Tuesday, 13 October 2015

My experience on a game drive in South Africa

Can you believe I've never been to South Africa in my 31 years on this planet?! I've met South Africans, researched about it the place, and even virtually explored the place but I've never set foot there. Why have I never been? Goodness knows, however  that was all about to change as the next stop on my adventures was indeed, South Africa.

I actually saw and did a fair amount on my trip but for the purpose of this post, I am going to talk to you about South African game drives as it was one of the most memorable. As a first timer to South Africa having that experience of a game drive actually changed my outlook on travel, this all sounds a bit deep in only the second paragraph, but it was something I'll never forget..  and thus the reason it's the first on my South African series.

Since my trip a lot of my friends have asked what I suggest they look for when finding the perfect place for a game drive. The answer is I don't know. It truly depends on what you want out of it, but let me paint the picture from my perspective, of what I wanted and experienced. First on my top priority was the animals. It was all about me seeing as many animals as possible and getting incredible photos, from accommodation all I wanted was to purely to relax, unwind and take in the simplistic surroundings.

I was staying at Cheetah Ridge in Nambiti which was nuzzled away on a private game reserve. The first thing I noticed was the grand fences and security guards as you entered the game area. There is always that irrational fear that a lion may just magically appear as you're heading to the lodge, but it's quicker to get there than you think. Plus even though you're only on the car journey to the lodge, you're already spotting animals roaming freely. For me this was a good sign of great animal welfare.

I looked around Cheetah Ridge trying to take it all in. This was my ideal image of South Africa with the amazing d├ęcor, big fires (it was very chilly) and warming staff ready to check you in. I figured that as the place was quite small with only a few lodges, the staff took their time to give customers a great personal experience, this is something I always look for throughout my stay but was immediately clear on arrival. Good start.

Into my private lodge I went. I squeaked to myself a few times before admiring the large windows overlooking the game reserve. There was no technology temptation, just a huge bath, a large bed to snuggle up in and a fire to keep you warm. I was going on two game drives one at 6am and the other at 5pm.  I wasn't sure what to really expect on the first one but my goodness it was eye opening.

Top 5 animals to spot on a game drive
  1. Rhino
  2. Lion
  3. Elephant
  4. Leopard

Teamed with my Samsung NX1000, super dooper long lens and my walking boots, we drove along with Emily (our tour guide) carefully fighting across the uneven surfaces. Firstly I was sceptical we'd see anything, but we turned a corner and there it was, a herd of elephants so close I could of touched them.

The parade of elephants gathered casually around a salt block, I've never seen an elephant that close up, or as many! The matriarch kept a close eye on us in our jeep, I guess she just wanted to make sure we were harmless - she even came to check us out before returning to the herd! I was mesmerised, so much so, that 30 minutes passed by without me realising!

I spotted three lion cubs on a hunt before we returned to the lodge. Don't panic I didn't just spot elephants and lion cubs on my first trip, I saw loads of animals! But back to these lion cubs, they were watching nearby potential pray and lounging around as the sun went down. This was the perfect time for us to stop in a safe place, (not near the lions!) get out the car and have a glass of wine.   

As we drove back I was desperate to spot a Hyena as this was the prime time we'd see them, but unfortunately we didn't. I did however discover a group of hippopotamuses, which as we know are happy veggies but they are Africa's most dangerous beast! They kill more humans than any other animal..
seriously! They can weigh up to 9000 pounds and past that cute looking face they have super sharp teeth... so I was keeping very still and didn't even take pictures!

Up with the birds and off on the morning game drive before breakfast. Safe spot for a warm mug of coffee before adventures began, hunting for a male lion and that elusive rhino.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw such amazing creatures in front of me. It was like a scene out of the Lion King when I saw the pride of lions together around the waterhole. From that moment Hakuna matata danced around my head until I returned to the lodge for breakfast! I won't lie, I was really nervous initially seeing these strapping lions as they are very powerful, but seeing them together made me look at them differently. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't go petting one but they came across carefree in their existence.

The game drive was really a really enlightening experience, bizarrely time just flew by and by the end I was so gutted it was all over. I could of spent a week doing this! 

I got to see so many animals up close that I'd never of dreamt. I'm a big supporter of WWF so it was positive to see how large these private game reserves are and that these animals can just be. 

I didn't get to see a rhino unfortunately, but we were told before we started that these are very rare. The rhinos are always being hunted for by poachers for their ivory, and this particular game reserves have anti poaching rangers who cover the land on a motor bike on a daily basis to keep track of their rhinos. Why don't they just have a tracker on them? Well if they did then poachers would find a way to get to them, it's also the reason if they are seen you can't take photos on your mobile and upload them to the Internet as poachers are so on the ball, they'll find the location. Crazy isn't it?!

Game drive holidays - who are they for?
  • Honeymooners 
  • Outdoor explorers 
  • Relaxation enthusiasts
For my game drive experience I was in Nambiti at Cheetah Ridge and it was spectacular from start to finish, however there are numerous out there in South Africa for you to chose from. The reason I liked this one so much was because it was adventure teamed with simple relaxation.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

OMG! I've just run my first marathon

That is quite true, I have indeed just run a marathon. I may not have been quick, I may not have done it with ease but yes I have the medal, I crossed that finish line and I can finally say I am a marathoner! 

A few of months ago I was approached by Adidas miCoach to test out their Fit Smart fitness tech watch. Loving tech as many of you know I couldn't wait to see how this device could slot into my varied fitness regime. It covers a broad range of activities so it was great to see how much I was doing and how much I was developing. 

A month or so later I was asked by Adidas miCoach if I'd like to run the Berlin marathon. I think I had to read that same email about ten times before it all sunk in, these people had asked me the serious question of whether I would like to run the marathon. Yep, they had the name right, they had the blog right, so it was for certainly for me. Can I run a marathon? Was my next thought. I'd run up to a half marathon before and between us, I hated it. This was a fair few years ago before my blogging and youtubing days, and anything that meant I had to move from behind my computer screen deemed as being too much. A lot has changed since then, I've got married, I bought a house, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, I've had two knee operations... I'd say that's a fair amount to deal with! Plus any running I do now is short distance, so endurance and not speeding off is totally out of my comfort zone.

Back to my initial question, can I run a marathon? I asked everyone around me and all of them laughed or looked at me as if to say I was mad to consider it. No, no, I was serious but even though I felt confident, my confidence was slipping because of the negativity I was getting. Only one person could know what I should do and that was my husband, my Ironman (he is actually an Ironman triathlete, it's not a pet name) he looked at me and simply said, if you want to do it and work hard, you can do it. That was it, yes that sounds great, count me in, Kind Regards Annie. Holy hell, the email was sent, the deed was done and there was no turning back. 

Whatever you do fitness challenge wise as much as you plan, life gets in the way and for me it was of course my wedding. I was trying to train but I had table plans coming out my ears and frantic worries about who was doing what on the day, so running was sort of pushed to the back of the pack. I knew I needed to get past the wedding to concentrate. Post wedding and I was on it. A structured plan was in place and I was doing my best to balance short and long distance days, stretch days, swimming days and also relax and do nothing days. I know my body will always go into shock if I don't mix things up fitness wise,so I continued to do my weight training, my yoga and my swimming because that's what works for me. 

Like all training you have good and bad days, a good day for me was doing a half marathon distance in training and completing it in just over 2 hours. A bad day was an alcohol related injury on my ankle 2 weeks before the race. Oops. As you can imagine I was rather stressed when this happened, as little did I tell you but I'd gone over on the other ankle at the very start from dancing about my living room and tripping over the rug. It is official I am a walking hazard. So in the last week I couldn't run and instead iced and rested my swollen ankle. I decided to venture to Berlin and see how I got on, what else could I do?

I forgot to mention I was actually doing the marathon with three other amazing bloggers, Susie, Kelly and Sophie. I'd met Susie and Sophie previously for a quick run in London, but Kelly was joining us in Berlin from New York (internet sensation #runselfierepeat). We met, bonded and soon were off on adventures with the Adidas miCoach team in Nuremberg. Firstly we went for an awesome tour around Adidas HQ, which was something you would only dream of. I think if I was left to my own devices I would of quite honestly got lost it was that big! We got to see where they do all their product testing and also the ultra exclusive Athlete Services, which plays host to some of the top sporting stars and also uber hot celebs such as Kanye and Pharrell. Turns out not even some of the members of staff have been into this part of the building. 

After Adidas HQ tour and shopping trip in the on site store, (FYI it is massive) we took our trip to Berlin via train. By this point any mention of the word marathon and I started to feel a little queasy. I kept telling myself it was fine I had a couple of days before I was due to run... and my goodness did they fly by. Exploring Berlin and sight seeing days zoomed by, meeting marathon legends Geoffrey and Emmanuel Mutai, but before I knew it I'd eaten my last meal of pasta and was laying out my race gear. Reality was sinking in and I felt very nervous. This was the main reason Adidas asked me was because I was the marathon virgin. I was ready to do them proud and show that even though I am no running expert, I could do this. I didn't tell you but the girls I was running with were all marathon pros so I was starting at a different point to them, no one I knew was with me at the start so I did what I always do and started talking to a random. In this case I befriended a guy who was running for Alzheimer's Society, we egged each other on as we headed to the start, parted ways as he zoomed off in front of me. It was now all down to me... and ZZ Top Gimme All Your Lovin'.

Now I won't bore you with the finer details of my race but to summarise, I had to go to the loo 4 times, (I had over hydrated and was nervous so I ended up in lots of bushes along the way) I smiled all the way up to 30k then started pulling unhappy faces, I hit 'the wall' at 10k to go, I got cramp in my calf around 34k, I had a partial seizure at 32k, and I had Black Lace Agadoo in my ear as I crossed the finish line. That all being said nothing quite makes you feel invincible like crossing that finish line, or thinking you still have 5k to go when in fact you only have 1k! 

Would I do it again? If you'd of asked me that night I would of scowled at you and told you to do one, but now I'm recovered I would do... it's like I've forgotten how hard it was, either that or I'm a sucker for torture! But joking aside I know what I need to do now and what I would do differently. Regardless of times, two months worth of training and obstacles that got in my way, I, Annie completed my first marathon and made three amazing new friends along the way. Watch out 2016 I'm coming for you!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

BT Bingo | WIN a Samsung Galaxy S6!

I do love a good competition don’t you?! It feels like a fair while since I had something competition related on the blog, so today I am pleased to announce the exciting #BTMobileBingo! A super dooper cool competition being hosted by BT on their Twitter channel in celebration of their SIM- only range.

Get this, you can WIN a Samsung Galaxy S6 Smartphone! Now you may recall my last giveaway was this very prize and now you have… not one but three chances to win one with BT in #BTMobileBingo.

Why are they hosting such a competition? Here are some key facts you need to know about the NEW BT Mobile range…

·         Three kinds of 4G plans

·         A 4G plan which includes data, minutes and texts for as little as £5 a month!

·         5 Million BT Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK (most extensive coverage)

·         UK’s biggest 4G network

·         BT Mobile customers receive BT Sports app with BT Sport Lite (includes 38 Barclay Premier League matches)

·         All BT Mobile plans are only 12 month contracts (always good in my book!)

Can you see why it is definitely a cause for celebration?! Roll on #BTMobileBingo

How #BTMobileBingo Works

How do you get your mitts on a Samsung Galaxy S6 Smartphone you ask? Those taking part will use their mobile numbers as their unique bingo numbers, so no competition fixes it is purely in the hands of lady luck! BT will reveal a new random number between 0-9 until someone wins… and that could be you if you’re the first person to cross off the last six digits of your mobile phone number in any order!

Basically my best advice for this competition is to follow the hashtag #BTMobileBingo and the BT Twitter account to make sure you find out those numbers. If you are the lucky person to get a full house, you will need to tweet you have a ‘FULL HOUSE I just won #BTMobileBingo’ by tweeting BT at @BT_UK.

You have three chances to win so it’s worth giving it a go… as the saying goes you need to be in it to win it so get following @BT_UK to play #BTMobileBingo.

COMPETITION KICKS OFF at 6.30pm, 7.30pm and 8pm on 29th September 2015

Friday, 25 September 2015

SlimFast does savoury! #SlimFastNoodles

Isn't it great to know your posts sometimes make an impact? I took part in a campaign testing the SlimFast 3,2,1 plan a few months ago and my feedback was very honest. I'd heard bits about SlimFast but I was wanting to know what all the fuss was about, but more importantly what good was it doing to our bodies? In conclusion to my testing I actually found the way the plan trains you to graze was very positive, just the fact it was non stop sugar or sweet flavoured goods it put me and my body off. 
Why can't there be some savoury alternatives to SlimFast I asked.... ta-da SlimFast have just launched their new noodle boxes as the new improved SlimFast.

If you haven't read my previous post on SlimFast then to give you a summary of what it consists of, you have a shake in the morning, a morning snack, meal bar, afternoon snack then dinner and evening snack. All of the snacks available are always sweet, so after a while when I took part I couldn't wait for something savoury at dinner time.
Bringing you up to date SlimFast have just launched three separate flavours of SlimFast Noodles. spaghetti bolognese, spicy Thai and chicken tikka. Made from SlimTaki noodles made with konjac, this is an Asian root vegetable that basically contains very little calories, zero fat or sugar.

I was invited to try these new SlimFast noodles out and see how I got on. I'm a big fan of noodles anyway and have tried something similar before for my local health food shop. I figured whilst I was helping out at my friends office having this in my food routine would fit in nicely.
You can have the noodles as a snack on the 3,2,1 plan or as part of your main meal i.e with some grilled chicken and vegetables at dinner time. That is the idea anyway and I tried them with both options to see how it was. I genuinely like all three flavours and found eating them as my snack in the mid afternoon, as a really good options because it really filled me up. They range in calories from 70 - 81 per pot which is great to see but without loads of added bits like you'd assume.

So here I am talking about SlimTaki noodles as if you're very familiar with them! I'll give a little overview of what the ingredients actually are, as at the end of the day you should treat treat your body like a temple and always watch what you put into it.
Konjac (Amorphophallus Konjac) is sometimes also known as Elephant Yam or Devil's Tongue, it is similar to the texture of potato but minus the starchy carbs. It is approved by the EFSA so it's all safe, konjac in raw form contains soluble fibre called glucomannan, which according to research can contribute to weight loss as part of a healthy eating plan.
After flagging up about the fact I had sugar jitters from SlimFast when I first tried it, SlimFast have now improved their previous products. A 30% reduction on sugars found in powders and ready-to-drink shakes. What about the other products though? I've been told they're currently working on all of their products... so I guess it's a case of watch this space.
What a positive move for SlimFast and thanks for the noodles! What do you think? Have you tried SlimFast noodles or even SlimTaki ones? I love hearing your thoughts so leave me a comment below... don't forget to read my previous 3,2,1 post here.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Love Your Backpack | Stylish Bags for AW15

Backpack style trends

I cycle a fair bit so when I need to carry lots of stuff with me I can't obviously take a handbag! Using my bog standard free gym bag (I got from joining my gym) I sometimes feel a bit under dressed when using it, especially if I want to change, head out for a spot of shopping or have a coffee with friends. Don't get me wrong there is always a time and a place for a gym rucksack but before I went off to South Africa travelling I wanted a backpack that could be practical and stylish. 

I hadn't realised until I began a hunt for a new backpack that there are some super stylish ones about.! By getting one off the list of  types below, I can now essentially be functional and fashionable! Okay, so above I have selected a few 'types' out there.
  • Gym
  • Satchel
  • Classic colours
  • Bright florals
  • Textured fabrics
  • Designer labels
  • All round fun!
Personally speaking I like a classic black leather bag because it goes with everything, it's timeless and won't look dated like some of the others might. I have the black Fiorelli one from House of Fraser (as seen above) I also have ones similar to the gym bags too, but the leather black bag has a hidden zip pocket in the back (ideal for when I am on my travels) and an inner main pocket.

Finding the right bag that looks good but is actually decent in size is the main decider for me. It's all well and good having a bag that looks good, but if it's pokey? I'll pass.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Customise Your Denim Shirt | Western Meets 1970's | Next Blogger Network Competition

how to wear a denim shirt

I was asked just before I vanished to South Africa to take part in a competition via the Next Blogger Network. Would I customise a Next denim shirt from their AW15 collection to my taste and style? Well of course! It's been a fair while since I got out the old sewing machine so this could be a great move...

country girl

If you saw on one of my other posts I am all about this western meets 70's trend vibe that's going on, so my entire inspiration is the 'country girl'. I used to hate double denim but with this look and with many others there is certainly a time and a place for it.

For my challenge I popped to the local sewing shop and picked up some random pattern swatches of fabric. They were 20p per piece which is crazy cheap. Paisley was always going to happen somewhere, but I felt that I needed something different to sit next to it. I've gone for a pattern clash because the colours still work and it makes it that bit different. The main pattern dominates the top half then just a small part sits just above the pocket to create that 70's look with it's print. I did debate putting them on a diagonal but to be honest I quite like how this looks as it is.

Customising a shirt like this can be easy but measuring the fabric into the awkward corners was quite tough, but once sorted it was easy to sew from behind. It isn't as great as I would like but the general idea is there, and I can always unpick to make it neater! I'd of potentially picked a bright thread and sewn from the front to make it that bit more edgy, but decided against it in the end and think it works well with this look.

I even used remaining fabric around my hat... and of course teamed my vintage cowboy boots to complete the look. So.... what do we think?A little extra fabric goes a long way it seems....

how to wear double denim