Our African Adventure – Tsitsikamma National Park

I took a few days away from blogging to compete in the New Jersey Audubon’s World Series of Birding.  My team finished a respectable 25th in a field of almost 60 birding teams and, most importantly, had a great time.    Now, though, I would like to return you to our African Adventure. 

Our next stop was Tsitsikamma National Park, a stunning coastal park found on South Africa’s Garden Route .  We arrived in the early afternoon and, lottery style, picked our room keys out of a brown paper bag.  This was the view we enjoyed from our cabin!

The coast at Tsitsikamma was very rugged and consisted primarilyof large rock outcrops.  This created some spectacular waves, as the Indian Ocean battered against the coast.  If you look closely, you can see two people exploring on the rocks – gives you a sense of how large the waves are that came crashing against the shore.

This was the view as we relaxed and enjoyed a few drinks at an outdoor bar.  We hoped to take a boat ride up the river, but rides were canceled due to troubles with the boat’s engine.  So, we sat and enjoyed the view.

The next morning we were surprised to find baboons walking around our cabin.  They were exploring garbage cans, trying to break into cars, and generally making a nuisance of themselves.  A group of rangers came along in a truck and attempted to run the baboon back into the woods, with only limited success.  This young fellow watched the fun from a safe perch.

Later than morning we took a hike to the river’s mouth.  We had heard that there were suspension bridges that gave amazing views of the river and ocean.  This was our first view as the trail emerged from the bush.

There were three bridges all together, suspended across the river and along the rocky shore.  We spent an hour or so exploring and hiking along the shore before heading back to our cabin.

We encountered this fellow on our way back through the bush.  This is a Rock Hydrax, a close cousin to the elephant.  These little fellows were usually found in large packs, appeared to be very social with each other, and would stare (unblinking) at us as we walked by.

After our morning hike, a group of us headed out for some lunch and shopping.  We picked a small outdoor cafe and enjoyed our first taste of ginger beer.  This homemade drink was cold and refreshing – really hit the spot.  We wandered from shop to shop and eventually ended up back at our cabin, tired and happy from our wonderful day at Tsitsikamma.

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Our African Adventure – The Wild Coast

The morning after our amazing dinner in Malealea dawned cloudy and cold.  We had an early breakfast, by candle light, and headed off for our next destination – the Wild Coast.  After nearly 10 hours and several hundred kilometers (the last 70 of which were on a dirt road), we arrived at the Mazeppa Bay Hotel in time for dinner and bed. 

With no planned activities for the day, we set off the following morning to explore. Our hotel was set among a large grove of banana palms and was a beautiful sight from the beach. 

The Indian Ocean was a beautiful sight in the morning sun. Karen and I removed our shoes and waded along in the surf.

We had been warned that we would not have the beach to ourselves and that the other beachgoers out did us in both size and numbers. We found them almost immediately – cattle – lots and lots of cattle shared the beach. We found them almost everywhere as we hiked up and down the beach. While we didn’t have any problems, a couple of our travel mates reported a less-than-friendly bull had taken exception to their use of a beach and had, ummmmm, encouraged them to move on.


We spent most of the morning exploring a rocky island not far from the hotel. It was a beautiful location accessible only by a swinging bridge.  To get to the main part of the island required passing through a large boulder field. It was slow going but the views made the trip worthwhile.

 

Looking back toward the hotel from the highest point on the island – beautiful!

We noticed several fishermen along the way. Only later did we learn that the Mazeppa Bay was known for outstanding shark fishing. Later in the evening we would meet several folks who were there just for the fishing, and the bar had several photos of large sharks that had been taken just off coast.

We were in search of smaller game and spent most of the day exploring several tidal pools found among the rocky shoreline. The coast reminded me a bit of Maine, with large boulders and rocky alcoves – and tidal pools everywhere.

As we walked back to the Hotel, passing through the Banana Palm grove, we noticed movement in the trees. We were being watched closely by Vervet monkeys – a small family lived near the Hotel and we would see them jumping from tree to tree or, at times, running along the grounds.

Mazeppa Bay was a beautiful location and having a free day with no planned activities was just the right touch.  We settled in for the evening tired and a little sunburnt, but very relaxed and happy.

Our African Adventure – Getting Started

JFK

Our adventure started several weeks ago with a phone call.  Incredibly, my wife had won an amazing trip – to South Africa.  And so we planned, and planned, and shopped, and planned some more.  Not really knowing what to expect, we read travel guides and reached out to anyone and everyone who might know something about our destinations.  Finally, the big day arrived.  We found ourselves standing at the South African Airways’ terminal in JFK Airport, New York. 

Waiting at the Gate

We worked through the seemingly endless layers of airport security, finally arriving at our flight’s gate.  The plane was there and we watched as ground crews hurried about with their carts, tractors, and trucks.  We chatted with other passengers and then, three hours after arriving at the terminal, boarded the plane.  The flight crew welcomed us as the plane was slowly pushed back from the gate and busily moved up and down the aisles preparing the plane for take-off.  And then we stopped.  And waited.  Soon, the pilot informed us that the tug used to push our plane from the gate was unable to disconnect – a pin was stuck – and we would be delayed.  It took nearly an hour of hammering, shaking, pushing, and pulling before the pilot announced that the pin had come free and we would be on our way.

Long Flight
Our first stop would be Johannesburg, nearly 15 hours away.  I snapped a few quick photos of clouds and settled in for the flight.  This was by far the longest flight I have ever taken, and the South African Airways flight crew did a masterful job making it as comfortable as could be achieved.   We arrived in Joburg tired but happy that the first leg of our journey was completed.  After re-checking our luggage, we settled in for a beer and some lunch before a flight to Durban.
Blue Water Hotel

And then we were there!  After nearly 24 hours of traveling across 7 time zones, we arrived at our hotel.  After working through a mix-up in our reservations (the only real glitch in the whole trip), we dropped our bags in the room and headed out onto the beach.

Indian Ocean 
We walked along the beach, admiring our first views of the Indian Ocean.  It was late in the evening and most folks had gone for the day.  We wandered about until nearly dark, returning to our room exhausted and happy to finally be in South Africa. 
Next – Durban