Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

Older Posts »

Take a tax holiday — on Uncle Sam

Tax season is almost over! Now that filing is nearly complete, it’s time for many of us to start looking forward to our refunds. This year alone, U.S. taxpayers already received an average of $2,831 per person in refunds, a significant amount of money that could whisk you away on an exotic vacation!

For that reason, I came up with a few suggestions for how travelers can get the most out of their newly acquired cash.

If you’re on the more conservative side of the refund spectrum or want to pocket some of the extra money, here’s my list of tax-refund trips travelers can take for under $2,000, including airfare.

  • Explore Exotic Ecuador for $1,399: Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, boasting more than 300 species of mammals alone. Visitors can tour the natural hot springs in Baños, view the volcanic peaks of Cotopaxi National Park, and explore the world’s most biologically diverse rainforest — the Amazon. Journey back in time with a visit to Quito, the nation’s capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and explore the city’s Spanish colonial architecture dating back to the 16th century. A trip to Ecuador is like immersing yourself in the world’s greatest biology class, and one that visitors will never forget.

Find out who’s going on a free trip to South Africa!

It might be Monday, but I was excited to come into work today. That’s because I got to let one lucky traveler know that she’s going on a free trip to South Africa, on us! It’s been a blast to read your comments on our Facebook page about how much you love South Africa, and I’m sad to see our sweepstakes come to an end — I wish you all could win! And hopefully, some of you who have gotten a chance to learn more about this great destination will be motivated to join us on tour, even if it’s not for free.

But one lucky person will take home this amazing prize. So without further ado (drum roll please), the winner of our Win Wild South Africa Sweepstakes is …

Mary Wood from Oregon!

Congratulations, Mary! I know you and your guest will have an amazing time taking in the beauty, majesty, and adventure of South Africa. Take lots of pictures for us, and we hope you’ll share your South Africa story on the blog upon your return.

But hold on, travelers. If you didn’t win this prize, don’t lose hope! We have a very special announcement that we’ll reveal tomorrow. You never know — we just might be giving away another trip! Come back tomorrow to find out.

South African Explorer Series: 7 foods you can’t miss

To everyone who loves travel, exploring local cuisine is one of the best aspects of visiting a new place. And as we’ve been covering all things South Africa because we’re giving away a free trip for two to this fascinating locale on our Facebook page (now closed), we couldn’t help bringing you our take on the “hit list” of South African foods in this installment of our South African Explorer Series.

South Africa’s cuisine has Malay, Dutch, French, British, Indian and Eastern European influences, which, when combined with locally available food, results in a unique assortment of tasty treats. Here are seven of the most popular and delicious foods available in South Africa.

Braai (Pronounced as in “rye”). The most popular type of food in South Africa is braai, which is Afrikaans for “barbecue” or “grill.” It also refers to the social custom of gathering friends and family over for a pot-luck style meal that focuses mainly on barbequed meat. Chicken, pork, beef, lamb, mutton, or “boerewors” (see below) is prepared over an open flame made with wood, charcoal, or briquettes, although using gas has also become more common in recent years.

Braai is often served with pap, a thick type of porridge, along with various sauces, such as Mrs H.S. Ball’s Chutney, a bottled chutney sauce brand that is wildly popular with South Africans. In South Africa, “ketchup” as we know it is referred to as “tomato sauce.” Chutney is used by many South Africans the way Americans use ketchup.

Braai is a very important social custom in South Africa. It’s how locals celebrate Christmas, birthdays, graduations, and special events in their lives. You’ll get plenty of chances to taste Braai when you visit South Africa.

Boerewors (Pronounced bur-eh-vors). This is the most important meat for your braai and practically a national institution. It looks similar to Italian sausage with a very distinctive flavor. But don’t call boerewors “sausage” in South Africa, or you’ll get a hot dog! No self-respecting South African would consider a braai without boerewors, and here’s a tip. You can brush your ‘wors’ with Mrs H.S. Ball’s Chutney before putting it on the braai!

Rusks. You’ll certainly encounter these hard pieces of bread if you travel to South Africa. They’re most commonly served with tea or coffee before a game drive. When you return after your game drive for a hearty South African breakfast, you’ll likely see them on the buffet again. (Rusks taste best dunked in coffee or tea.) 

Rooibos tea (Pronounced roy-boss). The rooibos plant is native to South Africa, and the leaves are used to make one of the country’s most popular drinks — rooibos tea. It’s often served in the same fashion as black tea with milk or sugar, although it is caffeine-free. Rooibos tea is becoming popular around the world for its health benefits, including its antioxidants and phenolic compounds. It’s said to help with tension, allergies, and digestive issues.

Bunny chow. The recipe for bunny chow is simple: curry with mutton, lamb, chicken, or beans in a hollowed-out bread loaf. It’s a delicious treat unique to Durban that dates back to the 1940s. Here are a few tips for ordering your bunny chow: It comes in a quarter, half, or full loaf. According to local slang, simply ask for the size and the kind in one short phrase. If you want a quarter loaf of mutton, say “quarter mutton.” Oh, and yes, Mrs Ball’s Chutney goes well with bunny chow, too!

Biltong (Pronounced bill-tong). This is the national snack of South Africa, and is similar to beef jerky, although it can be made from a variety of meats, such as beef or game. This is eaten at sports games, at home, and anywhere.

Bobotie (Pronounced bor-bor-tee). This is a dish of minced meat with egg topping, similar in consistency to meatloaf. It was among the first dishes created in South Africa that takes influences from both the East and West, and the result is a spicy, flavorful dish. Bobotie has a mild curry flavor and is eaten with rice and Mrs Balls Chutney. If you’re getting the idea that Mrs. Balls Chutney goes with a lot of foods, you’re right! South Africans are known to put it on everything, from bobotie to scrambled eggs.

Braai, bunny chow, bobotie — I’m hungry just thinking about it! Which would you want to try first in South Africa? Let us know in a comment below.

10 adventures that can only be experienced in South Africa

In case you missed it, we just announced our Win Wild South Africa Sweepstakes! We’re looking forward to sending a lucky winner and guest to witness the majestic scenery and cultural richness of South Africa.

While there are literally hundreds of unique and exciting things to see and do in this amazing destination, I contributed my personal list of top 10 adventures and activities to experience in South Africa in a recent article on Huffington Post. In my opinion, our winner (and anyone else thinking of traveling to South Africa) absolutely must see each of these magnificent wonders! Read my article to get all the details.

Would you add anything to my list? Let me know in a comment below.

What it’s like to go on safari in South Africa

Today I want to share a blog post from my friend and our Product Development Manager at Friendly Planet, Judy Poliva. Judy grew up in South Africa, the destination at the center of our Win Wild South Africa Sweepstakes. I asked her to fill us in on what makes South Africa so special and she delivered, so read on. After you’re finished, be sure to enter to win a free trip for two to South Africa on our Facebook page (now closed)!


When we were children growing up in the Johannesburg area, we didn’t realize how lucky we were. We lived within driving distance of the Kruger National Park!

Almost every year during our winter school holidays (July), my parents would pack up the car with supplies, and we would head off on a self-drive safari, for a week or sometimes two. As we got closer to the park, my sisters and I would start practicing game-spotting by looking at the herds of cattle.

But once we entered the park, the competition started in earnest: who could spot the first animal (this was usually an impala), the first giraffe, or a lion! This was a daily, all-day competition, and we never tired of it. On our journey home, we missed being on the constant look out, and the cattle didn’t seem so interesting anymore.

We would be ready at dawn to start out on our game drive as soon as the gate opened. At every rest stop, we listened carefully as travelers shared their stories of what they had seen, so that we could head off there as well. We also had to remember to close all the windows so that the vervet monkeys or baboons didn’t try to steal our things.

If we saw some cars in the distance, we headed in that direction. Or we drove around, hoping to get lucky. At night, we would watch wildlife films in the open-air theatre at the camp or listen to a lecture by a game ranger. We would fall asleep listening to the sounds of roaring lions not too far away, and wake to the gentle coos of the bush doves.

One of the most memorable of my childhood experiences was in the northern region of the Kruger National Park, a more remote area that had only one-lane dirt roads. There was no other car in sight. We came around a corner, and the road dipped down a sharp incline to a dry river bed and then up an equally sharp incline. As we neared the bottom of the dip, an elephant walking along the dry river bed started crossing the road. Then, another and another and another, a seemingly endless stream of these huge, majestic creatures. There must have been more than 10 elephants of all ages.

Suddenly, one of the larger elephants looked in our direction and raised its trunk, flapped its ears, and took a few steps in our direction. My father put the car in reverse and we slowly went back up the hill. My sisters and I were shrieking with a mixture of excitement and fear. The elephants eventually decided we weren’t so interesting after all. They continued their journey, and disappeared into the bush once more. Once again, we were alone on the road.

How would you Like to win a trip for two to the sweeping savannahs of South Africa?

If you dream of driving into the African bush in search of the Big Five game or gazing at open grasslands while being treated to warm, welcoming hospitality, then have I got a special treat for you.

We’re giving away a free trip for two on our Facebook page in partnership with South African Tourism and South African Airways to one of the world’s most coveted destinations: South Africa! Breathtaking and magnificent doesn’t even begin to describe the scenery and wildlife travelers experience in South Africa. And you could see it for yourself in person. Just visit our Facebook page, Like us, and enter your information to enter to win this prize, worth up to $5,400!

This prize package includes almost everything two travelers will need as they explore South Africa:

  • Round-trip, non-stop airfare from JFK or IAD to Cape Town Airport via South Africa Airways. This includes fuel surcharges, taxes, and fees.
  • Flights, ground transportation, and transfers within South Africa.
  • Six-night accommodations in a first-class hotel and game lodge.
  • Ten meals total: six breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners.
  • Professional, English-speaking guides and game rangers.
  • Sightseeing in Cape Town.
  • Four game drives at Entabeni Game Reserve.

Are you ready for the trip of a lifetime? Can you already picture yourself on safari in South Africa? Well read the full itinerary of the trip and then enter to win. Don’t forget to invite your friends to enter — and make sure they bring you if they win! You also earn an extra entry for every friend that enters through your invite, increasing your chances of winning.

The sweepstakes will close at 11:59 p.m. on October 11, and we’ll announce the winner soon after. Good luck, travelers!

Why visit South Africa?

All of us who love to travel and who believe in bucket lists probably have listed South Africa among the most desired of all destinations. In survey after survey, people who love exploring the world mention South Africa as a must-see place, which makes perfect sense. Here are just a few reasons why South Africa should be on your own bucket list right now! And don’t miss your chance to enter to win a free trip for two to South Africa on our Facebook page (now closed)!

#1: It’s affordable.
And do we ever prove that with our all new Taste of South Africa tour, with departures starting at only $1,899 including flights, it’s hard to dispute that this bucket list destination is within the reach of most world travelers.

(more…)

Win an all-expenses-paid trip to Peru on Friendly Planet Travel’s “Win the World” Facebook giveaway

I can’t tell you how excited I was to make the call to Jamie Bartlett, the first winner in our “Win the World” Facebook giveaway. Hearing the excitement in his voice as I told him that he’ll be going on a 14-day trip to Cape Town and Johannesburg was a highlight of my year (even if the year is only six weeks old).

Jamie and a friend will be on their way to South Africa, all expenses paid, but we have five more tours to give away until July. The next one up? Peru, a $6,500 value! Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of Jamie, it was you this time?

It can be! All you have to do to enter is hit our Facebook page and fill out the entry form. If you entered to win the Best of South Africa tour, don’t fret — your name is still in the running to be picked for Peru and our next destination, China. But if you haven’t invited all your friends to enter, you’re missing out on extra chances to win.

For every friend you refer that enters, your name gets added to the list again. You can increase your chances to win exponentially by telling your significant other, family, and everyone you know (over the age of 21, that is) to enter. It can’t get much easier than that!

Our Amazing Peru tour is one of our most visually beautiful and fascinating destinations. The winner of this trip will get to savor the sites, including Lima, Peru’s capital city; the Paracas National Reserve in Paracas; and Cuzco, capital of the ancient Inca Empire. The winner will be able to shop in local Peruvian markets for homemade goods; see ancient sights like Machu Picchu, a mystical stone courtyard thought to be the country retreat for Incan nobility; and plenty more, all while interacting with the locals and taking in the culture of Peru.

The winner of the tour, along with a guest, will get round-trip flights from Miami via LAN Airlines, including fuel surcharges, taxes, and fees; all ground transportation and transfers within Peru; and a deluxe hotel stay with a private bath. The prize package also includes 11 buffet breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners; comprehensive touring, including entrance fees; a Ballestas Islands boat excursion (weather permitting); and English-speaking tour guides and directors.

There’s more where that came from! The full itinerary is available on our website, so you can start dreaming of the exact things you’ll do and people you’ll meet while traveling in Peru. But you have to enter on our Facebook page to qualify!

So what are you waiting for? Hop over to our Facebook page to enter to win a fantastic tour to Peru! Maybe I’ll be calling you in a month to tell you what you’ve won. :-)

The sights and sounds of South Africa can be yours for free

We’re giving away a free trip to South Africa (seriously!) for one of our loyal Facebook fans as the first of six trip giveaways in 2012. For many people, this might be the first time they’ve considered a trip to South Africa. But whether you’ve been dreaming of taking a trip there for a lifetime, or this is your first time considering it, no one should miss out on this fantastic destination.

So I wanted to give travelers a little taste of what South Africa’s like and if this whets your appetite to go on safari, then you’re in luck. Click over to our Facebook page and enter to win a trip for two (a $8,600 value!) to this fascinating and one-of-a-kind destination.

Cape Town is the second most populated city in South Africa and one of the most multicultural and interesting cities in the world.

Located on the Cape Peninsula, the first records of occupation in Cape Town date back somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 years ago.

Baboons are some of the world’s largest species of monkeys and can live for up to 30 years.

A native to Africa, did you know the elephant can pick up an object the size of a marble or a branch that’s a foot thick? That’s pretty handy!

The Greater Flamingo and the Lesser Flamingo both make Africa their home, and it has yet to be discovered why these flamingos often stand on one foot at a time.

Did you know the word “hippo” comes from the term “river horse?” Hippos communicate to each other verbally, so do you think these two are talking or playing?

When the cheetah runs, it can reach speeds of 70 to 75 mph — that’s highway speed for most cars!

Lions are very social creatures, and often travel in large groups called prides, where the females are the primary hunters.

And there’s more where that came from! Enter our Facebook contest for your chance to travel to South Africa, and see all this and more for yourself.

All images attributed to South African Tourism

Would you “Like” to win 1 of 6 exotic giveaways?

It really is as easy as Liking Friendly Planet Travel on our Facebook page to have a chance to win one of six all expenses paid getaway giveaways. All you have to is go to the Facebook page, Like us, and fill out the entry form.

We asked our fans where our first sweepstakes destination should be. And we were excited to see the tour our travelers most chose was Best of South Africa, a trip valued at $8,500.

Want some help improving your odds of winning one of these trips? Just invite a friend to enter the contest. For every friend you invite who enters, your name will added to the pool again, increasing your chances of winning! The contest will run from Jan. 3, 2012 to Jan. 31, 2012, and we’ll announce the winner on Facebook and right here on the blog on or around Feb. 1.

If you win the first trip, here’s what will await you in South Africa. Johannesburg and Cape Town have become destinations for style, night life, and gorgeous scenery; while the sweeping savannas are home to Africa’s big five game: lions, African elephants, cape buffaloes, leopards, and black rhinoceroses.

The prize includes round-trip flights from JFK via South African Airways, including fuel surcharges; ground transportation and transfers within South Africa; 10 nights in superior, first-class hotels; and 10 American-style breakfasts, three lunches, and three dinners. The tour will also include professional, English-speaking tour directors; a comprehensive touring program; and a special opportunity to spend time with the elephants at Elephant Whispers.

For all the details on where you’ll go and what you’ll see in South Africa, be sure to click over and read the detailed itinerary. Travelers will have the chance to experience a real safari and meet the locals of South Africa, along with much more.

Good luck to all who enter! And if you don’t win, don’t be discouraged! This is truly the trip of a lifetime, so you can still go on our Best of South Africa tour at an incredible rate. Check out our website, reach out to me, or contact our reservations team at 1-800-555-5765 with questions or comments about a trip to South Africa.

Older Posts »

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

Tour & Cruise Packages Our specialty for 30 years! Find one now:
choose a region Europe Mediterranean Asia Middle East Africa Central America Caribbean South America South Pacific
  • Follow Friendly Planet Share the love of travel
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Pinterest
McAfee SECURE sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams
Great Greece Giveaway: You could win a trip for 2 to Greece worth up to $6100!