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Found 5 results

  1. Tuesday 20th June Relaxed and warm we fit our luggage into Beryl the 4x4 and make our way out of the gate of Le Mirage our home for the past three nights. We've had a most relaxing time, watched the most amazing sunsets and this morning I awoke perfectly normally at 6.50!!!! O.M.G. We are worried, will this become the normal back in Teignmouth??? Will we suddenly change the habit of our retirement and be early risers??? Nah, of course we won't. But this is Africa, this is different, this is amazing! We set off on a long, long haul of C roads which are all gravel, corrugated (that's rutted to you and I) dusty and difficult. We've got 230 miles to travel to get to Swakopmund and our first pit stop is at Solitaire the first ‘Town’ to fill up with Diesel, have a coffee - the best we've had - and we almost drive by it. This hamlet consists of one petrol station set back from the road that we almost miss completely with adjoining thatched-roof cafe/bakery/shop. The bakery has about six sweet items to choose from (but none of the famous Apple Pie/Crumble today!) also nothing savoury for us to take for lunch later. The Oatmeal biscuit and Coconut cake are very delicious, so we go into the shop to find more supplies but except for fridges full of water and fizzy drinks and racks of crisps and nuts, this is definitely NOT a Morrisons. There are very few shelves, it's very dark, there are an assortment of old Gerry cans on the walls and other than a few tins of tuna and some small jars of mayonnaise, the choice is dreadfully limited. Doritos for lunch it is! We drive ever onward and the landscape changes rapidly. We see red dunes, we see miles of gorse, we see pale grasses, but we never see a home, a shack or a building of any sort. Occasionally we see a tiny side road with a sign to Camping, but I'm talking about over 150 miles and virtually nothing. We pass two canyons with a few parked 4x4’s where the occupants are taking time to rest and take photos. Gaub canyon is like a huge seaside switchback rollercoaster. The rock formations are spectacular and as we drive further we see Kuiseb canyon the weirdest mixture of rolling green boulders, slate stone and flint for about 5 or 6 miles. It's no more but a sandy dry river bed although it may run as a river for two or three weeks during the rainy season, but now three months on from then, there was little more than a three foot wide waterhole in just one place. This is a harsh environment. We next stop where we see half a dozen vehicles parked up close to a group of huge boulders. It's called Vogelfederberg and it's 527 metres high. It's easily climbed and has some amazing views of the surrounding area from the top. It's about 20 miles from Walvis Bay and that's where we are heading. The times getting on, that's the trouble always, so little time so much to see. So as we get to Walvis Bay it's gone 4pm and we would like to get to our hotel ready to watch the sun go down over the Atlantic Ocean, so we make the decision to carry on to Swakopmund. We pull up at the Hotel Zum Kaiser at 4.30pm and immediately book in and Peter orders 2 glasses of Wine to be served on the sun terrace and after dumping our bags in our room we're sat awaiting the going down of the sun far out, past the most fabulous huge waves that are crashing onto the beach below us. The temperature dropped like a stone as we got nearer to Swakopmund. In the desert it was about 30c all the way from Sossusvlei but the last 20 miles and it dipped to 17c so there is a real chill in the air. The waiter asks if we’d like coffee ( I guess he thinks Mad English) but we sip our Vino and as the sun sets at 5.30pm we reflect on another lovely day. The best part of Swakopmund for me another perfect sunset. Wednesday 21st June Hotel Zum Kaiser is not a luxurious stop, it's adequate. The best thing about it was a superb shower, hot and wonderful after a days travel. The staff were ok but not majorly friendly, the breakfast was minimal and the bacon sandwich cold. Never mind we'll get to know Swakopmund by having a good walk around town. We leave the hotel to be accosted by a guy trying to sell us trinkets. He's the first in a long line of pests. The only way is to be very rude and totally ignore them. Peter has to say Good Morning. As soon as they hear your voice they say Which Country? If you answer, you have a friend for life to the point they stick like Superglue, whether you tell them to go away, turn left or right they stay right at your side until I get very frustrated and Peter gets angry. These guys are also found in car parks. They wear very old hi vis jackets. If you don't park where they want you too they whistle and wave until you do. Then they'll look after your car until you return and they hope, but not always expect a tip. Peter got into a very interesting and instructive conversation with Mateo. Peter discussed the merits of the car parking facility Mateo ran and mentioned to him it was called ‘In the West’ a Protection Racket! Mateo insisted that he would never expect any reward prior to the event and that any remuneration should only be given afterwards when the vehicle was seen to be safe and sound and should only be from the heart. Ultimately he walked away, happy with this new found knowledge and also the pleasure of extracting a little financial reward from the English Gentleman! Grey, misty Swakopmund The bird life was interesting. Swakopmund is known this time of the year for its sea mist. In Teignmouth, on the English South West coast, we call it The Larry. The mist has descended and Swak is a very cold, very dull place. We spend the day wandering and driving and not doing much except visiting a museum dedicated to a very old steam traction engine known as Martin Luther. The lady and her son who ran the museum were a lovely chatty pair and we had an enjoyable afternoon with their help. Tonight we've booked into The Tug Seafood restaurant by the jetty, right overlooking the beach and even on a damp and miserable Wednesday this large eating house is packed to the rafters at 6.15pm It's a good job I booked as we'd have had no chance without and this was another recommendation this time from our local Trailfinders manager Ollie who told me about it six months ago. First rate choice, Ollie! It was buzzing, the waiting staff were flying about with trays and meals ten to the dozen. Almost every table was taken and as our first choice of table was rather in a cramped position, so much so that when Peter went to sit down a waitress with a full tray, albeit of empty glasses and bottles collided with him, we were swiftly moved to a much better position. Wine choice was quickly decided and dispensed and the extended mainly Seafood menu perused. John Dory Goujons for me, Seafood soup (including a giant Langoustine) for Peter. Now main course was a huge dilemma as the choice was mega, but eventually I chose a Kabeljou, a Namibian favourite, as yet untried by yours truly and Sir went for the a mixed Seafood curry, a superb choice by the completely clean dish when Peter had finished. If Swakopmund wasn't the must interesting or enjoyable visit on our extended holiday, The Tug certainly made up for it in quality of food, service and position of the venue. If you need a 1st class restaurant whilst visiting we can recommend it! Some of the architecture was interesting. Thursday 22nd June Up, out and away after another cold bacon butty (no H.P. like everywhere else, only mustard!) to top our dislike of the place their card machine didn't work and delayed us an extra 25minutes! Not happy! The mist is down and we drive to Hentiesbaii along the coast which resembles November in Caister (having had many Norfolk grey days as I child, I'm wounded forever.) We turn inland and I spend an hour driving along a very straight gravel road and slowly the cloud disappears and eventually 13c turns to 27c We picnic on elevenses, at a concrete table and chairs in the middle of nowhere, whilst many fellow 4x4 travellers toot their horns and wave. This is another wonderful part of driving in Namibia, the friendliness and camaraderie of fellow travellers. We motor further and see many Herero tribeswomen and children selling goodies on the side of the road. They are a nomadic tribe, famed for their red/brown skin and dreadlock type hair, all dyed with a mixture of earth, herbs and cocoa butter. They wear costumes of their German ancestors, including crinolines and numerous petticoats. We are getting close to our destination so decide to stop, close to the side of the road ‘in the bush’ for our lunch. We've hardly seen a vehicle for over an hour except for a couple of mule carts and their owners. Peter unpacks our picnic chairs whilst I plate up bread, meats, cheeses, tomatoes and crisps. We sit down to relax for half an hour, completely alone in Africa, peace and silence…………… and low and behold, every minute for the next ten, a white 4x4 passes, hoots and the folks all wave!!!!! Madness, total madness! The wilderness around us is utterly beautiful. Miles of long grasses, green trees not seen since London, small mountains of rusty red and black granite and slate as far as the eye can see on both sided of the road. Oh the road has also changed from rough gravel to sand. It's so, so different here and we are within 3 km of Mowani Mountain Lodge. The place I've looked forward to ever since Marie at Trailfinders and I put this amazing holiday together. It's one of those one off hotels of the world. Totally hidden from the road, 12 thatched, tented, large toadstool like buildings have been fitted between the natural boulders that have been nestling here for centuries, to be used as bedrooms. Larger ones are the open air lounge and dining area, smaller the office, reception and kitchens. My photos won't do the place justice, but it's incredible. We wanted a room with a view and we've certainly got that in abundance. Room 2 looks forwards as far as the eye can see and that must be 30 miles of boulders, savannah and red mountains. It's totally peaceful except for the occasional bird song. Tiny lizards sun themselves on the rocks all around. It is bliss. Similar in parts to the canyons in Utah and Arizona. But with Elephants living close by as well as Zebra and any number of animals. We unpack, explore the camp including the small plunge pool overlooking the savannah and then walk through the tiny paths in between the boulders high up to the viewpoint where there is a bar!!! Atop an enormous boulder there are cushions with old tree branches as back rests and picnic chairs for the unadventurous. This is the seating for sundowners where three waiters bring small wooden boards as menus with different choices of cocktails, then as we sit and watch the setting sun, the waiters bring trays of nibbles. The guests of which there are about 16 are made up mostly of Germans with a couple of Italians and three Americans. The sun finally drops below the mountains at 5.30 and within 20 minutes the darkness is dropping and we make our way to our chalet to prepare for a delicious dinner before an early night as the alarm must be set for 5.30am!!!!! Small pool with stunning views Friday 23rd June When??!! 5.30 am Pitch black and with a sky full of stars we dress and shuffle to breakfast. Gently raising our eyelids and sanity, it's amazing what coffee can do, we load into a Safari vehicle with a guide who introduces himself as Max. There are six of us, two Italians and two from somewhere in the Antipodes by their accents. The light is just beginning to lift and as we leave the camp we see a herd of Springbok, beautiful creatures. Within another 6 miles still on the sand road a Zebra stallion rushes across with his harem of ladies, as the girls hide within the trees and bushes he turns to watch us pass and makes a fine photo for me. We turn off-road now and see Ostrich in the distance and drive for over an hour through wide dry river beds, we see such greenery, but no water. When the rains came 3 months ago the water above land finally dried up, but under ground the trees and shrubbery feed and live healthily because of their root system. Namibia hasn't had an appreciable amount of rainfall since 2011 but this year they had a better than average lot in January and February. How they survive, I just don't quite understand. We go through a couple of small villages, perhaps twenty homes in each, but more importantly with water pumps run by solar panels and large water tanks. The Namibian government has successfully educated the villagers how important tourism is to the country. So a reciprocal facility works. The government help the villagers by providing the water tanks and solar panels so a two way system can work. The people get water for the village and their animals, ( they raise cattle, goats and chickens) and it also provides water for the passing Elephants. So the Elephants drink happily and leave the villagers in peace. But importantly tourists visit to see the Elephants and bring employment and vital income to the local economy. Namibia is a huge beautiful country and can only benefit if the infrastructure builds accordingly. So now it's gone 8am and we've been travelling for an hour and a half, tracking Elephant. We've seen all the usual signs and we know they have been in this area very recently. Peter and I are becoming ace trackers since our Botswana visit earlier this trip. It's amazing what you learn about Elephant dung! The river bed we are driving through is very lush with greenery and there are large black items moving on our right. Wow! Elephants, there are three of them feeding on the trees around us, then two more, then a mother and her baby. Max tells us the baby was born on Valentines Day last year and the slightly bigger baby one close by is the youngster the mother had six years ago. How fabulous. We slowly watch them and photograph every angle for the next hour as Max gently manoeuvres the vehicle close to them without upsetting them. But they are utterly peaceful and quite used to the couple of vehicles that frequent this area. But they are wild animals. This is not a penned in National park, this is just part of Northern Namibia, open completely to anyone. It's just a matter of knowing where these gorgeous beasts are to just sit and appreciate them. Six year old on left, 16 month old on right. Some of the many Ellie's we watch. On returning to camp smiling at the wonderful morning we've had we then spend the afternoon by the pool, amidst the rocks enjoying the sunshine 30C is perfection. Then it's the sundowner habit once more. 5pm means Cocktails, sunshine and chatter amongst nationalities. Again then we pack, it's a fine art that takes minutes, change and head down to dinner watching the huge array of stars that is the Milky Way as we go. There is a fire pit to sit around, a fabulous lounge to enjoy before once more, at a ridiculously early hour we go to bed. Tomorrow we move further north. The wonderful bar overlooking stunning scenery.
  2. Well, our trip to Namibia is over, and we had the time of our lives, thanks in large part to the suggestions and experience of the posters here. Originally we planned to do a small group tour of Namibia. However, the ones that interested me were all booked until the end of October at the earliest. So, I posted in these forums and got the suggestion of a private guide another poster has toured with. So, we had a privately guided, 12-day, 11-night tour of central Namibia. We let our guide know what sights and areas interested us, and he booked our lodges and activities, after okaying his selections with us. We were in Namibia from June 11-June 22--midsummer at home; midwinter there. June 11 John and I arrived in Windhoek a few minutes early at 10:15 a.m., after our overnight flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, from where we caught the short flight to Windhoek. Fortunately, we had both slept several hours on the overnight flight and were ready to go and beyond excited to finally be in Africa. We travelled with carryon luggage only, so it didn’t take long for us to leave the secure area and meet our guide, Francois, who was waiting for us. We went straight out to the vehicle and Francois drove us out of Windhoek by a back road, avoiding driving through the city. We stopped at one of the “tree” rest stops, and Francois gave us sandwiches, fruit, and personalized water bottles that he filled for us. He showed us the map, and we discussed the itinerary and our travel style. Coming from the Canadian foothills, we are used to long drives, so our guide knew we would be all right with taking the “scenic route” when the opportunity presented itself. (We learned from our guide that the sign is shaped to point to the side of the road where the rest stop will be. In this case, the rest stop will be on the right.) There was a huge corn cricket at the rest stop. This was my first "wildlife" sighting in Africa. I am insect phobic, so I was thinking, "Uh, oh. What have I let myself in for?" Fortunately, that was the worst thing I saw the whole trip. Our first night was booked at Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch. On the way, we stopped at a sociable weavers’ nest. We couldn't believe how busy and noisy it was, with all the birds and the bees. On the way, we also saw mongoose, steenbok, springbok, kudu, giraffe, a crimson-breasted shrike (aka “executioner bird”), a kori bustard, ostrich, elands, and termite mounds. We didn’t take many pictures, as most of the animals were a bit too far away for good shots, and our guide said we would have better opportunities later on. We also saw some people driving a “Kalahari Ferrari." At Bagatelle, we had a dune chalet, and it was gorgeous. It was spacious, beautifully decorated, and had a lovely view of the dunes and a small waterhole with springbok, donkeys, and an eland. There were ostrich on the property, as well. The chalet, the lodge, and the scenery were all so lovely that this is among the top 5 places I’ve every stayed, and I wish we’d had more than one night there. We got settled and then left the chalet. On our deck was a shovelnose lizard. Beside our deck, munching on a bush, was the lodge’s tame springbok, Skunky. We met the lodge’s guide and driver for the cheetah feeding. Bagatelle is part of the cheetah conservation effort, and they are host to two 14-year-old male cheetah that were “problem” animals and cannot be released into the wild for that reason. We went in an open-sided vehicle with a group, and once at the cheetah feeding site, we were allowed to get out of the vehicle once the cats were feeding. One of the cats does not do well with humans, but the other is approachable while he is eating. I got to go close to him and touch him. After the cheetah feeding, we went for a sundowner on top of a dune. John had a Meerkat Sauvingnon Blanc. I had water, as I don’t care for wine, and I was too busy taking pictures of the sunset, anyway. Afterwards, we had dinner at the lodge. Dinner was indoors, as it was too “cold.” (Note: winter in Namibia is warmer than summer where we live. Ha. Ha.) We had our first taste of African game: oryx and kudu, and it was delicious. Skunky, the springbok, kept trying to come into the dining room, and peered at us pleadingly through the window after he was banished. By this time, travelling and not quite enough sleep was catching up with us. We went to our chalet to sleep. I had one of the best sleeps of my entire life; it was so quiet and cool, and the bed was cozy. We slept almost 11 hours. June 12 We were up early for 7am breakfast, followed by our scheduled walk to a demonstration village with a San Bushman. On the way, we saw an eland who had a thin rope tied to his horns. We asked about that and were told he is sometimes "naughty" with the tourists. He certainly seemed to give us a mischievous grin. We were the only two who had booked the Bushman walk, so it was just us, Erastus (Black Mamba) the interpreter, and the San (!Koon (Tall Tree)). !Koon acted out some of the traditional ways that the San people survived in the Kalahari. He told us (using gestures and click language) about termite hills and anteater hunting, about snaring small birds, about the uses of the blackthorn tree (e.g. for stomach ailments), about caching water in ostrich eggs, and about trapping ostriches. He showed us how they started fire, and then we walked to the demonstration village. The women were sitting around a fire making beads from ostrich shell. There were children sitting with the woman and then playing. Then, Erastus brought us to meet the “chief.” He told us about foraging for caterpillars, making rattles, and the mini bow and arrow used for courting (still used today). There were three huts, and there was some ostrich shell jewellery on display. We bought an ostrich and porcupine quill bracelet. Then Erastus and !Koon walked us back to the lodge, and !Koon’s cute little daughter insisted on coming along. On the way back, we chatted a bit about our own heritage (Cree), and the commonalities among Indigenous people in Namibia and Canada. We really felt we had made a connection in our short time together, and it seemed that !Koon and Erastus felt the same. We had heartfelt goodbyes with both !Koon and Erastus, who both told us that they had sincerely enjoyed their time with us, and we said the same. We freshened up at the lodge, and then we were on our way to Sesriem. To be continued.
  3. In July 2011, I made a 3 weeks’ self-driving trip in. Overview : ENINGU CLAY HOUSE : 1 night WOLVEDANS DUNE CAMP : 2 nights SOSSUSVLEI LODGE : 2 nights VILLA MARGHERITA (Swakopmund) : 3 nights DAMARA MOPANE LODGE : 2 nights KHOWARIB LODGE : 1 night DOLOMITE CAMP (Etosha) : 2 nights OKAUKUEJO (Etosha) : 2 nights MUSHARA LODGE (Etosha) : 3 nights OKONJIMA MAIN LODGE : 2 nights THE ELEGANT FARMSTEAD : 1 night Preliminary remarks : Although I had basically nothing to reproach to the organization (Royal Tours Namibia in Windhoek) of it, this trip was not the best of my travels and for a lot of reasons: - I had never been attracted by Namibia. I went there because my wife had expressed the desire to go. So I agreed on condition that a third of the journey was spent in Etosha. Etosha disappointed me. - As I had never been there before, I accepted the circuit as it had been proposed to me. Some stopping places, in my opinion, were not right choices. - The self-driving trip (4300 km) with a 2x4 vehicle was a bad choice. If I should go back to Namibia, I would not do it again that way. - At Wolvedans, the tents were poorly designed, in case of high head wind. - Finally, I had a problem with the vehicle, not so serious in itself, but by all major hassle that it spawned during the next 5 days. Luckily, there was still some good times of which one was excellent and it also delivered some good photographic opportunities. For those who plan to take a self-driving trip to Namibia, be very careful in your choices of the agent and his local correspondant, the car (a 4X4 without any doubt), the car rental company and the conditions of the car rental’s agreements. The car I rented was a high clearance 2x4 Nissan X-Trail and the renting company was BUDGET. My agent rented the car through a broker, and not through his local correspondant RTN, because the broker covered what was not covered at all by any insurance of the renting company like towing charges (only covered in case of mechanical fault not for instances caused by accidents, undercarriage, water and sandstorms damages) and undercarriaged damage. They also covered serious tyre and glass damage which can also be covered by the renting company, but at an additional charge. 90 % of the roads in Namibia are gravel roads and therefore in some places, might be very surprising and dangerous, because they are convex and very deceptive. In some places the gravels are big and you might have the feeling that you are driving on marbles. I slewed round twice but I managed to keep the car on the road. If I ever have to go back to Namibia, I will rent a 4x4 or do it with a driver. Indeed a 2x4 is, in some places, on a C road, barely limited and on a D road, inadequate. When I reached a service station, I always filled up; the next station can sometimes be 300 kms further, pumps might be out of order (it happened twice during my trip) and the station tank might be empty (it happened one time). I had one flat tyre, but this can normally happen on such a trip. There will be in this report more texts than usual, thanks to my wife’s notes and as usual pictures.
  4. I wanted to write about this property because Swakopmund and Walvis Bay offer excellent animal and nature experiences for the safari/animal/nature enthusiast. 1) Name of property and country: Sea Breeze Guesthouse, Swakopmund 2) Website address if known: 3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known). Low/Green season, March, 2015 4) Length of stay: 4 nights 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? I was advised about this property from my travel agent and then read about this property on TA and saw it offered a self contained option which is what we wanted.. I thought it would be a good place to relax whilst we did some local activities. It also offered security parking. 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Discover Namibia who arranged everything. 7) How many times have you been on Safari? 4 visits 8) To which countries? South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Namibia. 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? This was a modern bed and breakfast property close to the beach. 10) Was the camp/lodge fenced? Yes, excellent security 11) How many rooms/tents does it have? 12 12) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? No views offered. 13) How comfortably furnished was the room/tent? The room was a large, comfortable, well furnished, disability accessible and super clean. The room was self contained which was great and offered a separate bedroom, a very large kitchenette/lounge with two single beds. Breakfast was offered in the main communal area upstairs. 14) Did you like the food? We self catered. 15) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) Yes there were different things on offer on the menu for breakfast. 16) What is the default dining arrangement? Not sure 17) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? N/A 18) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. N/A 19) How many guests per row? 20) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? N/A 21) What are the standard game drive times? Are game drive times flexible: i.e., if agreed in advance, can you go out earlier than suggested and stay out later, i.e., not returning for lunch but taking supplies with you? N/A 22) Is this a private conservancy/concession, and what is the vehicle/lodge density like? N/A 23) If in a National Park, what is the vehicle density in the immediate vicinity? N/A 24) Are you able to off-road? No 25) Are there rotation policies for sightings i.e., You face the risk of queuing or being bumped from a sighting. N/A 26) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings. In the area we saw seals, jellyfish, snakes, chameleons, desert adapted flora and fauna. 27) How was the standard of guiding? Excellent with the tours/activities we booked. 28) If you had a bad experience with a guide, why? Did you report the issue to management, and if so, how did they deal with the issue? N/A 29) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why: 30) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? The staff were not very happy and super helpful. 31) Does the property support a local community conservation initiative. If so, please provide brief details and website address if known. Not sure. 32) Safaritalk trip report link: 33) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: Sea Breeze is a lovely boutique guesthouse offering clean and well designed rooms in a safe and secure area. We stayed in a self contained apartment that was disable friendly and were extremely happy with everything. The staff and management were very helpful in assisting us with information about the area, keeping our room clean and washing our clothes so they were ready for the next part of our Namibian adventure. The location was close to supermarkets and the beach, it was also a quiet area which was helpful for a great sleep. I would have no hesitation in recommending Sea Breeze. 34) Activities we did in the area: Batis Birding Safari and Day Tours One of the highlights of our stay in Swakopmund. My parents and I absolutely loved our day spent in the desert and then down in the moon landscape. We learnt so much and really appreciated the time and effort taken to show us the beauty of the desert and surrounding areas. Walvis Bay - Pelican Point Kayaking My parents and I enjoyed the time we spent kayaking with the seals. It was an experience that cannot be repeated. It is important to wear a waterproof jacket just in case the jacket and/or pants they provide does not fit and take spare pants/shorts just in case you get wet. A waterproof camera i.e. GoPro is ideal for this activity Walvis Bay - Sandwich Harbour 4*4 My parents and I loved our tour to Sandwich Harbour. The lunch supplied was fantastic and it was lovely eating amongst the dunes out in nature. We never felt uncomfortable or unsafe during our drives and we learnt a lot from our guide about the desert environment and flora/fauna. I would definitely recommend. Walvis Bay – Kuseib Delta Adventures I took my 66 year old parents on this tour and they had a brilliant time. We all learnt so much about the desert, flora/fauna and history of the people who inhabited this area. The quad biking was so fun. My mum who started off apprehensively but was soon leading the pack and going up and down sand dunes without any fear. Would definitely recommend! Walvis Bay – Anchors @ The Jetty Fantastic food, price and location. Definitely worth visiting for their oysters which were amazing. We enjoyed a brilliant platter, oysters and drinks that offered a little bit of everything and certainly satisfied three adults. Service was great, drinks were cold, view was awesome.
  5. Safari tails : Treepol and TreeMum’s adventures in Kruger, Cape Town, Kalahari and elsewhere This year I was privileged to share the wonders of safari with my mother. The trip was booked as a soft adventure and an introduction to the daily discovery and delights that a wildlife safari delivers. Mum has now been bitten by the safari bug and we plan to return in 2014. The highlights of Mum’s first ever safari were: Birdlife in the Kruger Restcamps Two young male lions (hopefully) trailing a very large herd of buffalo near Satara 3 cheetah hunting kudu Eles and lion at N’semani in Kruger Wildflowers at West Coast NP Lunch with Dikdik in Cape Town Coastal scenery on the flight from Cape Town to Walvis Bay Living Desert Tour (ex Swakopmund) Elephant gathering at Rietfontein, Etosha Meerkats at Bagatelle Cheetah with 3 x 4 month old cubs, Phinda The itinerary was: Forest Camp, Moholoholo Rehab Centre (1 night) Kruger 7 nights (2 Satara, 3 Olifants, 1 Pretoriuskop and 1 Berg-en-dahl) Hluhluwe-Umfolozi NP (Hilltop Camp 2 nights) St Lucia (Lalapanzi B&B 3 nights) Cape Town (Blackheath Lodge 4 nights) Swakopmund (Hotel Schweizerhaus 3 nights) Etosha (Dolomite Camp 1 night, Okaukuejo 2 nights, Namutoni 1 night) Bagatelle Game Lodge (3 nights) Phinda (Forest Lodge 4 nights) Photos from the safari (including accommodation) are now online. I’ll include some notes on planning at the end of the TR. Finally the 4 August has dawned and safari 2012 is here at last - the VIPs (very important pets) have been temporarily re-homed and Mum and I set out for 5 weeks in Africa. My brother and sister-in-law drove us to the newly renovated Devonport (Tasmania) airport and a quick 70 minute flight gets us to Melbourne for an hour stopover before boarding the plane for Perth. We overnighted at the unremarkable Bel Eyre Comfort Inn, where the redeeming feature was the free, convenient airport shuttle. The flight to Johannesburg from Perth was the longest I have ever experienced on this route - exactly 12 hours due to strong headwinds. I was lucky to snag the last row of 4 seats before the plane took off so we could take turns to stretch out for a snooze. The first night in Johannesburg was at the Airport City Lodge in comfy rooms with dinner at the airport Mugg and Bean. Breakfast next morning was up to the usual City Lodge standard (my first blood oranges of the trip) after which we met our guide Shelagh Webber and set out for the first night at Moholoholo Rehab Centre. Shelagh hired a 9 seater Hyundai for the first 13 days of the trip - plenty of room for us, the luggage, food supplies and Shelagh’s kitchen equipment. The dusty drive east was due to the strong winds that were battering parts of South Africa and the heavy traffic partly the result of coal trucks. We stopped at Milly's Star Stop for lunch before heading further east. We drove over Abel Erasmus pass, part of an early voortrekker route before arriving in a citrus fruit growing area with curio and citrus sellers at the roadside. Forest Lodge, Moholoholo Rehab Centre Wildlife started at the gate - 'kneeling' warthogs, nyala and giraffe. This continued during the late afternoon game drive where Mum saw her first African sunset, roosting vultures, more nyala, impala, a lone wildebeest and 4 giraffe. When the 6 lions at the rehab centre roared and the sound rolled across the Drakensbergs and I knew I was back in Africa. During the drive we smelled the potato bush that is just like boiling potatoes and is usually evident in the late afternoon and early evening. The common wild pear tree is a sweet smelling tree which (reportedly) is used for making love potions. The guide told us about the solo rhino at Moholoholo that seeks the company of the grazing hippos at night, and later we saw this unlikely trio close to the lodge. The staff served a delicious dinner of butternut and stilton soup, pepper steak (Mum had hake and prawn sauce) and chocolate fudge pudding. Following a good sleep Mum and I were both up early to see the sunrise across the Drakensbergs. Nyala graze at the front of the chalet and 2 young lambs spent the night in the shelter of the front steps. Breakfast was a delicious parfait of fresh fruit, yoghurt and muesli followed by bacon and eggs. The tour of the rehab centre was very informative and I have photos of Mum patting the cheetah and even putting on the leather gauntlet to feed the vultures (never thought this would happen!). Other animals that we saw were lion, leopard, hyena, honey badger, a 3 y.o. black rhino and a free ranging 4 month old white rhino that was being raised at the centre before being returned to her owner’s farm. Kruger NP We entered Kruger through Phalaborwa gate and soon saw several eles and impala. This began Mum’s deep interest in elephants that grew throughout the trip. We were lucky with a distant, yet clear sighting of a leopard in a tree - the late afternoon sun caught her spots beautifully. Next we saw a large herd of buffalo being optimistically tailed by 2 two year old male lions that looked longingly at this big prey but didn't push their luck. At Nsemani a pride of lions lazed with bloated stomachs - 2 males with lionesses further back in the tree line. Up at 6.10 the next morning and prowling around the campsite looking for birds - hoopoe, green wood hoopoe, a Bennett's woodpecker and a gray lourie are around the rondavels. Less welcome are the vervet monkeys, one of which stole my breakfast strawberries. After breakfast we drove the S100 where a small pride of lions is lazing. Morning tea is at the delightful Timbavati Picnic Site and lunch at N'watetsi Picnic Site. Mum and I did a Sanparks night drive during which we saw hippo, 3 lionesses, a distant porcupine, 2 genets, a disappearing civet and a chameleon. Up early next morning I was entertained by a pair of crested barbets, yellow billed hornbills and flocks of glossy starlings. Later we drove north to Olifants, via Nsemani where a lioness was walking slowly along the road. Along the way we saw zebra and eles at Ngotsi waterhole and a very large herd of buffalo, probably the same being trailed by the young lions - sadly there were no tawny shapes padding along behind the slow moving line. Stopped to admire a pearl spotted owl just before the Olifants River where we saw open-billed storks hadeda ibis, egrets, a pair of spoonbills, Egyptian geese and bathing glossy starlings. The river is scenic with lots of rocky outcrops and pools. Lunch is at the Olifants restaurant where I had bunny chow - yummy chicken curry served in a scooped out quarter loaf of bread. A knobbly fig tree shades the restaurant deck and red-winged starlings, gray louries and a black-headed oriole feast on the fruit above our heads. A short game drive revealed elephants at the Olifants and a wide drag mark made by a crocodile on its way down to the river. Bushbuck and kudu, together with the elephants from the river crossed the road in front of us on the way back to camp. My rondavel has river views and I can hear the hippos honking and smell braais cooking as the sun sets. Up at 6.45 looking for birds - a gray headed bush shrike lives somewhere near the laundry and the brown-headed parrots are breakfasting on aloes. Other breakfast birds are crested barbets, yellow and red-billed hornbills, a single gray hornbill, red-winged and glossy starlings. A tree squirrel entertains Mum but evades the camera. The first new animal of the day is a klipspringer on the rocky skyline. We had morning tea at Letaba and spent some time in the Elephant Centre where there is an elephant skeleton, lots of ele-related information and photos and the tusks of 7 Kruger 'big tuskers' with a few biographical details of these giants. Mum thought this was a great place and it was hard to get her away! Bushbuck roam around Letaba and I saw a cinnamon breasted bunting at the plant nursery. Heading north bull elephants are drinking from reservoirs where the short (and smart) animals stand on a small step to gain a height advantage. Further on we saw eles enjoying a dust bath and surprisingly, a lone roan antelope. Ate lunch at Mopani where open-billed storks, egrets, Egyptian geese and crocs could be seen from the deck. Returning to Oliphants we saw 11 bull elephants at the reservoir and closer to camp a lappet-faced vulture. There is a white-backed vulture nest along the road near the restcamp where we watched an adult feeding the demanding chick. Another beautiful Kruger evening and the hippos are honking in the river below as I write up my notes. Next morning I found a dark-capped bulbul, a black headed oriole and a white bellied sunbird all feasting on aloes near the gate. We drove south to Satara and giraffe, 2 of which were fighting, smashing necks in a fight for dominance. Further on we have sightings of a distant rhino, a peaceful breeding herd of eles and lion. We enjoyed a skottlebraai lunch (eggs, bacon and tomato) at N'watesi Picnic Site where a Spotted bush snake dropped out of a tree, eventually slithering into another near the shade area This was a zebra day as we saw 2 large dazzles with over 100 animals each as well as other smaller herds. I realised the next day was Sunday when I heard the staff singing at the restcamp church whilst at the restaurant black collared barbets hop around in the top of the knobbly fig tree . Later we departed for Pretoriuskop, passing a kori bustard which appeared to have been hit by a car (the number of speeding cars in Kruger was very worrying) and in a nearby tree a martial eagle waited to feast on the carcass. Further on we saw 2 waterbuck males squaring off, and later a cheetah. This sighting eventually turned out to be 3 cheetah hunting kudu and we enjoyed distant sightings of all 3. We had scarcely stopped talking about this than we came upon a large gathering of cars watching a leopard eating a porcupine - he was well hidden behind a bush but we saw his spotted head and neck as he tucked into the luckless porcupine. We had planned to have lunch at Tshokwane Picnic Site, however when a vervet grabbed Mum's banana before we had even put the picnic basket down we decided on boerwors rolls and peppermint crisp ice cream from the kiosk. Later we saw eles and lion at N'semani, rhino closer to Skukuza and buffalo - so the Big 5 in one day! As we settle into Pretoriuskop at dusk someone at the staff camp is whistling a song reminiscent of Love me tender as night falls. Pretoriuskop is my favourite camp as the grounds are spacious and home to a small herd of quiet impala and a wide variety of birds. Next morning I eventually photographed a scarlet chested sunbird. Leaving camp we saw a tree full of green pigeons and later some gray hornbills. A Sanparks vehicle and armed guard accompanied women cutting thatch to be used in the maintenance of park buildings. Along the road we saw 3 rhinos and at Transport dam impala, swallows, a magpie shrike and a sentinel fish eagle sitting high above the water. We stopped at Lake Panic where a pair of mating hippos had drifted close to the hide. We also saw 4 grey herons on 2 nests, crocodile, bushbuck, our first Goliath heron, African darter, malachite and pied kingfishers and jacana. On the road once more we saw a lone lioness and 4 giraffe. Stopped for lunch at Nkhuli Picnic Site where we again ordered boerwors rolls much to the delight of the resident baboons who paid close attention to our food. Closer to Berg-en-dahl we saw a lone (and very fat) lioness at a wildebeest kill and later a rhino and calf. Next morning I tried unsuccessfully to photograph scarlet chested sunbirds and purple turacos. Breakfast birds included a black-headed oriole, bulbuls, gray louries that were joined by the pesky vervet monkeys. Hluhluwe-Umfolozi is next...

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