Wilderness 6-7 Dec 2013

Arrived at Wilderness after a great morning at Addo.  The two male lions at Ndlovu Lookout gave us the perfect sendoff after the perfect vacation. We’re tough customers and we like everything just so.  This trip went really well.  Wilderness has a wide range of accommodation from riverside campsites to log cabins and family-size chalets.  We stayed in a large log cabin close to the water’s edge and were very grateful to be checking in at 5pm.  Teamwork meant the man started the fire and the woman prepped the braai veg. And since Heather is vegetarian there was a lot of veg and a lot of foil. Shortly after 6pm we were hungrily stuffing down delicious hot food, hopefully without swallowing too much foil. Only the pork chops and lamb strips remained free of foil and was consumed by the last non-vegetarians standing. Quickly.

A glass of good wine and a hot shower later all participants were asleep almost before actually climbing into bed.

The adults regained consciousness to a cold and crisp Wilderness morning. A sleeping 4-year old meant some quality quiet-time for the big people to review photos, chat about the awesome Addo experience and sketch a loose plan for a garden route day.  The day started at Timberlake where Erica enjoyed her first zipline. Wasn’t too sure about the age rating but I figured she’s strong enough to hold on therefore strong enough to zipline.  I lost count of how many times Erica zipped, she absolutely loves it.  A great breakfast at the same little restaurant we visited at the start of our trip and then we were in search of the next fun spot.

We spent some time walking around on the beach and estuary at Sedgefield. One of the beauts.  Set off for lunch somewhere and that somewhere turned out to be a quick left opposite the turn for Buffalo Bay.  We found a little golfer’s mecca with boutique golf course and a lovely little restaurant called Fire and Earth inside the complex.  They have a great chef, friendly staff and unbelievably good prices. The menu at first glance is simple and contains what appears to be basic items available on any pub lunch or small restaurant menu anywhere in South Africa. BUT . . . when the food comes it has clearly been doctored by a master. A simple sandwich and pizza order looked like a work of art. Fresh ingredients, tasty food.  We will definitely return.

Got back to Wilderness and decided to go see the big tree. The hiking trail starts at the far side of the Ebb and Flow campsite just across the old railway bridge (converted for vehicle traffic). The map we had was misleading in scale and distance and we soon found that the full trip would take far too long for 4-year old legs. So we forgot the tree idea and instead had an awesome time in this beautiful Afro-Montane forest playground. Erica loved the pont ride when we pulled ourselves across at the crossing point. We re-crossed the river further upstream at the stepping-stones, trying hard not to wet our feet and failing miserably.  We were very amused by the canoeists battling against the strong wind in the river valley. Erica was a champ, walking further than we ever expected her to.  It was great fun in the forest and when we return we’ll make another attempt at the big tree and possibly a canoe ride and a picnic.

Wrapped up the day with an obscene amount of delicious, hot braai food washed down by Perdeberg Zebra Hills. Ahhhhhhh.  Quick blog and then early bed.

Addo Elephant National Park 2nd – 6th Dec 2013

2nd and 3rd December

This holiday wraps up the most enjoyable and complete safari experience we’ve had to date.  We arrived at Addo on Monday, 2 Dec just in time for check-in at 6pm.  Was a close shave, our own fault for stopping twice along the way at two very nice restaurants along the garden route.  One of them was a craft village called Timberlake filled with small restaurants, boutique shops and a large playground with all sorts of gumpole climbing creations for kids.  Erica did not know which to play on first and it was tough getting her away – only fervent promises to return succeeded!

We booked into a Safari Tent at Addo for good reason.  The bushveld feel as experienced in a large tent is second to none, reasonable pricing and close proximity to the main water hole.  This paid off upon arrival when we sighted a lone black rhino ambling his way down to the main water hole for a sip of water and a quick nibble at some lush grass!  Strange because we thought they are supposed to be adapted to feeding on trees . . . Google says they eat trees, shrubs and grasses, so there you have it.  They are very scarce in the park and it was a real treat to see one.  As luck would have it, this was a sign a of good sightings to come over the next few days . . .

Woke up on Tuesday morning after a full night’s gentle rainfall.  Seems to be the weather here in the Eastern Cape, light afternoon or evening showers and cold, crisp nights and mornings.  Nothing like a warm cup of plunger coffee at 6am while watching the weaver birds in the thorn trees just on the other side of the game fence, all from the comfort of our balcony.  Well, I say “our” balcony in the loosest sense of the word when considering the un-shy visits from red bishops, weaver birds and LBJs (little brown jobbies) who felt quite at home bounding about on the porch table, or deck chairs and the balustrade!   By 8:30 am we’re clawing off our warm clothes and switching to lighter gear for the day’s game-drive.  We bundled ourselves into the Everest with two cooler boxes, loaded cameras, kick-ass lenses and a park map and set off.

The day was very rewarding.  Spotted many lone bull elephants and around 2pm just after the Marion water hole we came upon two male lions resting in the long grass by the side of the road.  We tucked into the perfect spot and managed what we thought were unbeatable vacation shots.  We were soon to prove ourselves wrong!

After lioning about for almost 45 minutes, the two males stood up, stretched and ambled off into the dense forest.  Now you see them, now you don’t.  It just confirms how special and rare these sightings can be.  You could be just a few metres from lions and never realise it due to the dense brush.

We took off, a little starry eyed and feeling very, very lucky to have seen lion on our first day and in such close proximity.  We thought this would be unbeatable.  That is, until we decided to nip down into the southern half of the park to explore some areas we’ve never experienced in our two previous visits to Addo.  In Harvey Loop we happened upon another two male lions relaxing by the side of the road, just 7km from the end of the loop. The light was perfect and there was no bush in front of the lions, making for clear photos of perfect contrast.  They were resting during the heat of the day in a shady patch right next to the road and soon there was a cluster of vehicles and camera-spangled occupants jostling for the perfect shot. The lions were completely unflustered and seemed not to notice their human entourage.  Ze germans in front of us were so fixated on them they reversed their rental vehicle into us while looking at the lions, luckily no damage.  I asked the driver why he didn’t get out of his car to exchange numbers . . . sadly the language barrier meant the joke went right over the chap’s head.

We followed the two male lions a short distance where they flopped down to drink from a large puddle in the dirt road.  Seems they’ll take their water wherever they can get it, explains why we don’t see them by the water holes. This rainy December weather this close to Port Elizabeth is apparently normal for the Eastern Cape and the park remains wet from the afternoon showers.  Luckily there were no mosquitoes (strangely) but still lots of flies.  We decided we really like this weather and will book all future Addo visits for early December.

After downloading and reviewing the pics at our Safari Tent that evening, we realised that we had seen everything we came to see.  Not only that, we had broken the jinx of the black-maned lion. We finally saw the lions which we had missed in Kgalagadi about a year and a half earlier!

The ablution facilities on the men’s side left a little to be desired.  Unless I’m the only one who feels that a urinal should not be positioned immediately in front of a shower cubicle.  So close in fact that the occupant of the shower can stand side-by-side with a user of the urinal with only a Leon Schuster glass shower-door in-between.  It’s damn funny if you’re not a participant!  I’m all for roughing it but I’m not sure I would be comfortable fulfilling either of the aforementioned roles.  There was fortunately another very much in-demand shower cubicle which could be used, that is if you could get your naked foot in the door.  Management shall be receiving a tongue-in-cheek email soon.

4 dec
heather birthday and dinner
Herds of Zebra and other grazers at Carols Rest
Lone bulls in the open savannah
schalking hyena spotted from our balcony – sadly scared off by kids at teh look out

5 dec
Herds of Buffalo at Harpoor Dam
Two Family group of elephants Harpoor Dam
Searching for Lion and leopard wild dog and hyena laughing there
Big scary gently ellie a rulers length from car, heather whimpered
Checked out the south camp of Mathyolweni, which only elt like an hour from the main camp.  Very close to the N2 and in future we’ll be using this entrance via Colchester. Spar and petrol is only 10 minutes away.

6 dec
Bushpig / Rhino
Say Good bye to Addo with one final visit with the big boys at Ndlovu Lookout