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PAT and DICK'S SOUTH AFRICAN SAFARI including Victoria Falls and Botswana Jan. 2016

February 4, 2017

 

 

A WORLD IN ONE COUNTRY sure describes one of my favorite destinations, SOUTH AFRICA!

 

Dick and I and 16 others have really loved our COLLETTE EXPLORATIONS Adventure. We started out with 4 nights in what I feel is one of the two most beautiful cities on earth, Cape Town;  Sydney, Australia being the other one. We stayed at the 4/5 star at the SOUTHERN SUN WATERFRONT, within a 15 min walk to the famous Waterfront Harbor, a restaurant, entertainment and shopping Mecca. We all had dinner at the KARIBU Restaurant, located right on the harbor, offering Native Specialties like Ostrich and Bobootie, a lightly curried minced meat, baked in an oven, one of many national dishes. 

 

My favorite one day trip in the entire world was just as wonderful this time as the previous four.  We started our adventure of the Cape Peninsula driving around Table Mountain and the incredible scenery of Camps Bay Suburb, down to Hout Bay, where the water was very rough as usual. We weren't sure the boats would operate over to Seal Island, but we were lucky and got a large vessel to cruise the short distance over to see the Cape Fur Seals and resident Hump Back Whale which we were lucky to spy! Continuing down the coast you see "Amalfi" like Scenery ending at Cape Point the SW tip of the African Continent. You talk about breathtaking scenery, it's here for sure! There are two good eateries here but watch out for the bird's who will try to take the food right out of your mouth! Take the Funicular Ride up to the top for the best views and keep your eyes out for Baboons who will steal any snack you may have open if you encounter one while there! Continuing up the eastern coast you come back to Simonds Town where our wonderful Tour Mgr Roger grew up in a Naval Family (South Africa's Naval Headquarters) and the location of the Cape's other major attraction, Boulders Beach and the home of a huge colony of South African "Jack Ass" Penguins. This was a huge hit with our animal lovers! Another must see in Cape Town is KIRSTENBOSCH Botanical Gardens located in the shadows of Table Mt Range. Here you you will see myriads of the national flowers, the Proteas, if they are in season. Due to very windy conditions, the Table Mt Cable Cars were not operating which is always subject to weather conditions. One nite we had dinner in the home of a local family which our group enjoyed.

 

We had two very enjoyable winery visits in the nearby wine area of Stellenbosch. The first was the Waterford Wine Estate where we enjoyed a Dark Chocolate and Wine Tasting-pairing and the second was BLAAUKLIPPEN Wine Estate where the ladies really loved their weekly Sunday Flea Market and loaded up with practical and not so practical treasures. I got lots of unique bracelets, others got cute dresses etc. We all loved our visit to the historic University Town of Stellenbosch founded in 1678 by the Dutch Settlers which is where future groups will be spending 2 nights.

 

We left Cape town after 4 nights (which I consider the minimum to do any justice to it) and took the spectacular coastal road along False Bay stopping to see surfers ride the huge waves hoping to avoid Great White Sharks in the process! Our destination was HERMANUS, the Whale Watching Capitol of  Africa and also one of the top wine areas. The Whale Watching season goes from September to December, similar, to Lahaina, Maui which goes from December to March. We stayed at the ARABELLA COUNTRY CLUB HOTEL and SPA, a superb Golf Resort which one of our couples played. We enjoyed a cliff walk lead by Our Tour Dir. Roger offering myriads of photo opportunities of Walker Bay.This scenery

rivals the California Monterrey Coast and the French  Riviera! Try Bientang’s Cave a eatery and wine bar right on the water.

 

We flew out of Cape Town to Johannesburg and headed north to the ENTABENI GAME Conservancy, located in the Waterberg Mt. Range. Our lodge the 5 Star HANGLIP Mountain Lodge was everything you could expect in a luxury cottage complete with veranda, huge tub, and tented king size bed. The food was excellent but the piece de resistance was the totally excellent game drives. We went immediately out into the bush in our open air Land Rovers and felt we had 4 of the best Land Game Drives on the trip, full of all the major antelope/bucks like the South African Springbok, (the national symbol), Waterbuck etc. plus those funny pigs the Warthogs, which all of us both ate as well as photographed. If you told me I would enjoy their meat, over Kudu, Ostrich, Crocodile or beef, I would have said you are nuts, however, I agreed that it was delicious! We saw four of the Big Five there with the exception of the elusive Leopard, plus giraffes, Our early am game drive hit the jackpot for us and our Game Tracker/driver, Obrey when we spotted a lion couple basking in the am sun! After waiting patiently for them to start hunting, one of our two land rovers got to see the female race off after a warthog and our Land Rover immediately returned to the scene and were rewarded by a male "King of the Beast"  walking so close to our vehicle that we could reach out and touch him! We also were lucky to catch two cheetah brothers sharing their wildebeest kill. We lunched outdoors and dined one night under the stars with an outdoor Boma (African BBQ)

 

Just so you know the timing sequence for game drives, in order to have the best chance of viewing the most variety of game, you get up about 5:30 am and into the vehicles by 6, with a quick cup of coffee under your belt and often have a coffee and biscuit in the bush. After about 2 and a half to three hours, you return about 9 am for a huge breakfast. Some mornings you will have an optional Track Identification walk with your Game Tracker which is very interesting about birds, Dung Beetles etc, You can relax in the afternoon after another lunch and off you go on your 3 pm 3 hour game drive. We all loved this private game reserve and can strongly recommend it. Our Entabeni Adventure was capped off with a very exhilarating drive up a one lane “road” to the top of the Hanglip Mountain where we had Sundowners overlooking breathtaking scenery full of every type of game including Giraffes etc!

 

After an early am game drive, we drove 3 hours back to Johannesburg and went directly to Soweto, the largest township in South Africa with an estimated 4 million residents and the location of South Africa's independence led by Nelson Mandela.

 We hired a local resident guide for a memorable tour of this "city within a city". My first visit there was in 1981 during Apartheid and it was nothing but a huge slum full of tin shacks as it was in 2000 and 2004 visits. This time there was a huge improvement as the South African Government has built myriads of "matchbox" houses and torn down a lot of the shacks. We got a very good appreciation of what Nelson Mandela and fellow patriots went thru to gain their freedom. By the way, the movie MANDELA can be seen on Netflix and I recommend it. 

         

We flew up to Victoria Falls on the 8th day and checked into the VICTORIA FALLS SAFARI LODGE, a rustic 4 star resort overlooking a watering hole where upon arrival we saw a small herd of elephants drinking, which raised a lot of excitement with our group. We started right out with a walk around Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, including Rio Harbor, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef among others. Since it is summer, and the water flow is beginning to increase, it was a good time to view the falls because the last time I was there it was in May and you were soaked with mist from the Falls and couldn't see very much. Most of our group took the Flight of the Angels helicopter rides and the ones who took the short rides said it was not necessary to take the more expensive longer one. Fyi. They all recommended it!

 

We paid a visit to a local native village Chief who was in charge of about 3000 people and was the head of arbitration in the village for disciplinary actions. Villagers are very neighborhood conscious and all try to help each other out with problems. There are three major tribes in Zimbabwe and his was the NDEBELE Tribe. After looking around this tidy village with its Mud Huts we drove to the Elephant Rescue Reserve where we were able to feed these magnificent creatures and pet them as well as Sylvester the Cheetah, a two year old Orphan who would have to live his life there as he doesn't understand how to operate as a Cheetah Predator. He'll remain a Cat Ambassador the rest of his life being petted and fed. We really loved this visit and got a lot of laughs from the video they made of all of us interacting with the pachyderms and Sylvester. If you want to take a short elephant ride, that's possible too, but most of us were happy just meeting these giants close up and personal!

 

Our final safari destination was the gigantic (size of New Jersey) Chobe National Park which was located only about an hour over the Botswana Border from Vic Falls. There was no longer any charge for US citizens for visas, and we only paid $45 cash for a double entry visa to enter Zimbabwe. While on the financial subject, Botswana only has 2 million citizens and the country is doing much better financially than its two neighbors, Zim. And SA. due to its Diamond Mines, strong tourism industry and stable government. Both of its neighbors have seriously falling currency, as the SA Rand deflated about 30 percent the first week of 2016 alone which made everything we purchased a screaming bargain! Botswana is mostly desert intertwined by the Chobe River where our CHOBE MARINA LODGE was located. The Okavango River Delta which flows all the way from Angola and Central Africa into the Zambezi River takes up a huge area where you find world class lodges offering incredible Water Animal Viewing Experiences. We took two cruises on the Chobe River bordered on the opposite bank by Namibia. I absolutely love looking at Hippos and we saw dozens, splashing in and out of the River and some with newborn babies, sooo cute! I learned that Hippos can't swim and can only bounce up and down on River bottoms to move around and can stay under the water for up to 6 minutes!  We saw a herd of elephants with babies and learned that elephants can swim and are good at it. Botswana has many thousands of elephants which usually can be seen along the river banks but not as much in the summer rainy season.

 

Well, all 18 of us agreed that this Safari Adventure more than lived up to our expectations, and we all made new friends as well with age ranges from the 20s to 70s. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT THESE DESTINATIONS, PLEASE GIVE ME A CALL. I CAN TELL YOU THAT COLLETTE VACATIONS, A 98 PLUS YEAR OLD FAMILY OWNED US TOUR OPERATOR EXCEEDED OUR EXPECTATIONS. OUR WHOLE TRIP INCLUDING AIR WAS ONLY ABOUT ½ THE COST OF MOST AFRICAN TOURS INCLUDING 4 AND 5 STAR HOTELS AND MOST MEALS!

 

PAT CRONENBERG 513 200 5488

 

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS IN THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY

 

 

 

 

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