Just wanted to say a BIG thank you once again for helping me plan my holiday. I had an absolutely amazing time — again — from beginning to end! Not that i can af afford to make going to Africa an annual thing, nor would i want to do the 22+ hr flight every year (although i’ve now gone the last 2 yrs in a row), i definitely know i can count on you the next time i go!
To begin with, Colin was absolutely wonderful. Always had a smile on his face, super friendly and informative. Not only did i learn quite a bit about almost every town/region we drove thru, but we also shared some personal facts so i left not only better informed about the culture (incl: education, politics, econ, landscape, agriculture, family life etc) of S. Africa, but also feel i made a friend. He was always on time and truly made my trip flow smoothly. Anything can go wrong when traveling alone in a foreign country. But after our initial meet and great and transfer from Cape Town to De Kelders, i felt so at ease knowing Colin was my transfer the rest of the trip from points A to B to C etc. He even asked i email him when i landed safely back in the states. That just shows he’s a genuinely good guy.Â
My stay in De Kelders was special. The Roundhouse was so cool/unique. Great location, breathtaking view and loved the structure itself (Dave truly made his vision a reality — cross beetw a native African hut and a lighthouse). Dave & Elna were super friendly and helpful. The cage diving w/great whites in Gansbaai was awesome. I don’t think i blinked once — felt like a little kid doing sometthing i’ve always wanted to do & see up close. I’ve been passionate about the beach, ocean and marine life since i was a little kid growing up at the beach and one of the reasons i got into scuba diving 14 yrs ago. Seeing and watching great whites in real time (not just on Discovery Channel) was a top my list and now i’ve done it. The weather cooperated both mornings and the 2nd morning i even was able to switch my trip to go w/a smaller group of students (mix of shark and whale conservationists on interns) — granted i had to wake up at 5am (but that was the norm for thiis holiday!). That meant even more time in the cage and i learned a bit more. The boat skippers said we saw 10 whites Monday and 15 Tuesday. The one aspect that sticks in my head most is the blackness/hollowness of their eyes. I know it’s a line from Jaws, but it’s so true.Â
The very first morning before my shark dive and then later in the afternoon/early evening when i got back, i walked from the Roundhouse along the top of the cliffs and took some of the trails down to rocky shoreline to climb on rocks and watch southern right whales, which i saw a lot of (saw 2 breach that early evening just before sunset — first time ii had ever seen that in real time). Then the next afternoon went into Hermanus and walked along the shoreline there as well, took some trails down to the water (saw several Dassies) and then went on the whale watching boat trip. Albeit touristy, gIven i had never seen whales from a distance or up close, this was a treat for me. Again, saw another whale breach not too far from the boat.
Wednesday the weather cooperated again (albeit a dark cloud hovered over Table Mt), so i was able to hike. This was one of the best hikes i’ve ever done (and i’ve hiked 18 National Parks in 7 states on the west coast of the US and Acadia in Maine on the east coast). It was also one of the most challenging. Personally, it ranks up there w/Half Dome in CA (although, if you hike the entire Half Dome trail that’s 11 hrs roundtrip w/the steepest section at the very end). The cloud coverage/mist going up only added to the effect — i felt likee Frodo in Lord of the Rings bc of the landscape and weather. It was awesome!! Took me 1.5 hrs up the Platterklip Gorge, then i spent an hour at the top hiking over to McCloud’s Basin, then back down the Gorge in about 2 hrs time (took a lot more photos & vid down bc the clouds dispersed and sun peered in and out so i was able to see Table Mt from a much different perspective than going up. It was an amazing hike & experience. Breathtaking landscape (this hike defines the quote: Life is about the journey, not the destination bc the rocky landscape up and down is just as amazing as the views of Cape Town from atop. The wildflowers were also in abundance and i took lots of photos that i’ll share once i sort thru them. Even saw a snail on a rock inching along.
Thursday and Friday safari in Sanbona was incredible. The Tilney Manor is beautiful (gorgeous room and views and amazing food — and coolest outdoor shower EVERR). Altho on a much smaller scale compared to Mana Pools & Chobe, the landscape, biodiversity and wildlife were amazing. I went on 2 game drives and then a night drive Thursday and then one long extended game drive all day Friday from morning until the time we met Colin at the gate at 6pm. This included a walking/trekking safari w/my guide Darvid (David) and a ranger w/a rifle. THAT WAS SUCH A COOL EXPERIENCE! Doing a game drive from jeep or boat is amazing, but walking on foot thru the terrain is a completely different life changing experience — it’s more tangible — andand that’s why i enjoy hiking. This will stick w/me forever. Getting to walk thru the bush and over cliffs, getting w/in 30 feet of cheetah (mum & 3 cubs), about the same distance (give or take) from giraffe, cape zebra and rhino (we were behind a grassy hill) — incredible. I felt like a little kid again exploring in the woods. We followed rhino & zebra tracks, a puff adder trail, found an aardvark hole, termites nest, cotton and rosemary bushes (and learned the synergy btw wasps and cotton), i got to touch a zebra hair that had fallen off it’s tail in it’s tracks (very coarse), saw berries in dung (aka: Bear Grills style), camped out and ate lunch in the bush and watched a 6″ millipede wander by as i sat in the dirt. IT WAS AWESOME! Overall i saw cheetah (mum and 3 cubs), Â rhino & white lion (all of which i did not see in Zimbabwe or Chobe), elephant, cape zebra, giraffe, hippo, 3 jackal, eland, oryx, springbok, kudu, klipspringer, red hartebeest, African cobra, baby puff adder, spotted eagle owl, baboon and riverine rabbit, breathtaking landscapes of dry brush, mountains/cliffs and amazingly wicked red sunset.
Saturday, although the weather was gorgeous, i chose not to go hang gliding given i can do that another time here in the states, but chose to just relax and walk around Cape Town a bit (again, get a tangible feel for the area). Walked over to the futbol (soccer) stadium build for the 2010 World Cup which was a real treat for me give i played soccer from age 5 til 1st year at University (and am an avid fan of the World Cup), then i walked around the Waterfront which is gorgeous, saw Robbens Isl in the distance, walked over to the Robbens Isl museum etc etc etc. Was just a perfect morning to be outside.Â
The only hiccup in the entire trip (besides me missing my transfer flight from Joberg to Cape Town, which was a result of my flight landing later, the Visa line took forever and then i had to get my checked luggage before checking at the gate to fly to Cape Town) was the BreakWater hotel in Cape Town. Both the exterior and interior of the hotel were really nice and it’s in a prime location — easy walkking distance to the stadium and Waterfront (and it’s historical value — being a prison during the British colonialism period — ma made it unique). The problem was i had an issue with my room. After i checked in Friday night, showered and was leaving to make dinner (hotel restaurant closed at 10pm), my door would not lock. The front desk sent a maintenance person but after 45min of this and that, i missed dinner only to find out he couldn’t fix the door until the morning (which meant i couldn’t leave the room in the morning to walk about Cape Town until he arrived). So I asked for another room, which they did give me. Problem solved there. But that night i asked for room service given i was starving (now it’s 11pm) and the manager said not until the night chefs arrived bc the kitchen was closed.Â At 12:30am they brought room service (by then i was in bed) so i didn’t get to eat dinner that night. All in all, albeit annoying, this was trivial in the grand scheme of an amazing trip.Â
Again thank you thank you thank you. Once i sort thru all my photos and vid and upload them, i’ll email you a link to view them.