Hermanus and Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa

img_0416A few weeks ago my very best friend, Ally and my brother-in-law John came to visit us!  Ally got here on a Sunday and was able to hang at our house and go to dinner with us before we were to leave Monday, meet John at the airport that morning and all fly to Cape Town together.  Well, John’s flight had a bit of a snag.  His flight from New York was either canceled or delayed an obscene amount of time, which means his connection was going to be missed and he was going to be late.  Jamie was on the phone with him most of Sunday afternoon and was trying to figure out how to get him here.  Well, they sorted it out.

img_0008Ally and I went ahead and took the morning flight to Cape Town and Jamie waited on John to take the evening flight.  Then they arrived in Hermanus, an hour or so drive from Cape Town at midnight.  The next morning they got up at 4:30 am to go shark diving with Great Whites!  They said it was very cool, but also very scary.  Haha!  They got in this cage with 4 other people and watched the sharks swim by eating the chum the boat crew was throwing out over their heads!  Crazy!  I’ll post pictures when I get them.

Ally and I opted to go on a wine tour of the fabulous wineries in Hermanus.  It was such a lovely day and we had some wonderful wines.  We bought several and toted them around South Africa with us.  Haha – in hindsight might not have done that, but whatever.

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img_0056After the sharks and the wine, we all met to go whale watching!  I was very much looking forward to this because I have never seen a whale in the wild.  We saw Southern Right whales which were huge!!!  And right off the side of the boat!  The captain said each whale weighed as much as 10 elephants.  Unbelievable.img_0058 img_0059

img_0265That evening we drove back into Cape Town, had a nice dinner and all passed out for the night.  The next day, John and Jamie went and hiked Table Mountain while Ally and I drove down to Simon’s Town and saw the South African Penguin Colony!  Those are super cute.  Then we all met up for an early dinner at The Bungalow restaurant, saw a beautiful sunset and drank too much wine. 🙂

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Then we were off to Phinda Private Game Reserve the next morning!!  This was the highlight of the trip.  I love going on safari – looking at all the animals never gets old.  We had the lodge pick us up at the airport and just as we entered the reserve, we saw a leopard on the side of the road!!  A leopard!  Those are the mysterious animals of the bush – rare sighting and one was just sitting there!  I got a good picture of it, but for some reason forgot to upload it from my camera.  I will post it later when I am able to upload it.  Then we went on an afternoon safari and saw tons of other animals.  We got very lucky on this trip.  By the next morning’s safari we had already seen the Big Five – lion, buffalo, elephant, leopard, and rhino!  Phinda is one of the only reserves in Africa with the now extinct Black Rhino.  We saw a few of them on the trip!  Very exciting.

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img_0175There were baby animals everywhere!!  Baby rhino, baby cheetahs, baby lions, baby zebra, baby hyenas, baby wildebeest, you name it!

We saw a lion pride with 2 females and 3 cubs.  The dad was a 5 year old male who was beautiful!  We saw him wandering around roaring to try and find his pride.  It was wild.
Apparently there are 2 dominant male lions in the reserve – one in the north and one in the south.  One day we drove up to the north and saw that pride of lions, too!  They were in the trees!  The male lion of that pride was nearly 8 years old and his mane was nearly black.  Their manes get darker the older they get.  He was stunning.

  • 8 year old male lion in the north of the reserve
  • 8 year old male lion in the north of the reserve
  • northern pride
  • 8 year old male lion in the north of the reserve
  • southern pride
  • 5 year old male lion in the south of the reserve

Speaking of lions…we had heard a story at a couple other &Beyond lodges that at the lodge we were staying at in Phinda someone several years ago was killed by a lion.  When you are in the bush, regardless if you are camping yourself or staying in a lodge, follow instruction.  At our lodge it was required at night that security guards escort us to our cabins because predators are known to wander the grounds.  That incident I mentioned above happened because a lady ignored instruction, came face to face with a lion and was killed.  img_0131With that said, one night we were walking back to our cabins with the guard and he stops because he gets a call on the radio.  As we are standing there, vulnerable to anything that could be around, he says “there is a lion around the corner”.  But he says it with no urgency and was soft spoken, it was ridiculous.  Jamie tells the guy “well then maybe we should stop standing here and get inside our cabins!” Seriously, guy, seriously.  Everything was OK, didn’t come across the lion that night, but found out the next morning it was the male lion who wandered onto the lodge property.

img_0289On a less scary note, the night before, Ally and I shared a cabin with a warthog.  He slept on our porch all night and had a bit of late sleep in.  At 6:45 am I went outside and he was just getting up and moseying across the grounds to get some breakfast.  Warthogs are hilarious.  They are the “comedians of the bush”, I must say.  The way they look at you with that confused stare, when they run their tiny, pencil tails stick straight up in the air, and when they bend to drink water they bend their tiny knees.  Always a good laugh when a warthog is around.

img_0439We also did a few other activities than just the game drives.
Ally and I went to a Zulu village and met with a matriarch of the village to show us their cultures.  We also met with the village healer which was an interesting experience, to say the least.  Then we went to a Zulu craft market where women in the community make things to sell.

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Us with a 7 month old baby cheetah! See the fuzzy head hair! Adorable.

The four of us also went to a Cat Rehabilitation Center.  There we were able to PET CHEETAHS.  The cats were in the center because they, for whatever reason, have been made to no longer survive on their own in the wild.  Since cheetahs are endangered, you can’t just leave one to die if there is help to be had.  There were also African Wildcats, which look just like domestic cats, caracals and servals.  We saw some 7 month old cheetahs that were adorable!  They still had their fuzzy hair on the back of their head.

  • serval
  • serval
  • caracal

I am a beginner birder, and love to look at all the fascinating birds in the bush.  We saw so many.  Here are a few pictures.

  • brown hooded kingfisher
  • brown hooded kingfisher
  • grey heron
  • brown snake eagle
  • purple crested turaco
  • yellow billed stork
  • yellow-throated longclaw
  • juvenile walburg eagle
  • adult walburg eagle
  • mocking cliff chat
  • golden breasted bunting
  • black bellied bustard
  • weaver
  • saddle billed stork
  • black bellied bustard
  • fish eagle and starling

It is always such a wonderful experience to go to the bush.  I am so glad John and Ally got a chance to visit us here before we left South Africa.  Here are more of our pictures from the trip!  Please make it a priority to come to Africa at some point in your life!  It will be a life changing experience for you!

  • hippos
  • baby hyenas
  • baby hyena
  • baby hyena
  • hyenas
  • curious baby hyena
  • curious baby hyenas
  • southern male lion
  • cheetah family
  • elephant family
  • i love how this one can’t quite open his eyes haha!
  • family of rhinos
  • baby rhino!
  • Hermanus
  • winery in Hermanus
  • Hermanus