Swimming is fun, and swimming in pools with such amazing views will make the dip a lot more inviting! Whether you want the jungles of Serengeti and Selous or the white sandy beaches of Zanzibar, there are swimming pools out there that are destinations in their own right.
And here, JCCE Tours & Safaris Ltd presents to you Tanzania’s Top 8 Luxury Villa Venues with Plunge Pools in no particular order. Enjoy reading!
AMARA LUXURY TENTED CAMP – Selous
Located in the heart of the Selous Game Reserve, a mere few minutes’ drive away from the Simbazi airstrip, Amara Selous promises a taste of the extraordinary – an experience that is unique and revitalizing.
At Amara Selous, nature is merged with extravagance to provide lavish comfortable and secluded luxury in the middle of the African bush.
Twelve spacious air-conditioned suites are complete with private rock plunge pools, opulent bathrooms and outside showers that offer views over the Great Ruaha River and the perennial wilderness beyond.
Amara Selous remains beautifully remote, amidst the pristine wilderness of Africa’s largest game reserve and one of Tanzania’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s where one awakes to a daily symphony of hippo snorts and birdsong.
As we exited, we noticed Stefan looking anxiously towards the arrivals gate then at his cell phone, as if trying to decide whether to make a call. We shouted his name and he turned and smiled widely. It was wonderful to see his familiar face.
As soon as exchanged hugs and settled into the jeep, we – Sandra, Judith and I – began chattering all at once, like giddy teenagers tripping over each others’ words eagerly trying to get the stories of our adventures out to Stefan as quickly as we could.
Stefan had some news of his own. While we were gone, Shepherds Court, the guest house he owns and where we had stayed when we arrived in Johannesburg, had seen a flurry of new arrivals and was fully booked so he decided to put us up for our last night in Joburg at his pool house. He dropped us off then left to do some shopping.
We settled in and made our way to the kitchen of the main house and opened a bottle of Tall Horse, a local wine we had fallen in love with. The door bell rang unexpectedly. It was Thope. She had several bottles of wine with her and told us that Stefan planned to have a braai – a kind of a barbecue – for us before we left. A braai? We were excited!
In our two weeks in Southern Africa, we had not been to a braai. We hadn’t thought about it — it wasn’t even on our must-do list.
Finally, Stefan returned and more friends arrived. The men went about setting up and cooking ribs, pork, beef and boerewors (sausage) while we women remained inside drinking and chatting.
Once everything was ready, we moved outside to the covered porch area where the huge braaier was located and the party began.
We had eaten so much beef in Southern Africa, we’d joked among ourselves that we’d have to take a vacation from meat when we returned to the States. But what’s a braai without meat? The beef was surprisingly tender and flavorful and hours later, almost all of it had been washed down with several bottles of South African wine.
If we didn’t have plans to go to Soweto later that morning, we would probably still be there, chatting and laughing. We had a fabulous time. It was about 3 a.m. when we finally stumbled into bed on our last night in South Africa.
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Our last morning in Durban began with us watching the sun as it rose over the Indian Ocean.
And watching as the area known as the Golden Mile, Durban‘s popular stretch of beach came to life with vendors, tourists, swimmers, people out for their morning walk and workers cleaning up the beach.
One of the things we wanted to do was dip our toes in the ocean. The sand was almost golden brown and soft under our feet. It was our only time in the water since we had been in South Africa.
We waded in, stepped back and screamed almost at the same time when the water hit our feet. It was a nice, bracing cold. But just wetting our toes wasn’t enough. We walked further in as the water lapped our calves. It felt great.
When we returned to our room, our clothes were wet and flip flops full of sand. Disappointingly, I didn’t get any shells on the beach.
Near the street, a few people had gathered to admire this artist’s rendition of a cheetah
and a lion made from sand.
Durban’s artistic flair.
What’s DSW doing on the side of this garbage receptacle? Sorry, Sandra, it’s not the shoe store.
During our last drive through Durban, we came across these sculptures that I just loved.
Before we left the U.S., I had seen photos of Durban’s rickshas and the drivers online. I knew I had to see and ride in one.
And as Don drove us around, we spotted this one. I was so excited, I started to jump out of the car before he even came to a stop.
The driver obligingly put on his elaborate headgear but we didn’t have time for a ride. I could only take these photos.
Named for a former general secretary of the South Africa Communist Party, Moses Mabhida Stadium, played host to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
This would be one of my last photos of Durban. It had been a whirlwind three days. We had done a lot, racked up several thousand miles and made friends.
Compassline Africa, our travel agent in Durban, had taken fabulous care of us. If you ever plan a visit, send Tanya or Alison an email. They left us in the capable hands of Don “How’s ya Granny” Botterill who proudly showed off his beautiful province and shared personal and family stories, including the one that a distant relative was one of the first people to open the Sani Pass route through the Drakensberg Mountains to Lesotho.
Our goodbye to Durban was bittersweet – it meant we had just one more night in South Africa.
Goodbye Durban, till next time.
Back to Joburg.
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It wasn’t until I was sitting in the dining room of the Beach Hotel on the morning of our last day in Durban that I finally realized what I’d been missing during the two weeks we traveled around South Africa.
At a table close to ours, a group of nattily attired women in dresses made from African fabric, sat engaged in lively conversation. In this room of business people, young professionals and tourists, they were beautiful and regal and easy to spot.
Nowhere in our travels had we seen a display such as this. Most of the women we had seen had coats on, the others – hotel employees, etc., wore uniforms.
Years ago on my first trip to Africa, as I waited to change planes at the Leopold Senghor Airport in Dakar, I watched, mesmerized, the Senegalese women dressed in riots of colors and patterns – no two women looking alike.
That’s what I missed, I thought to myself.
To me, more than anything else, seeing women in traditional African dress is an unmistakable statement of cultural reference, connection and identity that always makes me feel proud of my African heritage. I didn’t realize how much until then.
I’m still not sure what it is about Durban – I can’t quite put my finger on it exactly. But whatever it is, it creeps under your skin, sneaks up to your chest, grabs hold of your heart and just doesn’t let go.
Could it be the sunrise?
Alison at Compassline Africa had booked us into the Beach Hotel and the room we had gave us front row seats to the most spectacular sunrise we’d seen in a while. And as we watched the sun rise slowly above the horizon, I thought of this version of Bob Marley’s Lively Up Your Self. (Bob would have loved Durban too.)
The thing we looked forward to doing in Durban was to dip our feet into the Indian Ocean. So following the sunrise, we got dressed, had breakfast and went down to the beach.
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When we began planning the Durban leg of our trip, we knew nothing about the rock paintings at Giant’s Castle but once we did, they quickly became a must-see.
Created approximately 5,000 years ago by the first known inhabitants of South Africa, the Bushman or San people, and most of it located in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, they are the largest group of rock paintings to be found south of the Sahara.
We arrived at Giant’s Castle just before the mid-afternoon tour would begin and nearly had to sprint to the Main Cave, about a 30 minute hike from the Visitor Center. We were met by our guide, who told us his name was “Charles, Prince Charles.”
We couldn’t help laughing.
Prince Charles told us the story of the San people and the history of the paintings, as much as had been gathered from research. Signs like this provided additional background.
I had expected that we’d be going to an underground cave to see the drawings. Instead, these were right there on the overhanging rocks and exposed to the elements. However, a barrier now surrounds the rocks to prevent people from getting too close to deface them.
The drawings represent a rich historical record of daily life — some show animals (eland, buffalo, etc.), children, men with spears, groups of women, etc. They were made from a mixture of grounded colored stone which was held together with fat and rubbed onto the rock. But they weren’t done just willy nilly. Specific areas of the rocks were chosen to lend depth and contrast. I was surprised that after so many years, the colors remained so vibrant.
There are 500 known areas of San drawings in the uKhahlamba Drakensburg Park, which UNESCO has declared a World Heritage Site.
At the end of the tour, which lasted about 30 minutes, we spent some time photographing the drawings and learning Zulu words from Prince Charles. An amiable man, he told us he had been a guide at the cave for nearly 30 years and was looking forward to retirement.
I wondered what it was like for Charles being there every day. Between tours, it is a peaceful place, with only the sound of an occasional bird, but I got the sense that there were people all around.
When it was time to return, Prince showed us a different way back. While the route to the cave was a punishing climb over rocks, up inclines, over streams, and a path in some places, just wide enough for one person, the return was a breeze. And the view was breathtaking.
A reminder that this is a Heritage Site.
By the time we returned to the Visitor Center, it was time for a relaxing lunch. We left Giant’s Castle for the 4 hour ride back to Durban. It was our last full day in KwaZulu Natal.
When I spoke with Kieron Audain, the student and author who contacted me from Durban, he asked if we’d be visiting the Drakensberg. I had no idea what he was talking about. All we had been thinking about for Durban was a visit to Shakaland, a tour of the city and Umhlanga Rocks, and finding some good Indian restaurants. It was going to be a leisurely two days.
But when I Googled it, I knew we’d have to go.
At more than 11,000 ft., the Drakensberg Mountains is the highest range in Southern Africa. It is also home to Tugela Falls, the second highest waterfall in the world and the location where several hundred rock paintings done by the Bushmen, the indigenous people of Southern Africa, can be seen.
We wanted to do all three: visit Tugela Falls, see the Bushman’s paintings and venture up the Sani Pass but dropped Tugela Falls when we realized we’d have to climb a chain ladder to get to parts of it. In addition, there really wouldn’t be enough time.
So following our visit to Shakaland and our overnight stay in Ballito, we checked in to the Sani Pass Hotel located at the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains just before lunch to begin our drive up the Pass.
I just love these thatched roofs.
After checking in, we began the climb up the rugged Sani Pass, a kind of no-man’s land between the South African and Lesotho border control posts.
The nearly 14 mile road up the Sani Pass is so dangerous, only 4-wheel drive vehicles (or 4-legged animals) are allowed.
But the views are spectacular.
In the early 1800s, King Moshoeshoe and his followers settled in this remote area to form what is now the Kingdom of Lesotho rather than being co-opted by King Shaka Zulu.
There’s no way to drive straight up.
The best way to climb the mountain.
While we waited for lunch, we visited the Sani Top Chalet.
Yes, we actually travelled 9,400 feet up the Drakensberg Mountain to have lunch at the Highest Pub in Africa.
I had heard so much about gluhwein, the wine, rum and sugar mixture served warm at the pub, I had to try it. I guess it’s better on a really cold day.
Since the Sani Pass route is so dangerous and is unlit, it is closed at 4:00 p.m. daily. Shortly after lunch, we began the drive back down.
Under the setting sun, the mountain is breathtakingly beautiful.
During winter, the vegetation becomes brown and dry. Burning off the dry grass to promote new growth.
Before we arrived at the South African border control, we ran into a few people climbing the mountain on horses and donkeys.
Before the road was cut, this was the only way up the Pass. Residents would travel down to Good Hope, a now defunct trading post at the foot of the mountain, to trade blankets for supplies.
I’m a free style dancer. I’ve been dancing all my life but no one’s ever taught me to dance. I dance by myself to the music I feel and abandon my body to the rhythm.
I’m not bragging. I know I can dance and I dance very well. When I go to parties or clubs, I hardly sit down – I’ve been known to dance all night!
The one thing I hate most is having someone teach me a dance move and then expect me to follow after one demonstration. It is then that my normally fluid body becomes heavy, my feet become uncoordinated. They never seem to connect to what I see. (Don’t even add a mirror to that equation – because it’s then that I am the most awkward.)
So as I sat enjoying the Zulu (mostly) men doing their powerful stick dance, I was content and focused on watching and photographing their moves.
That is until Smagna, our Zulu tour guide, called for a male and female volunteer to join the dance from the small group of visitors at the evening’s festivities.
After he picked the male from the ‘male’ side of the hut and looked in our direction, I knew. He walked right over, stood in front of me and stretched out his hand.
It wasn’t a very complicated dance routine. We did a few practice moves -step, step, step, STOMP! Step, STOMP! (I can do that!) – then the drummers began beating their drums furiously. Try as I might, I could not follow what the dancers were doing or remember what I had learnt.
When it was over, I thought, thank God, my humiliation is complete. I’ll never see any of these people again, I said aloud as I consoled myself.
But as I write this, I know, somewhere in Germany or the UK or France or some other country, some individual is sharing their photos of their visit to Shakaland and saying, I have proof: some black people can’t dance!
I thought Shakaland would have been touristy and kitschy – it wasn’t.
Located in a beautiful and tranquil area of rolling hills overlooking the Phobane Lake, Shakaland is an authentic Zulu kraal with beehive thatched huts built on the set where the movie, Shaka Zulu was filmed, the same land on which the Zulus fought many battles.
That movie was, I believe, my first introduction to King Shaka, one of Africa’s famous warrior kings and the man credited with uniting the various Nguni people into one large, proud and powerful Zulu nation whose influence can be felt today.
I didn’t watch the movie but the name stuck in my memory.
King Shaka of the Zulus, was born in 1787 and ruled for 10 years. During that time, he established himself as a military genius and a statesman.
Smagna, our guide, explaining the workings of the kraal. The women’s huts were always on the left, the men on the right so that they could protect the women and children from intruders. For that same reason, men would always walk ahead of the women.
Single Zulu women wearing short beaded skirts. Older women wear clothes that cover their bodies.