Cradle of Humankind: Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve

Phew! What an amazing road trip! We finally reached Johannesburg, our first and last point of this woweeee holiday. We were still in awe of the road trip we had accomplished in only sixteen days, and this all by ourselves *pat on the back* With two cars we clocked almost three thousand kilometres and motored across half of this big and wonderful country. Well, almost half…oh, okay, half of half…whatever-rrr. We “burnt rubber”, as the saying goes, but little did we know that rubber would really be burning. After the Elephants and a night full of trunks were tooting or was it snoring wild dreams, we were sooo ready to head up north. Johannesburg here we come! It was blerry hot. We had the car air-con on full blast which helped a bit. Who am I kidding…it helped zilch, nada, nix. Try driving and panting for air while pleating your forehead in the hope that those salty sweaty pearls will not plop into your eyes. After driving for six and a half hours through dry and empty landscapes, only stopping once, we decided to overnight in Bloemfontein, a city which loosely translated means “blooming fountain” or “fountain of flowers”. Forget blooming anything, to us it was just !Yay! People. Food. Bathtub. We did not feel like exploring. Pooped as hell. The next morning it was hotter than the devil’s *cough-cough* and one could even see heat waves dancing on the never-ending tarred road. The car was making strange noises and we also needed to fill up the petrol tank, so after almost three hours into our journey, we stopped at a service station. As we tried to leave, the car started to make funny noises, which got louder and louder with each metre, so we stopped and discovered that the whole front wheel arch on the right had melted onto the tyre! Geezus! It was a big and fancy car, but all that modern manufactured “plastic” apparently couldn’t stand the heat. Luckily our rental agent sorted everything out, but we still had to wait for an hour before a replacement car was brought to us. We were, after all, in the middle of nowhere. We used this time to have an early lunch, twiddle our thumbs…and fret. The new car was a snazzy little thing, emphasis on little, and we just about managed to squeeze all our luggage in. Daddy long legs sort of folded himself into the front seat. Phew, there was more than enough space, even if the seat was sorta the same length as his shoe 😜  How happy we were when we finally got home. Yoo-hoo!

A day before our flight out, we decided to go on one more safari, just because it was around the corner (a forty five minute drive corner) and also because “someone” was gaga about wild animals wanted to see more wild animals, probably for the last time in this year, so we visited a privately owned Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve that is situated within the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Reserve is quite large, considering its close proximity to Johannesburg, Pretoria and other cities or towns. It was also founded by a former stockbroker, Ed Hern, who I personally know from my many years working at the Stock Exchange. Here’s something to smile about… According to their website, the reserve started off with, amongst others, two white rhinos, renamed “Ouvrou” (old woman) and “Bulle” (bull), that were imported all the way from…wait for it…a zoo…now get this…in Germany! A zoo in Germany! Mein lieber Scholli!!

It is possible to do both a walk and/or a self-drive tour, depending on what you want to see. No! You cannot cuddle a lion nor tickle a crocodile (some idiots do try) but you can stand next to a curious Marabou Stork or be brave and visit the slithering snakes in the Reptile Park. There’s also a wonderful eatery where you can sample a typical local “snack” of chips with a boerewors roll, washed down with a cold creme-soda milkshake.

Boerewors Roll and Creme Soda Milkshake

Driving within the wild animal enclosure is also easy as the roads are okay. Dusty and unpaved, but okay. Well, it depends on your car. We had mother-dearest’s flat as a pancake low-lying Merc AMG sports car which scraped over stones and bumpity-bumps. Eish! We did not expect “natural” roads because at Addo everything was tarred. Added to that, at the furthest end of the reserve, surrounded by hungry-looking wild dogs and far far away from humans, or the exit gate, a thingy inside the car started making peeping noises. Buckled up? Yep. It didn’t stop. We looked again and geezuz, the petrol gauge was on red. So the German one of us started freaking out, like we’re going to be eaten alive or something 😱 Duh! The heat would have done us in before that because the windows had to stay closed 😰 Anyway, we manouvered the pancake car around a lazing animal or two trying to make a u-turn and slowly, very slowly edged our way towards the exit. The tortoise got there before us, but as soon as we hit the main road, tarred of course, we added some speed and found a petrol station only about twenty panicky minutes away. Glug-glug-glug. That was us drinking ginger beer instead of something spirity. Thankfully we’d seen most of the animals at the reserve, and oh, the handsome one also took lots of photos. Ende gut, alles gut (all’s well that ends well).  😀 😇  Enjoy these awesome photos!

African Wild Dog (Lycaon Pictus)

 

 

South African Cheetah (Acinonyx Jubatus Jubatus and Fennec Fox/Fennec (Vulpes Zerda)

 

 

White Lion Cubs

 

 

White Lion

 

 

 

Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra (Equus Zebra Hartmannae)

 

 

Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes Taurinus), or common Wildebeest, and white-bearded Wildebeest or Brindled Gnu

 

 

Blesbok or Blesbuck (Damaliscus Pygargus Phillipsi)

 

 

Sable Antelope (Hippotragus Niger) and Waterbuck (Kobus Defassa)

 

 

Common Warthog (Phacochoerus Africanus)

 

 

 

Springbok (Antidorcas Marsupialis) and South African Ostrich (S. c. Australis)

 

 

Crocodiles and Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis Liberiensis or Hexaprotodon Liberiensis)

 

 

Python, Eastern Green Mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps), also known as the common Mamba and a Puff Adder (Bitis Arietans)

 

 

Yellow Mongoose (Cynictis Penicillata), sometimes referred to as the red Meerkat

 

 

Cape Ground Squirrel (Xerus Inauris)

 

 

African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis Aethiopicus)

 

 

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus Ibis) and a White Stork (Ciconia Ciconia)

 

 

Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos Crumenifer)

 

 

 

Secretary Bird (Sagittarius Serpentarius)

 

 

Southern Masked Weaver or African Masked Weaver (Ploceus Velatus)

 

 

Long-tailed Widowbird (Euplectes Progne) and Blacksmith Lapwing or Blacksmith Plover (Vanellus Armatus)

 

 

Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida Meleagris)

 

 

 

 

 

Hoo-hoo-a-a-cheep-cheep: Monkeyland & the Birds of Eden

Day Thirteen: After an interesting night spent with strange-looking spiders lurking in the toilet and heavy insect repellant smells still clinging to the hairs of our nostrils, we said our good-byes and headed off to our next “we-do-not-know-where” destination. We used the national highway that takes you all along the beautiful coastline and through one or two national parks, a few lush and indigenous forests, many towns and quaint villages, about ten rivers and three large tranquil lakes. This was one of the most interesting and greenest roads we’ve travelled on so far. The highway cuts right through the centre of the town of Knysna (pronounced NIZE-NA) and after driving along the Knysna River, we were so impressed that we decided to stop here.  It was hot. Ssstt! We parked next to an old “Choo-Tjoe” Trolley (see below) at the Waterfront-Knysna Quays then hurried over to get some much needed shade, and ice-cream. We peeked into a few delightful little boutiques and curio shops, strolled along the marina with its bobbing boats and fancy yachts, then stopped to admire the famous lagoon. We were quite sad that we were not able to spend more time here, but we put it on our bucket list for next time. Oh, and we almost, almost ended up buying a big fat diamond engagement ring. She said…!Yikes! 😱 Let’s get outta here…

 

The interesting statue below is carved from cypress wood. The Berlin Pub near to it sold ice-cold German beers, but was totally ignored by the German. The other one wanted to sip that bitter yucky stuff just for some relief from the plip-plip-plip heat, but…DRIVING!!

 

Knysna Yacht Club with part of the vast lagoon which flows into the Indian Ocean

 

 

Monkeyland

Only about a forty-five minute drive from Knysna, and just outside the beautiful holiday resort Plettenberg Bay (“Plett” as it’s lovingly called), is a free-roaming (fenced) primate sanctuary called Monkeyland. It covers about twelve hectares of indigenous forest and has several private nature reserves around it. The best and only way to see everything in Monkeyland is to book a walking safari tour. Done and dusted! As we sat outside waiting for our safari guide, a brown squirrel monkey jumped out of nowhere and bounced on the head of an unsuspecting “sipping-a-drink-female. Le Moi! Okay, so the curly wispy afro did look like a wild bush and the sipping-through-the-straw was a bit loud, but still, there was no reason to scare the living daylights out of an afro mop(pet). A wanna-be blood-curdling scream gathered at the bottom of my dry-from-shock throat but that got stifled just as quickly when the sun-tanned guide appeared and said “howzit everyone”. It took quite a while for my thumpity-thump booming heart to settle down, but all in all it was an amazing experience, retrospectively. The trembling legs even managed to cross a swaying rope bridge, alone! Only one person at a time could walk that bridge 🐒 🐵

Our guide was fantastic and had a great sense of humour. The safari is very informative and extensive with a lot of walking, talking, ooh-ing and aah-ing. You can look, but not touch, even if the animals are curling around your feet (or jumping on your head). There are more than seven hundred primates and we were lucky to have seen ten of the eleven species in this wonderful monkey paradise. Yes, they are all ex-captives brought here to be physically and emotionally rehabilitated, then left to be free in their natural lifestyle. Strangely enough, almost none of the monkeys here are from South Africa, probably not even from Africa at all. Click on these amazing photos for further information…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds of Eden

The Birds of Eden is a free-flight bird sanctuary under a fifty metre high mesh dome, is right next to Monkeyland, and also a rehabilitation aviary for more than two hundred and fifty species of formerly caged birds. Here you will mainly find African birds, but there are some also from South America, Asia or elsewhere, and one or two unknowns. There are no guided tours, but it’s an easy two kilometre walkabout at your own pace through two or more hectares of beautiful forest and waterways. As for the birds! Oh my word! The first one as we entered the sanctuary was cheeky enough to shout a big “Hello!” to us. Another tried to peck our toes, or walk on our shoulders and yet another tried to chew my ear! To crown it all, a bird also pooped on Le Moi! Eeeew! A very good day hahahaha. As the saying goes, if a bird poops on you, it brings luck. Well, I agree!

 

The hadada or hadeda ibis below is probably the loudest screaming bird ever! They’re like everywhere in your garden and the noise starts before the cock crows. Early!

 

 

 

 

Male and Female Golden pheasant or Chinese pheasants. The men are colourful and the females a boring brown. Why, mara, why??

 

 

 

Red-shouldered macaw “picking”. It refused to leave us alone, following us until we managed to “hide” up a tree-house. Funny!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knysna turaco (Tauraco corythaix), a local!

 

 

Please stay off the grass – a Scarlet ibis that can read…and obey 😂

 

 

 

 

 

White-faced whistling ducks. The German spent what felt like hours with these lovers, and the not so impressed loser watching them canoodle in front of him. Aw, shame…

 

 

 

Flamingos and Spoonbills are not so easy to get this close to in the wild, so it was nice to have this eye-to-eye with them.

 

 

Chinese goose – not a species for the Christmas roast…oops!

 

A Black swan (Cygnus atratus) is also not found everywhere…