Africa – Week 2 – Garden Route and Cape Town

On Tuesday we started week 2 in Knysna. Its a beautiful town on the Garden Route set on a lagoon with 2 “heads” guarding it from the Indian Ocean.


The Garden Route (Afrikaans: Tuinroete) is a stretch of the south-eastern coast of South Africawhich extends from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The name comes from the verdant and ecologically diverse vegetation encountered here and the numerous lagoons and lakes dotted along the coast. It includes towns such as Knysna,Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley; with George, the Garden Route’s largest city and main administrative centre.


We stayed in an inn at the top of the mountain overlooking town, Falcons View Manor.

Knysna at Dusk

Falcons View Manor’s history has a strong connection to the Thesen family, who played an integral role in the development of Knysna as a timber town. The Thesen family home, Hill House, has become Falcons View Manor, an official heritage building. And while the hotel retains its original charm, the rooms in the Manor House have recently been refurbished to satisfy contemporary tastes.

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The Heads

We did some shopping after touring the Heads and Thesen Island and headed out out for our 4 hour trek to Gansbaii (HANS-bye), the Great White Shark capital of the world. We had just been informed by our gregarious host Renee of the White Shark Guest House that our dive (Thursday the 28th) had been cancelled due to wind and waves.

So we had a nice meal in town and headed out earlier the next day to get extra time on Cape Town with the hope of returning Sunday for a dive when the weather cleared.

We drove from Gansbaai directly to Cape Point National Park along the ocean. Between St. James and Kalk Bay we ran into almost an hour delay to construction that had been going on for a couple of years now.

After we got through we stopped at the Salty Dog restaurant in Simons Town, a fish and chips place. We were starved so it worked. Onto Cape Point, now racing a rain front due to our construction delay.

With the weather Cape Point was less than spectacular. The highest point actually is a lighthouse not the Cape of Good Hope itself. We learned that the Cape of Good Hope is not where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet but instead the most southern point in Africa. The 2 oceans meet at Cape Agulhas though this is a point of debate among South Africans.

This was Thursday. Friday, my birthday, was grand. We “ubered” down to the waterfront and did as most tourists do at some point, shop. The dollar was worth over 14 Rand so prices were great. I got handmade wooden sunglasses, a beautiful hand painted ostrich egg and some Cohibas as birthday swag.

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We rode the Cape Wheel and got some great shots from this vista. We has lunch at a Belgian restaurant (Den Anker) where everything was cooked in beer (go figure)!

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The Cape Wheel

On Sunday we toured the Stellenbosch and Franshoek wine regions with our friends. A great synopsis in on the video below!!!

On our final full day (Sunday May 1), we split up as I really wanted to do the shark dive and Lisa wanted to go to Table Mountain. The weather was perfect for both as you can see!!

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View from Table Mountain of Cape Town
Shark Alley
Some of the shark action

Monday morning prior to going home (Cape Town >> Johannesburg >> London >> Dulles >>Greenville) we said our good byes to the Sittlingers our friends who we missed terribly and commit to seeing more than once every 15 years!

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Lisa and Mary overlooking Camps Bay Beach

Africa – Addo

After we left Sabi Sands we flew from Skukuza to Port Elizabeth via “Joburg”. Airlink, the regional SAA carrier did not have a baggage agreement with British Air, which was our second leg. As such, we had to collect and recheck bags in Joburg with an 80 minute connection. A mistake by the wholesaler our safari agent used to book our domestic airfare but it all worked out fine!

We picked up our rental car near dusk in Port Elizabeth. A very harrowing 50 km drive to Addo through Motherwell a poor section where people jaywalk in 60 mph traffic with no lights and dark skin.

We arrived unscathed at Woodall Country House, a beautiful spot about 8 km from Addo National Elephant Park. We had a wonderful dinner and a sound sleep after a long day of travel.

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The next day after breakfast we took the car up to the north gate of Addo. We didn’t have high expectations after our safari but remained open minded.

Immediately after entering we saw a watering hole on the left with a solitary elephant and a few Cape Bufffalo. Warthogs were EVERYWHERE!

We cruised to the famous watering hole where the elephants “came out around 11” according to Ruan, the ranger at Woodall. It was called Hapoor Dam and the parking lot was full of cars but no elephants. We cruised to the picnic area and Kadouw lookout which had some amazing vistas (insert photo link) and some zebras sleeping right next to the road.

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Back to Hapoor and still no elephants (only warthog families at the “beach”). SO we drove on to the next watering hole: Marion Baree. Jackpot! Two to 3 dozen elephants of all sized enjoying a rather small narrow strip of water.

We saw a solitary elephant after leaving right next to the road. we shut off the engine and he went within 3 feet of us as he went behind the car

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Saw some miscellaneous game as we departed the south exit. Disappointed that we had our trunck inspected as people apparently do hunt and kill wildlife within the park.

Onto the N2 and onto Knysna, 3 hours away.

 

 

Africa – On Safari (final)

The last two drives were amazing. It just keeps getting better and better. We saw a pride of lions sleeping from 25 feet, a solitary hippo sunning himself and two male elephants fighting at dusk.

On the final drive, we learned how the different lodges work together and communication on a clever series of radio channels. We had just left on the final morning (Monday April 18) and we got a call from Lion Sands, a neighboring property. Each property has its private land within Sabi Sands and owners have reciprocal rights with other properties to look for game.

The call was from Lion Sands Ivory Lodge on the Kingston “farm”. More on “farms” later :).There was a male leopard who killed an impala during the night and was high in a tree eating it.

We were standby 3. The person making the sighting organizes the order in which subsequent vehicles will pull close to take photos.

Twenty minutes later we arrived as standby 1. The vehicle left and we tried to get angles to take photos. First angle below, more on Facebook.

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Later we stopped as we always do at a spot for coffee in the bush. It was a beautiful watering hole. We were joined by a dozen hippos watering themselves as shown below.
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Then, to end the trip, we had a surprise breakfast in the bush with white linen, champagne and the typical (I know by now three cities later) breakfast of scrambled eggs, grilled half tomato, mushrooms and onions. It was a magical way to end a magical trip.
breakfast in bush

More photos on facebook here… Flickr large size upload still problematic. Next post from Addo National Elephant Park..

 

Africa – On Safari part 2

We have had a wonderful time so far. Its Sunday midday and we have two drives to go before we fly to Port Elizabeth to begin our tour of the garden route.

Each day has been up at 5:15 on first drive before 6 AM for 2.5 to 3 hours, return for breakfast and then rest till 3:30 and drive until sundown or a bit after. Then drinks with your ranger and dinner. Dinner alternates between family still in their boma and sit down plated meals. Food is fabulous, lots of local fruit growers.

The lodge is wonderful. We had elephants outside our room the first night (everything is unfenced). Someone walks you to your room every night as all the rooms are in separate out buildings from the main lodge. Monkeys and impala are all over the property.

Six drives down to go, we have seen more than we ever could’ve hoped for + a herd of 300+ Cape Buffalo.

Thanks for all of this planning to Ute Sonnenberg at Roho Ya Chui!!

Slow wifi. All photos posted on Facebook public album here.

 

 

Africa 2016 – On Safari

April 21 – PM

Our first game drive was with our ranger Barney and ranger David who speak their native siSwati when talking to each other and English when talking to us. They are amazing and use a combination or tracks and dung to spot things.

10 minutes into our first dive we found a leopard sleeping in the Sand River bed.
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Once the sun started to go down, he awoke and sauntered across the river.
Leopard after a sleep
We later saw a herd of elephants and two male lions on a kill (water buffalo)
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Dozens of impala and other antelope things and then a stop for a gin and tonic in the bush before returning to dinner.

more to come….

Africa 2016 – In Transit

April 21

Uneventful flight from Heathrow. Sleeper seats provided a good 6 hours of sleep helped by some champagne.

Three hour layover in Skukuza before taking a small plane to Skykuza Airodrome which is a single strip of tarmac with an open air terminal and a novel baggage claim.

Arrived at Kirkmans to a beautiful room and are waiting to go out on our first game drive after tea.

April 20

Arrived safely in London Heathrow. Both slept 5 hours which on a 7 hour flight is great. It’s just before noon here and our flight leaves at 7pm so the whirlwind sightseeing trip we planned is shelved.

The lounge here is spacious and has a spa and showers within it; both nice adds for a 35 hour trip.

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April 19

Realized after our flight arrival was delayed to headwinds that we wouldn’t have any productive time to tour London on our layover. So we will take advantage of the BA Lounge and spa in Heathrow during our 8 hour layover.

Meanwhile the lounge in Dulles is quite good with sit down dinner seatings and hot and cold running free beverages.

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We made friends with Habib from Afghanistan. He left in 1979 and I was nearby in Karachi in 1980. Great conversations about handmade bokhara rugs I brought back! Always meet interesting people when traveling!

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