Wouldn't you like a beach all to yourself?

Cape Verde – best place to go in winter

Cape Verde is a group of 10 islands off the western coast of Africa. It is situated between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator. What’s so special about Cape Verde? It’s the closest holiday destination from Europe that’s still nice and warm when Europe is in deep winter. Like now. And the other advantage? Few people have heard of it, let alone consider going there.

 

Romantic stroll  on the beach

Why Cape Verde?

If you are stuck in Europe in winter and are looking for some sun and sand, you’ll probably be looking far away to Florida or the Caribbean. These are invariably top destinations at this time of the year but they also cost a lot. Those who can’t afford it look closer to home, such as southern Spain, even Nice, North Africa such as Tunisia and Morocco or the Balearic and Canary islands.

 

The problem with Southern Europe and even Northern Africa is that they are still not warm enough for a holiday if you want to escape the cold. The temperature in the Canary Islands in mid-winter is on average 18 degrees and struggles to get above 20. In Tunisia, the average temperature in mid-winter is even lower, at 12 degrees. Who wants to spend good money to go to these places only to shiver again?

 

There is luxury in Cape Verde

 

How does Cape Verde compare? The average lowest temperature is about 20 degrees, with a maximum of 23 degrees. Not perhaps the 30 degrees you seek but this is the best you can get without crossing the ocean. Cape Verde is 6 hours flight from London.

 

The other alternative is Egypt, in particular Sharm el Sheik deep in the Red Sea but the lowest mean temperature there is 18 degrees. Cape Verde still wins! In fact, the best time to visit it is between November and May, outside of the rainy season for maximum sunshine.
The bonus of going to Cape Verde is that you’ll avoid the boozing crowd of Shagaluf and Faliraki. You can look forward to some real peace and quiet, R&R, TLC, however you want to call it. Or be active.

 

Wouldn't you like a beach all to yourself?

 

What you need to know on Cape Verde

Cape Verde has pristine beaches with the usual watersports you can expect, kite and windsurfing in particular. Or simply lie on the beach and work on your tan. You can also go island hopping, bird watching and hiking the volcanic landscape.

 

 

Nightlife is not comparable to Ibiza, but then if you wanted an active clubbing scene, you wouldn’t go the Cape Verde. Instead, you’ll find a very strong African influence in the music on the islands and the tempo of the Creole music is very popular throughout.

 

 

You might struggle with communicating with the locals however: the official language is Portguese while most people speak creole.
You’ll need a visa to gain entry in Cape Verde as this is not part of the EU anymore. But the visa is not hard to get and you can even apply for it upon arrival.
It’s also not too late to plan your trip there this winter. There are plenty of great deals to be had for last minute travel if you know where to look.
Talking of money, despite the weak pound, it will stretch far on the islands, with GBP1 worth about 126 Cape Verdean escudo (CVE).
We’ll let you discover the rest but if you want more information, try these fast facts from the BBC.

 

 

A far cry from the overcrowded beaches of Europe

The rhino will eat you

Family-friendly holidays in Africa

Choosing the perfect family holiday is a job that should be avoided by those with high blood pressure, heart conditions, pregnant women, and the elderly. If you didn’t start out with any of these conditions prior to launching into family holiday preparation, it’s likely you’ll finish with at least one of these (excluding pregnancy; booking family-friendly accommodation is not recognised as an effective aphrodisiac).

The primary source of headaches is finding a destination that suits everyone’s tastes. Dad likes luxury. Mum can’t get enough of spectacular scenery. The kids want nothing more than to wake up with a giraffe peering into their window.

Safaris

The rhino will eat you

Good news. You can have it all. African safaris may not be the first destination that springs to mind – Disneyland and Wobbies World being the more obvious ‘family’ destinations – but African safaris tailored by companies such as Wild Africa are the stuff that truly memorable family holidays are made of.

Take for example Jock Safari Lodge in Nairobi, Kenya. Children of all ages are permitted, and those over 7 can join in a game drive. Teenagers 16 and over can experience the unique thrills of a walking safari. Jock also offers special kids activities, including a kids-only safari in which the junior members of the family are kitted out in headlights and gum boots before setting out to search for 34 different types of amphibians.

Beach in Africa

If on, the other hand, sun and sand is a top priority, there are a number of great options available to you. With its famously beautiful beaches, incredible offshore islands, fantastic diving and quaintly charming waterside capital, Mozambique is guaranteed to elicit delight in even the most hard-to-please members of the family.

Sun City

Sun City in South Africa is another must do for the pleasure-seeking family. Recognised as the entertainment capital of South Africa, Sun City offers the best of both worlds. Once a decidedly dodgy destination, thanks to its reputation as an apartheid-era haven for wealthy whites, it’s now- thankfully- a multicultural mix of people, all in pursuit of the fun for which Sun City is known. Families can’t go past the fabulous Lost City entertainment complex, replete with pools, sandy beaches, water slides, and amusement park rides without making a spot.

You can contrast these man made delights with a safari through the natural wonders of Pilanesberg National Park, home to cheetahs, jackals, hyenas, white rhinos, giraffes, hippos, zebras, antelopes, and of course, the Big 5. It’s an incredibly scenic 500sq km of parkland sure to take your breath away.

Watching elephants on a safari

These are just a few of the many fantastic options available should you decide that a safari is, indeed, the perfect choice for your next family holiday.

Budding famers

5 unique ways to experience Africa

Explore the amazing continent of Africa with a volunteering holiday. During your time as a volunteer in Africa, you’ll be able to travel, check out a variety of cities as well as giving something back to valuable local causes. Here are five great ways to enjoy Africa as a volunteer.

Work in care in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a place where volunteers can make a huge difference in the lives of local people. Affected badly by famine and floods, the country needs a large amount of support and is a great location for any volunteer who wants to help.

Budding famers

Image credit: treesftf

Care volunteers work in orphanages, day care centres, playschools and care homes, helping children in their daily lives. Volunteers may also help out with games and sports activities and give informal English lessons. Whatever your role, you’ll be making a huge difference to an Ethiopian child’s life.

Work on a HIV/Aids programme in Ghana

Ghana is an exciting and vibrant place in which to spend time, with plenty to see and do for volunteers. As well as your valuable work, you’ll also be able to explore wild savannah and dense rainforests during your stay.

Volunteers on the HIV/Aids programme can learn about how these illnesses have affected local people and the stigma which still surrounds them. An emotionally demanding yet very rewarding role, you’ll be able to help individuals to stay healthy and receive the correct treatment and care.

Help a nomad project in Morocco

Morocco is a popular place for travellers, full of amazing buildings, enticing marketplaces and ancient towns. It is a pleasure to simply soak up the atmosphere in this amazing place but you can make an enormous difference by volunteering.

Main square in Essaouira, Morocco

Image credit

Volunteers on nomad projects live with families whose way of life hasn’t changed for thousands of years. Spend time caring for livestock, helping to source water supplies and sleeping under the stars – this is an unforgettable placement for any volunteer.

Help music projects in Senegal

Senegal is a former French colony and much of the same culture exists today. It’s a great place if you want to work on your language skills or explore colonial architecture in the cities.

Music plays a big part in the rich culture of Senegal, with small children taking any opportunity to play instruments in the streets. By volunteering to help with music projects, you can support local bands, learn how to play a new instrument and attend performances. This placement is a great chance to have fun while you learn.

Teach in Tanzania

This enthralling country is home to Africa’s highest mountain, largest lake and biggest wildlife reserves. It is without a doubt one of Africa’s most appealing destinations and a great way to be introduced to the culture of the continent.

Tanzania’s two official languages are English and Swahili, with strong English skills being essential to getting a good job. You could go a long way to helping children develop these skills by working as a volunteer teacher in primary and secondary schools in Africa. Teaching abroad can also give you valuable skills for a career as a teacher in England.

A voluntary placement in Africa could change your life. Think about where your skills could best be used and start planning your trip today – you never know what you might discover!

Hire a better vehicle than this

By car through Luscious Lagos

Hire a better vehicle than this

Distances across Africa are so vast that public transport is simply inadequate for getting to where you need to be. With car hire so affordable these days, you can experience the amazing diversity of a country like Nigeria which is impossible by air. It’s the ideal way of exploring destinations across Africa, such as Lagos.

Driving in Nigeria

The roads in Nigeria are surprisingly good, although the liberal use of the horn by fellow drivers can come as something of a shock to begin with. Horns are sounded when descending or climbing a hill, turning corners and approaching intersections, as well as to greet friends and acquaintances, so it can get pretty noisy.

Also be prepared to swerve or brake at a moment’s notice, especially in cities like Lagos, where the ubiquitous taxis drop off and pick up passengers anywhere and everywhere.

A bustling city

Lagos is Nigeria’s leading city and the biggest metropolis in Africa. It’s a city of contrasts if ever there was one, offering a uniquely energised experience with its busy street life, colourful markets, friendly people and delicious cuisine.

Its streets are heaving 24/7 and African rhythms beat from every corner, so if you close your eyes for a minute and just smell the omnipresent spices and listen to the street chatter and rhythmic melodies you’ll feel you’ve been transported right to the heart of the Dark Continent. In fact it’s a complete misnomer, dark only when applied to the ignorance of Victorian explorers and merchants eager to exploit its natural riches. Open your eyes again and they’ll be assailed by brilliant colours at every turn.

Get a guide

Once you get to Lagos it’s best to leave the car at the hotel and take a private chauffeur-driven tour of the city. Not only will this avoid you becoming lost in one of the dodgy neighbourhoods, but a guide is essential for getting the most out of a visit to this hectic, heaving city that seems designed to suck all visitors into its great maw and not allow them out again. It’s one of its many excitements, in fact: that excitement with a touch of danger experienced in many big cities, European ones included.

A few attractions…

There are plenty of great attractions here in the swirling rush of humanity, including the National Museum with kits cutting-edge displays on Nigeria’s eventful and often bloody history. Oba’s Palace is also a great place to visit here. It has been the king’s residence since 1630 and was actually built by the Portuguese colonists to protect the city from surrounding tribes and the forces of other European powers.

Colonial vestiges

The colonial style of many of the buildings in Lagos is a constant and salutary reminder of this country’s past and the role that rapacious European settlers took in exploiting it for their own ends. The National Museum is fittingly housed in an old British building on Awolowo Avenue close to Tafava Balewa Square. The famous Benin Bronzes that were once housed in the royal palace at Benin City are now on display here, as well as terracotta and bronze sculptures of stunning workmanship from various periods of the country’s past.

The Gunjur Coast in Gambia

10 things to see and do in Gambia

Gambia is a popular tourist destination in Africa that is surprisingly easy to miss on a map. The tiny country is just 500 kilometres in length and 50 kilometres wide and entirely surrounded by Senegal, apart from its 80-kilometre shore line. However, tourists flock to Gambia to see its incredible natural beauties – the gorgeous coast and the bustling and colourful fishing villages – and to stay in luxurious beachfront resorts. However, there’s more to Gambia than just sun and luxury. The nature reserves, such as Kiang West and River Gambia National Park, are incredible destinations, along with the historically important St James Island (a former slave station) and Jufureh, which are both peaceful and traditional. Gambia’s culture adds yet another intoxicating element into the mix. It is busy, vibrant and strong on performance and community. The welcome you get from the local people makes this country difficult to forget.

But what should you see and do on your holiday in Gambia? Below we take a look at 10 great things to see and do in Gambia.

Georgetown

Georgetown is a sleepy, faded, former administrative centre of the colonial regime and it’s a lovely place to venture for day trips. Situated on the north edge of MacCarthy Island, it has good ferry links but little infrastructure. However, there are plenty of interesting historical sites and some great bird watching opportunities, with guided tours available for visitors. These guided tours are a good option for learning more and are often very reasonably priced.

Bintang Bolong

Bintang Bolong River Trip

This huge, meandering river feeds into the Gambia River in Senegal and is lined with lush mangroves. Check out Bintang Bolong Lodge, which is an eco-friendly visitor camp made from locally sourced mangrove woods. It can house up to sixteen visitors in pretty huts that stand on stilts close to the river. From here, it’s just a step into a canoe to go fishing or bird watching. The camp also has excellent food and a friendly staff. It’s a real experience staying in the stilt huts and listening to the wildlife in the mangroves and on the river at sunset.

Abuko Nature Reserve

Abuko Nature Reserve

Abuko Nature Reserve is unusual compared to most such reserves in Africa, in that it’s easy to get to, tiny and well managed, with an incredibly rich diversity of animals and vegetation. Over 250 species of bird have been recorded in the reserve and 52 mammals call it home, including various endangered species. You will be able to see Nile crocodiles, pythons, vervet monkeys and green mambas.

Bijilo Forest Park

Bijilo Forest Park

You could also visit the Bijilo Forest Park, which is set on the coast and is extremely beautiful. It doesn’t get state funding but runs educational campaigns about the dangers of deforestation and relies on donations to survive. Guided tours are available and there are great trails through the forest, with plenty of birds and monkeys to see along the way.

The Wassu Stone Circles

The Wassu Stone Circles

These are believed to be burial sites, dating back around 1200 years. The stones vary in size with some of them being over seven feet in height and weighing several tonnes. There’s also a small and well-laid-out museum which presents several suggestions as to the circles’ possible origins and explains the history of African traditional burial rituals over the last millennium and earlier.

Markets and Souvenirs

Albert Market in Banjul

Albert Market in Banjul is packed with a wealth of fascinating stalls, selling everything imaginable, including shoes, hair extensions, fabrics and foods. Packed with flavours, colours, smells and noise, this is as much a feast for the senses as anything else. The area just beyond the main market place contains the Craft Market, which is packed with souvenirs, gifts, jewellery and knick knacks. It’s well worth keeping a couple of hours free to wander around and you’ll need to haggle to make the most of it!

Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital

Again located in Banjul, this is the main hospital in Gambia and offers tours of its complex to visitors. The tours last for two hours and are extremely interesting, with insights into research programmes, history and breakthroughs on the medical front. These tours are free but the hospital very much welcomes donations. It says much about the country’s reliance on tourist income that the hospital has to do these types of tour.

Tanbi Wetland Complex

This area of mangrove along Kankujeri Road is ideal for bird watching and is a favourite among keen bird spotters, thanks both to the large number of species that can be viewed and the accessibility of the spot.

Banjul Square

Head west, away from the ferry terminal and towards Ma Cumba Jallow Street for an interesting spot filled with crumbling colonial buildings and clapboard houses with steep roofs and balconies. They resemble buildings in Sierra Leone’s Freetown, as many of the families who came to Banjul were originally from Freetown. See the famous gate of Arch 22, built to celebrate the coup of 1994 and the tallest building in the whole of Gambia at 35 metres high.

Arch 22 in Banjul Square

The Coast

Of course, Gambia’s coast is one of its main attractions and a gorgeous thing to see. It is lined with luxury guest houses and resorts and there are many different water sports to enjoy. You have your choice of bars and restaurants and there are plenty of loungers on the beaches for you to relax on and make the most of your stay in this beautiful part of the world.

With so many great things to see and do in Gambia, the majority of which are free, the Gambia is an ideal budget holiday destination.

The Gunjur Coast in Gambia