Travelling around South Africa
Continued from Storms River
The Garden Route officially ends at Storms river but the journey on up to Port Elizabeth is equally as beautiful.
Again I had pre booked my hotel here from the bus via my airline company for another great deal AUD$55.00 per night including breakfast and was looking to relax for a few days and wind down from my experiences thus far and take in the coastal city life for a while.
Port Elizabeth is a happening city in the Eastern Cape Province and a major port, with lots of shopping centres, malls, promenades and beaches. You could be forgiven in thinking you were back home strolling around but this city is not only one of the largest cities in South Africa but its locality to many game reserves and national parks.
My plan was to station myself here for at least a week or two and try out as much as I could in this time. A day or two after getting my bearings and walking around as much of the city as I could and soaking up the sun drenched beaches, it was time to take my first excursion further inland.
My first game reserve trip was booked for Shamwari Game Reserve and it was time for my next adrenaline hit to get up close and personal to the "big five."
This was only a taster trip as I had planned two larger trips further north to the Kruger National Park and a treat of a luxury stay at Makutsi Safari Springs but as this was my first taste of the real wild, you really couldn't miss my excitement as I was picked up from my hotel and whisked away to my destination.
A two day safari accommodation and my first braai and it was sensational.
As a bonus I had scored the honeymoon suite at no extra cost and it was luxurious to say the least.
We virtually saw the big 5 on the first day and were treated to watching a night time hunt, two male giraffes fighting for a females attention which is rare to see and a close arms stretch to lions, elephants and rhinos.
The evening braai was held in a central open air gallery eating area and a campfire to finish. Early to bed early to rise and this is the norm when on safari, as the animals are far more active through the night, dusk and dawn. Top tip here is take warm clothes.
Now I have to say if it wasn't for the fact I had been liaising with several proprietors of accommodation in Zambia, I wouldn't have known about the early opening of the Devils Pool or have a place to stay on arrival.
So once again, planning, research and contact are all part of travelling around the globe.
So much happens whilst you are on the road and not all the information is available on the world wide web.
There seems to be two seasons to pay a visit to the falls. One, in full flow and two, around this time being late August early September. We talk more about this in the tip.
Many get up early to catch the rainbows in the falls but as you can see from our photos, you can pretty much always get the shot you want throughout the day.
It is definitely worth visiting the falls from both sides, being Zambia and Zimbabwe and the bridge and border crossing is worth it alone. Top tip get a tour guide to see you through the border. You will get through a lot quicker.
Again not wanting to spoil it for you, you really have to experience this wonder for yourselves and just chill out all day long there. You can rush around and see it all in a couple of hours if you're on a mission to miss everything but that's not me and we must have spent the best part of the day there.
White Water Rafting on the Zambezi.
Now again this is a must do if you are reasonably fit and healthy but not for the infirm or squeamish. You can do the half day tour but if you really want to experience the whole run, go for the full day trip 25 rapids in all. The lift up at the end of your day of adrenaline hit is awesome with great views.
We had been lucky enough to go at its highest flow for rafting and was in for a real treat.
The very first rapid is one of the most challenging especially if you are a novice to white rafting but I had been in other parts of the world before and was looking forward to it.
This river had twenty five rapids to negotiate and you are definitely coming out one way or another. Again I won't spoil it for you but you will have a load of fun, that's for sure.
Early next morning we were all up and eager for the hunt and by this I mean out to look for more of the big 5.
There is so much to see and the anticipation of what you will or even might not see is a buzz that keeps you warm and excited the whole time.
Well my first safari out, even though fairly short was a blast and I couldn't wait to get up into the bigger parks and see more.
Back to Port Elizabeth I was headed and I had just been informed that the Devils Pool was opening earlier than usual at Victoria Falls.
Another night in Port Elizabeth where I booked a flight straight to Zambia and changed my plans completely. Tip 0359 Change of plans.
We talk a lot about changing your plans on the go within this website and you really must allow flexibility into your schedules.
I was already heading in the right direction and bypassing temporarily the Safaris I had planned and heading straight for Zambia was no real problem. I hadn't fully booked my safaris and allowed flexibility to them for just such a reason.
A quick call to each operator with now final dates allowed me a week or two up north to achieve my main goal of jumping the Devils Pool on the day that they opened it, meaning I would be the first of the year to do it and the water flow would be at its fastest and highest to get the real buzz of the jump.
With flights booked and everything checked it was off to Zambia for another thrill of a lifetime.
If you are thinking of or are going to Zambia and you haven't booked any accommodation we highly recommend you think about staying at "ZigZag Lodge Livingstone".
Rarely have we stayed anywhere that has more than exceeded expectations. I am not talking 5 star marble and gold taps, it's just the location, friendliness, helpfulness, loveliness and caring that you get from everyone there and a sense of being at home whilst you are away that knocks you over when you stay at this place.
A short walk to anywhere and you're in the middle of it all. If you are contemplating whether to stay in Zambia or Zimbabwe, this is the place to be. Of course if you're after pure indulgence then there are many places around but this was superb for me.
Already now booked my jump, I had the opportunity to organise of course a visit to the falls, an Apache Helicopter ride into the gorge and over the falls, of course another adrenaline hit of an all day white water rafting experience, a mini safari, sunset cruise down the Zambezi, kayaking along the Zambezi and an excursion to Botswana and the Okavango Delta.
Well when in Rome! There is so much to do here and all on the door step virtually.
My first night was a sunset cruise and wow is all I can say. Drinks and canapes whilst you meander along with the evening sound of all the wildlife going about their business. You will see Hippos in the river, elephants on the banks and bird life like no other. Even the sun has a distinctive red/orange glow from the haze of the day and red dirt and dust particals in the air.
I defy anyone not to get a good photo of a glorious sunset and backdrop of everything around you.
You get to meet so many travellers on the boat too and strike up conversations of where you've been, where you are going and tips on what's best to do and see.
To make friends on a trip like this is not hard at all and sure enough I ended up chatting to a lovely south African couple who were up for a second visit of the falls from Durban. A bevy or two later after the cruise and we arranged to meet up to walk the falls together the next day.
It wasn't too hard to convince them also to jump the Devils Pool with me the following day and our plans were set. Top Tip 0362 when to visit the falls
The jump was upon me and my new found friends and we set off with around eight others wanting to come along.
The round trip included a short boat trip close by the falls edge and a short stroll into the falls and over to the Devils Pool. Trust me your heart will thump and you will be tempted not to jump but we are there!
This exhilarating experience again is one of a life time and you really must try it if you are there.
To jump is powerful enough and then to lean over the edge as the cascading water flows over you, pushing you over as you look down the massive drop, is something else. In full flood, the water is powerful enough to push adult elephants over the edge.
Time for photos and fun we all headed back to the banks of the mighty river and tea was arranged, as we all felt we deserved it.
Plan your jump as there are different times of the day to do it and a great way to finish is to go in the afternoon and finish up at the end with a glass of bubbly or even a meal on the veranda watching the sunset over the banks of the river.
Another day another thrill and my chopper ride was on the cards for me. Now this may be an extravagance for some but look for a good deal. I managed to tag along with a group for half price.
This was an unexpected buzz and I managed to score the best seat on the ride.
This open door flight takes you low and fast along the countryside as you pass over the wildlife and swoop down into the great gorge. You can almost reach out and touch the water below you. Then without warning you soar up high like an eagle ever circling until from a great height you suddenly come across the mighty Victoria Falls.
Nothing prepares you of the view you see and I would imagine in full flow this would be even more spectacular.
You get a great perspective of everything on this flight and a feel of what's to come, especially if you like me, want to do the white water rafting down the mighty Zambezi river.
On Rhino Safari
Each day was a different one and for me a short 3 hour local rhino safari had to be experienced with the promise of some rhino spotting not too far away.
A small group of five, myself included set off into the neighbouring national park and a short circular return walk took us deeper into the bush. A very patient and knowledgeable team looked after us pointing out wonderfully camouflaged wildlife and then sure enough we got our reward.
Six beautiful Rhino hiding in the bush. we managed to get to at least 30 feet from these huge creatures without disturbing them in their natural habitat.
Being amongst these giants and so close to them is a real privilege and worth every moment of the trip. A fairly lazy day for me and I was resting up ready for my next adventure.