It has been a busy year. I collected quite a few new stamps in my passport and discovered some amazing new destinations. As this year comes to a close, I’m doing my annual review and planning 2016.

Here, in no particular order, are my personal top 10 experiences shared on the blog this year. (Links to the original posts and more pictures in CAPS headings.)

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The Cirque of Mafate is unquestionably a “mythical” place for trekking, but I am going to be honest: it nearly killed me. It was quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever done. But also the most rewarding.

I will do it again. In a heart-beat.

There is a tradition among mountaineers that when you pass a cairn in a remote area that you place a stone upon the cairn, and if you kiss the stone, you or your spirit will return to that place. I wish to return. I really do.

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I’ve often thought, if sustainability was a woman, it would surely explain her knack for keeping secrets.  Sometimes as silent as an ancient goddess, lost to us as truth to myth over time and eventually forgotten between the indecipherable lines of an ancient book.

I’ll be honest: I never expected to find her in the Seychelles. She started whispering through the simplest of pleasures. I was so dumbfounded that I momentarily thought these 115 islands were some version of Utopia.

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You know how sometimes you can care with a devotion bordering on obsession? Well, I’ve had a crush on De Hoop Nature Reserve since the first time I saw a photograph of Koppie Alleen’s beach.

The Melkkamer Manor House is a timeless tale. Once you cross the waters, you turn the page and read a whole new chapter of your own story as if for the first time. You are in your own movie, and it is romantic and soppy and beautiful and real. 

I used to have a crush on De Hoop, but that was a very long time ago. I don’t anymore. Now, I’m certainly enamoured of it.

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For centuries the island of Reunion’s moonlike volcanoes, lagoons, lush landscapes and monumental cirques rising from the deep blue have inspired many. The island has lured me with the promise of her breathtaking beaches ever since I first learned of her.

Luckily my friend Vertigo doesn’t really bother me when in a helicopter, so even those with a serious fear of heights HAVE to try and add this experience to their itinerary. Flying over an erupting volcano truly is a once in a lifetime experience. Piton de la Fournaise is the second most active volcano in the world.

Whale Watching South AfricaWhale Watching Marine Dynamics BreachingWhale Breaching Marine Dynamics

Of all the journeys I have taken in my lifetime, driving to the Overberg for the first time will surely remain one of the most memorable for years. Nothing quite compares to the landscapes in bloom and Proteas pinking it up in the light spring rains.

Louise and I left Cape Town at the crack of dawn – direction Kleinbaai: I was going to see whales up close and personal for the first time. It has been a long-awaited tick off my bucket list, as there is something about these gentle giants that have continued to fascinate me since I was I a child (who grew up about 1000 km from the ocean).

Machangulo Beach Lodge Mozambique

I remember exactly how I felt when I got up on the last morning to leave the ocean paradise of Machangulo: heartbroken. It remains one of the most beautiful beach destinations that I have ever been to.

Machangulo Beach Lodge – nestled between the dunes of arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – spearheads a marine reserve around Mozambique’s Inhaca Island and the preservation of a truly unique ecosystem, making them true custodians of the custodians of the environment and pillars of strength to the local community of this untouched haven.

An hour by speedboat and you can reach this dream of a place. And dream you will.

Stellenbosch in October Natalie Roos

There are stories about lime green vineyards that rake the sheltered valley of Stellenbosch in October.

The new season’s stories are aplenty.  Along the banks of the Eerste River the City of Oaks no longer daydreams of live music, champagne and beer on its lawns.  Now its beautifully restored Cape Dutch architecture, with stinkwood doors and tall double volume sash windows welcome the annual return of picnics, adrenalin, adventure, birdwatching, canoes, cyclists and balmy blue skies.

It is spring again. The Cape Winelands is like a child that knows poems by heart and all who dare to venture in, become a punch drunk love.

Cape Fur Seal Pup (2)

Milton Schorr went Seal Snorkelling with Seal Snorkelling Adventures in Hout Bay, Cape Town, and discovered a wild world beneath the sea.

private helicopter tours of Cape Town

I took a private helicopter tour of Cape Town with NAC Helicopters and it was, to say the very least, truly unforgettable.

My pictures don’t do the views justice at all. I struggled with reflections and focus. You see, my jaw was down to the ground for most of the flight.

I also screamed. A lot.

This is definitely one of the most inspiring Cape Peninsula tours I know.  Add it to your list of ‘must-do-in-the-Mother-City’, I’m convinced you won’t regret it for a second.

Nhoma Safari Camp Hunting San Namibia Nhoma Safari Camp San Hunting Responsible Tourism

Turning off the main road between Grootfontein and Rundu, at a road sign that indicates Tsumkwe 220 km, I was feeling rather sceptical.  We were heading for an area just west of Khaudum National Park in the remote north-eastern part of Namibia. The assurance was an authentic cultural interaction with the Ju/’hoan San people. Unfortunately, my experience of these cultural experiences set up for tourists has often shown them to be superficial and contrived. Turning people into a commodity, exploiting them for the visitor’s pleasure, and even indulgence, is not something I like to be part off.

However, the San hold a true fascination to me, a people full of wisdom and insight into the mysteries of the earth. My curiosity got the better of me, so I made the dusty and bumpy journey to Tsumkwe.

The San are one of the oldest indigenous people in Africa, who once lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in small family groups. They never had any desire to accumulate material wealth or personal possessions, and shared everything among their community. This lifestyle became increasingly difficult to maintain for many San in an ever-changing modern world, and most now live in towns and cities scattered across Southern Africa, often far from their traditional hunting grounds.

***

I wrote the below on the 1st of January this year, nervous as shit, scared, but brave. The year didn’t turn out too shabby, I would say. I’m taking exactly this attitude into 2016 and look forward to sharing my plans and adventures with you.

Whenever we think we know the future, even for a second, it changes. Sometimes the future changes quickly and completely, and we are left only with the choice of what to do next. We can choose to be afraid of it, to stand there trembling, not moving, assuming the worst that can happen, or we step forward, into the unknown, and assume it will be brilliant.

Words and pictures (unless otherwise indicated)

© Daréll Lourens 2015 | www.onetwodee.com

The Good Holiday Gold Responsible Tourism Awards Travel Blog

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  1. MerusChka /

    love thIs post dee. What an eventful year you’ve had! Cheers to An epic 2016 and more african travel!

    • Daréll Lourens /

      Thanks for reading! I’m pretty darn excited about the year ahead .. Hopefully we can pack our bags and go somewhere together too!?

  2. Marissa Tejada /

    WHAT AMAZING EXPERIENCES! THAT BEACH LOOKS ABSOLUTELY DREAMY. CAPE TOWN FROM THE SKY IS PRETTY NEAT TOO. ALWAYS A FUN PERSPECTIVE FROM A HELICOPTER.

    • Daréll Lourens /

      It was such a trip of a year and that helicopter flip in Reunion was nothing short of memorable. Thanks so much for reading and following!

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