Getting to South Africa

The trip over to South Africa was once again for us, a trip through Europe. This time however, it would be England. The previous trip had been an incredibly hot day in Switzerland during the summer. This time, London in the winter. While not snowing, England did stick to its usual cold and wet. The flight from Miami to London was pretty uneventful, with the exception of the food - well - just to say - it was - nowhere near the standard of Swiss! But, again, the ease of getting to Miami, getting on the flight and heading to London was easy. The landing was in the very early morning at Heathrow, in the dark, and the first trip through the new terminal 5 at Heathrow. Not good - Deb got tangled with a lady on the escalator that ended up with a gash on the back of her head, probably a mild concussion and time spent with emergency services, who I will say were INCREDIBLY professional and helpful. We finally managed to get the underground into London - Octavious’ first ride on the London underground (otherwise referred to later as Mind the Gap). As soon as we hit the streets on London, the rain started, which along with a cold wind, make it not the best. We did see Buckingham Palace, Nelson’s Column, The Mall with all it’s historical buildings and Clarence House to name a few. A typical English breakfast at a pub went down and hit the spot. Finally, with the weather being what it was, we settled on going to visit our friends for the afternoon a little earlier than expected and after a few hours, it was back to the airport to deal with Terminal 5 again and the overnight flight to South Africa.

Addo Elephant Park

After the weekend in Johannesburg, it was time to head to probably our favorite game park in South Africa, Addo Elephant Park close to Port Elizabeth. The short flight from Johannesburg got us into a sunny Port Elizabeth, and picking up the rental car. Wait - everything is on the other side of the car and people are driving on the other side of the road - oh - of course - we are in South Africa. Quick adaptation to the driving conditions took up heading north up the coast towards Addo. A stop at a very conveniently placed Spar supermarket for food and supplies for our cabin and we headed to the park. Checked into the park and then headed to our cabin at the Matyholweni Rest Camp. This is a new rest camp in the newly expanded southern section of the park that hadn’t been available the last time that we were at Addo. After dropping the cases and putting food and drinks into the fridge, we headed off into the park for an afternoon of game spotting. Being that we had never been to this part of the camp before, it was a little frustrating finding our way through the thick bush until we reached the open plains and there came the hoards of animals - elephant, zebra, red hartebeest and warthogs to name a few. After the game splitting, it was back to the cabin to start the wood braai (BBQ) and cook some good South African steaks and the nook through our pictures from the first day. The next morning, bacon and eggs on the balcony of the cabin in the beautiful morning light and off we headed to head through the park to the north side of the park and areas that we were familiar with. Again, hoards of animals including a breeding herd of elephant that we had seen the afternoon before. Included in this breeding herd were two baby elephants - one about two and a half weeks old and the other about 3 weeks old. Also seen on this long days drive, the bones and hide of a buffalo that must have been killed or died a few weeks previously. However, the elusive lion that now inhabit the park were not seen. Day 3 broke with breakfast on the balcony again and packing up to head further down the coast to Knysna. But, we could not leave the park without trying to find those elusive lion. And, the patience was finally rewarded when, with the help of other visitors to the park, we were directed to a location where, from behind some bushes, two male lions sat and then finally lay down in the shade of a big tree to avoid what would be the heat of the day. The final sighting as we left the park - Octavious’ favorite - the flightless dung beetle. Another wonderful 3 days spent in the most wonderful park.

The Shark Dive

During one of our previous trips to South Africa when it was just the two of us, we had attempted to do a shark dive - diving in a cage in the water with Great White Sharks - but with no luck. The day out on the ocean was stunning, but the sharks, otherwise known as Johnny Uptails, didn’t come out to play and we left disappointed. In the planning of this trip, we decided that we had to try and do this again, and we booked our dive. After the confirmation the day before, we set off for Mossel Bay from our temporary home in Knysna. What we didn’t realize at the time was the number of tourists )other than ourselves) that were on the roads - and - the final few minutes to get to and find the offices of the dive company were a little tense. After the briefing on the trip, we walked down from the offices to the harbor and climbed on our ride for the open ocean, the Shark Warrior. A 15 minute boat ride out from the harbor and the boat anchored. The captain started to give his information on the afternoon’s activities, when two sharks made an appearance - the first being a 3.2m (about 12 foot) shark and a smaller 1.8m (about 6 foot) shark. Frantic preparations from the crew to get the cage in the water and the first group, including Deb and Octavious (Mark was sick - not sea sick - flu sick) were in the cage and viewing the sharks up close and personal. They stayed in the cage for about 15 minutes while the crew enticed the sharks closer and closer to the cage to get much closer viewing. Two more groups in and out of the cage and suddenly it was time to take our leave of our water bound friends and head back to the harbor, the office to get our tee shirts and souvenirs and the drive back to our overnight stay in Knysna.

Thornwood Lodge

One of our major “wants” for this trip, apart from spending Christmas with family and seeing all the family was to hopefully have a long weekend away with all the family together so we could all relax, have fun and spend the time together that we normally don’t get on our trips over. A private lodge turned out to be the best place. A few hours drive from Johannesburg to the lodge where we all had a wonderful relaxing weekend, catching up, eating and having a lot of fun together. All families should do this every once in a while - it’s so worth it!

Getting Home

All too quickly, as with all vacations, it was time to take our leave of South Africa after almost 3 totally fun filled weeks. The morning of the departure was spent taking in the huge souvenir location about an hour from the house - buying our final gifts and spending our last South African Rand currency and then back to the house to repack the suitcases and then, after lunch, taking the train to the airport - OR Tambo International Airport for our long ride home. Overnight from Johannesburg to London and then after a few hours in London, the London to Miami leg. Tired, sleepy, not exactly fresh smelling after 30 hours of traveling and it was finally home to drop the suitcases, climb into showers and finally collapse into bed. Another lovely vacation, many wonderful memories and - to start planning the next trip...