This is from Ben’s diary during his time in South Africa.
3rd January 2011
Happy New Year everyone.
I hope you have all had a good time and enjoyed yourselves in whatever you have been up to.
Well since Christmas we have been up to lots and changing location a lot as well. As I left you on Christmas day I shall pick up from there aswell. So It’s Christmas day 2010…
Christmas day was wonderful, one of the best I have had in my life, as was Christmas Eve. We went out for Christmas eve for a meal at an Italian restaurant right on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town called Balducci’s. This restaurant was superb with a greatly varied collection of food, drink and really nice staff who did everything they could to help you. The food was great and my chicken brie and Chilli Jam pizza was so tasty. Really worth a visit if you want a special meal.
The next day after a luxury sleep we woke up quite early. We didn’t have presents as, well South Africa was our present and also we were going to open the rest of our presents when we got home. But back to Christmas day, as we had returned our rental car the day before we had to get a taxi, which for 8 to 10 Rand a kilometre was great value. We went up to Table mountain (this is the reason we were early as the mountain often closes in the afternoon due to wind and cloud) which after a half hour wait and a 15 minute cable car ride (180 Rand per adult) was spectacular. The view from the top I will hope to compare to the view at the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro. We were only able to stay up there for about an hour as the wind came in which means they had to shut the mountain but we had more than enough time up the mountain and also we had to get to our Christmas dinner.
We had booked at the Balducci’s sister restaurant Belthazar which is a steak house and wine bar which was wonderful. Unfortunately we didn’t have the traditional turkey but I have to say Kudu, being one of the best meats I have ever tried, more than made up for the lack of turkey and the restaurant really was a fantastic meal, right on the front of the V&A again and apart from a slight wind a great day and weather. Also today we have been to the Two Oceans Aquarium again to book in tomorrow mornings entertainment.
Boxing Day’s entertainment really was certainly worth while, diving in the aquarium with Ragged tooth sharks, turtles, rays and lots of other fish. Both my sister and I did this and enjoyed it greatly even though it was bloody scary. After a couple of minutes in the water you feel that they are used to you and your used to them but even though I did turn around at one point to come within half a metre of a ragged tooth which reminded me of how powerful and amazing these creatures really are. This is really worth it if you are a diver who wants to do some diving but can’t get up to some of the dive spots this is a definite recommendation at 500 Rand for adult with kit.
After this awe inspiring experience we took a walk around Cape Town as this was our last day. We went over to see the parliament, old markets and the business centre but unfortunately, as it was Boxing Day and a Sunday it was all closed so we grabbed a small bite to eat and we went back to the apartment. The parliament buildings were very beautiful but they were very similar and closed which did put a bit of a damper on it. If the streets were busy and the tourist areas were open I would have enjoyed it a lot more.
The next day (26th December) we were flying to Durban which meant packing and getting up early, this wasn’t great but the internal flight was only 2 hours long I was sad to be leaving Cape Town, I was really looking forward to my second half of the trip. We arrived in Durban and collected another rental car, this one was much more comfortable and was “more” 4×4 which would come in handy. After a 5 hour drive through towns which was described by my dad as “what he had imaged rural Africa to be” (towns which are very poor, small, isolated and very agriculturally based) we arrived at Fugitives Drift.
The next day we found out what Fugitives Drift was. We were in Zululand learning about the British – Zulu wars and the British underestimation of the Zulu’s and following defeat which was fascinating, educational and a really worthwhile experience for any history enthusiast. It is possible, like we did, to do a complete tour of both the battle field and Rorke’s Drift in one day but the accommodation that we stayed at, Fugitives Drift, is worth a stay for at least two nights as the location is beautiful but we didn’t and the next day, 29th December, we set off to Johannesburg.
Johannesburg is notoriously dangerous but like any other city in the world if you avoid the more hazardous areas and don’t show off expensive items then you should be fine. I did only spend a night and day there so I didn’t get a more realistic view of the place but people I met travelling didn’t speak highly of it, one even had his passport, driving licence, bank cards and money taken while he was there. There is also, in my opinion, not a lot to do there but this may have been because we didn’t want to venture into the centre.
We did decide to go to a restaurant though to a place called Moyo which is a “traditional African restaurant” which serves lots of meat, fish, stew and African meals. This is a chain which is in Cape Town, Jo-burg and a couple of other big city’s and they are really worth a visit if you want a good big meal for a reasonable price.
The next day was another long day of travelling to Safari in Madikwe East of Johannesburg but we went via a complex called Sun City. This was so that my Mum and Dad could leave me and my sister and go and play golf. At a price of only 50 Rand its great for a day in the water, sunbathing or chilling out but unfortunately I really cannot do any off these and want to do something a bit more interest but this was very expensive to do which resulted in a day reading listening to music and drinking. The only way I could describe it was as the South African Las Vegas which in my books is not the reason I came to South Africa.
After an… um… interesting day at Sun City we set off for Madikwe. This was a short drive but after 15 minutes of arriving in the 75,000 hectares game reserve we were stopped in the road by a herd of about 10 or so elephants in the road and then again by giraffes, zebra and Impala.
The next couple of days (30th, 31st, 1st and 2nd) we were at a lovely lodge with Charm and Pete (who we stayed with in Plettenberg bay) and there friends, the Cronks getting up at about 5 going for a game drive and then leaving at 18:00 for another game drive in the evening before dinner. These 5 days which was full of fantastic wildlife, which included elephants, giraffe, rhino, lions, hyenas, jackal and hundreds of Birds, great food and drink, first-rate company and a great way to spend New Year.
Doing this is expensive though and there are plenty of companies who do a very similar thing for a much better price. For example the Garden route game lodge or the big 5 game reserve which do day trips for great prices and worth it. Or another worthwhile plan is to go to a wildlife sanctuary as they help the animals with the money you pay, they are a great price and you get to see the animals up close. Also unlike a zoo they are not kept there for life they are let back into a game reserve so that they can live their lives naturally.
It is the 3rd and we have just left the Madikwe game reserve for Johannesburg so that I can get a bus to Durban but on our final game drive we spotted lions who gave a spectacular rawr which really made us realise how lucky we are and how wild these animals actually are.
So I am just about to leave my family for a week to go up to Aliwal Shoal and to Sodwanna Bay to do some scuba diving and I will catch up with you soon.
I am very sorry for the delay in this blog update but I hope it has been worth the wait and I will be uploading the next part of my journey in the next couple of days in which I dive on one of the top 10 dive sights in the world, go to Swaziland and have to fly back home but until then goodbye.