West Coast national park
While waiting for our car to be fitted with the last changes we drove with our rental (a VW Polo) to the West Coast National Park. In springtime this area is known for it’s colourful wild flowers. Although not the right season (it is now winter in South Africa) we do see the start of the blooming wild flowers. The west coast national park is around the Langebaan Lagoon. One of the habitants of this national park are the flamingos. We see many pinkish birds in the water, but they are too far away to get some nice pictures. Next to the road we also saw many turtles, and ostriches. The views across the lagoon are amazing and we can also see Table Mountain in the distance from one of the viewpoints, which is 120km away.
However the ugliest thing in the lagoon is a railway that is still used to transport the iron ore from the region. Near Saldanha Bay it splits the lagoon in the middle. Huge trains of 3km longs are used to transport the iron ore from the Western Cape to the Northern Cape iron ore mines and the railway tracks are 300km long.
We also visited Paternoster, a small town; it used to be a fisherman’s village but now home to many holiday villas and second homes for the rich. There are some amazing views from the town, but not really a true South African town as most people we see are tourists.
Oudtshoorn - Private Game park
On July 12 we finally collect our Land cruiser and we head towards Buffelsdrift, a private game reserve, just 15km outside of Oudtshoorn. Oudtshoorn is renowned for the many ostrich farms and as well Cango caves. But since we visited an ostrich farm and the caves ten years ago we decided to skip this. To be honest Oudtshoorn wasn’t part of our plans, but in Tankwa NP one of the owners invited us to a complementary stay at his lodge. And our stay was amazing !! When we parked we got picked up by a golf cart to drop us at reception and after checking in at our ‘ tent’. For all you can remember…our tent was almost as big as our first apartment at Savelsbos. And this tent had a view from the bath to die for…you could see the waterhole where a couple of hippo’s stay and many different sorts of bovidae (for dutchies…verschillende soorten bokken). In the early morning we did a bush safari and the highlight was a male dancing Nyala. They do this to seduce the female and who ever wins with dancing, gets to mate with the female. Two of them were dancing (only one is in our video) and it was fabulous to see. The way they move in slow motion…and completely ignore everything else around them. And yes, that really is the real time speed he moves in, not slow motion video ! After that we saw two white rhino’s…but in this park they need to feed the rhino’s extra hay as there is not enough grass available for them to feed on. White rhino’s can eat up to 100kg of grass every day. But even though it was a sure thing, it is still amazing to see them up close. We were only 3-5 meters from them. Part of Buffelsdrift is an elephant sanctuary. And twice a day tourists can participate in either an elephant feeding or bathing experience. We joined the elephant feeding and after giving some fruit and/or beetroot to the elephant they would hug you with their trunk. And the elephant loved Wilfred, hugging him and not letting go…
Karoo, Mountain Zebra and Addo Elephant NP
The next stop was the first of many national parks where you can see most of the big 5, Karoo National Park. The big 5 are a lion, rhino, buffalo, leopard and elephant. Karoo NP has all of them except the elephants. And Wilfred is very keen to spot a lion, preferably catching a prey. The campsite is in the middle of the national park and is fenced to keep the wild animals out. Our first night camping is very nice…making our own food, sleeping in our own bed. We have the feeling our trip has finally started !! The next two days we explore the park and drive our first 4x4 track in South Africa. Seeing many animals; gemsbok, kudu, springbok, red hartebeest, burchell zebra’s, duiker, but no sightings of big 5 animals yet. And as it is our first nights camping we are still searching for stuff in our camper…and where is the corkscrew…so Wilfred lends one from the family next to us and they are very interested in our travel plans. He returns with a lot of new tips of places to go. One tip is Mountain Zebra National Park. Since we need to adjust our plans a little by skipping Zimbabwe (as it is too unstable at the moment, we decided to also visit Mountain Zebra and Addo Elephant NP and the garden route before continuing up north in South Africa towards Namibia.
Mountain Zebra NP is renowned for their population of… Mountain zebras. The difference between Mountain and Burchell zebras is that Mountain zebras have thick stripes on the back legs and Burchell have no or very small stripes. However Burchell zebras have stripes all over their belly and a brown shadow between their strips, something that the Mountain zebras do not have.
On one of the mornings we go on a cheetah game drive and we were very lucky…not just seeing one, but seven cheetahs!!! One female cheetah with two 1-year old cups feasting on a kudu she killed the day before. And when watching them, out of nowhere a second cheetah crosses the road in front of the car with her three 3-months old cups.
After two nights in Mountain Zebra NP we drive to Addo Elephant NP. Since we stayed there ten years ago, the park changed a lot. It acquired land of private game reserves around it and also extended towards the coast, so nowadays you can also spot whales from the park. It is very easy to drive around the park by ourselves and we see lots of animals, but the highlights of our visit is when we see an elephant is drinking water and zebras want to drink as well, but the elephant won’t let them…then a buffalo shows up and the elephant moves away. To our surprise he let’s the zebras get close enough to drink. After that we decide to drive back to the campsite, but then Judith spot something in the valley across the road…it’s a black rhino. We just sit there and watch, what an amazing sight.
In Addo it is also possible to go horse back riding in an area where also the big 5 might be. Judith is very interested in this and the next day she goes on this excursion. Unfortunately it was less exciting then she thought, because an inexperienced rider came along. This impacted the trip a lot on how far and close she could get to the animals. Wilfred stayed at the campsite and just enjoyed the view of the waterhole where five young male elephants showed up en played for about an hour. After two days in the north part of the park we exited the park on the south part. The vegetation was completely different, more rugged and more hills with plenty of animals to see. In the early morning we (again) spotted two caracals (rooikat), but they were (again) too quick for a nice photo. All in all it was a very nice stay.