Trip of a Lifetime!

After two years of planning our ‘trip of a lifetime’ to South Africa, we finally took off, in mid February, on an overnight flight from Gatwick to Capetown arriving at 09.45 the following morning. Arrangements had been made for a taxi to meet us and drive us to the first of the two houses we would be staying at in Capetown either side of our safari.

The house was located in Camps Bay; a lovely colonial property, with more than adequate accommodation for the group of nine of us who would be staying there for our first 4 days, and with the beach, shops, bars and restaurants just a few minutes walk away, it was a perfect location.

On the first night we fired up the bbq and collectively enjoyed a wonderful array of food and drinks in excellent company, with Table Mountain reaching for the sky, an inspiring backdrop.

The following morning, Saturday, the first day out in our own private mini bus, (the least expensive way to group travel), we went on a tour of one of the wine regions which included a visit to a fabulous local market in Franschhoek. The range of quality African arts and crafts available was incredible which made for some hard buying choices. The weather was hot too, but a perfect day for viewing the stunning scenery, and enjoying the hospitality of the local people.

Later we stopped for a wine tasting at Grand Provence, lunch at Tokara winery, and finally a visit to Spiers Farm, a mixture of market stalls, art displays and eateries.

After our first fabulous day out together we headed home via downtown Capetown, a modern bustling cosmopolitan city, which we looked forward to investigating after we returned from our safari.

Sunday – plans for four of us to go up Table Mountain early in the morning had to be scuppered after we woke to low lying fog, which in the end stayed around for the whole day! So we all decided to take a rest day, which in itself turned out to be very enjoyable. In the evening we ventured to a local restaurant ‘The Butcher’, located right across the road from the beach. We watched the sun set and enjoyed amazing steaks at incredible prices!

Monday – today’s trip, again in our own private mini bus, we headed out of Capetown along the coast road. Normally, we would have been treated to breath taking scenery, but this day it was shrouded in fog! In its own way there was something magical about the mist covered views, but there is no doubt it would have been enhanced 100% if the sun was shining! We aborted our first stop to take in the views at Cape Point because of the fog, and made an unplanned call at an Ostrich Farm we came across. Interesting creatures, but also quite vicious! Fun to see them up close though.

Our next port of call was Boulders where there is a large colony of over 2000 pairs of African penguins. As with any wild animal, it is always special to get close to them. Some appeared to enjoy the attention and were quite happy to pose for photos!

 We continued our tour with a short stop in Simon’s Town. Then on to Steenberg Winery for lunch, a beautiful setting with excellent food to enjoy in great company!

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Tuesday – and the start of our 5 day safari adventure began with a morning flight to Hoedspruit where we would be staying at Naledi Bush Camp on the edge of the Kruger National Park.

There was only our party staying there, and we were treated like royalty. Kind and caring staff who looked after us so well; nothing was too much trouble. Beautiful accommodation, excellent food, and best of all and the reason for us being there were the early morning and evening safaris.

We had to get up at 4.30am and be ready to leave at 5.30am for a three hour safari. Because there were 9 in our party we went out in two jeeps, so we had plenty of room for the photographers to do their thing. About halfway through we would meet up and stop for coffee and biscuits. Back at the lodge for 9.00am breakfast, and then the rest of the day was ours for swimming in the pool, sun-bathing or just relaxing and soaking up the incredible surroundings including entertainment by the locals, baboons and grey monkeys.

Lunch at 2.00pm and then at 4.30pm we were off again on our evening safari. As on the morning safari we met up and stopped for drinks, yes really alcohol and nibbles in the bush! Dinner at 8.00pm after which we all fell into bed! Our hosts at Naledi went above and beyond and even treated us to a buffet lunch and an evening bar in the bush. Who would have imagined that!

Of course you’ll really want to see the animals, and as you can imagine we have a lot of photos! So I have had to keep them to a minimum, but hope they will give a real feel for the sheer joy and excitement we felt out there in the bush. Over the five days we were there, we saw not only  the big five, but a lot of others too, and most exciting of all were Wild dogs. While they may not sound very interesting, they are an endangered species and hadn’t been seen in our area for about 8 months. So when we found them, our drivers/guides were so excited. We didn’t just see them once or twice though, but on three separate occasions. It was quite remarkable!

It’s humbling to be up close and personal with such amazing animals, and we were also privileged to see an endangered black rhino and her baby, a white rhino, elephants, giraffe, water buffalo, zebra, hyena, Wildebeest, Nyalas (a type of antelope), wart hogs, hippos in the Olifants river and a large crocodile lazing on the bank. Some beautiful birds too, including a vulture! Literally a glimpse of a leopard (at night), and my all time favourite, lions.

Such amazing animals, and although we had already seen them twice when we were out, on the morning ride of the day we were leaving, we had the best encounter ever.

Close by a water hole we found a female lion with three cubs and the male lion. And he was a truly majestic specimen! We must have sat quietly for over 30 minutes just watching, It was so special, it was hard to take our eyes off them.

The most common species we saw was the Impala, a type of deer; they are called the ‘McDonalds’ of the bush, because they are the most hunted by predators and also because the markings on their bum is shaped like a mcdonalds ‘M’!

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                                   I could go on and on, but I think the photos say it all!

We left Hoedspruit on an afternoon flight and arrived back in Capetown, this time centrally located in a large comfortable house. Two of the group having returned to the UK. For the remaining days the rest of us in the house agreed to ‘do our own thing’ during the day, and to meet up for dinner in the evening.

So we visited the vibrant Green Market, where there was a wonderful selection of colourful African souvenirs, the Victoria & Alfred Shopping Centre and docks, a bustling area full of shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, a fabulous aquarium, and ‘The Silo’, an old grain silo converted into an art gallery. Architecturally inspirational!

We also went up Table Mountain one evening. A fabulous trip and simply stunning  views!

We took an open topped tour bus to Kirstenbosch Gardens, created on the side of a steep hill, but we still managed to walk to the top to enjoy the amazing views over Capetown. Then onto Houk Bay where I finally got to put my feet in the ‘freezing’ sea! So glad I did it though. On the return journey to Capetown the bus took us along the coastal route which we had missed previously when it was shrouded in mist. This time it was so clear we could see to the horizon and beyond! We even spotted some spray from Southern Right whales which frequent these waters early in the year.

We flew home overnight arriving back in the Uk very early in the morning at the end of February.

This trip for us, was in celebration of our Golden Wedding Anniversary in June this year, and for our friend Mike, who organised it all, his 70th birthday which we celebrated while we were on safari.

Maurice & Maggie South Africa

It was absolutely incredible; a country we had never visited before, but are so pleased to have been there to experience their culture, the stunning scenery, wonderful food and the kindness and generosity of the people.

We made new friends, laughed a lot and learned so much, and the safari was the icing on the cake. A truly phenomenal experience!

Whether you are an animal lover or not, take it from me, we can learn so much from them, and perhaps now, in these worrying times is a good time to realise that nature has the ultimate power over us all.

Stay safe!

‘Til next time,

Granny FlapjaX

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