Safari in South Africa

Dick and Irene Craig
Tue 16 Nov 2010 11:09

Horror! I found weevils in the rice that we bought in Fiji, for making risotto. They were dead, presumably the result of the microwave action that is applied to all product that comes on the boat which might contain unwanted critters. I had to put the rice in water so that the critters floated to the top and could be scooped out. The risotto doesn’t taste the same once the rice has been put in water before it is cooked.
The start of the leg from Reunion was a bit messed up. We were supposed to make for a yellow buoy, after leaving the marina and before setting off to continue our passage across the Indian Ocean.
Eowyn called up rally control and protested that theirs was the only boat that had passed round the buoy so there was a mad dash by most of the other boats to incorporate this. Unfortunately, there were so many boats trying to pass round the buoy at the same time that the inside boats didn’t have sufficient sea room. One of the monohulls hit the buoy, as it attempted to pass, leaving it on their starboard side and one of the catamarans had to straddle the buoy. At least one of the hulls passed it leaving it to starboard. Two of the other monohulls, watching the melee, decided to give it a miss, thus being no longer eligible to be part of the “race”.
This is a rally and not really a race but for those boats which like to be competitive, there is also an element of race built into each leg.
The leg from Reunion was so varied and the experience of each boat probably differed from every other that took part. For example, day one we sailed but most of the other boats motored. The next three days we motored most of the time but other boats didn’t motor at all. Some of us had gale force winds around the southern tip of Madagascar and others didn’t. Some of the boats had a current against them for the duration of the passage while other boats had positive current. We experienced 52knot winds during the 12 hours prior to arriving in Richards Bay, others had wind no greater than 20knots. One boat was knocked down by a freak wave after the wind had subsided. At one stage during the passage, we recorded a maximum speed of 19.2knots. It was like we had all made this passage on a different time warp.
At one o’clock in the morning we were only three hours from Zululand Yacht club. At 3am we still had three hours to go. We had been sailing at over 100º off the wind at speeds exceeding 10knots but the direction changed as we got closer to land and we were slamming, head on into the wind, both engines running at 2000 revs, a four knot current against us, at 3.7knots.
The weather also was so changeable, not just day by day but almost hour by hour. For all that, I had expected a much worse passage and was grateful to arrive at our destination, safe but tired.
The night after our arrival the Zululand Yacht club threw a barbeque for us with live music and a large group of Zulu dancers with the most amazing high kicks. There was a competition to see who could spit the animal pellets the furthest. Oisin from Brown Eyed Girl won the competition and received a cured animal skin as a prize. The animal pellets turned out not to be dung but chocolate. It was a terrific night and our friend John, who had arrived that afternoon from the UK, was not permitted to settle in gently.
On the morning of the 12th November, our driver/guide arrived. We drove from the marina to St. Lucia, past the eucalyptus forests which are grown for the timber, past the sugar cane plantations, to spend a couple of hours on the lake and observe the hippos and crocodiles. We also saw an enormous variety of exotic birds, the names of which escape me. However, we did see the huge saddle billed stork, a secretary bird, Egyptian duck and weaver birds who built their nests in the reeds.
From St.Lucia we traveled on to the Rhino River Lodge, a private game park which had all of the animals except lion. We stayed for 3 nights so were able to do 2 early morning drives when we stopped for refreshments, see photo with table and cloth, and 2 evening drives, stopping in the bush for a sundowner. The ranger was knowledgeable and enthusiastic which made the experience even better than it might have been.
We spotted herds of wildebeest, giraffe with a baby, rhinoceros with babies, zebra with a baby, impala, the females of which were all pregnant and due to deliver at the end of November,/early December; as well as kudu, nyala, jackal, red duika, terrapin, monkeys, water buck, wart hog, dung beetles, ostrich, porcupine, a big grasshopper and a gigantic moth.
At Rhino River, there were dozens of different types of exotic bird and we saw again a secretary bird just strolling through the bush.
Although the safari experience was fantastic, there were two particular highlights. We had stopped at a water hole during one of the drives and Dick spotted the eye of a crocodile just out of the water. We sat for a while and it didn’t move so, just to check it out, a twig was thrown into the water and as the crocodile felt the movement in the water, the eye submerged, without a ripple.
The second highlight occurred during the early morning drive on the last day. We saw a huge Gymnogene, the more modern name being African Harrier hawk, pan in on movement on a tree trunk to which it flew; sticking its talons into a hole, first the left foot then the right foot, it pulled out a non-venomous snake. The snake curled itself round the legs of the bird which flapped its massive wings to remain steady; meanwhile, a large Brown Snake Eagle had seen the activity and flew over for part of the action. The Gymnogene won the day.
Our guide took us to Hluhluwe game reserve to see the lion but this was not to be, despite spending the entire day there. It rained and the day was wet and misty with low cloud and the bush tended to be denser than at Rhino River. We did see a huge, grumpy elephant however.
Driving back to the marina on the fourth day, we stopped at a roadside market where there was an abundance of fruit and some vegetables available as well as African craft, such as bead work, carvings, pots, basket work etc. From there we went to Shakaland, a traditional Zulu homestead in the Nkwalini valley, an authentic recreation of the days of Shaka, King of the Zulus and the Great Kraal overlooking the Phobane lake; here we watched demonstrations of spear making, shield making, pottery, basket and bead work. We were then entertained by the witchdoctor and the fortune teller, assegai wielding warriors, tribal dancing, taking part also in a beer drinking ceremony.