Plettenberg Bay – Garden Route

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We left Kwandwe Game Reserve after a wonderful 4-day safari and drove to Plettenberg Bay, an idyllic spot between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. We arrived at the colonial hotel which is part of a 700 hectare estate. There were only 11 rooms in the estate making the hotel a pawn in the midst of an enormous farmland filled with polo fields and pavilions. The estate was truly spectacular with immaculately kept fields and hundreds of polo horses in various stables dotted about the land. We spent the first afternoon exploring the estate on the complementary quad bikes that were for guests use only. I made good use of this spending most of my days racing around the grounds. Such good fun.

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The following day we visited a monkey sanctuary, where abused, mistreated or saved monkeys are kept in safety. We walked around the open enclosure with monkeys jumping and running all around us. One boy was playing with a little toy and a monkey stole it directly from his hands. He held back his tears for the remainder of the tour and was rewarded with the same toy from the gift shop.

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After MonkeyLand we had a delicious lunch in Plettenberg Bay overlooking the ocean and returned to the estate for a relaxing afternoon.

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Our second last day in South Africa was spent zip wiring through the trees and walking with cheetahs and lions!

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We visited Tenikwa – a wild cat sanctuary (similar to MonkeyLand, only with bigger, more ferocious animals). We had a great tour learning about all the wild cats including caracals, leopards, cheetahs and lions. We walked in the enclosure with the big cats which was amazing. Seeing these majestic animals so close is very cool indeed.

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In the afternoon, we drove to Tsitsikamma for a little adrenaline, to zip wire through the trees which was a fun way to spend the afternoon.

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On our last day in South Africa, we went on a long walk around the cliffs of Robberg. We spent a few hours hiking up and down, passing pristine, empty beaches and watching seals play around in the water. The views from Robberg were absolutely stunning and it was a lovely end to our 2 week trip in South Africa.

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Africa itself is a very special place and South Africa is no different. This country is utterly beautiful with such a variety of landscape; from beaches, to mountains to bush. South Africa really has it all and our two weeks here have been extremely enjoyable.

The country is still, after 20 years, affected by severe income inequalities, and racial differences/ tensions are only improving at a slow pace. However, after having seen and experienced first hand the extremely positive projects and initiatives that are happening all over the country, South Africa has a very bright future.     DSC04236

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Safari at Kwandwe Game Reserve, South Africa

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After four days in Cape Town, we took a flight to Port Elizabeth and then drove two hours inland to Kwandwe Game Reserve for a safari.

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We spent four days here and went on two game drives a day. One in the early morning and one early evening.

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The landscape was beautiful, and the greenery flush and healthy albeit extremely dense, making some animals tricky to find. We did see some incredible animals though, ranging from cheetahs to lions to rhinos to elephants.

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The small lodge in the middle of the bush was beautiful and the food delicious. A part from one day of heavy rain, our stay at Kwandwe was extremely enjoyable and the wildlife mesmerizing. Tracking and finding wild animals in their natural environment is truly an amazing experience.

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Cape Town, South Africa

DSC03843We arrived into Cape Town early on Sunday morning and drove to our hotel – 12 Apostles – a beautiful hotel on the water front. Sunday was a relaxed and peaceful day (how Sunday’s should be), which consisted of visiting local areas and eating delicious seafood. We spent the evening at Kirstenbosch botanical gardens listening to Jonny Clegg, a well-known African singer, which was a great way to start our holiday in South Africa.

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The following day, we awoke at 6:30 for our hike up table top mountain (one of the seven natural wonders of the world). After breakfast we drove to the bottom of the mountain and met our lovely guide. We spent the next two hours climbing up the mountain pass to reach the summit at around 10:00 when the sun really started to beat down. The view from the top was magnificent. You could see the entirety of Cape Town and the surrounding areas. We wandered about the top for an hour or so, admiring the views before taking the cable car back down to the bottom. The trek was fairly tough, mainly due to the heat, however, the views were totally worth it. The table top mountains are quite a remarkable feat of nature.DSC03813

On day 3, we drove to Simon’s Town, in our rented minivan, to kayak and see penguins and seals. This was great fun, although Simon’s Town is the military naval base of South Africa and mid-kayak, heavy gunfire started to go off. This continued intermittently for the next hour. Even though, it was just a training exercise, kayaking amidst gunfire is not the most relaxing way to visit the local area and appreciate the wildlife. The wind also became very strong towards the end of the tour, and so the adventure was more of a workout than a peaceful ocean outing. Fantastic to see penguins nonetheless. DSC03825

In the afternoon, we drove to the most Southern point of Africa!! The cape of good hope. The scenic drive was truly spectacular as well as the views over the cape. This point is where the Pacific and Indian Oceans meet, and our presence seemed unnoticeable amongst the sheer size of open water that spanned as far as the eye could see.DSC03891

On our last and final day in Cape Town, we visited the townships with a fantastic organisation called Uthando, who support local initiatives and projects in the community. We first stopped at a young education centre for girls with the main aim of empowering women. The centre was beautifully built and there was even a rooftop garden patch; the first in the township.DSC03879

After hearing the deeply saddening stories and history of South Africa in recent times, it is truly inspiring to see such great initiatives. It demonstrates the intelligence, motivation and drive of the people and how they want to improve and achieve success, however, with a corrupt president and government, this challenge is only made more difficult.DSC03886

Our second stop was to a primary school that suffered repeated vandalism. The kids wanted to make the facade look appealing and give the school something different and useful. The kids had made a garden patch at the front of the school growing all kinds of fruits and vegetables. It was another brilliant initiative rebuking the pre-conception that townships are devoid of prosperity and opportunity.DSC03893

The third and final stop was to a school, deep in the township, where two ex-convicts were teaching people how to code and programme computers. This stop for me, was the most inspiring. After spending 11 years in prison, Sikl (the teacher) decided to turn his life around and looked for the skills that he believed would be relevant in 10 years time – coding. He taught himself to code in 3 languages in 6 weeks time, using solely online based platforms and going to free wi-fi zones. He later decided to pass on his knowledge to students and co-founded the brothers for all foundation teaching anyone who is keen, to learn how to code. He has been tremendously successful, as his students get jobs after about 2 months of coding. This consequently gives them a much-needed income to live, and support their families. Listening to Sikl speak was inspiring. You could hear the passion in his voice and what a great leader and teacher he was.

We drove back to the hotel, after having witnessed three truly inspiring projects that are helping improve the lives of people living in the townships. DSC03875

South Africa is unfortunately still a nation experiencing many hardships and Cape Town, despite being beautiful, is clearly divided into two; the rich whites and the poorer blacks. Apartheid only ended just over 20 years ago and the country has yet to fully recover. With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela and the incumbent president Jacob Zuma, the current government is not leading the country in the direction it could and should be going.

South Africa is still the most economically stable country in Africa (with Nigeria close behind) yet the economic state is back to Apartheid levels with debt rising and GDP decreasing. Immigration is also a huge problem, as people flock in from Somalia, Congo, Zimbabwe and other nations looking for work and a better life.

Cape Town is truly a beautiful city with stunning scenery, however, the whole experience is marred by the clear race division which is only improving at a very slow pace.

Expression Is Enough

DSC01746Mogundula Island, Mozambique.

We arrived by boat to this secluded island which is 4 kilometres off the mainland of Northern Mozambique. As soon as we debarked the boat, our presence was immediately noticed. Our white skin was a rarity on this undisturbed land where there was no running water or electricity.  We pitched our tents and starting exploring with our guide. Within the first few minutes, we were surrounded by local children who were fascinated not only by our skin but by my camera. I took photos and videos of the children and replayed it back to them. They ran around shouting and screaming in awe of the technology and of having seen themselves on the camera screen. They followed us around the entire island making the most of the passing tourists. Unfortunately, after a while they started nagging us for our possessions (hat, sunglasses, bracelet etc). There were about 30 children around us and to give to one would only incite jealousy with the others.

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During the tour, I took photos completely at random. The result was exactly what I wanted. The expression on their faces says it all. The joy and excitement evoked by the children, their willingness to play and enjoy the passers-by. Their happiness yet shallow desperation and curiosity as to who we are and where we are from.DSC01733We only spent one brief night here, however one night was enough. Apart from the beautiful view there is very little to do and very little opportunity on this island. Tourists come and go however the locals have no way of escaping their antiquated way of life with the little income they make. Mogundula island stands still in history.

A Silversmith at Work, Mozambique

DSC01663We visited this Silversmith on Ibo Island, Mozambique. Inside a run down shack, which overlooked the waterfront, were three men crafting hand made jewellery. There was a tranquil yet wearisome atmosphere in the shack where time passed slowly and every day was the same. The island (which is far behind the efficiencies of the western world) felt in need of a change, a rejuvenation to break through the barriers of monotony and inject new life into its inhabitants. Unfortunately the Mozambican government is unable provide this.  DSC01668