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Forget Hollywood – the real stars are in South Africa.

South Africa is fast gaining the reputation as one of the best stargazing travel destinations in the world. And the reason for this is quite simple: according to astronomer Vincent Nettmann, there are two thirds more stars in the Southern than in the Northern Hemisphere.

Milky Way, galaxy

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, as seen from Earth.
Image from http://bit.ly/1Pc594K

It’s more than that. South Africa is a great self-drive destination for anyone because there’s so much else to discover during daylight hours. Our people are friendly and welcoming and our country’s natural beauty and variety of plants and animals are truly astounding.

For professional and hobbyist astronomers in particular, aside from two thirds more stars than our northern neighbours, South Africa boasts a host of spots ideal for stargazing – spots close enough to creature comforts, but far away from artificial light. The impressive Drakensberg region epitomises the ideal stargazing location…

The Northern and Central Drakensberg area has some of the most beautiful scenery that can be imagined. The area falls into four valleys, beginning with the Champagne Valley in the Central Berg, through the Cathedral Peak and Didima Valley, then the Royal Natal National Park and Amphitheatre Valley, and finally the Middledale Pass Valley in the Northern Berg. Each of the four valleys has its own kind of beauty and character; all have magnificent mountain views. And, at night time, all have unsurpassed views of the sprawling African sky – and its inhabitants.

You don’t need to know your Alpha Centauri from Uranus to enjoy the sparkles above. Anyone can enjoy the sight of millions of planets, moons, stars and galaxies slowly rotating in an endlessly deep, dark sky. But we’ve got a few tips to help you along.

Mentalfloss.com suggest investing in a red flashlight:

If you need some kind of light so you don’t fumble in the darkness […], get a flashlight with a red filter. “Red light does not have the same effect on eyes as does blue or white light,” says Kendall [William Paterson University astronomer Jason Kendall]. You can create your own red flashlight by covering your cell phone with red cellophane or paper.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows hundreds of thousands of stars crowded into the swirling core of our spiral Milky Way galaxy. Image from http://bit.ly/25tAzI3

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows hundreds of thousands of stars crowded into the swirling core of our spiral Milky Way galaxy.
Image from http://bit.ly/25tAzI3

They also have a handy hint for differentiating between planets and stars. “If a bright light in the sky sparkles, it’s a star. If it doesn’t and appears stationary, it’s a planet. If an object is much brighter than those around it, there’s a good chance it’s a planet.”

Stargazing is time and season specific (meaning that you won’t see the same star in the same spot, from the same spot, every night of the year). But South African summer evenings bring the possibility of spotting Jupiter and the Galilean moons– some of the biggest astral bodies in our solar system.

And don’t forget about technology. Aside from recording your favourite TV show it offers a number of ways to make life more interesting and fun. Like apps designed to improve your stargazing experience! We like Google’s Sky Map. It’s like Google Maps, but for the stars. And we also like the NASA App, available for iOS and Android.

But the biggest stargazing tip we can give you, is to let us work with you to organise your self-drive trip to the Drakensberg. We’ll take the worry out of all the arrangements so the only thing you need to look out for, are the stars.

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Get close to South Africa’s royalty – the King of the jungle.

Panthera leo – the lion. Not only is this awesome beast the king of the jungle, it is the king of the savanna and the African grasslands. And one of the best ways to meet this magnificent monarch is to take a self-drive safari through the Kruger National Park.

Kruger Park is South Africa’s most exciting African safari destination. It covers an area close to the size of Wales and is a haven of wildlife, with 147 mammal species including the Big Five: leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant and the king – lion.

With a well-developed network of roads and many rest camps, some of which offer accommodation in air conditioned rondavels and cottages, Kruger Park is the place to go for unbelievable animal encounters.

And while you are guaranteed to spot a variety of wildlife during your self-drive trip, many camps offer guided safaris – and even walking safaris. It was during one such walking safari with experienced guides Irving and Promise that traveler and blogger Scott Ramsay got up close and personal with an adult lion male

Lion, Kruger National Park

The king of the jungle is a sophisticated killing machine.
Image from http://bit.ly/1OXXSQH

Scott tells his lion tail – sorry, tale – in his blog post Kruger National park – Lion encounter on foot!

At 5:30am, we had driven from the camp to an area where Irving thought there may be lots of wildlife. Well, the first two hours we saw very little, besides some wildebeest. So we stopped for a snack on top of a koppie, and simply sat and took in the view. In the distance, we saw three bull elephants feeding.

Then to the left, Irving spotted through his binoculars a massive black-maned lion ambling through the woodland. “Great!” Irving said, as if he’d won the jackpot. “Let’s head towards the ellies, and see if we can find that lion.”

This might seem like a crazy thing to do – walking towards a large, powerful, apex predator. Don’t try this at home, kids. And never try this in any game reserve on your own. Luckily the rangers and guides of the Kruger are among the best in the world and know what they are doing. So, if you ever go walking in the wild with a guide in the Kruger, be sure to follow their instructions to the letter. Not only are you bound to experience some incredible animal encounters, but you’ll also make it back home to convince your friends that you’re telling the truth!

The goal, as Irving explained, his eyes intensely focused on the bush around us, “is to get within almost touching distance of the animal, and leave again, without it knowing we are there.”

Now, if you’re already feeling a little nervous just reading this, can you imagine what it must have been like being there?

We first came across the bull elephants, who heard us, but fortunately couldn’t smell us, as the wind was in our favour. They moved off a little. “They probably heard us walking,” Irving explained, “but because there’s a bit of wind rustling the branches and leaves, they’re not sure exactly. That’s good for us with the lion…we can walk close to him, and he may not hear us.”

We walked for several hundred metres, but couldn’t see any lion…and were about to turn around and go back to the vehicle, when Irving dropped to his knees. “Get down, get down!” he instructed under his breath. “The lion…it’s just over there!”

Lion, Kruger

Always assume that a lion is alert!
Image from http://bit.ly/20QomKf

The party had made it close to where the lion was napping under an acacia tree. With his adrenaline at an all-time high, Scott writes that they managed to creep to a bush even closer to the lion without waking him. He took a few photographs of the majestic beast, but then realised that they were in a situation best summed up in two words: what now?

After what seemed like minutes, but was probably only a few seconds, Irving imitated the distant call of a lion roaring…”woooaaa”…”woooaaa”…and immediately, our snoozing, very large lion popped his head up, wondering what on earth was going on. He looked at us, his one eye blind, his mane huge as anything, a bloody scar on his face from a recent tussle…and I thought, “He’s one mean-looking, animal-eating machine.”

I took a few photos, and the stare-down continued, as he looked at us sleepily for several seconds. Then he must have realised that he had been made a fool of, and trotted off away from us, perhaps slightly embarrassed. No charge, no aggression…the relief among the group was palpable.

While extra-special encounters like this do happen in the Kruger, it’s not a daily occurrence. But you’ll definitely notch up more than your fair share of animal sightings – even from your vehicle while driving the well-kept roads of the Kruger. Sightings like that of this king looking for his entourage:

Have we awakened your adventurer within? Then visit www.goselfdrive.co.za today and we’ll help you to realize your dream of meeting Africa’s royalty – the mighty lion.

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Start planning NOW for South Africa’s whale season.

“And they are back! Our first Humpback whales graced us with their presence this morning.”

WhaleThis was tweeted by Knysna’s Ocean Odyssey on 20 April 2016. Ocean Odyssey is a Blue Flag holder and permitted to go as close as 50m from whales. Follow them @Knysnawhales on Twitter (and follow as @go_selfdrive).

The South African whale watching season traditionally takes place between June and October, but few people know that whales cavort along our coast from as early as April – as is evident from Ocean Odyssey’s tweet. “And this means that the Southern Rights should also be on their way,” said Ocean Odyssey owner Evelyn Pepler.


The whale crier sounds his kelp horn when he spots the whales...

The whale crier sounds his kelp horn when he spots the whales…

Hermanus is strongly associated with whales and hosts the Two Oceans Hermanus Whale Festival early in October each year. Despite touting the reputation as the best land-based whale watching destination in the world, you can get real close to these aquatic titans by boat or even sea kayak. Hermanus is also home to the world’s only – and by now legendary – whale crier. He sounds his kelp horn when spotting whales, alerting residents and tourists to the fact that their gigantic visitors have arrived.

Retaining its heritage as a quaint fishing village, Hermanus has become a cosmopolitan, tourist friendly town with long, white beaches, a variety of craft markets, art galleries and trendy restaurants and bars. The nearby Hemel and Aarde valley hosts a number of wine farms that welcome aficionados to visit the vineyards and enjoy a wine tasting.

But the whales travel eastwards along the South African coast from Hermanus. While the national highway doesn’t quite hug the coastline, there are a number of towns and villages along this route that do. These all offer equally fantastic land-based whale watching opportunities as well as comfortable accommodation, great restaurants and a variety of activities to enjoy in between spotting whales.

This highway takes you into the world renowned Garden Route. This botanically beautiful region is lush with splendorous, flowering shrubs and dense indigenous forests. This natural playground offers a veritable smorgasbord of activities of both the adventurous and luxurious varieties, and boasts a number of world class golf courses.

The Garden Route offers spectacular land-based whale watching opportunities.

The Garden Route offers spectacular land-based whale watching opportunities.

The towns of Mossel Bay, Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay offer some of the best land-based whale watching experiences along this section of coastline. And of course Knysna is home to Ocean Odyssey, which is licensed to take passengers as close as possible to these gentle giants from the deep. But you are bound to see a variety of ocean dwellers, from dolphins and seals to a host of pelagic birds.

We can arrange your self-drive vacation to Hermanus and the Garden Route during South Africa’s whale watching season. We’ll work with you and suggest those activities, restaurants and accommodation establishments that will make your dream whale watching road trip a reality. Visit www.goselfdrive.co.za to find out more.

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Did you know that South Africa..?

South Africa has long been a favourite destination of travellers from all over the world. With beautiful, safe beaches, friendly people, world class shopping destinations, adrenalin pumping sporting and adventure options, fantastic infrastructure and, of course, its incredible wildlife and botanical biodiversity, the home of the Rainbow Nation offers something for everyone.

And we firmly believe that the best way to explore all of this wonder is by taking a self-drive vacation through beautiful South Africa. We work with you to customise your tour to include sites, activities and accommodation options to suit your style and pocket.

There are however a number of interesting facts about South Africa that not everyone is aware of. The Travelling Chilli has compiled a list of 13 Facts most people don’t know about South Africa. In no particular order, these are some of our favourites:

“The highest commercial bridge bungee jump in the world can be done in South Africa. In the heart of the Garden Route, the bridge is situated 216 metres above the Bloukrans river.”

Take the plunge at the Bloukrans bridge bungee jump.

Take the plunge at the Bloukrans bridge bungee jump.

One of our most popular routes is a trip along South Africa’s stunning Garden Route. The Garden Route is often called Eden because of its lush splendour, its mysterious forests, dramatic coastline, tranquil lakes and rugged mountains. This natural playground offers countless adventure activities, but the world’s highest bungee jump at Bloukrans is undoubtedly at the top of adrenalin junkies’ bucket lists.

“Meandering through various wine-growing areas, Route 62 is the longest wine route in the world. It is a beautiful and scenic route, passing through areas such as the Klein Karoo, Robertson, Wellington, Calitzberg (sic), Worcester and Oudtshoorn.”

Route 62 is a stunning alternative to the national highway between Cape Town and the Garden Route.

Route 62 is a stunning alternative to the national highway between Cape Town and the Garden Route.

Route 62 is an alternative option for traveling between Cape Town and the Eastern Cape. Not quite as busy as the national highway, this route is studded with quaint villages, inviting roadside stops and is an Instagrammer’s dream with some amazing scenery waiting to be photographed.

“South Africa is home to the second highest waterfall in the world, the Tugela Falls. The total drop is 948 metres (3110 ft.) in five consecutive leaps, of which the longest uninterrupted leap is 411 metres (1350 ft.). The Tugela falls are part of the Royal Natal National Park in the Drakensberg mountains.”

The Northern and Central Drakensberg area has some of the most beautiful scenery that can be imagined. The area falls into four valleys, beginning with the Champagne Valley in the Central Berg, through the Cathedral Peak and Didima Valley, then the Royal Natal National Park and Amphitheatre Valley, and finally the Middledale Pass Valley in the Northern Berg. Each of the four valleys has its own kind of beauty and character; all have magnificent mountain views. Aside from the impressive Tugela Falls, you can also discover ancient rock art on your Drakensberg road trip – which we’ll be happy to help you plan.

“The world’s oldest and largest one day ultra-marathon is run in the province of Kwazulu Natal (sic) over a distance of 89 km between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.”

Since it was first run in 1921, the Comrades Marathon has become on the world’s favourite races. Planning on taking on the Comrades? Then why not spoil yourself with a relaxing road trip through KwaZulu-Natal before or after the race? Contact us to find out how.


Visit the African penguins at Boulders beach near Cape Town.

Visit the African penguins at Boulders beach near Cape Town.

Cape Town, South Africa’s Mother City, is also one of the world’s favourite cities. A cosmopolitan melting pot, vibey Cape Town has something for everyone – including penguins!

“Where in the world can you share a warm and sunny beach with a colony of penguins? Indeed, in South Africa. Various breeding colonies of African penguins, also known as the Jackass penguin, can be found along the western coast of South Africa. The most famous place to visit these birds is [at] Boulders beach, close to Simon’s town, south of Cape Town.”

These are only a few of the interesting did-you-know’s on the list. Read the Travelling Chilli’s blog here for their full list. If you knew these interesting facts or not, South Africa is bound to surprise you. So let us organise your dream road trip, and let South Africa astound you.

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Road tripping – it’s for the birds!

South Africa is quickly becoming one of the world’s top birding hotspots. Birders from across the globe visit the country to view the astonishing variety of typically African birds, migrants and those found only in South Africa – our endemics.

“Of the 850 or so species that have been recorded in South Africa, about 725, or 85%, are resident or annual visitors, and about 50 of these are endemic or near endemic to South Africa, and can only be seen in the country.” (Source)

The European Bee-eater winters in Africa.

The European Bee-eater winters in Africa.

And of course South Africa also hosts a variety of African, Arctic, European, Central Asian and Chinese migratory birds, as well as visitors from Antarctica. These migrants wing their way to SA during various seasons, which means that every season in South Africa is birding season.

Spring not only denotes new beginnings in the floral kingdom, but the start of the resident species’ breeding season. Northern African breeding migrants also begin to arrive. As spring reaches its end, European and other non-breeding migrants arrive to enjoy the South African summer. The migrants start to head back home during the autumn, and winter is arguably the best time for outstanding endemic birding in the northern areas, as well as pelagic trips along the colder coastline.

While excellent bird watching may be enjoyed across most of South Africa, certain areas deserve to be mentioned.

The Southern Red Bishop is a member of the weaver family and is common to South Africa's wetlands.

The Southern Red Bishop is a member of the weaver family and is common to South Africa’s wetlands.

The beautiful Garden Route with its lush indigenous forests offers adrenaline junkies an array of adventure activities. But, as part of the Garden Route National Park and, more specifically, the Knysna Lakes Section, the area offers some of the best wader watching in the country.

The Western Cape surrounding Cape Town is home to a unique floral kingdom known as the Cape Floral Kingdom, or Cape fynbos. This distinctive flora hosts an incredible variety of birds and it is no surprise that this is one of the most popular birding destinations in South Africa.

KwaZulu-Natal, known for the world famous Drakensberg mountain range, is close on the heels of the Western Cape in terms of birding popularity. The subtropical climate and lush greenery is especially abundant in exceptionally beautiful bird species.

The Martial Eagle is one of the Kruger National Park's Big Three Raptors.

The Martial Eagle is one of the Kruger National Park’s Big Three Raptors.

The Kruger National Park in South Africa’s north-eastern Lowveld region is well known for its astonishing variety of South African wildlife. Not only the ideal destination for a self-drive safari, the park holds large populations of typical game birds as well as awe-inspiring raptor species endemic to this area.

But why limit yourself to watching the waders in the west or recording the raptors to the northeast? During a custom designed road trip of South Africa’s birding hotspots, you’re sure to experience the birding trip of a lifetime. So don’t plan your trip on a wing and a prayer, let us be the wind beneath your wings and assist you in organizing a tremendous twitching trip.

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Explore South Africa’s incredible botanical biodiversity

If you are an eager botanical beaver, South Africa should be at the top of your list of places to visit. South Africa’s unique climate, topography and prevailing winds combine to create an incredible array of plant species.

In fact, as the only country in the world containing a full floral kingdom, South Africa boasts the third highest level of biodiversity in the world!

According to www.southafrica.info’s article Two oceans & biodiversity, “Some 18 000 species of vascular plants (plants with vessels for bearing sap) occur within South Africa’s boundaries, of which 80% occur nowhere else.” And you can see them all on your own road trip through South Africa.

Gladiolus alatus is one of the beautiful flowering members of Cape fynbos.

Gladiolus alatus is one of the beautiful flowering members of Cape fynbos.

The southwestern corner of South Africa is not only the home of our Mother City, Cape Town, but also the Cape Floral Kingdom or Cape fynbos. This unique group of plants accounts for 80% of the plant species in its endemic area, with over 9000 species of fynbos occurring between South Africa’s western- and south-eastern coasts.

The indigenous forests of Tsitsikamma hold many mysteries...

The indigenous forests of Tsitsikamma hold many mysteries…

The south-eastern coastline is better known as the Garden Route due to the lush, flowering shrubs and indigenous, coastal forests that cloak the rugged coastline to Tsitsikamma in the east. The country’s eastern escarpment boasts a selection of afro-montane forests and grasslands, while the semi-arid interior of the Karoo is home to an awesome spectrum of succulent plants. South Africa hosts a third of the world’s succulent species, many of which have a dazzling, but short, flowering season. The northern Lowveld area, with its grasslands and broad-leafed forests, supports an incredible wildlife population and is also home to South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

The Western Cape’s spectacular flowering season occurs in the months of spring (August/September). And the best way to view South Africa’s incredible botanical biodiversity is by driving through it. So if you still believe in flower power, are a student of botany, have a green thumb or just enjoy looking at pretty plants, contact us today to start arranging your self-drive tour of South Africa’s rich floral kingdom.

Information from www.southafrica.info. Read the full article here.

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Add your personal adventure to your Expedition Africa experience

ExAfAre you looking for an adventure to get the adrenaline pumping before starting your Expedition Africa race? Or would you prefer a relaxing road trip to unwind after your race? Whichever you prefer, Go Self-Drive can make it happen.

South Africa’s beautiful Garden Route has been revealed to be the location for the 2016 Expedition Africa Adventure Race. Not only is this stunning area ideal for a race of this kind, but it’s arguably the most scenic South African region to explore before or after your race.

If you prefer to get the blood rushing before the race (or to keep it rushing after your race), or if you prefer to relax after the race (or to chill before the starting gun goes off), this diverse area has a variety of sporting and leisure activities on offer. And we work with you – finding out what you enjoy and what your specific needs are – to suggest and, should you need us to, even book activities along the route.

These activities range from all imaginable water sports to land-based activities like bungee jumping, mountain biking and even forest scooter tours. Or take to the sky with the local paragliders. Alternatively, take it easy and go on safari, make it more personal and walk with elephants, or relax with some shopping and great sightseeing. Enjoy local fare at award winning restaurants and spoil yourself and pamper aching, post-race muscles with a luxurious spa treatment.

South Africa's Garden Route is an area of unparalleled beauty.

South Africa’s Garden Route is an area of unparalleled beauty.

Do you want to rough it to prepare for the race, or do you want to reward yourself with indulgent accommodation? We consider your needs and your budget when suggesting accommodation options. But you can rest easy that be it a self-catering establishment or a 5-star guesthouse, our partners pride themselves in providing clean, comfortable accommodation.

Aside from what you’ll do and where you’ll sleep, you’ll be travelling through one of the most beautiful natural environs in Southern Africa: the Garden Route. Stops along the route may include Wilderness, Knysna, Tsitsikamma and Oudtshoorn – with a suggested visit to Hermanus and Stellenbosch if you’re travelling to or from Cape Town. But nothing is written in stone – this is your road trip and we’ll make the necessary arrangements to suit your requirements and style.

So contact us today so that we can get to work to plan your ideal pre- or post-African Expedition Adventure Race road trip of the Garden Route. And then get back to your training schedule!

Expedition Africa Adventure Race 2016 is sure to challenge participants - while they're having fun! Image from http://bit.ly/1Trkga5

Expedition Africa Adventure Race 2016 is sure to challenge participants – while they’re having fun! Image from http://bit.ly/1Trkga5

The Expedition Africa Adventure Race is a 500km adventure race challenging mixed teams of four to navigate their way over the rough, yet beautiful terrain of the Garden Route by using a map and compass to locate various checkpoints and transitions. The race will test participants’ mountain biking, trekking, kayaking, canyoning and orienteering skills. This is one of nine international adventure racing events held throughout the year, with the winner of each receiving a free entry to the Adventure Race World Championship. This prestigious event will be held in November at an as yet undisclosed location.

Visit Expedition Africa for more information on the 2016 Expedition Africa Adventure Race. Visit www.goselfdrive.co.za for more information on our services.

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Road trips and cycle routes – a winning combination

You love road trips. And you love cycling. Let Go Self-Drive make your dreams come true by organising your tailor-made road trip to or from the Outeniqua Cycleway.

According to The Gremlin online newspaper, “[t]he Outeniqua Cycleway forms part of the proposed Garden Route Cycleway which plans to create a cycleway linking George to Plettenberg Bay and eventually Port Elizabeth”.

Knysna Forest mountain bike

This cycleway in New Zealand gives you a great idea of what the cycleway might look like in the Knysna forest. Image from http://bit.ly/1nCBkhB

Chairman of the Garden Route Cycleway Association John Stegmann wrote: “As a cycleway facility, this corridor would make it possible for all cyclists to travel in safety and with relative ease along an incredibly attractive route from the centre of George to the centres of Wilderness, Sedgefield and Knysna – extending later to Plettenberg and Keurboomsstrand (sic).”

Cycleways are not new news to cycling enthusiasts. In fact, the list of countries boasting a number of cycleways in their main centres include China, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and various routes across European countries, the United States of America, Colombia, Argentina and Chile.

The Outeniqua Cycleway, as part of the Garden Route Cycleway, will be the first official cycleway in Africa.

Aside from that little fact, what else makes this cycleway special? Well, the fact that it is located along a section of one of South Africa’s most beautiful routes: the Garden Route. But don’t just believe us when we say it’s pretty. An article on www.lonelyplanet.com says “[h]igh on the must-see lists of most visitors to South Africa is the Garden Route, and with good reason: you can’t help but be seduced by the glorious natural beauty … the range of topography, vegetation, wildlife and outdoor activities is remarkable.”

We hear you asking so what can be better than riding along a cycleway in the Garden Route? Combining your adventure with a road trip, of course! If you are flying into or out of Cape Town on your way to or from the Outeniqua Cycleway, allow us to arrange your road trip there or back.

You can relax and we'll take care of the plans... Image from http://bit.ly/1QwZ3c8

You can relax and we’ll take care of the plans… Image from http://bit.ly/1QwZ3c8

We work with a network of quality accommodation providers and are in the know regarding all the sites to see, activities to try, restaurants to munch at and the best ways to relax along the way. But we don’t just shove a generic itinerary in your hands and wish you well, oh no. We work with you to identify your interests, needs and budget, and make all car rental, accommodation and activities suggestions accordingly – if we know that you’re traveling to ride the cycleway, we know that we’ve got to suggest accommodation establishments that can safely accommodate your bike and all your gear.

We believe in keeping your options open while you’re on holiday. And, speaking of options, there are even two routes that you can take to or from Cape Town – and we know the best spots along both. You can travel on the meandering N2 and catch glimpses of the beautiful coastline, or you can take it slow along the R62 snaking through the Little Karoo.

Whatever you prefer, we can make it happen. Contact us to find out how.

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Crazy Christmas bits and bobs

If we’ve helped you to organise your very own South African road trip, or if you’re celebrating the festive season some other way, we’ve found some interesting tidbits surrounding this special time.

A bit of fun, the below has been taken from http://bit.ly/1Re0Xkt. Please click through for the full article.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????One of the most beloved Christmas traditions is decorating a Christmas tree. Most people think it’s been around, well, forever. But the Christmas tree is actually a pretty recent holiday tradition. German immigrants brought the tradition to the world in the mid-18th century, yet 100 years later it still hadn’t really caught on. In fact, it was downright controversial. The New York Times wrote an editorial against the practice in the 1880s, and when Teddy Roosevelt was president in the early 1900s, he railed against cutting down trees for Christmas, saying it was a waste of good timber. The tradition, of course, took hold regardless.

Who were the people behind the legends of Santa Claus, St Nicholas and Father Christmas? St Nicholas was a fourth-century Turkish bishop who spent his life giving money to the poor, and it’s said one of his favoured methods was secretly leaving money in people’s stockings overnight. Nicholas died on Dec. 6, and was eventually proclaimed a saint. Thus, Dec. 6 became known as St Nicholas Day. Various cultures celebrated by instructing their kids to leave out stockings or shoes the night before so “St Nick” could fill them with gifts like fruit, nuts and candy.

By the 16th century, Europeans were turning away from the idea of St Nicholas, yet they loved the gifting tradition. So St Nick morphed into a guy named “Father Christmas.” First mentioned in 15th-century writings, he was associated with drunkenness and holiday merrymaking. In the U.S., St Nick became Kris Kringle. Father Christmas and Kris Kringle generally brought gifts on Christmas, not Dec. 6. When Dutch settlers began emigrating to the U.S., they brought with them stories of St Nicholas, whom they called Sinterklaas. Soon Sinterklaas became Americanized as Santa Claus.

Whoever Santa is, he loves a South African summer Christmas!

Whoever Santa is, he loves a South African summer Christmas!

By the 20th century or so, all of the Father Christmases, Kris Kringles, etc. became “Santa Claus,” uniformly depicted as a round-bellied, white-bearded old guy who brings gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Yet some people around the world, namely Christians from European countries where St Nick was a beloved hero, still celebrate St Nicholas Day on Dec. 6 by setting out shoes or hanging stockings the night before. So while Father Christmas and Santa Claus are definitely now one and the same, St Nicholas is still a toss-up, with some people recognizing him as a distinct individual and others lumping him in with the other gift-bearing men.

Lots of people have never heard of Boxing Day. Those who have – and who know it falls after Christmas – often think it’s a day designated for boxing up any gifts you don’t want, don’t like or can’t use, and taking them back to the store. Nice as that may sound to anyone who’s used to receiving bum gifts, unfortunately it’s completely wrong.

Boxing Day is Dec. 26, and it’s a celebration that takes place only in a few countries. It started in the United Kingdom during the Middle Ages as the one day of the year when churches opened their alms boxes, or collection boxes, and doled out the money to the poor. Servants were also given this day off to celebrate Christmas with their families, having had to work for their bosses on Christmas Day. The holiday changed over time. In the years leading up to World War II, blue collar workers such as milkmen, butchers and newspaper boys used the day to run their routes and collect Christmas tips from clients.

At Go Self Drive Tours we’re sure that there are lots of unsolved mysteries surrounding some Christmas traditions. But we’re also sure that it’s a special time to be shared with family and loved ones. So merry Christmas to you all, we look forward to connecting with you in a prosperous 2016, filled with exciting South African road trips!

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Top tips for road tripping in South Africa

If you’ve made the wise decision of allowing us to work with you organising your dream road trip through our beautiful country, congratulations! And welcome to a South African Summer dream vacation.

After working with you to plan your route, your activities and your accommodation, Go Self Drive has also made sure that a comprehensive information pack awaits you when you collect your rental car. This traveling file contains an extended itinerary, directions and maps to get you from town to town and your selected accommodation establishments.

But that’s not all we offer. You will receive our General Information and Hints to help you to prepare for your road trip adventure, lists with all the activities and recommended restaurants in each area, as well as specialised information on your specific interests.

Along with these car and road specific tips, we trust that your road trip dream will become an effortless reality.

What type of car would you like to rent for your South African road trip?

What type of car would you like to rent for your South African road trip?

While we provide as much assistance as you require in choosing and booking a rental car, most rental companies have collection/drop off centres at our airports as well as in most cities and big towns. This makes it easy to collect your car from one city and return it in another. Any valid driver’s license is also valid in South Africa (subject to one or two conditions), but certain car rental companies may require that you present an international driver’s license when you collect your car.

Remember to drive on the left hand side of the road! You are also required by law to buckle up in both the front and back seats. It is required by law that children each have their seat (baby seats for the under fours and booster seats for the over fours). In other words, you can’t have four children in the back seat – even if they are small. It is also against the law to use your cell phone or other mobile devices while driving. Please keep an eye out for road signs that indicate the speed limit for the section of the road that you are traveling on, and remember that drinking while, or before driving, is strictly prohibited in South Africa.

Generally speaking, one unit of alcohol per hour should keep you within the legal limit (blood alcohol limit: less than 0.05g per 100ml, breath alcohol limit: 0.24mg per 1000ml of breath). But we believe that it is always better to designate a dry driver or to take a taxi.

Most cars use unleaded petrol, while cars older than ten years might require lead replacement octane fuel. Both petrol and diesel are available from garages (as we call our fuel stations) along national and many secondary roads. These are not self-service, the friendly attendants will fill up your tank, check your tyres, oil and water and wash your windscreen. Payment options range from cash to credit card, but please check if your card will be accepted before filling up. Most garages will have an on-site cash withdrawal machine available.

The open road awaits...

The open road awaits…

Do pay attention to all road signs, particularly those indicating the speed limit. Many signs share a universal meaning, and the meaning of many can be quite obvious to decipher. You might be inclined to laugh off a sign depicting children along the road in the middle of what seems like nowhere, but South Africa has many rural areas hidden alongside our national roads. Another truly South African road sign is that of a leaping antelope. Yes – this really does mean that you have to be on the lookout for large antelope, usually kudu, leaping into or across the road – especially at night.

Our traffic officials and police force do work very hard to make sure that all road users reach their destinations safely but, even while on holiday, you’ll have to take some responsibility. Keep to the speed limits, don’t drink and drive, and obey the rules of the road. When driving in big cities, especially at night, it is advisable to keep your windows closed and your doors locked. Don’t park in deserted, dark places, and never leave any valuables behind in your car unless they are safely locked into the boot.

But enough of that – our roads are generally in a good condition, well sign posted and easy to drive, making it a pleasure to travel through our stunning country side. So, buckle up, turn on the air conditioner, turn up the radio and enjoy your South African summer road trip!

If you’ve left things too late and have missed out on a summer self-drive through South Africa, why not speak with us about taking a road trip early in 2016?

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