Tag Archives: animals

The Big Five

Our sunrise game drive was a great success! It again started slowly, but after about 1.5 hours of searching, Phillip found a large herd of water buffalo! That completed our Big Five sightings: elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo. Even better, he found a mother cheetah and her three cubs off in the distance (too far for my iPhone to capture). Then he got word of a leopard in a tree, so we saw that too. It was a spectacular morning in The Kruger!

We will soon begin our long journey home. As usual, it is quite bittersweet to leave this special place. I treasure all of the moments spent here as a family exploring the beauty that is South Africa.

Our Day in Kruger

We had a wonderful Sunday in The Kruger! Our sunrise game drive yielded the usual sightings, plus four male lions up-close. It was exhilarating! We saw a “giraffe forest” unlike anything I’ve ever experienced (I lost count at 30). A similar elephant forest happened later as well. A pair of jackals was as a highlight too. An amazing morning, for sure.

It was in the 80s, so the girls swam while the rest of us chilled pool-side. We had a bit of time on our deck before heading out to our sunset safari. The highlight this time was probably the hyenas who instantly appeared at our snack stop after we left. I guess they were cleaning up the biltong we dropped. 🙂 We wondered from where they were watching us as we had our snacks!

Dinner soon, and then sleep and a sunrise game drive remain before beginning our long journey home. Sorry for the brevity of the post, but I want to soak in our last few moments in The Kruger.

(Note: Reed and Jackson are using nice cameras with telephoto lenses, but the photos below are just a few from my iPhone.)

From The Mother City to The Kruger

We awoke to heavy rain in The Mother City of Cape Town. William arrived at 8am to take us to the airport. I enjoyed listening to him tell some of the same stories as we drove through the city, past Langa, etc. Check-in was easy and our flight to Nelspruit Mpumalanga was swift. I think it was about the cutest airport I’ve ever seen, complete with one runway/luggage carousel, thatched roof, and birds of paradise everywhere.

We were greeted by a cheerful man named George to drive us the two hours to Crocodile Bridge and into Kruger National Park and Shishangeni Lodge. We were fortunate to see a lion, elephants, zebra, giraffe, hippo, monkeys, and lots of various antelope…all before our safari had even technically started!

We had a few minutes to go to our rooms before setting out on our evening game drive. Our guide for our two days in The Kruger is Phillip, and he is awesome. The sightings started slowly, but before we knew it, we were off road to get a closer look at three adult and two baby giraffes! Also, we saw many more elephants and impala, as well as other kinds of antelope, white rhino, hippos, crocodile, a variety of birds, warthog, and more.

Phillip stopped the vehicle about half-way through our three-hour drive and set up our snack station. We got out, stretched our legs, and enjoyed biltong, chips, fruit, and marshmallows with our soda, beer, and wine. There was a large herd of impala nearby, and Jackson asked Phillip about the noises they were making. Well, they were in fact warning sounds and, before we knew it, we were back in the vehicle watching a leopard prowl toward them! It was incredible.

We drove back in the dark, using a spotlight to see a giraffe up-close, and we chased a porcupine down the road a ways. We enjoyed our outdoor boma dinner by the fire, and it is nearly time to turn in as I write. We will be up early for our morning game drive. I am so happy to be back in The Kruger!

Discovering the Garden Route

Saturday we set off bright and early for our Garden Route Tour. I, for one, was excited to get out of the city for a few days and explore some new areas. We enjoyed our first “comfort stop” as our guide Gerhard calls them, at the Oumeul Bakery in a cute town called Riviersonderend. Gerard surprised us at our second comfort stop with a treat of “milk tart” that he secretly purchased at the bakery! It was like a warm custard pie in a phyllo dough crust. Yum.

We ventured on, driving some five hours, and we were delighted to view the Indian Ocean at Mossel Bay (notice the township too). We arrived around 12:30 for lunch at the Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. After our lovely lunch in the beautifully decorated lodge, we set out for our 2.5 hour safari. The sun was out and so were the animals! We saw giraffe, rhinos, elephants, lions, and many kinds of antelope. A couple of highlights included the lions sunning themselves on the road after a big meal (check out her belly!). Also was our guide squeezing fresh elephant poo and drinking the “water” from it. I’m not even kidding. It was one of the grossest things I’ve ever seen. One of our students’ phones slid right out of the truck, but amazingly we recovered it using “find iPhone.” It truly felt like some kind of South African miracle!

We said goodbye to the animals and journeyed on to Sedgefield, a little surf town right on Myoli Beach and the Indian Ocean. We got a peek of the sunset before we settled into our rooms at Afrovibe Adventure Lodge (no Wi-Fi hence no blog post). Then we enjoyed a beachside / fireside dinner and colorful welcome drinks, courtesy of Gerard. It was a good day on the Garden Route!

Sunday we awoke to rain. So, we got our Gumbies on and made a new plan for the day. No beach time or canoeing / hiking (we’ll save that for Monday), but instead we began with visiting a scenic viewpoint in Knysna. Not unlike the Eagle Creek Fire last fall, Knysna suffered a huge arson fire last June, so we could see the evidence both in scorched hillsides as well as lost homes. Sadly relatable.

Next we crossed the Outeniqua Mountains toward Oudtshoorn. Along the way we saw “hop valley” (yes, where hops were harvested a couple of months ago!) and lots of ostriches. Oudtshoorn is the ostrich capital of South Africa, and some of us will enjoy it tonight at our fireside braai (barbecue). We also had a good time singing “Africa” by Toto as we drove in the rain. 🙂

Gerard planned to take us to lunch at a winery, but it was closed being Sunday. So, he instead took us to a very unique lodge / restaurant with a big inside fire / braai. It was incredible! The owner (seen in the photo in a khaki shirt by Gerard, who’s wearing black) cooked lamb chops and beef sausages right in front of us. Different kinds of salads, veggies, and pickles – along with some delicious warm rolls – accompanied the meat. We departed with full bellies, perfect for a little spelunking (not!).

We traveled a short distance to Cango Caves, 20 million year old, spectacular limestone caverns. Some students did the adventure tour where you slide through something called the “letterbox” and climb “devil’s chimney,” among other feats. I went with a student on the heritage tour, which goes through six of the “halls.” Unfortunately, one student is not feeling well and rested in the bus for both the caves and lunch. Hoping the rest helped and the evening is much better!

We just settled in at Backpackers Paradise in Oudtshoorn. Our fireside braai will be at 7:00 tonight. Monday we plan to dip our toes in the Indian Ocean (finally) when we travel back to the canoeing / hiking area we missed today due to the rain. The weather report looks better, so hopefully that works out! We then will make the long drive back to Cape Town, arriving after dark I should think.

Reed and the kids are at PDX now as I write this, so I can hardly wait for them to arrive, along with my sister’s family! When we return to Cape Town tomorrow, I need to move to our family accommodations, so I may not get to blog. For your patience and for following along, I say “baie dankie!” (Afrikaans for “thank you,” and pronounced, “buy a donkey!”)

Friday Happenings

Today was a bit of a mixed bag. We got the home stay issue resolved, and the two students were moved to dorm-style rooms in the Obs (near me) for the weekend. Monday afternoon they will settle in with a new family. The folks at Good Hope Studies were very responsive when we met with them this morning. (It was cool for me to be back at their compound in Newlands as that was our home base for our 2012 program.) And, we had fortunate timing when we moved out the guys in that the couple was not home. I appreciate how supportive GHS has been – as well as how gracious the students have been – throughout this ordeal!

We met up with the VACorps staff and dozens of other students for our afternoon outing to the cheetah encounter. One of our students wasn’t feeling well, so Oliver from VAC took her to the doctor. We were sad to have her miss the cats, but the good news is she has some medicine to get all better! Her host family insisted she rest – as I’ve said before, we are in very good hands here!

We drove – by a caravan of minibuses – to Somerset West, and the students patiently waited to pet the cheetahs. They got some good pictures of each other, which I’ve shared here. Then VAC took us all to Triggerfish, a cool brewery, for some libations. We drove home to a beautiful sunset and enjoyed our driver’s fun style.

Tomorrow is a free day, and we hope to ride the hop-on/hop-off bus (complete with a stop at Table Mountain!) all together. Thanks for thinking of us and following along! 🙂

Penguins, dassies, baboons, & whales (oh my!)

Our Sunday excursion to Hermanus was nice…we were so thankful for the return of sunny, warm skies. We drove along the coastal route on our way, first stopping for a photo op at Gordon’s Bay (a gruesome shark attack occurred here about three months ago…Kelsey & Kjersten can tell you all about it [from a 2-hour dinner conversation with their hosts]).

Next we went to Betty’s Bay, home of the Stony Point penguin colony. We saw a lot more penguins than we did at Simon’s Town, so it was a great experience (though more penguins = more stink). And, we learned that they are called “jackass” penguins due to the braying sound they make when they mate and mark their territory. However, most other kinds of penguins make the same sound, so they are usually called African penguins. 🙂

We also saw several dassies, which are cute, furry brown animals, kind of like big bunnies without the long ears. They look like the kind of animal you want to pick up and cuddle (though this describes pretty much all the animals these girls see!), but our guide, Marinda, said they often carry rabies and are “eagle food.” 😦 ,

On a side note…we learned a new term today: “bunny hugger” which basically is an animal lover (this describes our group well). Sometime I will have to post interesting terms for objects/phrases we’ve learned. Anyway, also at Stony Point, there was an old shipwreck in the bay…I thought it was pretty cool.

Next we motored on down the road and encountered some baboons. There was a small group of various sizes, including adorable babies and the big “king” baboon. Our guide told us how when the young adult males try to vie for the position of “king,” they sometimes grab baby baboons by the head and rip them apart to show their dominance. Sounds pretty nasty.

Then we drove a bit more to Hermanus, the best land-based whale-watching spot in the world. Well, this day the whales were kinda hard to spot…we saw some from a distance, but no spectacular sightings, I’m sorry to say. However, we may be tempted to tell a “fish tale” (yes, we know whales are not fish) about midwife whales coming alongside a mother in labor and helping push out the baby whale (which was then named “Concordia Pacific” in honor of our students from CU and Warner Pacific). 😉 Even the “whale crier of Hermanus” with his hooter (another term that makes us giggle, this time meaning horn), couldn’t help us much.

We enjoyed lunch and gelato together, the beautiful views, and the warm sun on our faces. We also drove to a mountain-top lookout for another great view. Basically, it was a day of a lot of great scenic views just asking for fun photos to be taken. I have included many here…hope you enjoy.

Back to the books Monday…half way done!