Hello dear readers,
sorry for the delay, I know I haven’t posted since a long time and some of you were wondering if (or happy that) I got eaten by a lion during a safari. (Un)Fortunately that’s not the case, it’s just that I visited some places quite remote, where it was easier to find fresh beer, good wine and grilled meat than a good internet connection 🙂
But finally here it is, my first report about South Africa with some really nice pictures of the local wildlife 🙂
As music background, I thought the official 2010 Fifa world cup song would be a nice choice (although the first 18s suck) as a start for my African playlist:
The flight from Sao Paulo is quite short as it is a night flight and I fall asleep just after the diner to wake up only in the early morning in the city of Luanda in Angola. I have 1h30 before my connection flight to Johannesburg and so my plan is to rest a bit and surf on the internet. However the girl at the connection check in doesn’t agree with me as I don’t have my vaccination booklet with me but in my luggage in transit: “Joburg is very very difficult, they won’t let you in without your booklet…” She tells me to stay in the waiting room and just comes and goes repeating “very very difficult”. After one hour, she comes back smiling at me “ok, my colleague could find your luggage, he will bring it here so that you can get your vaccination booklet”. In the meantime, the boarding begins. 15 min before the door closes, still no sign of my luggage. I ask the guy at the desk what I should do and he starts panicking and phoning 1000 of people because of my vaccination booklet. Finally 5 minutes before final call, the first girl reappear and tells me that it should be fine as I am arriving from Brazil and it is not a country exposed to Malaria…Pfff, very very difficult…
After 1,5 hours, I land in Johannesburg and head to the immigration control. It takes me in total 10 min to cross the border. The immigration employee just asks me what I am doing in South Africa and how long I will stay and after that gives me a big smile: “Welcome to my country man!”. First time that I am welcomed so friendly at a border, and no control of my vaccination booklet 🙂
To get to my lodge in the Melville district, I jump in a taxi after having hardly negotiated the price. The taxis here are a bit the same as in Asia, as soon as you come out of the arrival zone, hordes of drivers jump on you and offer you to take you to your hotel for two or three time the normal price.
My lodge is located in Melville, a nice and safe area with some bars and restaurants. Even though it is considered as safe, I am still surprised to see all the houses protected by high fences and barb wires. This is something I will unfortunately see all around South Africa, insecurity still being a big issue in this country.
After having checked in, I go out in the evening in a restaurant nearby to have diner. On the menu, meat and red wine, something I can’t really complain about 🙂 I also have a nice time discussing with my neighbor at the restaurant, a South African guy who is happy to hear about my trip and to tell me about his country. After one beer too much around 02:00am, my new mate Fires has to go home as he needs to wake up early: he is lecturing students at the Johannesburg university for the first time of his life (he is 5x and starting a new job) at 08:00 in the morning 😀
My first day in Johannesburg is relatively short. I wake up quite late because of the jet lag and the few beers of the previous evening. On the afternoon I start my exploration of the city by joining a walking tour in an area near the city center called Braamfontein. The tour is not taking the usual route, as there is a wave of student demonstrations (they want free education for all) going on and it could be a bit dangerous to be between them and the policemen.
The tour is very interesting, I get a nice reminder of the Apartheid and its effect on the population and realize that it was abolished only 20 years ago. Braamfontein itself is also interesting. It is now the university district and is being transformed by different programs coordinated by the city into the art district. Along the way, we get to see nice street art, paintings as well as sculptures.
After the tour I take the train to the business district Rosebank. It is such a contrast with the city center. The buildings are all clean and modern and the place is full of restaurants and malls. I stay there for lunch and take a Uber after to come home.
I spend day 2 in the city sightseeing touristic “red” bus. I get a nice overview of Joburg and its history. The three most important stops for me are Soweto, the Apartheid museum and the SA World of Beer.
The township of Soweto is super interesting to visit. It is really representative of the separation between Whites and Blacks that took place during the Apartheid. Around the Soweto museum, some signs commemorate some students who were killed by the police during a demonstration shortly before the Apartheid was abolished. We also get to see the houses of the 2 South African peace Nobel prices Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
The Apartheid museum is a must see for everybody interested in the history of South Africa. It explains how the Apartheid era started, how people are categorized, the living conditions of the population during that time and the different events leading to is abolition in 1994. At the ticket booth, the vending machine decides randomly if you get a White or Non-Whites ticket and the entrance you may take accordingly to illustrate the race separation. After I got a Non-White ticket, I have some doubts that the category is drawn really randomly 😉
At the SA World of Beer, I get to see a nice exhibition about the history of beer in the world and then more specifically in Africa. Among others I have the chance to try a beer the way it is traditionally brewed in Africa. it is served in a big metal pot and is shared among all guests around the table. The taste is very different from what we are used to 🙂
Day 3 is used to relax a bit. I planed to go on a safari in the Pilanesberg National park, but due to problems with my credit card, I couldn’t pay on time and so i have to postpone it to the next day. This is actually good, as it gives me the opportunity to see my friend AD that I met in Switzerland, who is on business trip in Joburg. We have diner and beer with his boss and some of friends but we don’t party too hard as everyone has to wake up early the next morning.
Pick up on day 4 is at 06:00am. After a roughly 2h drive, I arrive at the Pilansberg National Park entrance where I first eat a nice beans&sausages breakfast. Now that my belly is full, I am ready and really excited to start my first safari! 😀 I join Gerniel the guide and Anna, a nice Brazilian girl who arrived the day before. The first half day is for me really good. We get to see a lot of animals, Zebras, Gnus, Impalas and a group of lions sleeping in the shade of bushes. Anna is a bit disappointed, she wants to see elephants as it seems none were to be seen the day before. This will happen a bit later in the afternoon after lunch. After one hour driving around, we spot a few elephants around and according to the direction they are working, they are heading to a waterhole where there is a hide to observe them. We drive there slowly following them and finally, we get to see the whole elephants group (of around 20 animals with a lot of babies) drinking water and playing in the water. What a wonderful experience…
After that, we become even more lucky as we spot some rhinos far away and on the way back we see a group of cars around a crossing. As we approach and ask some people what is going on, we see in the middle a leopard hunting some warthog. The scene is incredible, the leopard is trying to catch a baby warthog but the mum is standing in front of it to protect its baby. At the end, the leopard seems to get tired and slowly walks to the shade of a tree nearby. The warthog mum keeps turning around the leopard, as if it was provoking it. Very brave from this little “Pumba” 🙂
At the end of the day, Anna goes back to Joburg and I spend the evening with Gerniel who prepared a nice braai (BBQ).
I spend the whole next day game driving with Gerniel. Elephants are a bit less shy and we see a lot of them. The target is to spot a cheetah, as it is too difficult to spot Buffalos in Pilansberg to complete my big 5. We drive to the places where there are supposed to be but miss them each time shortly. Shortly before lunch, our patience gets rewarded. We didn’t see a cheetah but we spotted another very rare animal: a lynx eating a small prey he just caught. Simply amazing…
At the end of the day, Gerniel drives me back to Joburg to end my trip. We arrive around 20:00 at my lodge. I just have time to take a shower and prepare my bag for the next trip. Indeed, Pick up on the next day is planned at 05:30. I am going on another Safari but this time in a bigger and more famous park: Kruger National Park.
The park is simply huge and we focus only on the South part, staying at the Pretoriuskop camp. We have a nice small group of only 4 people with Natalia from Canada, Melanie from Switzerland and Not from Thailand.
The drive from Joburg is quite long, it takes almost 8 hours from door to door with the pick ups and the multiple vehicle change but we finally make it happy to Kruger park. After a short check in and a presentation of the camp and the crew, we get on a truck for a night game drive. We are quite lucky to see a small group of lions, a group of hyenas composed of 2 females and many babies and on the way back to the camp a leopard looking for a comfortable place to spend the night.
After a nice diner, we all go to bed early to be fresh for the next day. I choose to have a full day game drive to increase my chances to see a cheetah whereas the others choose to go on another tour to explore the countryside around the camp.
The morning game drive is very good, we get to see many buffalo, which complete my Big 5. Moreover after 1 hour driving around we arrive at a tree where a beautiful lady leopard is waiting for her next pray. The driver doesn’t see her, but as I get completely crazy to see this beauty, I start shouting and pointing at the tree. My friends start asking what is going on and as I show them the leopard under the tree, everybody falls in love with her. Pictures are amazing, for the guide himself it is the first time that he sees a leopard so close! A bit later, we spot a group of 5 nice white rhinos a bit higher in the mountains.
The afternoon drive is not so successful. Maybe because of the heat, not a lot of animals are to be seen around. They may be resting in some hidden shades. However we still get to spot some baboons and other nice monkeys.
On the last day, we only have a morning game drive before going back to Joburg. However we get very lucky as we spot the same female leopard as the day before but this time hiding in a tree hunting some impalas. Other than that, we see a lot of buffalo and again some nice small monkeys.
Right after lunch, Not and I leave the camp to come back to Joburg, whereas the girls stay one more day to try to spot lions and cheetahs.
It was such a nice experience for me that I have a big smile on my face the whole drive. Such a pleasure to see all those big animals in liberty!
On my last day in Joburg, I just spend my time relaxing, sorting out my pictures and organizing my next days. Among others, I pick up a car that I rented to explore the rest of South Africa.
After a little bit more than one week, I leave Joburg the next day quite early to my next destination, Santa Lucia in the South East of South Africa.
The rest of my adventures in the next episode 🙂