Cdnpearly's Blog

Pearl's musings

Cape of Good Hope, 2 Oceans and Some Penguins! October 26, 2014

Long Beach, South Africa

Long Beach, South Africa

Hout Bay, South Africa

Hout Bay, South Africa

A full and complete day!

On our recent South Africa holiday, Tasha and I spent an entire day exploring points south of Cape Town.  And it was epic.

Sandra from Africa Dynamics set us up with a wonderful tour guide–Albert Pote.  Albert picked us up at our apartment and the day started with a stop at Hout Bay–a little fishing village with a lovely marina.  Lots of sea life makes this a popular spot to view seals.

From there we wandered down the coast and over some hills with incredible vistas including beautiful Long Beach.




Tasha and the ostrich!

Tasha and the ostrich!


Cdnpearly and the ostriches

Albert stopped at an ostrich ranch.  He taught the finer points of feeding these HUGE birds!




From there we entered the Table Mountain National Park.  The pincushion flowers were spectacular.


Two Oceans Restaurant


Two Oceans Restaurant

Two Oceans Restaurant

Two Oceans Restaurant

Lunch was at the incredible Two Oceans restaurant at Cape Point.  Albert had arranged an amazing table overlooking False Bay.  The restaurant is open air and the views are as good as the food!  Birds and baboons also enjoy the Two Oceans, so squirt bottles are placed strategically along the railing–guests and staff “encourage” the creatures to move along with a well placed squirt of water!





Cape Point

Cape Point

Following our lunch, we took the Funicular (cable car) to the top of Cape Point.  It was bustling with tourists, but Albert expertly guided us to the best vantage points where we took photos and simply soaked in the location–the southern-most tip of Africa.  Also, we could see the delineation of the two oceans–Indian and Atlantic.

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

Well, actually, that’s not quite true–the oceans don’t seem to mind where they co-mingle!  However, tradition suggests that Cape Point is the meeting place of these 2 bodies of water.

Albert recommended hiking between Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope.  Since the weather was glorious (again!) and the views promised to be spectacular, we strolled along the well maintained board walk/path hugging the coast line high above the beach.  Tasha and I loved every moment of this hike.




African Penguin


African Penguins, Boulders Beach

From here we traveled north and stopped at Boulders Beach in Simonstown where the ever popular African Penguins hang out. These adorable creatures were formally known as Jack Ass Penguins due to their distinctive mating calls!  Everyone loves penguins!  So it was pretty busy here, however, once again, Albert knew the best place to view and take pictures.  A lovely boardwalk lead us through a wooded area where we saw the penguins’ burrows (nests).  As we approached the beach we were delighted by these sweet birds–waddling on the beach, swimming in the surf, falling/jumping off boulders in the water…mesmerizing!  Definitely worth stopping here for awhile!

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

And just like that, our very full day of sightseeing drew to a close!

If you have the chance to explore this remarkable area, I recommend a tour with Albert.  He immediately understood the type of activity we enjoyed and tailored the day to suit us.  Albert’s knowledge of the area, history, culture, sights etc. was impressive.  He also suggested some other activities to take in during the rest of our holiday–and offered to help us book reservations.  We took him up on his generous offer and in my next post, you’ll see how much we really enjoyed them!



Fascinating South African People…Africa: Part 5 December 28, 2012

It was hard to pull ourselves away from the animals and landscapes, but we took the opportunity to visit a nearby village–Justicia. And I’m glad we did.

Lauren, the co-manager at Idube arranged our excursion with Zamani Cultural Tours.  Two young men–Gorman, the guide and Alpha, the driver met Barb, Pauline (a wonderful British woman, also a guest at Idube) and me at the lobby .  As we drove out of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve area and towards Justicia (their home village), Gorman shared a great deal of information about the history of Justicia and its residents.  Fascinating!

IMG_8395The tour included various performances and a dining experience.

Stop One:  The  Gumboot Dancers

Per Gorman and Wikipedia, Gumboot dancing developed years ago in the gold mines.  The wet conditions required workers to wear rubber (gum) boots.  Spoken communication was often restricted, as was drumming, so miners developed rhythms and movements, using their boots as a vehicle for sound and meaning.IMG_8396

Barb, Pauline and I sat under a shade tree, on a wooden bench and enjoyed a wonderful performance.  Click here for video.  Evidently Gorman is a member of the Gumboot dancing troupe when he isn’t guiding tours.

Stop Two:  The Warrior Dancers

We strolled through the village with Gorman to view our second performance.  A group of young men, accessorized with wooly leg warmers and IMG_8398a small band of fantastic musicians were warming up when we arrived.  Again, we were an audience of three…in reality it was a like a private event.  This is a very vigorous dance.  Certain elements reminded me of katas I learned in karate.  Gorman explained that these dancers get together regularly:  weekend family gatherings, village events, etc are all opportunities to dance. Historically, the movements symbolize celebration after successful hunting excursions.   Click here to see my video.

Stop Three:  African Choir533

Next we listened to a choir.  Their voices blended so beautifully–I got goosebumps!  Later in the song, several of the singers invited us to join them in dancing to their music.  Pauline filmed both Barb and I dancing, and it’s a good thing  crying shame that I didn’t get that video!  My two left feet, and appalling lack of rhythm were evident!  But, we had a ball!  Click here to see video of the choir.

Stop Four:  Home CookingIMG_8400

IMG_8401Alpha took us to his mom’s home for a quick cooking demonstration.  She showed us how she makes cornflour for some popular dishes.  It’s a labor intensive process, starting with hard corn kernels and ending with a fine flour.  Barb is giving it her all as she pounds the kernel with a heavy post in a wooden basin.  We sampled some homemade peanut butter and cornmeal items.  Tasty!

Stop Five:  Local Pre-schoolIMG_8404

Both Alpha and Gorman are alumni of this enchanting preschool.  The children are absolutely darling!  They sang some sweet songs and recited the days of the week, the months of the year and several  cute poems (in English).  We felt like honored guests.  These children had impeccable manners and all of us were smitten by their charm!

I recommend taking a few hours and visiting a local village if you can fit it into your safari.  It was definitely worth it!

1957Barb and I also toured the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.  It was a sobering and inspiring tour.  There are 2 entrances to the museum:  Whites and Non-Whites.  Each entrance ticket is randomly  marked as White or Non-White.  You must enter the museum door based on your ticket.  Barb was Non-White and I was White. So, we entered separately.  It was eerie.  As we strolled through the first part of the museum, we observed enlarged pictures of actual ID cards and documentation that South Africans had to carry at all times.  Various dates and political events were highlighted as well.  To pretend for a moment what it must have been like was disturbing.  I can’t begin to imagine how it really was.

Eventually, the Whites and the Non-Whites converge, so Barb and I continued our tour together.  Many of the exhibits focus on Nelson Mandela.  What a remarkable human being.

One of my favorite quotes is:  “Apartheid is exactly where it belongs–in a museum.”

Shortly after our museum tour, Barb and I left sweet South Africa.  It was a whirlwind trip for sure, but its impact was mighty.  Several friends warned me:  Africa will change you and you may leave Africa, but a part of your soul will remain…

I’m surprised to say that after a lifetime of traveling, this trip did change me…and I left a piece of my soul in the safari.

A final image to leave you with…

An evening safari drive, the sun sets over a vast horizon.  Hyenas are calling.  The gentle wind is blowing.  Gradually the Southern Cross and Scorpio appear in the sky.  A shooting star traverses the heavens.  Suddenly, you feel very small in the world and simultaneously, you feel at one with the universe.  And I can’t wait to go back again!


Creepy crawlies of the safari! Africa: Part 4 November 17, 2012

Along with the Big Five and the Also Ran’s of the safari, there is a stratum of creatures that also deserve mention.  I call them creepy crawlies.  As my readers will recall, I’m not enamored with lizards (see Fauna Troubles post).  In fact, I recently experienced a near coronary when a small lizard appeared on my car’s dash board as I hurtled down the 101 in rush hour…

Nevertheless, I feel these African snakes/bugs/lizards should have their moment in the sun. So, here goes…

This beautiful Emperor Moth was a lovely center piece on the outdoor bar at Idube.  It’s quite big–likely 2″ across.

We came across this lonely terrapin in a quiet pond…And that concludes the pretty creepy/crawlie section of my blog!

We saw a couple of crocodiles on our drives…They weren’t too active, but still thrilling to see them in their natural habitat.

These giant millipedes were everywhere.  They look slimy, but they actually have a hard shell.  A memorable incident involved one landing on my leg as we toured around.  I must have made a distressed sound (I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a moment)…in any case, Rob and Ronald both whipped around quickly to see what was up.  I, paralyzed with fear, could only watch with relief as Rob the Ranger plucked the beast and gently flicked it away.  Normal breathing resumed after a few minutes!

There were lizards!  All sorts, all sizes!  After spending some time around these guys, I actually feel much better about the little lizards that hang around our yard!  It’s all in the perspective, people!  Rob has a real affinity for lizards and snakes.  I trusted his assessment of the threat level(minimal) and actually touched this one–a rock monitor!!  Click here for video footage of the event!

During our last night drive, we came across this scorpion.  It glows when in the presence of a blue light–which one of the drivers happened to have on hand!

And then this happened!

Yes folks, that is a 2m python!  It was crossing the trail in front of us, at night.  Ronald’s eagle eyes spied it and Rob screeched to a halt and before we knew what was happening, he had the snake in hand and it was wrapping around his arm.  Pythons are constricting snakes, btw.  Rob cheerfully brought the snake jeep-side so we could have a really good look at it. Click here for video footage of Rob carrying the snake.  I’m not sure what possessed me, but I touched it!  What a rush!  It’s true that travel stretches you in the most unexpected ways and I must say, that touching both a big lizard and a huge snake were growth moments for me!

So, which creepy crawly did you like the best?


The “Also Ran” Animals of the Safari, Africa Part 3 November 7, 2012

There is no disputing the magnitude of the “Big Five” of the safari (as seen on my previous blog post: The Big Five: Africa Part 2), however, there are MANY other impressive animals to be seen in the Sabi Sands region of South Africa.  I want to give equal air time to these creatures as well…so I give you the also rans of the safari.

I really wanted to see giraffes.  Like elephants, these huge creatures appear and disappear astonishingly well.  You’d think that it would be difficult to miss seeing a giraffe, but their coloring and thin neck allow them to blend into tree lines very successfully.  We saw giraffes on several occasions.

Water bucks, kudu, impala and nyala abounded…and we saw one steenbok.  Very sweet…

And zebra!

One of my favorite animals was the blue wildebeest or brindled gnu.  This particular fellow was a single, waiting for some ladies to join him.  He roamed around his territory with high hopes, but alas, we didn’t get a chance to witness his success.  Rob explained that wildebeest are swift, but not especially smart.  I enjoyed watching him show off!

We also saw hippos…hippos spend most daylight hours in water.  Their skin needs to be moist.  They venture onto land at night to eat.  We saw one hippo on land, at night, thanks to Ronald’s spotlight.  Hippos are responsible for more human deaths than any other large animal in Africa (take THAT Big Five!) per  They are territorial and have big teeth!  Rob explained that these deaths are usually due to people not understanding hippos and their environment.  We observed a hippo near Idube.  Rob predicted the hippo’s early warning system.  First, he made lots of noise.  Next he showed us his [big] teeth and lastly he flicked poop with his tail.  Rob’s assessment:  the hippo has already assaulted 3 of your senses…get away, fast!

Warthogs roamed freely around the lodge.  They were adorable with their tails held high!

We saw a leopard tortoise on a grassy airstrip.  And a marvelous bird called:  lilac-breasted roller.  This bird was truly breathtaking.  When it flies, the turquoise colors are exposed on their wings.  So beautiful!

We saw a few baboons on the trails and some monkeys at the lodge–they liked to “clean up” after lunch!

Still on my animal list:  Hyenas (we saw one at night in the distance) and African painted dogs…

And finally, as promised, here is some footage of the cavorting elephants as well as some highlights that Ronald the Tracker captured from our safari…click here.

Next up:  the creepy crawlers of the safari!


The Big Five: Africa Part 2 October 27, 2012

The Big Five–the holy grail of safari!  Historically, this referred to the most difficult animals to hunt on foot, as well as the danger factor, rather than size.  Today, it’s a check list for many tourists that want to see the “stars of the safari”.  During our 5-day sojourn at Idube, Barb and I saw “The Big Five” and more!  Rob the Ranger and Ronald the Tracker, provided ample opportunities to observe these magnificent animals up close, in their natural setting and completely safe for human and beast alike.

So…here’s Number One!

We saw many elephants around the Sabi Sand region.  Surprisingly, they walk  very quietly.  Despite their massive size, they can disappear into a thicket in a heartbeat, or conversely, reveal themselves seemingly out of thin air!  We observed a lovely herd on our first drive, in the pouring rain.  This group included a baby–Rob estimated that she was around 6 weeks old.  If you look closely, you can see that her feet are still pink!  Adorable!

We also came across a posse of 4 adolescent males playing in the dam near Idube.  They goofed around for 2 hours+!  It was interesting to observe their interactions and to hear their trumpets (it’s loud!).  (Video of this is being prepped as we speak and I’ll share it in a future post.)  At one point, a 5th male sidled up to join in the fun, but the original four shunned him.  Poor guy, tried hard to fit in, but ended up sulking away.

Since we had the luxury of 5 days, we never felt rushed during any of our animal “interactions”.  Rob seems to have a knack of knowing just how long to linger at a site–allowing guests to watch, photograph, or just be zen with the surroundings.  If you can swing it, I definitely recommend a 4-5 day safari if at all possible.

Number Two

Leopards!  These are my favorites of the Big Five.  Their eyes are a spectacular greenish color–and so very intense!  This picture (left)  was taken on day 2 of our safari.  The leopard nonchalantly strolled by our jeep.  I could have reached out and petted her tail as she passed by–but Rob made it very clear early on:  NO LIMBS OUTSIDE THE VEHICLE.

We also had several opportunities to see leopards at night.  One was venturing into a rival’s territory.  He walked the perimeter, marking and growling to announce his presence.  Another evening, we saw a baby leopard in a tree, waiting for his mom to return.  And our last morning drive, we came across this beauty (right), seeming to pose for us!  Breathtaking!

Already on my list for the next safari:  See a leopard haul its kill into a tree.  Since lions and hyenas aren’t successful tree climbers, leopards are known to drag their meal into a tree for safe keeping.

Number Three:  Rino’z!

Unfortunately, there are too many idiots out there who think that poaching these magnificent animals is a good idea.  So, I have intentionally misspelled the word so as to prevent said idiots from searching on the internet to locate these creatures.  We were lucky enough to see rinoz several times on our trip.  On a particularly memorable encounter, a male was checking out a female.  I guess he felt we were threatening his chances with her and so decided to intimidate us!  Rob predicted this behavior and  as the male was taking a run at us(!), Rob (the Rockstar Ranger) calmly stood up and in his best “dad voice” said “Don’t Charge!”…thankfully the charge halted and Mr. Rinoe made a sharp right turn before reaching our jeep!  Thrilling!!  I asked Rob later if he had a Plan B (just in case the male hadn’t followed instructions)…Rob said, “Reverse…FAST!”

Number Four:  Lion!  

Our fearless leaders–Rob and Ronald were marvelous trackers.  Check them out in action, inspecting a trail for signs of recent animal activity.  Success!  A lion foot print!

We were treated to several amazing lion/lioness experiences.  We observed a pride of lionesses stalking an impala on our first drive.  They worked as a team and it was truly incredible to watch them in action.  As it turns out, the impala got lucky that day, but it was impressive nonetheless.  Evidently lions don’t need to eat that frequently.  A solid meal will do them for at least a week.  As a result, we didn’t see male lions doing anything but sleeping and digesting!  If you’re interested in seeing real life lion v. buffalo  click here to see a video captured by Ronald (FYI, it’s a little gory).

As you can see, life in the bush can be violent.

Here you can see evidence of a recent tussle.

Rob explained that this lion and his brother had a shake down recently.  While they both survived, this guy is sporting a nice scratch.

Number Five:


I’m certain there are those that really find buffalos enchanting…I am not one of those.  So, while it was really interesting to see them and to “complete the list”, I didn’t really resonate with them.  That being said, there can be no denying that those horns are impressive!  And I wouldn’t want to make them angry–a herd of worked up buffalo would be frightening!

Check out the beautiful yellow-billed oxpeckers, enjoying some tasty bugs on the baby buffalo’s back!

So that’s a wrap of the Big Five.  Which one did you like best?

Next up:  more beautiful animals that didn’t make the top 5 cut!


Safari: Trip of a lifetime, Africa Part 1 October 23, 2012

SCRATCH!  That’s the sound of a biggie being scratched off my bucket list.

Safari!  Africa!  Destination I’ve only dreamed about…until last week!

A trip this epic requires several blog postings, so be prepared to be amazed for the next couple of updates!

My sister Barb (see Santa Cruz Island post) and I travelled to South Africa recently.  It’s a long haul to get to Johannesburg from North America.  For me, it was a 29 hour ordeal, including a 7 hour layover in Heathrow.  I arrived at JNB, red-eyed (having taken 2 overnight flights on the journey) and exhausted.  After the disappointing setback of discovering my luggage was still in London(!), I met my Hyatt Shuttle driver and was quickly in the hotel enjoying lunch with Barb.  A quick shopping trip to Woolworth’s for some essentials, and we were off to meet Greg–a high school friend, who happened to be in Joburg on business–for dinner at the Butcher’s Shop & Grill in Nelson Mandela Square.  A tasty meal and lively conversation ensued–catching up with each other  since we last met:  high school graduation!!

Sidebar: Thankfully I had packed my malaria meds and other essentials in my carry-on luggage AND I purchased travel insurance.  Both these precautions paid off during this trip, since my suitcase was MIA for 4 days!  Also, if you are planning to fly into Johannesburg, I recommend pre-arranging a shuttle pick up, rather than trying to arrange transport on the fly.

Back to Adventure:  The next morning, Barb and I flew to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.  This region borders on the famous Kruger National Park.  Fences between Kruger and the private game reserves have been removed, so animals can move freely around a vast area.  Nice!

We were met at the tiny airfield by Rob the Ranger.  Unfortunately, it was pouring rain (55mm total accumulation)cue the TOTO  Africa song.  Thanks to the jeep’s awning, we arrived at Idube Game Reserve in pretty good shape.

Sidebar: Selecting a safari can be overwhelming.  I started my search by googling 5-day safaris in Kruger.  My requirements were: safe, comfortable, affordable; meals and game drives included.  I checked each possibility on TripAdvisor for reviews.  Barb and I eventually settled on Idube Game Reserve through Africa Dynamics’ Sandra Collier.  Sandra is based in Washington State, so we were able to communicate on the phone easily.  She answered every question and made booking our trip so easy.  Her colleague in Canada met with Barb, as well.

Additionally, I was able to save thousands of dollars on my flights, thanks to YAPTA.  This website tracks flights that you select.  When/if the price goes down, they send you an alert email.  My airfare went from $4000+ to $1600, round trip.  So, it’s definitely worth looking into!

Return to adventure:  Idube offers 2 game drives daily (early morning and late afternoon/evening) as well as an optional safari walk.  Rob was our fearless leader for these outings.  I didn’t know what to expect in terms of animal viewing, safety, comfort, etc., but Rob has set the bar hopelessly high for future safaris.  This man knows flora, fauna, stars and more.  Rob has an uncanny ability to predict what an animal will do, and as a result, each guest is completely safe even while in the presence of “dangerous” animals.  He has such an affinity with his surroundings–I actually observed him carefully drive around a dung beetle on the road!  Every question we had, regardless of how many times he must have heard it before, was answered promptly, thoroughly and thoughtfully.

Ronald, the keen-eyed tracker, worked in tandem with Rob.  Sitting out front of the jeep, his sharp eyes picked out tracks on the trail, or animals in the distant bush.  He astonishingly spotted a tiny chameleon on a bush as we drove by it at night! Ronald prepared the jeep prior to each drive–including cozy blankets for the cool nights and rain ponchos for the damp excursions.

Every drive included a refreshment break.  Think safaris are “roughing it”?  Think again!  Part way through the morning, Rob and Ronald selected a picturesque setting, hauled out a table with a table-cloth(!), hot drinks and fresh-baked muffins for our nourishment.  In the evening, our repast usually took place in a wide open space that showcased the planetarium-like night sky.  Very civilized, indeed.

I cannot miss the opportunity to rave about the food at Idube!  Chris, the chef, is impressive.  Her culinary creations were so tasty and beautiful.  Fresh baked bread and croissants; tantalizing entrees and the desserts must be seen to be believed.

The wait staff:  Auphrey, Constence and Mavis were lovely and attentive.  Patrick was our safety escort.  Since Idube is a small lodge that allows all creatures to roam freely (except elephants), guests are escorted to and from their rooms at night.  That extra layer of security was comforting…especially given some of the interesting noises we heard through the night!

Finally, Andrew and Lauren! Idube’s team leaders.  This dynamic couple sets the tone for the lodge.  They are bright, enthusiastic, professional, genuine, caring, positive, funny–you get the picture!  Lauren singlehandedly wrangled my lost luggage from Heathrow to Zebrawood chalet.  I was so delighted to be reunited with my bag (cue Peaches and Herb:  Reunited song) I burst into tears!  Thank you Lauren!!

So, that’s the background and personnel for our adventure…next up?  The Big Five!  Here’s a sneak peek of what’s to come…

Finally, completely unrelated…recently I have been asked for my coffee steak rub recipe.  With pleasure, here it is:

Mix 1/2C coarse ground coffee beans, dark roast (I usually use decaf for the lightweights in the group) + 1/4C kosher salt + 1/8C coarse ground black pepper + 1/4C brown sugar.  Rub onto steaks, both sides.  Allow to melange for at least an hour.  Barbecue.  Steak should rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Incidentally, this recipe makes enough for several meals–I store it in a sealed container in the fridge for easy access.  Bon appetit!