Kayaking With Penguins on the Western Cape

One of the most memorable and fun experiences of our South Africa trip was kayaking south of Cape Town. We needed another opportunity to commune with nature and animals, so we took a guided tour of the beach home to cape fur seals and penguins in Simon’s Town.

The two hour tour is called Paddle with the Penguins.  The two hour kayak in the bay allowed us to see penguins and more. We were really lucky with the weather, which was warm and cloudy, and the sea, which was calm.

Our guide, Terry, a marine conservationist with Shark Warrior Adventure Centre, was a trove of information about the penguins. He also led us near seals and sea birds and told us all about these marine animals and their home in Simon’s Town, all while guiding 8 of us through the very calm but busy waters of False Bay.

kayak penguin tour
Getting ready to kayak False Bay

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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 Accommodations: Tamboti Tent Camp

This is the fourth in a series about Kruger Park accommodations. We travelled from north to south and booked accommodations in advance.  We spent our fourth night at Tamboti Tent Camp.

Night Four: Tamboti Tent Camp
Tamboti Camp Kruger Park
Tamboti is the star on the map of Kruger Park

Tamboti tent camp is one of the smaller camps in Kruger, remote and peaceful. It’s the only camp we stayed in which doesn’t even have a reception desk – to check in at Tamboti, we had to first stop in at the bigger Orpen Rest Camp a few kilometers east.

Tamboti is a type of tree, and it’s a poisonous tree. Fortunately we didn’t have any experiences with the Tamboti tree; just the camp named for it.

Our lodging at Tamboti was a big tent with a bedroom and bathroom inside, and an outdoor kitchen on a deck, which we quite liked.

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Kruger Park Accommodations: Olifants Rest Camp

The third post about accommodations in Kruger National Park is our Christmas night camp, Olifants Rest Camp.

Night Three: Olifants Rest Camp
Kruger Olifants
Map of Kruger with Olifants camp

Olifants is one of the biggest campsites at Kruger Park, and was the biggest we’d seen when we arrived there on Christmas Day. It even had a restaurant and a pool for the kiddies.

When we pulled into the camp on Christmas Day afternoon, the place was packed. The day visitors’ centre was full of locals cooking their Christmas brais. It calmed down at night, but is still a large place with a lot of cottages, campsites and more.

Olifants camp is on a cliff overlooking the Olifants River. Olifants means elephant and is named as such because the elephants love that river. We had an air conditioned bungalow with a deck overlooking Olifants River.

Olifants River Kruger Park
Olifants River

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Kruger Park Accommodations: Punda Maria Rest Camp

Kruger Park is huge: one of the largest game parks in Africa, it covers over 19,000 sq kilometers, and it has almost 40 different accommodation options. We visited Kruger National Park for 5 days in December, and stayed in a different camp each of 5 nights. Each one was quite different from the previous, and we enjoyed all of them!

We booked our rooms in advance through the Kruger Park website. We booked in August for our Christmas stay, and some of the places were already full, but we still got good rooms.  Christmas is a busy time at Kruger: a lot of South Africans spend their holidays there and plan well in advance.

There is a range of options throughout the park – from north to south, you can camp out or stay in fancier places.

This is the first post about our accommodations in Kruger Park.

Night One: Punda Maria Rest Camp

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Spotting the Big Five in Kruger Park

Before I went to Kruger National Park – my first ever safari experience – I was excited to see ANY wild animals. I had heard of “The Big 5” but wasn’t even sure which animals were labelled within that group. We learned from a guide during one of the organized walks that this term originally comes from hunters. As a result, hunters considered the biggest animals the most important for their trophy cases and thus the Big 5 designation was created

It is a goal for many safari goers to see all of “The Big 5.” While this wasn’t my goal, the whole park experience pushes that as a priority. Each campsite has a couple of boards where people can mark their daily sightings of these most wanted wild animals, plus some other rare and interesting animals. Except the rhino. Due to these beautiful animals being close to extinction, the park will not advertise sightings of rhinoceros as a way to protect them against poachers. Because of this, a rhino sighting is a tough find.

For the most part, we drove around, did a couple of walking tours, and just enjoyed our sightings of all the animals and birds. But in the back of our minds, especially as the days passed, we did still hope to see all of the big 5.

Here’s a rundown on our Big 5 sightings in Kruger National Park: Continue reading “Spotting the Big Five in Kruger Park”

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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Diving Corn Island

Dive Sites Corn IslandsWe read in advance about the scuba diving in Corn Islands- big fish, uncluttered sites, nice reefs -and we have enjoyed 5 days of diving here.

It didn’t start out great – on Sunday and Monday,  the wind and waves were very strong – and even with Gravol, it was tough being on the boat. Below the surface, the waves affected visibility and moved us around a lot. But, we kept with it, and the last few days have been great!

We dove with Dos Tiburones the entire time at several different reefs – 8 dives in total. We saw sharks, rays (no photos of the rays), lots of massive lobsters, eels, schools of fish and some beautiful reefs. This is a very heavily fished island so there weren’t a LOT of big fish as we’ve seen in other places like Cuba or Galapagos (but Galapagos isn’t a fair comparison anyway), but it was still fun.

Starfish Corn Islands
Starfish

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Melyna on The Go Stories

The time has really been flying and now Lyna is on her way back to Toronto. The Melyna adventure has ended, but we did have some good times, and some interesting ones. There are a few tales I have not yet told about our adventures, so as I move on to my solo Nica travels, I’ll mention some of the good, the ridiculous and the funny of the 10 days of “Melyna on the Go.”

Meeting other Canadians

There are a lot of Canadians in Nicaragua. We’ve met many from B.C. and Toronto and even a backpacker on the Ometepe shuttle bus from College and Ossington, but the best meet cute was in our hotel in Granada. The hotel included breakfast, but no matter how few or many people they were, the cooks couldn’t keep up with the demand. Lyna was wearing her Toronto Blue Jays shirt and went up to the counter to look for her pancakes. A tall man approached her carrying a plate and as he was asking her if she was from Canada, she asked him “Are those my pancakes?” Yes, she was from Canada, as were he and his friends, and no, they weren’t her pancakes, they were his. April, Lyna said you would appreciate that story. Her pancakes did come shortly after but included the wrong ingredients. Nicaragua! Continue reading “Melyna on The Go Stories”

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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