Category Archives: South Africa

Posts that relate to travel in South Africa

Facts About South Africa – Things I didn’t know last week

Here are some surprising facts about South Africa that I learned while I was here:

South Africa has some of the oldest archaeological and human fossil sites in the world, which has resulted in UNESCO to term it, the Cradle of Mankind. It has a population of 80% black Africans and 9% whites.

facts about south africa

Apartheid “apart-ness” (racial segregation) has been a very large part of its recent history. Apartheid was very similar to the US previous to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. Non-whites were forced to go to different schools, use separate entrances, beaches, park benches, etc. Families were forced apart as for example, if one spouse was black and another of Indian ancestry; they were forced to live in separate communities.

facts about south africa
Apartheid

In the 90s, the US and other United Nations had placed sanctions on South Africa to stand against apartheid and in support for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. Hypocritically, while the US had sanctioned SA for Mandela’s release from prison, laterally they had him on a terrorist watch list up until 1998 due to his affiliation with the African National Congress. Mandela was released from prison in 1994, and shortly thereafter elected as president, which then brought about the end of apartheid and the South African government recognizing the African National Congress as an actual political party and not a terrorist organization.

facts about south africa

Since Mandela’s release, the ANC has continued to be the ruling party in SA, mainly due to the black majority and their continuing policies on restoring empowerment to non-whites that was lost during the apartheid years. This includes giving over 30% of the current white owned land to black Africans as well as rules such as that any black must be hired before a white person regardless of qualification.

facts about south africa

Today, while many blacks still struggle and are seen as the service class (with mama in the kitchen in uniform dress and headscarf-think civil war slavery), many whites are now getting reverse discrimination as their jobless rate has skyrocketed and there are also many black on white killings (10% of white South African farmers have been murdered in very gruesome ways since 1994).

facts about south africa
Jacob Zuma

The current ANC president, Jacob Zuma, has been charged with rape, racketeering and corruption and is infamous for in 2006 saying that if you take a shower after having unprotected intercourse, you wont get AIDS. Sadly there are other sick theories on AIDS proliferating here, including if you have sex with a baby or a virgin, it will cure you. This has resulted in many other challenges in AIDS epidemic and rape rate, especially when your own president has such unfounded beliefs. There is also a 50% chance of a child being sexually abused before age 18.

facts about south africa
Front page of a local paper

While South Africa is continuing to face many challenges as a nation, there are also many glimmers of hope. Its GDP has tripled since the end of apartheid and the sanctions against it were removed. Main exports include precious metals and diamonds. It is truly a beautiful wild place, like the last true frontier. It produces 8% of the worlds wine (and keeps a lot of the best vintages for its own self consumption!!!! instead of exporting it), it has many amazing things to offer the world and tourism.

facts about south africa
Drinking wine during wine flies wine tour

Table Mountain is one of the 7 wonders of the nature, all of the big 5 animals can be found here in National parks and game reserves, it has world class surfing, diving, golfing, etc. and I will attest many times over that the food scene is hands down world class.

pondoro game lodge
Wait for me Mom!

It has a charm unlike any other and every tourist I talked to had one thing they all agreed on, it much surpassed their expectations and they would be back.

facts about south africa
Drinking coffee at Chapman’s Peak

 

Diving Destinations – Aliwal Shoal

After my fantastic time on Safari at Pondoro Lodge, I was ready to see more animals, of the marine variety.  I had decided to go diving at Aliwal Shoal because I had read about how amazing the sardine run was if you could hit it.  What I didn’t know is that the sardine run was actually further south around the St. Johns area…. but here I was in Umkomaas, South Africa and I was going to dive the Shoal.

I was staying at Agulhas House in Umkomaas.  First off, I have to say that Brett the owner, and divemaster Nikki are FABULOUS hosts, they hung out with the guests every night, whether it be a BBQ or heading into town to have dinner.  My first night here, I was exhausted, but they came to my room to invite me to a BBQ with the other guests:

Aliwal shoal
Bananas flambe

I had booked a baited shark dive, but Brett said no one else wanted to do it while I was there, so sadly… strike two against me getting to play Jaws.  You no fun, South Africa.

No one else at Agulhas was diving Aliwal Shoal the next day except for me, so they sent me out with another dive operator in town.

Aliwal shoal
Looks like its going to be a beautiful day

On our two dives that day we luckily saw some ragged tooth sharks and some potato bass.  The rip currents were unbelievable.  I guess they joke that if you can dive in South Africa, you can dive anywhere.  My rental regulator mouthpiece broke while on my dive, and it was really difficult to keep my regulator in during the dive, but I stuck it out.

Here is a video of diving with the Raggies:

As I’ve been diving the last few months in Asia, I’m not too used to 23C water, poor vis, a 5 mil wetsuit AND wearing a hood… but actually didn’t feel too cold under water.

We also saw a family of Humpback Whales:

As hot of my dive mates that day on our way back to Umkomass from the shoal:

Aliwal shoal

All in all, it wasn’t too bad of a first day out there, glad I saw the ragged tooth sharks, sad I couldn’t get a good picture of their teeth.

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“Lekker” is South African for “good”

That night I went out with the guests from Agulhas to a restaurant called Enzos.  We had a great time and bought a bottle of homemade lemoncello liquor:

aliwal shoal

The next day I went out diving with the other guests at Agulhas.

First dive was a wreck dive that was a huge waste of time.  You couldn’t see 3 feet in front of you which also made it super dangerous.  We ended up surfacing at 22 minutes.

Saw this pod of dolphins on the surface interval:

Aliwal shoal

Second dive, we headed to the shoal and Nikki and I found these shark teeth while at Cathedral and we also saw an electric ray.

Aliwal shoal

And finally at the end of the dive there were a few black tips:

Aliwal shoal

I was a bit disappointed about my dives at Aliwal Shoal.  Maybe if I would have been able to do the baited shark dive, which is the reason I went there in the first place, I would have had a better experience….

After diving was complete, I drove around the Durban area a bit to check out the sites:

Now I’m off to Rwanda to see the Mountain Gorillas and meet up with some friends in Kigali!

Pondoro Game Lodge African Safari, Balule Nature Reserve, South Africa – June 2014

I had decided to do an African safari near Kruger National Park because you have the greatest chance of seeing all 5 of the big game there than anywhere else in Africa.

Two months before my arrival, I found the Pondoro Game Lodge and made a booking.   I flew in to Hoedspruit that morning from Cape town and was ready for some safari action.

Pondoro Game Lodge Day #1:

On the drive from Hoedspruit to the Pondoro Game lodge, I had to stop the vehicle so many times to take pictures of any animal I saw because I was unsure of what to expect and whether I would see them again.

This resulted in arriving at the Pondoro a few hours later than expected  because I had been so excited by my wildlife spotting prowess…..  but then I felt a bit like an a**hole because I realized all the other guests had waited on me to arrive to leave on the evening game drive.

So I quickly threw my luggage into my room and off we went on our first game drive.  They gave me two wool blankets and the other guests who had been there a few days told me to “hang on tight” as we departed in open-topped safari 4WDs into the bush.

Pondoro Game Lodge game-drive #1 was declared a success:

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After returning from each night’s safari, we would have about 25-45 minutes rest before social hour and then the 3-course dinners began.

Then we would all go to bed early because mornings would start at 0500 so we would be far out into the reserve before the sun came up.  I spent my evenings on wi-fi, uploading and downloading all my pictures to Picasa.

Pondoro Game Lodge Day #2:

Early morning game drive:

pondoro game lodge
Blue Wildebeast
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A Cape Buffalo herd, one of the Africa Big 5 game and the most dangerous animal in Africa as it kills many hunters every year.

 

 

 

 

 

After each morning game drive, we would come back a 7-course production of breakfast.  This made me happy because Breakfast is pretty much the greatest meal of the day.

pondoro game lodge
French toast. Bacon. Preserved fig. Almond.
Delicious.

After breakfast on day #2, I headed out on my first guided nature walk.

He said he’d let me hold the gun, but we both knew I’d probably beat him in a shooting match, so I let him keep it and “protect” me, just to ensure I wouldn’t emasculate him 😉

The rest of the day went like this… can you see a pattern?

Eat, game drive, cocktails, eat more, sleep, wake up & repeat :)

pondoro game lodge
Sloppy Joe “Bunny Chow” & Salad

Pondoro Game Lodge Game Drive #3:

Dinner Night #2:

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I’m liking this trend.
pondoro game lodge
Potato and Leek Soup,
Ostrich fillet, basil pesto, almond couscous, ratatouille
Chocolate Fondant

Pondoro Game Lodge Day #3

My fourth game drive was probably my favorite, there was a whole pride of lions that we observed for half an hour and my favorites, baby elephants.

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Then, while we were having breakfast after the game drive, some Kudu came down to the Oliphants:

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Kudu

And then the elephants came down to the river while we were eating lunch…

pondoro game lodge
Elephants on the Oliphants river

I had obviously been eating a ton, so I elected to go on another nature walk after breakfast was over.  I have to say that seeing the huge wild elephants with the beautiful tusks is a bit scary when you are out in the bush on foot.  Just you vs. them, and they could just trample you down.

After my nature walk, I had booked an amazing massage at the Pondoro Game Lodge’s spa.  So I spent an hour relaxing before departing on the next game lodge in search of wild animals:

Game drive #5:

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That night they made us an amazing dinner right down on the water and lit the pathway with candles and tiki torches.  On the menu was Butternut soup, Impala pot pie and cherry crumble.

pondoro game lodge
Group dinner on the Oliphants river

I was pretty “game-drived” out by this point, because I had seen EVERY single African animal I had hoped to and thought I would sleep in my last morning and skip my last game drive.

But when morning came, I realized that if I missed something awesome, I would be so  disappointed and who knows when I will be back in Africa so I charged on through game drive #6:

This marked the ending to my magical African safari at Pondoro Game Lodge, so I was off to my next adventure… to dive with Ragged tooth sharks at Aliwal Shoals.