The 3rd day of the safari began a bit chilly. But our guide had again provided us with hot water bottles and fleece parkas. Once we were situated we headed out. Off the bat, we saw more zebras. While we were driving around our guide noticed a pride of lions on the move. Our guide commented that these lions weren’t as healthy as the pride we had seen earlier. To our untrained eyes, it appeared that they had mange. After we watched them for a bit we moved a bit down the trail and saw some giraffes and a herd of wildebeests. The pride of lions must have picked up the scent because they moved into the area and started to look like me at a seafood buffet. Unlike me, they exhibited some patience and watched what they hoped was their next meal. We left the area before they decided it was time to eat. On the way back to the lodge our guide located the reserve’s most famous lion. He had just taken down a warthog and was relaxing after his breakfast.
Breakfast was again delicious and the time to relax before lunch was welcome. We took advantage of the rest time to relax on our deck and watch the Antelopes that were grazing below. After the antelopes made their way to other parts, we headed to the bar for a quick pre-lunch cocktail (gotta keep the malaria away). After lunch, we went back to our room for a bit, but came early for tea and enjoyed talking to the other guests.
We were happy to get on the trail again and hoped that we’d be able to see the only one of the Big 5 we hadn’t seen yet. But first, we checked on the lion with the fresh kill, he was still guarding his meal, and not overly active. Before we could get bored our guide decided to take us into leopard country. On the way, we saw waterboks, rhinos, and another solo lion with a freshly killed giraffe. The leopard area was a bit more rugged and provided ample hiding spots for the leopards. We eventually saw a leopard hiding in very dense shrubbery.
Now that we had officially seen all the big 5 it was time to head back to the lodge for dinner. This night our guide dinned with us. This was truly a great way to the end the safari as our guide opened us to us more about his experience under apartheid and answered our questions on the history of this area of South Africa.
The second day of our safari adventure got off to an early start with a 5 am wake-up call. Thankfully the room had a coffee pod machine, so I could caffeinate before seeing people. We then had a quick breakfast. This was to essentially get your blood flowing for the 6 am game drive.
It was a bit chilly, so we appreciated the fleece ponchos that had been placed in our seats along with hot water bottles. I tried to scoff at the need for the poncho or the hot water bottle, but riding along in an open land cruiser at 20-30 mph for three hours can get cold.
As we were driving along on the unpaved roads our driver pointed out hippos, Marabou storks and Zebra. All of the sudden our driver picked up the pace and I thought we were either running to something or from something. As luck would have it we were driving to a pack of African wild dogs. According to our guide it is rare to see them and he had gone multiple years without seeing them. The dogs were running around and yipping at a hippo that they clearly wanted to vacate the area. Eventually the hippo got annoyed and lumbered into a shady spot and the dogs calmed down.
After this, we drove around a bit more and saw some dazzles of zebra. Returning to the lodge at 9 am we had “big breakfast”. While quite delicious there weren’t any adventurous options. After breakfast, everyone returned to their rooms for a nap or to clean up. Lunch was then served around noon and afternoon tea at 3 pm. Being good folks from Wisconsin we decided we should have a gin and tonic, strictly to keep the malaria away.
The afternoon drive started at 4pm and our driver and tracker team were determined to locate some lions for us. About an hour into the drive he located a small pride of lions. shortly after we arrived another car from the lodge pulled up and the guides started talking shop. At this point the lions and cubs decided they wanted to cross to the other side of the road. As they got closer and closer to our truck a few us nervously said “Jeffrey, Jeffrey, and finally JEFFREY!” he told us to remain calm and keep our hands inside the truck and we’d be fine. We got some great shots of the lions. Truly an amazing experience to be that close to a wild predator.
After the high point of the lions, we drove around a bit more to look for more game, but I was enjoying the diversity of the landscape and sunset. We enentually made our way back to the lodge. For dinner, I opted to be adventures again and had wildebeests. We were happy to go back to our room to wind down and prepare for the exciting day that awaited us. Those 5 am wake-up calls come early after all.
We finally went on a safari after a few delays and bumps along the way
We had originally planned to do this trip in January, with P’s brother and his wife. Unfortunately, P’s brother had a health issue come up and they needed to reschedule. The aspect of rescheduling is deserving of its own post, but in the end everything worked out. Long story short… P’s parents joined us instead.
The trip to the lodge began with two ladies sitting on opposite sides of the plane serenading the entire plane with their conversation for the ENTIRE flight. I can only assume that they were rehearsing for a stage play of some sort and thought everyone would enjoy the free performance. Spoiler alert, they were wrong. Either that or they were extremely hard of hearing and didn’t realize they were shouting.
We landed in the Nelspruit airport and took a shuttle to the lodge. The shuttle trip was about 2 hours and we were able to take in a large swath of the South African landscape we hadn’t seen before. Thankfully the shuttle had great air conditioning as it was 35c/95f outside.
Arriving at the lodge we were greeted by the lodge manager for a personalized check-in and got to meet our tracker and guide. After a quick overview of the rooms and layout of the lodge, we had a quick tea and went out on our first Game drive. We saw 3 (Elephants, Rhinos, and Buffalo) of the big 5 within the first 2 hours of the drive! We only needed the cats and we’d have all of the big 5.
Arriving back at the lodge we were able to have dinner with our guide. It was a great opportunity to get to know him better and ask any questions we had. The meal was simply amazing. I went with the adventurous choice for the appetizer and didn’t regret it. The appetizer was zebra and the main was a super tender beef fillet. Since our morning would start at 5 am, we all skipped the bar and went to our rooms for the evening to wind down.
Since this trip was so epic, I’m going to break it up into multiple posts.
Last weekend we took a trip to a national park on the west coast with some friends. Even though it was close to Cape Town it was a park we hadn’t been to yet. The wildflowers were in certainly in bloom. Unfortunately, it was partially overcast and some of the flowers closed up early, I guess that’s a thing. After driving around for a bit we hit the restaurant. The food while not gourmet, was decent. The highlight of this was sharing the frosting from carrot cake with some birds.
During the few weeks that the flowers are in high bloom, a neighboring private property opens to the public. Head over to our instagram page for more pictures.
I can’t think of any other place on Earth that has as much breathtaking natural beauty near a major city as Cape Town. From Table Mountain to the Sea, to the parks, it’s truly astonishing. For as much as Cape Town and South Africa have going for them, it’s a shame that they continue to shoot themselves in the foot with violence and corruption.
RAIN!!!! OMG. So Much Rain.
The official government measures have us at 77.7% water levels in the reservoirs as of August 7th. It looks like everyone is still using less than their allotment of water per day, which is certainly helping the overall situation. The amazing news is that we expected to get more rain this week. Historical trends indicate that August and September are usually wetter months. So I’m going to take a not so bold stance and declare the water crisis over. I’m sure the government will eventually join me and remove the water restirctions all together. (We’ve been at level 3 since December)
Amazingly this isn’t big news in Cape Town. The latest drama is around the SADF (think national guard) being deployed to assist the police in combating the rampant crime in the Cape Flats area. This area has been plagued by gangs and turf wars for awhile and the murder rate is increasing. As in the states Gangs in SA are a multi-faceted problem that usually involves poverty, illegal drugs, and corruption.
The other big news is that the official unemployment numbers are in and they have risen from ~25% to ~30% or 15.5 million people.
The load shedding issues also seem to have magically abated.
Hopefully the Water crisis ending, the power utility getting its act together and cleaning up the most violent crime will lead to more tourism, which will eventually lead to more jobs.
Speaking of which after finally living here for over a year we will finally have our first visitors in a few weeks. We’ve got some great things planned so stay tuned for a flurry of posts documenting all the fun and adventure that awaits.
-See ya next time
Wow!!! Has it really been a year already? So much has happened, and yet not a lot.
My highlights for the past year would have to be a return trip to the US for the wedding of two friends, a family trip to Germany, and making some amazing friends in South Africa.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the low points as well. They are having to fire our domestic worker, dealing with load shedding, and having our first visitors postpone their trip. (Cancelling the planned safari was another level of suck).
Everyday things that made me think “WTF?!?!” when we first got here, I now just accept as normal. Although the steering wheel on the right-hand side of the car is still strange. But seeing, people walking around neighborhoods with a broom and dust bin to sweep streets, private security guards on street corners, electric fencing & walls around homes has just become normal.
I’ve been introduced to some amazing things about Cape Town. The Kirstenbosch botanical gardens summer concert series, weekend farmers markets, amazing but affordable wines, and of course some amazing food.
In a few short weeks, we are moving to a new apartment in a less touristy neighborhood. We are looking forward to having a different view, and a larger outdoor area to enjoy. The downsides will be less walkable shops and markets but with Uber so affordable here, there shouldn’t be too many issues.
Our second year will surely be filled with more adventures and hopefully our first visitors. Once we have visitors we’ll knock out some of the more touristy things that we’ve been putting off.