“I want to make memories all over the World”
South Africa is located at the southern tip of Africa It is bordered by Namibia,Botswana, Zimbabwe,Mozambique,Swaziland and Lesotho (which is completely surrounded by South Africa). It is a vast country with widely varying landscapes and has 11 official languages, as well as an equally diverse population. South Africa is renowned for its wines and is one of the world’s largest producers of gold. South Africa is also known for its wild life and there are many Game reserves to take you on a Safari. South Africa has the strongest economy in Africa, and is an influential player in African politics. In 2010, South Africa hosted the first Football World Cup to be held on the African continent.
A Brief History : The first Europeans to reach South Africa were the Portuguese, who named the end of the country “Cape of Good Hope” in 1488, when they managed to sail around it to reach India. Permanent European settlement was only built at Cape Town after the Dutch East India Company reached the Cape of Good Hope in April 1652.The British came in 1795.The Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, consolidating the various Boer( Dutch for Farmers) republics and British colonies into a unified state as a member of the British Commonwealth. In 1961, the Republic of South Africa was formed and SA exited the Commonwealth.Meanwhile, during the early 20th century, a number of Afrikaner thinkers began to articulate a philosophy of white supremacy.
This philosophy was given a theological foundation by the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, which preached that there would be no equality in church or state.TheNational Party brought in several laws which segregated the population according to race white, blacks and coloured.The infamous Apartheid isolated South Africa from the rest of the world There was state control on media, freedom of free speech and assembly all controlled in the name of fighting communism.International sanctions and internal strife took a great toll on the nation.The National party and the leaders of African National Congress started negotiating and in April 1994 Apartheid ended and the first election took place in which adult citizens could vote. Nelson Mandela became the country’s first democratically elected President.
As South Africa lies in the Southern Hemisphere the seasons are opposite to that of the Northern Hemisphere.Summers are from November- March temp goes up to 35 degrees,Autumn is April-May,Winter is June-August temperatures are around ten degrees.Spring is September- October. I found the best time to visit was April-May.
I was excited about my trip to South Africa after searching the net for days we zeroed on the travel company “Seventh Sky Tours and Travels”. After checking the itinerary on line we(my roomie for the trip) made a visit to their office in South Mumbai and after seeing a PPT presentation we were sure, and so we booked our seats with the company.Visa formalities followed and finally the D-day arrived.Our Flights were booked with Air Seychelles which was departing at 05.30. I reached the airport at 01.45 but had to wait for my roomie as she wanted to do the check in together, she got delayed and reached the airport at 02.30 there was a long queue by then and by the time we reached the counter they told us that the flight is full !!!!!!! Can you imagine the panic we were in? Often airlines overbook during peak seasons as was the case now.I had experienced a similar situation during our trip to Kashmir with Indigo Airlines.After a lot of fighting and also the intervention of the tour manager Mr Jameel we got our seats it was such a relief !!! (We were not so lucky with Indigo they made us pay for fresh tickets for the next day) The flight was an hour late.We landed at the beautiful Seychelles airport at 10 am Seychelles time( Seychelles is behind 1 ½ hour from Indian time)The flight duration is 4 hours.Our connecting flight to Johanesberg was in fact waiting as all the passengers were traveling to Johanesberg.The flight took off at 10.30 am and landed at 1300 hrs South Africa time.South Africa is behind two hours, from Seychelles and it took us five hours.So the total flying time was 9 hours, flying through two different time zones and to an opposite hemisphere which I found quite overwhelming.Surprisingly I didn’t feel jetlagged at all.
We bought sim cards at the airport itself I bought one for 200 Rands( 1 Rand= 5.70 INR) with data and calling time which saw me through the trip. After buying our Sims we met our Guide who was waiting for us at the entrance of the airport.The Bus/Coach was a good one with a toilet, as the drive to SunCity was about 3 hours, on our way one of the tyres of the coach/bus burst but the Coach/Bus had a backup tyre( the coach had double tyres) as a result the driver could continue driving without changing the tyre albeit the speed reduced a bit. We reached the hotel at about 1800 hours.We were booked into Hotel Cabanas for two nights.
After settling down we had dinner at Raj an Indian restaurant which is at a walking distance from the hotel.
After dinner we called it a day.The next day was a relaxed day, going around Sun City and trying out the different activities.
Day 2 – Sun-City
One of Africa’s premier vacation destinations, Sun-City in South Africa is a luxury resort internationally recognized for its world class hotels,restaurants,attractions and world class events.It is located between the Elands river and the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.You can choose a variety of activities according to your interest. Sun- City is home to two Water Theme Parks one dedicated to slides and rides and the other action packed water sports like jet ski and fun of bumper boats.The most visited is the water park “Valley of Waves”.
We got up early and decided to have breakfast it was only 7 (Its always good to go early for buffet breakfast to avoid the crowd).We slipped into our warm jackets and pulled up the hoody as it was very cold,the temp was about 5 degrees.We were delighted to find peacocks roaming around freely and clicked a few snaps of the birds.
I settled in with delicious waffles with lots of cream and a omelette with peppers and mushrooms.After a relaxed breakfast we met our tour manager who gave us the map of Sun-City and after discussing with him he suggested us to take the activity “ Walk with Lions” we booked the tour at the reception the charges for the activity is Rands 800 per person and charges for the vehicle Rands 1300 which seats 7 persons, after asking the Vanjamis and the Mahendras we fixed the pick up time at 1400 hrs.
We decided to go to the Valley of Waves before lunch.The Valley of Waves provides hours of entertainment and fun in the sun for the whole family with the amazing Roaring Lagoon in its centre a 6500 square metre wave pool with hydraulic mechanisms that generate waves of nearly 2 metres high.The wave pool is surrounded by soft white sandy beaches for relaxation and playing games,the meandering lazy river for a gentle tube ride and the exhilrating water slides like the Temple of courage and the Boomerango for the more adventurous.Valley of Waves is open from 9 am- 6 pm during summers and 10 am – 5 pm during winters. There are shuttle buses plying regularly to take you to different destinations.We took a shuttle bus to the Welcome Centre a buzzing place with restaurants,coffee shops and shops.
Inside the Welcome Centre
After walking for sometime and taking two escalators we finally reached the gate of the Valley of Waves.
The entrance is well guarded with huge elephant Sculptures.Entry is free for all those staying in Sun City.You have to show your Hotel Card after that like most resorts a band is tied around your wrist.Carry your swim wear as you wont be allowed inside the water activities without wearing suitable swim wear.
There are changing rooms and electronic lockers you can rent one for Rands 60.Its quite big and two people can easily keep their stuff.There were not many people around, we were the only ones from the group braving the cold to head for the water activities.
We first had some adventure at the Courage water slide, surrounded by darkness, armed with nothing else but a tube, you charge through channels of mountain terrain at breathtaking speed. Echoing your own screams of terror is the person hurtling down the mountainside behind you.After a mind boggling ride we decided to relax on the lazy river. We took a twin tube after a short drift,you will be greeted with cold sprays on your face, the first hit was numbing after that we were careful and ditched the sprinklers,the river endlessly meanders through the valley for about 500 metres and there are no exits in between, so we were kind of stuck, at last after an hour we reached the starting point which is also the end point. The water temperature was 14 degree and we were feeling very cold and were shivering, so we sat in the sun for sometime and then headed to the Wave Pool and delightfully drowned ourselves in the gigantic waves.After showering and changing,we took the transit bus to Soho where the Restaurant Raj is located.By the time we quietened our rumbling stomachs it was already 1345 hrs and our pick up was 1400 hrs for the exciting “Walk with the Lions” which was in Kudusrus Game reserve near Pilanesberg.
Its an hours drive from our Hotel Cabanas in Sun city. After making the payments and signing the indemnity bond( I signed on behalf of the group since the tour was booked in my name).We were given instructions like not to walk ahead of the lions, not to carry bags,avoid flowing clothes anything flying or hanging attracts their attention and they will try to take it. Not to scream or talk loudly.With 6 handlers two women and four men we set out at about 1530 hrs to experience something which I had never thought of doing that is Walking with Lions.There was a pride of five lions and one Tiger who were about 7 months old but were quite big in size.These cubs are taken away from the mother when they are ten days old and trained(sad !!!) to walk and interact with humans.When they are a year old they are back to the enclosures as it is difficult to control them.
After they were let out of the enclosures, like playful children they raced out pushing each other and playfully biting each other.The tiger was very naughty and was up to some or the other trick.
We were all excited and took lots of photographs touching the majestic animals.One lion took a particular liking to me and pawed twice,once from the front which is unusual and once from the back, but I kept my cool and didn’t scream.(There were paw marks on my jacket and it got slightly torn)
After walking for about half an hour we reached a pond and behold ! all of them jumped inside and refused to come out, they lazed around and we had a good chance to click many photos.After a lot of cajoling they finally came out of the water and after walking for another 30 mins it was time to head back.
Now was the difficult time for the trainers for the pride refused to head back we had to wait for them to walk ahead.
On the way back one of them was eying Mrs Vanjami’s flowing dupatta and finally jumped on her to grab the duppata from behind ,poor lady fell and was a bit shaken up.But no harm done.
After the walk we had a tour where we met Tigers,White Tigers,Lions,White Lions,Spotted Cheetahs, and a unique animal known as Servels (they are a mix between cat and fox).
We saw Tigers and Lions from age 2 –11 years.There are 35 Lions and in total 50 animals in the reserve.After enjoying a close view of these majestic animals.
It was time to interact with the cubs they were a month old but looked quite big.There was hyena cub too,he was very aggressive the reason being he was weaned away from milk which he disliked so he was sulking..I particularly enjoyed playing with the cubs.
We were offered refreshing juice when we came back to the reception. We left at 1745 hrs and reached the hotel at 1830 hrs with a lifetime experience and stories to tell other group members, who preferred to stay at the hotel, as to what they had missed !!!. We had an early dinner and also spent some time in the Casino some from the group played and made some money.
The next morning we drove to Mabula Game Reserve where we had a night stay in a beautiful cottage in the forest. Mabula Game Reserve is a private game reserve situated in the Limpopo province of South Africa.It is about 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) in area and is about 47 km from Bela Bela (Warmbaths). The current owner of Mabula Game Reserve is the Indian businessman and liquor baron Vijaya Mallaya.
We started from Sun City at 1035 hrs and reached Mabula at 1345 hrs it took us about 3 hours 15 minutes. On the way we had the introductions as this was the time when the entire group was together.We were 32 in all including the tour manager.There were the Jains who were ten of them a very nice and cultured family,the Dubeys,Col and his family,the Dalvis and the Mahendras So it was mix of children and adults.After the intro round we played Antakshari which was fun, with both groups not ready to give up. On reaching Mabula we had a short briefing and after collecting our keys we headed to our beautiful cottage.Lunch was a spread of Indian and Continental. After lunch we gathered for some tea and it was time to head for the Safari 9 people could sit on the open jeep.
We started around 1530 hrs and there was lot of excitement when we sighted the first Zebra(I had never seen a Zebra before) after that we saw a Dazzle( a group of zebras) Zebras, A Tower of Giraffes,A Sounder of Wild boars, a Herd of Deer, Two horned Rhinos and Kulus( a cross between a donkey and a goat.)
After a two hour drive we returned to the hotel, Hot Pakoras and piping hot ginger tea was awaiting, after chit chatting and enjoying the cuppa( the tea was welcome change as it was not the the usual tea bags that is served in the hotels) We had an early dinner at 7 and crashed on the bed as we had a long day.
We got up at 4 am as we were going for the morning safari to spot Lions.We left at 6 am and we were driving through a different part of the forest which is exclusive for the lions.It was exhilrating driving through the cold winds and witness the sun rising.
We spotted herds of deer and elephants and the treat was a very close encounter with the famous two horned Rhinos.
We were emotional to sight a mother Rhino with her calf.The mother was very protective of the baby.The Cameras went click click.After witnessing this we were now expectantly looking out for the Lions there are six Lions in the reserve but we could not spot even one! We returned to the hotel very disappointed.
My mind was etched with the picture of the mother and her baby and somewhat compensated for not sighting the lions.After a hearty breakfast we left for Johanesberg at 9.15 am to catch our flight to Cape town.We had a mandatory break at 11.15 am.The break was welcome as we could stretch our legs and have some coffee.We reached Johanesberg Airport at 12 pm, packed lunch of biryani ,raita and gulab jamun and a cold drink was served.After checking in, we had our packed lunch.The flight was delayed and it finally took off at 3 pm. We landed at 5 pm at Cape Town and the sun was about to set.We were met by our Guide Mr Alladin a 55 year young(as told by him he refused to call himself old) a jovial man full of stories.He is a storehouse of information, but sadly there were few takers for his information, but I encouraged him to share his experience and knowledge with me.There was a bit of confusion at the airport it happened due to the bad planning by the tour company, the Coach/Bus was not comfortable and the luggage could not be fitted properly, as a result we had to keep some of the smaller bags inside the coach.Barring this small incident rest of the tour was well planned.We were booked for three nights in Holiday Inn .
We had a bit of rough time again as the charger points were not working in our room ,even after repeated complaints nothing was done, we had to leave the phones and cameras at the reception for charging.We expected better service in a Hotel like Holiday Inn, something as basic as charging points should be working,the adaptor given by the company also was of no use.
Unhappy we left for dinner at an Indian restaurant “Jewel of India”.We enjoyed the delicious food and the good service of the restaurant which brought back our smiles and lifted our dampened spirits.The weather forecast was rainfall for the next day,keeping my finger crossed and a prayer on my lips I soon fell asleep.
We woke up to a cloudy sky with no sign of the sun coming up.My heart plummeted as a tour to the Table mountain was only possible with a clear sky. With a positive state of mind we boarded the coach and were delighted when Alladin announced that the Table mountain is open for tourists.
Entrance to the Table Mountain
Table Mountain is a flat topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town.It is a significant tourist attraction with many visitors using the cable way or hiking to the top.Its home to a large array of flora and fauna most of which is endemic.It forms part of the Table Mountain National Park.The elevation is 3558 ft.The tickets to the cable way is 293 Rands both ways and services start as early as 0830 hrs till 1300 hrs and 1400 hrs – 1800 hrs depending on the weather. If the winds are strong and if its raining the services are suspended.The cable rope way was started in 1929.There are two cable cars each has the capacity to carry 65 passengers.The car rotates giving each passenger of a 360 degree view of the valley.It takes about 3-4 minutes to reach the top.
The Beautiful Flora of the Table Top
We all got in excitedly inside the cars and there were exclaimations of wonder at the mersmerising view from the cable car.Photographs were taken and videos were made.We alighted at 0945 and were told to meet at the entrance at 1100 after touring the mountain top.The entire top wore a blanket of fog at other times it is covered with clouds known as the “Table Cloth”.
Visibility was very poor and the dew drops falling was making our cameras and phones wet.After clicking a few photographs I kept my phone and camera in my backpack.The photos were very hazy.
I took some good close up shots of the plants and flowers.My roomie’s phone conked off, I guess it was the moisture.We started exploring the place and after sometime we could not see anyone maybe they were close by but the poor visibility made it difficult for us to see,luckily we heard some voices and we followed it and we were happy to find our group.We were nervous that we would get lost so we stuck together.There is a curios shop and also a café .I bought a fridge magnet as a piece of memorabilia of the table mountain.
The café serves delicious snacks and beverages.The Table top mountain closed for the day due to bad weather,so we were extremely lucky that we could at least go on top and enjoy the misty mountains.
After experiencing one of the seven new wonders of nature we headed to the Seal Island.
We left for Seal Island at about 1130 hrs it took us about 45 minutes to reach Houts Bay from where the boats leave for the island.The drive to the island was very beautiful with the Atlantic Ocean skirting all along the way,we came across some very beautiful bunglows of the rich and famous. Seal Island is a small land mass located 5.7 kilometres (3.5 miles) off the northern beaches of False Bay, near Cape Town in South Africa. The island is so named because of the great number of Cape Fur Seals that occupy it. It is 5 acres (2.0 hectares) in area and home to 64,000 cape fur seals.The fare for the boat ride is 450 Rands per person for adults.The timing is not fixed, it depends on the weather.Thankfully for us the sun was now shining bright and we took the boat around 12.30 pm.The sea was choppy and huge waves crashed on the sides of the boat with lots of shrieks from the passengers.
I enjoyed the beautiful view of the mountains which ran all along the coast, I soaked in nature’s marvel the sunlight created a halo around the mountains and the shimmering sea added to its ethereal beauty.It took us about 20 minutes to reach the island.
We were delighted to find thousands of seals basking in the sun.The boat was anchored for about twenty minutes so that everyone could have a good view of the seals.The boat took a 360 degree turn for the return journey.It took us about an hour for our tryst with the seals.
After disembarking I fed a seal(10 rands for feeding fish to the seal) There are hawkers displaying artefacts and jewellery outside the jetty. The Dubeys bought Giraffes( wooden ones 🙂 ) to take home with them.We were given about 30 minutes to shop.We assembled at 1330 hrs and left for lunch at an Indian restaurant “The Village Buffet” in Cape Town Central.There was a good spread of vegetarian and non vegetarian food. I particularly enjoyed the sushi.For desserts there were scoops of ice cream with the sauce of your choice. (While chatting with Alladin I got the information that we can get a video of Shark Cage Diving, we were earlier told that we will not get any photos or videos of Shark Cage Diving, happy with this information I requested Mr Alladin to book a spot for me.(The activity cost is Rands 1750 per person.) Next on the itinerary was the Victoria Waterfront.
On the way to the Victoria Waterfront we passed colourful houses in Bo-khaap.We requested for a stop and took lots of photos.
Before we were dropped at the waterfront there was good news for people who had booked the helicopter ride which had earlier been cancelled due to bad weather.They could now enjoy the ride as the weather was conducive.After the helicopter group disembarked we proceeded to the The Victoria Waterfront a picturesque place to spend your evening.
Opposite to the Waterfont is the Victoria Mall, we were given 2 hours to shop.I bought some chocolates and then proceeded to sit at the waterfront and watched the sun going down, a beautiful sight !!!
At about 6 pm we started for the hotel and reached the hotel at 6.30 pm.We were delighted to find the charger points repaired.We were picked up for dinner at 7.45 pm at an Indian restaurant Vintage India satisfied with the days activities and excited about the next day I soon fell asleep.More on my visit to Cape Point,Cape of Good Hope and the Penguins of Boulders Beach and about my experience of Sky Diving and Shark Cage Diving in the Concluding part.
“ Live with no excuses and travel with no regrets”
To be continued………..