Hello from the magical depths of South Africa!
We are nearly two thirds our way through this epic adventure, and DO NOT WANT IT TO END!
WiFi connection can be a bit spotty, so uploading photos of a higher quality has been really difficult, so I apologise for not sharing more of the amazing experience here!
I have cobbled together a bit of a Blog for the trip, but there is so much more going on – so stay tuned!
We have been to Kruger National Park, (and only days before Gerard Butler, much to my dismay….. The fact that Kruger National Park is bigger than the Demark…. and that I have no idea where in Kruger he was…..makes no difference….) But to make up for this on our various Game drives, dawn bushwalks and sunset tours, we have seen all the Big 5 African animals (Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Lion, Rhino and even Leopard) in the first 3 days. Our Lion experience was incredible with a courting pair taking over the road to the amusement of many game trucks and cars as they growled and glared at each other, ignoring our presence completely, and our first Elephant was a ‘traffic control officer’ meandering down the road with us quietly puttering along behind awaiting a passing bay! We stayed at the lovely Nkambeni Safari Camp, in rather swish acommodation: Airconditioned canvas tents!
We have since, also visited another country – Swaziland, walking across the border, and staying at Ndlovu Camp in Hlane Royal National Park. We had the most epic experience walking with Rhino’s – I completely lost the plot as I filmed an older female roll and mudbathe with her daughters less than 10m from us as we walked through the bush. We also had a sensational drive with Lions getting us to move out of their way as 2 lions and 2 lionesses made their way to their ‘chillout’ position for the day.
We stayed at Ndlovu without electricity for 2 nights as the location is run on kerosene/gas and paraffin lamps, panicking us all with battery life draining from our cameras, but made up for with with the sounds of lions roaring in the darkness behind our huts, grunting hippos in the waterhole out the front, and of course the parade of the Rhino’s in the dawn light! What an amazing place.
On to St Lucia with another Game drive in South Africa’s oldest game park – Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve. In just one morning in this very open, wild place our guide Zamani had us sighting nearly everything you can think African animal-wise – viewing the everyday actions of Zebras and their foals, Giraffes drinking at waterholes and Warthogs (Everyone say PUMBA!) and their piglets just pumba-ing along.
The same evening we took a wetlands tour thinking we were off to see some birdlife, and had Hippo’s only 5m from the side of the boat, hanging out in social groups, grunting, snitching at each other, and keeping a watchful on us. Of course, this was only tempered with the sightings of Hippos’ ROAMING THE STREETS in St Lucia in the evening as they came ashore to feed. We were checking out the menu at the ‘Hippo Grill’ and realised what we thought was a fiberglass replica in the hotel grounds was actually breathing, mowing the lawn, and drinking from the swimming pool! No wonder the water was green! No it wasn’t a pet!
Later, the Key West Cocktail Bar had a few cheeky Aussies come a-visiting and sampling the local fare.
We left the Safari behind and headed to Scottburgh, with 2 nights in fabulous digs of Blue Marlin while we dived Aliwal Shoal. Our first drop in was to ‘The Cathedral’, where we spotted ‘Ragged-Tooth Sharks’ (Grey Nurse to us Aussie locals) – definitely a different behavior to what we experience at Shark Alley in Brisbane (Not as phased by divers, keep returning to their ‘spot’ in and around the rocks, instead of startling and racing off if a diver gets too close). Apparently the early birds also spotted a Tiger Shark almost as soon as they entered the water,… but the validity on this is suspect…………… ???? Our second dive, drifting along ridges spotting morays, crayfish, Harlequin nudibranchs,banded coral shrimp, leaf fish(Woohoo!) Our third dive was our first baited dive, drifting along with some sardines in a vented ball to attract the locals.
Trevally were a madhouse(here called Kingfish) and getting right amongst it were our first new sharks – the Oceanic Blacktip. Very sleek and swift, looking for a treat or two. The action was awesome, with two big Potato Cod also coming in to look for a nibble or two. In the distance a Tigershark and a Hammerhead were spotted, although quite shy and not coming in for all to see. Our last dive was a gentle drift, with everyone exploring nooks and crannies, finding octopus, tropical fish, moray eels, loggerhead turtles and our first good sighting of a Tiger Shark. WooHoo!
We have now moved South, staying in the Margate Sands apartments, Diving with the epic team at African Dive Adventures.
Yesterday we completed two dives, our first baited dive at Protea Banks, with so much action going on it was hard to know where to look. Our first sighting of a couple of Zambezi (we know them as Bull) Sharks playing shy in the distance. Our drift dive was swift, exciting, and although the visibility popped in and out along with some temperature changes, we had a great dive spotting different rays, and then while drifting in the blue, we found we were being inspected by another few Zambezis!
Blue Water safety stop with these guys cruising back and forth was a game of hide-and-seek in the gloom, and spotting crazy different species of comb jellies, salps and stingers drifting in the blue.
So currently Craig, Roland and I are mapping out the rules to tonight’s epic Snorkel-Giant-Chess-Playoff, so stay tuned for the results of this and more diving – hopefully tomorrow as we plan to try for some more baited dives and reef dives!
Toodlepip, Safe Diving and more to come soon!!