Our Little Kingfisher Friend

18 04 2012

Every afternoon, usually between 4 and 5, our little kingfisher friend stops by for a dip in the pool.

He sits up on the ledge of the eavestrough and every once in awhile, he hurls himself into our pool before returning to the ledge to shake off.

Sometimes he brings some friends but mostly he’s on his own.  He’s quite amusing and we look forward to his visits when we’re poolside. (Impressive for me as I normally detest birds.)

(By the way, it’s extremely difficult to get a good picture of the little guy with our point and shoot.  I think it’s time to upgrade!)





Looking Back – April 2011

9 04 2012

Exactly one year ago, Joe and I were in South Africa experiencing the best trip of our lives.  Perhaps it was influenced by the 3 months of hell we experienced prior (robbery after robbery followed by months of homelessness and frustration) but this trip made our move to Gabon seem worthwhile as I’m not sure we would have ever done it had we not moved to Africa.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our time in Africa as we know it will inevitably come to an end and while it has been filled with many highs and lows, I only wish we had more time to travel.  Our safari one year ago has left me yearning for more and once we leave Africa, I’m not sure we’ll be back.  I often think back on it and realise how lucky we are to have experienced something so amazing.





Why You NEED to Visit South Africa

20 01 2012

Every time Joe and I visit South Africa, we fall more and more in love with it.  (Read about it here, here, here & here.)  Yes, it certainly has it’s issues and I know there would be downfalls to living there full time however, it is a fabulous place to visit and this is why…

  1. Kruger Park.  One of the most famous safari destinations in the world and it does not disappoint.  If you want the Africa experience that you see in the movies, this is the place to go.  Animals are abundant as are safari lodges ranging from rustic to ultra luxurious.
  2.  The People.  From our experiences, South Africans are so kind and welcoming.  They have had such a vibrant and at times, terrible history but their resilience is inspiring.
  3. There is something for everybody.  Obviously, the animal lover will be in paradise but there’s the wine country to drive through, the posh city life in Cape Town, cage diving with sharks for the adventurers, you can see life in townships first hand and learn about South Africa’s rich and turbulent history.
  4. It’s Beautiful.  The Cape of Good Hope and up the coastline, Table Mountain, beautiful beaches, wine country and many more sites to take your breath away.
  5. The Food.  Delicious.  Fabulous meat, fantastic home grown produce and more restaurants than you could ever want.  To top it all off, it’s not that expensive!  Joe & I constantly revel at the bill wondering how we got all that great food for such a good price.
  6. VAT Refund.  In South Africa if you are a tourist you get all tax money back from your purchases.  Save your receipts and research how it works (it is a bit of a process and you must prepare ahead of time) but you get money back in your pocket at the airport when you leave the country.  Seriously, who else does that?

I know it’s a bit of a trek for those of you residing in North America but I promise you, you will not be disappointed.  Save your money, book your trip, and if you feel so inclined, invite us!





New Friends?

26 10 2011

Since we returned to Gabon, I’ve been walking with a group of ladies.  I know it doesn’t sound like much but in Port Gentil it is.  We walk a long the ocean as it’s really the only place in town where there is a semi-sidewalk and the road is fully paved so we aren’t dodging cars.  In 30+ degree heat, at the end of our 45 minutes, we’re drenched.

We often walk first thing in the morning in hopes to avoid the more intense heat later on in the day.  A few weeks in, 3 stray dogs joined us on our walks.  They were quite nice and didn’t bother us at all.  They’d tag a long and when we reached the beach area they’d take off running and swimming and catch up to us again later.  Then they disappeared.  We walked for a week with no sign of them so we figured they’d moved to a different area of town.

One morning we walked our normal route and half way down the beach there pops up one of the dogs that used to walk with us.  He ran over to join us and we laughed as we realized that that particular morning, he was in a pack of 9.  All 9 came followed him.

So there we are, walking down the street with 9 dogs taking up half the road trying to walk alongside us.  We passed a police checkstop and they started by congratulating us on our exercise (not normal to see a group of white women walking) and then laughed as they commented on our ‘friends.’  Taxis honked and other expat friends who happened to drive by killed themselves laughing at the site of us.

I sure hope that if they join us again in the future it’s back to the group of 3 as 9 is just way too many dogs!





Out to Spot the Big 5

18 04 2011

Our visit to Kapama included 2 game drives every day.  Each morning we’d get a wake up call at 5 am.  (I know, 5 am on holidays is not really that appealing but when you know you are there to see animals, you must get up early!)  We’d meet for a light breakfast at 5:30 and take off thereafter.

Our Safari Vehicle - The Unstoppable Land Cruiser

Guiding us each drive was our Ranger, Mike and our tracker Vusi.  Vusi would sit on the small seat on the front of the vehicle and both him and Mike would watch for tracks and other signs of animals like how the grass was packed down, birds in the areas and animal droppings.  They would be able to tell how old the tracks were and we’d head off and try to find the animals.  Sometimes, it was unbelievable how they’d be able to see such a small mark and know exactly what it was and when it was there.

Vusi sitting out front with the ranger Mike in the drivers seat.

The elephants always seemed to leave a trail of destruction so it was usually easy to see where they had been.  We could get pretty close to these guys but the dominant male let us know when we were too close as he’d approach and flap his ears, causing us to move back.  They are giant, beautiful animals and you could easily just sit quietly and watch them for hours.

A family of elephants - there were probably 8 in total together here

Telling us they need a little space and we certainly dont want to mess with him!

Some animals were seemingly easy to find (impalas, buffalo, warthogs) while others alluded us for days.  Our ranger had led us to an area where he believed one of the female leopards had been staying so we hoped we’d see her lazing in a tree.  As we neared the area, Mike and Vusi stopped the vehicle and jumped out quickly to check out some tracks.  After agreeing that she had just been there, off we go to track her.  It was probably the most exhilarating hour of the entire trip.  We’d speed off in the direction of the tracks and when they stopped, Mike and Vusi would get out and investigate only to jump back in and speed off again.  The leopard always seemed to be just a few steps ahead of us and that day we never did catch her.  A couple of days later, we got word she was hunting in a different area so off we went again and this time, we found her.  We couldn’t follow her for very long as she really wasn’t happy that we were on her trail but we did watch her until she did a leap and a growl.

Leopard

The animal that surprised me the most were the giraffes.  You really have no idea how large they are until you are standing a few feet away from them.  Male giraffes can get up to 6 metres tall!  You can spot the females by the black tuffs of hair on their horns.  We did some tracking on foot on morning and got close to some giraffes.  Before we could see them, we felt the vibrations in the ground as one had started to run.

Because Kapama Karula is such a small lodge, our safari vehicle was never full.  For the most part, we had 2 or 3 other people with us but near the end of our stay, we had the entire vehicle to ourselves.  This was great because the plan revolved around what we wanted to see.  It was also nice to be able to talk with Mike who was a wealth of knowledge about the animals.

Rhinos - There were always little birds hanging out on the big animals. They eat the bugs on them.

A Zebra hanging out with some impala.

On the first day, we came across a lion and a lioness lazing around in the grass.  During the day when it’s hot, they aren’t very active.  We were able to get quite close to them in the vehicle and they didn’t really bat an eye.

We were probably less than 10 feet away from this guy.

The real thrill was when we began our night drive later on.  Each night we would leave camp at 4:30.  We would continue until sundown when we’d park to have a glass of wine before carrying on.  In the dark, Vusi would have a big spotlight with him on the front of the vehicle waving it back and forth looking for animals.  We came across the lion and lioness from earlier but this time they were hunting.  (Keep in mind, pictures do not do this justice!)

The Lioness

The lioness was often ahead of the lion trying to find some prey.  The lion followed several feet behind spraying and leaving his scent to mark his territory.  The scary thing about this was we only had one spotlight so that meant we only had the light on one of the lions at a time.  At one point, we were parked to the side watching the lions when the male walked around the back of the truck to come out directly beside Joe.  He was so close that Joe could have reached out and touched him.  We held our breath!

Not everything we saw was big!  We were greeted by the largest spiders I have ever seen in my entire life.  These could easily be as long as my fist and there were literally, hundreds.  Often times, they’d stretch their webs across trees and while we were offroading, it wasn’t uncommon to hit one.  Imagine being in the dark and feeling a web across your face and not know if one of these was on you?

Their web was thick and strong like fishing line.

It was for this reason, I never sat in the top row of the Land Cruiser!

We saw so many more animals and have too many stories to post here but we’d be happy to show you the rest when we’re home this summer.  Joe and I never really thought much of safaris before this but I must tell you, this was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done and you absolutely must add this to your list of things to do before you die.  (We’d love to go back so feel free to invite us!)

The End