I will endeavour to get back to posting updates regularly, we had a lot of interest when we let it become known we would be visiting South Africa for a safari holiday and the blog seems the best way to summarize the trip.
The trip was discussed at length with our local travel agents, details were tweaked and plans finalised a good few months ago. Contact was established with the game reserve so that any questions could be answered quickly.
A continent that has fascinated me since I was a child and grainy footage from Armand and Michaela Denis was shown in documentaries, expectations of the species we may see were kept low just in case of disappointment but hopes were high!
The big day arrived and high winds around the north of England meant our flight to Heathrow was delayed, arrived at Heathrow to find our flight to Johannesburg was delayed, arrived at Johannesburg to find our flight to Port Elizabeth was...delayed! None of the delays was drastic so all in all not too bad.
A driver was at Port Elizabeth to take us the hour and a half or so journey to the Amakhala Game Reserve, some interesting local history from the driver and our mounting excitement kept us awake.
Soon enough we reached Woodbury Lodge, one of several lodges within the fenced reserve. After completing the necessary booking we were shown to our home for five nights, well equipped and very clean with a balcony looking out over foliage and plains, splendid!
A game drive would be departing soon we were told, we had a brief chat and decided to pass on that one to get some rest after our 24 hour journey, our bodies told us that being fresh and ready for an early start the next day would be beneficial.
A superb evening meal was enjoyed and we met our guide for the next few days a very personable young man named Seamus, South African born but schooled at Sedbergh not far from us while his parents were working in England.
A schedule was established, 5.15am alarm time for a wash and a morning brew then out in the jeeps at 6.00am for three hours plus morning drive. Back for breakfast, then a shower and then some time to ourselves until lunch at 2.00pm. Afternoon/evening drive at 3.30pm and out until darkness fell, dinner at 7.30....a routine we came to know well!
So on with the adventure and some photographs...
The morning drives were cold, the dark nights and the African spring hardly under way meant hat, gloves and padded jacket were necessary, research well rewarded.
Seamus was a keen birder and was only too happy to stop the jeep to point out some of the spectacular birds he spotted or indeed to help identify ones we or other guests saw alongside the rutted tracks we bounced along, heads or hands outside the vehicle were strongly advised against as we scraped through sharp thornbushes!
Next up was a surprise and prolonged view of a yellow mongoose hunting in some scrub, it came really close as we watched.
One of the daytime activities we had looked forward to was a riverboat cruise, drought conditions in preceeding weeks meant water levels were too low so observing the plains from the elevated sun decks and our balcony were good ways to spend our leisure time. Zebra, giraffe and various antelope could be seen plus lots of birds nearby.
The afternoon drive started in warm sunshine but would end in cold darkness so the cold weather gear was packed in readiness.
Time for our dinner/evening meal when we got back, another splendid meal. Alarm set and ready to go again!
The drivers from the various lodges are all in radio contact for two reasons, to share knowledge and to minimise stress on the animals. Only two vehicles are allowed in the vicinity of the larger animals, a code was used so the species name could not be overheard by passengers. Seamus steered us towards an area of long whispy grass, no thorns and little cover to be seen...why?
Next, something a little larger!
Driving straight into the sun we see two large birds showing display signs, fellow photographers will know the difficulty of taking shots into the sun...I went into experimental mode!
We attempted to pass by so slowly they would not be disturbed but as expected one took off but landed nearby.
Many guests are doing the Garden Route which starts at Capetown and only stay a day or two on the reserve so there was a constant flow of new people to meet and chat with, all with an interest in wildlife and surprisingly few in photography so my photographs became "in demand".
We then had a mini drama as an elephant herd inadvertently almost had us encircled, the guides are ever so vigilant but on this occasion everyone on the jeep had to keep an eye on their section of view as one animal disappeared in a direction which was our way out. Fortunately we edged our way through with no scares!
Another cheetah sighting, dozing in the shade of a bush but ever so alert!
Our last morning and Seamus is trying to get me a sighting of a spectacular bird which does a display flight around sunrise. We head up to the rim of the bowl, formerly a lake the Bushman River is a remnant of those times.
Mist abounds, shutter speed tests are not good but I am as ready as I can be......
After a hearty breakfast we bade a moist eyed farewell to the team at Woodbury Lodge especially Seamus with whom we enjoyed some memorable times. Our packing had been started the previous day in preparation so the rest was fairly easy.
Our driver arrived on time and the journey to St Francis commenced, more local history as we travelled.
St Francis Bay and Cape St Frances sit adjacently as their names suggest, the Indian Ocean pounds in on beaches popular with surfers but also some nice rocky scrub/heath for birders!
Our accomodation was at Sandals Bed and Breakfast, we were shown to a lovely garden apartment, no need to unpack much for a three night stay. A restaurant five minutes walk away was recommended and with a Spar shop a few minutes away too shopping was easy.
What followed as we sat on rocks looking out to see will live with us forever, a head popped up..."Josie there might be a seal" " Do seals have tails?" " No!!!" An african clawless otter, then its mate with a live octopus which they feasted on less than five yards away, one even came close to sniff the air as we sat motionless, it seemed fascinated by the click of the camera.
More beach watching...
I was patrolling the pools looking for waders when Josie ran down to alert me to breaching whales!
And to end our all creatures great and small expedition..........what else but the tiny but mighty dung beetle :)
Shoving crap uphill will be all too familiar to many, this little guy does by necessity and instinct and has my admiration.
My photograph of the holiday?
So the journey was reversed, a small part of our hearts left forever in Africa, superb wildlife and accomodation, above all lovely friendly people and memories that will last forever
So dreams can become reality, keep your dreams alive, one day they may happen.
Many thanks to all who read the blog, please don't forget if you do comment they come to me first for moderation.