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African Penguins, ostriches, scenic coastline, Cape of Good Hope, lighthouse, and Table Mountain cable car! So much to do & see on the peninsula!

sunny 20 °C

I spent a few days in the Cape Peninsula (the area from Cape Town, south all the way to the Cape of Good Hope). One morning I took the train from Simonstown up to Cape Town. It took about an hour and cost $2 Canadian! Steal of a deal compared to a taxi which would've cost $46 Canadian. And very scenic as it follows the coastline for quite a ways before cutting inland. If you travel the way the locals do, you can save alot of money! From the train station in Cape Town I took a cab up to Table Mountain to take the cable car to the top.
But it was too windy so the cable car was closed :( And here I thought I had picked a good day cuz it was sunny and clear, with barely a breeze, but at the top of the mountain that breeze was wind. I stuck around for 2hrs waiting for the wind to die down (no point in heading back to Simonstown just yet, I came all this way, I wanted to see something!). This was the view from the lower cable station.
While waiting there were a few gift shops to look through, a place to grab a cheap lunch (chicken & mushroom pie for $2.25 Canadian), an ice cream booth, etc. After the 2hr wait I was in luck! The wind died down and they opened the gates. It cost $205 Rand ($26 Canadian). It only took 4min to ascend 1065m (3195ft)! It rotated 360 degrees as it rose, so no matter where u stand u get a good view, just make sure to grab a spot by a window ... unless your scared of heights, its really high!
Follow the cables ... aaaaaaall the waaaaaay down! Thats how high 1065m is! If the cables look nearly vertical to you, thats because they are! By far the steepest cable car I've ever been on!
Once at the top, it was FREEZING cold!! The sign at the lower cable station said it was +3C at the top, but with the windchill it was below freezing! Bring a jacket for sure! I had a hoodie & jacket, but could have also used a toque & gloves ... my fingers were freezing from taking photos. There were many trails to follow with signage explaining the flora, history, etc. I only stayed up there about 20min or so, cuz it was THAT cold & windy. Heres some photos I managed to get of the various views from the top.
One brave little birdie in the cold!
The next day I made the mistake of going on a Peninsula Tour. I should've just rented a car, or even a taxi for the day. The tour was a waste of time, especially if you're a photographer. They advertized a huge list of places to be visited on the tour, but what they didnt mention is that you dont actually stop at them, you just drive by at high speeds as your guide says "Oh and that was an ostrich farm", or "Oh that back there was Long Beach", etc. We made a few, very brief stops, but thats about it. So I didnt take too many photos, as there werent very many photo ops ... unless blurry pictures taken through the vehicle's window at high speeds is your kind of photography.

We made a 5min stop at Camps Bay Beach. Once we were back in the van and on the road again our guide decided to mention that the mountains in the background were the 12 Apostles. Would've been nice to know that while looking at them.
Next up was Hout Bay. We actually stopped here for an hour ... for an optional boat cruise out to Seal Island. This was an extra cost. I chose not to, since Seal Island is where my shark boat anchored offshore from a few days prior. So I wasted an hour looking at the many souvenir stands, and had some toast & coffee at a nearby restaurant.
Another 5min stop at a lookout point overlooking Hout Bay.
Then we drove along the very scenic Chapman's Peak Drive. It was absolutely gorgeous ... but we didnt stop even once to take photos anywhere of it! Ugh! So this is a 'drive by shooting' of the twisty turny road that clung to the mountainside.
We started to see some wildlife the closer we got to the tip of the peninsula. We actually stopped for 2 bontebok (a type of antelope I never knew existed), 7 ostriches, 5 eland, and an itty bitty tortoise on the road.

Bontebok ... crappy photo I know, but they were far away. I only bothered to take a photo cuz I've never heard of, nor seen them before.
Ostrich on the road!
Eland, the largest of all antelope.
Then we stopped at the Cape of Good Hope ... The south-western most point of the African continent. There was really nothing there but a sign ... and at least 50 ppl lined up to take a photo with it. I tried uploading the photo, but it wont post :(

We then had lunch at the very expensive Two Oceans restaurant at the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula. The menu was mostly seafood & meat, so I got a milkshake and headed to the snack shop next door for cheap pizza, lol! Thats a backpacker's budget for ya! I'm glad I did though, cuz while everyone else was wasting their time waiting for their expensive meals, I took the funicular (like a cable car on a train track) up to the lighthouse at Cape Point. Only $6 Canadian, or you can walk the whole way up for free. If I'd had more time I would've. By the time they were all done eating, they only had about 10min to look around, whereas I had a whole hour. This is the view from the restaurant.
The funicular only takes you this far ... then you have no choice but to climb those steps to get to the very top.
The sign at Cape Point, right before you start climbing the stairs. There were also 'Beware of Baboon' signs, but I didnt see any baboons.
The lighthouse at the top
View of the cliffs. This is where the Indian & Atlantic Oceans meet! Very turbulent waters!

The last stop on the tour was my fave ... Boulders Beach, home of the African Penguin!! Again, we only had about 10min here, which is most definitely not enough, so the following day, the last day of my whole trip, I walked 20min from my hotel in Simonstown to this beach, and spent the WHOLE day with the penguins :)
It cost 45 Rand ($5.60 Canadian) to access Boulders Beach. They give you a ticket which also gets you into Foxy Beach, so be sure to hold onto it. Boulders Beach is where 99% of the penguins are. They can be founding nesting, swimming, sleeping, suntanning, etc. The African Penguin is a protected species so you have to stick to the boardwalks. Theres penguins all along the walk, but if you just walk straight to the very end of the boardwalk, thats where the majority of them will be!
Beautiful Boulders Beach!
Two penguins in love :)
Braying penguins ... the sound they make sounds like a honking donkey, lol!
Nesting area on the beach
I absolutely loved watching them waddle around! Its seriously the cutest thing in the world!!!!
Waddle, waddle, waddle :)
Mama and baby penguins
Babies huddled together for warmth.
A young penguin shaking himself off after a swim in the chilly water.
Young penguin losing his fluff.
Suntanning penguins!
Weeeeeeee! Bodysurfing right onto shore!
Kissy kissy!
There were also a few Rock Hyraxes, aka Dassies, to be found.
Black Crakes at the beach
Well thats it, that all! I'm finally done my Africa blog, yay me :) Only took 8mths, lol!

Posted by ChantelleS 19:50 Archived in South Africa Tagged penguin wildlife car bird south coastline africa cable scenic cliff lighthouse ostrich peninsula Comments (0)


Great White Sharks, Cape Fur Seals, 1000s of Spinner Dolphins, and Orca Whales!

overcast 18 °C

Heres my fave photo from this leg of my trip!!!!!
After 3 nights in Swakopmund, Namibia, I flew back to South Africa. I landed in Cape Town at 7:30pm and took a prebooked shuttle (with Centurion Tours) 45 min south to Simonstown, where I stayed for 6 nights. I stayed at the Simonstown Quayside Hotel. It was located right on Jubilee Square (main area of the town with lots of shops & restaurants).
My room looked over the harbor, main pier, and mountains.
My first full day here rained. Actually it poured. Sideways. It was SO windy! But the next day was sunny/cloudy, albeit a tad chilly (only 10C). But the good news is, my shark diving tour with Apex Predators wasn't canceled! Woohoo! I prebooked my tour online, but if you'd rather book in person, the Apex Predators office is actually located in a 'mall' beside my hotel. Quite convenient. When choosing a shark diving operator, dont cheap out! The last thing you want when dealing with Great White Sharks, is a flimsy cage! I chose Apex Predators because the owner/operator & marine photographer extraordinaire, Chris Fallows, is known worldwide. Just google his name! If I remember correctly, it cost just under $200 Canadian (I was there in off-season though, it costs more in high season). My hotel was located at the pier where the dive boats departed, so I literally woke up, rolled outta bed, and walked to the end of the pier to meet the group of ppl who would be joining me :)
The boat departed the Simonstown harbor at 7:45am. We left 1hr later than scheduled due to wind in the morning. This is the view from the boat looking back over Simonstown.
We anchored just offshore from Seal Island ... basically a massive rock absolutely covered in Cape Fur Seals!
Just look at all of them! Those arent rocks, those are ALL seals!!
Then the cage went into the water, and the crew started chumming the water (throwing fish guts overboard to attract sharks).
The chum, aka shark bait.
Chumming the water.
And then we waited. And waited. And waited & waited & waited. The entire time the crew kept chucking fish bits overboard trying to attract a shark. In movies they make it seem like if you put even one toe in the water you will get eaten by a shark. But in reality, it takes forever. Eventually one Great White came relatively close to the boat cuz there was a dead seal floating nearby. But just as it was about to raise its head & massive jaws out of the water to eat the seal, (and I was ready with my camera zoomed in & focused on that dead seal), someone else stepped in front of me to take their own photo and I completely missed seeing the shark!!!!! By the time the person moved, all I got to see was the side of the shark :( So disappointed I coulda pushed that person overboard, lol! This is the most I saw of a Great White. (If you want to see incredible photos of Great Whites breaching, google Chris Fallows' name!)
Mr Chris Fallows doing what he does best! And yes, I was very jealous of his lens!
So I didnt actually bother getting into the cage in the freezing cold water (only 8C). No point in getting hypothermia if theres no sharks to see :( After 6hrs of nothing, we headed back to the harbor ... and guess what we saw along the way?!!!! NINE Orca Whales (aka Killer Whales)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!large_IMG_0614-001.jpg
They were hunting a pod of 1000 Spinner Dolphins! Chris was driving our boat as fast as it could go, and we could barely keep up with them! But eventually he got us into the middle of the pod of dolphins! It was unreal ... jumping dolphins and frothing water as far as I could see in every direction! This was definitely a major highlight of my entire trip to Africa!!! (And worth all the money I paid to see sharks).
Adorable baby Orca & its mama :) Notice ALL the dolphins in the background!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This one was no more than 1 meter from our boat when it surfaced!! I actually gasped cuz it was SO close to my face when it surfaced!
So all in all, even though I didnt get to see Great Whites, the Orcas and ridiculous amount of dolphins totally made up for it :)

Posted by ChantelleS 14:16 Archived in South Africa Tagged boat penguin ocean south africa seal dolphin whale Comments (0)


Game drives, camping and wildlife galore!

overcast 18 °C

I make $13 an hour ... if I can afford an African safari, so can you! Mind you, I'm the biggest penny pincher you'll ever meet, but I travel far & wide every year, you just gotta know that the most expensive way to do any vacation is one of those all-inclusive traps. You just need to suck it up, and plan it yourself, and any vacation will be way cheaper! So heres how I went on safari in Kruger NP on my budget ... always always wait for a seat sale. That is #1, as airfare is always the most expensive part of any vacation. I've seen travel agency billboards advertising 8 night safari pkgs for $5999, PLUS tax, NOT including airfare! Thats absurd! Did you know you can do self-drive safaris in Kruger NP for $15 per day, per person? I bet you didnt, cuz your travel agent sure as heck wont tell you, cuz they want your money! I traveled to Africa solo, so I didnt feel comfortable renting a car alone, but maybe you are braver than me, or maybe you have a travel partner. Self-drives are definitely the cheapest option, cuz then your game drives are $15, you can do any other sightseeing (such as Blyde RIver Canyon) in your own vehicle rather than going on a tour, and you dont have to pay to take buses/taxis. Everything is cheaper in Africa than in Canada ... car rentals, gas, food, hotels ... everything. Keep that in mind when planning. Like I said, I traveled solo so I didnt rent a car, but what I did do was the second cheapest option. Upon arriving in Jo'burg airport, instead flying to Kruger (which can be upwards of $800 one way), I took the bus to Nelspruit (closest city to Kruger NP) for $45 one way. When it comes to accommodation, you can stay in lodges/hotels/camps inside Kruger NP from $100-$1600 per night (not inc any game drives), OR you can stay in Nelspruit or Hazyview (I chose the latter as its only 12km from Kruger gate) for $40-$80. If you have a rental car, just drive to Kruger NP gate, obtain your $15 permit, and away you go. Its that simple. The park gates open at 6am, and close at 6pm. By staying in a hotel/lodge just outside of the park, its very easy to spend the whole day on safari in your own vehicle, and just drive back to your cheap hotel afterwards. But like I mentioned, I didnt do a self-drive cuz I was solo, so I did the next best thing ... I booked a 2 day / 1 night camping safari with Bubezi Safaris for $271. That inc my tent (photo below), a morning & afternoon game drive on day 1, and a morning game drive day 2, and breakfast (bring $ for other meals). Still waaaaaaaaaayy cheaper than the $5999 the travel agency was advertising thats for sure!

My one night was spent in this tent in Skukuza Camp inside Kruger NP. The camp is fenced so you dont have to worry about predators getting in. Skukuza Camp also has bungalows and hotel rooms for rent, but of course that just ups your price. In all honesty, you are in your room only to sleep, the rest of your time you are on your game drive/safari, so does it really matter if your in a tent or a fancy room?? The public washroom facilities were immaculate! Sparkling clean toilets, showers and even a bath tub! The tent itself had a door with lock, 2 single beds, electricity, fan, dresser & night stand. The camp itself is like a town. Theres plenty of options for eating from sit down restaurant, to take away, to groceries. Theres bathrooms, and a gas station too.
Here is my open-air safari vehicle. When you chose a safari operator, be sure to ask what type of vehicle you'll be in. Anyone dreaming of an African safari I'm sure imagines themselves in one of these, but believe it or not, I saw tourists on city buses with tinted windows that didnt open! For real! What kind of safari experience is that???!!! You have to take photos through tinted windows! And you cant even get close to the wildlife cuz your in a big giant bus!!
Alright, enough talking, onto the wildlife photos!
If you choose the self-drove option, drive slow. Very slow. You'll be surprised at how many times animals will be right on the road! Give them space, and stay in your vehicle. If you have to pee, find a restcamp ... they are everywhere.

Rhino vs car
See all the ppl in regular cars ... they're doing self-drive safaris ;) Just give Mr Rhino plenty of space to cross the road and you'll be fine.
Burchell's Starlings
A little frog we found sleeping in our safari vehicle!
My favorite animal ... zebras!
Hyenas on the road!
Male waterbuck
Herd of female waterbuck at a watering hole
Elephant crossing the road! See, I told you animals are always on the road!
Impala with an Ox Pecker ... those birds like to eat ticks off of other animals.
A hornbill in a Thorn Acacia
We almost drove over this itty bitty Leopard Tortoise crossing the road!
Vervet monkey
Handsome hyena. So many ppl hate hyenas. I love them! Orange mohawks & polka dots ... whats not to love?
This is the one and only leopard I saw. Unfortunately it was far away, and I had to zoom in through many, many branches. But it was chillin' up in a tree, just like I was hoping to see one.
Baboons on the road
We parked by a watering hole, there were no animals drinking, and I couldnt figure out why we were sitting staring at the water ... and then this guy popped up :)
A very colorful Lilac Breasted Roller! One of the prettiest birds around :)
Pied Kingfisher
Another hyena on the road
3ft long Monitor Lizard
Later on we were driving down a road and spotted 7 hyenas!
As we got closer there was an incredibly putrid smell! The closer we got, the nastier it smelt. All of a sudden a hyena snatched up a rotten buffalo leg and ran off with it! Yuck, no wonder it was so stinky!
More of my favorite animal :)
Magpie Shrike
Teeny tiny moth
Ox Peckers on a rhino's back
I wanted to see Wild Dogs, but didnt actually think it would happen, as they are incredibly rare ... only 350 left in Kruger NP. But all of a sudden there were 6 of them hunting right on the road!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Check out the one wild dog balancing on one leg, lol! I caught him in mid-run)
One decided the best place to take a shit would be right on the road a few feet from our Landy, LOL!
Hippo & a Black Crake
Black Crake checking out its reflection in a pond at a bird hide.
Colorful water lilies
A group of rhinos is called a 'crash' of rhinos
Mama & baby rhino
The one and only lion I saw in Kruger NP was unfortunately far away
A pregnant zebra and her baby!!
Awe, baby stripes :)
Adorable waterbuck with his heart shaped nose and 'target' bum.
Well thats it for my fabulous safari! Whether you travel cheap, or do it expensively, you will see the same wonderful wildlife :)
One last shot leaving Kruger National Park
I then headed back to Nelspruit and took the CityBug bus back to Johannesburg where I spent the night before catching my flight onward to Namibia! I stayed at the Airport Game Lodge for only $42, and that inc pickup from the bus stop & drop off at the airport the next day, free breakfast, and they even had a few acres of land with some animals, for one last dose of 'safari'. When choosing a hotel I always go for ones that inc free airport shuttle, wifi, breakfast, etc, so that I dont have to pay extra for those things in addition to the cost of a room. Heres some photos of the wildlife at the lodge.
I think this is a blesbok, but I'm not 100% sure on that, as I've never seen one before!
Thats it for the eastern part of South Africa. I also visited the Cape Peninsula by Cape Town, but first I head into Namibia ... that'll be the next blog post :)

Posted by ChantelleS 12:34 Archived in South Africa Tagged animals wildlife south africa safari kruger Comments (3)


Spectacular views, tons of waterfalls, and another thing crossed off my bucket list.

sunny 25 °C

So many people who travel to South Africa only go to see Kruger National Park. They bypass the incredible Blyde River Canyon, not even knowing its there! It is the world's 3rd largest canyon, but the world's largest green canyon! So how do people not know its there? Well if you fly from Johannesburg to Kruger, you'll probably fly right over it, and if you drive, you don't see it unless you take the panorama route. I thoroughly research every country I travel to, so that I dont miss out on things like this!
If you're already headed to Kruger NP, the canyon isnt out of your way at all, so you may as well spend a day stopping at the many viewpoints, walking the trails, see the waterfalls, etc. You wont regret it, I promise :)

So let me start from the beginning. I flew from Livingstone, Zambia to Johannesburg, South Africa. Upon landing I had 4hrs to waste before the bus to Nelspruit departed. I had pre-booked a seat online for the CityBug bus. It was approximately $45, and took 3.5hrs to get there, with one stop along the way for a pee/snack break. The hwy was perfectly smooth, about 100 times better than Saskatchewan roads thats for sure! Upon arriving in Nelspruit it was late so I spent the night at Mecure Hotel for $43. Super nice, with tiled floors, fountains, room had kitchen, heat (cuz it was chilly at night), etc.

The following morning I took a taxi to my lodge near the town of Hazyview, the Hamilton Parks Country Lodge. The views along the way were stunning: green mountains, valleys, lakes, tall African pines, banana plantations, etc. It was a fantastic little lodge, located in the valley, away from the noise of the city.
My room at the lodge.
They even had some resident miniature ponies!
The lodge had a pool and a peaceful grassy area, but sitting around doing nothing is not my thing, so I opted to follow a trail I found and came across some old ruins and beautiful views of the valley!
The following day I went on a Panorama Tour of the canyon, booked through Bubezi Safaris. I was the only one on the tour, and at first was disappointed cuz I was hoping to meet some ppl. But within minutes realized being the only one meant we could stop wherever i wanted, and stay as long/short as I wanted. Quintin, my guide, was awesome! So easy to get along with, was also a photographer like myself so understood the patience required to get just the right shot, and gave me some helpful waterfall photography tips. The fact that he was cute and had the best accent ever had nothing to do with it, lol ;)

Our first stop along the canyon was The Pinnacle.
There is also a waterfall at The Pinnacle if you follow the trail. It doesnt look like much in this photo, but trust me, I'm sitting on the edge of a cliff, and that river is plummeting to the ground right beside me!
Then we stopped at a lookout point called God's Window
Lisbon Falls
Berlin Falls
One of the more touristy stops was the Bourke's Luck Potholes. I think we showed up the same time as a few tour buses. I was quite glad to be the only one on my tour, rather than a bus load of old ppl, lol! This is the view of the canyon area along the trail to the potholes.
Looking down at the potholes
One of the bigger waterfalls at the Potholes
Next up was my fave lookout point over the Three Rondavels ... rocky outcrops that resemble traditional African huts called rondavels.
A short walk from there was this incredible view!!!!!!!
We took a break and had lunch at a little restaurant. We had delicious toasties (known as paninis in Canada), and milkshakes. There was also souvenir shops set up at every viewpoint & waterfall.
Next up we walked the trail to Lone Creek Falls.
The mist from the falls was freezing cold!
We also visited Mac Mac Falls, but I didnt get a very good photo worth posting. The lookout platform is at a weird angle. I wouldnt bother visiting this one if your limited for time.

Next up was our last stop, the beautiful Horse Shoe falls.
Thats it for the beautiful Blyde River Canyon. My next 3 days were spent on safari in Kruger National Park, but that'll be in my next blog post.

Posted by ChantelleS 14:12 Archived in South Africa Tagged canyon river south waterfall africa Comments (1)


Canaima & Angel Falls - Jan 15, 2013

sunny 35 °C

On our last day in Venezuela we flew from Margarita Island to Canaima National Park on the mainland. We took a 40-seater twin propeller plane. The flight itself was incredibly scenic! We got to see the islands/beaches, Andes Mountains, Amazon rainforest, and of course tepuys (the flat-topped sheer-sided mountains Venezuela is known for).
The view approaching mainland Venezuela.
The beginnings of the Andes Mountains.
Rainforest and a couple tepuys.
Canaima falls & lagoon as seen from our plane.
Landing in Canaima National Park.
The airport in Canaima has got to be the smallest airport I've ever been too ... just a grass hut with a gift shop in the middle of nowhere! After going through a quick security check, we were led on a short walk through the rainforest to a restaurant for refreshments. We could hear the waterfalls from the restaurant! Another short walk led us to a beach on Laguna Canaima where we got on a very loooooong traditional canoe and were paddled across the lagoon to the waterfalls.
I'm not even sure how many waterfalls are actually here ... there were many!
This is the 1 we got to walk behind!
And here it is again up close! Beautiful!!
Me behind the waterfall! It was SO loud we had to shout to be heard!
After spending some time here, and taking a dip in the lagoon, we headed back to the beach we started at. We were led on a walking tour of the town, and then back to the airport for our flight back. But on the way the pilot took us past Angel Falls ... or at least he tried. It was quite cloudy, so I only got a quick glimpse of it. Heres a photo of the river leading to Canaima Lagoon on the way to Angel Falls.
Angel Falls is the world's tallest waterfall at 3212ft high! Its literally above the cloud-line! We were flying around the tepuys looking for it, when all of a sudden BAM there is a waterfall up in the clouds with us! Unreal! However, since it was so cloudy I only saw it for a brief second before the clouds covered it again, but managed to take this crappy photo, lol! It doesnt really look like much from this photo, but it was an amazing experience to see something like that up in the clouds :)

Posted by ChantelleS 21:16 Archived in Venezuela Tagged mountains rainforest water jungle south waterfall america lagoon venezuela canaima Comments (1)

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