How on earth are we now reaching the end of 2017? HOW?! I'm sure that I blinked and suddenly we had shot from May to December. 2017 has been a year of very extreme highs and very extreme lows for me but this blog is a happy place used for celebrating the beauty of travel, so I'll only focus on those nice elements! Everyone has a "bucket list" of some description, even if you may not call it that. Some people want to own a Ferrari, others want to get their dream job, I on the other hand want to travel to as many corners of the world as physically possible. This year, I've taken fewer trips but they have definitely been more extensive than in previous years. I was flicking through my Instagram photos recently thinking "wow, I've done some pretty cool things this year", so here's a big old round-up!

Morocco

The first adventure of the year took Callum and I to Morocco which was particularly exciting as it was my first time on the African continent (little did we know at this point that 2017 would feature two Africa adventures)! We were in Morocco for 5 days and every single day was filled with a different adventure; my favourites being:
  1. Camping under the stars in the Sahara Desert
  2. Riding into the Sahara Desert at sunset on camels
  3. Singing African songs around a bonfire in the Sahara Desert with new found friends
  4. Taking a boat ride under the Ozoud Waterfalls
  5. Exploring the gorgeous tiled palaces and architecture of Marrakech
  6. Getting lost in the sounds, smells and sights of the souks (and trying to resist buying ALL of the gorgeous plates)
  7. Taking lots of Instagram shots in the gorgeous Jardins Marjoelle (the previous home of Yves Saint Laurent)
  8. Driving through the winding roads of the Atlas Mountains enjoying the epic views

Isles of Scilly

Next up, two of my friends and I went to visit another friend who was living in the Isles of Scilly. While many won't have this trip on their "bucket list", it was the perfect trip to relax and spend time with some amazing people.
  1. Taking a road trip from the East to the West of the UK with my besties (with lots of singing obviously)
  2. Experience glorious sunshine and clear blue seas which I didn't think were possible in the UK!
  3. Spend some quality time with three incredible people
  4. For once, taking the time to relax and detox
  5. Eating ALL of the amazing food on the islands

Luxembourg

This was our spontaneous trip of the year. With cheap Ryanair flights and a whole bundle of Hilton hotel points at our disposal, we decided to have a quick Summer break to Luxembourg which exceeded all of my expectations!
  1. Managing to book flights and accommodation for a total of £20!
  2. Cycling through the vineyards of the Moselle Valley in the glorious sunshine
  3. Obviously also tasting the wines in the aforementioned vineyards...
  4. Wandering around the picturesque town of Vianden and exploring it's impressive castle
  5. Exploring Luxembourg City in the height of Summer and somehow avoiding all of the crowds (Luxembourg is a hidden gem)!

South Africa

2017 was the year that I became a Chartered Tax Advisor and no longer had to study whilst working full time. You know what this means? More spare time and more annual leave! I hadn't taken a holiday longer than a week for 4 years, so this was a real treat and of course, I picked my #1 bucket list destination!
  1. Loving every minute of 2 days on safari in Kruger National Park
  2. Managing to spot every animal possible (including a few rhinos and a leopard which I didn't think would be possible)!
  3. Road-tripping this stunning country with my #1 travel partner (and developing an unhealthy addiction to the podcast "My dad wrote a porno" during our long drives)!
  4. Exploring SO many gorgeous towns and cities along the Garden Route
  5. Wandering through a forest filled with rescued monkeys
  6. Eating some of the most incredible (and cheap) food
  7. Watching whales in awe while in Hermanus
  8. Facing my fears and zip-lining from mountain to mountain
  9. Falling in love with Cape Town
  10. Taking in the epic views from the top of table mountain
  11. Cramming so much adventure into a jam-packed 2 week itinerary

UK

Of course, this year hasn't only been filled with travels, here's some of my favourite things that I've got up to in the UK during the course of the year...
  1. Finally taking a trip to the Peak District whilst visiting some amazing extended family.
  2. Revel in the masterpiece that is the Lion King on the West End (and continue to sing "He lives in me" for months afterwards)
  3. Finally experience the West End performance of Aladdin and have it exceed all of my expectations my miles - the Genie in particular!
  4. Pleasing my sweet tooth at the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon tea at One Aldwych
  5. Helping a childhood American friend re-explore London
  6. Visiting Grace at uni in Portsmouth and having the MOST touristy fun-filled weekend possible!
  7. Having the most Instagram worthy afternoon tea at Sketch!
  8. Meet a whole bunch of new travel blogger friends in Leeds at the Ice Lolly "Blog at the Beach" event (and win a trip to Ibiza)!
  9. Taking a chocolate making class in London (and getting very messy)
Where have you travelled to this year? Has 2017 been fab for you?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

     

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South Africa Table Mountain Girl View Did I mention that I spent 2 weeks in South Africa recently? Of course I blimmin' did, I think the entire world knows now. I was squealing with excitement before our trip and then shouting from the rooftops about how fab it was as soon as we got home (and over a month later... hence this post). South Africa is such a huge country with so many amazing things to do, I was so overwhelmed with information when it came to planning our trip.  So if you're planning a trip to this amazing country, here's what you can fit into a 2 week South Africa itinerary!

Day 1 - Flying & Driving

While there are direct flights to South Africa from the UK, we opted for a layover in Istanbul (with Turkish Airlines who were great) to save on a bit of cash! We flew overnight and landed in Johannesburg at around 10am. After a quick customs and baggage reclaim experience, we were headed to pick up our car. The 4 and a half hour drive to Kruger National Park was upon us. Our entertainment of choice for the journey was the podcast "My Dad Wrote a Porno" (which you should definitely listen to if you're not to prudish) and the time flew by! It was late afternoon / early evening by the time we arrived at our accommodation (Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge) and after around 24 hours of flying, layovers and driving, we were completely knackered, and hit they hay shortly after dinner.

Day 2 & 3 - Kruger National Park Game Drives

South Africa Kruger Rhino South Africa Giraffe Kruger Now for the moment I'd been waiting for - two days of game drives Kruger National Park! I couldn't fly all the way to South Africa without ticking this dream experience off my wishlist. This was without a doubt one of the highlights of the trip and I've written about it extensively if you're interest in hearing more about it:

Day 4 - Driving and Flying

After two amazing days, it was time for us to head back to Johannesburg Airport for the next part of our journey. The 4.5 hour drive flew past again and after a long lunch at the airport, we flew down to Port Elizabeth for the next leg of our South Africa adventure.

Day 5 - Tsitsikamma National Park & Storms River

South Africa Storms River Kayaking South Africa Storms River Hiking Tsitsikamma National Park Unfortunately, we weren't able to spend any time exploring Port Elizabeth and instead jumped in the car to head to our first activity on the Garden Route. 2 hours later, we were in Tsitsikamma National Park ready to kayak and lilo on Storms River with Untouched Adventures. Unfortunately due to bad weather conditions, our kayaking tour was cancelled so we instead enjoyed the day hiking around the beautiful area. South Africa is a hub for adventure activities, you could easily spend days setting your adrenaline racing with activities such as kayaking, climbing, hiking, zip-lining, abseiling, paragliding, shark cage diving, surging, hang-gliding etc! Well... whenever the weather co-operates. Less than an hours drive later, we were arriving in our hotel in Plettenberg Bay ready for the next day.

Day 6 - Plettenberg Bay & Kynsa

Monkeyland

Plettenberg Bay Monkey Land Monkeyland Monkey eating tree Monkeyland baby lemur Our first activity of the day was Monkeyland (which sounds cheesey but I can confirm that it's not). Monkeyland is  home to 700 free-roaming rescued primates. These monkeys all come from captivity and after a rehabilitation period are released into the forest. You will be taken on a guided hour long walk through the HUGE forest observing the monkeys roaming freely (there is a strict look but don't touch policy). When in South Africa, I strongly urge visitors to research the "sanctuaries" they are looking to visit, Monkeyland appears to be a good one!

Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary

Jukani Albino Lion Jukani Sleeping Cheetah We then visited Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary (which is owned by the same company as Monkeyland). Jukani is home to big cats rescued from people's homes (where individuals thought that they would be able to keep them as pets) or canned hunting facilities (where they are kept in confined conditions and individuals pay an extortionate amount of money to shoot them). While I think Jukani do an amazing job in educating visitors (particularly on the point that any "sanctuary" which allows you to touch the wildlife is not a true "sanctuary"), resources are obviously tight and the enclosures aren't as large as I would have hoped. That being said, these cats have come from awful conditions and are unable to be released into the wild again; Jukani is the best option for them.

Lunch on the Beach

Plettenberg Bay Beach Plettenberg Bay Bungalow It wouldn't be a trip to South Africa without some epic food and epic views. On recommendation from our hotel owner, we headed to The Bungalow in Plettenberg Bay for lunch. Sitting on the rooftop in the glorious sunshine with a view of the beach wasn't too shabby!

Knysna Heads

Knysna Boy View Knysna Heads Couple Knysna A quick 30 minute drive later, we were in Knysna, another gorgeous sea-side town (South Africa is FULL of them). We obviously drove up to "Knysna Heads" view point and took some photos and a stroll around the area. The drive up is gorgeous and filled with lots of amazing houses - this is where my dream house would be!

Drive to Oudtshoorn & Watch The Sunset

South Africa Landscape South Africa Sunset An hour and a half drive inland through varied terrain lead us to Oudtshoorn where we would be spending the night. Oudtshoorn is in a semi-desert area and Callum regularly asked "where on earth are you taking me?" as there didn't appear to be any form of civilisation nearby for the majority of the drive! On arrival in a truly lovely guesthouse (Karoo Soul), we ate food and played cards whilst watching the sun set from a cosy outdoor communal area.

Day 7 - Cango Caves, Roadtrips & Swellendam

Cango Caves

South Africa Cango Caves Cango Cave Formations One of the main attractions in Oudtshoorn is the Cango Caves. There are two different options for visiting the Cango Caves, one being the normal tourist route and the other being the "adventure route". We opted for the normal approach as the adventure route will see you climbing and crawling, taking on tight spaces and generally facing a whole host of challenges. The caves are super impressive and definitely worth a visit! This area of South Africa is also renowned for it's ostriches. We didn't partake in any of the ostrich based activities while we were there - but you'll be sure to see hundreds standing by the roadside!

Roadtrip

South Africa Roadtrip South Africa Roadtrip Views Ronnie's Sex Shop After visiting the caves, we spent a fair amount of time weighing up our options on what to do next. We knew that we had to be in Swellendam for our hotel that night but had two options on how to get there. The inland journey on the "R62" takes around 2 hours 30 minutes and we were told it passed through plenty of wine estates that we could stop at for lunch etc. The alternative would be to head to the coast (Mossel Bay) before heading to Swellendam, with the entire journey taking around 2 hours 45 minutes. We tried to take this route but our sat-nav was showing a much longer journey time - no idea what was wrong with the roads on this day! So with that, we started our journey inland. We didn't see many places to stop but did stumble across the cutest little rural farm shop and restaurant for lunch - win! Of course, a stop at Ronnie's Sex Shop was in order too - don't worry, it's not an actual sex shop. Just a bar!

Bontebok National Park

Bontebok National Park On arrival in Swellendam, we checked into our hotel and quickly headed out to self-drive around Bontebok National Park before it closed. The park is home to the Bontebok (an unusual antelope type) but unfortunately we only had an our to quickly drive round the park and then leave - so only spotted a few Bontebok from afar.

Day 8 - Hermanus

Whale Watching

Baby Southern Right Whale HermanusHermanus Whale Swimming Tail After an early wake up call and an hour and a half drive to Hermanus, we were ready to do some whale watching! We visited in late September which is one of the optimum times to spot Southern Right Whales off the coast of South Africa - it's safe to say that I was excited! I'd recommend booking a later whale watching cruise than we did. So many people told us to go and see L'Agulhas (the most Southern point in Africa) but it just wasn't possible for us to drive there before heading to Hermanus without missing our pre-booked whale watching spot. We booked a two hour trip with Hermanus Whale Watchers who were amazing. Warning - if you get seasick, take some medication beforehand or you'll end up with your face in a bag for the entirety of the journey (just like Callum).

Exploring Hermanus

Hermanus Landscape We didn't realise that we would be visiting Hermanus on the day of "Hermanus Whale Festival" meaning the town was a hive of activity and we weren't short of things to do or see! With live music and plenty of market stalls set up along the sea wall, we spent the day pottering around in the sunshine and eating good food before driving to Elgin for our final stop on the Garden Route.

Day 9 - Elgin and Cape Town

Cape Canopy Zip-Lining

We stayed in Elgin solely for the fact that we were then a short drive away from our 9am Cape Canopy Zip-lining Tour. There is another Cape Canopy Tour in Tsitsikamma National Park that we could have gone to, but of course Callum picked the biggest and scariest zip-lines (11 in total shooting from mountain to mountain). With my fear of heights not going anywhere soon, I'd cried before the safety briefing was over and din't think that I would be able to do any of the zip-lining. Thankfully, the guides are super reassuring and a few zip-lines in, I was loving it! The entire experience lasts for around 4 hours. Unfortunately I didn't have any zip pockets in my clothes, so couldn't take my camera/phone with me. The kind guides did film some elements though which I will upload at some point!

Cape Town

Cape Town V&A Wheel After a 1 hour drive (which was much busier than any of the drives we'd done so far), we were in Cape Town for the last leg of our trip. After checking into our amazing hostel (The BIG Backpackers), we walked over to the V&A Waterfront to explore for the rest of the afternoon.

Day 10 - Chapman's Peak, Cape Point, Simon's Town & Boulder's Beach

Chapman's Peak

Girl Camera Car Chapmans Peak Drive Day 10 was our last day with the car, so we made sure to drive own to Cape Point. The journey takes just over an hour and is super scenic. Over the course of the two weeks, we had seen a tonne of gorgeous landscapes but there's definitely a reason why the Chapman's Peak drive is so famous!

Cape Point

Cape Point Girl View Cape Point Sign Our top tip would be to set off in the morning fairly early. We had no issues getting into Cape Point National Park, but as we were leaving, the queue was really starting to build up. You could spend as little or as much time as you want in Cape Point. Some guided walks take around an hour, or you can simply jump on the funicular and do minimal walking - either way, it's a gorgeous area and well worth you time.

Simon's Town & Boulder's Beach

Boulders Beach Penguins on Rocks Boulders Beach On the way back up to Cape Town, we stopped off at Simon's Town for lunch and some exploring. This is of course home to the famous Boulder's Beach! I could have spent hours watching the penguins, who knew they could be so entertaining. Simon's Town is also a great place for lunch. We decided to eat at Seaforth Restaurant (which is right by Boulder's Beach) and it was incredible! The restaurant has amazing views of the sea and the food is even better. I don't eat fish, but it looked really good and even I considered eating it! Instead, I opted for the Cape Malay curry, which I highly recommend. We then obviously hopped back in the car for the hours drive back to Cape Town for the night.

Day 11 - Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch Wine Cheese Stellenbosch Wine Chocolates With the car safely returned, we decided that the best way for us to visit the Winelands would be on an organised tour (don't drink and drive kids!), our Cape Town hostel arranged this for us and despite it being an overcast and cold day, we had a great time! The tour took us to 6 vineyards in Stellenbosch and it's safe to say that most of our group were fairly tipsy by the end of the journey! While this was a great introduction to the wine region, this is one area that I'd definitely like to go back to and maybe stay the night.  Especially if the weather is better, it's meant to be a truly stunning area - not that we could tlel that through the clouds!

Days 12 to 14 - Cape Town

Kirstenbosch Gardens Girl Bo Kaap Colourful Houses Cape Town Hall We spent the next 3 days exploring the City of Cape Town. Of course, this is a huge city with SO much to do, but here's a brief outline of our highlights!
  • Table Mountain
  • V&A Waterfront
  • Free walking tours
  • Bo'Kaap
  • Camps Bay
  • Hop On Hop Off Bus
  • Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
  • The Old Biscuit Mill Market
  • District 6
  • Greenmarket Square
And with that, our two amazing weeks in South Africa were over and it was time to make the long journey back to the UK. If you're thinking about visiting South Africa, do it. It's a country filled with hundreds of activities, gorgeous scenery and incredibly hospitable people. Have you ever been to South Africa? What was your favourite activity?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

     

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Kruger Safari Baby Giraffe Kruger Safari Kudu Hiding If there's one thing I can't stop writing about at the moment, it's my recent safari trip. Safari has been on my bucket-list for longer than I can remember and it definitely lived up to my expectations. But as with any experience, there were both highlights and lowlights...

SAFARI HIGHLIGHTS

Spotting Lions Immediately After A Kill

One stretch of road was completely covered in animal faeces which apparently is a result of a pack of buffalo quite literally "shitting themselves" with fear. Laying on a rock hidden behind some plants were two male lions sleeping after their almighty breakfast with a devoured buffalo carcass in plain sight. While I am slightly glad that we missed the kill (I'm not even very good at watching the kill scenes in David Attenborough documentaries), it was interesting to see exactly how feeding occurs for carnivores in the wild. A very different experience to seeing a zookeeper chuck a lump of meat over a fence.

An Elephant Family Crossing

Elephants will always be impressive. From their sheer size to their wisdom and strength, elephants are special creatures. While we did see a few lone elephants during our time in the park, for the most part, they travelled in large packs. One particularly special moment was stopping the car and watching a HUGE heard of elephants cross the road behind us. From dominant adults to playful babies, the whole family were there and it was so special to see them interact with one another.

Rhino Watching

I bloody love rhinos and I knew that it would be hard to see one in the wild as Kruger National Park is larger than some countries and rhinos are solitary creatures that don't enjoy the loud sounds of cars. When we managed to spot FIVE during our two days, I was over the moon! At one point, we were the only car that had spotted a particularly active rhino. We sat and watched him moving gracefully for around 20-30 minutes enjoying the peace. How anyone could hurt these creatures is absolutely beyond me.

Lions Having Naps In Peculiar Places

As we were trying to leave the park, a queue of cars were starting to form and we had no idea why. As we edged closer, it was apparent that a lion had decided to fall asleep in the middle of the road. Our guide warned us to be quiet as we approached the sleeping killer (lets just say that if he woke up and stood up, I could have easily been his next meal). Even with a heartbeat much faster than usual, seeing such a majestic wild creature at arms length was incredible.

RELATED: Of course the main highlight is seeing animals in their natural habitat, acting as they should. If you want to see more of the animals, make sure you have a look at my Kruger photo diary!

  Kruger Safari Rhino Kruger Safari Lion Sleeping

SAFARI LOWLIGHTS

The Cold

Strong cold winds should not be underestimated when you're in an open safari jeep. On our first day, moving my body would have meant letting wind potentially penetrate the perfectly formed human-blanket-burrito I had created, so photo-taking became difficult. After the end of the first day, I questioned whether I'd be able to sit through another day of that intense coldness but thankfully day number two was filled with glorious sunshine and we ended up stripping off all of our extra layers of clothing! Safari in the sun is DEFINITELY more enjoyable!

A Baboon Attack!

Okay, so the baboon didn't actually touch me (or anyone else for that matter) but one particularly crazy baboon did try and attack our jeep. Luckily, our amazing guide knew exactly how to handle the situation and everything was fine! I was on edge around ALL baboons for the rest of the trip but it turns out that I'm not the only person with a fear of baboons - a girl in our hostel even had a story about a family of baboons taking her 6 month old cousin!

Having to Leave

Even with another 10 days of South African adventures ahead of us, safari truly was incredible and I was SO sad to be leaving. I'd have happily spent much longer in Kruger and would return in a heartbeat! Have you experienced any bucket-list moments? Did they live up to your expectations?

RELATED: Most people think that the cost of a safari trip will be a major low. If you want to plan a Kruger safari on a budget, make sure you read my guide!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

     

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Girl Kruger Safari Jeep There's no denying that I'm a words, facts and figures girl. I use this blog to provide information which will help plan another person's trip rather than show staged, picture-perfect moments which don't reflect what travelling is really like. But, when I was editing my photos from Kruger, I fell in love with TOO many photos and couldn't resist sharing them all with you! Words don't do a safari trip justice and it's always been known that pictures speak a thousand words. So here's a big old round-up of our time in Kruger National Park! Kruger Giraffe Looking At Camera Kruger Kudu Looking Into Distance Kruger Kudu Kruger Elephant and Baby walking towards cameraKruger Elephant and Baby crossing road Kruger Wild Zebra Blue Bird Glossy Starling Kruger Kruger Eagle Sitting in Tree Kruger Warthog Pumba Kruger Small Antelope Kruger Eagle Sitting By Water Kruger lion sleeping in road Kruger Bird in Trees Kruger Anxious AntelopeKruger Giraffe and Vulture

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK - DAY ONE 

To be sure that we were in Kruger National Park at the time the gates were opening, we set off early after a 4.30am wake up call (which sounds horrid but is TOTALLY worth it for a safari). The joys of being on an organised safari jeep is that you can skip the big long queue of ordinary cars trying to enter the park. Our guide quickly sorted out our conservation fees and before we knew it, we were face to face with antelope, wildebeest and giraffe right by the entrance gate! Within 5 minutes we had our first sighting of one of the "big 5" as a herd of buffalo were standing by the side of the road - I took this as a sign that we were in for a good day (spoiler: I wasn't wrong). Throughout the course of the day, I was continually surprised by how many animals we managed to spot. With all of the usual suspects (lions, giraffe, zebra, elephants, buffalo, wildebeest, antelope, kudu, crocodiles, hippos, warthogs, a plethora of bird types) and even a lone rhino now ticked off our list, we wondered how on earth there could be more to see?! Every safari jeep driver that we passed on this day was VERY excited as the elusive leopard had been spotted on multiple occasions. We went on a very long drive searching for it in one particular hot spot to no avail. Normally, this would have been fine, but our first day in South Africa was FREEZING and we were all huddled under blankets in the open top safari jeep. Then, just as we were about to leave, our incredible guide managed to spot the very well camouflaged leopard through some bushes. Lets just say that leopards are very well disguised and very fast, any photographic evidence I have of this beauty is poor but I feel very lucky to have even caught a glimpse of him! To then have our exit blocked by a male lion who decided to sleep right in the middle of the road meant that the big cats really stole the show at the end of the day! Kruger Crocodile by water Kruger giraffe looking into the distance Kruger bird Kruger Kazoo Lion King bird Kruger Lizard on tree trunk Two zebra in Kruger Kruger warthog by watering hole Kruger zebra by watering hole Kruger bird whispering to antelope Kruger elephants playing in water Kruger antelope eating from tree Kruger hippo yawning in water Kruger baboon sitting in tree Kruger kudu in the treesKruger four elephants under tree Kruger lions sunbathing on rock Kruger giraffe packKruger baby giraffe crossing the roadKruger baby giraffe Kruger rhino with horn

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK - DAY TWO

We opted for a half day game drive of Kruger on our second day and as nobody else else had booked this option, we got to choose our departure time and of course gave ourselves a bit of a lay-in! Having the entire jeep to ourselves proved to be a blessing as we could dictate exactly what we would like to try and see - in our case, rhinos! Our second day was MUCH warmer than the first and we ended up stripping off all of the extra layers of clothing we had brought after the previous day's freeze-fest! I can confirm that there is NOTHING better than driving through beautiful African bush-land with the sun shining on your face. With the weather being much warmer, the animals were displaying completely different behaviours to the previous day. While we were very happy after our first day on safari and thought that there wasn't anything further we could witness, I am so glad we chose to do a second day. We may have seen the same animals, but the experience couldn't have been more different. Today we really got to see the animals mingle with each other. At one large watering-hole, huge packs of zebras, wildebeest, giraffe and antelope lived in harmony bathing and drinking. While on the other side of the lake, the crocodiles and hippos were keeping cool. Four huge elephants all gathered under one tiny tree, fighting for shade (maybe the heat affects an elephant's ability to live up to their wise and intelligent stereotype). After watching so many animals peacefully co-existing, it was a shock to the system when we encountered a group of baboon. One baboon was a little bit cray-cray and displayed very aggressive behaviours towards the other animals before turning his attention to our truck. Thankfully he jumped at the driver's door (who obviously knew how to deal with the situation) - there's no way I would have been able to take him on! Towards the end of our day, our driver made a sudden stop and we we left wondering what on earth he had seen.  Low and behold a lone rhino could be seen in the distance and he appeared to be walking straight towards us! Safari drivers have INSANE vision and should not be underestimated! We spent around 30 minutes watching this slow giant plodding towards us (but never quite reaching us). With no other cars around and the sun beaming, it couldn't have been more peaceful and perfect. It is so hard to understand how anyone can hurt these incredible creatures causing them to be near to extinction. All in all, I have come back from my safari trip with more respect for animals than I could have ever imagined (apart from that nasty baboon). Have you ever been on safari? What's your favourite photo?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

   

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Kruger Safari Scenery on a Budget Kruger Zebra Watering Hole To experience animals in their natural habitat, not confined by cages or domesticated via human interaction is something that everyone should try to achieve in their lifetime. Safari appears on many people's "bucket lists" but is largely unattainable due to the (expected) sky high costs. While planning our recent trip to South Africa, we almost never made it to Kruger National Park given that is is on the opposite side of the country to the rest of our plans (Cape Town and the Garden Route). In the end, we decided that it would be silly to fly that far (UK to South Africa) and not tick off a bucket list experience.

RELATED: You can view the rest of my African bucket list here

Re-jigging our itinerary to include Kruger was an overwhelming experience, there are so many options, so many choices and so many people giving their opinion on the "right" or "wrong" way to experience this magical land. It goes without saying that the prices of some options were also terrifying - so the aim of this post is to de-bunk the myths of Kruger safaris and help you plan a trip within YOUR budget. The bird in the photo below is basically me whispering into your ear, spreading the secrets of "cheap" safaris... Kruger Bird Antelope Whisper Kruger Kudu Camouflaged

COSTING

We flew into Johannesburg O.T International Airport and began our trip to Kruger from here. This is what many people that we met along the way were also doing, so for the purposes of this guide, I  have assumed that you will be doing the same (but of course, Kruger is accessible from other South African cities and even other neighbouring countries!) We spent 4 days in the Johannesburg/Kruger area, with the first and last days being mainly driving days and the middle two days being filled with game drives. Obviously, the time that you spend in Kruger will increase/decrease the price as appropriate! Costs are shown in South African Rand (ZAR) and where we actually incurred these costs, I have shown the GBP figure incurred on our credit card statements (September/October 2017), otherwise the prices have been converted using the approximate exchange rate of October 2017 (0.056). Kruger Giraffe Kruger Elephant Baby Crossing Road

HOW TO GET THERE

£ Drive from Johannesburg O.T Airport

Without a doubt, the cheapest way of getting to Kruger National Park (KNP) is to drive from Johannesburg O.T Airport. Car hire is cheap in South Africa and we weren't charged any surcharge for being below the age of 25 (which is always good)! Road conditions from the airport to Kruger are fantastic and there are plenty of places to top up your petrol or grab a bite to eat (although we did find that these places were closer to Kruger than the airport, so on the return journey, make sure you re-fuel early! The journey is easy as the entire journey is a straight line but it is long. Kruger is larger than many European countries and therefore the length of the journey will depend on where you are staying within the park. We were driving to Crocodile Gate which took around 4 and a half hours. Make sure you have plenty of snacks, a good playlist and maybe a few podcasts to keep you going! Our total car hire costs were R1,140.99 (approximately £73). We rented a brand new Ford Fiesta from Bidvest Car Rentals (booked through Drive South Africa) and this price included hiring a GPS, registering a second driver (even though I ended up doing none of the driving!) and the usual car hire costs such as topping up petrol when you return. We also spent R491.50 on filling up with petrol (approximately £27). Our total costs = R1,632.49 (approximately £100 per car = £50 per person).

££ Baz Bus 

Baz Bus is a South African backpacker's dream! If you aren't comfortable driving from Johannesburg to Kruger by yourself (I certainly wouldn't be if I wasn't travelling with Callum as I HATE driving), the Baz Bus 4 Day Kruger Park Safari Tour is certainly a good alternative! The price for this option can't be directly compared to the other journey options given the fact that the Baz Bus tour also includes open vehicle game drives, meals as specified in the detailed itinerary and accommodation in permanent erected 2-person dome tents for the duration of the trip. Advantages of this option obviously include having everything planned for you and meeting lots of new people, however if you enjoy the freedom of exploring at your own pace and making your own decisions, maybe this isn't the right choice for you. Total cost = R8,000 (approximately £445 per person).

£££ Fly to Kruger National Park

If the 4.5+ hour drive to Kruger is too much for you to handle, there are regular flights leaving Johannesburg to three Kruger-serving airports. Depending on the area of Kruger that you are visiting, the airports you need are as follows:
  • Northern Kruger Park: Phalaborwa Airpor
  • Central Kruger Park: Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport
  • Southern Kruger Park: Nelspruit Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
We had the option of flying from Johannesburg to Nelspruit but at approximately R2700/£150 - R3600/£200 per person for a return flight (50 minutes each way), it didn't seem worth it to us. Especially as we would have had to wait in Johannesburg for a few hours between flights meaning the flying/waiting time would have been equal to the driving time! Once you arrive at your chosen airport, you will need to hire a car to take you to the park (Nelspruit is approximately a 1.5 hour drive to Crocodile Bridge Gate). The costs of which would have been largely the same as in option 1 (with less petrol usage - therefore estimated R1,140.99 per car (approximately £73 per car or £36 per person). Alternatively, our accommodation offered a transfer for R400 per person from the airport (approximately £23) Total costs would therefore be R3,100-R4,170 per person (approximately £173-£236 per person). Kruger Lion Sleeping Road Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge Affordable Accomodation

ACCOMMODATION

£ SAN Parks Lodging

South Africa National Parks (SAN Parks) have an incredible range of accommodation located in the heart of each of their national parks. This is originally the accommodation that we tried to book but availability was seriously low (at the time, we didn't know that we would be visiting the park on a South African public holiday). I would advise that if you want to take advantage of these cheap and cheerful lodgings, you book at least 6 months in advance. There are 12 main rest camps in Kruger National Park and the two which were of interest to us (due to their location in proximity to Johannesburg) were Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp and Lower Sabie Rest Camp. There are lots of different choices of accommodation within the rest camps including a patch of land to pitch your tent, "safari tents" which are permanent basic buildings, adorable little bungalows fully kitted out with kitchen facilities for two people and larger guest houses for bigger groups. Prices vary depending on the type of accommodation, the number of people staying in the property and the rest camp chosen. We entered Lower Sabie Rest camp a few times to use their toilets/restaurant facilities and would have been more than happy to stay here! Rates for Lower Sabie Rest Camp can be seen here and vary from R305-R2,320 per night for 2 people (approximately £16-£128 for two people or £8-£64 per person).

££ Off-Site Mid-Range Lodges

With the SAN Parks accommodation fully booked, we panicked thinking that there were no other affordable options. Various google searches showed results that would a) give me a heart attack and b) bankrupt me beyond belief. Then I turned to my trusty Booking.com to see if there were ANY alternatives - it turns out there is! We settled for Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge which is located in Marloth Park (a quick 10 minute drive South of Crocodile Bridge Gate to Kruger National Park). Our booking included both breakfast and dinner every day (both of which were absolutely gorgeous) and we were very happy with our choice! The lodge was absolutely stunning and really felt like a "safari lodge" but without the hefty price tag! In September 2017, we paid R2240 per night for 2 people (approximately £124 per night for 2 people or £62 per person).

£££ Luxury Private Reserves

I am a member of many travel groups on Facebook and the number of people that think luxury private reserves are the ONLY option when booking a safari is unbelievable. With safari being a bucket-list luxury, prices can be hiked accordingly (and in many instances, extortionately). My lovely fellow travel blogger Lucy recently had the opportunity to stay at a luxury private reserve called Klaserie Sands and boy did it look gorgeous! There are plenty of these private reserves available throughout safari destinations in Africa and a quick google will help you find the lodge of your dreams. Prices at Klaserie Sands are currently R10,200 for two people per night (approximately £566 for two people or £283 for one person). Kruger Safari Jeep Girl Kruger Kudu

GAME DRIVES

£ Self Drive

The cheapest way to view the animals is to self-drive around the park. If you are on a strict budget, this is without a doubt the best way to view the animals. You don't need a 4x4 to access the park but be warned that the roads do get quite bumpy! The downside to self-driving is that you don't have the knowledge and expertise of an experienced guide and being in a car (which is much lower than a safari jeep) means that the animals are often harder to spot as you may not be able to see over bushes/plant life. On the plus side, you can spend your time exactly as you wish. Self-drive is as expensive as you decide to make it - Free! (Other than petrol)

££ Guided Drive

With only two full days to explore Kruger, we decided to splash out and join guided game drives (despite the fact that we had a car). Our accommodation (Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge) arranged the game drives for us using their trusted guide (Solomon - you're the best!) and they were AMAZING. I would highly recommend doing a guided drive if it is within your budget. Safari guides are very talented at spotting wildlife (you don't realise how well camouflaged animals truly are until you see them in their natural habitat) and know the best spots to see certain creatures. Our accommodation charged us R670 for a full game drive plus conservation fees of R306 for each day. This price was applicable whether you did a full day (around 5am to 5pm) or a half day (times dependent on availability). The total cost for a full days game drive would therefore be R976 per day per person (approximately £54). Kruger Warthog Pumba Kruger Baboon Sitting in Tree

SUMMARY OF OUR COSTS & VERDICT

ZAR GBP
  Total  Per Person Total  Per Person
Car Rental + petrol R1,632.49 R816.25 £100.00 £50.00
3 x nights accommodation & food R6,720.00 R3,360.00 £372.00 £186.00
2 x full day game drives R3,904.00 R1,952.00 £215.00 £107.50
R12,256.49 R6,128.25 £687.00 £343.50
£343.50 for a once in a life time's experience - was it worth it? ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY. Of course, that price is still out of reach for many people, but remember, you could make it much cheaper! Pitch a tent in the SAN Parks accommodation to ensure you're not wasting money on a hotel you won't spend much time in and self-drive to save on guide fees. We did debate doing the Baz Bus 4 Day Kruger Park Safari Tour and if I was travelling on my own, this definitely would have been my choice. However, when travelling as a couple, it was cheaper for us to drive ourselves, stay in a mid range lodge and pay for guides (£343.50) vs pay for a tour (£445). The tour does look truly great however and takes you to some other points of interest during the driving days such as Blyde River Canyon (which looks amazing). I also feel that our accommodation was incredible and I'm glad that we didn't pay another £100 for the Baz Bus tour to sacrifice our gorgeous lodge for camping. Have you ever been on a safari? Was it as expensive as you thought?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

  Safaris are crazy expensive right? Think again! We recently did a trip to Kruger on a budget and it was amazing! Here I outline all of your options, how much we spent and how you could make it cheaper!  
Ouzoud FallsIf you are heading to Marrakech and you are looking for a great day trip, Ouzoud Falls would be my first recommendation. Marrakech is an incredible city, but many find it overwhelming. Ouzoud provides the perfect peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Booking

Plenty of stalls in the Medina, hostels and hotels offer the opportunity to book excursions from Marrakech. However, we decided to book in advance through IGoMorrocco which I would highly recommend! The total cost of the tour through IGoMorocco is 25 euros per person (which is cheaper than I saw advertised on stalls in the Medina) and they take a small deposit at the time of booking. 25 euros for an entire day trip to Ouzoud Falls is an absolute steal and completely worth the money.

RELATED: Are you looking for other trips to do from Marrakech city? Check out everything you need to know about a trip to the Sahara Desert here!

The Drive Atlas Mountain Scenery We were picked up at 8am and quickly within the gorgeous Moroccan countryside. This was our first taster of life outside the city and boy was it gorgeous (little did we know that we were in for even more of a scenery treat the next day on the way to the Sahara Desert). I loved passing through tiny rural villages and seeing how the Moroccan people lived their life in the countryside. Tiny villages would appear every so often, miles away from the last with no apparent infrastructure. We passed people (sometimes children) walking along the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. For much of the journey, I wanted to pull over and ask these people where they were going, what they were doing with their life, where they live. I found myself wanting to know everything about people who were simply getting on with their daily routines. Lets be honest, if you saw someone walking along the side of the M25, you'd question their sanity, but these people appeared to be so content.

RELATED: On our way to the Sahara Desert the next day, we were treated to even more stunning scenery, read all about our road trip through the Atlas Mountains here

Arrival at Ouzoud Falls

Ouzoud Waterfall From Above Ouzoud Waterfall Landscape After 2.5 hours driving, we arrived at a Berber Village and were handed over to a local Berber guide who would be showing us around for the day. We paid around 2 euros per person for the guide's services and while this isn't included in the cost of the entire day trip, I never begrudge providing local businesses and people with extra cash when they provide such an excellent service. Our guide was funny and informative and kept us entertained for the duration of the day. We were first taken to see the edge of the falls to see the thundering water beating down below us - while impressive, we knew this wouldn't be the best view of the falls and were excited for the rest of the day. After a steep downward hike with impressive views of Ouzoud Falls (side note: be sure to wear proper shoes for this tour - while one girl did complete the hike in flip flops, it didn't look particularly comfortable!), we stopped at a little stall for fresh orange juice and (of course) incredible views of the falls. After a quick break from the relentless heat, we were back on our feet again and tackling a potentially steeper cliff side decent before reaching the base of the falls!

Journey Behind The Falls

Ouzoud Waterfall Ariel Shot Ouzoud Waterfall Raft Boats Ouzoud Waterfall Posing Girl Boy We were quickly split into smaller groups to enjoy a boat ride around the falls themselves - be warned, you will get a bit wet - but even in March, the spray from the falls was a welcome treat from the heat. The journey cost around an extra £2 and is completely optional but I would definitely recommend it - it may have even been the highlight of the day (other than the outstanding beauty of the area in general). We were one of the first boats to enjoy the trip, so we got plenty of time after wards to take pictures while waiting for the rest of our group.

Lunch

Ouzoud Waterfall Lunch Ouzoud Waterfall Couple After lots of walking, we had definitely worked up an appetite for lunch! The restaurant was on the cliff side with an incredible view. There were a few options to choose from on the set menu including tagines and chicken skewers. After the main course, we were provided with piles of fruit for each table - so much that we ended taking some away with us for the bus journey back to Marrakech! 5 months after my trip and I'm still upset that oranges in the UK don't taste half as good as oranges in Morrocco!

Monkeys!

Ouzoud Falls Monkeys Ouzoud Falls Monkeys Cliff Scenery After lunch, we took a much less strenuous walk on the other side of the falls back up to the top where we would meet our minibus. This walk takes you through a tree-covered area and cliff side filled with wild monkeys! The monkeys are very friendly and not phased by human presence - be careful, if you have any food on you, they will try and steal it! The whole group was left laughing when one jumped onto Callum's back causing him to scream (he would probably call it a "startled manly grunt", but we all know it was a scream). And with that, our amazing day trip was over and we were back in the bus and heading back to the bright lights of the city.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

      If you are in Marrakech (Morocco) and you're looking for a day trip, travelling to Ouzoud Falls should definitely be considered! Beautiful waterfalls and summer sunshine, what could be better?
Atlas Mountains You may have read my previous post on “Sahara Desert FAQs”, but I thought I would take the time to properly detail both the road trip through the Atlas Mountains and the actual night in the desert in separate posts. This first one being about the trip through the Atlas Mountains! We had taken a trip to Ouzoud Waterfall the day beforehand, so we had caught a glimpse of the incredible scenery that Morocco offers but it was nothing in comparison to our road-trip through the Atlas Mountains. The trip obviously starts within the city of Marrakech. How people have the courage to drive in the city is beyond me, bikes and cars zoom left, right and centre continuously and I’m really surprised that we never saw any accidents!

RELATED: Find out how to spend two days in the city of Marrakech here!

Rolling Green Hills

Atlas Mountains Valleys Atlas Mountains Green Hills Atlas Mountains Girl Scenery As we headed out of the city, things got VERY green, something that I wasn’t entirely expecting from Morocco which in my head is depicted by warm colours and desert terrain. I’m not sure if we saw Morocco in a particularly “green” season given the fact we visited in March and they will have had rainfall over the Winter period, but seriously, it was beautiful. If you’re thinking of taking this trip, don’t worry about catching photos through the minibus’ windows, our driver made sure to stop at all of the most picturesque spots – but sometimes I just couldn’t help myself and had to take a few shots through the window (despite the glare) – just look at that valley running through the mountains!

Rocky Terrain

Atlas Mountains Rock Roads Slowly, the bright green landscape transformed into rocky plant-less terrain. This is where the roads started to get really crazy (just look at those photos)! If you’re afraid of heights, there may be moments that you peak out of the window an recoil in horror at the tight road bend around the mountain and sheer drop – I can only remember this happening  a handful of times during the 8 hour journey – nothing in comparison to mountainous regions in Europe! We were greeted with nearly 30 degrees heat, yet at all times we could see the snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains – very surreal and almost taunting when you are THAT hot.

Ait-Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou Ait Ben Haddou Gate Ait Ben Haddou Painter As the Atlas Mountains began to flatten and a more desert-style terrain was in sight, we were told our first lengthy stop was coming up – Ait-Ben Haddou. Ait-Ben Haddou is a small town which houses 8 families (a total of 40 people) who live without electricity and make a 3 km walk for water. While the town is pretty spectacular in itself, it has been famed more recently for being a top filming spot – you may have seen the location in Gladiator, Indiana Jones, Game of Thrones and many more! I was actually playing monopoly with Charlie and Amy recently and was very excited by the fact I could buy somewhere I’d been in real life ha! Of course, as with most towns/stops on organised tour routes, the experience was very geared towards tourists. We were handed over to a local guide who took us on an hour tour of the area and asked for a small fee (the tour is not included in the overall price of the trip). The cost was a few dirham per person and we were more than happy to support a local man. Ait-Ben Haddou is HOT. I felt uncomfortable for much of the tour as it felt like you couldn’t escape the heat at all.

Lunch

The tour of Ait-Ben Haddou finished with lunch at a local restaurant with a view of the main town. It was a really beautiful location and was thankfully a lot cooler! One thing to note about taking tours in Morocco is that the restaurants you stop at usually have a limited menu for tour groups and largely, they offer the same at each. After a day travelling to Ouzoud waterfall and two days travelling to and from the Sahara Desert, I was really starting to get bored of the offerings provided – that’s not to say they weren’t tasty however! Dishes were priced at 100 dirhams per person (around £9 at the time) which is pricey for Moroccan standards.

Sandy Canyons

Atlas Mountains Sand Canyons Atlas Mountains Scenery Next up was terrain unlike anything I've ever seen before - huge sandy canyons as far as the eye could see. There was a big part of me that just wanted to run down the sloping hills... then I remembered how un-graceful I am... it wouldn't end well. Slowly things are starting to look more and more like a desert... eeek!

The Desert

Sahara Desert And with that, we were off. The rest of the journey saw us creep closer and closer to terrain that represented the desert. Of course, a few more photo/toilet stops were made along the way (the total journey was around 8 hours after all). Panic struck as our minibus broke down at the last stop before the desert (where we all stocked up on water for the night) but luckily the driver fixed the problem and it didn’t set us back too far! Unfortunately, it did mean we were only just reaching the desert by sunset, rather than being in the middle of the desert relaxing to watch it properly – but more on that in my next post about the night in the desert! Have you ever been through the Atlas Mountains? What was your favourite part?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS ON THE WAY TO THE SAHARA DESERT

Sahara-Desert-Landscape-Dunes A trip to the Sahara Desert was one of the experiences that I was most excited for on my recent trip to Marrakech! I almost had the trip booked before the flights and accommodation! The obsession started back in October 2015, a year and a half before my actual trip - I was staying in a hostel in Slovenia and two girls who had just met booked a trip after both lusting it after it for a while separately. Then I found the amazing Sarah and read both of her blog posts on the trip at least 15 times (you can read about her Sahara Desert tour here & here). So when the time came for me to take my trip, it's safe to say that I was SO excited. There are lots of these tours on offer, I saw so many posters and signs for excursions while in the city, so if you're thinking of booking a trip, here is EVERYTHING you need to know! Morocco-Scenery-Valley How Long is the Journey? LONG! Apparently I didn't sufficiently brief Callum on the length of the journey between Marrakech and the desert (although I made him read Sarah's blog posts multiple times!) so I think he was a bit surprised! The total journey from Marrkaech to the desert takes around 8-9 hours each way including stop-offs. So if you're only in the country for a weekend, it probably isn't worth it, but if you've got some time to kill, you won't regret it! Quite honestly, the ever-changing scenery of Morocco kept me captivated the entire way! Sahara-Desert-Camping-Beds What Are The Sleeping Arrangements? There were a number of tents in the desert set up in a circular structure. Some are private and will only be allocated to you if you have paid extra for a private tent. We opted for the shared tour and were placed in a tent for 6 people - myself, Callum, two American girls that we had become good friends with during our trip and two solo travelling guys (one from Hong Kong and one from Japan). Singular mattresses are laid on the floor with masses of different blankets and duvets to keep you warm. The desert does get very cold at night and I definitely recommend bringing a jumper with you! Our booking confirmation also asked us to bring an additional sleeping bag if we were visiting in January (we weren't). Ait-Ben-Haddou What Is The Structure Of The Tour? You will be picked up from your accommodation in Marrakech bright and early before setting off for the first leg of your journey. The journey is truly beautiful, I really didn't expect to see so many different environments in Morocco. Your journey will obviously start with the hustle and bustle of the city, before descending into rolling hills and greenery, followed by the snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains, red rock canyons and finally the sandy desert! There will be plenty of little stops along the way for photo opportunities, toilet breaks and grabbing snacks/drinks as well as a big lunch (at an additional cost)! On route, there is one bigger stop at Ait Ben Haddou (pictured above) which you may recognise as a popular film set (including Game of Thrones, Indiana Jones and Gladiator)! On a day-to-day basis, the town is only populated by 8 families (a total of 40 people) who have no electricity and have to walk 3km to access water! On arrival at the edge of the desert, you will meet the lovely camels and ride across the Sahara Desert either at sunset or just beforehand. We were visiting in March when the sun sets earlier than in the summer, so we experienced sunset on the camels rather than in the heart of the desert. We then were shown to our tents and were cooked a huge meal (a tagine style meat and potato dish). Afterwards, a bonfire was lit and we all sat in the desert, gazing at the impressive stars, singing African camp songs and getting to know our new camp friends! Day 2 included an early morning wake up call to see the sunrise and eat breakfast in the desert (of course with mint tea). We then jumped back onto the camels for a much shorter trip to another roadside to meet the van. The drive home was filled with chatter (after all, we'd got to know our trip buddies fairly well at this point)! The main stop was for lunch but there was an optional stop at a film museum (Ouarzazate Hollywood of Morocco) which didn't interest our group, so we gave it a miss. Sahara-Trip-Atlas-Mountains Where Can You Book A Tour & How Much Does It Cost? Tours are offered in most riads/hotels/hostels, as well as by street vendors in the city. However, we booked ours before departure through I Go Morrocco who took a 50% deposit on booking. The exact tour that we booked can be found here and cost 59 euros per person, which is incredible given that you get two full days of adventure! Kids below the age of 12 get a 50% discount. When booking our tour, we also got asked if we wanted a complimentary airport transfer on our arrival in Morocco too! Which I certainly would have taken up if we hadn't already made arrangements with our hotel! Is It Safe? Most definitely! There was no point during the entire tour that we felt unsafe. Whilst in the car, you are obviously accompanied by a driver the entire time and the surroundings are so beautiful, if you have any concerns about safety, they will quickly evaporate! During your time at Ait-Ben Haddou, you are shown around by a local guide also. Girl-Camel-Sahara-Desert What Is The Difference Between The Zagora Desert And The Sahara Desert? You'll notice that the 1 night tours are to the "Zagora Desert" rather than the "Sahara Desert". The longer trips usually cover both the "Zagora Desert" and the "Merzouga Desert". Essentially, Zagora and Merzouga are two separate parts of the Sahara. Zagora is known as the "gateway to the Sahara" and is the closest point of the desert to Marrakech (hence the ability to reach it within a 1 night trip). However, if you're looking for a TRULY authentic experience, the Merzouga desert offers much larger sand dunes, richer coloured sands and an array of wildlife. What Trip Should I Pick? It really depends on how much time you have. We only had 2 days to spare, so the 1 night trip to Zagora was all we could manage. It was a great insight into the desert life and I can now tick off a bucket list item of camping in the Sahara Desert! But if I were to return with unlimited time, I would love to do a longer Merzouga trip to see the real expanse of the desert! Sahara-Food What Should You Pack? Make sure that you take a small bag with you that you can carry on your lap/back whilst riding a camel. While you probably could have left a larger bag in the van, the van doesn't come into the desert with you and god knows where it stays for the night/how secure it is! We left our cabin sized luggage in our riad. What Do I do About Water? In the last town before the desert, you will be given a chance to stock up on water bottles before the night ahead, so don't worry about packing lots of water, but of course bring some for the day! Always keep hydrated kids! What Is the Food Like? As pictured above, we sat in a separate tent to eat in small groups - the starter was a yummy soup with thick warm bread, both of which were delicious. The main meal was a HUGE tagine dish filled with all kinds of goodies - meat, veg, potatoes etc! Considering the food is included in the price of the trip (which is really reasonable by the way), the quality was great! Sahara-Desert-Camels How Are The Camels Treated? Before the trip, I was just TOO excited to camp in the Sahara Desert that I didn't even think about the logistics of getting to the camp and booked it straight away. It wasn't until the trip was looming that I started to consider whether this was the right choice. I absolutely love animals and would never promote something that I thought hindered their life (swimming with dolphins in enclosed spaces, going to tiger kingdoms, riding elephants etc.), I did my research and from what I could gather, the camels were treated well. After visiting, I am still of this opinion. The camels make one journey in the morning from the desert to the roadside and one back again in the evening. In the meantime, they aren't chained and are free to roam - while we were sitting around the campfire in the evening, the camels roamed around the outskirts of the tents. My research shows that when a camel is distressed, it will spit or scream - something that we did not experience at all. Further to this, I can confirm that my tour group did not use any of the cruel herding methods such as bull hooks, pegs or ropes that are pulled directly through the tissue of their external nostrils, a very painful procedure (if pulled too hard the rope can rip the tissue). The men that operate the camel element of the tour live in the desert and this is their livelihood, good treatment of camels is in their best interests.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

SAHARA DESERT - FAQ-Pinterest

Before I arrived in Morrocco, I was worried that I hadn’t given us enough time to explore the city of Marrakech. I’d become so fixated with our three days of excursions that I couldn’t possibly give any of them up! More worry set in when it took us HOURS to get through security at Marrakech airport. I mean hours. The security queues were so long, officers examined everyone’s entry cards and passports in the greatest detail (for a moment, we thought that we weren’t going to be allowed into the country because the security officer didn’t believe that Callum was the same person as the photo in his passport)! So in the end, we got into Marrakech at about midday and we were left with closer to 1.5 days to explore the city. Thankfully, (almost) two days in the city was absolutely perfect for us and I wouldn’t have structured our trip any other way! Here’s what we got up to in our two days in the city (with some bonus options if you have 3 days in the city)!

Day One 

Check into your riad and enjoy some mint tea Marrakech Riad More kerfuffle arose as we couldn’t find the man that was meant to pick us up from the airport. Luckily, a lot of the men doing hotel pickups know each other and when I questioned where he was, another man phoned him and told him to come back  (that’s how long it took us to get through airport security – our pick up man had left)! At this point, I was already in love with the welcoming hospitality of the Moroccans. Once we were in the riad, we certainly weren’t disappointed. The staff sat down with us and drew all over a map to make sure that we knew where we wanted to go and how to get back to the riad – Marrakech is a crazy maze of winding roads after all! After this, we were shown around the riad and treated to complimentary mint tea on the roof terrace. I quickly became obsessed with the mint tea in Morocco and if you visit, you’ll definitely be offered some during your stay! After finishing our tea and dumping our belongings into our room, we set out to explore! Jemaa el-Fnaa (The Main Square) Marrakech Doorway Medina WallMarrakech Souk El Kessabia Our first port of call was to have a wander and get our bearings - I had intended to do a guided walking tour, but with the delays of the morning, we had well and truly missed the start time! So instead, we took some time to weave our way round the back alleys of markets and shops around our hotel to the main square of Marrakech. The square comes alive at night, whereas in the day the square was mainly filled with orange juice carts. But we stopped off for lunch at Cafe France (a very popular restaurant in the square for tourists. Not the most authentic Moroccan cuisine, but it was quick and easy). Koutoubia Mosque Marrakech Koutoubia Mosque We continued our self guided tour of the square with a trip to the nearby Koutoubia Mosque. We didn’t enter the mosque  (it isn't open to tourists) but we definitely took the time to admire the architecture. I am a huge fan of Moroccan style architecture apparently! Jardin Marjorelle Marakech Jardin Marjorelle Cat Marakech Jardin Marjorelle Girl Marakech Jardin Marjorelle Mural Marakech Jardin Marjorelle Fountain Marakech Jardin Marjorelle Cacti Our riad was in the perfect position to visit Jardin Marjorelle  as it was only a 20-ish minute walk away (the garden is outside of the Medina walls and we were staying by one of the exits closest to the garden). The garden is famous for its bright blue and yellow building which was once home to the incredible designer Yves Saint Laurent. We overheard a fellow tourist sum up the area perfectly - "looks like this bloke had a shit tonne of money but bloody good taste". It was beautiful and an oasis of calm in the bustling city. This is the perfect place for photos and we saw a few professional photo-shoots during our time here – that’s how pretty the area is! Entry is 70 MAD which is much more expensive than many of the other attractions in Marrakech but it was well worth it. Callum would say that it was worth it purely based on the free WiFi and amazing Pokémon Go spawns... Dinner at Latitude 31 Marrakech Latitude 31 Chocolate Sphere After heading back to our Riad to freshen up, we spent a lot of time on TripAdvisor deciding where to eat. Our Riad wasn’t located directly off the main square and we were absolutely exhausted after a day of travelling and exploring, we wanted somewhere close and easy... alas, we stumbled across latitude 31. This is a pricey restaurant by Moroccan standards however, we had 3 courses with soft drinks and it came to 520 MAD (about 41 GBP) for both of us, which isn’t bad at all by English standards! The restaurant menu is filled with traditional Moroccan foods with a modern twist and all of our courses were out of this world. We were first presented with a complimentary amuse-bouche. The three appetisers were a small creme brulee, a chicken dish and a fish dish. The two I ate were amazing (I gave my fishy one to Callum as I don’t eat fish). Next up, I had a dish that at first looked like a tagine but was a refreshing twist on the traditional tagine.  The chicken was layered with caramelised tomatoes which were so sweet and delicious! Callum had the mixed grill platter and raved about it for the rest of the trip! Finally we both had a “chocolate sphere” (pictured above) which consisted of a hollow ball of chocolate filled with fruits which were then covered in warm chocolate sauce – yum! After successfully filling our stomachs, the restaurant owner treated us to a complimentary cocktail which were also gorgeous.

Day two  

Saadian tombs Marrakech Tombs Girl Marrakech Tombs InteriorOur first port of call was the Saadian tombs which I’m quite aware sounds a bit depressing, but I promise it wasn't! The area is really beautiful. A common theme in Marrakech attractions is that information is given in Arabic and French with no English translation, so it might be worth researching the attractions that you want to see before you visit. The mausoleum houses around 60 members of the Saudi Dynasty and has become popular with tourists due to the pure beauty of the site. This isn’t a huge area, so you won’t need TOO long to explore it. Even though we arrived fairly early, queues were already forming to see into the different rooms – however the queues were definitely worse as we were leaving, so this is probably a good place to see early in the day! El Badi Palace Marrakech El Badi Stairs Marrakech El Badi Landscape Next stop was El Badi Palace which I’d read to be very run down ruins and nothing in comparison to Bahia Palace (see below). In true Danielle fashion, I actually preferred El Badi Palace! We struggled to find the entrance for quite a while but it was definitely worth the wait. For the most part, this is a ruined palace, however it’s absolutely huge and I can only imagine how grand it would have been in its prime. There are plenty of corners, underground tunnels, nooks and crannies to explore. This is one of the fee places that appeared to have English translations on most of their information boards too! My love for Moroccan architecture has been strengthened once more! Bahia Palace Marrakech El Bahia Palace Marrakech El Bahia Palace Fountain Marrakech El Bahia Palace Tiles Now for the much more built up and stereotypically beautiful palace. If you’re a big fan of Moroccan tiles and colour, this is the place for you. Once again, the palace is much bigger than you think it will be – I’m sure Moroccans have mastered the art of making buildings 10 times bigger on the inside than they look from the outside (it definitely puts Doctor Who's Tardis to shame)! This is an undeniably beautiful palace and will be the background of many Instagram photos if you are that way inclined! Lunch in the square As we headed back up north, we stopped once again for lunch in the square, this time opting to eat at Zeitoun Cafe  where we had the most delicious Moroccan style sandwiches with a view over the square for a spot of people watching! Explore the Souks Marrakech Spices Marrakech Souks Trinkets Our Riad staff had told us that we would most definitely get lost in the Souks but I think we did quite well! Before arriving in Morocco, I had downloaded the app “City maps to go” which you can use offline and whilst no GPS companies have mapped out the winding alleyways of the Souks, it was a good way of seeing whether you were coming closer to the exit or not! We didn’t pick up anything during our time shopping – I’m not one for bartering! But I was obsessed with their hand painted beautiful plates. Once I’ve bought a house, maybe I’ll think about buying plates! Ben Youseff Madrasa Ben Youseff Madrasa Marrakech Marrakech Ben Youseff Madrasa Couple This is definitely another attraction that you will want to read about before visiting if English is your only language! Alternatively, I know many people have hired guides for the day and completed similar itineraries  to the above without the need for research. This was the most prominent Islamic College in the Marrakech area and led to many great scholars. This was one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa and housed up to 900 students - it's hard to believe that 900 students stayed in the small dormitories (many of which had no windows) but that's a small price to pay for apparently one of the best religious teachings in North Africa! If any universities looked like this in the UK, then maybe I’d have gone to uni!  This is another attraction for the instagram-holics! Dinner and exploring the main square at night  As mentioned previously, the main square comes alive at night time, so on our last night, we opted to eat slightly closer to the main square so that we could check out the square in all its glory of an evening. As we had been on 3 days worth of excursions prior to this day in which we had no choice when it comes to food and had been served repetitive tagine / chicken meals for the duration, we were most definitely "tagined"-out. So instead wee opted for a restaurant that was popular on TripAdvisor and served a menu of varied cuisines (if you're also getting sick of tagines, be sure to check out Kui-Zin). Unfortunately at our time of visit (March 2017), a large part of the main square was under construction, so I don’t think we got the full impact of the area. With a positive outlook, the square is beautiful - stalls selling mainly handcrafted Moroccan souvenirs, beautiful women offering henna tattoos, bustling restaurants, street music. However, there is a dark side to this square; Morocco do use animals in the tourism trade extensively. I was saddened by the monkeys on chains and kept in small boxes – hopefully the world will learn!

If I had one more day  

While I think my 2 days in Marrakech were perfect, if I were to spend one day longer in the city, here's what I would do! Spa day Morocco is famed for its Hammam style of massage/bath and if we had an extra day, I would have loved to try one! We decided to skip this activity as we have both had Turkish baths previously (which are ever so slightly different - you can learn about the difference here), so we felt more inclined to go out and explore what Morocco had to offer! Cooking class Another thing that Morocco is famed for is it's food! We loved the food on our trip (despite getting a bit "tagined"-out towards the end) and it would have been so interesting to see the pros at work/learn how it's done! Guided Souk Tour The souks are a mess of colour, winding alleyways, stalls and activity. We didn't purchase anything whilst we were there on the basis that a) nothing caught our eye and b) we weren't actually sure what was worth buying and for what price! You can hire guides to take you around the souks and get all of the top tips and tricks! Overall, our time in Marrakech was amazing and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a trip to experience a culture that is completely different from their own, eat great food, meet incredibly friendly and helpful people and generally have a great time! Have you been to Marrakech? What was your experience like?

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Danielle1

Two Days in Marrakech Pinterest

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Ahhh Africa. The continent I should have got to visit this year - you might remember reading in my 2016 Travel Plans that I had a 2 week trip booked to Zimbabwe where I would be volunteering with black rhinos as well as visiting Victoria Falls. I had to cancel my trip due to work/study commitments and it's safe to say that I was gutted! There's so many things I would absolutely love to do in Africa - hopefully I can get there next year! Bucket List
  1. Volunteer with animals
  2. Go on a luxury African safari
  3. Stay in a beautiful traditional Riad in Marrakesh, Morocco
  4. Take a camel camping trek across the Sahara desert
  5. Visit the Egyptian pyramids
  6. Gasp in awe at the wildlife in Madagascar
  7. Hike Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
  8. Visit Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia
  9. Take a Nile River Cruise, Egypt
  10. Climb Table Mountain, South Africa
  11. Climb the Ethiopian Highlands
  12. Soak up the sun in Zanzibar
  13. Try sand boarding on the Sossusvlei Dunes, Nambia
  14. Raft the Zambezi River
  15. Stare into the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
  16. Take a journey on the "most luxurious railway in the world" - Rovos Rail
  17. See the penguins of South Africa
  18. Experience Cape Town's wine
  19. Witness the Serengeti's great migration
  20. Trek the Atlas Mountains and visit the Berber villages on the way, Morocco

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1