Big 5 Safari in South Africa: Amazing Experience
by Bernie Bantegui
Spent 15 unforgettable days exploring some of Southern Africa’s most iconic destinations. We flew international from Manila via Singapore to Johannesburg and back to Manila with Singapore Airlines. For domestic flights included in the tour package, Victoria Falls to Cape Town, we flew South African Airways arranged by Go2Africa Safari Travel, October 2-17, 2019. Fyi, tour package cost varies depending on the travel date, i.e. Peak/High/Low Season and one needs to book 9-12 months in advance.
Started our adventure in Johannesburg with a Day Tour in "Joburg" as the locals fondly call their city covering Soweto, Mandela's Home and the Apartheid Museum to learn and appreciate South Africa's history, their struggle for equality and human rights that led to the dismantling of Apartheid and gain independence.
The next day we flew in to Hoedspruit Airport and proceeded to Tangala Safari Camp at Thornybush Game Reserve situated alongside an unfenced border of the Kruger National Park. Thornybush offers an unrivalled Big 5 safari and "glamping" experience - camping in luxury. Our group had the Safari vehicle all to ourselves and were fortunate to see all members of the Big 5 (Lion, Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Rhino and Leopard) plus a family of critically endangered African Wild Dogs during our game drives. And because it is a private reserve and the timing of our Safari Trip, we enjoyed 5 spectacular game viewing and Mediterranian climate - sunny during the day and cool at night.
End of Game Drive: Returning back to Safari Camp. Tracker riding in front of Safari Jeep using
search light to ward off animals. Note: Lions are nocturnal animals. They are active hunting prey at night.
On the last day of our Safari we went on a Day Trip to Blyde River Canyon after our early morning Game Drive. We started our Game Drive at 5:30 a.m. and was back at Tangala Safari Camp by 8 a.m. We even had time for coffee and picture taking with the ladies wearing their souvenir T-shirts.
The Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga, South Africa (2 hrs. drive from Kruger), is the third largest and greenest canyon in the world due to its subtropical foliage and has some of the most dramatic and overwhelming scenery in South Africa: God's Window, Lincoln and Berlin Falls, Bourke's Potholes and the Three Rondavels (resembling African Huts) among others. Blyde River Canyon has some of the deepest precipitous cliffs of any canyon in the world.
Early next morning we took an hour flight to Victoria Falls International Airport, Zimbabwe. Spent two days to view the majestic Victoria Falls Mosi-oa-Tunya which means "smoke that thunders". Between February and July the mighty Zambezi River is in full flood and you can experience the waterfall at its most thunderous.
In our case, since October is the end of the Dry Season water level was low. We crossed the border to Livingston Island Devil's Pool, Zambia side. The more daring can swim to the very edge of Devil's Pool, which I did being an audacious BETAN. 😅
Note: Walking gingerly to the edge of the pool with a guide. Was asked
to sign an insurance waiver which I did... what was I thinking? 😏
Victoria Falls also offers thrilling activities for more adventurous travellers
like micro-lighting, bungee jumping and white-water rafting – living up to its
name of the ‘Adrenalin Capital of Africa’.
Later in the afternoon, we went on a Sundowner Cruise on the mighty Zambezi River and had a unique experience seeing two adolescent elephants crossing to a sandbar and an elephant charging from the banks. 😀 The sunset was amazing.
Spent the last 5 days of our trip in Cape Town, South Africa’s ‘Mother City’
with the glorious Table Mountain as its backdrop – one of the Seven Natural
Wonders of the World.
We explored Cape Town's culture in its vibrant city centre, at the popular and luxurious V&A Waterfront and ventured to the Old Town at the historic Greenmarket Square, Cape Town's heart and soul.
V & A (Victoria and Albert) Waterfront is the oldest working harbour in the southern hemisphere.
Over the years Greenmarket Square has served as a slave market, a vegetable market and more recently, a flea market trading mainly African souvenirs, crafts and curios. During the apartheid era, Greenmarket Square was often the focus of political protests, due in part to its proximity to parliament, as well as the ethnicity of its traders and shoppers.
St. George's Cathedral and St. George's Mall a more upscale Shopping Mall is just around the block. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an Anglican theologian and human rights activist, received the 1984 Novel Peace Price for his contribution in resolving and ending apartheid.
Table Mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town 300 million years ago was at sea level during an ice age and ice sheets flattened the layers of sandstone creating the flat surface that today we call the 'Table Top'. It can be reached by cable car or walking.
On the eastern foot of Table Mountain is Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Founded in 1913, the garden that spans an area of 1300 acres includes a unique conservatory with plants from different parts of the world and a Tree Canopy Walk. Ladies, where are the men 😉😉😉???
We took the Garden Route to see the most dramatic landscapes of the country. Views along Chapman’s Peak showcase the majestic scenery of Cape Town, panoramic views in every direction. It takes you to must-see places like Cape Point Nature Reserve, the Cape Winelands and Hermanus - Africa's whale-watching capital.
We reached the Cape of Good Hope mid-morning, a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula. A common misconception is that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa.
The most dangerous point is at the Agulhas bank, where storms are rife and dangerous cross currents collide. When depressions moving in from the Atlantic meet the Agulhas Current, huge freak waves are generated.
Note: Cape Agulhas (Cape of the Needles) is the geographic southern tip of the African continent and the beginning of the dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans according to the International Hydrographic Organization.
Boulders Beach is sheltered by granite boulders. It is located near Simon's Town towards Cape Point. These African penguins are on the verge of extinction and can only be found on the coastlines of Southern Africa (South Africa & Namibia).
When we got hungry, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at one of the restaurants at the Boardwalk in Simon's Town, a Naval Base a few kilometers from Boulders Beach. African Wild Game Steaks was on the Menu. I settled for the more traditional Fish and Chips with a Heineken Beer 🍺🍺🍺
The last leg of our South African Adventure was Hermanus, the Land Based Whale
Watching capital of the world. Southern Right Whales are the stars of the show
during the annual mating in calving season, which starts with the arrival of the
bulls in June, closely followed by the females. They will mate during their time
in the South African Cape Coastal waters. Pregnant female Southern Right Whales
will be the last to arrive and the last to leave with their newborn calves. Only
when the calves are fit enough will they swim back to the Antarctic waters where
she and the calf will feed on krill, a nutritious rice grain size crustacean.
A two-hour Whale Watching boat trip costs $60 per person. On a boat you can witness up close the whales breaching (jumping out of the water), sailing (keeping its tail out of the water for an extended period), lobtailing (slapping its fins hard and fast on the surface), or spyhopping (raises and holds its head out of the water). Sightings are not guaranteed but probability is highest from August to October.
Because of rough seas all boat trips were canceled for the day. You can watch whales all along the coast with the aid of Binoculars and Telephoto Lens - Gearing’s Point allows a greater view of the ocean. A Whale Crier alerts you to the whereabouts of the whale by blowing his Kelp horn.
There was only one sighting that day at around 10 a.m. which unfortunately most of us missed. My wife said she got a glimpse of the tail. You can imagine how thrilled she was. 😉
Though we did not see the whales, Hermanus did not disappoint. The pictures of the Coastline speaks for itself.
My rejoinder for this travelogue is my review of our SA Safari Adventure and response of Go2africa Pty. Cheers!!!
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