Monthly Archives: November 2016

November Update

Camomile ready to go back into the water

Camomile ready to go back into the water

The website has fallen behind again so I’m going to try to bring it up to date before we leave South Africa.

When we first arrived in South Africa and checked into Richards bay we had quite a few jobs to do on Camomile. We were able to arrange to come out of the water for a few days to repair the copper coat, anti-foul the keel, replace a bulging sea-cock, clean the prop, replace anodes, and polish the hull.  Camomile looked very smart when she went back into the water on 31st October.

Next to Norsa again

Next to Norsa again

The outboard going to the doctors

The outboard going to the doctors

We went back to our berth in the marina next to Norsa, who had arrived while we were out of the water. The jobs continued with our outboard going to a local engineer for a much needed service and to sort out why it’s difficult to start sometimes.

 

Disconnecting the old tank

Disconnecting the old tank

 

 

 

Our new hot water tank arrived for Bill to fit which entailed emptying the deck locker of most of it’s contents and storing them in the forward cabin, disconnecting the seven inlets and outlets on the old tank and removing it, reconnecting the same and testing.

The old tank out

The old tank out with the failed repairs showing.

Hot water at last

Hot water at last

Fortunately it worked first time without any leaks. Hot water at last. I don’t mind having cold showers in the tropics but it’s cold in south Africa! Then we had to refill the deck locker. All this took several days.  Meanwhile normal jobs like washing, shopping, cooking, having my haircut, refueling, boat maintenance continued.

Deck locker refilled

Deck locker refilled

Eating breakfast......

Eating breakfast……

I have already written about the hippos at the iSimangaliso wetland and our jeep safari in the iMfolozi safari park but we had a third day away where we explored the Hluhluwe park in our own car. If you’re short of time I would recommend going on a jeep safari because you see so much but if you have time it’s nice to drive yourself because you have more time to stop and look at the scenery.  We spent two nights at the Leopard walk lodge about 20kms from the northern gate of the Hluhluwe section of the park. The breakfast ‘room’ was an open staging overlooking a private game reserve.

..... watching Wildebeest

….. watching Wildebeest

 

 

While eating our breakfast some wildebeest walked by.  They also had impala, zebra and a giraffe although we didn’t see him. If you get up early enough and go with a guide you might see a leopard (we were told) .

 

Mother and baby rhino

Mother and baby rhino

 

 

We entered the Hluhluwe park through the northern gate and straight away saw a mother and baby Rhino grazing by the side of the road. They were both covered in mud so must have been wallowing some where. The mother was sporting a huge horn, hope the poachers don’t see her.

A female white rhino

A female white rhino

 

 

This is Africa!

This is Africa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love this photo. Right in front of us was a beautiful giraffe with some zebra just walking up the road. How cool is that!

A beautiful giraffe

A beautiful giraffe

We continued to drive around the park until we came to the Hilltop camp which is a resort within the park where it’s possible to stay. This would have been a nice thing to do but a bit beyond our budget but they did nice coffee. The view from the veranda was breathtaking.

Stunning views from the Hilltop camp

Stunning views from the Hilltop camp

The baby elephant is behind the right hand elephant.

The baby elephant is underneath the left hand elephant.

 

We continued on our journey and came across a small herd of elephants with a very young elephant with them but the adults were shielding it from our cameras.

 

Mother zebra with a baby feeding

Mother zebra with a baby feeding

Male impala

Male impala

We saw more rhinos, lots of impalas including this chap with a pair of wonderful horns, luckily the Chinese don’t like them, some warthogs (pumba), some zebra with more babies and finally another pair of giraffes came to say goodbye as we left the park.

A pair of giraffe come to say goodbye

A pair of giraffe come to say goodbye

Baby cheetah. I was standing about 3ft away from him.

Baby cheetah. I was standing about 3ft away from him.

Once we left the Hluhluwe park we drove back towards the town on the main road to the Emdoneni rehabilitation center for Cheetahs and other game cats. Firstly the animals ARE NOT drugged in any way, this was not a Thailand tourist attraction. Secondly it’s not a zoo. Many of the animals have been taken there because they’ve been injured or orphaned. Of the animals they have or have breed, half of them will go back into the wild and don’t have any contact with humans at all. The other half can’t go back for one reason or another and enter the breeding programme and are kept in the area open to the public.  Without the part of the center open to the public they wouldn’t be able to fund the part not open to the public which is having huge success in breeding, rearing and releasing cheetahs in the wild, which are in danger of becoming extinct because their numbers are declining.

African wild cat

African wild cat

 

The first animals we were shown were African wild cats, I know, I know they look like your average moggy but up close they are lighter than a normal house cat. As you can imagine there’s a lot of inter-breeding with house cats and the center has a breeding programme to try and keep the breed pure.

The stunning Serval

The stunning Serval

 

Next was the Serval, an absolutely beautiful creature, fabulous markings. The guided tour is also feeding time so they were all content to have their photo taken. This one was behind wire but his pen was huge. We also saw a Caracal but he wouldn’t stand still to have his photo taken.

"Who's this coming into my space"

“Who’s this coming into my space”

I got to stroke the cheetah

I got to stroke the cheetah

Then we were taken into the cheetah enclosure. The center has two pairs of brothers who have been hand reared so can never go back in the wild because they wouldn’t be able to fend for themselves. The beauty of the Emdoneni centre is you are able to stroke this handsome chap, another tick in the box for me! The center is very strict and we were all given implicit instructions before we entered the enclosure for the two bigger boys. We had to walk in single file and keep together with a ranger at the front and one behind. Once they were sure he was settled we were given the opportunity to come forward one by one. Guess who volunteered first?

Beautiful creature

Beautiful creature

 

 

In the second enclosure are two much younger cheetahs who will stand more than one person touching them so we both had a turn. The rangers stroke them like pets and the purring was like a steam engine, so loud.

This one was much younger. I could have sat with him all afternoon.

This one was much younger. I could have sat with him all afternoon.

Goodbye Zululand YC and Richards bay. We enjoyed our stay.

Goodbye Zululand YC and Richards bay. We enjoyed our stay.

 

 

After our second night at the Leopard walk lodge we drove back to Richards bay to do some shopping and refuelling, picked up the serviced outboard and checked out of Richards bay before taking the car back at the end of the day. Friday 11th after a nice lunch with Divanty and Gaia we left at 4pm with Divanty for an overnight sail to Durban.

Arriving at Durban

Arriving at Durban

 

 

It was a good sail and we arrived at 7am.  We anchored outside the marina at first because the marina was full but later we were allowed to go in and raft up next to Norsa, who had sailed there while we were on safari.

Not a lot can be said for Durban really. It was quite chilly while we were there and rained quite a bit. The problem with the rain was that it was full of coal dust that had come off the numerous piles of coal from the local mines waiting to be shipped out of the port and during the 2½ weeks we were there the boat became absolutely filthy. Quite a few boat jobs were completed including replacing the bearings in our wind generator and Bill and Norman replacing the bearings of Dons wind generator on Solstice.

Bill and Kevin manning the braai

Bill and Kevin manning the braai

 

 

The 16th we planned to have a braai (BBQ) one evening and almost called it off because it was raining again but we are British and a bit of rain didn’t stop us all!

On 17th I got my sewing machine out to adjust our new cockpit cover which hadn’t been right since it was supplied after our refit in May 2015. I also sewed the zip on that had been left off so we could put our aft cockpit cover on, normally for the winter!

An interesting row of houses

An interesting row of houses

Monday 21st Davina on Divanty suggested we all go for a ride on the big red hop on, hop off bus. The only difference for the Durban bus is you don’t hop off because it’s too dangerous but stay on until they stop in a safe area! The ‘good’ bits of Durban are few and far between and Delboy would have given this company a run for their money but it was nice to get off the boats for a day. I managed to take a couple of photos of some interesting places.

Nice building

Nice building

city hall

city hall

 

 

 

 

I think this was the town hall but not certain.

 

The fork lift training school

The fork lift training school

 

 

 

 

As we went past the forklift school all the men wanted to get off and have a go.

A typical street

A typical street

A market stall

A market stall

Most of the city looked like this, just streets full of modern buildings.  The market areas looked interesting but we had already been warned not to go into those areas on our own without a local guide. A couple of cruisers had had little run ins with the locals trying to steal jewelery or other items. There was a lot of poverty in between the wealth.

 

An unfinished road

An unfinished road

 

 

 

This was interesting. The motorway hadn’t been finished and the road just came to an abrupt end. The locals had set up some stalls on it and a temporary bridge had been built to link it to a working area.

 

The Moses Mabhida stadium

The Moses Mabhida stadium

 

 

Once back on the waterfront we were driven past the stadium that was built for the 2010 world cup, looking like a giant picnic basket with seating for 56,000 people, it was very well used. The ‘handle’ has steps up one side or its possible to use the Skycar. Once on the top it’s possible to plunge off on the Big Swing.  All around the outside were various sports areas. The seafront itself has a walkway along the waters edge several miles long. The problem was the area between the seafront and the marina isn’t safe so you need to take a Uber taxi to get there.

It looks like rain.

It looks like rain.

After our bus ride we made our way back to the marina before more rain.

Life continued until 29th when 7 boats had a meeting about the weather and sea conditions to Cape town. Later that day we all left on passage for the journey many of us had been dreading since arriving in south Africa – Cape Agulhas.

More in the December update.

Sailing south

Sailing south

 

 

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Safari in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi park

Sue in the jeep

Sue in the jeep

After our rainy boat trip to see the hippos we awoke the next morning to a better day – although at 4am it was still dark! We packed up the car and waited for the safari jeep to arrive. We didn’t want to stay in St Lucia for a second night and had booked a place near the northern gate of Hluhluwe. The plan was to follow the jeep to the eastern gate, leave the car inside, rejoin the jeep for our safari after which we could drive ourselves through the park to the northern gate. Our jeep arrived with Steve our guide. We had booked an elite safari with Euro Zulu safaris.  This meant there were only 6 in our jeep and the middle seats weren’t filled. We had our friends Davina and Antony with us and a couple called Andy and Emma also joined us. At 6.15 the sun was out and we were ready to see some animals. I’ve been wanting to do this since I was a little girl.

Our first head of Impala

Our first head of Impala

Hluhluwe-iMofolozi (pronounced shloo-shloo-wee-im-for-lozi) park covers 960 sq km (3 times the size of the Isle of Wight) a lot of which is mountainous landscape so unlike ‘safari parks’ (read zoos) back home it’s quite difficult to spot the animals. Its possible to drive yourself but you’re much higher in the jeep. The first animals we came across were impala, pretty little things, as common a sight as sheep in our countryside, but Steve said their tails form a letter M on their bottoms which he said stands for MacDonalds, yes these dear little creatures are the fast food of the game park. All of the big cats eat them.

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A male impala

A giraffe in the distance

A giraffe in the distance

I had already told Steve my favourite animal was the giraffe and I really wanted to see one so as we continued along the road several were spotted in the distance grazing with some zebra. Their long graceful necks were very distinctive. There was a 4×4 track heading off towards them which Steve took.  It was a bit rough but the jeeps are built to take it, a hire car wouldn’t have been able to use the track.

A crash of rhinos

A crash of rhinos

As luck would have it as we were driving along the track a crash of rhinos were spotted (sounds like a Camomile quiz question to me!) the collective name for a group of rhinos. They were white rhinos, black rhinos are smaller and very hard to spot, sadly we didn’t see any of those. Despite the parks best efforts these creatures are still hunted for their horns. As we watched the rhinos helicopters were circling in the distance watching out for poachers from Mozambique. Steve said there is zero tolerance towards poachers and they are shot on sight. No beating about the bush in South Africa These were our first sighting of one of the big 5.

The first of the Big 5

The first of the Big 5

The Big 5 are Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo. I asked why those particular animals and its because they are the ones most difficult and dangerous to hunt, in other words they are the ones that bite back! This group were all female with one male rhino standing on his own close by. One of the ladies was particularly attractive to him and he wanted his way with her but her sisters were having none of it and wouldn’t let him near her despite several charges. We sat and watched them for about a quarter of an hour before they ambled away with the big fella following them.

A herd of buffalo

A herd of buffalo

A closer shot of the buffalo

A closer shot of the buffalo

In the distance Steve spotted a herd of buffalo – our second of the Big 5, and he drove closer to them.  Even though there are quite a few roads around the park there aren’t a lot and it’s difficult to get close to some of the animals. Remember none of these animals are fed in any way, it’s not a ‘safari park’ but part of the wilds of south Africa. The outer fence (which we didn’t get any where near) is to protect them and keep poachers out.

There're behind you!

They’re behind you!

A dazzle of Zebra

A dazzle of Zebra

As we got closer a dazzle of zebra (hope my sailing buddies are taking notes) appeared. They didn’t seem to be worried about the buffalo behind them. Zebra really are the most striking animals. Their makings are unique to each animal. Many of the females were pregnant. These ungulates (hoofed animals) weigh between 230 – 380kgs and their length is 260 – 300cms but they are not ruminants (haha, look it up)

Handsome boy

Handsome boy

Zebra and wildebeest

Zebra and wildebeest

 

 

In amongst the zebra were some wildebeest.  Another ungulate and these ruminate, and as they have horns they are bovine. Wildebeest also find themselves on dinner menus of the big cats.

Wildebeest

Wildebeest

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A herd of buffalo

We were doing really well for animal sightings and we hadn’t even had breakfast yet. Steve drove to the top of the track where we were all allowed to get out and stretch our legs while he laid out a breakfast for us on the little drop down shelf on the back of the jeep.  We had yogurt and cereal, fruit, muffins, rusks and tea or coffee while we were busy looking out on the surrounding area. The buffalo heard were getting closer. My camera was in the jeep but suddenly we turned round and we were being stared at by several hundred buffalo no more than 50 meters away from us. Steve wanted us to quietly and slowly get back in the jeep, just in case, but fortunately they crossed the path and went down the other side of the hill and melted into the undergrowth.

The Black Umfolozi river

The Black Umfolozi river, see the debris in the foreground

Steve packed up the picnic and we continued on our journey. After returning to the main road our journey took us over the Black Umfolozi river which was very swollen after the rains of the previous couple of days. A lot of debris had floated down the river and was caught up by the bridge. The water was only a few inches below the bridge. Once on the other side the scenery flattened out a bit and many of the smaller trees had been bent over and snapped as though a storm had gone through.

'I'm hiding'

‘I’m hiding’

Steve explained it was the elephants, the males were ‘in must’ and wanted to mate. As some of the lady elephants have other ideas the males get frustrated and go stamping around the bush. Steve was certain there were some males close by. You think it would be difficult to hide elephants but we spotted this big boy hiding.

Stunning sight

Stunning sight

A second one appeared

A second one appeared

A second elephant appeared and they both started moving closer to us, so lucky. The third of the big 5.  You can see the elephant on the right was definitely looking to mate but these two were both males.  Oddly enough they both had a tusk missing. We sat and watched them for ages while they were tearing us grasses and pulling leaves off trees. They looked so much bigger than the ones we had seen in Sri Lanka. Male African elephants can weigh between 4000-6300kg and are 3-4m in height. Often referred to as King of the Beasts but it’s actually the elder females that rule in elephant society – can’t argue with that.

So handsome (taken with the zoom lens, we weren't that close)

So handsome (taken with the zoom lens, we weren’t that close)

'What big ears you have'.

‘What big ears you have’.

His ears were so big. The Asian elephants have smaller ears but the African elephant’s ears are much larger.

 

 

A pair of giraffes

Mum and Dad and 2 baby giraffes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we drove on we came across a family of giraffes, a little closer this time.

 

A male lion

A male lion

 

We drove for about an hour without any sightings then suddenly Steve stopped the jeep and started reversing. ‘What’s he seen’ we were all thinking. Steve said to look through the bush to see what we could see. It was a lion – A REAL LION our 4th Big 5. A wonderfully handsome male lion. How Steve saw it from the cab I don’t know but that’s why we had paid for a guide. We watched him for a while through the bush then realised there were two of them.

 A pair of lions

A pair of lions

Starting to look around

Starting to look around

Steve said they were probably a mating pair the way the female was behaving, she kept rolling around and putting her legs in the air.  It was difficult to photograph them because we just had a shielded view through the bush. Sadly some cars came along and stopped to see what we were looking at but didn’t turn their engines off, an absolute golden rule. So the lions got suspicious and started looking around. Steve said they mate every 20 minutes when the female is season!! But there were too many cars and they were getting distracted so we carried on.

Magnificent beast

Magnificent beast

A magnificent male impala

A magnificent male impala

All we needed now was the leopard to complete the 5 but Steve was doubtful because it was coming up to midday and although it wasn’t that hot it was sunny and the leopards go for shade that time of day. There were lots more impala with their stunning horns….

A wonderful giraffe

A wonderful giraffe

 

 

 

 

 

 

…. and an even closer giraffe. They are such elegant creature. They walk like solders – both the left feet forward followed by both the right feet.  This one is a female because she’s got little pom poms on her mini antlers.

Our last rhino of the day

Our last rhino of the day

We had completed our circuit and it was time for lunch. Steve cooked a delicious braai (bbq) with steak, sausages, salad and a bottle of wine.  We were so lucky because right next to our braai site by the river there were a pair of rhinos grazing completely ignoring us although Steve warned against going any where near them. As we drove back towards the gate Steve was scanning the trees for a leopard but sadly we didn’t spot on. Maybe another day.

Our group Emma, Sue, Antony, Davina, Bill and Andy

Our group Emma, Sue, Antony, Davina, Bill and Andy

St Lucia in the iSimangaliso wetland park.

Great excitement, we were going on a mini holiday. Having been in South Africa for 2 weeks and just spending it working on the boat, it was now time for some fun! Richards bay is only an hours drive from the wonderful game parks of Hluhluwe and iMfolozi and I had planned a safari trip.

The southern end of the iSimangaliso wetland park

The southern end of the iSimangaliso wetland park

Monday 7th November was a poignant date because it would have been my Dad’s 85th birthday but as I feel he’s traveling with me I was taking him to see the hippos at the iSimangaliso wetland park. A UNESCO world heritage site it stretches for 220 kms from the Mozambique border to the white iMfolozi river at the southern end. It’s bordered by the Indian ocean on its eastern side and the park protects five distinct ecosystems. St Lucia is the main settlement. We left Camomile first thing in the morning and were taken by taxi to the Richards bay airport to pick up a hire car. It’s only R100 by taxi and the airport was the cheapest place to hire a car here.

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Bill standing beside one of the many warning signs

 

 

After a short trip to the mall to sort out a few bits we were on the road north. Our first night was to be spent in St Lucia, a pleasant village and a useful base for exploring the southern are of the park. We were too early to check into our accommodation so decided to have lunch at the ski boat club restaurant that had been recommend to us. The restaurant garden overlooked the southern end of the St Lucia estuary and croc island in the middle. After a delicious lunch it was recommended we take a stroll along the boardwalk  that leads through the sand dunes to the beach. The Indian ocean looked very wild that day.

The wild Indian ocean

The wild Indian ocean

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As we walked back along the boardwalk we saw this snake on the ground below. It was about a metre and a half long and could possibly have been a black mamba but we kept our distance and just watched it slither along. We also managed to spot a crocodile swimming in the water and it’s in the middle of this photo but difficult to see.

The southern estuary with a croc in the foreground

The southern estuary with a croc in the middle of the photo

Striped mongoose

Striped mongoose

 

As we made our way back to the car park this little group of striped mongoose were sitting on the side of the road.

 

 

 

backpackers accommodation

backpackers accommodation

 

 

We drove back to the main road of McKenzie street to the Monzi Safaris Tented lodge. It’s behind the Monzi Safaris backpackers although they share the same reception and car park. The backpackers is basically the old dormitory area that has been cleared and a series of ‘tents’ erected about a foot apart from each other on a ‘shelf’ with bathroom facilities downstairs. They looked ok but not sure what happens at night when someone starts snoring.

Our 'tent'

Our ‘tent’

The bathroom built on the back

The bathroom built on the back

 

Our ‘tent’ was very nice and had a proper bed that was very comfotable with a two seater settee in the main section. There was a shower room with toilet and handbasin built on the back in a log cabin section which also housed a full sized fridge and a sink and the wardrobe. They were well designed.

 

 

A comfy bed

A comfy bed

The lovely pool in the rain

The lovely pool in the rain

 

The ‘tents’ were arranged around a lovely pool but by the time we checked in it had started raining and I didn’t feel like standing in a cold pool in the rain! There were also 2 lovely kitchen areas, one for our section and one for the backpacker tents, so it was possible to cook your own meals if you wanted to.

 

 

The main bar

The main bar

 

I would recommend either of these accommodations.  Our main problem was we were staying in hut 1 which had the path to the other huts right next to us and we backed onto this nice bar area which also had tented sides and was about 6ft away from our hut.  It had music playing until 10pm which I don’t usually mind but we had to get up at 4am to join the safari and had planned to go to bed early but after 10pm it did become very quiet.

 

 

Standing on the top deck with hippos all around us.

Standing on the top deck with hippos all around us.

Although Monzi do safaris we had booked our safari with Eurozulu who had their offices next door. Earlier we had visited them to pick up our safari tickets plus our tickets for the 2 hour hippo and croc that was booked for 4pm. This would normally be a good time because as the sun goes down it shows the colours of the hippos nicely – the problem was there wasn’t any sunshine and it was still raining. It would have been a nice walk from Monzi to the sunset jetty but it wouldn’t have been very nice sitting soaking wet so we drove the short distance to the jetty. Once there we were shown to one of four boats waiting for its passengers. Our friends Antony and Davina were already aboard. We set off north along the St Lucia estuary.  At first I didn’t think we were going to see anything but then the hippos started bobbing up and appearing all around us.

A hippos yawning.

A hippos yawning.

 

 

 

This group were tucked under the greenery. One of them gave an enormous yawn. It had very big teeth.

 

They had lovely little faces

They had lovely little faces

These ones were having a bit of a fight

These ones were having a bit of a fight

 

Apparently they can’t really swim but push themselves off from the edge and glide along. Most of them were along the edge of the estuary.

These two didn’t seem very happy with each other. Although the hippos looked quite friendly they are vicious and shouldn’t be approached.

 

Getting out of the water

Getting out of the water

Grazing

Grazing

Further up the river the land flattened out and a couple of the hippos had got out of the water to stretch their legs. It was fairly swampy but there was a bit of grass for them to graze on. The rain had been drizzling on and off but it didn’t seem to matter to the hippos they were enjoying the mud. After an hour or so our boat turned round and motored back to the jetty. We didn’t see any crocs on the tour because it was mating season and they were all in the swamps further north. Once along side we returned to our hut to get ready for our safari the next day.

One more hippo for you.

One more hippo for you.

 

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