South Africa and Victoria Falls, August 5th to 20th

So, August 5th, we checked out of our wonderful spot at Lynn and Julie’s and took advantage of the “Lynn Zehr Shuttle Service” to the airport for our 32 hour journey to Cape Town.   We flew from Toronto to Heathrow with a  twelve hour layover in London.

Jenny, Claire, June and Larry in London

We had arranged to meet some new friends from our Cuba cycling trip in March for lunch so we headed downtown on the tube.  Jenny and Claire made a long day short as we had lunch, then walked down to the The Mall, saw Big Ben and had a lovely  walk along the river.   It was a beautiful sunny day which we enjoyed a lot!  Thanks for a wonderful afternoon Jenny and Claire!

Our intention was to arrive in Cape Town a day early to help get over jet lag before our adventure began, but the city was so

...our view of Table Mountain.
…our view of Table Mountain.

beautiful we didn’t sleep very much!  Our hotel was in the oldest market square in the city and had a great view of Table Mountain from the pool deck.   We took a walking tour which helped us get the lay of the land, then instead of waiting in line for three hours to take the cable car up Table Mountain we decided to do a great hike on the second highest point in the city, Lions Head.  This gave us a great 360 degree view of the city, Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean.

...on the hike up Lions Head.
…on the hike up Lions Head.

From here we could also see Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 years in prison.  We still had a few hours to fill before meeting our tour leader and the rest of our group so we found a very nice hotel bar a few blocks away and enjoyed some martinis.  We then had the pleasure to meet Nicci, Crystal and Cheyanne, our American travel friends as well as our leader for the next few days, Gail.  The next morning the

...the beauty of Kirstenbosch.
…the beauty of Kirstenbosch.

six of us headed out for a city walking tour where we once again saw the main features of the downtown. The Company Gardens that started back in the 1650s, to the building where you were told what race you belonged to during Apartheid, the slave buildings and market from the 1700s and Desmond Tutu’s church, where he still gives a service once a  month. There has also always been an actual open door at this church, even through apartheid.  We then headed to

...we were at the corner of Africa.
…we were at the corner of Africa.

Kirstenbosch Gardens, rated as one of the top seven in the world according to National Geographic.  Here we had a guided tour of the gardens and the mother beds.  This was followed by a drive out the Cape of Good Hope and to Cape Point, the south western corner of Africa! It was an absolutely spectacular drive and view point.

The next morning we went on a day long wine tour of the Stellenbosch Wine Region where some of the best wines of South Africa come from.  We visited five wineries, drank lots of amazing wine, sampled some local foods like Biltong (dried cured meat) a local treat.

...vines in the South African winter.
…vines in the South African winter.

After a long day of wining we went back to our bar at the fancy hotel for one last martini in Cape Town, we had befriended the bartenders and they gave us a nice “birthday” desert platter as a thank you!  The next day Gail took the five of us to the airport and put us on a plane to Johannesburg or as the locals called it, JoBurg.

We spent one night in JoBurg, where we meet the rest of our travel companions and our new tour leader, Elaine.  Here we had a home brai (barbeque) and tucked in for the night as we were leaving early the following morning to drive east to Kruger National Park.  The route took us along the Panoramic Route in South Africa with stops at Blyde River Canyon where we saw South Africa’s Grand Canyon and the Three Rondavels (the Three Sisters).

...washing the bad karma away.
…washing the bad karma away.

It also included a stop at Bourke’s Luck Potholes where we washed all the bad karma away in the Treurrivier so that when we arrived at Kruger we only had good karma and the animals would be plenty! ( It sure worked!!)  After being on the road for seven hours we arrived at Nkambeni Safari Camp in Kruger National Park ( 2 million hectares in size ) in time for dinner.  With a 5 AM wake up call the next morning we were ready to go on our first safari game drive as the sun was coming over the horizon.  We were wide awake with excitement due to the fresh 8 degree celsius air temperature.

...Wild Dogs on the move.
…Wild Dogs on the move.

Within minutes we saw in the brush some elephants and some zebras but our first real sighting was the African Wild Dogs, which we learned later was very special as they are not commonly seen.  In our first 45 minutes of our safari we had seen the elephant, the white rhino, the buffalo, so three of the Big Five plus the Wild Dog, the washing off of the bad karma definitely was working! We got to see a lion stalk a hippo, unsuccessfully however.

...following mom.
…following mom.

Before we left Kruger, was saw four of the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino and buffalo), as well as,giraffes, hippos, wart hogs, crocodiles, vervet monkeys, impalas, kudu, waterbuck, nyala, steenbok, hyenas and birds.  Lots and lots of very cool birds, such as the endangered ground hornbill, the glossy starling, lilac breasted roller and martial eagles.  Just to name a few!!!  So, we left Kruger with needing to see the leopard to round out the Big Five and the cheetah to round out the Magnificent Seven.

...what a face.
…what a face.

We then travelled to Karongwe Private Game Reserve which is located west of Kruger in South Africa.  A smaller park, 9,000 hectares.  First game drive here we saw giraffes and zebras with their babies, so cute!  The wow factor this morning was the male lion sleeping with his four cubs hanging out  in the grass nearby.  While we were enjoying watching them,  two of his wives came back, one came over and snuggled with the King and her babies,

...the gang is all here.
…the gang is all here.

the second one was very pregnant and stayed away. Amazing to see!!

The next day our wow factor was when we came upon a herd of elephants.  Lots of mothers and young eating right beside us.

...lunch time.
…lunch time.

All of a sudden, it seemed from out of nowhere, a very large bull elephant appeared. He literally stood about two metres away from us, just watching us, watch him as he ate a tree!  Incredible! Our next drive we were looking for the elusive cheetah.  We even had a large cat expert in the front seat of our jeep.  As the sun set and we had stopped to have our sunset wine we got a call from another jeep that she had been spotted and was lounging in the  brush.  We downed our wine as light was leaving us very fast and headed to see the cheetah.  When we got to the location our guide told us to get out and follow him.  Here we were on foot, in the near darkness in the middle of a game park without any protection!  There she was, a female cheetah just lounging in the grass about 5 metres from us.  After awhile she got bored with us

...hiding in the grass.
…hiding in the grass.

and wandered off as darkness fell.  It had been such an awesome day, we slept well that night.  With only one more game drive in South Africa we needed to see the leopard to finish off the Big Five and Magnificent Seven.  So, with that one animal in our sights we headed out at sunrise.   We found tracks, which we  followed to the river bank and had a brief sighting but it quickly disappeared  Then, just as we were running out of time our guides noticed the birds go quiet and some bushbucks  were not  concerned  with us but something on the riverbank.  There he was, big and young but on the wrong side of the river!  So, we hightailed it over there and picked up his trail again and we got to see this magnificent creature up close.

...R-rated giraffes!
…R-rated giraffes!

What a great way to finish!  We completed our South African safari with our camera full of amazing pictures of the Magnificent seven.  As it turned out, there was an even more interesting sighting for us as we were leaving the reserve in our van. Our guide noticed 2 giraffes acting “funny”, so of course we stopped and as we were watching they decided it was time for some “hanky panky”, truly an amazing thing to see in the wild!

We said good-bye to our new American friends and headed to the airport to fly to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls.  Here it was just the two of us and our first evening we went to a local woman’s home where she prepared a local traditional meal.  The meal even included grubs! We think they were fried in butter because they actually tasted good, or so we will say.

...the power of the Falls
…the power of the Falls

The next day was Victoria Falls Day.  We started in the morning with a guided walk, then we just stayed for the day, walking  from one end to the other and just admiring them.  We were on the Zimbabwe side, so we had about a 2km trail that ran on the “viewing” side. It was spectacular! It was the dry season so not a lot of water going over but it was still pretty impressive. When the rainbow’s started to appear, it got even better!  After walking back to our hotel and getting something to eat we turned around and went back.  This time in the light of the full moon.

...the moonbow at the Falls.
…the moonbow at the Falls.

Guess what we saw, a moonbow, but this time it was not created by the sun and mist, it was created by the moonlight and mist!  It was amazing and ghostly, something that only happens about nine times a year. The next morning’s game drive was on a horse! We had a three hour horse safari where we saw elephants in the distance but got close to giraffes and buffalo.  We also got to see warthogs, impalas, kudus and a huge family of baboons.   Now it was time to head to the helicopter pad to see the Falls from above! How exciting!

...the full Falls from the air.
…the full Falls from the air.

The view of the Zambezi River as it disappears going over the Falls into the gorge and all you see is the mist, is stunning!  We circled the Falls to see them from every angle and we saw more rainbows.


Then before heading back we went out over the game park and got to see hippos, buffalo and elephants from the air.  We really experienced Victoria Falls in all their glory from just about everyway we could.  Then to finish off our stay in Victoria Falls we had an amazing sunset cruise on the Zambezi River above the falls on our final night.

...the sun setting at Victoria Falls.
…the sun setting at Victoria Falls.

Not only did we get to see the sunset  but, before it set we saw a baby crocodile, hippos in the water and an elephant come to the water’s edge to drink and eat. Many people have asked us what the high point of Africa was ( it is extremely hard to answer this) we went to Africa to see animals BUT, the 3 days we spent here were extraordinary.

What a great way to finish our part one of our trip.  An amazing 15 days in Africa and we are not done.  Tomorrow  we fly to Kenya and then Tanzania.

(to see more pictures click here)




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