120 Hours in Etosha National Park – What to See, Eat & Do

Africa

Ten or twenty cars cluster around Chudob watering hole, eyes searching beyond the dense foliage. The wind picks up the dust, creating a sheen of white. In the distance, the trees rustle, making way for giants. There is silence. Nobody stirs. There is an air of anticipation as several grey masses emerge above the treetop. As they move towards the watering hole, their shapes become visible. Elephants. Not just one but a herd. Everyone angles their cameras towards the elephants as they quench their thirst and cool off in the waters.

There is something intimate about the uninhibitedness of nature-watching. Then there is the thrill of the unexpected. That while the elephants are engaging in their frivolous fun at the waters, a pride of lions could be eyeing the calf, watchful for the right moment. No one knows what the next second will bring as we wait for the magic hour. 

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THE SAFARI

Etosha National Park is aptly named the animal kingdom. The bone-dry winter means that wildlife of all shapes and sizes congregate at the waterholes. Prides of lions encamp at Okondeka, Nebrownii and Salvadora while elephants are regulars at Olifantsrus, Chudob and Klein Namutoni. The skittish and nimble damara dik dik is a frequent sight along Dik-Dik Drive or en route to Von Lindequist Gate. Between Salvadora and Namutoni, immeasurable herds of plains game can be found grazing. But the one waterhole to watch is the legendary Okaukuejo. Anyone who has ever been to Etosha would have heard of Okaukuejo – the stage for a perpetual parade of wildlife that continues through the night. Access to Okaukuejo after dark is reserved only for those staying in the Okaukuejo Camp, where booking a room can feel like a race against time. The rooms, especially the ones with a front row seat at the waterhole, can fill up as early as a year before. 

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THE PRIVATE RESERVES

Unlike South Africa, Etosha is not big on the private reserve scene but there are still one or two top drawer reserves. Stays at the Ongava private reserve will yield some of the most mind-blowing sightings on off-road drives. The nights are primal at Ongava as lions roam the watering hole and tented camps. Its location just outside the Anderson’s Gate will get you closest to sunrise in the national park. At the eastern side of Etosha, Onguma private reserve is slightly smaller but it does not hold back on sightings. Cheetahs from Etosha are known to periodically move into the reserve for protection against predators. 

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THE FOOD

Emanya is where all would want to unwind after a long day of game viewing. Four course dinners of African-European flavours are served under the starlit sky with place settings to match. Their oryx steaks are just the right amount of game. The afternoons are best for tea and cake, a complimentary respite from the lodge.

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THE ROOMS

Camps and lodges are concentrated around the southern and eastern gates of Etosha. Etosha Village occupies a cosy corner of the southern side of the national park. The rooms are awash with near-neutral tones with modest fittings. At dinner, the freshly grilled steaks and stir fry are crowd-pleasers. Doubles start at N$1553 per person, including breakfast and dinner.

Ongava is a classic safari outfit with an ace in their pocket – their highly raved about private reserve. The exclusive Little Ongava has only three suites for low-key stays. Each suite opens up to a private deck overlooking the veld. Doubles start at N$14140 per person fully inclusive. The Ongava Tented Camp is a favourite for its wild-in-Africa atmosphere and a busy waterhole. Doubles start at N$7848 per person fully inclusive. 

In the east, Onguma Bush Camp maintains the charms of old world southern Africa. Its fenced up grounds means child-friendly rules. Never miss a second of game-viewing as dinners and sunbeds are set in front of a massive waterhole. Tired of an all day drive in Etosha? Just kick back your safari boots at the pool while the wildlife comes to you. Doubles start at N$1530 per person for bed and breakfast. 

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120 Hours in Puglia – What to See, Eat & Do

Italy

One glance at Puglia, and all you can see is a sea of green. Olive groves stretch as far as the eye can see, a precursor to the cerulean beaches that embellish the rocky boundary meeting the Adriatic Sea. Here, the green scent of olives dances through the air, lending the region its characteristic charm. Waist-high wild grass accompany narrow roads, leading to sleepy hamlets and farmhouses. Puglia is a countryside haven – all food, all beach, all cobblestone towns and all Italian

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THE TOWNS

Puglia glows in the daylight, where pearly white towns rise above the olive groves. Ostuni, also known as The White City, is the fairest of them all – white cobbled streets, beige-coloured churches and a majority local attendance. While there, Sapori D’eccellenza does panini-to-go, with octopus panini being a specialty. Alberobello also gained traction for its conical-roofed houses that looked like they walked straight out of a fairytale book. Mellow afternoons are for sunbathing in Cala Porto in Polignano a Mare, where pasty buildings punctuate the beach that curves into this coastal town. In the capital city of Bari, roam the famed pasta alleys in the morning. This unmarked back street is located in Bari Vecchia, an unassuming spot where nonnas knead out orecchiette so nimbly they can rival pasta machines. 

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DAY TRIP TO BASILICATA

Less than two hours away from Puglia is Basilicata, the often overlooked wine region of Italy. Cantine del Notaio is home to the Aglianico del Vulture wines and a trip there would be accompanied by a tour to its grottoes where wines are stored for ageing. In Venosa, the stunning grounds of Cantine Re Manfredi make it worth a visit. At the centre of the wineries in Basilicata is Matera, a town of centuries-old caves and rock churches. At dusk, the warm glow emanating from the caves makes for a contemplative evening best spent with a glass of Basilicata’s finest wine. 

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THE FOOD

The eating table of Puglia is scattered all over its hamlets. Butcheries are an institution in Cisternino. At Rosticceria L’Antico Borgo, the butcher grills the meat in a down-to-earth fashion. Just salt, pepper and its juices. Bombettes are the bomb there. The meat encases provolone cheese, herbs and sometimes, salami, before being placed on the grill. Closer to the coast, seafood rolls in in abundance. Go with raw seafood here, preferably at La Tana Del Polpo in Bari. Also situated in the capital city, Mastro Ciccio needs no introduction. It’s fast food meets luxurious ingredients. The sandwiches displayed alone are visually tempting and its taste does not betray. For prim food at casual fare prices, Primi & Vini in Polignano a Mare does a standout gnocchi vongole and prawn orecchiette. 

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THE ROOMS

Bari makes for a good start off point for day trips to the Pugliese countryside. Near the old town, Palazzo Calò’s minimalist decor stands out from the surrounding old-world cobblestone alleys. While lacking a dining area, the hotel does a breakfast in bed, fitting for a morning of loafing around in your pyjamas. Doubles start at €120. 

Spend the night in a masseria, Puglia’s rendition of a farmstay. Masseria Celentano is a converted Apulian manor farm with five rooms. Other than exploring the nearby Lucera and Troia towns, you can take the masseria’s sailboat and cruise along the Gargano while seafood is freshly prepared. Doubles start at €70.

Stays at the Masseria Torre Coccaro are a sociable affair. Children get to bake panzerotti, harvest olives and bike through the country. In summer, communal tables are pulled out for dinner feasts and live Puglia music dance. Doubles start at €300.

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72 Hours in Thoddoo – What to See, Eat & Do

Asia

The balmy air in Thoddoo is perfumed by the sweet scent of ripe papayas. Flying foxes flit in and out of palm tree fronds interspersed with rambling wild bushes. Clusters of coral reefs fringe the island as the sun scatters diamonds on the ocean blues. Below the surface, life abounds in infinite forms. Hawksbill turtles glide past bluestripe snappers, narrowly missing the moray eels nestled amidst the corals. The brimming reefs bring a flurry of psychedelic colours as reef fish scamper for their share of grub.

No one would have heard of Thoddoo a mere 10 years ago as it sits unnoticed among the resort islands. Everything is new and untouched. Today, travellers would take the two hours speedboat ride for a slice of this self-effacing local island, giving it a new breath of life. 

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THE SIGHTS

The island is cosily small – a mere two kilometres at its longest length. No traffic, paved roads or grand swimming pools. Stripped of modernity, the island is the epitome of the simple life where lying on a hammock or taking a 30 minutes amble is a mundane thrill.

Sunbathe at Thoddoo’s bikini beach, where clear-as-glass water washes against a milky stretch of sand. The house reef encircling the beach will keep you occupied for hours. Turtles frequent the western edge of the house reef for breakfast. To venture out of the island, boat trips will take you to sandbanks for snorkelling in reefs free from settlements.

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ROOMS

The minuscule size of the island means it does not house a string of big time hotels, but what bed & breakfasts it has are warm and intimate. Holiday Cottage Maldives is a row of cottages set on the island. Dinners are rich with local fish and lobsters on the grill. Doubles start at US$80.

The airy rooms at Coco Villa are just ten minutes from the bikini beach. Your arrival will be sweetened by fresh coconuts and papaya jelly. The chef does an eclectic breakfast menu – shredded pancakes are dipped in chocolate sauce with a side of devilled eggs, waffles topped with breaded cutlet, and tuna masuni with roshi. Doubles start at US$100.

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