Travelling Tuesday: African Wild Animals!

My humblest apologies that all has been quiet on the blogging front for a few days now. I was SICK SICK SICK! One of those crazy 24 hour things that makes you despair of life and wonder if it’s really worth going on. (Don’t worry, my one reader with emetophobia, I won’t go into detail!) Fortunately, I am on the other side and incredibly thankful that (yes I did the math) I’ve lived well over 10,000 days so far, and I’ve only had one like that. One in 10,000 — no cause for complaint!

Anywho, after that lengthy introduction, it is Travelling Tuesday! As promised, I have some stories and shots from our travels up to Bloemfontein, where we are spending the holidays with Mark’s parents (and his sister when she arrives!) The roads are very busy and therefore a bit dangerous this time of year, so we decided to come early to avoid the traffic, since we can still do a lot of our work getting Samaritan’s Feet started from here. Modern communications are a wonderful thing! We thought breaking the trip up over three days (staying overnight in a couple different places) would make it an easier journey with the Bear. We were wrong. Yes, it was still cheaper than flying, but dern, it was a lot of travelling! I don’t think the Bear enjoyed his tent being pitched in a new spot each night or finding himself in the car seat again each morning. So next time we’ll probably do the 10+ hour journey in one day. As they say in the South, we oughta just git ‘er done. Lesson learned!

As mentioned, these travelling adventures brought us face to face with many dangerous wild animals. This is Africa people! We stopped off in a place outside Oudtshoorn called Calitzdorp the first night. And just outside our little self-catering hut we spotted a big, scary…

Praying Mantispraying mantis!!!!

Okay not so scary. Still, a little creepy. You’ve heard how vociferous the females are, right? Well then, we went for a walk, and we came face to face with a huge, and very dangerous…

Ostrich - Yum!

Farm-raised ostrich!!!!!!!!

Behind a fence.

But if he got near the fence…and we were too close…seriously people, they can kick like ninjas, beware!!  Then it got really dangerous. I’m not even joking this time. We came face to face with a grumbly…grizzly…


Wild Bear!!

You’ve given up on me, haven’t you? Africa’s not as wild as you were hoping, mayhaps? Let’s give it one last try.  The final creature to give us a fright appeared as we were journeying to Nieu Bethesda for our second night’s stay along the way to Bloemfontein. And you do not want to come face to face with one of these. It’s a big, scaly…


Om… likkewaan!!

This creature kind of looks like a gila monster…and was probably like 4 ft. long! The Afrikaans word for it is likkewaan, pronounced LOOK-a-vahn, but the English word is leguan. I wasn’t familiar with either, but the Afrikaans is more fun to say. Sure, I took this picture from the window of the car, but still, he could’ve gone T-Rex on us at any moment! Grrrr. We actually think maybe it was a her…do you think she looks preggers? I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

Well, that’s a taste of our dangerous travels from Gordon’s Bay to Bloemfontein with Calitzdorp and Nieu Bethesda in between. Thank the Lord for Mr. Potato Head safely navigating our passage and never stranding us in the wild among these dangerous creatures!

Happy Trails to you, wherever the road takes you!

Top Ten Things You Should Know About “Going on Safari” in South Africa

Top of the week to you again! We’ve decided to add a new feature to the site, with more posts about visiting South Africa. We have several friends planning to visit us over the next few years — including some coming quite soon. And, a ton of people will be piling into SA in 2010 as the FIFA World Cup gets underway in awesome venues all around the country! Look for a new page and some great changes coming soon!

We thought we’d begin to prepare our friends (and folks we don’t know) for their trip. Even if you’re not sure when you might be making your way ‘way down South’ we hope you’ll enjoy the photos and suggestions, with some good humour thrown in. Hope to see you here soon!

Photo Courtesy of Waynne Meintjes

Photo Courtesy of Waynne Meintjes

Top Ten Things You Should Know About “Going on Safari” in SA

10. You are going to have to go to a national park or a game reserve to see a lot of the animals you probably want to see. I am sorry if this news disappoints you. Elephants and hippos don’t walk through town as often as you may have imagined.

9. It is good to know that whilst in South Africa, you should say you’d like to go “game viewing” or “go see some game” or “go on a game drive” instead of “go on safari.” When in Rome…try not to be a touron.

8. Some folks will be excited to know you can see game on horseback in some game reserves. I, on the other hand, rue the day I thought this was a good idea. The leisurely two hour jaunt was actually three hours, I still have a scar on my hand from holding the reigns so tightly because my horse was a ninnymuggins, and I walked like a cowboy for the next three days.  It’s an idea, I just don’t know if it’s a good one.

7. There are some game reserves relatively close to Cape Town (a lot of folks would like to kill two birds with one stone and see Cape Town and the Big 5). You will still most likely need to rent a car to get to any of them. Most of the best game reserves, however, are in the northeastern part of the country, near the Kruger National Park. You might therefore consider flying into Johannesburg, seeing some game at a reserve nearer to there, and then taking a domestic flight (Kulula and Mango are good options) to spend some time in the Cape. Problem solved. Alternatively, there are tour groups that do trips to certain reserves, like Aquila, from Cape Town. This is also a good option.

6. All game reserves are not created equal. Pay attention to their websites and what animals they boast on their properties. And then go to Trip Advisor and see what other people thought. A lot of the reserves are like big zoos with tame animals that you have to drive to see.  This is okay and will give you pretty pictures, but it’s not quite the authentic experience. To get the authentic experience, you need to go to the big reserves in the north east of the country, or pay the big bucks at the posh reserves in the Cape.

5. The best time to view game is actually during the winter, when the bush is lower and less verdant, and the temperatures are cooler. In the summer, the bush is high and thick, making game viewing more difficult. The game spend the hottest part of the summer days sheltered in the shade, and normally out of sight.

4. South Africa is in the southern hemisphere! So spring and summer run from September to April, and autumn and winter from May to August.

3. Malaria is only a concern in the northeastern part of the country. If you fear malaria, pay the big bucks and go to the posh reserves in the Eastern Cape. However, you can take malaria medication in preparation for your trip, and you should really be fine. Medical Care in South Africa is very good, in case you’re concerned.

Meow?2. You have the option of going on a field-guide led trip, where you’ll be taken on the back of a Land Rover and driven around, or on a self-driven game drive. Guide-led trips are often the popular option because the field guides are usually in contact with one another by radio, and so have a good idea of where the game is at a particular time. A self-driven trip will be less expensive — you should find information at the entrances of most reserves as to what game has been seen in which areas of the park. You’ll miss out on the knowledge of the field guide, but you’ll save the cash. I’d recommend doing at least one game drive with a field guide. You don’t have to stay on a reserve to go to the reserve and see game. If you decide to do a self-driven game drive, please see the next point for very important details.

1. If you go on a self-driven game drive and the signs say Don’t Get Out of the Car, then Don’t Get Out of the Car. Seriously. Many Asian tourists have lost their lives trying to make a peace sign beside the lions. Actually, this is a good rule of thumb, whether there are signs or not: On a game reserve, Don’t Get Out of the Car. Remember, this is Africa. The Cats don’t meow. They roar.