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Journal

My Favorite Romantic Activities

February 10th, 2016 by

It is easy to fall in love with Africa, and even easier to rekindle an existing romance on a euphoric African getaway. This majestic continent is the perfect destination for lovers, an oasis designed for rejuvenating the soul and reconnecting with nature, yourself and your loved ones. Born and raised in South Africa, my favorite Valentine’s Day activity is still a retreat to the Cape Winelands, sampling a variety of world-class wines while savoring the picturesque surroundings. To complete this ultimate escape, I love taking an evening cruise on the Atlantic Ocean to witness the awe and splendor of a Cape Town sunset. One thing I know for sure: You can leave Africa, but Africa will never leave you. Embark on an unforgettable romantic journey – anywhere in Africa will do – and you will leave a piece of your heart, but take home a lifetime of memories.

 

Whale Watching

Penguins, dolphins, great whites and more: South Africa has it all when it comes to marine-based creatures, and I’ve had many opportunities to witness them. But when it comes to the largest marine mammals, South Africa deserves a special distinction, holding the title for the world’s best land-based whale watching destination. Every year these gentle giants migrate from their chilly arctic feeding grounds to South Africa’s coastal paradise, perfect for mating, calving, and raising their young. Whale watchers enjoy spectacular displays of breaching, blowing, lobtailing and spy hopping – inspiring acrobatic feats that remind us how small we truly are. Peak calving season for the southern right whale is from July to August, but stragglers can be seen through September and October. The humpback whale is often spotted from May to December and Bryde’s whales and orca whales can be seen year-round.

 

African Sleepouts Under the Stars

Stargazers rejoice! It doesn’t get much more romantic than cuddling in the moonlight, whispering sweet nothings while wishing on shooting stars. African travelers enjoy a bevy of luxurious “star beds”, located on private roof terraces under an infinite blanket of stars. Far from the populated metropolitan cities, the African bush is free from extensive light pollution and boasts the most dazzling night skies without sacrificing material comforts.

 

Additional Stargazing Opportunities

The beauty of the African sky simply cannot be overstated and there are many opportunities to highlight its majesty. Before snuggling in the star beds, couples can enjoy open-air dining under the clear and endless skies, take a guided night tour, listen to astronomy lectures or operate research-grade telescopes. The options are as limitless as the galaxies sparkling above!

 

Witness the World’s Most Romantic Animals
These animals don’t need a holiday to celebrate their love. We’ve all heard the saying “You’re my penguin,” but did you know that there are many species in the animal kingdom that mate for life? Not only are they monogamous, but these animals frequently engage in romantic rituals that could put Romeo to shame.

  • Penguins are known for a variety of mating dances and rituals. Male Gentoo penguins spend days surveying the beach to find the smoothest pebble possible before presenting his “rock” to his (hopeful) lover.
  • Sea horses wrap their tails together to keep them from drifting apart. Each morning, they dance together for several minutes, asserting their bond and coordinating their reproductive cycles.
  • Sea otters sleep, eat and rest together. Like sea horses, they keep close by holding hands while they’re sleeping.
  • Black vultures are fierce lovers and have been known to attack other vultures who try to attract their mates.
  • Elephants in love are a special breed. These gentle giants are empathetic lovers, holding trunks and caressing one another in times of joy and duress.
  • Albatross take several years to select a mate, and from that point on they return to the same spot year after year to mate with the same partner.

“Giraffe Woman”

February 3rd, 2016 by

One of several nicknames I was given as a 17 year old exchange student living in South Africa was (translated) “Giraffe Woman.”  I would like to think that it was my graceful walk, relaxed demeanor or lovely eyes or lashes that earned me the name, but I suspect it was my height (6 foot tall). 

Regardless, the giraffe is one of my favorite animals and one of my favorite sightings of a giraffe happened on what to that point had been a fairly uneventful game drive.  I can’t recall the location, although it must have been southern Africa.  

When we came around a bend in the road, the area was fairly heavily wooded and to our utter amazement and surprise (not very far from our location) witnessed the very last moments of the birth of a baby giraffe.  What a privilege, I have photographic proof, only the memory of how it made me feel to see such a unique thing. 

Moral of the story:  YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT A DAY ON SAFARI MIGHT BRING.

My Favorite Night Game Drive

February 3rd, 2016 by

One of my favorite night game drives experiences took place in Zambia’s Kafue National Park on the Busanga Plains.  After enjoying a lovely sundowner cocktail we were making our way back to camp for dinner.  The night sky was brilliant with the stars twinkling above in the saturated black sky. It is such a pleasure to escape the light pollution of my everyday life and see the night sky.   

The vehicles headlights were showing us the way as we cut our way through the still grasses that had grown up during the wet season even along the center of the dirt road.  And then we came to a wonderful sighting.  A large pride of lion feeding on a kill.  The lion seemed restless and agitated by our presence and the fact they we had interrupted their feast.   They were very vocal so we backed off to a safe distance and that’s when our guide did something a bit unexpected.  Off went the engine, off went the headlights, off went the spotlight, ON went the NIGHT. 

Lion (13)

We sat in pitch darkness and listened, listened to the lion’s mealtime conversations and terrible table manners.  The crunching of bones, the roaring argument over who got the last leg, not to mention the chorus of insects who provided that background music.  It was probably only 30 seconds but it felt much longer – and I will never forget it. 

Spending Time with Mountain Gorillas

November 3rd, 2015 by

Spending 1 hour with the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda and/or Rwanda ranks as one of my most profound animal encounters.  Maybe it was the great effort and exertion it took to get to where they were located.  It was not like a game drive where you just sat in a vehicle and drove around until you found something.  I earned it by trekking through the rain, and mud, up the hills and into the valleys, through the vines, avoiding the nettles and biting ants. Thanks heavens for my porter who lugged all my water and camera gear and gave me a helping hand too!  

But the reward was so unique.  I found myself a few feet away from the King (and Queens) of the jungle.  In retrospect the best thing that could have happened was when I ran out of space on my camera memory chip and put the machine away and looked at the individual gorillas and their family group as a whole and not through the tiny view on the camera.  That was when I saw the tiny rain droplets on their fur and heard them chomping on their lunch of leaves and watched a young cheeky juvenile push another one of the hikers all while his mother watched in the distance.  WOW!

Shark Diving

September 3rd, 2015 by

White Shark Projects (WSP) was an experience that has been on my bucket list since I was a child.  Although we had a very early departure, 5:00am, it was well worth the sacrifice of a few hours of sleep.  The transfer to Gansbaai was about 2 hours after leaving The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa.  Once at the White Shark Projects shop, we were given a breakfast and a briefing by the marine biologist.  The briefing was great; he explained the sharks’ behavior and gave tons of information from migration to eating habits.  

wsp-Getting_in_the_cage


When we left the harbor, it was about a 30 minute ride to the dive site.  The crew threw the hook in the water, they then put the shark cage in the water and tied it off to the side of the boat.  The cage was about 8’ tall and 3’ deep and 12’ wide.  It was about 10-15 minutes until the sharks showed up.  Once the sharks showed up, 6 people at a time went into the cage. 

wsp25

WSP provided wet suits with hoods, booties and a mask, so all you needed was a swimsuit.  Once in the cage, they shut the top and the cage sat 2’ above the water. We stood in the cage on bars and when the sharks swam by we would hold our breath and go under water to watch the sharks swim by. 

This was an experience that everyone should have if they are at all interested in the ocean and its animals.  I learned so much about the Aquatic Big Five of South Africa, (whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins) on this trip.  We saw over ten sharks ranging from 10’-16’. 

wsp1

There are two-three trips a day one at 8am, one at noon and one later in the afternoon.  I would definitely do the morning run as seas are more likely to be calmer because the winds haven’t started to blow and the sharks were very active

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