This post is a continuation of my 5 week “honeymoon” in South Africa in March 2003. From this point on, scuba diving was top of our agenda.
Simon’s town was the ideal place to experience the famous “Great White Shark Diving” but unfortunately it was not the right time of year due to poor visibility in the sea. In fact it was a bit too cloudy but the weather didn’t stop us to see this great animal neither was the motion sickness we suffered. I expected the cage to go right under the water but in fact the top part stays above water all the time and you have to submerge wearing a heavy belt to go down inside the cage. As soon as the sharks approach the boat attracted by the blood soaked bait thrown overboard by the crew you have to go down and see them but it was really difficult to see them clearly under the water due to poor visibility. All we saw was a slight silhouette that vanished quickly. So we decided to get back into the boat and view the sharks crashing into the boat as they wrestled with the chunks of tuna. They are very strong and fierce beast with steely black eyes. We saw at least six sharks. The chances of seeing the sharks is better early in the morning than in the afternoon.
Can’t complain! We finally saw the great white shark in action! After that we continue our drive to do more scuba diving in Durban. Durban is supposed to be a fantastic place for water sports but we were rather unlucky due to poor visibility due to the time of the year. Also the currents were quite strong. We didn’t do much in this town. It was in fact cloudy and a bit cold. However the views of the Cape Peninsula were unforgettable. There were lots of monkeys on the roadside eating bananas, ostriches near the roads, splendid view on the drive! So easy going and relaxing.
Our next destination was Sodwana Bay. If you are a Scuba Diving lover you cannot miss this place! Sodwana Bay is considered to be among the premier dive sites of the world, it is home to the southern most tropical coral reefs on the planet which are further south than the Great Barrier Reef. The reef has an incredibly dense coral cover and wide diversity of fish and crustaceans. Over 1200 species of coral fish, rays, eels and turtles while whale sharks, dolphins, sharks and whales are common visitors to the area. This is the place where my adrenaline reached the maximum and of course those sleepless nights were unavoidable. We spent three full days here and we did in total 6 dives at the rate of two per day. Unfortunately we couldn’t take any pictures underwater because we did not have the nerve to use the water proof case we had for the camera in case something happened and then we would have no camera for the rest of the trip. However I must say we were very lucky because on the first day we saw a whale shark! It was an amazing breathtaking experience. We all jumped out of the boat without our oxygen tanks because the shark took us by surprise and we did not want to miss it. I didn’t get to see its mouth but Peter saw it up front and personal. It was like two meters across and half a meter wide. It just glides through the water with it mouth wide open filtering the plankton. But it is still scary to see such a big mouth coming your way. I was terrified. I decided to stayed behind so I couldn’t see his mouth but I saw his huge dot spotted body and lots of small fishes swimming around him. There are many lodges for rent in the area. We stayed in the Sodwana Bay Dive Lodge and Fishing Resort. Great place! Very professional and friendly staff. Highly recommended!
Our next adventure was a Microlight Flight in Sodwana. The view of Sodwana bay from the air was breathtaking. You get to see dolphins, schools of fish, rays, whales, sharks, turtles, whale sharks and many other sea creatures. At that time of the year the visibility was not perfect but we say lots of huge rays and turtles. I highly recommend you book this flight well in advanced although it will depend a lot on the weather. Flights are nicer and less bumpy during the early morning and when there is little or no wind. This is the website if you would like more information http://www.sodwana-bay.co.za/#!microlight/c1hy0
Our next destination was the exclusive private Game Reserve called Thula Thula located only 45 minutes from Richards Bay harbor and airport, and less than 2 hours drive from Durban. This lodge is sited in a very picturesque spot next to a natural watering hole visited frequently by elephants. However, overall, we were a bit disappointed with the service overall. The place is circled with electric wires so the elephants don’t approach too close. I did get to see many elephants, zebras and giraffes. It is a game reserve that specializes in elephants and although they claimed to have the big five, we didn’t see much for the price we paid. It is a relaxing place, very tranquil and far away from noise, except for the bats that were roasting in our room at night. Also, at times, there was no running water. Perhaps we were unlucky, I don’t know. I remember one night we had burnt mushroom soup. The owner apologized and advised us not to eat it after I was half way through my bowl. They have a special safari that start at 1 am where they encourage the hyenas to come out by broadcasting lion noises. But again, we waited for over an hour with nothing to see except one chameleon walking on Peter’s arm and a charming golden spider.
At least, I managed to relax after those hectic days doing scuba diving!!! It was nice to go to a place just to enjoy nature!
It was time to have a close encounter with crocodiles. These amazing animals are seriously dangerous. Sharks kill 15 people every year. Hippos kill 200, elephants kill 250, whereas crocodiles kill 2,500 people every year. The stats make crocodiles 168 times more dangerous than sharks. Our tour guide told us lots of stories about crocodile attacks including some honeymooners who went for a swim in St. Lucia Lake which is infested with tons of crocodiles. The ideal place to see the crocodile is the Crocworld Conservation Centre which is based in Scottburgh, 59km from Durban. They hold a vast range of all type of crocodiles, reptiles and birds. The fun part of this is feeding time. They feed them once every two weeks. They are separated into different groups according to their feeding schedule. As soon as we all gathered to see how they are fed, the crocodiles were approaching near us to get their portion which consisted of rotten old chickens.
National Kruger Park
The most popular attraction in South Africa and probably the best safari experience you could ever have. The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. There are lots of things to organized here; from luxury private safaris to rough-it group safaris. Our main interest was to do a wilderness trail. Wilderness Trails in the Kruger National Park allow adventurous travelers to make a close encounter with nature. The groups are very small maximum 8 people and guided by armed experienced game rangers. Unfortunately the big five safari was fully booked for the time we wanted to do it. I advise you to book it with minimum of 9 months in advanced. The spots are taken very fast! We couldn’t do three day big five trekking but we explored the area of the white rhinos. We spent three nights in rustic two-bed huts with ablution facilities comprising of reed-walled showers and flush toilets. We had simple but delicious light meals during the day and a barbecue at dinner. A reasonable level of fitness is required as up to 20km (12.4 miles) may be walked per day. The distance is covered at a leisurely pace with drinks and snacks.
In my opinion, Kruger Park was the best safari experience we had, better than the private game reserve especially if you want to do these wildness trials. The emphasis on the trails is to spend time on foot in the Park, not just looking for the large mammals from a vehicle but also at the smaller creatures too.
Before reaching our last destination, Johannesburg , we made a quick visit to the Bridal Veil Falls. The Sabie Waterfalls Route in Mpumalanga is amongst South Africa’s best-kept secret, with its magnificent cliffs and stunning views, dazzling flora and fauna. It is indeed the perfect waterfall road trip. We spent one night in a romantic and lovely place called the Cybele Forest Lodge. You feel like living in the middle of the wild but with all the comfort you can expect from a five star hotel. Finally, I got my reward after all those hectic days with full adrenaline. Romantic two nights in the middle of nowhere with no rush to wake up at 5 am for safari or restless nights thinking about doing scuba diving next day! At last I was enjoying a proper honeymoon although it only lasted two days before we took the wheel again on our way to Johannesburg.
Known as one of the most dangerous city in the world along with Caracas (Venezuela), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Baghdad, we drove straight away to the hotel instead of planning to do a quick promenade through the streets of Johannesburg. The only place we were brave enough to go was the Gold Reef City which is an amusement park located on an old gold mine that closed in 1971. The park features water rides, roller coasters, museums, restaurants, hotels and many attractions including casinos. This is the ideal place to enjoy Johannesburg with children and stay safe.
That’s all folks! To summarize, I highly recommend a visit to this extraordinary country! Awesome fauna both on land and in the sea. If you are the road trip type traveler, South Africa is the perfect place especially the Garden Route! On the other hand, I was a bit disappointed with the cuisine. It basically has hints of traditional English food; meat and two veg. However, some great bush-meat in the reserves (roadkill maybe). Also, the seafood was delicious too by the coast!
We found South Africans to be generally very friendly but seemed to lack a bit of charm. Although they provide a great service especially in the game reserves and for scuba diving! They are very professional and approachable! We definitely noticed the remnants of “Apartheid” in some places. Many businesses in rural places are owned by white people with uneducated black people doing the menial jobs and passing off questions to their white bosses. Overall, our honeymoon was a roller coaster with tons of adrenaline! Unforgettable!!