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Published: August 12th 2022
Route in South Africa - 2,541 miles/4,089 kmYOU CAN CLICK ON ANY PHOTO TO ENLARGE IT - RECOMMENDED -
Johannesburg, Kruger NP., Graskop, Pretoria, Pilanesberg NP, Golden Gate Highlands NP, Port Edward, Morgan Bay, St. Francis Bay, Addo Elephant NP, Tsitsikamma NP, Stellenbosch/Cape Town: 2,541 miles, but that figure doesn't include side trips and days and days of driving in Kruger
THEN GO BACK TO THE BLOG OR GO THROUGH THE 170+ PHOTOS IN THAT ENLARGED FORMAT - CLICK ON NEXT OR PREVIOUS OR ON A NUMBER BENEATH THE PHOTOS. I PUT LOTS OF INFORMATION IN THE PHOTO CAPTIONS SO YOU CAN SKIP THE NARRATIVE, JUST LOOK AT THE ENLARGED PHOTOS AND CAPTIONS AND YOU'LL STILL GET MORE INFORMATION THAN YOU EVER WANTED. TO RETURN TO THE BLOG ENTRY, CLICK YOUR BACK BUTTON OR ON THE NAME OF THE BLOG - BELOW THE NUMBERS ON THE LEFT.
As you have probably figured out, these travel blogs are a way for Bernard and me to keep track of our adventures. I can't tell you how many times we've referred to one of our over 80 travel blogs looking for various details, maps, dates, etc. That said, feel free to enjoy the photos and just skim or ignore the text.
Since I have already done several blogs on South Africa, I'm not doing a 'mass publish,' but a 'quiet publish' this time. I'll then be giving links to people I think would be interested in this
Bernie, Kathy, Buzz & MaryJean in Cape Town
There were 12 of us at the beginning of the trip for a week in Kruger National Park. Three weeks later there were just the four amigos.
detailed (too much for most people) account of our trip. FYI: As in my previous blogs, I do not use surnames/family names. It was pointed out to me that if I use a person's full name in an entry, when you google that person, that blog entry comes up in the search - some folks might not want that.
South Africa June 9 - July 10, 2022
Yep, we ventured to South Africa AGAIN. This was my 8th and Bernie’s 9th trip to that wonderful country, but we’ve estimated it was our 12th time to Kruger National Park. We visited the park on each visit, but when we lived in Pretoria 2005 - 2006, we went at least four times, maybe more.
When we first started planning the trip in 2019 for travel in 2020 it included: My sister MaryJean, husband Buzz, their older son Dan and his wife Sally, daughter JJ and various friends of ours and JJ’s. MaryJean and Buzz’s son Matt had been to South Africa in 2015 (see my earlier blog) and MaryJean & Buzz wanted Dan & Sally to have a similar experience. Well,
All of us our last night in Kruger. Yes, it was still cold as evidenced by our clothing! Don't let Bill's and JJ's shorts fool you - look at the rest of us.
things did NOT work out, COVID reared its ugly head and Dan had some health issues.
Our group composition shifted to: MaryJean & Buzz
; son Matt
and his Irish girlfriend Sinead
(sha nād); her twin sister Niamh
(nēv) and husband Tom
; their brother Cormack
and their father Jim
and boyfriend Bill
and, of course, Bernie & me
. So, twelve of us.
With the arrival of COVID, the shutdown and travel limitations, **
we rolled over all reservations (travel, park and other accommodations) for one year, to June 2021. Then in May 2021 when things hadn’t returned to ‘normal’ and with everyone’s (I thought) approval, we cancelled everything. **
Bernie and I did all the planning and making of ***reservations for the group (except airline); we paid for everything and got reimbursed from everyone. When we had to cancel everything (nightmare for me trying to get reimbursed from various hotels/parks), it was an accounting nightmare for Bernie. With all the horrors you might imagine, add to that currency exchange differences from year to year.
***The group of 12 was only together in Johannesburg before Kruger National Park and the week
Matt and the Irish
Tom, Matt, Sinead, Jim, Niamh & Cormack. We all stopped for breakfast at Olifants rest camp one morning - fabulous views over the Olifants River
in Kruger, so the reservations I’m referring to are only for that time period. After Kruger, Matt and the Irish contingent (Matt & Co. from now on) flew to Tanzania to a bungalow on the beach. JJ and Bill travelled with MaryJean, Buzz and us for another 4 days and then flew back to the US from Cape Town. MaryJean, Buzz, Bernie and I traveled more extensively in South Africa for another 3 weeks, which is covered in this blog.
At the beginning of January, 2022 I got an email from MaryJean saying Matt hadn’t gotten the word (??) about the cancellation; thought we’d rolled it over to 2022. MJ said Matt and the Irish were on track for the trip to South Africa in June, 2022 and could we resurrect the trip? You can imagine what a tizzy this put us in!
First of all, normally you need to make reservations for Kruger National Park a year ahead of time - can’t make them any earlier. So our MO was to have all our plans in place exactly one year out and be liaising with our tour advisor in SA so that we
JJ & Bill
We had beautiful sunsets every night.
were ready to commit to dates exactly one year ahead of time.
So, we were six months behind schedule (!!) and in a normal year, there would have been no possible chance of us resurrecting the trip. However, with COVID causing international travel/tourism to SA to be down, we managed to do it - we got almost the same dates and accommodations in Kruger we’d originally planned - whew!
You can imagine the flurry of emails between all of us and between me and our South African connections. In addition to the Kruger reservations, we had to make reservations for MaryJean, Buzz, Bernie and me for the 3 weeks after Kruger - in more national parks and towns. NOTE
: We had MANY June events to celebrate on this trip: My birthday was first on the 15th, then Father's Day, then Buzz's birthday on the 20th, and finally MaryJean & Buzz's 50th anniversary on the 30th. The first 3 we celebrated in Kruger and everyone made it special for us. I'm still thinking about that HUGE and delicious chocolate cake on our last day in Kruger celebrating Buzz's birthday.
Matt & SineadJune 10 - 13 Johannesburg (aka Jo’burg)
Olifants River in background.
With folks coming from all over, meeting up in Jo’burg a day or two before driving to Kruger National park was the plan. Bernie and I flew out of Arizona on June 9th (via Atlanta) and arrived in Jo’burg on the 10th. JJ and Bill flew from Alaska (via Amsterdam) on the 9th and arrived late on the 10th. MaryJean, Buzz and Matt flew from Washington (via Atlanta) arriving on the 11th. The Irish arrived (via Cairo) on the 12th.
We were incredibly grateful that none of the flights was cancelled or delayed (that was happening big-time) and that no luggage was lost. June 13 - 19 Kruger National Park
Matt & Co. had rented a 12-person van, which was perfect for six people and all their luggage. MaryJean, Buzz and we had a Hyundai Tucson (fitting, right?), which is a small SUV, Bill and JJ a Toyota sedan. Early in the morning on June 13th we all headed north from Jo’burg to Kruger (approx. 6 hours w/stop). Kruger National Park General Info:
More of our Group
Niamh, Tom, Jim, Matt with MaryJean & Buzz standing. Typical restaurant patio area - almost all rest camps have views over a plain or more frequently, a river
National Park is 217 miles (350 km) long and 38 miles (60 km) wide. It covers 7,722 square miles (2 million hectares) and has 1,900 miles (3,000 km) of roads.
In Kruger there are 12 fenced and fortified ‘rest camps’ within the park. All have restaurants (typically with wifi), shops, many have swimming pools and, in addition to many levels of accommodations, there is always a tenting area. South Africans LOVE to camp. Five bush camps with no restaurants or shops, A-frames or basic tents for sleeping. Six wilderness trails; usually adjacent to a bush camp and only ranger-lead walks allowed.
Typically, however, International tourist make reservations at one or more rest camps if they aren’t equipped for camping.
We stayed at 3 different rest camps in 3 different ecozones; looking for a variety of animals. All of our accommodations had fully-equipped kitchens, private bathrooms with showers/bathtubs, air/con/heat, decks or patios/verandas and BBQ (called a braai in SA) areas.
You must be inside the gates of your rest camp before sunset and the gates do not reopen for the public (all ranger-guided trips can come and go at
Kruger Rest Camps
The first is a map of Lower Sabie Rest Camp to give you and idea of what a 'rest camp' is. The other two are of our accommodations - 'safari tents' and rondavels
whatever time) until sunrise. So in this case the tourists are in cages and the animals roam freely. Works for me!!
In addition to the facilities mentioned above, there is a golf course at the main camp (Skukuza), mountain biking trails from Olifants rest camp, two sleep-over hides (in your car), 4x4 adventure trails - self drive w/4 WD only. The park provides morning walks, sunset and night drives and you can arrange for a ‘bush’ breakfast or braai in the wilderness, with armed guides of course.
Most people take advantage of the rides provided by the park, but also go out on their own - leaving at sunrise and returning late morning to eat breakfast, nap, catch up on email, etc., and after lunch/late afternoon they go out again until sunset. With 1,900 miles of roads (paved and unpaved) in the park, you can wander around all day and in some places, see very few other vehicles. We would often time it so we could be at a different rest camp for breakfast so we were not hungry as we made our way slowly back to our rest camp game/bird watching all the
These are the first animals you typically see when entering Kruger as they are numerous. On our morning walk out of Lower Sabie we passed a number of impala herds
way. With 12 rest camps in the park, it was easy to visit ones you weren’t staying in - try a different restaurant, visit shops that had different merchandise and enjoy the unique setting of each rest camp.
In our over 12 times at Kruger we’ve done it all - bush camps, wilderness trails, all the rides - pretty much everything Kruger has to offer. NOTE:
Numbers of animals in the park that I set out in the narrative below are from a 2011 count, the most current. June 13 & 14 Lower Sabie Rest Camp.
After leaving Jo’burg we all rendezvoused at Crocodile Bridge Gate, one of the 10 entrance gates into Kruger - the last place we could get out of our vehicle in the ‘wild’ of Kruger. Or so we thought. We were all out on the bridge stretching and watching animals when a ranger pulled up and told us that wasn’t allowed. Our bad! In our defense, we hadn’t gone through the gate yet and so thought we weren’t ‘officially’ in the park.
It was only about an hour’s
Zebra are plentiful in Kruger and often an early sighting.
drive from entering Kruger to our first rest camp, Lower Sabie on the banks of the Sabie River. However, we drove slowly sighting impala
first, of course, as there are 152,000 in the park! Zebra
were next (28,000) and giraffe
(8,300). Spotting all of the **Big Five has been known to happen between Crocodile Bridge and Lower Sabie. The Big Five:
rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard.
Our accommodations were ‘safari tents,’
but these ‘tents’ were hard-sided and just wonderful. One of our favorite accommodations in the park. We were very near the river and heard hippos
immediately upon alighting from our vehicles. The restaurant in the rest camp overlooked the river and we saw elephants, hippos and all kinds of antelope while enjoying our libations before dinner/lunch - whatever. Walking to the restaurant (store/gift shop) along a boardwalk some of our group saw giant monitor lizards.
MaryJean, Buzz, Matt & Co. did a sunset drive
from Lower Sabie our second night there. The rest camps offer sunset and night drives
, as well as early morning walks
. Since all vehicles have to be back at their rest
Kathy's Birthday Celebration - Satara
JJ travels with many, many strings of tiny lights and a Pink Panther outfit, which she wore for my birthday celebration. Every rest camp accommodation JJ and Bill had was immediately strung with lights - you could always locate them in camp
camps by sunset, these guided drives in open safari vehicles provide a wonderful way to see more crepuscular and nocturnal animals; principally cats. I think they saw civets
cats on that outing, as well as the usual suspects: elephants, kudu,
On June 14, MaryJean, Buzz, Bill, Cormack and I (plus a family of 3 that had signed up before we did) went on an early morning walk with rangers.
Two rangers take a maximum of 8 people for a trek through the veld. FYI: 1 of the 2 rangers carries a rifle.
On the way to our walking point, while still in the open safari vehicle, we saw a group of about 5 lions lounging in the grass
, all male. Have to say many of us were a bit apprehensive about walking around in an area that CLEARLY had lions in it. We didn’t see any lions while walking, but did see kudu, hippos and ostrich
. Walking groups leave the rest camp before light and return about 3 hours later. The purpose isn’t really to see animals, but to learn about the particular **ecozone you are walking in; to find
Fabulous animals and they were everywhere. I think one of the reasons people like giraffes so much is that they are curious and often come close and make eye-contact with you.
signs of what animals are in that ecozone, and learn about, for example, what they eat by looking at their scat. Our guide was interested in ethnobotany, his grandfather had been a shaman (our guide ‘channeled’ him) and his family made medication from various natural ingredients. He shared so much, but of course not having hippo dung or regurgitated bones from an hyena handy in the our parts of the world, not really information we could actually use.
**There are 14 ecozones in the park; from Malelane Mountain Bushveld in the south to Sandveld in the north.
You might have noticed that Bernie and JJ were missing from the early morning walk. Bernie’s arthritis in his feet makes it difficult walking on rough terrain and we had some very rough walking on our outing, especially around the hippo pond. Instead, JJ & Bernie went out on an early morning drive and saw lots of animals.
On June 15 Matt & Co. did a morning walk with rangers. They had a similar experience to ours, but didn’t see any lions. June 15 & 16. Satara Rest Camp
Early Morning Walk with Rangers
Not sure, but we are likely gathered around scat while our guide/ranger explains who left the droppings and what could be gleaned from said droppings
While Matt and Co., did their morning walk from Lower Sabie, the rest of us packed up and drove slowly to our next rest camp. This time for accommodations we had rondavels (thatched-roofed, round structures) all grouped together. That was important, I learned later, for party planning purposes. June 15th happened to be my birthday.
That evening the group, lead by JJ and MaryJean, threw me a most outrageous birthday party. This rest camp, in addition to having a restaurant, also had a pizza parlor. Numerous pizzas were purchased and brought to the ‘party space’ JJ had created with strings of twinkly lights. Turns out my daughter doesn’t travel anywhere without massive strings of tiny lights and a Pink Panther outfit
. Matt & Co. gave me a treasured and hoarded box of truffles, MJ a beautiful necklace - yep, they were prepared!! NOTE:
Happy birthday to me - NOT.
My camera's lens retraction gizmo stopped working so I didn't have a good camera for the majority of our month in South Africa. I used my cell camera and got photos from others. So if you detect a lesser quality of photography, you'd be right.
While still in the safari vehicle on our way to our walking point, we saw a pride of five, maybe six (many in the grass and hard to see) male lions.
The morning of the 16th Matt & Co., along with MaryJean and Buzz did another morning walk. I don’t remember if they saw anything unusual, but the walks are always educational, fun and one of the only opportunities to be out on foot in the wilds of the most amazing national park in the world. FYI: as mentioned earlier, 1 of the rangers always had a rifle at the ready.
That evening we all went on a sunset drive together and what a drive it was! For the sunset drives you leave the camp shortly before sunset and a lot of the good sightings are had at that time. We were only about 15 minutes from camp when we came upon a group of lions
- females and young. We stopped to observe them; they were on the left side of our vehicle. From the right came a family of elephants
, with really young ones. I don’t know if we were blocking their view of the lions, probably, but the elephants approached very close on the right, the lions heard/smelled them and rushed around to the front of our vehicle. That is when the
Lioness Watching Elephants
These were some of the lionesses that had caused an elephant family such stress on our sunset drive
matriarch elephant and the older ones saw them, wow, what a commotion. It was kind of a blur, but the matriarch charged and trumpeted, the older females (they were all females) corralled the younger elephants, huge amounts of dust were thrown up in the process. The lions watched closely, but the matriarch stood her ground between the lions and her retreating family. She was swinging her trunk, stamping her feet and trumpeting - the lions seemed mesmerized. She then turned and followed her family; the lions just sat and watched, giving us great photo ops. June 17 & 18. Letaba Rest Camp
Our third and final rest camp, Letaba, was about half-way up the length of Kruger. The animals get scarcer the farther north you go, but the birding gets better. FYI: we were the only birders in the group, but I do think we ‘turned’ a few folks, and while they aren’t full-fledged twitchers, at least they are looking at our avian friends differently.
Our routine at Letaba followed its regular course: up early and out looking for game: of the Big Five, most of us hadn’t seen any rhino
Hippos Everywhere - over 3,000 in Kruger
Hippos were everywhere; you could hear them day and night at all the rest camps. It is true what you've likely heard - hippos kill more people than any other animal in South Africa. Do NOT get between them and their water hole. They come out at night to graze and wander back to the water in the morning. On our walk, for example, we saw one walking to the pond where we were taking a break and eating a snack.
or buffalo yet, and a few were missing the leopard.
Our car (MJ, Buzz, Bernie & I) had an extraordinary ‘cat’ day here. We saw lion, cheetah AND leopard
in one drive! The two cheetah (120 in park) were at a distance and while we couldn’t get any good photos, we could see them sitting together on a small mound. Just enchanting. A leopard was walking down the side of the road, but of course many cars were moving slowly to watch it. I got a good view because I was on the right side of the car and could lean out the window. However, I didn’t get a photo until it was walking off the road. On a different day a leopard crossed a bridge right in from to us, but at a distance, and we watched until he disappeared into the reeds surrounding the water source. There are approx. 1,000 leopards in the park, but they are shy, secretive and mostly nocturnal. Most day-time sightings of this beautiful cat are of it straddling a tree limb snoozing.
Bernie, JJ, Bill and I also had a great ‘buffalo
’ day in Letaba when we
While we saw plenty of elephants in Kruger, Addo Elephant NP later in the trip was an experience on a whole different level
came upon a herd crossing a river and then across the road in front of us, perhaps 100! You don’t hurry these easy-to-rile animals, so sitting and watching is the best course of action, plus it is entertaining. There are approx. 27,000 buffalo in Kruger.
The rhino sightings in Kruger weren’t great. The park does NOT advertise where rhinos are. At each rest camp visitors put markers on a big map indicating what animals they saw and where. Rhinos are not included and indeed are referred to as ‘unicorns.’ The park also discourages having your GPS tracker on when photographing rhino as poachers are known to be able to hack and use this info from your media postings.
In Letaba Matt & Co. did another sunset drive and this one was more enjoyable than earlier ones because it wasn’t as cold. Our sunset drive in Satara became miserable when the sun set and the temperatures dropped to near freezing. Fortunately we had brought blankets from our rooms. Unfortunately that wasn’t sufficient! Bill did a night drive
out of Letaba. JJ didn’t want to go because she thought it was going to
As you can see from the thicker red line, we were only in the lower half of the park (where most of the animals are), but drove a good portion of the *1,900 miles/3,058 km of roads within the park.
*small roads and tracks not shown this map.
be too cold, so Bill went and had a grand time with the other visitors on the ride. It wasn’t too cold and they saw more civets and nocturnal cats - might have seen an African Wild Cat on that ride; we saw one on an earlier sunset ride. June 19 Departing Kruger National Park.
We all got up early the day of our departure because we had long distances to drive and we all wanted one last game viewing session before leaving the park. You'd think that after 6 days in the park we would have over-dosed on game viewing - NOT. Maybe that will give you an idea of how fabulous this park is. Jim (Ireland), when thanking me for all our help putting the trip together, said he never in his life could have imagined having such a fabulous 'safari' experience without costing an arm and a leg.
Matt & Co. headed south to Malalane gate to get to Jo’burg for their flight the next day to Zanzibar where they had reserved a bungalow right on the beach. After being so cold in South Africa, a beach was
Graskop Art Hotel
JJ quickly made friends with the hotel staff. Notice the wonderful art-deco furniture
sounding pretty darn good about then. FYI: they had a blast and said it was the perfect end of a memorable adventure.
JJ, Bill, MJ, Buzz, Bernie and I headed west via Skukuza and out Phabeni Gate toward the Drakensberg Mountains and the small town of Graskop. June 19 & 20 Graskop, Drakensberg Mountains
After ‘roughing’ it (well, a little anyway) in Kruger we needed a nice hotel, which we got at the Graskop Art Hotel
. Nice restaurant, big rooms, wonderful showers, comfy beds, plus all the rooms represented a different artist. The whole hotel was filled with whimsical art and amazing art-deco furniture.
In Graskop we had one of the most memorable experiences of the trip. On our only full day in the area we awoke to a protest.
At breakfast the hotel staff told us to stay away form the windows and doors (they’d locked the doors and pulled the curtains). The plan for the day was to drive into the mountains to several scenic overlooks (God’s Window, Blyde Canyon), but not only were we locked in our hotel, the police had closed the roads around
Rhino, gas stop
Some of us saw our first rhino of the trip at a petrol station on our drive from Gaskrop to Pretoria - what a hoot! The gas station overlooks a private game reserve.
the town. Why you may ask.
Over night the police had located two missing boys at the home of a ‘witch.
’ She had been taking their blood. The locals didn’t trust the police to prosecute the witch so had gathered what can best be described as a lynch mob. In large numbers they were marching and toy-toying (dancing) in the street, particularly near our hotel as the police station was just up the street.
The protesters demanded all business close down in solidarity with them, and most did. This went on for several hours, but dissipated enough so that later in the morning the police reopened the roads and we were allowed to leave the hotel.
We immediately headed higher into the mountains, but while the roads were technically open, the fog was so bad and visibility so low that we turned around and went to the historic mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest instead. We were glad we did as it is a lovely little town with some good shops and nice restaurants. We had ‘traditional’ meals there - Buzz had ostrich neck soup
. The owner of the restaurant came over
Pretoria Sue & Peter
Lunch at Sue and Peter's beautiful home in Pretoria
to ask Buzz how he had enjoyed the meal and give him tips on how to get all the marrow out of the bones.
After lunch the fog had cleared and we were able to visit the scenic sights we’d failed to visit earlier. June 21, Pretoria
On the morning of the 21st we got up early praying for a clear day, which we got; not a bit of fog in sight.
We had a long drive to Pretoria where we were having lunch with good friends Peter & Sue.
We’d met Peter and Sue in 2005 when we lived in Pretoria and have remained good friends. They have a son in Alabama, so they bought a home in Birmingham where they spend a good portion of the year. We’ve visited them in Alabama; they’ve visited us in Arizona.
Peter had told us which rest stop/gas station to stop at, so we did. What Bernie and I hadn’t remembered was that this particular rest stop overlooked a small, private game preserve. We saw rhino, gemsbok and sable antelope
, among other animals from the gift shop
This is the photo (from 2016) I wanted to replicate, but as soon as I snapped the next photo, security came over and told me photos weren't allow. My bad.
overlook. We were just giddy with pleasure.
Our destination for the night was Pilanesberg National Park several hours from Pretoria. We couldn’t spend the night in Pretoria (although Sue & Peter had invited all 6 of us to stay with them!) because we had a hot air balloon ride
scheduled at 5 the next morning.
Sue and Peter didn’t want us driving in the dark, so they carefully choreographed lunch. All was ready when we arrived, including name plaques at the table; Sue at one end, Peter the other. Bernie and I were chopped liver (in a good way) as Sue and Peter wanted to get to know JJ, MaryJean, Buzz and Bill a bit and our time was severely limited.
The only negative that happened at lunch was a call from the hot air balloon people saying we were a ‘go’ for the morning and they needed payment asap. Mind you, they had specifically NOT wanted payment until the pilot gave the go-ahead the day before the ride. It was easiest to pay for the 6 of us on 1 card, so Buzz volunteered. Unfortunately Buzz then spent a good
Sun City Casino
Fun venue with great and varied restaurants
part of lunch dealing with a credit card that got declined for an unknown reason. He eventually got it straightened out; had to call back to the States, but had missed a large part of lunch and had to rush dessert.
True to their word, Sue & Peter had us on the road exactly on time. But to add insult to injury (Buzz’s), as we approached Pilanesberg I got a call from the hot air balloon people canceling the ride!
! The pilot changed his mind; said upper-level winds were too strong. June 21 & 22 Pilanesberg National park
Fortunately Pilanesberg has many attributes to be appreciated. The game reserve itself is just beautiful and we saw at least 6 rhinos in 1 day. We stayed outside the park at The Kingdom Resort
, VERY nice.
We had very nice accommodations. JJ & Bill had upgraded to a one-bedroom apartment complete with a giant patio, private plunge pool (no thank you; it was still very cold) and a fire pit - yes, thank you.
Close by was the Sun City Resort with a giant casino;
Typical photo of a rhino - they are always grazing.
more importantly, a variety of upscale restaurants. We ate at an Asian fusion place one night that was to-die for.
The morning of June 23 our sextuplet disbanded - MaryJean, Buzz, Bernie & me to Golden Gate National Park (6-hr. drive); JJ and Bill to Jo’burg (1 hr) for their flight to Cape Town. They had close to another week in that area; stayed just outside Cape Town in Camp’s Bay and Stellenbosch before flying back to the Alaska.
On their way to the airport JJ & Bill made a stop at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre (formerly De Wilde Cheetah Research Center);
wish we had. Bernie and I have been there many times, but MaryJean and Buzz would have enjoyed not only the cheetah, but the African wild dogs (also endangered), caracal and vultures. June 23, Golden Gate Highlands National Park
This is probably the most beautiful park in South Africa. It is a very small park, but chock full of animals and with stunning scenery.
Unfortunately it was also the coldest place we’d been so far. Don’t get me started
Cheetah at Ann van Dyk Cheetah Rescue Reserve
We saw 2 cheetahs in Kruger, which was lucky as there are only 120 in the park. Much closer interaction with cheetah at the Ann van Dyke Cheetah Rescue Reserve (formerly de Waldt Cheetah Center) near Pretoria
on why central heating/cooling doesn’t seem to exist in South Africa, but suffice it to say, it is NOT common. They’ll tell you that with their climate they don’t need it, but then they’ll be the first ones curled up around a portable heater or fireplace.
Our accommodations in Golden Gate had a fire place and made the cabin bearable. It was a 2-bed, 2-bath, full kitchen, living room arrangement. The living room and kitchen benefited from the fireplace, but the bedrooms and bathrooms remained ice cold.
We had lunch and dinner at the lodge in the park, and it was only mediocre. I mention that because it was a contributing factor as to why we decided to leave a day early. The fireplace in our cabin was making it bearable, but it was still darn cold and having another meal at the lodge didn’t appeal to any of us. A vote was taken and we headed to the coast a day early.
Naturally we drove slowly out of the park and were rewarded with sightings of eland,
the largest antelope in South Africa, white-tailed wildebeest
(another antelope). The
Golden Gate Highlands NP
Our first sighting of springbok was minutes after entering Golden Gate
day before we’d seen some reebok, zebra and springbok.
On the drive from Golden Gate National park to Port Edward we encountered our only traffic issue of the trip. There had been an accident on the main highway (N3). Google Maps routed (and rerouted, and rerouted) us around the growing traffic snarl, but it took way longer than it should have. What should have been a 7-hour day took almost 9 hours.
I was in contact with our host in Port Edward (private condo in a resort) all day. She was worried about us getting to the condo in the dark as ‘load shedding’ was happening.
What is load shedding
you might ask. Well, it is simply a rolling blackout throughout the country. The government has blamed the blackouts on a wildcat strike by workers of the state utility company, but the problems with SA’s power grid run much deeper - rooted in an aging fleet of coal-fired power plants, a lack of maintenance, corruption, theft and vandalism.
For the average person in SA it means two or three ‘load shedding’ sessions per day, usually about
How unfortunately to have a target growing right on your butt!
2 1/2 hours long. A typical day would have the electricity go from 7 to 9:30 a.m., again from 5 to 7:30 p.m., and yet again from 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Different areas, different days, etc., brought different hours of ‘load shedding.’ MJ and I downloaded an app on our phones to follow the schedules.
Imagine trying to run a business with this going on? I could go on for pages on load shedding, but won't. June 24 - 26, Port Edwards
We arrived at our condo in the Caribbean Estate Resort
just as it got dark and load shedding for the area began. Our hostess had given us good info and suggested we go to the nearby casino for dinner as the casino had a generator. We and everyone else in the area had the same idea - it was jam packed. Having said that, it worked - we had dinner and got back to the condo right about the time the lights came back on.
Port Edward is a lovely small town and our condo had access to a beautiful beach. We had a super
The largest antelope in South Africa and we saw a group of them in Gold Gate NP
nice lunch at another resort, The Estuary Hotel, that had amazing views over the water.
We took a tour at at the Beaver Creek Coffee farm
in the nearby hills. It was sooooo interesting! Who’da thought? Also took a hike in a nearby reserve. Highlight for us were the samango monkeys
. These monkeys are not widespread in South Africa occurring only in coastal forests; we’d not seen them on previous trips. June 27 & 28, Morgan Bay
Up early as we had an 8-hour day ahead of us driving to Morgan Bay, another small coastal town. This was Bernie’s and my third time to the area so we knew of a great hotel right on the beach with a great restaurant. We were not disappointed.
Our hotel (Mitford Hotel)
was at the far end of town where the bluffs started and a reserve began. Wonderful time exploring the area. Buzz sat on his patio for almost two hours one afternoon just watching the waves - no, he wasn’t high, just mesmerized by the beautiful coastline.
At lunch at a nearby hotel we started chatting with
MJ & Buzz - Port Edward
Finally at the coast!! The beginning of our drive down the Garden Route to Cape Town
a group of hikers. They were ‘hiking’ to a nearby camp area. We’d been to that camp area; it was about an hour’s walk away. Obviously they were having a great time and distance wasn’t their objective. June 29 & 30, St. Francis Bay
This was MaryJean and Buzz’s 50th wedding anniversary weekend
. I’d arranged with our boutique hotel, My-Konos
, for them to have the honeymoon suite - it was just beautiful: huge, had a wall of windows with a view across the garden to the ocean. The hotel had provided a bouquet of flowers and chocolates.
Upon arrival a power outage was about to occur, so we made haste for a lovely, steaming shower. Well, I did anyway as there was still to water in our unit's tank. For whatever reason MaryJean and Buzz’s room didn’t have any hot water.
Dinner our first night was at a Greek restaurant, The Big Time Taverna,
a top-notch restaurant with a strange name that sat right on a canal with beautiful sunset views. We had one of the best meals of our trip here.
White-tailed wildebeest, aka gnu - very different from its cousin the black wildebeest
Things went downhill from there. The load shedding/power outage
for the next day became a ‘routine maintenance’ outage to last 12 hours!! If that wasn’t bad enough, it actually lasted 15 hours!
MaryJean and Buzz’s sunny room was bearable, but we were on a lower floor with a view, but no sun coming into the room. We were freezing! The hot water was ‘on demand’ so we couldn’t even take a shower.
This was the date of their actual anniversary and MaryJean had requested Indian food. We found a great little hole in the wall and had a great meal by candle light. The owner/chef fussed over us, made recommendations, chatted with us as we were the only customers. Luckily we had enough cash to cover the meal as the restaurant couldn’t process credit cards. The next day the manager at our hotel told us that her boyfriend and his buddies were ‘held hostage’ at a restaurant because of the credit card issue - they had to stay until the electricity came back on as they didn’t have enough cash.
We had lovely walks around the upscale neighborhood our boutique hotel was in
The male kudu is the symbol of South African National Parks and JJ has a tattoo of one on a shin = see photos below
- along the nearby beach and area looking at the huge homes. Watching the surfers practicing for an upcoming competition was a highlight. We saw this all along the coast, but many more in St. Francis Bay.
Upon departure the next morning the owner walked us out, apologizing profusely about the 15-hour power outage. Truly, I felt so sorry him and all the other business owners who were trying to make a living under the circumstances. He told us that if we returned, we had a 2-night stay gratis. We laughed and thought it would have been a hoot to drive by a couple of days later (we were still in the area) and claim our free stay. July 1 & 2 Addo Elephant National park
Possibly one of the best parks in South Africa, Addo Elephant was only a 2-hour drive from St. Francis Bay. As we were leaving, the manager of our hotel cautioned us that we might not see any elephants in the park - she’d recently been and saw zero, zilch, nada. Had us a bit concerned.
We shouldn’t have been. We arrived in
Female kudus, no magnificent horns, but still beautiful creatures.
the park early, before we could check into our bungalow, so went out immediately looking for those elusive elephants. Well, if we saw 1 we saw 100 - I’m not joking. We stopped counting after 40 and saw easily twice as many in the following hour. It was outrageous! I wrote to the hotel manager later and told her how fortunate we’d been and that she should try again. We did a sunset drive while in Addo, but didn't see elephants in the numbers we'd seen earlier. We did see great numbers of kudu - in my view the most majestic animal in the park. FYI: the kudu is the symbol of the South African National Parks; JJ has a tattoo of a kudu on one of her legs. It garnered much attention while in SA. See photo far below.
We had really nice accommodations in Addo, the best part of which was a huge patio overlooking the park. We couldn’t see another structure - only park and a few animals. The birds, however, were outrageous! As we sat with our binoculars, which we often didn’t need as the birds came so close, we saw: bokmakiere, green
Addo Elephant National Park
There are over 600 elephants in Addo Elephant NP. We saw them singly, with small family groups and in big groups
wood hoopoe, speckled mousebird, crested barbet, fork-tailed drongo and cape weavers, plus many birds too small and/or fast for us to get binos on. At the water hole below us we saw blacksmith plover, hamerkop, Egyptian geese and egrets. July 3 & 4, Tsitsikamma National Park, Storms River Mouth
Our final national park was Tsitsikamma with accommodations at Storms River Mouth in a seaside chalet. A more beautiful setting does NOT exist - we watched the waves for hours in this beautiful unit. Upon arrival as I got out of the car, I saw a whale breach.
A fun hike to take in Tsitsikamma is along the scenic coast and across a series of suspension bridges. It felt good to get a nice bit of exercise. Birds of Eden
The next day we drove about an hour to just before Plettenberg Bay
to a free-flight bird sanctuary, Birds of Eden. It started as a rescue center and grew to 5 acres (2 hectares) with the world’s largest single-dome, free-flight, multi-species aviary with approx. 3,500 birds of about 200 species.
Our chalet at Storms River Mouth had a fabulous view
and Buzz rated this as the ‘best attraction’ of the trip
. It was such fun mingling with so many beautifully birds who were not afraid of humans; so many came from the pet trade, so not surprising.
We had such fun, lots of laughs, especially when a parrot got on Buzz’s shoulder and we couldn’t get him off
. Bernie had a run-in with an angry plumed guinea fowl
who wouldn’t stop pecking his feet. I almost peed my pants watching him try to get away from the determined bird. Bernie had to resort to using his pamphlet to ‘move’ the bird away - kicking in her direction hadn’t worked at all.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so be sure to look at all my photos, particularly at the end when you think you’re finished (!) for photos of some gorgeous birds. Monkey Land
Adjacent to Birds of Eden is this 22-hectare, free-roaming primate sanctuary whose stated goal is:
We do not re-home animals. Our goal is to be a safe haven, a sanctuary for wildlife, where the animals receive the best
Birds of Eden/Tsitsikamma
On a day trip from Tsitsikamma NP we visited a bird sanctuary where a parrot took a liking to Buzz and refused to dismount - I had to help while avoiding her nut-cracking beak. Buzz feared for his ears!
lifetime care that can be provided. We do not capitalize on the animals - we do not sell/trade the animals in our care and we don’t sell their by-products. We do not host any handling or feeding shows. Instead, animals are given the opportunity to behave as naturally as possible in a protective environment.
Monkey Land gives refuge to capuchin monkeys, ringtail and black-and-white ruffed lemurs, buff-cheeked gibbons, squirrel monkeys, black howler monkeys and spider monkeys
Unlike the self-guided tours of Birds of Eden, at Monkey Land a guide was mandatory and provided for groups of up to 10 people. They have a strict ‘no touch’ policy, which the guide insures at the same time he/she is pointing out the primates and regaling you with fun facts. Good times, good times - primates are a hoot to watch, especially in a nature environment.
Lunch at a restaurant near the sanctuary turned out to be delightful - beautiful garden setting; special ‘load shedding’ menu. We hadn’t realized it was Independence Day until our waiter, recognizing our accents, wished us a happy 4th of July.
There were some
Black-and-white Tuffted Lemur
Lemurs are only found naturally in Madagascar, but Monkey Land (a primate sanctuary) was full of them, plus ring-tailed lemurs; all rescued from the pet trade.
top-notch shops in this area too - locals making high-quality goods.
Back to Tsitsikamma NP for the night after a wonderful meal at the Tsitrus Cafe in the nearby town of Storms River.
We had a long drive ahead of us (7 hours) so were up early to be on the road at day-break. I’ve mentioned ‘load shedding’ previously, but what I didn’t tell you was that while the outages are planned, they often didn’t happen right on schedule. I was caught unawares more than once thinking the lights were going off at 7 a.m., but at 6:45 while drying my hair - poof, no electricity!
We were supposed to have light this particular morning - nice to be able to see while finishing the last of the packing. That didn’t happen, we just fumbled in the dark and were loading the car as it got light. NONE of us was in a good mood - no coffee had a LOT to do with that. We had to drive several hours before we found a place to have breakfast. July 5 - 9 Stellenbosch
The ring-tailed lemur prefers to be on the ground; very different from the black-and-white lemur, for example, who rarely comes down from the trees. Having said that, you do see ring-tailed lemurs in trees as well.
we had been out of sorts at the beginning of the day, our spirits improved vastly when we got to our lovely, boutique hotel near the center of Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch Manor
. Hands-down our favorite hotel of the trip; a restored Victorian home so all the rooms were different, but all were roomy and had central heat. Our bathroom was gigantic with an old-fashion, deep bathtub which I spent an afternoon enjoying. High-end toiletry products were provided, including bath salts and bubbles.
We had arranged for the hotel to have a bottle of champagne in MaryJean & Buzz’s room for their anniversary. They also formed a huge heart on the bed out of flower petals.
The best thing about the hotel was Libby, the manager. She could NOT have been more helpful. Example: before we arrived she sent me an email that had a list of good restaurants in Stellenbosch (and links to their websites) and how far they were from the hotel. She told us it was a good idea to make reservations at the nice restaurants several days in advance and she’d do that for us. We took her up on her suggestion.
Stellenbosch The Fat Butcher.
Great walking town
I had chosen this restaurant because it was within walking distance to our hotel and we’d been in the car all day. With a name like The Fat Butcher who’da thunk it would be a first-class restaurant and Buzz would have ‘the best meal of my life’ there? We all enjoyed our meals, but Buzz’s steak turned out to be a thing of wonder.
Stellenbosch is in the middle of wine country - surrounded by beautiful vineyards. One day was spent wine tasting and touring in wine country. Our favorite vineyard is Delaire-Graff Estate
so we arranged a wine tasting before a scrumptious lunch. Again, we’d told the restaurant it was MaryJean & Buzz’s anniversary so at the end of the meal they brought out a special dessert on a plate that had 'Happy 50th Anniversary’ written on it in chocolate, plus a box of chocolates with a card.
MaryJean and Buzz said this was the loooooongest anniversary celebration in history.
From Delaire-Graff we drove to Franschhoek,
which is another wine town. The drive through the mountains and vineyards, even in the winter, was delightful,
MJ & Buzz Delaire-Graff Estate Vineyard
Our favorite vineyard in all of the SA wine country. They have several restaurants and accommodations as well
but in the summer it is just heaven.
It was getting late in the day, but several fun shops in Franschoek were still open and we all managed to buy things. Buzz had been looking since Kruger for a wooden carving of a wildebeest. Turns out, not the easiest thing to find. When we asked, the vendors would tell us it was because the wildebeest was not particularly attractive (understatement) and yet they had carvings of warthogs and hyenas - so go figure. As we were leaving town we saw another ‘African market’ and I directed Bernie to pull over. Everyone was groaning at me because we still had to drive back to Stellenbosch, but suffice it to say on our next to last day in South Africa, Buzz found a wildebeest carving. You’re welcome!
The picturesque town of Stellenbosch is very walkable - lots of shops, cafés, coffee houses, wine shops, etc., and it was remarkably busy. Everything was hopping. At night it wasn’t easy to find parking if eating downtown, the restaurants with patios were chocker-block. Music and laughter was in the air. A lively town and that is probably because it
Stellenbosch, Merriman Street
My sister and I on the street counter of a street with our maiden name - Merriman. We spelled it with a 'y' but turns out our family spelled it with an 'i' up until my great-grandmother changed it. Go figure!
is a university town. The first time I was in Stellenbosch in 1988 I told Bernie, “I could live here.” Still feel that way. JJ and Bill also felt that way - one of their favorite places too. Cape Town
Our final day in South Africa we drove into Cape Town
, less than an hour away. Our hotel hostess, Libby, had advised us on avoiding rush-hour traffic. We followed her advice, got to the waterfront easy-peasy and spent a sunny, warm late morning/early afternoon on the Victoria and Albert waterfront.
Hard to describe this shopping/eating/sight-seeing mecca. Buskers were playing music, shops and restaurants were full, tourists abound, laughter in the air. We had our last seafood meal of the trip - we’d been enjoying superb seafood the entire months and so wanted to end on a high note, which was the seafood platter: king clip (mild white fish we all fell in love with), giant prawns, calamari in several forms and mussels. Oh, and of course chips (french fries) and wine/beer. I THINK there might have been a salad on the plate . . . .?
And all good things must
Stellenbosch, JJ & Bill in Wine Country
The area around Stellenbosch has numerous vineyards with tasting rooms and wonderful restaurants
come to an end - we were flying back to Jo’burg to catch our international flight to Arizona. MaryJean and Buzz were flying out of Cape Town back to Washington having cancelled their trip to Paris. Don’t ask - just a major F-up by Expedia who cancelled all of their bookings by mistake. Have I mentioned how much I HATE Expedia?
Our flights didn’t leave until late in the day, so our hotel allowed us to stay until about 1 p.m., but eventually we had to drive to Cape Town airport, return our rental car and head home.
At the rental car drop-off a spontaneous sigh of relief came from all of us as Bernie turned the car off - we’d made it!! One month of driving on the left and no accidents, car damage, etc. There were times it was hairy and MaryJean and I were so happy that Bernie and Buzz did all the driving. We tried NOT to be backseat drivers, but I’m sure we irritated the ‘boyz’ now and again.
South Africa has amazing service, so it was no surprise that at the car rental drop-off point
Table Mountain View from Victoria and Albert Waterfront
there was a porter with a cart who expertly loaded all of our luggage onto one cart (yikes!) and led us to the departure area. We parted company at the South African Airlines check-in counter - the porter then took MaryJean, Buzz to the Delta counter. We were at that point flying domestic (to Jo’burg) and they international, so different terminals.
It was a rushed good-bye, but we all agreed that (1) it had been a most amazing trip and (2) we were ready to get home. Truly, Buzz and MaryJean were a delight to travel with and while a month is a LONG time in a small car with the same people, we couldn't have asked for more amicable, good natured and fun traveling partners.
The time in Kruger with 12 of us was equally wonderful - great people, lots of laughs - the making of lifetime memories. Thank you to everyone for making this trip one of our best! DON'T FORGET TO LOOK AT THE PHOTOS (TOTAL of 170+) BELOW (VERY BOTTOM, BELOW THE AD, OUR PROFILE, THE BLOG OPTIONS, NORTH AMERICA, TRAVELBLOG AWARDS, TOP PHOTOS - YES, RIDICULOUS!!)
JJ & Bill at Cape of Good Hope near Cape Town
A short drive from Cape Town/Camp's Bay is the Cape of Good Hope: The Most Southern Point of the African Continent - a MUST for all tourists
CLICK ON 'NEXT' TO ADVANCE TO NEXT PAGE WITH MORE PHOTOS. PHOTOS BELOW ARE GROUPED: PEOPLE, CARNIVORES, PRIMATES, HERBIVORES, BIRDS, MISCELLANEOUS SCENERY AND ACCOMMODATIONS.
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