Saturday, July 13, 2013

Day 1,2 Airplane and Capetown

Friday May 24, 2013
Saturday May 25, 2013

Our vacation in Africa started May 24 2013 at 11:15am as I boarded South African Flight 204 non-stop to Johannesburg.   It would be a very long flight arriving a little late at 08:45am the next day. I was apprehensive about this 14 hour flight but was lucky that the seat next to me was empty and impressed that the crew encouraged quiet, and sleep.  After enjoying the movie, "The Great and Powerful OZ" on my own personal TV attached to the back of the seat in front of me, I was able to catch a snooze and wake up refreshed to catch my next flight to Cape Town.

We had to pick up our luggage, pass through customs and recheck the luggage back to the domestic portion of the airport.  I started to revert back to my nervous travel self  as I grew uncomfortable with the unfamiliar space, annoyed with the late arriving plane, ticked at the luggage delay, and a bit panicked as I realized we had only an hour to make our connection.  Fortunately the panic dissipated as I realized everyone around me waiting for luggage was also trying to make that same connection.  The plane would wait for us and it did.

We boarded our connection to Capetown and I quickly went back into snooze mode.  I wanted to be ready to tackle my jet lag and force myself to stay up and start my travels.

On our arrival at the Cape we were promptly picked up by the folks at Tom's Guest House located in the Oranjezicht section of the City Bowl neighborhood. I chose this particular guest house because of the location near the waterfront, beaches, wineland, and great restaurants and because of the beautiful sunflower displayed on their website.   Friendly hosts and  a nice location made this a perfect way to start our vacation.

We took a taxi to Groot Constantia the oldest winery in South Africa. We were rewarded with peaceful scenery out of a postcard, an interesting tour of the wine cellar, and a wonderful wine tasting that put a smile on Allen's tired jetlagged face.

We ended the day with a quick taxi ride to the opulent Mount Nelson Hotel where we spoiled ourselves at the Planet Restaurant enjoying a five course wine pairing menu.  My choice was from the vegetarian part of the menu (the reason I chose this restaurant) and Allen daringly tried Springbok (a South African antelope) as his main course.   I think my Vegan Chocolate desert may have been the best desert I have every eaten in my life.  Yum Yum.

Day 3 Hop on Hop off

Sunday May 26, 2013

Today we experienced the rainy days of Cape Town.  Fortunately no down pour so we were still able to enjoy sight seeing in the city of Cape Town. Unfortunately we were unable to take the cable car to the top of table mountain.  I guess we will have to visit again in order to see the top of what has been deemed one of the new seven wonders of nature.

The poor weather ensured that the  hop on hop off sightseeing bus was not at all crowded.  It was a very professional tour bus that used a pre-recorded audio to describe the sights and sounds of the city.  Fitting our personalities I rode on the top of the bus and braved the cold and misty day while Allen stayed warm and dry in  the enclosed first floor.  Afraid he would ruin his camera because of the rainy weather, Allen left it at the hotel.

We passed through District 6 learning about the cruelty of the apartheid era,  the bus climbed part way up the table top mountaintop giving us glimpses of the amazing landscape when the clouds parted. We took a brief stop at the South African Museum and had lunch at Den Ankar on the wharf feasting on a bowl-full of delicious mussels and Belgian beer. We took a walk along the ocean and then a diamond tour.

Our day came to and end as we looked forward to a traditional South African Cape Malay dinner and dance show at Gold Restaurant,  The food was tasty reminding me of Indian cuisine and the show was energetic helping to put us in a South African state of mind.

Day 4 Around the cape

Monday May 27, 2013

Today we woke up hoping for nice weather since we were going on a photo tour of the Cape peninsula with James Gradwell.

Capetown surrounded by ocean and mountains

Signal Mountain

Sugar Protea


We then headed south to the Muizenberg beaches where we were dazzled by the beautiful colors of the bathhouses.

As we watched the surfers, our guide pointed out the shark spotters up on the hill.  If a shark was spotted a horn was blasted and all smart surfers quickly made their way to land.  I don't think surfing is in my future!

Next we made our way to the wharf where we were delighted to watch seals playing.  The water was crystal clear so we were able to watch them dive, blow bubbles, and frolic.  These wild seals looked so healthy which was a theme I noticed concerning most of the animals on my entire African trip.

Next stop was the much anticipated visit to the Penguins of Boulder Beach.


With Baby Chick

Colony of Penguins

Having fun

Waddle Waddle

On our way to the most south eastern spot of Africa we passed through the Cape of Good Hope Nature reserve which is now part of the Table Mountain National Park.  We were privileged to see wild Chacma Baboons, Mountain Zebras, and an Ostrich.

Baboon and baby



We stopped for some good eats at Two Oceans Restaurant right on False Bay.
Yummy Oysters three ways.

Beautiful bird trying to steal our left-overs.

By mid afternoon we had reached the most south eastern point in Africa.

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

On our way home we marveled at the shoreline yet could not help but be reminded of the similarities to the East Coast shore in the United States.

A inspiring sunset ended this packed day of sights representing the best of this country of South Africa.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 5 Sabi Sabi day 1

Tuesday May 28, 2013

Day 5 we were up early and bid farewell to Capetown, taking a short flight to Johannesburg and then a connecting flight on a small private plane to the private airstrip of our SabiSabi Safari lodge.

Our three nights on safari was everything we dreamed of.   In the first few hours we were privileged to see what folks call the Big five.   On our way from the airstrip to the lodge we saw rhinos and elephants (first and second of the big five).

As we relaxed at the lodge a herd of about fifty water buffalo (third of the big five) came to the watering hold near the lodge.

 It was an amazing site but became even more breathtaking when we spotted two large male lions (fourth of the big five) watching the Buffalo.   We were eager to get into the vehicles to get a closer look.

Later that day we watched the lions twice stalk and run into the pack of water buffalo trying to cut a weaker animal off from the larger herd . They were unable to surprise the Water Buffalo which would stampede and then corral the younger, weaker ones into the middle protecting them with a blockade of horns. At one point we had fifty buffalo stampeding towards our vehicle. The only thing that stopped me from sheer panic was the look on the guide's face. Our vehicle was safe because it was on a small incline.

These two lions were great buddies and between runs with the buffalo they played around together.

The evening had just started and we had already seen four of the big five.   The commotions of the lion hunting buffalo quickly brought a leopard down to the site and we were able tick off the final member of the big five for our sightings.

Day 6 Sabi Sabi day 2

Wednesday May 29, 2013

I woke from a very peaceful sleep even though I was literally lulled to sleep listening to lions roar in the background.    The wonderful ambiance of the lodge room contributed to the vibe.

I dressed in my best safari gear eager for more sightings.

There were so many grazers of many shapes and sizes.  Some obvious  like the giraffe, and rhino, but others like the  impala, nyala and waterbuck were very new to me and sometimes hard to tell apart.



Male Waterbuck
Female Waterbuck
Water Buffalo
Many of these grazers needed to worry about the predators that abound in these wilds of Sabi Sand.   We got to watch one of the most efficient hunters in action.   With twilight starting, we noticed a nervousness in the behavior of a heard of impala.

The elephants started to triumph very much upset about something.

The wild dogs were around. 

With an hunting efficiency of 80% when 30% is considered successful for other predators we knew we would be in for a wild ride.   The dogs started the chase scattering the impala throughout the bush.  We chased after them in the jeep riding over bushes and small trees in order to keep up.  We lost them for a bit but by the time we caught up with them they were feasting on a fresh kill.  The raw reality of nature was impossible to ignore.

And so a reason to fear the predators.

lion roaring