In search of the Big Five

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April 27th 2005
Published: November 27th 2006
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Wild Coast scenery, Port St JohnsWild Coast scenery, Port St JohnsWild Coast scenery, Port St Johns

We went horse riding along this stunning beach
I'd been watching African wildlife specials on the telly, dear reader, and my desire to visit the dark continent was building to a crescendo. There's a famous song in Australia that goes ... football, meat pies, kangaroos and holden cars; but it seems that Africa can go one better. The prospect of spotting the big five and other spectacular wildlife amidst glorious African sunsets was very exciting, and the novels of the African writer Wilbur Smith helped fuel my passion. So I was full of anticipation as I boarded a westbound flight across the mighty Australian continent, over the Indian Ocean and onwards to South Africa.

I wasn't excited to start my trip in Johannesburg, but I was aware of safety problems in the South African capital. So I thought it best to ease my way into my African adventure, and bought an online ticket with Kulula airlines for a flight from the capital on to Durban. After a weekend in Lesotho I organised a flexible Baz Bus ticket with a plan to head west, as I gradually meandered down the coast on a leisurely trip to the final destination of Cape Town. The concept of a jump on, jump
Cape Town farewellCape Town farewellCape Town farewell

Seeing off my travel companions
off ticket originated with Kiwi Experience, and is now found in many countries that include South Africa. I crewed up with two guys, one an Aussie and the other an American, and we prepared for the next two weeks travelling on the Baz Bus through this beautiful country.

The Baz Bus team had our accommodation sorted in advance before we arrived in a new town. Following on from an afternoon check-in many of the hostels would pile us into a 4wd, drive us up to a local peak, and ply us with drinks while we enjoyed the spectacular sunsets. We shared a few drinks while bearing witness to this magnificent African spectacle in what is known as sundowners in South Africa. We continued our journey through South Africa and a highlight was staying in a gorgeous hostel overlooking the famous beaches of the Wild Coast in the tourist resort of Port St Johns. We spent a few nights in this gorgeous part of the world during an excellent visit, where my friends and I bonded over an incredible horse ride through the hills and the beach of Port St Johns. We also wiled away a great afternoon in the
Table Mountain summit, Cape TownTable Mountain summit, Cape TownTable Mountain summit, Cape Town

Blessed with perfect weather on the summit
company of two gorgeous young Afrikaner girls who we met on the beach during the day. Port St Johns is very famous for local and travellers alike, and is definitely a highlight of any visit to the Wild Coast of South Africa.

Our first opportunity to see wildlife arrived as we continued our journey on to Addo Elephant Park, which is 80 kilometres north of Port Elizabeth. Addo is a compact park with hundreds of elephants, and after spotting them the beasts often lumber along the track next to your truck. They are magnificent animals when seen at such close quarters, though the cows get cranky if you come too close to their calves. There was also a sealed off section of the park housing several lionesses, their cubs and two male brothers who had just come into their prime and deposed the former dominant male. They also kept the park stocked with prey for the lions.

Life for a male lion is a brutal, ruthless and ultimately futile struggle for dominance. The inevitable fate awaiting the king of the beasts is to go from rooster to feather duster in the blink of an eye. The dominant male in his prime is the master of all he surveys, with a whole pride of lionesses to choose from; they will hunt for him yet scatter quickly when he charges in for his lion's share of the kill. Then eventually, and inevitably, a younger lion or pair of lions will engage and overcome him in brutal, savage combat; driving him off to an unknown fate while they kill his young and take his lionesses. We drove through the park at dusk and it was a great experience. The brothers were on the bounce, and we followed closely in the truck as they drove their potential prey upwind towards the trap the lionesses had sprung, but unfortunately we were not privileged to witness a kill during our visit.

The Baz Bus continued on through the picturesque garden route, where gorgeous towns and beautiful scenery stretch all the way down to the world famous tourist destination of Cape Town, and we were blessed with beautiful weather during our stay in this magnificent city. I farewelled my travel friends during a big night's celebration, then hunkered down to enjoy the sights in and around the city. The cable car to the summit
More stunning viewsMore stunning viewsMore stunning views perfect sunny weather at Cape Peninsula
of Table Mountain is a wonderful experience, and on a clear day the views of the city are breathtaking. The naked eye stretches out to Robben Island, and all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope. My Aussie mate was so impressed he told me this is where he wanted to take his special lady, when he was ready to propose.

The following day I booked on a one day Cape Peninsula tour, and we were blessed with perfect weather for the second consecutive day. The trip was immensely enjoyable; the scenery breathtaking, the guide excellent, and the group a whole lot of fun. We got to visit the Cape of Good Hope, took a boat cruise to check on the sea lions while they sunned themselves, saw beautiful penguins on the beach, and went on breathtaking walks along the coast. The Cape Peninsula is famous for it's incredibly rich and diverse flora and fauna, and it's a magical part of the world.

South Africa is a pleasant surprise to visit, with quality accommodation and high levels of service in evidence throughout the stunning country. I didn't take full advantage of the world class game reserves on offer, as I was booked on a southern african safari following on from my stay. Nevertheless it's awesome paying a visit to the economic powerhouse of Africa featuring a maturing democracy, that's home to 45 million people, and chosen by FIFA to host the 2010 World Cup. You know what, basically all of you should be here now!

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." Lao Tzu

As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now


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Additional photos below
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My guideMy guide
My guide

During a wonderful horse ride with friends.

A drink while watching the sunset on the hilltop is a South African tradition.
Chatting with friendly local girlsChatting with friendly local girls
Chatting with friendly local girls

We met them on the beach.
Cape TownCape Town
Cape Town

The most gorgeous city in South Africa

2nd December 2006

As a (proudly) South African citizen, I would just like to thank you for not making SA sound like downtown Beirut, like many foreigners do, many of whom have never even been here! SA is what you portray it to be, "the place to be". Sure, we've got problems. But show me what country doesn't! And next year, I'll be studying at the University of Cape Town, can't wait! So, I'll be moving there from where I live now, in the Free State, very much like moving from Wyoming to New York. Ha ha! Thanks again.
10th December 2006

With so many South Africans going to Australia these days it seems, it's great to have an Auzzie here!

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