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Today — May 14th 2021Your RSS feeds

NZ work visa: These changes are in the pipeline for employers

May 13th 2021 at 14:35

New Zealand’s immigration department, the INZ, is set to implement changes to the procedures which New Zealand-based employers will be subjected to when offering work permits to employees from outside the country’s borders.

According to New Zealand immigration specialists Immagine Immigration, companies in New Zealand that employ overseas employees, will have to become accredited before they can support work visa applications for foreign employees.

DEPENDENCE ON JOB OFFERS

Many South Africans who migrate to New Zealand use the employer-sponsored route to obtain work visas which enable them to move to New Zealand.

The implementation of the new requirements for employers will certainly add to the overly bureaucratic process of securing employer-sponsored work visas in New Zealand, a process that is already known to be a challenging endeavour.    

NZ work visas: Accreditation requirement for employers

According to Immagine Immigration, the new process will involve three steps.

  • Employer check – By 1 November any employer that needs to employ non-residents must have that accreditation. Employers will be required to demonstrate inter alia they are registered as a genuine business with Inland Revenue (the tax department), have a registered Business Number, have a track record of complying with immigration and employment law and the employer must complete some government-run, online, ‘employment modules’ providing any new staff with information on their employment rights etc. 
  • Job check – Depending on where the job is located (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin being defined as ‘cities’ means the process may be a little different to those applying for jobs everywhere else) and what the salary is will determine what sort of local labour market test, if any, is required. Advertising evidence may or may not be required depending on location and salary.
  • Migrant check – Proving the migrant is ‘suitably qualified’ to take up the role (assuming the same test applies to that which currently applies), that there ‘is no suitable New Zealander available for the role or who could be trained’ and of course health and character checks will be carried out. 

NO NEED FOR CONCERN

Foreign employees on existing sponsored work visas will not be affected by the proposed requirements. They do not have to apply for new visas and their employer does not need to become accredited before 1 November.

South Africans wishing to migrate to New Zealand via employment-sponsored visas need not be concerned about this new requirement as the responsibility for INZ accreditation falls on the employer, not the employee.

Yesterday — May 13th 2021Your RSS feeds

Cooked at 1 000°C: Everyone wants a slice of Guatemala’s volcanic pizza

May 12th 2021 at 16:19
By: AFP

Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano has been erupting since February, keeping local communities and authorities on high alert.

But for David Garcia, the streams of molten lava oozing down the mountainside have become his kitchen.

Garcia, a 34-year-old accountant, serves up “Pacaya Pizza” cooked on the smouldering volcanic rock to awed tourists and locals.

Makeshift volcanic rock pizza ‘oven’

“Many people today come to enjoy the experience of eating pizza made on volcanic heat,” Garcia told AFP from a rocky area that leads to the Pacaya crater, and which he’s converted into his workplace.

In his makeshift kitchen, Garcia spreads the dough on a metal platter that can resist temperatures up to 1,000°C, slathers it with tomato sauce, a generous helping of cheese and pieces of meat.

Wearing protective clothing from head to his military style boots, Garcia places the pizza on the lava.

“It’s done, just let the cheese melt some more,” he announces 10 minutes later.

“That pizza looks so good!” exclaims one of the tourists as the cheese bubbles.

Garcia’s kitchen has become a magnet for tourists that work up a appetite climbing the massive volcano — one of three active ones in Guatemala — located just 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of the capital.

‘Only’ in Guatemala

He first started baking pizzas on the mountain side in 2013 in small caverns he found amongst the rocks.

“I didn’t sell much the first few days,” said Garcia, whose fame has now spread throughout social media. 

In recent weeks, with Pacaya regularly spitting out molten rock, he started cooking the pizzas directly on the moving lava, some of which has come close to population centers.

It’s a potentially risky undertaking given the plumes of volcanic ash blasted into the sky by the angry beast, to which some local villagers pray, pleading with it to desist. 

Tourists have their slice

“Having a pizza cooked in the embers of a volcano is mind-blowing and unique in the whole world,” said Felipe Aldana, a tourist trying out one of Garcia’s specialities.

He found about about the pizza joint on Facebook and thought: “I have to have this experience.”

“It’s ridiculous just thinking that you’re going to eat something cooked on lava, but it’s something that you can see only here” in Guatemala, said Kelt Van Meurs, a Dutch visitor.

By © Agence France-Presse

Covid-19 Third Wave Latest: SA virus cases rising rapidly says DOH

May 12th 2021 at 15:45

South African has not yet hit the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic although the number of new cases is still rising rapidly the Deprment of Health announced in a statement on Wednesday night.


In its statement on rising cases the DOH said the South Africa has a daily surveillance system which monitors the key indicators for resurgence and the main indicators that are monitored are mainly daily positive cases; the positivity rate; which is the number of positive tests divided by the total tests done; hospital admissions and mortality

“For ease of comparison, we normally report on trends and we do the 7 day average as daily cases fluctuate and are hence not very useful,” the DOH said.

In the last reporting week (3-9 May 2021) the DOH noted the following:

  • There was an increase in new cases from 8 593 cases in the preceding seven days (26th April – 2nd May) to 12 531 cases in the last seven days (3rd – 9th May) constituting a 46% increase.
  • The 14-days comparisons also showed that the cases increased from 17 017 in the preceding 14 days to 21 124 cases in the last 14 days, an overall 24% increase.
  • All provinces showed a positive percentage increase with Northern Cape showing a 68% increase in the last 7 days followed by Gauteng at 63%, Limpopo at 47%, North West at 42% and Western Cape at 39%.
  • The new COVID-19 related deaths increased by 18,22% in the last 7 days (3 -9 May) to 318 from 269 in the preceding 7 days (26th April – 2nd May).
  • However, the 14-days comparison showed the deaths decreased by 28,93% to 587 in the last 14 days compared to 826 in the preceding 14 days.
  • The cumulative case fatality ratio is 3,43% (54 735/1 596 595). Eastern Cape (21%), Gauteng (20%), KwaZulu-Natal (19%) and Western Cape (21%) account for 81% of all reported deaths.
  • There were 25 health care workers who tested positive in the last 7 days (3rd – 9th May).

“Cumulatively, 56 059 HCW have tested positive, of these 14.35% (7 839/56 059) required admission, 6 881 (87,78%) have been discharged, and 83 are currently admitted. Health care workers constitute 3.51% of all cases of COVID-19 reported in the country. Accumulatively, a total of 874 deaths have been recorded among the health care workers,” the DOH said.

“Hospital admissions have not shown an increase. As much as these figures are worrying, our resurgence dashboard, which was developed by the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium, which is updated thrice a week, still shows that we have not reached a resurgence threshold though some districts in the country are fast approaching the threshold.”

Department of Health

The National Department of Health is working with provinces to update their resurgence plans to ensure that these are activated, and these plans mainly focus on the following:

  • Case management
  • Contact tracing.
  • Oxygen availability
  • Bed capacity (general beds and intensive care beds)
  • Respiratory support equipment
  • Human resources

“As the country we are on high alert and we know that the main drivers of the new wave will either be the resurgence of new variants and/or the fatigue from adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions. To counter these we are working closely with our genomic sequencing team to ensure that we are able to pick up the new variants earlier,” the DOH said.

“We want to assure South Africans that we have not yet hit the third wave however we are at risk and we hence need to be on heightened vigilance as a country.”

Deparment of Health

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

Why is British Airways selling June tickets while SA is still on UK ‘red list’?

May 11th 2021 at 11:51

Britain’s national carrier British Airways has opened its online booking system and is already selling seats from 23 June on its flights from London to both Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Does this mean there may be good news on the horizon for South Africa as far as the UK’s flight and entry bans are concerned?  Or is British Airways simply being hopeful that it will be able to restart flights to South Africa ?

UK BAN DUE TO THREAT OF SA VARIANT

A ban on South African travellers was imposed in December 2020 when the new coronavirus variant (dubbed the South African variant) was detected in South Africa last year. Since then, only travellers with permits entitling them to live or work in Britain have been allowed to travel to the United Kingdom from South Africa. 

In March, the UK government implemented mandatory self-paid hotel-managed quarantines for passengers arriving from South Africa.

CONTINUOUS FLIGHT SUSPENSIONS

Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airlines — who previously operated scheduled flights to South Africa — have continually been announcing suspension dates for their South African flight schedules, in accordance with the UK government’s flight and travel ban.   

By advertising flights to South Africa once again, it appears that British Airways is hopeful for a change or is perhaps aware of new developments regarding the UK’s current flight and entry ban which has already been in place for five months.

REOPENING INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

The UK has begun the process of reopening international travel options for its residents with its government issuing a list of destinations to which its people may travel to with eased requirements. 

The new restrictions for travel to destinations on the UK’s traffic light system will come into effect on Monday 17 May.

“Today marks the first step in our cautious return to international travel, with measures designed above all else to protect public health and ensure we don’t throw away the hard-fought gains we’ve all strived to earn this year,” UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stated, as reported in The Independent.

UK ‘TRAFFIC LIGHT’ SYSTEM

The UK has implemented a so-called “traffic light: system which groups countries into three lists – red, amber and green – determined by levels of travel restrictions faced by travellers from different countries.

These lists are updated every three weeks, taking into account the situation in each country, with respect to the emergence of new variants, public health responses, and national COVID-19 caseloads.

GREEN LIST

Only 12 countries are currently on the UK’s green list. Travellers from these countries face no entry restrictions, but are required to complete a passenger locator form and must take two negative COVID-19 test results (one prior to travel and the other after arrival).  

Countries on the UK’s green list include:

  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Iceland
  • Israel and Jerusalem
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira)
  • Singapore
  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

AMBER LIST

More than 170 countries are currently on the UK’s amber list. Travel to and from these countries is discouraged.  All arriving or returning passengers are subject to a mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine on entry to the UK from these countries.

RED LIST

The red list contains 40 countries, which are subject to the strictest travel restrictions.  South Africa is on this list, alongside India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Brazil.

The Maldives, Nepal, and Turkey now also find themselves on this list.  Only UK residents and citizens will be allowed to enter the United Kingdom from these countries.

Vaccine tourism: Here’s three countries you can get a Covid-19 jab

May 11th 2021 at 11:01

South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout hasn’t exactly been the world’s fastest or smoothest and phase two of the project is only set to commence next week, with those over 60 to be vaccinated.

For the rest of the country hoping to get on with their lives without fear, there are two options. Wait until your turn is finally announced several months from now, or turn your vaccine experience into a holiday.

This is obviously not available to everyone, but those with time and money to travel do have options how and where they get vaccinated against Covid-19. Some countries have embraced vaccine tourism as a way to help their economies from recover the effects of the pandemic, offering some special trips for those hoping to get the jab while on holiday.

USA, Israel, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates are among the countries which have banned or restricted travelers from South Africa since the discovery of the Covid-19 strain 501Y.V2. SA has been flagged a risk by many European Union countries including Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland.

Global vaccination tracker

Graphic: Costa Mokola

But there are some countries The Citizen has found that allow you to enter and pay for a vaccination.

Zimbabwe

A return flight to Zimbabwe from South Africa can cost you R3,509 – R4,319,  or you can make a road trip of it if you are willing to brave the border posts.

Zimbabwe’s tourism sector is estimated to have lost $1bn in revenue last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, so the government-approved initiative of vaccinating tourists at a cost could see some revival in this sector.

Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa told journalists while Zimbabweans get vaccinated for free, foreigners can get the vaccine at a cost.

Zimbabwe reopened its international airports and land borders to tourists in addition to Zimbabwean nationals and valid residence permit holders on 1 December 2020.

Also Read: Zimbabwe beats SA to the vaccine jab

As a tourist you must produce a negative Covid-19 test result issued no more than 48 hours before arrival at the border. You will be denied entry if you do not produce a negative test result or if you exhibit Covid-19 like symptoms on arrival. In this case you may be detained at a holding facility where you will be required to pay US$60 for a test.

Travelers will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine period. Self isolation is an option if you arrive with a negative Covid-19 test issued within 48 hours of arrival, or test negative at the airport.

If you test positive for Covid-19 at the airport, you will be detained at a place of isolation for 14 days. You have to complete track and trace information on arrival in Zimbabwe.

The Maldives

Another country attempting to boost its tourism sector by offering vaccines is the island nation of the Maldives.

The south Asian country recently announced plans to offer tourists the Covid-19 vaccine. Maldivian Tourism Minister Abdulla Mausoom told CNBC the initiative, dubbed the 3V plan (Visit, Vaccinate, Vacation), was designed as an incentive for tourists to visit the country.

A single Qatar Airways flight leaving next week from OR Tambo International Airport costs R8,252, but if you want to make an event of it, you can opt to fly business class for a cool R34,617.

Inbound travelers, with the exception of children under one year, have to produce a PCR negative result with a sample taken 96 hours prior to their departure for the Maldives, including those who are vaccinated.

PCR negative test results must be attached to the online Traveler Health Declaration (THD) form which has to be submitted within 24 hours prior to departure.

Cuba

A flight to Havana, Cuba costs upward of R14,821. As a tourist, A PCR test will be administered on arrival and you’ll be transferred to a designated centre similar to a hotel. A second PCR test will be taken on day 5 of isolation and isolation is required until the second result is confirmed.

If you test positive, you have to follow the instructions of the health officials. All testing and quarantine costs will be at the traveler’s cost.

Proof of a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours prior to departure is required in order to be allowed into the country, along with a completed declaration of health.

Simnikiweh@citizen.co.za

 

Game of monopoly? Private airlines denied routes ‘reserved’ for SAA

May 11th 2021 at 06:28

Zanzibar was proving to be an ideal destination for South Africans with a desire to travel beyond the country’s borders during the pandemic since there is no quarantine requirement on arrival and Covid-19 PCR testing (required for re-entry to South Africa) can easily be carried out before departing Zanzibar.

Direct flights between Johannesburg and Zanzibar were being operated by the low-cost carrier Mango Airlines until 25 April.  A subsidiary of South African Airways, Mango is now facing a financial crisis while it waits to receive pre-approved funding which had been allocated to it by the Department of Public Enterprises.

Mango’s Zanzibar ‘monopoly’

As a result of the delay, Mango suspended operations on its popular Zanzibar route where it held a monopoly since South African Airways (SAA) who also had rights to operate scheduled services on the route has been grounded since March last year. The suspension of direct flights to the island means that the destination is no longer an attractive option for the number of South Africans who wish to visit the island.

Travelnews reports that South African tour companies that organise holiday packages to Zanzibar, have been requesting privately owned South African airline companies to start up flights on the now unserved Zanzibar route, since there is demand for flights.

ALSO READ: Could SAA be up and flying again as soon as July?

Airlines eager to fill the gap, but…

Privately-owned local airline Cemair, which has been spreading its wings and picking up additional routes while many routes remained underserved, is keen to operate flights on the Zanzibar route.

Cemair’s CEO Miles van der Molen told Travelnews that his airline is eager but not able to start up flights since all existing permits to operate flights on routes to Tanzania were reserved.   

“We would be very keen to take on this route but the bilateral agreement between South Africa and Tanzania only allows about 28 or 29 weekly flights between the two countries; 26 of these traffic rights are currently held by SAA, SA Express and Mango, none of which is servicing the routes,” Cemair’s Miles van der Molen told Travelnews.

“The rights for the remaining two flights were recently awarded to Airlink, which is operating flights between South Africa and Dar es Salaam. This means that there are currently no available traffic rights for us to apply for.”

ROUTE AUTHORISING COUNCIL NOW DEFUNCT

Newly independently airline Airlink which has been expanding operations and increasing its local schedule since being allowed to resume operations, said there is no possibility of other airlines securing permits to start up direct flights on the Zanzibar route for the foreseeable future due to the Air Services Licencing Council (an entity placed under the Department of Transport) having disbanded in March.    

“Members of the International Air Services Council serve for only three years, and as their tender has ended, there is currently no council in existence to either revoke or award new traffic rights. This means that, regardless of interest in the destination, there is no immediate solution to close the gap created by Mango’s suspension of the route.” Airlink’s Rodger Foster told Travelnews.

“Section 20 and 21 of the Air Services Act of 1993 outlines that the International Air Services Council has the right to revoke unused traffic rights. The council should do this automatically but the Act also makes provisions for queries or complaints to be raised to the council relating to dormant traffic rights.

“In this instance, the International Air Services Council must launch an investigation about why the rights are dormant and respond publicly on its assessment, revoking unused rights in order to allow other carriers to apply for them.”

ROUTES ‘RESERVED’ FOR STATE-OWNED CARRIERS

Cemair’s CEO believes that the Air Services Licencing Council, tasked with the approval of flight route applications and the granting of permits to airlines, had intentionally held off the processing of new applications by acting in favour of the state-owned carriers.

“Not only did the International Air Services Council disband in March without replacements being appointed but the previous Council left their position with a massive backlog of applications unattended to. We believe that this was due to governmental pressure to prevent injury to SAA and SA Express through the revocation of their traffic rights ahead of their supposed ‘imminent’ restarts,” Van der Molen said.

SOUTH AFRICA INCREASINGLY ISOLATED

Aviation economist Dr Joachim Vermooten told Travelnews that the lack of adjudication of applications for international flight routes received from airlines in South Africa had led to a reduction in air connectivity between South Africa and other countries.

This translates to increasing isolation of the country, despite travel bans and entry restrictions raised against South Africa as a result of COVID-19 restrictions that have been imposed by other countries.

Could SAA be up and flying again as soon as July?

May 10th 2021 at 04:44

After officially exiting its lengthy business rescue process on 30 April, SAA has indicated it aims to resume scheduled flights from the beginning of July.   

According to the document seen by Fin24, the now liquid and solvent national carrier plans to take flight within the next two months. The document indicates that the airline intends to recommence domestic flights on 1 July.

ALSO READ: Business rescue finalised: SAA cleared for take-off

SAA ACCESSING ROUTES

The national carrier’s interim CEO Thomas Kgokolo stated that his team would review the airline’s existing route network and focus on efficiencies within the company when restarting the airline.

“We need to look at routes that are profitable and sustainable and whether we are using the latest aircraft in terms of technology and fuel efficiency,” Kgokolo told the Daily Maverick.

STAGGERED RESTART

Kgokolo stated that the airline would be restarting its route network in stages, beginning with  domestic and regional flight schedules before returning to international routes.

“We will do a staggered restart by first starting with domestic and regional flights,” Kgokolo said.

It seems that SAA has selected destinations where operations are possible and where demand exists. The airline appears to have avoided routes where there is an oversupply of seats by competitors who have already established a presence while SAA was grounded.

SAA: DOMESTIC ROUTE NETWORK

The document seen by Fin24 indicates that SAA intends to start up its domestic flight schedule from the beginning of July this year.

The airline will operate a small internal route network with flights on just three routes from Johannesburg.  South African Airways intends to operate scheduled services between Johannesburg and Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town and Johannesburg and Gqeberha from 1 July.

SAA: REGIONAL ROUTE NETWORK

According to Fin24, the airline will offer flights from its Johannesburg hub to Maputo (Mozambique), Windhoek (Namibia), Harare (Zimbabwe), Lusaka (Zambia), Lilongwe and Blantyre (Malawi), Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Accra (Ghana) and Lagos (Nigeria).

SAA has dropped numerous destinations from its previous route network. Destinations, such as the Victoria Falls, Livingstone and Luanda, have been excluded. Services are being provided by private carriers including Cemair (Luanda), Airlink (Livingstone), Fastjet and British Airways operated by Comair (Victoria Falls).

FLEET CONUNDRUM

The airline no longer has suitable aircraft in its fleet to be able to operate profitable services to several destinations in its proposed domestic and regional route networks.   SAA will need to acquire additional aircraft to operate flights to most of these destinations. 

SAA’s rescue practitioners returned the airline’s leased aircraft to aircraft lessors last year, leaving the carrier with a fleet of nine wide-body aircraft which were deployed primarily on the airline’s intercontinental routes. These aircraft are older Airbus A340 models that few airlines still operate as they are not fuel efficient.

INTERNATIONAL ROUTES 

SAA’s former top international routes included destinations such as London, New York, Frankfurt and Perth. The airline used its wide-body Airbus A340 aircraft amongst others, on these routes.

While several governments have imposed flight and entry bans on South Africa, there would be no point in resuming flights to most of SAA’s international routes in the foreseeable future. Low passenger volumes would simply translate into more financial losses.    

NEED FOR EQUITY PARTNER

Now that the airline’s business rescue process is officially over and since R2.7bn has been prioritised for SAA’s embattled subsidiaries (Mango, Air Chefs and SAA Technical – to avoid the total collapse of these entities), the return of South African Airways to the skies is dependent on the airline acquiring a strategic equity partner who will inject much-needed cash into the airline.

i-Robot at your service: Sandton hotel adds robots to staff component [watch]

May 7th 2021 at 15:07

While several hotels in Sandton have not yet had to implement new ways of operating due to having closed their doors back in March last year, Hotel Sky has adopted a new approach to its operations and is welcoming more guests than many of its competitors thanks to the contactless service provided by its robotic staff members.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic threw most industries into turmoil. The hospitality and  tourism sectors which are high-touch, service-oriented industries have been dealt a blow by a huge drop in demand for their services, as well as being required to adjust the way they do things.

Image: Supplied/ Hotel Sky

HOTEL SKY EMBRACES ROBOTIC TECHNOLOGY

When Hotel Sky opened its doors at the end of 2020, it decided to acquire and deploy three robots to attend to its guests’ needs in an effort to reduce contact between hotel employees and guests.

Hotel Sky delivers contactless services with robots. Image : Lorne Philpot

According to News24, the hotel had intended to deploy robots throughout the hotel prior to the arrival of COVID-19.  However, the onset of the pandemic has sped up the rollout of services that are provided by the hotel’s robots.             

ROBOTS PROVIDE SAFE CONTACTLESS SERVICES

Businesses providing services in the hospitality and tourism sectors are required by law to limit interaction between personnel and staff, in an effort to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

INQ reports that Hotel Sky currently has three robots onsite to attend to its guests. The robots perform tasks such as the delivery of room service orders and providing concierge services to guests.  This reduces the need for interaction between humans and therefore complies with national COVID-19 regulations for the hospitality sector.

NEED FOR TWEAKING ROBOTIC DATABASES  

The robotic-supplied services still have a way to go since the robots do not yet have comprehensive databases which enable them to provide answers to all the queries which guests may have.  

A hotel employee explained that the robotic databases are constantly being updated so that the robots are better able to answer the range of questions that guests put to the robots. 

i-Robot at your service: Sandton hotel adds robots to staff component [watch]

A Sandton hotel is using robots for the delivery of specific services it offers its guests, in order to reduce risks of COVID-19 infection.

sky-hotel-robot

Hotel Sky robots contactless service

Hotel Sky delivers contactless services with robots. Image : Lorne Philpot

Take a trip with the family to the magical Tiger Canyon

May 8th 2021 at 02:30

There is a place so magical that no thesaurus has enough synonyms or concepts to appropriately describe what it is like at Tiger Canyon, a private game reserve, about 90 minutes southwest of Bloemfontein.

Created more than a decade ago by conservationist John Varty, the reserve is one of the few places in the world where tigers are conserved and bred, and the only reserve where a white tiger can be seen roaming and hunting.  It is an experience like no other and should rank at the top end of anyone’s bucket list.

Tiger Canyon

Tiger Canyon private game reserve. Picture: Hein Kaiser

“While tigers are endangered there is not enough effort globally to protect them,” says Tiger Canyon field guide Nick Kleer.

The habitat at the edge of the Karoo is near-perfect for these cats and is a close match to their natural habitat in Asia.

“Tigers don’t only occur in rainforests,” says Kleer, “there are some very arid areas where these  majestic animals occur naturally.”

He adds that the cats have adapted exceptionally well to their African environment, hunting and breeding. “After all, tigers did evolve from lions millions of years ago when African lions migrated to Asia.”

Presently there are eight tigers in the reserve, including Mischke, meaning gift of love in Russian, the only white tiger in the wild in the world.

White tigers lack the recognisable orange-hued coats. “It is the consequence of a rare recessive gene that only impacts offspring when both parents pass it on to their young,” says Kleer.

“White tigers are not albino tigers like, for example, white lions are. They still have the black vertical stripes.” On a game drive at Tiger Canyon the reserve’s highly skilled guides easily locates the tigers for viewing and experiencing a breathtaking moment with these giant predators. While we were there, we watched the mother of two young  cubs in the process of introducing them to meat.

Tiger Canyon

White tiger. Picture: Hein Kaiser

Mom ambled off and returned with a small warthog that she had stored in what was likely an aardvark burrow. “Tigers often store a  kill,” notes Kleer. In this instance mom was hiding the kill from dad, who apparently makes a habit of stealing the family lunch. Odour-wise it must have been fermenting for at least a few days.

Standing next to a coalition of cheetahs feasting on a fresh kill is one of life’s moments that feels surreal. Again, Kleer spotted a commotion in the distance and raced us toward it. What happened next was simply out of this world.

Slap bang in the middle of the veld cheetahs were feasting on a fresh kill – a small blesbok. We were invited to exit the vehicle  and slowly approach the dining cats. Greedy chunking and chewing sounds greeted us with the scent of fresh meat and the partly digested last meal of the buck.

Tiger Canyon

Cheetah feasting on it’s kill. Picture: Hein Kaiser

We literally stood half a metre from the wild cheetahs. It was a bit gory, but then again, where else in the universe could anyone expect to experience something so incredibly dramatic, and savagely beautiful.

The cheetahs are by no means tame pets. But, says Kleer, they are alright with humans. He says that it had taken around six years to make the animals accepting of a human presence near them and
he has personally spent many days communing with the cheetahs in the wild, engaging and getting to know them.

“There are only 12 gene pools of cheetah left in the world, so careful breeding to protect the species is critical. Here, at Tiger Canyon, we work closely with the Endangered Wildlife Trust and its greater efforts to  conserve our natural heritage.”

Beyond the cats, Tiger Canyon is birdwatching heaven. There are 17 species endemic to the area while visitors are also having the opportunity to see another rarity, secretary birds on the hunt.

The flatness of the southwestern Free State landscape allows for great birding and recently Cape Vultures, previously extinct in the area, have also been reintroduced.

Tiger Canyon

Bird watching. Picture: Hein Kaiser

Other wildlife includes blesbok, hartebeest, springbok, eland, kudu and at night, if you are lucky, spotting the elusive aardwolf is an absolute treat. It is a semi-arid area, but life teems between every rock and on every blade of grass.

What city-dweller could ever have guessed that we have vampire-like tick flies that drink your blood like mosquitos do?

Of course, accommodation and sating the tummy are important too, and the three-roomed lodge at Tiger Canyon is built into the side of an actual canyon. Slang probably affords the best expression and saying that it is flipping beautiful is likely still not enough.

The rooms offer a view of the dolerite rock canyon, incidentally  the same rocks found in Antarctica, and it is super quiet. Daisies bake in the sun beneath your veranda. The service is exceptional, personalised and the food delicious.

Tiger Canyon

Rooms at the Tiger Canyon private game reserve. Picture: Hein Kaiser

Try the fish wors, made on site with de-mudded barbel, pork and spice. Dine inside overlooking the canyon or at the lapa, adjacent to a splash pool perfect for hot days. In winter, the mercury can drop to -8°C while summers are hot.

After dinner, step outside and turn your gaze upward. Orion’s belt has never been this clear and our place in the universe really comes into perspective on a clear night. Also ask the guides to share their lookout point, about 500m high, overlooking South Africa’s second largest dam by volume, the Van der Kloof dam.

Perfect for a sundowner, and a Kodak moment of note. Visiting Tiger Canyon is really on another level. All-round. Not enough can be written or said about the incredible conservation efforts of the reserve, the emotion and wonder that accompanies close encounters with the big cats or the quality of the accommodation, hospitality and meals. In one word…. Wow!

What to do this Mother’s Day

May 7th 2021 at 12:30

Don’t know what to do on Mother’s Day to spoil the special lady in your life? She’ll love a road trip to one of these fun destinations.

Nirox Sculpture Park, Krugersdorp

An artist’s paradise coupled with a picnic spot, Nirox Sculpture Park has well-manicured and cultivated lawns, arbores, turfs, streams and marshes.

It is placed on the grassy banks of the Blaauwbankspruit River adjoining the Kkatlhamphi Private Nature Reserve and inhabited by assorted local game and birdlife.

The park is home to many implanted artistic sculptures and installations that give plenty of great selfie opportunities. It’s a great place to spend a day enjoying mother nature.

Open to the public on weekends and public holidays. Hours: 10am-4pm, or by special arrangements during the week

Maropeng Cradle of Humankind

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Just 21 minutes drive from Nirox is Maropeng, also known as the Cradle of Humankind. This award-winning exhibition, focusing is a lesson on the origins of mankind, giving numerous experiences and lessons on the origins of humans over millions of years.

From the creation of planets to the world we live in, it’s a lesson in fossils such as Homo naledi to the tools mankind used in the Stone Age and real-life views of what life would have looked like.

Operating times: Days: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays Maropeng 9am-4.30pm (final tour at 4.20pm)

The Upside Down House

Located at Hartbeespoort Dam, a fascinating one-of-a-kind house that has to be experienced to be understood. Even then it will be slightly confusing, a mind-blowing house built upside down.

All the furniture inside, which would usually be on the floor, is upside down, making for amazing photo opportunities and popular with all members of the family. This is one of 10 upside-down houses all over the world.

It’s said that those who visit the house tend to stay for a few hours trying to understand the mind-defying illusion that it is.

Contacts : Address: R3 Hartbeeshoek Road, Hartbeespoort, 0216, Opens 9am Thu · More hours Phone: 063 100 9858

Howick Falls

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A place through which the Umngeni River flows north of Pietermaritzburg and to the east of the N3 is Howick Falls gorge walk, Start at the bottom of Harvard Street in Howick, KZN.

The falls are a popular tourist attraction simply because they showcase the true beauty of mother nature in South Africa. Places to stay are close by in the Howick area with an array of B&Bs, apartments and villas to rent.

Kruger National Park: Lion Sands Tinga Lodge

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If you’re looking for something different, this is the perfect place for you. Nestled along the banks of the perennial Sabie River, with breathtaking views which are all the better appreciated from the comfort of African contemporary luxury.

Exclusive accommodation, sensory comforts, intuitive service, good food and fine South African wine come together to promise a safari in style; a Lion Sands Original.

Contact: Address: Sabi Sand Reserve, Kruger National Park, 1260 Phone: 011 880 9992

The Botshabelo Mission Station and Historical Village

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A culturally enjoyable and educational experience in the Mpumulanga province, Middleburg village is popular for lessons in South African history and visually arresting historic buildings.

Botshabelo Mission Station is placed within a small game reserve, with an open-air museum Ndebele village with arts and crafts stores. The Ndebele tribe are known for their bright and colourful beadwork, murals and jewellery.

Enquiries can be made: 27 (0) 13 243 2253/4

Cherry Glamping

Fancy a few nights of glamping?  Cherry Glamping at Elgin in the Western Cape is just the spot.

Elgin is a large, area of land surrounded by mountains in the Overberg region of South Africa about 70 km southeast of Cape Town.

The deluxe tents are 12 fully-furnished enclosures, outfitted with a kitchen, communal lounge area, fireplace and dining table. For those who enjoy a good steak, there’s a braai area with a lapa.

Contacts: Address: N2 N2 Elgin, 7180, Phone: 082 788 9837

Compiled by Thami Kwazi 

Secluded destinations to escape to in South Africa

May 7th 2021 at 09:32

People are still cautious when it comes to travelling and when they do, they often opt for more secluded destinations with minimal human contact and maximum contact with nature.

These cabins – whether it’s a traditional log cabin, a luxury cabin or a gyspy vargo you’re after – are the ideal escape from your home that has become your office and the answer to that much-needed digital detox.

Big Pod

Pretoria, Gauteng

Farmstays at Rosemary Hill is the latest craze, with Big Pod being the ideal family cabin sleeping up to six people. What originally started with one A-frame cabin at the beginning of lockdown has evolved into a range of comfy cabins perfect for a break from the city. These trendy cabins are a walking distance from the farm’s coffee shop and include breakfast.

Rate: R3,200 a night

 Rosemary Hill's Big Pod

The loft area at Rosemary Hill’s Big Pod.

The Sunset Dome

Tulbagh, Western Cape

La Bruyere farm’s 2-sleeper Sunset Dome allows you to experience some of the best sunsets in the valley. The self-catering cabin comes with electricity and its hot shower and bath both overlook the dam. There’s also a fruit and vegetable garden for guests to indulge in.

Rate: From R1,900 a night

Sunset Dome

The Sunset Dome’s bath views are simply out of this world.

Kloofsig

Memel, Free State

Although still in the planning phase of the actual cabins, Kloofsig’s farm cottage is cabin enough if you’re keen on exploring what the Witkoppe mountain range has to offer. Here a true off the grid experience is a given. The 8-sleeper cottage’s wood-fired hot tub, sandstone braai and traditional donkey boiler are just some of its unique features.

Rate: From R2,500 a night

Kloofsig

The Kloofsig hot tub is one for the books.

Treedom Villas & Vardos

Wilderness, Western Cape

In addition to its popular 4-sleeper villa, two of Treedom’s five gypsy vardos have now been completed. These 2-sleeper, boho-style vardos come with outdoor barrel bubble baths, fire pits and a forest greenhouse for lounging and dining. The Owl Vardo also has an outdoor rocking bed, while the Gypsy Vardo comes with an Instagrammable moon swing.

Rate: From R1,700 a night

Treedom Villas

Treedom Villas and Vardos celebrates the importance of moms say owners Debbie and Marc.

Antbear Eco Lodge

Estcourt, Kwazulu-Natal

Become one with nature in Antbear Eco Lodge’s luxury cave. With a wooden, cabin-like deck overlooking the Drakensberg, this cave with actual rock art on the walls effortlessly brings nature indoors. It’s an eco-experience like no other and includes dinner, bed and breakfast.

Rate: From R2,100 per person per night

Antbear's Cave

Antbear’s cave deck boasts magnificent views.

Buff and Fellow

George, Western Cape

Overlooking the beautiful Outeniqua Mountains, Buff and Fellow’s eco-friendly cabins, pods and coconuts are the perfect escape. Guests get to enjoy both nature and farm life with free-to-use Indian canoes, a help-yourself vegetable garden, bonfire bonding, fresh eggs from the working farm’s Cluck and Fellow chicken coop and more.

Rate: From R1,250 a night

Hot tub views Buff and Fellow

Hot tub views at Buff and Fellow.

AfriCamps

Hoedspruit, Limpopo

Dotted around a dam popular for catch-and-release fishing, AfriCamps’ Hoedspruit glamping tents can easily go for cabins as they come with all the bells and whistles. One of the unique selling points is their outdoor wood-fired hot tubs and at Hoedspruit camp you get to book a guided game drive to the Kruger National Park or other nearby reserves.

Price: From R1,340 per couple sharing per night

Escape at Africamps Hoedspruit

Total serenity at Africamps Hoedspruit.

Pinetree Cabin at Protea Farm

Montagu, Western Cape

Protea Farm’s Pinetree cabin is the perfect summer hideout, but also a romantic winter escape. Don’t miss out on the Montagu Tractor Trip, boasting the most spectacular views from 1,500m above sea level, or the potjiekos served on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Rate: From R700 per couple sharing per night

The Pintree Cabib

The Pinetree Cabin boasts the most spectacular snow experiences in winter.

MTO Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail

Nature’s Valley, Western Cape

The Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail’s rustic cabins are perfect for both serious hikers and slackpackers. These humble overnight cabins all boast magnificent views worth working for and include bunk beds for up to 24 people. They come with basic cooking supplies, braai facilities, showers, toilets and hot water shower buckets.

Rate: From R200 per person per day

Witklipfontein Eco Lodge

Vredefort Dome, Free State

Located on one of the original farms that form part of the Vredefort Dome, a Unesco World Heritage Site, Witklipfontein’s 10-sleeper self-catering unit boasts beautiful scenery, game, art, fresh farm eggs and produce from the permaculture vegetable garden. A green roof, rammed earth and sandbag walls bring you back to earth instantly.

Rate: From R6,800 for 6 people

Reading corners are at the order of the day at Witklipfontein

Reading corners are at the order of the day at Witklipfontein.

 

Confirmed: Australian borders will be closed until 2022

May 7th 2021 at 05:36

Scores of people across the world have been eagerly awaiting the reopening of Australia’s borders so they could again visit visit family, friends or loved whom they have been separated from for well over a year.

Australia’s borders have been closed since March 2020.  The latest news that the country’s border closure will continue into 2022, comes as a blow to travellers who were hoping that they would be able to travel to Australia from October this year.

BORDER OPENING: AUSTRALIA TO EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION

The Telegraph reports that Australia’s Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told Australian media that the country would not be reopening its borders to most international visitors until next year at the very earliest, and even then, the country would be very cautious regarding who will be permitted through its borders.

“We won’t be seeing borders being flung open at the start of next year with great ease,” Birmingham was quoted as saying in The Telegraph.

DELAYED VACCINATION DRIVE

The Australian government previously indicated that the country’s borders were set to reopen in October 2021, but delays in Australia’s vaccination programme — compounded by the unknown efficacy of vaccines against the new COVID-19 variants prevalent in several countries — have forced Australia to push back the reopening of its borders.

“Uncertainties exist — not just in the speed of the vaccine rollout, but also the extent of its effectiveness to different variants of COVID, the duration of its longevity and effectiveness,” Birmingham said.

‘TRAVEL BUBBLES’

When Australia finally does allow foreign visitors to travel to its shores, the country will begin by allowing entry to key states which have had managed to contain the spread of COVID-19 in their countries.

The Telegraph reports that so-called “travel bubbles” are likely to be implemented between Australia and select Asian nations, such as Japan, Singapore and Vietnam, though there is no confirmed date for the commencement of these arrangements.

Struggling to get a refund for your Mango Airlines ticket? Try this

May 6th 2021 at 07:56

With on and off again announcements since late April 2021, and domestic flight schedules only loaded until 8 May 2021, many are wondering about the future of Mango Airlines in South Africa.

In April, Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) suspended the carrier’s flights due to non-payment from the government (South African Airways and The Department of Public Enterprises).

Passengers struggling to get refund from Mango

At the time, some passengers managed to find alternative means to reach their destinations, others found themselves stranded at airports across the country, with their hopes pinned on the airline.

Now, many passengers are taking to social media to speak about their frustrations with getting a refund.

“Kindly issue a refund as soon as possible as I don’t want to use your services ever again after this experience,” one social media user wrote in the comments of their official Twitter account. Mango went on to reassure passengers via Twitter that they will continue to operate.

Media and Consumer Alert,

We are excited to inform you that despite a lot of speculation and uncertainty during this past week, Mango Airlines continues to operate as normal tomorrow, Saturday 1 May 2021 and beyond, except for Zanzibar at this stage. (1/2)

— Mango Airlines (@FlyMangoSA) April 30, 2021

How to get a possible refund from Mango airlines

Tourism Update spoke to the CEO of the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (Asata), Otto de Vries who recommended that those who had been affected by non-delivery of services should apply to their credit card companies for chargebacks at the earliest possible time.

He also cautioned agents and passengers to proceed carefully in relation to new bookings, saying that Mango had made a clear announcement that it was in financial difficulties and may move into business rescue in the near future.

The uncertainty surrounding Mango’s status

Meanwhile, the CEO of the regional carrier, Airlink, Rodger Foster, agreed with this view, saying that despite Mango having restarted its domestic operations this week, they suspect that the already nervous public will have been spooked by the uncertainty surrounding Mango’s status and its ability to fly people where they want to go and when.

“As Airlink – which competes with Mango on the main domestic routes – continues to demonstrate, customers appreciate reliability and predictability along with affordability,” he added. 

Last year, Airlink told Travel News that it was looking at investing in Mango.  When asked if this was still on the cards, Foster said while Airlink had since moved in different directions it was always open to options that would consolidate airline operations for the purpose of long-term viability and sustainability. 

An unstable industry

“The industry is currently unsustainable. In such a crisis one would expect to see some carriers exit and also some consolidation in the industry, but as long as the market is skewed by governments recapitalising entities which repeatedly fall over, we will never achieve true sustainability.  It would be far better if governments set and enforced the rules without being a competitor at the same time.  This would allow market forces to compete, promote efficiencies and fill any gaps that may exist,” said Foster. 

Competing head-to-head

What’s more, Independent Business Rescue Practitioner and Aviation Economist, Dr Joachim Vermooten said it was odd that Mango had made the decision to suspend a lucrative regional monopoly like its Zanzibar route but to retain all of its domestic routes in a highly competitive local aviation industry.

This essentially means that Mango and South Africa Airways (SAA) will be competing head-to-head on many of the same routes in the domestic aviation market.

“Just before SAA entered business rescue, it was understood that Mango would take over SAA’s domestic routes at which time Mango would increase the scope of its activities to 14 aircraft, which was significantly more than the four aircraft on which it was launched,” Vermooten told the publication. “However, SAA’s business rescue plan stated that SAA’s restart would include a broad scope of activities including inter-continental, domestic and African regional flights as well as small narrow-bodies, also referred to as cross-over aircraft, of the nature operated by Airlink and Cemair.

“This would imply that two competing state-owned domestic airlines, backed by an unlimited amount of government funding would be competing head-to-head on many of the same routes in the domestic aviation market, which is in any case overtraded due to low demand post COVID19. Surely, this would not be a sustainable way for the government to approach the current situation,” he added.

#LiveYourWild with SANParks this May at selected national parks

May 5th 2021 at 15:21

If you need to get out of the house, keep reading. South African National Parks (SANParks) is offering a discount at selected national parks during May.

SANParks is currently offering a 40% discount on new online bookings for stays between Monday, 3 May and Tuesday, 11 May 2021 at a selection of parks and camps around South Africa

SANParks 40% discount offer

The discount only applies to the cost of the specified accommodation and camping. No discounts will be offered on conservation fees, Wild Card purchases, activities, meals, etc.

SANParks said in a statement the 1% Community Fund charge will be calculated on the discounted reservation cost. Get 40% off when you book at the following parks and camps:

  • Addo Elephant National Park:
    • Narina Rest Camp
    • Alexandria (Umsitsi Cottage and Langebos Huts)
    • Spekbook Rest Camp
  • Agulhas National Park
  • Augrabies Falls National Park
  • Bontebok National Park
  • Camdeboo National Park
  • Garden Route National Park:
    • Storms River Mouth Rest Camp
    • Wilderness Ebb-and-Flow Rest Camp
    • Knysna
    • Nature’s Valley
  • Golden Gate Highlands National Park:
    • Glen Reenen Rest Camp
  • Kruger National Park:
    • Mopani Rest Camp
    • Pretoriuskop Rest Camp
  • Marakele National Park:
    • Bontle Rest Camp
  • West Coast National Park

The reservations will be subject to the terms and conditions of the SANParks online booking system and reservations made through any other channel are not entitled to the discounts. The discounts are not available to the Travel Trade.

Now read: Portugal extends travel ban on South African nationals

Portugal extends travel ban on South African nationals

May 4th 2021 at 12:56

Don’t start planning summer holidays on the sunny beaches of the Algarve just yet…Portugal has extended entry restrictions and flight bans aimed at deterring non-essential travel from countries with high coronavirus infection rates until 16 May.

While several countries in Europe are beginning to lift COVID-19 restrictions ahead of the peak summer tourism, Portugal has extended its entry ban on countries with high infection rates.

According to IOL, the restrictions have been raised against nations, including South Africa, Brazil and India, which is a new addition to the list. 

IMPACT OF HIGH COVID-19 INFECTION RATES

Nationals from countries where 500 or more infections per 100 000 people have been reported over a 14-day period, including South Africa and other European nations, such as France and the Netherlands, are barred from entering Portugal unless they have a valid reason, such as for work purposes or seeking healthcare. These visitors are required to quarantine for 14 days.

GRADUAL REOPENING

Portugal’s land border with Spain reopened on Saturday 1 May after more than three months of restrictions and border checks.

People from countries where the infection rate is 150 or more COVID-19 cases per 100 000 inhabitants, including Spain and Germany may now travel to Portugal by air, for essential purposes.

These visitors are required to present a negative COVID-19 test result on arrival (taken within 72 hours of departure). Those without this test result will be forced to take a test on arrival and must wait for the result before they will be granted entry.

EASING OF RESTRICTIONS

The extension of Portugal’s air travel restrictions on Saturday 1 May comes at a time when the country moves to the final phase of a gradual easing of its lockdown regulations which were imposed in January 2021.

Schools, restaurants and cafes, shopping malls, museums and other non-essential services have now reopened, but are operating under strict regulations. 

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