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
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:
Know-How for South Africa in general
for Cape Town and Garden Route
Part 1 - Rocktail Bay
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 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.
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.
Our three main activities were turtling,
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!
The fine sandy beaches around Rocktail Bay are at night deserted and
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
There is only one problem when coming in December: you have to come
back in February to see the hatchlings. We did.
Turtle female back to the see
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
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
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