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With both of us retired ( well, semi- retired for my wife), we decided to escape the Dutch winter and spend some 8 weeks travelling parts of South Africa we had not visited before. On our previous 3 visits we had always flown to Johannesburg and from there explored Wakkerstroom, St Lucia, Kruger, Mapungubwe, to name a few and even ventured into Southern Botswana. This time we would fly to Cape Town to see the southern areas. We booked our tickets with British Airways some nine months before, giving us a good rate: €600 euros pp for a return ticket, with a stopover and change at Gatwick. After this we started putting together an itinerary for our stay. Apart from seeing the Cape Town area and south coast we decided to spend the last three weeks travelling north to visit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, something we had been thinking about for a number of years. We'd throw in a few days in Fish River Canyon for the scenery and to get a taste of Namibia. In fact we had also looked at the possibility to combine the Kgalagadi part with a much longer Namibia trip, but the cost and the long distances had made us decide to leave that to a later date. At first a tough decision as it meant abandoning many great birding areas, but it was definitely the right one. We got many great tips from ST members, by reading trip reports and @@xelas added a lot of information in our email exchanges. We approached a Dutch/South African travel agency to arrange these 3 weeks for us: accommodation and the rental of a 4x4. For the first 5 weeks they booked us a sedan and the first three nights in Hermanus. We were going to book all other accommodation ourselves when we we in SA. This would give us more freedom to extend our stay at places we really liked and leave whenever we felt like it. We had googled a lot of possible places to stay in the various regions we were gong to visit, looking at reviews and rates. Sounds like a plan, doesn't it? Only it turned out quite a few places were fully booked even later in January and in the end we did not get to see a few places that had been high on our list. Well, to be honest we also did not get to see all the areas we wanted anyway as our trip did not last the planned 8 weeks. But I'm getting ahead of myself, I'll fill you in about that later. So in a nutshell, this was the plan: From 8th January till 12th February ( roughly 5 weeks): Start with a few days in Hermanus, then follow the Garden Route eastwards. Furthest point east would be Addo Elephant park. From there ease back west and then take the R62. Probably a detour north to visit the Karoo NP and then back to Cape town to spend a week exploring the area. From 12th February till 3rd March With a 4x4 travel north in 3 days to Fish River Canyon and spend 3 nights there. Then via Keetmanshoop (1 night) to the Mata Mata gate of the Kgalagadi TP. There we would be for 9 nights: 2 in Kalahari Tented Camp, 2 in Mata Mata, 2 in Nossob, 1 in Kieliekrankie and finally 2 in Twee Rivieren. On our way back to Cape Town we would spend two nights near the Augrabies Falls NP. Then to CT and back home. Birding opportunities and sites had been a major consideration in the planning. One of the highlights, I hoped, would be a pelagic trip from Simon's Town, which I had booked with Cape Town Pelagics. Was I really going to see an albatross? My photographic equipment: Canon 7DII with the 100-400II. I did take a lightweight tripod with me, but 99% of the shots were handheld. I also had a spare body, my 'old' 7D. Looking at myself struggling out of bed in the morning I could use another spare body, but unfortunately the Peter MarkII is not yet on the market. My wife, Jeannette, brought her trusted Sony A77, mainly for scenery shots. Although not as dedicated a birder as I try to be, she shares my passion for birds, animals and nature in general. Would this trip, longer than any we had ever done before, bring us what we hoped for? Would our marriage hold when we had exhausted our conversation topics ( this proved to be a theoretical question, we did not run out of topics )? Well, let's wait and see...
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