Today’s blog comes from Rob Edmunds, a Travel Expert in our London, Victoria store
A place that captured the hearts of the world for the 2010 FIFA World Cup as they welcomed the world to their country with an array of colour, music and smiles. Alive with passion, the awe inspiring Big 5, breathtaking miles of coast line and a rich national history of of influential men and women. Hard to believe I know but when STA sent a group of Travel Experts there in June 2014, nothing could prepare us for what we would experience.
It Means No Worries for the Rest of your Days
Arriving into Johannesburg past the many miles of Townships rusty tin shacks housing over a million people, we began to feel a real eye opening appreciation of how lucky we are. We took to the dusty streets of Soweto on an old school 2 wheeler to view the reality of what every day life is like for people here – it certainly changed the way we all think about a tube strike or a 5 minute delay on the bus.
A mere 2 hours cloud surfing from Jo’Burg and you’re touching down into the city of Cape Town. Home to Robben Island where the late great Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, a busy shipping harbour and one of the 7 natural wonders of the world; Table Mountain. At the coast around the city you can see the migrating blue whales just off the shore as the sun sets into the Atlantic Ocean. The array of restaurants and bars of the famous Long Street pump beats to move your feet and the friendly nature of the people made Cape Town shoot to the top of my list of the top places I’ve been.
Wine wine wine
A short drive from Cape Town you hit the wine regions, perfect for an afternoon’s wine tasting, a sip on the Sav, purse your lips to the Pinot and consume responsibly the Chardonnay away whilst nibbling on foods to complement every bottle of beauty. (Yeah ok I like wine)
Down at the bottom of the garden (route)
Further along the coast is the magnificent Garden Route. Sandwiched between towering mountain ranges and the Indian Ocean and host to a unique collection of marine reserves, coral reefs, dolphins, seals and the great white shark (distant cousin of the average white shark).
You start to get a feel for the dirt tracks peppered with footprints of predator and prey and keeping your eyes peeled for Nelly hiding in the bushland, Rafiki nibbling the fruits from the trees or the heart pounding sight of a pride of big Cats. Wipe the sleep out your eyes early morning as that’s when the guide grabs hold of their Binoculars, points into the distance where three Lions (mother and two cubs) are chasing two cheetahs for being on their block. Hearts are pounding, then the Lions look over at the vehicle taking all breath away in one of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever been blessed to be a part of.
N.b. No Cats were harmed as a result of this chase, much to my delight.
Shamwari my friend
The Shamwari Conservation project was home for the last 3 days of our South African adventure. Just on the outskirts of the Shamwari (meaning ‘my Friend’) Game Reserve it was voted the World’s Leading Conservation company in 2012, Yes I said world!! In a completely malaria free zone, only an hours drive from Port Elizabeth airport and host to the Born Free Foundation Cat Sanctuary, it’s no wonder Shamwari is one of the top choices. They offer a diverse experience that exposes participants to real conservation issues and tasks, with the chance to make a sustainable difference through their participation. Not just with animals but their contribution to the local communities (namely the township of Patterson) with maintenance of vegetable patches, recycling projects, maintenance and development of local schools. A simple addition of a jungle gym is a simple and inexpensive toy in our eyes but to see the smiles of each and every child was utterly priceless.
The memory of the African Sun, the dusty wind in my face from the Game drive, the cultural dances of the tribal groups we were able to interact with, makes me so happy to have experienced this and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity. Just the lyrics of a song from a simple children’s film is enough to take me back there…Hakuna Matata