on safari in South Africa
Dec 27, 2004
|South Africa so far as been amazing to say the least. Wait until you see some of these photos and they just don't do these creatures and landscape justice.
We started this adventure on what was literally a two-day flight. We definitely weren't looking forward to it. We took Iberian Air from Athens to Barcelona to Madrid and everything was late. By the time we hit Madrid it was delayed 2 hours and we wouldn't even be boarding until after 1:00 am for a 10 hour flight. The waiting room was packed and it was obvious the plane was full when all of a sudden I hear them call my name and then Melissa's. We figured they overbooked the flight and we're screwed, so we put our heads low as we walked up to the desk where they said the magic words, "you've been upgraded to business class". Wahoo! When you're used to traveling in the cattle car with the rest of the common folks, I felt like Queen for a Day. So that was a very good start. We were met at the airport by the owner of the business and rode in his air conditioned BMW for hours to catch up with the two trucks we would be traveling in for the remainder of our trip.
We have a great group, some really nice people from Canada, England, and Australia. And we really lucked out with the accomodations. They've been luxurious compared to other tours we've been on. One place actually had a kitchen where we could make our own meals.
Now as for the trip, we started out the second day going to Zululand where the English and the Zulu had several great battles in the early 1800's. Our local tour guide for that section was an avid military historian and had done extensive study on most of Britian's battles in Africa. The first battle site was Isandlwana and the Zulu (25,000) against 1,700 British soldiers. Well you can guess who won. By the time the British could come back to bury their soldiers they were just bones so they buried them in mass graves with white stones overhead. The second battle was at Rorke's Drift where the English were a little luckier and survived. There was actually a famous movie made of this battle with Michael Caine (Zulu Dawn) for those old enough to remember.
We've had the good fortune of staying three nights in St. Lucia's which is along the Indian Ocean. We got up as the sun came out the first morning (4:15 am) to drive out to Hluhluwe-Umfolozi game reserve which is well known for its conservation work with the white and black rhino. It was also the prime hunting ground for the Zulu Kings many years ago.
We had the opportunity to witness some special events among all the other animals we encountered. We watched a courtship ritual between two white rhinos, saw a black rhino which is very rare since they are in critical danger of extinction, and during an all night excursion we watched a Loggerneck turtle bury her eggs in the sand. Not until around 4 am did we find her. While looking for these turtles we did stop along the way around 2:30 am for some tea and sandwiches, quite surreal really. It was a 24 hour day but very worth it.
We did a night drive the following evening to see the nocturnal animals. Of course we stopped again in the middle of the wetlands to have a spot of tea and some sherry. I asked the driver if it would be okay to just go about 20 feet away from the vehicle for a nature call since there were no lions in this park. He said sure, gents to the front and ladies to the rear. We then got back in the vehicles and within about a 150 yards we came across a herd of water buffalo. At which time he informed us how they are probably the most dangerous animal in the reserve because they are just mean. It appears to be okay if you are in a vehicle, but very dangerous if you are out walking. Now don't you think he should have mentioned that fact while I had my pants around my ankles? Melissa said he also talked about a couple of deadly snakes (some of you may remember the black mamba scare), well they are actually in this park.
The next day we headed off to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in Swaziland where we stayed a couple of nights in a beehive hut. We spent one day doing a day walk in the morning and a mountain bike ride up in the hills. What was really amazing about this lodge was it was open to all the animals in the park. So when you walked around there were warthogs, zebras, impala, and ostriches everywhere. We left them alone, unless of course they were for lunch or dinner. It just seemed odd to be taking pictures of them on the grass and then watching them bar-b-que on the grill the following day. They assured us they bought the meat from the butcher, it wasn't actually the animals wandering around the park. Come on, there was no butcher store anywhere around, who were they kidding.
We then headed off to Kruger National Park for a couple of days. The park covers an area larger than Israel and was established in 1898. We saw lots of animals there. So many birds, Melissa was in heaven. We didn't manage to see any kitty kittys but we did see wild dogs which are rarely seen.
We finished our trip by having a Christmas Eve dinner together and then driving Christmas day over the mountains and stopping at a couple of beautiful locations before ending the trip in J'burg. We finished our trip by flying to Capetown this morning and amazingly enough we got upgraded again to business class for the flight. Talk about luck!!!!