Monkey thievery, a whale of a landing, and beer pong

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Africa » South Africa » Western Cape » Sedgefield
August 31st 2012
Published: September 2nd 2012
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Almost like a gift from our guides, on our last full day of our “safari trip”, we got to sleep in, as our breakfast time was 8:30 instead of the usual 7:30. After almost a week of long, action packed days, this felt luxurious. I actually woke up before my alarm, which meant that instead of rushing around I got to slowly wake up. Breakfast felt almost leisurely. On this day, you could really feel like the trip was coming to an end soon. When we departed our accommodation, we were down from 16 to 13. We dropped off two of our travel mates at different locations. Also, the injured Malaysian lady was still in the hospital. Thankfully she had good travel insurance. Her injury required that a metal rod be put into her leg, a several night hospital stay, and a delay of at least a week for her return to Malaysia. So, our group seemed smaller, and the tone of the trip seemed to be that of something winding down.

Our first stop was an Elephant Sanctuary, which was 1.5 hours from J Bay. Roy, Yi Jiun, and I used the time to process some of our trip. We identified some of our major highpoints, and I asked them to describe our South African adventure using 5 adjectives. Yi Jiun’s were: astonishing, somewhat eventful, exciting, adventurous, and pleasantly surprising. Roy’s were: surprising, unpredictable, outstanding, amazing, and worth it. Mine were: awesome, diverse, beautiful, action-packed, and fun.

The Elephant Sanctuary was a little disappointing, and it was the one thing that we felt like wasn’t worth the cost of admission. Part of the problem was that our guide was terrible. Her name was Promise, and she was like a depressed robot, reading lines from a script. We later learned that Martin has had so many complaints about her that he won’t let her do tours with his people anymore. Had he been there, he would have requested someone else, but he was taking the uninjured Malaysian ladies to visit their friend in the hospital. So, we were stuck with Promise (a name that allowed for several funny puns when we were processing it later. My favorite: “She’s a Promise that’s not worth keeping!”). She “introduced us to the 5 elephants that were staying there. Basically, this was a place that takes in elephants that would normally be put down, and they try to give them a good life. They also train them so that people can learn about and enjoy elephants. We later learned that it’s a non-profit organization, and the entrances fees that don’t go to the care of the elephants go to anti-poaching efforts. It’s actually pretty cool. But, our experience wasn’t that great. It was boring and a little depressing. The workers didn’t seem to care about their jobs or the elephants, and it was weird watching elephants do tricks the day after watching them in their natural habitat. But, if you could shake the atmospheric tones, it was actually pretty fun. I got to walk with, pet, and ride an elephant.

After the Elephant Sanctuary, we headed over for lunch at Monkeyland. The monkeys were so cool that it totally erased the bad feelings about the Elephant Sanctuary. Monkeyland is what it sounds like – a large park that houses monkeys. The cool part is that the monkeys run free. So, if you walk through the park, you can have close encounters with monkeys. We were only there for lunch, but after we ordered we could wander around. The monkeys were very curious about us, so they came over to play. One of the monkeys snuck up on Yi Jiun and stole from her pocket! Fortunately, it didn’t have a large amount of monetary value, although it did have sentimental value. For her trip to South Africa, a friend of hers had given her a tool that was a compass, flashlight, and thermometer. The monkey thought that it was worth stealing, but then the thief couldn’t figure out what to do with it. We got to watch him bang it on a tree, try to bite it, and rub it along branches trying to figure it out. It was pretty cool. I’ve never seen monkeys so close, and my favorite part was seeing their hands. Their hands are so much like ours. It’s really incredible.

All week, we had been planning on going whale watching on Friday afternoon, but we learned during lunch that the water was too choppy and there were no whales. We were pretty disappointed, because we had totally been looking forward to it. Luckily, while we were eating lunch, the wind died down and the whales came out to play. The boat people called us and we headed right over to Plattenburg Bay. Only 4 of us wanted to do this, so we had a huge boat to ourselves. Our boat guide quickly found the whales, and we got to ride along side two of them for almost an hour. Mario, our guide, was super good at what he did. He was able to see the whales under the water, and he would say things like “one is going to surface at 10 o’clock in about 7 seconds”. Then when it did, our eyes and cameras were ready. Wow! For the second part of the 2-hour boat trip, we visited a colony of over 4,000 seals. I enjoyed this part even more than the whales, because they were so playful and fun. They would swim along side the boat, popping out of the water from time to time to do flips. They were SOOO cute.

Although the whales and the seals did not disappoint, the most adventurous part of the trip was the end. This tour is designed for people who are adventurous, who want to do a lot in a short amount of time, and who want to make the most out of their money. I’m sure that we could have stayed at 4 star hotels along the way, but that’s not what this is about. The places that we stayed and the things that we did were all selected to be fantastic, cool, and interesting – but also cheap. There are many whale watching cruises that are more luxurious than ours, but it comes at a cost. Our whale watching was cheap and amazing, but the downside is that there is no dock. So, when our trip came to and end, and we needed to get back to shore, the only way to do that was to crash. Literally, Mario put the pedal to the metal, gaining as much speed a possible, and then he crashed into the sand hoping for enough force to propel the boat out of the water. WTF?!? When we hit the shore, all 4 of us went flying out of our seats. Yowza!

From Plattenburg Bay, we drove to Knysna again, but this time from a lookout point where you can see everything. It was spectacular. Knysna is sorta the Beverly Hills of South Africa, where the cheapest homes will easily set you back 10 million rand. Again, I was struck by the disparity, because as we were driving into Knysna we passed by another township of astonishing poverty.

Our final accommodation was in Sedgefield, and again we were on the beach. The hostel had a roof seating area with some wonderful views of the ocean. Yi Jiun and I stood up there for a while, reflecting on our experiences. I would say good-bye to her and Roy the next day, and so we were spending some quality girl time together. While we were eating dinner, the weather turned and we experienced rain and a remarkable windstorm. Fortunately, we were inside and warm. It turns out that the tradition on Friday nights, the last night of the tour, is beer pong. I resisted playing, because I didn’t want to over do it on beer, but I had a blast watching our guides take down everyone in the house. Martin and Machiel are amazing at beer pong, and it was a festive way to end our last night of the tour.

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