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South Africa - 2002

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pfeil Travel

pfeil  South Africa 2002

pfeil   1 Rocktail Bay KZN
pfeil   2 Londolozi Safari
pfeil   3 Cape Town
pfeil   4 Winelands/Karoo
pfeil   5 Garden Route

pfeil   Gallery


last updated: 13-Feb-2006

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Our trip to South Africa in December 2002

Please check out these links to our trips to South Africa/Swaziland and to South Africa/Namibia in 2005.
More photos can be found in the gallery here.

When: 13th to 31st December 2002

Where: Rocktail Bay, Londolozi, Cape Town, Paarl (Winelands), Montagu (Klein Karoo), Oudtshoorn, George (Garden Route)

How: We flew JNB DUR, from Durban we had arranged a car transfer to Rocktail Bay. We later flew on to Londolozi in a private charter, and from Londolozi to JNB with their airtaxi. Then to Cape Town by plane, where we rented a car to explore the Cape region, winelands, Little Karoo and Garden Route. We flew back to Switzerland from George via JNB.

All accomodation was prebooked either via the internet directly with the properties, or else with Rotunda. Rotunda is an excellent german-speaking travel agency specialising in Southern Africa.

We took malaria prophylaxis (Malarone) for Rocktail Bay and Londolozi.

I can recommend both guidebooks that we took and the maps therein, but they are in German only:
Reise Know-How for South Africa in general
Iwanowski for Cape Town and Garden Route

Part 1 - Rocktail Bay

Getting there

We landed in JNB early morning, and just caught our connecting flight to Durban. Our luggage didn't. After handling this, we met our driver who would bring us to Rocktail Bay, arranged by Wilderness. The first part of the trip along the coast is boring - either pineapples or eucalyptus plantations. In Hluhluve we changed the car and driver, and drove on - after 4-5 hrs we reached first natural forest, then the park gate and then the dive center. After arranging the dives for the next day, we changed the car and driver again - to an open landrover. And now came the nice part of this trip: driving parallel to the sea (without seeing it until the last stretch) through dense forest and lovely meadows. Nevertheless we arrived exhausted. Luckily we had five days in this paradise ahead of us.

Rocktail Bay Lodge

Look for more information and pictures from our second trip to Rocktail Bay here.

Rocktail Bay Approach Rocktail Bay Lodge is only really seen when you drive into their parking lot - everything but their radio antenna and a few well-camouflaged green roofs is hidden in the trees behind the dunes. The dunes are very special in that they are forested - not just the normal succulent plants, but real trees and flowers - one of the reasons why this was declared Maputaland Coastal reserve. The sandy road is bumpy - but this really loosens tense muscles... And it's also a game drive - baboons, duikers and guineafowls are quite abundant.

The rooms or chalets are built into the trees and mostly made of wood and reed - but with the usual amenities. They all consist of a bedroom, a bathroom/wc and an outdoor shower hidden in the trees, which you reach through the indoor shower. All openings are closed with mosquito nets. The large verandah is comfortably shaded by trees. Usually two chalets are grouped together - somewhat disturbing privacy. You feel that the place is not brandnew but well maintained - and the interiors fit the surroundings.

Rocktail Bay Chalet interior
Rocktail Bay Chalet


Our three main activities were turtling, diving and lazying. The latter can best be done in a hammock on the hammock trail, or else at the endless and deserted beach. If you need activity, you can go for a stroll on the forest trail - if you're not afraid of snakes and stuff (they are afraid of you, or at least of me...). Then there are the excursions to the local community (we didn't do this) or to Black Rock - a black rock of probably volcanic material protruding into the sea, including a spithole. The latter trip was beautiful, and very well guided. We stopped even for a plant (lucky me!): The endemic Tongaland Cycad, growing to man's height, but very slowly - our specimen was estimated to be some 200 years old!

Rocktail Bay - Black Rock Tongaland Cycad
Black Rock Tongaland Cycad

Turtle drives

The fine sandy beaches around Rocktail Bay are at night deserted and pitch-dark - something Leatherback and Loggerhead Turtles love. Rocktail Bay is part of one of the oldest turtle monitoring projects - and they're allowed to take guests on their nightly turtle drives. The special-permit drive along the beach is done at low tide (not to disturb the eggs), for abouth 15 km southwards. As soon as the guide sees tracks, headlights are switched off and the car is stopped. If you're lucky, she is just starting to dig.

Seeing such a beast is a truly exciting experience - even though we missed the leatherbacks (my advice: never go to bed early...). Between December and February, the females make their way up above the waterline, dig a hole with their hind flippers, and lay some 100 eggs, which hatch ca. 60 days later, all together. Research data are collected when she is actually laying, as she goes into kind of a trance then. All turtles are marked with a chip in their flipper, to recognize them when they come back later this season (they come ashore several times within a few nights) or in later years. A few were also radio-tracked - read more about the Maputaland Turtle Research Programme here.

There is only one problem when coming in December: you have to come back in February to see the hatchlings. We did.

Rocktail Bay - Loggerhead Turtle Rocktail Bay - Turtle Research
Loggerhead Turtle female back to the see Loggerhead female being measured


Diving in Rocktail Bay, with Clive, Debbie and Darryl, was superb. They are very relaxed, and the underwater life is just stunning. JJ was not always relaxedly enjoing the underwater life: Especially not after Clive pulled him back on his flipper, because he was swimming into a fusilier shoal, while a 3 meter Ragged-tooth Shark (the first of the season) did the same from the other side of the swarm. A close encounter, and terrifying even though we were told that the shark ladies don't eat while there - they just wait in the warm water for their pregnacy to come to an end. On our way back from this trip we stopped at a reef where you could jump in with your snorkeling gear and find 8 or 10 of the ladies hanging around in a cave. Coming back from another dive, we snorkeled with dolphins. A pair - one a baby - circled around me, so close that I just couldn't touch them. Something I will never forget... Other highlights on our six dives to Brewer's Garden, Elusive, Regal and Gogo's included: patting Clive's pet potato bass, stroking his pet murray eel (yes, she seemed to like it, and her skin is soooo smooth), and then my first turtle ever. All this in an endless aquarium.

Unfortunately I do not have pictures from this diving trip - see here for our 2005 trip.

Go to Part 2