Needless to say we started off small and after experiencing this personally, I would go so far as to say that anyone who missed this opportunity while on holiday in South Africa would be completely silly. WOW WOW and WOW is all I can say because there was so much packed in. The following is a day by day account of our personal experience while on the Dive and Safari trip certainly for the adventurous!
Dreams do come True.
Everyone dreams of an African Safari, for many this dream is a bucket list wish that is. So more often than not, safari trips are over charged for and completely ridiculous to afford. I worked very hard to put something together for our clients. The ultimate dive and safari tip combining scuba diving on the world famous Aliwal Shoal and then being whisked away for three nights in a Big 5 reserve.
Day 1 – 3
We spent the first three days of the trip in Umkomaas. Penny & Luca arrived into Durban international airport and Dean & I went to collect them from the airport. Due to Penny & Luca’s adventurous spirit they had already been travelling around the Kwa-Zulu Natal interior they were ready and set for their next African adventure. Dean drove them to the guesthouse where they spent three nights on a bed & breakfast package.
Diving on Aliwal Shoal
The diving was epic, they did two baited Shark dives and 4 reef dives on Aliwal Shoal, Penny spotted the ever elusive Frog fish and so many macro organisms that I have no cooking clue on the names of but she had a blast. Unbelievably the Black tip sharks circled her on the dives and Luca really enjoyed the topography of the reef. Luca literally watched in awe as his wife had the time of her life exploring and taking pictures.
Furthermore the conditions played ball (meaning they were great) as well and we had twenty five degree water, dropping down to twenty two degrees on a bad day. Aliwal Shoal as you know, can be rather difficult and not easy at time with currents and a sudden drop in visibility however the ocean gods were on their side for sure.
As a result of the great dives the afternoons were spent relaxing at the guesthouse and strolling around the town of Umkomaas. They even ventured up to the local Spar supermarket for some fresh fruits and enjoyed evening picnics together, consequently they had a real get away with time to relax and just unwind.
Lets go on Safari
On the third day after diving we all jumped in the bus for the three and a half hour journey up to Nambithi game reserve. Let our Big 5 safari adventure begin. Being South African and having been on safari a few times you always have a certain expectations of game lodges and being on the tourist side of things…
Let’s just say we were pleasantly surprised to see how natural everything was. On arrival we were greeted by a lovely refreshing glass of juice and shown to our rooms. Due to our late arrival we “missed our scheduled afternoon drive”, this being as we had to scuba dive one last time that morning…. But our guide, William, shuffled us onto the game viewer and off we went to find the cheetahs.
Our first safari attempt
Naturally in true African style the temperature was almost forty degrees! In the distance we could see the dark African skies and the smell of rain. Afternoon showers in Africa are the norm. When our guide offered us ponchos, honestly my first reaction was to decline; however he did tell me that it would keep my camera dry. This was the deciding factor for me, however I was not in luck…
Within literally 5 minutes of me very reluctantly putting the poncho over me the heavens opened! Not only did it rain but there was hail, lightning and over 45ml of rain in under 30mins….what the??? It was a torrential downpour like I’ve not seen in years! Consequentially I got soaked but my camera stayed dry!
The roads became a playground for the 4×4 and the laughing and giggling on the back by all of us. This did not help the stress levels of our guide, poor William was in concentration mode supreme. Let’s just say that this was compared to a rough day on the ocean and Dean’s skippering skills were beating our guide. Bless, poor William was super stressed and worried all because we added to his frustration by making so much noise….we acted like silly tourists and enjoyed our true African experience.
We arrived back to our lodge to a flooded reception as a result of the heavy rain and many drowned rats, I mean guests! Too funny to hear people commenting on the weather and where it came from? Really? Where do you think it came from?
That evening we spent time chatting in the lounge area and the dinner was absolutely stunning with three courses and hence, let’s just say, a few kilograms were added to our physique.
Day 4- 6
In true safari style the next morning we were to be up at 4:45am ready for our morning game drive, it was dark outside as it was so early. As South Africa is known for power outages naturally, we had no electricity in the lodge at all. This was due to the hectic storm the evening before knocking out the southern section of the reserve…generator it was.
Dean & I scrambled in the dark to find a cup of coffee, the first attempt, was luke warm and then when I finally convinced the staff to use the gas stove to heat water so that I could at least get a cup of hot java for us!
The morning game drive was way better than our night before attempt. We got to see the Cheetah again as well as a huge list of wildlife, lion, elephant, giraffe, zebra, hippo, wildebeest, kudu, warthog and so much more. The best part was that it was up close! I always have a rule that if it is further than 10m it does not count and all these sightings were super close. Above all I have the pictures to prove it.
One thing very interesting, or two things actually… all their cats are collared so that they are able to keep track of them. Most importantly the guides are not able to see where they are, so you still have to search, but these collars allow the reserve owners to monitor the cats. How awesome is that? I actually thought that the guides were checking in the morning to see where they were so that guests got value for money! Hahaha not the case at all.
The second interesting fact was that baby Zebra’s are born with the same length legs as their mom’s so that they are able to hide behind mommy. How freaking awesome is Mother Nature? A great way to hide and avoid being eaten. It is survival of the fittest after all.
Did we talk about breakfast?
After the morning drive, breakfast was served and as usual a huge spread was available, eggs any which way you’d like, bacon, beans, chicken livers, toast chesses and a spread to match a cruise ship buffet. After that it was time to behave like a hippo at the pool.
Finally after breakfast with my book in hand and sunblock, relaxing at the pool was the perfect was to spend the rest of the morning in anticipation of the afternoon drive at 3:45pm.
Oh I forgot about lunch, well another spread to add to the hippo figure I was going for.
We all met for the afternoon game drive and were once again whisked away into the bush for a journey second to none. More wild animals that you could ever imagine. Hippos chasing birds in the ponds as they were bored. Lions languishing lazily in the long grass out of the heat! Baby giraffes drinking from their moms! As well as so many other little guys that I don’t know the name of. We had some birders join our group…never knew I could find out that much about a bird…however you have to be patient.
The evening was spent just loving life with a glass of wine. We marveled at the wonderful things we saw because there was just so much to take in!
So day three of our safari, Dean decided to veg the entire and read his book. The perfect way to relax and relax he did. I spent the morning on safari and getting ready for the next one. It was awesome and I got some great shots of the animals. We did go on a hunt for the male lions but they were hiding too well. The scenery however was simply stunning! I have to say that I’m most certainly a nature child and love being in the bush!
The final morning was left for packing and getting ready to hit the road to the airport. Sad good byes but one thing to note is even though it was short, everyone love the trip. 3 diving days and 2.5 days of safari it was well worth every single moment.
Above all there is nothing that beats the African bush and the up close encounters are out of this world. This is for sure certainly something not to be missed!
With love from Africa