Posts Tagged ‘animals’


In the Spring, we’re overrun with these eeeeeenormous millipedes called Shongololos. We had a few who lingered on our (outside) stairs for a few weeks before they disappeared, so we of course named them. This one is DeShon, but there was also Shon, Shonda, LaShon, and Shondra. Quick tip: if you find one in the house and you’re trying to move it, don’t flip it onto its back. Oh, the writhing! My skin is still crawling!




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Bush to Beach to Berg

For the first half of August, we had the honor of playing host and tour guide for John’s brother Chuck, his wife Tracy, and their sons Charlie (14) and Alex (12) — collectively “The Chucks”. We drove more than 1,000 miles, saw dozens of animals, ate our way across SA, slept in luxury tents and a leaky cave, laughed ourselves sick, and generally just had an absolute blast.

Click on any photo to launch a full-size version of the slideshow

The photos and captions tell the story pretty well, but here’s a bit more context to how we spent our 13-day vacation. It’s amazing how quickly 2 weeks flies by when you’re having fun!

Part 1: Bush

After The Chucks’ 8pm arrival on Saturday night, we grabbed some takeout and had a quick catch-up session (and first-ever Roxy meeting!) on the patio before sending them off to bed. On Sunday – despite what should have been a very jet-laggy morning – everyone rolled out of bed fairly cheerfully and we were on the road by 11am after a nice pitstop by our monthly neighborhood food/craft market, The Wonder Market, for some breakfast and many, many coffees.

We arrived in St. Lucia mid-afternoon in time to check into our lovely guest house, then rolled straight over to the docks to board a cruise of the estuary in search of crocs and hippos. Many wild animals later, we enjoyed a delicious feast at a Portugese restaurant and then retired back to the lodge for some vino and chitchat.

Monday morning found us on a day tour of the wetlands, all the way up to Cape Vidal. All in an open-air Land Cruiser with an affable guide named Paul, complete with a lunch braai on the beach. By mid-afternoon, we were on the road again to head another hour north to Thanda game reserve.

We spent an amazing and relaxing 3 days at Thanda, where we were completely spoiled by the staff and amazed by the animals. We not only saw the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, lion, cape buffalo, leopard), we actually spent considerable time with many of them. There were also cheetahs, hyenas, warthogs, zebras, wildebeest, and too many types of bok to count. I can’t say enough good things about Thanda – if the opportunity ever presents itself, GO!

After a final early-morning game drive on Thursday, we said goodbye to Thanda and headed back to Durbs.

Part 2: Beach

Although the weather had been gray and rainy in Durban the whole time we were away, it was blue sky and warm by the time we returned. So we stopped off for lunch by the beach in Ballito on the way home, and then enjoyed a chilled night in with everyone’s favorite Pug.

Charlie (who answered “That sounds awesome – I want to do that” to every activity idea that I suggested) wanted to do the swing at the World Cup stadium, which is billed as the world’s largest swing (106m high, with a swinging arc of 220m). That’s basically jumping off of a 35-story building. John and Chuck agreed to take the plunge with him, while Alex, Tracy and I watched from stadium seats. It looked terrifying!

With Chuck hoarse from screaming like a little girl on the swing, we headed out for some lunch and a steadying beer. The plan was to grab lunch by uShaka Marine World and then head inside the water park for the afternoon, but the awesome and pragmatic Alex declared that the park was “too expensive”, so we opted for the free Umhlanga beach instead.

We had had the brilliant foresight to ask Terry and Steph if we could have the whole Durban crew over to their place for a braai Friday night, so all we had to do post-beach was clean ourselves up and head down the street. It was total fun to see our blood relatives mixing in with our Africa family.

After having our planned surf lessons canceled due to poor water conditions (it was lovely and warm and sunny out, just unfavorable surf) we spent all day Saturday hanging out at the beach at the Durban Undersea Club, playing corn hole and drinking beers. We rounded out the day with a soccer match at the World Cup stadium – Durban’s own Amazulu vs. the Kaiser Chiefs. It didn’t end well for the hometown boys, but a good time was had by all.

Surf lessons got waved off again on Sunday, so we hung around the house a bit and then headed down South to Umlazi township for an all-day lunch at Max’s Lifestyle. Meat and beer, beer and meat, rinse and repeat. As the sun went down, we decided to call an end to “lunch” and head home to rest up for the next leg of the trip…

Part 3: Berg

We headed out early Monday morning to rendezvous with the mountain guide who would take the boys on an overnight hiking trip to camp in Zulu Cave high up in the Drakensberg Mountains. As the boys disappeared up the trail, Tracy and I headed another hour into the Berg to The Cavern hotel and spa, where we spent 24 hours in the lap of (relative) luxury while the boys survived on cheese and crackers and slept in a cave. But the boys related that they had a fabulous time, and the pictures are simply breathtaking.

Once the team was back together on Tuesday morning, we headed out for a bite of lunch and then retired to Terry’s fabulous cottage for the rest of the day. Clean and rested up on Wednesday, we headed over to the treetop canopy tour for some ziplining. A heated bowls match and a delicious dinner rounded out the day, then most of us turned in for a good night’s sleep (**certain members of the household whose names may or may not rhyme with Con and Muck may have stayed up until the wee hours solving the world’s problems / drinking bourbon).

After an epic breakfast on the back patio, we packed back into the van and headed for the Midlands to do some meandering. Chuck – whose love of indigenous trinkets is only rivaled by that of his brother – continued his souvenir shopping spree, with the day’s haul including a bull’s horn, a springbok hide, a wildebeest skull (a gift for JG), and an iron warthog statue named Lil’ Coo. After an early dinner pitstop in Pietermaritzburg, we got back to Durban in time to change into comfy pants and have a group screening of The Fighter.

Friday morning (what?! How did it get to be Friday already?!) found us down at Warwick Market for a bit of a cultural tour and some final purchases at the weekly bead market. Terry served as our tour guide / Zulu interpreter, and I think the Chucks were suitably impressed (and slightly horrified) with the aisles of traditional medicine components.

And with “Zulu Market” checked off of the list, it was time to (SOB!) head back to the airport. Our luck with the weather held out just long enough, as the skies broke open while we were returning the rental car.

It was an unforgettable trip seeing amazing things with some of our favorite peeps in the world. A million thanks to our first family visitors for making the trek to SA – we’ll never forget it!

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We Got Game

One thing the boys didn’t get to do the last time they visited was to go on a game drive. Cape Town and the Western Cape aren’t lacking in awesome things to do, but it’s not a game area (aside from a few privately-held parks with relocated animals — some of which are very well done, but you can’t escape the feeling that it’s all a bit staged).

So for their first weekend, we road-tripped 3 hours north to the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi reserve. It’s a beautiful, state-run park, where you pay an entrance fee and are then free to explore in your own car. We chose to do a couple of organized game drives (with a guide, and a Land Rover) to increase our odds of seeing cool stuff and also to decrease my odds of having a lion-induced heart attack.

This guy was the first to greet us after we entered the gates. What a warm welcome from a smiling ginger!

This poor guy had a wonky horn. We wondered if the other rhinos make fun of him.

We finally bagged our first wild lion! A pride of 7 of them, to be exact. They were within 2 meters of the truck at times.

Lilac-breasted Roller

Baboons were nothing new to us - but one baboon treating the other's butt like a buffet definitely was.

...didn't want to leave you with the baboons as your last image of this post.

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Don’t Feed the Animals

These shots are of our new neighbor and her daughter throwing / handing slices of sandwich bread out a ground-level window to a dozen overexcited monkeys. Natural selection at work?

That big male on the right isn't doing a playful "downward dog" move - he is coiled like a spring to hurl himself the next time the window opens. I eventually couldn't watch anymore.

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When I looked out into the backyard and saw that someone had put 2 pieces of bread on top of the birdfeeder platform thingy that the previous tenant left, I thought surely we had been trespassed upon. Surely my husband, who knows my thing about birds (not to mention, monkeys) wouldn’t purposely leave food out where any neighborhood vermin would be tempted. Guess again.

Birds = ewww

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Hungry for Hippos

The agenda item that got the boot in favor of an extra day in Mozambique was a stop in the St. Lucia wetlands. But since it’s only a 3-hour drive north of Durban, Gael and I scheduled a midweek makeup day!

She and I, and new American friend Dana, set out early  to catch a 10am cruise through the St. Lucia estuary in hopes of spotting a few of the famous St. Lucia hippos. And hippos we got! Piles and piles of them – huge ones, tiny ones, sleeping ones, fighting ones, yawning ones.

The estuary also houses lots of crocodiles, several species of birds, tons of monkeys, bok, and other wildlife – but you really go to see the pods and pods of hippos. Our guide said that it’s not that uncommon to walk out of a restaurant at night and see a hippo walking down the street on its way out for its nightly foraging expedition. We have a credit to spend at the hotel we had to cancel the previous week, so will report back on that one later!

So many hippos, you can't even tell which part belongs to which one.

Is there anything cuter than a hippo yawn?!

Don't miss the background of this shot - it's what's for dinner!

[Actual date: April 13]

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Here Lizard, Lizard, Lizard

After John shooed this teensy little lizard from the kitchen counter out the window, he suctioned onto the glass and hung there for a while. So cool to see how his little suction toes work, and to watch his heart and lungs through his translucent skin! (My love for lizards extends only to those on the OUTside of windows — I will still freak out when faced with one inside).

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