South Africa



[click on 11 locations above to open 11 photo albums]


21 December 2007 to 6 January 2008


What we learned (in our own opinions)? The climate was dry, even though it was hot (as it was in middle of summer down there). The wounds of apartheid regime are still visible. The post-apartheid economic polarization is still stark. There is no "true sense" of animal kingdoms - as with "pure wilderness" as almost all of them are in fenced reserves. And South Africa is a great destination to visit!

Joyce and I got into Johannesburg (via Atlanta and Dakar) after a very long long long flight. We stayed overnight, then flew down to Durban where we picked up a white Nissan 4x4 bakkie (as it seems that bakkies, which are light/small trucks, are almost always white). Drove 3 hours to Zulu Nyala near Hluhluwe. Room #20 was an awesome room - thanks to Adam and Eric for the recommendation.

We took two safari excursions and saw many different animals such as elephants, giraffes, warthogs, impalas, kudus, nyalas, wildebeest, water buffalo, rhinoceroes, et al. This reserve didn't have big cats, so we tried to book at the nearby Phinda Reserve so that we could see the lions. Unfortunately, it was during the high season as they didn't have any availability. :o/ We drove up to Tembe Reserve with 170 elephants, and we had a tire blow-out. And the spare tire lock was jammed, so we waited almost 3 hours for assistance (as the reserve was very remote, and only 4x4 vehicles - and only one vehicle passed us for the entire 3 hours - and that's how we got help). The rangers had to break the spare tire lock, after finding out that the rod was bent. On way back, we stopped by Sodwana Bay for some sunbathing. We also went to the larger Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Reserve. Some monkey business but no lions again.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly known as St. Lucia Wetland Park) is quite huge - with 220,000 hecatacres. We went all the way around to Cape Vidal. As soon as we laid out our beach towels, a thunderstorm came along... and surely drenched the area. We went back to St. Lucia for some pizza and beer before heading back to Hluhluwe.

We drove through Swaziland with stops in Mbabane and Manzani. Then went overland alongside the Drakensburg Mountains to Pietermaritzburg before getting back into Durban. Dropped off the Nissan 4x4, and flew out to Cape Town.

Upon arrival, we picked up another rental and headed out to Arabella Western Cape Hotel in Hermanus. And we saw African Penguins. The drive was really gorgeous... The next day... Guess what? The rental car had a flat that the hotel staff wouldn't let us change the tire, and they did that with their ties and suits. Geez! We drove back to Cape Town and switched rental cars (because it didn't have the right spare tire). Then checked into Westin Grand. The room was bold lime/white. Contemporary decor. Fully frameless frosted glass door to enter the bathroom. And even there is a heated marble floor in the bathroom. Fancy that!

Had a splendid dinner with Frank and Allie in De Waterkant. We went up Hoerikwaggo, which is also known as Table Mountain, via cableway. Met Allie and Frank again for lunch. The political turmoil in Kenya was one of the main conversation topics, as both Frank and Allie were working with Peace Corps in Kenya. And then we checked out eclectic shops along Long Street as well as Bo Kaap. Very colorful!!! Surely, we enjoyed Cape Town tremendously, and would love to return back one day.

Drove out on Chapman's Peak Drive from Hout Bay onwards to Cape of Good Hope through Simon's Town. We sunbathed next to the penguins at Boulders Beach. Quite an interesting experience. And had a thrill of seeing a baboon jump on our car, then sped towards another car. Got in the car while the occupants jumped out... Ate a whole bag of potato chips and broke open a sodapop bottle. Check out the pictures (in the "Good Hope" album).

After returning back to Johannesburg, we headed out to Tshwane (formerly known as Pretoria) where we saw cheetah, feral cats, wild dogs and vultures at the DeWildt Reserve. We also donned miner's hats during the diamond mine tour in Cullinan. Then we had a private tour of Soweto (which is an acronym of SOuth WEstern TOwnships with a population of over 4 million), including informal settlements. Passed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu's house and went into Nelson Mandela's house as well as Hector Pieterson Museum and Apartheid Museum. We were appalled by what we saw and learned - such injustice and inequality. And the wounds are still there, even though healing slowly.

Before we knew it... our 2 weeks was already over. And t'was time for us to go back home with wonderful memories and photographs. :o)