Sunday, October 21, 2012
One-Day Safari to Inverdoorn in the Great Karoo Desert of South Africa and Dance Party at the Bungalow
My only other companion on the van was a woman from Japan who was taking a two-week vacation from her job as a schoolteacher in Australia. We got to know each other quite well by the end of the trip, and I was very glad to have such a positive and adventurous companion. She actually travels all over the world by herself and hopes to retire in South America.
As we drove through the vineyards of Paarl, Stanley kept us regaled with stories of South Africa. He described how the region of Paarl received its name from two large rock formations in the valley that look like pearls when it rains. Stanley was a native South African but of Malay decent, and an extremely extroverted driver who talked constantly and near went off the road several times. He seemed to have a fetish for baboons, and continually reminded us that the baboons were watching us from the rocks. He pointed at the signs warning people not to feed baboons, and said they often surround picnickers scavenging for food.
South Africa in the Spring Time
Eventually we passed through the mountains and burst forth into a wide valley where the sun shone down between the clouds like rays streaming from heaven. As we continued to drive the land became flatter and we passed pear orchards in full bloom, vineyards with pale green leaves, and many chicken farms. In the distance we saw snow on the mountains, and passed a field with of grazing cows filled with purple flowers, and three magnificent South African blue cranes.
We stopped in the small town of Ceres for a 10-minute coffee break, and then continued until the pavement ended, and we drove the last 22 kilometers on a bumpy dirt road where we had to swerve to miss the many turtles crossing the red dirt. The landscape all around us reminded me of Arizona in the springtime, with bushes that looked like sagebrush and small flowers dotting the landscape.
Arriving at Inverdoon Safari Resort
We arrived at Inverdoon around 10:15, entering through its impressive white stucco gates to the main complex with lodging, restaurants, and small gift shop. The day was now bright blue and sunny with the temperature reaching 80 F by early afternoon. We were greeted and offered coffee and a quick break before our guide – a young college student studying nature conservancy and using the job as his university practical – motioned for us to climb aboard the open-topped Range Rover.
Animals Sighted on Our One-Day Safari at Inverdoon
Our guide reminded us that all of the animals were wild with the exception of the cheetahs that they raise there for conservation. He carried a gun with him and warned us not to make loud noises or lean out of the vehicle. As we entered the reserve we saw a large sign warning poachers that the rhinos had poisoned horns. This was done to protect them because poachers do not receive money for rhino horns that are treated this way. Our guide told us that since January of this year, poachers have already killed more than 350 rhinos. Very sad.
We immediately saw a group of springbok by a pond, and then a family of ostriches running along the road with 3 foot tall babies that had only been born 2 weeks ago. Next we saw oryx and other types of deer, before stealthily seeking out the lions. We could only see them from a distance, but there were a large male and two female lions. They were so magnificent and large in the wild – quite different from seeing them in a zoo back home. Next we encountered the three rhinos on the preserve resting together. Apparently the mother and daughter will stay together for life. The male was only 10 years old, and our guide said they didn’t mate until they were 15, and that most lived 50 to 60 years.
Right near the rhinos was a herd of zebras and two had babies. They were adorable trying to get milk from their mothers. Ostriches intermingled with the zebras, and it was an interesting site to see.
The Most Dangerous Animal in Africa – The Hippopotamus
As we approached a very large pond, we saw a fish eagle soaring by, and then stopped to wait for the hippopotamus. Unfortunately they never did surface from the pond, so we didn’t get to see them. Our guide said that more people are killed each year in Africa by hippos than by any other animal. This is because people wash their clothes in the rivers or ponds and don’t see the hippos that either bite them or step on them.
I had an MW tell me a horrible story at a bar one evening about a hippo encounter. He said his cleaning lady was originally from Zimbabwe, and that she and two of her female friends swam across the river at night to escape the war in Zimbabwe and to flee into South Africa. Half way across the river, a crocodile bit one of her friends. She and the other lady helped their friend to shore, and then she went to get help. When she returned the next morning, one lady had bled to death from the crocodile bite and the other had been stomped to death by a hippopotamus, because they had accidently slept in the hippo’s track to the river.
What Are The Big 5?
So we ended up only seeing two of the Big 5 -- the lion and rhino. Our guide explained that the leopards stay in mountains, the cape buffalos were hiding in the bush, and the elephants would not be on the reserve until October. All five of these animals are native to South Africa, but some were pushed out, and were now being reintroduced.
Lunch with the Cheetahs and the Long Drive Home
On the way back, we stopped at the Cheetah Conservation Center and we able to see these animals up close. They are being bred to be released into the wild. At lunch, we were allowed to pet a cheetah that was on a leash with its trainer.
The food was very good with many native African dishes including ground beef with vegetables, chicken with potatoes, fried aubergine, vegetables, and a flan-like pudding for dessert.
After lunch I wandered over to the pool and sat in the sun for a short time. It was difficult to leave the warm sun of the desert and drive back to rainy Capetown. We took a short nap in the back of the van, and woke up as Stanley was zigzagging through towering grey mountains shrouded in fog with nightmarish drops to a yellow river hundreds of feet below down a sheer cliff. A Brazilian couple that had stayed overnight at the preserve came back with us, and they were sitting in front cautioning Stanley to drive carefully. It was a hair-raising road, and Stanley continually pointed and chuckled at the many baboons we passed sitting on rocks and starring at us, or running along the roadside with their babies.
Chenin Blanc Tasting and Dancing at the Bungalow
Eventually we made it back to Capetown around 4:30, descending back into the rain and clouds. I asked them to drop me at the Convention Center and went in for another hour to taste some wines. At 5:30, I went back to the hotel to clean up a bit, and then attended an excellent Chenin Blanc tasting. All of the wines were excellent in my opinion. South Africa has a jewel in its Chenin blancs. There were a variety of styles – bone dry and refreshing, semi-sweet, wooded with creamy malolactic and similar to chardonnay, as well as rich sweet dessert chenins. That evening the wines I enjoyed the most were produced by: Jean Daniel, Mulderbosh, Simonsig, Ken Forrester, Debos, and Cederberg.
Afterwards we went to the DGB Born in Africa Bash at the Bungalow on the ocean. This was a very fun party where everyone had to change into rubber boots for dancing. The food was plentiful and tasty including fresh oysters with sparkling wine, shrimp, sausages with pinotage, and many other appetizers and deserts. A face-painter circulated through the crowds painting dots of flowers and other designs on people’s faces, including mine.
In the corner, a foot-stomping African band was playing complete with multiple drums and even a saxophone. Very talented dancers performed (see photo), and they encouraged all of us to dance with our rubber boots (see videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=668hgQpvA40&feature=relmfu/ and
I had a wonderful time at this party, and couldn’t understand where I got all of my energy considered I had been on safari all day. However, when someone suggested we go to a second party, I said yes, and we headed to the Cape Grace Hotel for the Grape Minds After Party, where there was even better wine and more dancing. I finally got back to my hotel room around 1am, but heard that many others didn’t return until around 3 in the morning. This was my favorite day in South Africa.