 and a return message is sent to you detailing information about the status of the fish.

Example :

I sms'ed the word 'marlin' and received this messgage : "Marlin. Status - Orange. A game fish and top predator. The only legal source is bycatch of tuna longline fishery. Sale by sports fishers is ILLEGAL."

Now I know!

This also works for crustaceans such as prawns and crayfish.

Status levels are colour coded Red, Green or Orange. The colours have the following meaning :

Red Species: No-Sale

These species are specially protected, restricted, or no-sale species that are illegal to buy or sell according to the law. These species should NEVER be offered for sale, or bought although some may be enjoyed at home if caught by licensed recreational anglers. Make sure you look at the latest regulations.

Green Species: Best Options

These are species that are from relatively healthy and well-managed populations that can sustain current fishing pressure. These species are recommended as the most sustainable choices available.

Orange Species: Species of concern

These species may be sold legally by registered commercial fishers and retailers. However, an increased demand for these could compromise a sustainable supply, due to one or more of the following reasons:

Scientific stock assessments show that the stock is overexploited or collapsed
The fishing method employed to catch them may cause excessive damage to the environment and /or ecosystem;
The species has not been properly studied, but it is suspected that it will be unable to sustain heavy fishing pressure, based on information for related species.
You can download a pocket guide to this initiative by clicking here - Pocket Guide.

I wholeheartedly endorse this initiative and encourage you to add this number to your contacts on your cellphone for the next time you are about to order from the seafood menu.

Cape Town Accommodation

Tuesday, 03 July 2007

Non-performance = violence and murder?

Over the past 13 years millions of previously disadvantaged South Africans have been promised access to basic services. In some areas the ANC government has done remarkably well and people's lives have been changed for the better. The sad reality is that there are still millions for whom access to clean drinking water, flush toilets, electricity and safe housing is nothing more than a pipe-dream.

It is hardly surprising then when communities become angry with local councillors and other local government officials around the issue of service delivery (or non-delivery rather). This anger boiled over to the most extreme political violence seen since the days of the apartheid struggle when a mob killed an ANC councillor in Deneysville in the Free State yesterday.

The crowd was protesting the slow delivery of housing in the area and had set up a meeting with the mayor of Metsimaholo and other local councillors. These fat cats then decided not to show up at the pre-arranged time. Their non-arrival obviously angered the residents who then marched to local councillor Morris Mokoena's home. When he arrived home they attacked him, stoned him and butchered him with an axe to his face. He later died of his injuries.

This act of violence can in no way be condoned. Killing another human being is inexcusable. That said, is there not perhaps place to begin to consider what provokes people to reach a place where that seems like the only way for their voice to be heard? Is that democracy?

The Mayor refused to comment on the incident - how's that for leadership? Imagine Rudy Giuliani refusing to comment after the 9/11 attacks until he had read a report or two!

Non-delivery of basic services and housing and the continual reports of jobs-for-pals is quickly becoming the Achilles heel of the post-apartheid government in South Africa. Recent riots in Parys, Wolmaranstad and other areas of the country show that there is increasing dissatisfaction amongst the electorate. There is no-quick fix but the people must see decisive action being taken by those in senior positions in government. In fact it is time Thabo Mbeki was seen taking decisive action against those who hold back the pace of progress and whose incompetence continues to hurt those who voted them into power.

The bigger picture is of course much more complicated than space on this blog will allow but one thing is clear from these events - as much as we abhor the violence associated with political demonstration, it may be exactly this that brings about the much needed action from those in power. Party loyalty lies deep with those for whom the ANC was a party of liberation from the shackles of apartheid. I wonder for how many years the ANC government will be able to rely on that loyalty before the dissatisfaction currently playing out on the streets of our towns becomes dissatisfaction shown at the polling booth.

Monday, 02 July 2007

PushPlay replies

In response to yesterday's post about SA online DVD rental company PushPlay, Debra Wynne of PushPlay has posted a comment which I reproduce here -

Thank you for featuring PushPlay on your blog. We love the exposure and it's great that more folk get to hear about us as we are planning to roll out nationwide very shortly.

With regards to our marketing campaign (or lack thereof):- We have been focusing on our distribution systems, working closely with the post office to development a system exclusively for PushPlay which will ensure the fast delivery and return of DVDs nationwide. I'm sure you can appreciate the amount of work and the time that is involved in this task at a national level, but we are now confident that we are ready to roll-out nationwide. Even without much advertising we have had great response from word of mouth marketing.

With regards to being linked to Netflix:- no we are not. The concept of online DVD rental is one which most South Africans have not yet heard of, which means we are currently in the education stage of the business. On top of this, it can be a confusing concept to explain. We recently added the How it Works page to try and explain to new subscribers what they can expect from the service and what the benefits of the service will be to them. The diagram has been used on our homepage since July last year and Netflix only recently added their diagram to the How it Works page. Who's flattering whom we could ask? We might have taken some guidelines from their How it Works page layout, but it works and it's simple and we like it. If you find us terribly unoriginal we apologise, we are partly guilty.

We'll be in Joburg very soon, and so will let you know. Thanks again.

Sunday, 01 July 2007

Is Netflix behind SA online DVD initiative?

Some years ago on a trip to the USA I was struck by the ready availability of a service known as Netflix which allowed you to rent a DVD or two, use them for as long as you like and then pop your viewed titles into a prepaid envelope returning them to Netflix so that you could order your next title. I remember wondering when such as service would surface in South Africa and how such a service would work given certain logistical issues such as the availability of broadband internet and the uncertain delivery times of the South African Post Office!

It was therefore with delight, that I heard from my good friend Eish! of that such a service was now available in our country and had been since October 2006. It is known as PushPlay and is, by all accounts, working well. Unfortunately it is only available in Cape Town at present so I am going to have to wait before I can give it a try. I value the fact that Eish! has in fact tried the service and has given it a thumbs-up.

I question why their marketing has not been more visible? Is it because they are trying to establish credibility first? Is it a desire to use word-of-mouth advertising as their primary source for new clients? Until Eish! told me about this service I had seen no marketing material either on- or offline. Being first off the blocks is one thing but maintaining that position while competitors begin to establish themselves is another thing altogether.

I also wonder whether there is a link between PushPlay and Netflix - take a look at these graphics from each company :

Both companies have a "How It Works" page - take a look at how similar they are :
PushPlay / Netflix
This certainly does not look like pure coincidence to me! There are clear similarities between the two companies and while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I wonder if Netflix is not behind the PushPlay initiative. This post is being sent to the folks at PushPlay and they have right of reply. Their response will be posted to this blog.

Despite these questions, I believe that the time has come for this service in South Africa. I cannot wait for availability in Johannesburg! I wish PushPlay well in their future endeavours.

Read Eish's post on PushPlay here - Online DVD deal launched in SA - 1 Year Ago!!

(Update - PushPlay replied the very next day - see their reply here)

Go small!

Have you ever wondered what treasures lie off the beaten track of our wonderful country? Whenever I get to travel with the family on a roadtrip I encourage us to stop and explore those small towns that so often we whizz past.

I am totally fascinated by small town culture (not in the stereotypical way though). About 5 years ago when our car broke down on the N1 we were taken in by strangers from the town of Trompsburg. What an experience! It was almost a step back in time going to a town with one tarred road and sheep walking in the street! The people were incredibly friendly and sacrificial as they opened their home to us and made us feel like we were visiting family.

In future posts to this blog I would like to feature small towns around the country. If you live in a small town or have experiences in small towns in South Africa, I would love to hear from you. You might get a chance to be a guest blogger!