Thursday, 6 December 2012

South African safari

Hi there. When I look at my last post and this one, I'd forgive you for thinking that I'm forever travelling. But it really is an exception. Our trip to Paris was a gift for my son that he and I had been waiting for for quite a while. And my most recent trip was really special too. As part of my job I had to go to Durban, South Africa, for a ten-day conference together with several of my colleagues. This time I decided with two of my friends that we would stay behind and enjoy ourselves for a couple of days after the stress of ten days non-stop working. Unfortunately one of our friends couldn't make it so just two of us went to discover the North coast of South Africa, including the St Lucia Estuary and wetlands, and the Hluhluwe game reserve.

We really had a great time. At 6am on Saturday morning we were picked up at the hotel in Durban by our guide Sthembiso, and we had a three-hour drive up the North coast. The country is very green and beautiful. On the road we bought little peeled pineapples for 50p that we ate in the car. They were very sweet and juicy, delicious!  We went to the Emdoneni cat rehabilitation centre which houses felines that can no longer live in the wild. They have caracals, servals, African wildcats and cheetahs. Some of them are tame and we went into several of the enclosures, but the best by far was the cheetah enclosure. The two cheetahs are brothers, but one is friendlier than the other, and you can lie down and cuddle him.  It felt quite weird being just next to a wild animal, an unforgettable experience.

We then went to St. Lucia, a very small town on the St. Lucia Estuary in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, where we had lunch, then in the afternoon we went on a two-hour boat trip to see hippos and crocodiles. We also saw some lovely birds including a fishing eagle. We were told that hippos are one of the most dangerous African animals (more about that later).

That evening my friend and I had lunch at a local restaurant and went back to our guest house early because we were gong to be picked up at 6am again, this time for the safari. We were told to take a particular route to avoid meeting any hippos after dark.

Sure enough, the following morning at 6am a different driver was waiting for us in a safari vehicle. We had been advised to wear warm clothes, and soon discovered why. The canvas top of the vehicle did nothiing at all to stop the wind, and at 6am and driivng at normal speed it was pretty draughty up there. After about an hour we got to the game reserve. It is huge, 96,000 hectares. We very soon saw a couple of elephants, and as the day went on we were very lucky and saw a large variety of animals, including one rather stroppy young male elephant, who we were a bit afraid might come and knock over the car. Luckily for us he didn't. We saw four of the 'big five' : elephants, buffaloes giraffes and lions.  The lions were a long way off but I saw them using my daughter's old birdwatching binoculars. We saw loads of impalas, warthogs, zebras, nyalas, and more.

Back at the guesthouse we had a little nap and then went out for an early dinner, as we would be leaving the following morning. That day there was an electricity black-out, but we ate at a restaurant that had a generator. The way home was really dark, though. We had a torch but it was so dark and because it was cloudy there was no moonlight or stars either. We were nearly back when my frined suddenly stopped in her tracks and said "Oh my god, hippos!" and just ahead of us three hippos were trotting along. They had passed in front of the guest house and if we had been a minute earlier we would have met them face to face, in the pitch black. Fortunately, they just ignored us and carried on. We were a bit shaken, though.

On our last morning we had a short trip to the beach to contemplate the Indian ocean before leaving for the airport and a 10-hour overnight flight home. A very memorable holiday. I have uploaded more photos to flickr, if you would like to see them.


  1. A job that allows you to see beautiful places? That is one heck of a job! And good thing you decided to stay. Or else you might not be able to see the beauty of the wilderness. Seeing these animals in the wild, and not in the zoo, is a one-of-a-kind experience! I do hope that you will be able to do it again.

  2. That's one trip I want to make before I head up yonder. To see animals in their own habitat would be a dream come true. You lucky lady.