Archive for the ‘Southern Africa’ Category

The Beauty of the Bush: Zimbabwe Video & Photos

Posted April 4th, 2011 by Molly Demmer

Video of Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

The video below was taken on a 3-day safari in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe in February 2011. The footage documents some of the amazing wildlife sightings from a trip of a lifetime.

Photos of Zimbabwe

The slideshow below features additional images not shown in our article in the April issue of Tonka Times Magazine. The article spotlights Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls, luxury safari lodges in Hwange National Park, canoeing adventures in Mana Pools National Park and much more.

Posted in Africa, Southern Africa, Zimbabwe | 1 Comment »

Great White Shark Cage Diving in South Africa (with Pictures & Video)

Posted September 23rd, 2010 by Molly Demmer

Guest Blogger: Todd Werkmeister

The Great White Shark Safari Experience

Tues Sept 14, 2010
Kleinbaai, South Africa (near Hermanus)

It’s spring time in Africa, but some mornings still feel like winter. I know I was glad to have a warm coat, hat, and gloves while on Safari in the mornings. This day was no different. We woke up at 6:00 a.m. to start our journey, the temperature outside- under 10 degrees Celsius. One of our travel mates wasn’t feeling well and decided not to embark with us (perhaps she knew something we didn’t). Charlie, our travel guide, was prompt to pick us up at 6:45 a.m. We had a short ride to Kleinbaai; he always made sure we were ON TIME!

We arrived at The Great White House where our shark safari would begin. We were met by a very chipper woman who told us to grab some breakfast (included) as we waited for the others. Sixteen, in all, would be on our boat called Shark Fever. The others, who met up with us, were traveling from Cape Town (some 2 hours away). We watched a brief instructional video about the DOs and DON’Ts of the trip. Of course it’s always good when they yell……”and please make sure you sign the waiver form before you leave the building!”

A lot of things were buzzing through my head as we walked down to the dock. You never want to use the head (toilet) on a little boat- it’s never easy, especially when you are 6’6″. When you are nervous, before something like this, you never know what’s going to happen. Should I have worn a Depend undergarment today? My mates and I had our seasickness patch on the day prior; I wasn’t too concerned about that. This was our last day before flying back to the states. I reflected on what a wonderful trip it had been, JUST IN CASE I didn’t make it out alive.

We boarded Shark Fever, cast off from shore, and away we went. Our destination was 20-25 min. away, near Shark Alley (the place where Discovery tapes for Shark Week). The sea was calm, the Captain says, “It’s a great day for seeing sharks.” The sun was out and it started to warm up. The anchor was dropped. We were told to get into our wet suits as the cage, which held 6 people, was dropped into the water, next to the boat. A young man started to place chum in the water to attract the sharks. Within 5 min. the first shark had arrived. The Captain informed us, “Any shark you see today will be a Great White.”

Judy and I were ready! Ramesis, our other mate, decided to stay on the boat and take pictures. The cage top opened and Sara, one of the assistants, told me to climb in. I wasn’t scared, just full of adrenaline. This was my dream about to come true. We climbed in, the cage was shut, and Warren (the shark bait man) cast out a rope with fish heads attached. Your head stays above the water in the cage. As the spotters see a shark coming they yell, “Down to the bait” or whatever direction the shark might be coming from. You grab a breath, hold on to the bar inside the cage, and go down.

Visibility under the water was about 1-1.5 meters (from what I could tell). However, above the surface, it was closer to 4 meters or more. The water was cold (Atlantic Ocean), but we didn’t care. Only your hands, and part of your face, were exposed to the water/air. I carried my FLIP video with me to capture our adventure. Luckily, I was able to take footage above and below the surface.

One by one the sharks came to the boat. At one time we had 3 circling around us. The largest was a female, who was tagged, at 4.2 meters long. She was a monster. As you went under water, the bait was brought closer to the cage, and you got a good look into the eyes/mouth of these amazing creatures. They would swim inches from your face. I did hear a woman scream as the first one came by the cage. One guy got seasick and had to leave the cage. One shark had a hook on the inside of her lip. They would swim quickly by the cage; you had to be fast on your game. Many times you could hear/feel the shark hit the cage as it jostled you around- what POWER!

A few sharks breached out of the water for the bait. The large mouth opened, gums exposed, showing us their sharp, jagged teeth. Sharks continuously shed their teeth and new ones are replaced in a conveyor belt -type pattern. It has been said that some species of shark may lose approximately 35,000 teeth in a lifetime. The tooth fairy must be broke!

It was an experience I will never forget. We spent 3-4 hours in the water watching and admiring these prehistoric fish. The power of their jaws and the force of their tail, as they propelled through the water, was quite a sight. If you are seeking adventure, consider a cage dive with the Great Whites. Even television can’t bring to life what it feels like to be inches away from such a beautiful animal. Thanks Travel Beyond and a special THANK YOU to Pam Buttner.

Posted in Africa, Client Blogs, South Africa, Southern Africa | 1 Comment »

“True, Pure Beauty”– South Africa Safari Trip Report

Posted July 13th, 2010 by Molly Demmer

Katrina and Randy Blaufuss traveled to South Africa in March 2010. This post features some excerpts from Katrina’s trip report, along with pictures from their time in South Africa.

Great White Cage Diving in False Bay, South Africa

“…I asked the bait guy to please make one open its mouth in front of me like “JAWS”. Then we dropped down, I held my breath and tada! There it was: a HUGE 9′ shark. It looked 20′ long to me, chasing the bait probably 7′ away from the cage. Next shark: big open mouth, right in front of our faces. It looked like it was going to eat us in one giant chomp. The teeth looked crooked and dirty like he was in bad need of a toothbrush. I came to the surface, laughing and ready to go down again. I thanked the bait guy for giving me what I came there for. Down we went again, and BAM! SMACK! A big one slammed his head into the cage inches from our hands; I screamed. Loud. So loud that Randy heard me. I popped up (still screaming), took a deep breath and went back down. I wanted him to come back and do it again. The adrenaline was pumping now and any thought of being cold was gone. It was so amazing… “

Private Vacation Rental in Riversdale, South Africa

“…This place is truly gorgeous landscape. Last night we watched the sun go down over green valley of lush indigenous vegetation. We hiked in to caves where bushman painted the walls over 300 years ago…

True pure beauty is waking up to the sounds of a farm knowing that you have babies waiting for you to take care of them. We have had the greatest couple of days being part of Chris Davies farm, land and spirit. My inner “tom boy” definitely surfaced and memories of farm life and how much I enjoy living in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fresh air, beautiful country and playful animals definitely was put front and center…”

World’s Highest Bungee Jump – Bloukrans Bungee Bridge

“…The fun part for me was watching everyone get ready to jump. Since I had done the Flying Fox, that meant I could be on the bridge with the 8-10 jumpers, all excited and nervous at the same time. The music was blaring and the hearts were pounding. One girl was even crying because she was so scared about her husband jumping.

I watched Randy hop to the edge. He was jumper #4 and the three before him really didn’t dive out the way the instructors were suggesting. Out he hopped and did the perfect swan dive. Down he went, 75MPH for 5 seconds to cover the 708 feet he just volunteered to dive off. Bounce, Bounce, Bounce… Hmmmm… Looked easy enough. They actually pull you back up, but that didn’t look so bad either.

My mind was thinking, “Hey- I’m here, I should do it..”. But I kept looking at the people who had jumped, and their eyes were red and they talked about pressure in their head. I was being my Miss Safety self and decided I didn’t want some major headache to keep me from the safari tomorrow so I didn’t jump. I’m mad at myself now. Guess I will have to come back to South Africa again and have it on my “to do” list to hit the Longest Bungee in the World…”

Luxury Safaris at at Phinda Vlei Lodge and Mala Mala Rattrays

“…We get even closer to the animals here it seems. Some of them are literally almost touchable. Randy could have touched a lion (but elected not to) and an elephant could have put his trunk in the vehicle if I would have had peanuts or something he wanted. Let’s put it this way-we can’t use the camera zoom lens as much here or you’d only see whiskers, tongues and teeth.”

“…The evening drive was phenomenal… We found a leopard with the 8 month cub. We had almost given up and then Randy heard the crunching of bones coming from a cluster of bushes and grass. The mommy leopard came out of the bushes with a Dahyka (small antelope) in her mouth and drug it up into the tree and just sort of hung it there. Then the baby jumped up clumsy-like into the tree to try to show us his climbing skills (not so good as he almost fell out). It was so interesting to watch the youngster interact with his mom (and us). He was a curious little guy and even thought he’s try to bite the vehicle’s tire. I am still in awe over the fact that these wild animals are so calm when they don’t feel threatened.

We finally tore ourselves away from the mom and cub and went off to see the Grey Go Away ( a bird that makes a noise that sounds like “go away”. We came across a huge litter of Dwarf Mongooses and even saw another Hyena. After that – time for a sundowner.. Get out of the rig, stretch our legs, grab a beer with our buddies and toast to a fabulous game sighting and a beautiful sunset.”

South African Fables

“…The African fable says a Wildebeest was made by taking bits and pieces from other animals…. The tail of a giraffe, the rear and stripes of a Zebra, the horns of a Kudu, the back of a Hyena….. I can’t look at them the same way anymore as I always thought they looked like a small Buffalo and now I see all of the animals in them….”

Cape Winelands Tour

“…Then we headed from Cape Town to our next destination – Franschhoek – to do some wine tasting. We took the scenic route through Stellenbosch (a wine and university town 30 min from Cape Town). It was such a pretty drive up and over a small pass until we arrived at our Bed and Breakfast only one hour from Cape Town. Our GPS worked SO well, it let us pick different roads instead of the most direct route so we could see the beautiful parts of this area…”

South Africa–A Trip of a Lifetime

“…It is nice to be “back in the States” – and excited to see everyone – but I must admit, I miss South Africa and the people there and Randy and I already are talking about when we can go back someday!! I HIGHLY recommend it. A trip of a lifetime for sure :)…”

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Posted in Africa, Client Blogs, South Africa, Southern Africa | Comments Off on “True, Pure Beauty”– South Africa Safari Trip Report