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Itinerary:

 

8th-22nd May 2015

 

8th Arrive Durban, overnight Pietermaritzburg.

9th-11th Indaba Durban, overnight 11th St. Lucia.

12-16th Primitive Trail, Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, overnight 16th in Hluhluwe.

17th Visit to Zimanga Private Game Reserve and then Mkhuze Game Reserve, overnight 17th at Mkhuze..

18th Drive to Ndumo Game Reserve, overnight Ndumo.

19th Drive to Kosi Bay, overnight Kosi Bay.

20th Kosi Bay, overnight Kosi Bay.

21st Morning Tembe Elephant Park, then drive to St. Lucia and explore iSimangaliso Wetlands Park. Night Drive iSimangaliso, overnight St. Lucia.

22nd Drive to Durban, depart for home.

 

At various times in this report, @@Bugs, @@Soukous and @@Peter Connan will be adding their thoughts and images.

 

Some parts of the report will feature as seperate linked articles here on ST.

 

Photos still to be edited, however, as an introduction, I will precede the report by saying what a fantastic trip this was, in accompany with great Safaritalkers, South Africa once again delivering a fantastic experience: meeting incredibly committed people working in conservation, privately and for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and iSimangaliso Wetland Park, seeing real positives in South Africa and exploring an area which has incredible potential for Safari tourism and offering incredible value for money.

 

Matt.

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Glad to have you back @@Game Warden and that you had a good time. Looking forward to hearing about it, especially Zimanga, which has been highly touted by some professional photographers

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Posted (edited)

Excelent Matt! Can't wait to see your pics selection and TR!

Check your inbox I've sent you a message!

Edited by jeremie

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Wow - really looking forward to this TR. I hope good 'ol @@Bugs contributes some material, as I am sure @@Soukous and @@Peter Connan will.

 

And @@Game Warden had his TR up on Safaritalk just 2 days post-Africa. Setting the good example eh?

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Have fun for both you and your beard

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At various times in this report, @@Bugs, @@Soukous and @@Peter Connan will be adding their thoughts and images.

 

Some parts of the report will feature as seperate linked articles here on ST.

 

Photos still to be edited, however, as an introduction, I will precede the report by saying what a fantastic trip this was, in accompany with great Safaritalkers, South Africa once again delivering a fantastic experience: meeting incredibly committed people working in conservation, privately and for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and iSimangaliso Wetland Park, seeing real positives in South Africa and exploring an area which has incredible potential for Safari tourism and offering incredible value for money.

 

~ @@Game Warden

 

As South Africa keeps popping up as a safari destination of interest, your trip report sounds very interesting.

I especially appreciate your very clear travel calendar.

@@Peter Connan's exchanges with me, and his superlative bird photography started me thinking more about South Africa.

@@Tdgraves's excellent trip report from Sabi Sands further stoked my interest.

The prospect of your trip report adds to the desire to book a trip there.

The South Africa Tourism Board owes Safaritalk a free lunch in Johannesburg, or something.

Looking forward to it!

Tom K.

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The new - slimline - @@Game Warden all loaded up and ready to go

 

post-43899-0-69177700-1432624134_thumb.jpg

 

It was along time - a VERY long time - since I walked anywhere with a 20kg backpack.

 

post-43899-0-83706200-1432624252_thumb.jpg

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That tall dude has to be Bugs! But then there are a couple of tall dudes ....... ;)

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That tall dude has to be Bugs! But then there are a couple of tall dudes ....... ;)

 

Bugs is the fella with the staff, looking like Moses.

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Quite a crew in the pic; looking forward to hearing tales of the bush, the travel show and all the sights and sounds of SA!

 

Happy you are safely back @@Game Warden; many of us will want to know the diet secrets :P You look very"GQ'ish" Safari Style B)

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Presently editing images, and I'll start a new topic for the Primitive Trail trip report but link to it from the top post. Matt.

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post-49296-0-50640900-1432647320_thumb.jpg

 

“We WILL find the legendary den of the albino pangolins — it's gotta be out there!”

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Looking forward to seeing how it all went - especially Tembe, which stood out to me in a recent TR. Also really interested in seeing more perspectives from those in the conservation field.

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So when did @@Bugs grow a beard? and that is a big stick he is carrying. :huh: @@Game Warden you need to watch out on the beard front... but my God you are really sylph-like now. Well done.

 

Bet you are all a bit thinner and more toned after carrying 20k. Looking forward to hearing all about it in time. Welcome back to you all.

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Looking like a ST themed LotR shoot almost! :D

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@@wilddog, this was about 30 seconds after we first donned our back-packs for the first time, and I doubt they work that quickly.

 

In fact I think most of us probably put on weight due to Matt's geat cooking!

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@@wilddog, this was about 30 seconds after we first donned our back-packs for the first time, and I doubt they work that quickly.

 

In fact I think most of us probably put on weight due to Matt's geat cooking!

 

~ @@Peter Connan

 

Really? Who knew that the Bearded Helmsman was also a Chef par excellence?

Bulking up on the Primitive Trail — fascinating!

Tom K.

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The trip begins...

 

I was landing in Durban the day before Indaba started: flying Emirates via Dubai saw me arrive at just before 5pm on the 8th of May. Tired, sweaty and with aching buttocks, yet elated once more to be back on African soil. Everyone seemed to have a smile and I was stopped by a burly customs official wanting to know the purpose of my visit: when I explained it was for Indaba and to help promote South Africa he shook my hand heartily and sent me on my way with a wide grin and his best wishes: it was a perfect welcome.

 

It's easy to spot @@Bugs in a crowd: he stands head and shoulders above everyone else. I'd last seen him a year ago, at this very same airport as he saw me off, back then he was bearded but he'd given in to the urge to shave: I knew it, so did not know what to expect. However, he'd seen the light and the beard was back and here we both were, a tall and short version of "Grizzly Adams", and after more than 24 hours of travelling, I was definitely the more grizzled.

 

Briefly arranging the hire car, we were soon off on the road, driving into the Kwa-Zulu Natal evening and there was much to catch up on. We were heading straight to a pub in Peitermaritzburg but this was not your usual drinking hole but that of the old Natal Parks Board, (now Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife). Entering into this small den one meets a number of retired rangers, many of whom knew Ian Player and were involved in Operation Rhino back in the day. The walls drip history, photos, paintings, framed press clippings, paraphanalia from decades of wildlife conservation. Beers flow, G&Ts and conservation conversation is enthusiastic, it's a real priviledge to have been invited. We also meet with Mark, who is to accompany us on the trail.

 

Dinner at a local place, nothing but a huge steak will do, even through the load shedding and lights out, back up generator kicks into life. Nothing stops dinner on a South African night...

 

We roll back to Bugs' parents place where I am graciously put up for the night and it is lovely to see them both again, so welcoming and kind to me. "Hairy Matt."

 

I have to pack twice in the morning, once for iMfolozi, once for Indaba, hopefully if he remembers, Bugs will bring the suitcase with him when we meet in three days time. So, with my backpack slung across my shoulder, a gulp of coffee and a slice of toast, a hug for Bugs' parents and a grateful thank you, we are off for 8 am and driving into Durban. The road is clear, the sky is blue, the temperature rising already and it feels humid: welcome to Durbs...

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Indaba is situated at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre and is a large event spreading over 3 exhibition halls and an extensive outside area. I believe previously focused more on South African and SADC countries, Indaba is now increasing it's reach to include more sub Saharan countries and without a clear plan and objective, one can easily get lost and miss exhibitors. As press, I was always aware that the exhibitors time was limited and more importantly devoted to business to business meetings, so when I got chance I'd sit down to chat when welcome.

 

I had a list of people I was keen to meet up with and of course most importantly was @@Soukous - Martin had all the details of the hotel and much experience of Indaba's past, and Durban as a whole. Here was I, alone and without him, I'd be in real trouble.

 

I met with a lot of old friends and acquaintances, some of whom are Safaritalk members, some who I've interviewed, even travelled with. I met a lot of new people who I hope will become friends and whilst Safaritalk does fly under the radar it is a name many recognise, if not me. I hadn't taken the pith helmet on this trip and many commented upon how I was incomplete without it... as a logo it really defines the Safaritalk brand, even if it is somewhat lighthearted.

 

On the first night of Indaba is the ATTA networking party and despite being sold out, I'm grateful to Alex Walters, @personal pangea from Great Plains Conservation for arranging two tickets for Martin and I: now all I had to do was actually meet with Martin... I was keen to find out more on the Rhinos Without Borders project, details of which Alex has posted here.

 

Our "hotel" was not more than ten minutes walk from the conference center - 180 on West which was on the corner of Union Lane and Dr. Pixley Kaseme. We'd later discover what this road was like... Briefly back to the hotel to dump packs and freshen up, change for the party, the hotel is a series of self catering appartments, simply furnished, ours had two bedrooms, kitchenette and bathroom. It was spartan but comfortable and undergoing improvements - aircon that was obviously newly installed was not yet working, metal framed windows, (not double glazed) did not close properly, let mozzies in, (no nets), as well as the noise, (and what noise there was later that night) and the stuffy Durban heat. It was cheap, it was close to Indaba and most importantly it had rooms free, (I now know why), which, during the Indaba week is not easy to find. It ticked some boxes but not others, next year, should I come back I'd look to stay somewhere better...

 

That ATTA do was at a big restaurant/club on the beachfront, Martin knew it, it was a cab ride away and we walked to the main beach road in order to grab a cab. Past dingy bars, hairdressers, sex shops, tabbacanists and so forth. The beard attracted much attention from both the men and women who in turn would call out "Jesus", (men), and "Husband", (women). Some wanted to come up and shake my hand. It made everyone smile.

 

After many hours at the party where I became slowly more drunk, we were given a lift back to the hotel thanks to Martin's friends and staggered back to the hotel from where we were dropped off: there were more women calling me husband than men calling me Jesus at this late hour and it was more edgy than before. Martin though is a confident chap and I was glad to be with him as he knew Durban better than I ever could.

 

Boom boom boom boom exploded the beat from the nightclub below our window. Cars raced up and down, people shouting, screaming, laughing. I'd not drunk enough water and was dehydrated - there was no mini bar and no water provided in the room, I could have drunk from the tap but did not trust how good it was. A still the music boomed up from below. I did not sleep much, if at all and day two of Indaba started with a hangover and desperate search for a place that sold water and coffee... at 7 am when it was time to get up the disco was still pumping down below.

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There isn't much open on a Sunday morning: all sense of time was lost to me, I didn't know what day it was, Martin led us to the nearest Cape Union Mart and even that looked to be abandoned with store fronts shuttered. I was not yet 9 am but I was execting there to be more action... and then we realised it was Sunday. It was not such a great surprise to find that my ATM card wouldn't work in S.A so Bugs and Martin spared my embarrasment by covering my costs and later we'd sort all the financial details out between us.

 

We sat supping water and chewing slowly on a cinammon roll in the park outside where each mouthful brought me close to vomitting: I was not in a good state and it was only a few hours and many strong coffees later when I finally felt recharged. Possibly I was not the only one in the same predicament after the night before. Once my head stopped hurting I had a plan, the most important of which was to liase further with Lwazi from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and come up with an itinerary for the rest of my KZN trip following the Primitive Trail in iMfolozi...

 

gallery_1_1278_588886.jpg

Bugs had already said to arrange things on the fly and we'd just go for it: as long as I was back to King Shaka for 11am on the 22nd it didn't matter. So with Lwazi I booked us into Mkhuze and Ndumo reserves, following which we'd be visiting Kosi Bay: I wanted to do Tembe and then head back for a last night, somewhere, (and that last night was all up in the air till the morning of the 21st when the plan came together but more about that later...) I was hoping as well to see some of iSimangaliso, which, as it turned out we did.

 

I bumped into another great character later in the day and we couldn't resist a photo together:

 

gallery_1_1278_400107.jpg

Benson Siyawareva from Ngoko Safaris with whom I'd been to Zim with September previously. He updated me about the school project in Victoria Falls which I'd visited and so much has been achieved so far. My own small donation helping to pay the way for all the water to be plumbed. There will be more to come about the school soon.

 

I'd registered to take part in the 1st Durban "Travel Massive" event in the evening: meeting some of the organisers and people I stay in contact with through Social networks. A feature of many of these gettogethers is a prize draw where you place your business card into the hat and should it be drawn, you win something. And so, after a few drinks and presentations about what Travel Massive is, the prize draw took place. The first card was drawn but no one claimed the prize. The second card drawn was... Safaritalk's and my prize was a 2 night all expenses paid stay for 2 people at Rhino River Lodge, part of Zululand Rhino Reserve. I immediately offered up the prize for auction, and it was bought by a representative from South African Tourism, raising 2000 rand for rhino conservation initiatives on the reserve.

 

A great feature in the Indaba evenings is the outside area, (where some of the exhibitors are set up), once business is concluded, out come the braais and beers and boerewors and there is a real social gettogether. Apparantly back in the day this used to be something really special and everyone is trying to recapture the vibe. Clint Gielink from Okavango Expeditions invited us to join them for drinks and food and we ate and drank and chatted Africa and safari issues for a good couple of hours, the smell of meat on the braai drifting through the air, people chatting, laughter and the day slowly drew to an end.

 

Martin and I then went to find a curry. In fact, we wished we'd stayed longer with Clint. A most unforgettable meal on Durban seafront before walking back to the hotel, this time stopping to stock up on bottled water - I was not getting drunk for a second night running and waking up a mess.

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Day 3 at Indaba was lasted not more than an hour and a half: I still had people to meet and to say goodbye: Indaba had been a hectic, fun, tiring experience completely different to that of We are Africa which I attended in 2014. Each of which had it plus points, its negative points, but both extremely important on the tourism marketing calender both complementing each other. I hope that I'll be able to go to one, or the other, or both, again, in 2016.

 

Meeting Bugs in the foyer, we got in the car and were off. Indaba was over, now we'd explore KZN...

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Hi GW....I am so looking forward to the rest of your trip. It is always interesting seeing your own province through someone else's eyes. Hoping for the best but preparing a bad face for the worst ;-)

 

Glad to see you enjoyed the Indaba and happy nothing untoward happened to you while wandering around the beachfront at night....not sure I would have been so bold....although I guess this explains why the lion charge didn't phase you in iMolozi !

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Links added to the first post.

 

Matt

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