Kruger Park Accommodations: Skukuza Rest Camp

This is the final installment in posts about Kruger Park accommodations with our last night’s camp, Skukuza Rest Camp.

Night Five: Skukuza Rest Camp

On our last night in Kruger Park, we stayed in the biggest camp yet, Skukuza. This camp is so big, it has car rental and conference facilities, 2 restaurants and a lot more. Despite the size, our rondovel bungalow was charming.  Because Skukuza was so big, we were able to take a guided walk in the afternoon of our arrival, where we saw Rhinos!

Rhino Skukuza Walk
Guided Walk – all looking at a rhino
Rhino Skukuza Kruger
A rhino we saw on our walk from Skukuza

The camp was also home to a lot of monkeys trying to scavenge for food. But one thing we learned while in Kruger is never feed the animals.

Skukuza Monkey
Monkey on the path, Skukuza

Skukuza is a couple of hours drive from the southern park entrances, and we had to get to Johannesburg Airport for the next stage of our holiday. We both would have happily stayed longer in Kruger Park. The wildlife, the people, the accommodations: it all added up to a great experience.

Kruger Park: Animal Crossings

Kruger National Park in South Africa is a wonderful place. If you like the outdoors and wild animals, this is already on your list to visit, or should be. I just spent 6 days and 5 nights there and am compiling all the photos, videos and stories for future posts!

One of the unique things about Kruger National Park is that visitors drive along the roads looking for wild animals. The park is the animals’ home so humans are not supposed to walk around except in camps or with guides. Drive slowly so you don’t miss an animal, and so you don’t miss a car suddenly stopping in front of you because the driver has just seen an animal! Sometimes you don’t even need to look for animals, because they just decide to cross the road immediately in front of you.

Here are a few examples of animal crossings in Kruger National Park last week:

Buffalo Crossing

Wild buffalo are very cool imposing creatures. They look almost medieval. When these cross the road, we wait for them. Buffalo are one of the so-called “Big Five” so it’s exciting to see them, even when they are in the way.*

*Please note: all talk of being inconvenienced by animal crossings is tongue in cheek! We loved it!

Buffalo Crossing
Buffalo Crossing the road
Elephant Crossing

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Somoto Canyon Day Trip

Somoto Canyon
Somoto Entrance Sign

Ever since I read about Somoto Canyon, I have wanted to visit. As you know, this trip was supposed to happen on Wednesday, but I messed that up big time! I tried again yesterday and the day started fine; I got a taxi and held onto my wallet and bag for dear life. Once I boarded and  saw a woman carrying actual chickens onto the bus, I knew it was a good sign! Some people go whole vacations without seeing a chicken on the chicken bus, and I got two chickens on my 4th chicken bus! The day was going to be good!

Chicken Bus
The woman with 2 chickens on the chicken bus to Somoto
Chicken bus
Zoom in on the chickens

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The Best Volcano Yet: Volcan Masaya!

Wowow wow wow wow.  Last night we went to Masaya Volcano. It’s best to go there at night because you can see the hot lava much better in the dark!!! HOT LAVA IN THE DARK. It was even better than it sounds, and I thought it sounded great.

So, it’s a big deal to go to the volcano at night. Everybody wants to see the hot lava. The cars line up on the side of the highway before the park opens for the night at 5:30pm (but, since it’s “Nica time”, it actually didn’t open until more like 5:45pm). People are standing on the side of the road too; some are vendors, others are just passengers who don’t want to sit in the cars.

Masaya Volcano
Some of the line up for Masaya

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The Natural Beauty of Laguna Apoyo, Nicaragua

Yesterday we moved from Ometepe Island to Laguna Apoyo on the mainland, and we are very happy with the change.

Leaving Ometepe

We left Ometepe Island yesterday via taxi, lancha and another taxi, and 3-4 hours later we were at Laguna Apoyo. It may only be the resort we selected, but what a difference those few hours made.

Let me tell you why we were so happy to leave Ometepe – the only reason was our hotel. I struggled trying to get us a room on the Island to begin with – we did have a few parameters, but it shouldn’t have been that difficult. Wanting 2 separate beds in a room in Nicaragua seems to be a challenge for the hotels here. Be forewarned. Anyway, I found this place on booking.com and it was a great location and had decent reviews and was cheap. When we arrived, they tried to hold our air conditioner hostage. Seriously. They took the air conditioner remote with them and left us in this windowless basement room and walked away. I followed. Good thing I took Spanish lessons because now I knew how to call them liars. I still don’t know Spanish for scumbag. Need to ask around. I showed them our booking. Apparently, they tried to claim that it was $20 more to get air conditioning and that I hadn’t booked it with air conditioning. They had clearly not given an option on the online listing, and the listing said it included air conditioning. I showed them. Lyna and I sat down to lunch and debated leaving right then. But then, the receptionist seemed to realize her mistake, apologized to me and gave us the cherished air conditioning remote. It was unbelievable. First time I’ve had a hotel ransom the air conditioner remote. How about you? So that left a terrible taste in our mouths about that hotel and we were happy to leave. Continue reading “The Natural Beauty of Laguna Apoyo, Nicaragua”

A Kayak Tour of Ometepe

Ometepe Kayaking
Beginning of Kayak Tour

One day of rest was enough! Yesterday Lyna and I wanted to get out and see more of the wildlife of the Ometepes. We biked our way to the town(?) of Mérida and Caballito’s Mar Kayaks.

It was not an easy bike ride or kayak but wow was it worth it. Perfect weather – sun and some wind, and tons of wildlife! Here is a partial list of what we saw: a caiman, turtles, blue herons, monkeys, ospreys, sleeping bats, egrets, ibises, tiger herons, magpie jays, and parakeets. There were more but I can’t remember them!

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A Visit to Mombacho Volcano

Mombacho
Mombacho from the lake

Yesterday we went for a visit to Mombacho Volcano, a close drive from Granada and a beautiful protected Nicaraguan park.

We booked a tour for $35 through Tierra Tours. After a little research, $35 seemed standard unless you book through our hotel which charges $50. We went with the standard price 🙂 The Tierra Tours van picked us up at around 9:30am and we were off. There was already a man from Belgium in the car, and then we picked up a couple from Toronto (actual Toronto, not people from hours away telling people they live in Toronto) and we headed for my first volcano of the trip!

Mombacho is a “dormant” or sleeping volcano. It hasn’t erupted since the 1500s but it is definitely alive. We saw steam coming from the earth and smelled sulfur more than once, especially near the crater. It is closely monitored for activity.

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Windy Season 

It’s been the windy season while I’ve been in San Juan del Sur. Some days, and nights, are worse than others.  In general, for the 3 weeks I have been here, it has been very windy.

At the beaches, people use large rocks to hold everything down: surfboards and beach chairs included.  I have seen more than a few people running on the beach after hats and clothes. And then there is the sand! It gets EVERYWHERE, including your eyes. Some days it is wise to just avoid the beach. Some days, like today, the navy closes the port because they don’t want boats on the water the wind is that strong!

Maderas Beach
You can see the rocks keeping the surfboards from blowing away on the beach

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Things to Do in San Juan del Sur: Parque Aventura Las Nubes

The activity of the day today was a trip to an Adventure Park: Parque Aventura Las Nubes – nubes are clouds. It is an amazing mountain preserve, with hiking trails, beautiful views both east and west, and plant and animal life.

Ometepe Islands
View eastward to the volcanoes of Ometepe Islands
Costa Rica
View west of the Pacific and Costa Rica

Finally I got to see monkeys (monos, as they are called in Spanish), and hopefully it wasn’t the last time.

Howler Monkey
Howler Monkey

In addition to the monkeys, we saw a sloth!, butterflies, and iguanas.

Sloth
Sloth in a tree

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Scuba Diving in San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur is a surf town, but being on the ocean, you can still scuba dive here too. It is definitely not common: after a few days searching, I was able to find one dive operator in town. I got two dives in with Dive Nicaragua this past weekend and even used the go-pro underwater for the first time. It worked!

The dives weren’t the greatest dives I’ve ever done. The water is quite cold – less than 20. This isn’t the Caribbean, that’s for sure! The visibility also wasn’t fantastic. It really varied around, depending on the amount of sun shining and the waves kept bringing in lots of sand. All in all, it was still worth it. The dive master was very nice and the other client, a youngster from Germany, was very friendly and interesting. The weather was great and the scenery was pretty good too.

The dive sites were close to the beach I visited last week, Playa Hermosa. They were at rocks in the water. At the first site, we dove around a statue of the Virgin Mary which was recently submerged in the water and is beginning to attract plant life. On both dives, we saw schools of fish and lots of rays and starfish. My photos aren’t the best, but they are OK.

Hermosa
Dive boat view

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