Africa & Thailand

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Gunny, Nov 21, 2011.

  1. Gunny

    Gunny Lord and Master Tip Jar Donor

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    As most of you know I went overseas a couple of months ago, eventually I got around to writing about my experiences there and thought I would share it for anyone who was interested

    *Password to the photos is: titans


    Cape Town



    My initial impressions of Cape Town might have been slightly skewed by the fact I had a mandatory 9 hour flight to Bangkok for 5 hours (in which it was late at night and 28 degrees) before an 11 hour flight to Johannesburg and then a flight to Cape Town. So I was awake for a good 32 hours before getting to our apartment in the Cape Town CBD.
    To be honest I was a little underwhelmed\scared and it was for two reasons. The first was I had heard a lot of good things about Cape Town and was expecting a city that was not clumped together and dirty. The second was I was intimidated by the number of black people and how they are so open to begging and wanting money. It’s silly and I should have expected it but I come from a country where 99.9% of the people I see are white and beggars are few and far between. This is in no way meant to be racist it’s just my initial observation and I am sure I am not the first nor the last person to think it.
    However after I managed to sleep for a good 15 hours my impressions changed and that is because of the VA Waterfront. The VA Waterfront is a waterfront and full of life, I guess it is the hub for all of Cape Town’s tourism as there were people from all walks of life there. The shopping centre is awesome (and handy to get a camera since I either lost or left my camera back in Australia) and the food. Words cannot begin to describe the food at the restaurants along the Waterfront, never mind it sits along the waterfront with a nice view around the bay, the food was plentiful, cheap and more importantly delicious. In my 7 days there I managed to eat a lot of different foods I’ve never had before, including kudu, warthog and crocodile whilst enjoying some of the best seafood I’ve ever had. The waterfront isn’t the only place to eat though, we found some great little places in central Cape Town, a delicious Tapas place, some of the best seafood I’ve ever had and despite warnings of not walking at night, we found most places within 10 minutes and it was generally safe. It was also satisfying to see Tourist Police on every corner.
    The activities were also great, we took a 40 minute boat ride to Robben Island; the place where Nelson Mandella was held; and took a tour that was led by a former inmate who gave some insight into the life within the walls. Quite fascinating as well as eye-opening.
    We then went up Table Mountain which provided a great panoramic view of Cape Town, the ocean and beyond. The cable-car is awesome though I find it astounding people actually climb up there.
    Next we went to the World of Birds and the Cheetah Outreach Centre. World is birds is pretty cool and it is such a shame that is it struggling to get funding. Not only do they have a wide wide variety of birds (including one pesky seagull that kept attacking my girlfriend), they have squirrel monkeys, badgers, llamas, goats, civet, meerkats and others. The squirrel monkeys were quiet cool, you were able to walk into their enclosure and they are happy to jump on you and search your bag looking for food. We probably spent a good 30 minutes just in there playing with them. We also got to play with a honey badger, named Douglas, who was bred in captivity and then handed over to the World of Birds. We weren’t supposed to play with him as they can be vicious but they are also attention seeking and he’d make you feel bad if you walked away from him. After the World of Birds we went to the Cheetah Outreach where I got to go in a Cheetah enclosure and pat a male cheetah named Phoenix. Interesting to note, the hair that make the spots are longer than the yellow hair on the rest of their body. I learned a lot about Cheetahs, how they can run so fast (I think it was about 300 meters) before they get incredibly tired and need to rest and how they have a low immune system, so low we had to wash our hands and dunk our feet in water to “cleanse”. They also have protractible claws and will not fight for their food if a Lion or Leopard or Hyena comes by.
    The Cheetah outreach also has an owl program where we saw numerous owls, eagles, falcons and (urgh) vultures.
    The best part of Cape Town for me was not actually in Cape Town but Gansbaai where we went Cage Shark Diving with the Great White Sharks. Getting up at 5am and waiting for a car we weren’t sure was coming and a 2 hour drive wasn’t the best but soon enough we had our safety talk and signed the paper to say they weren’t responsible if we got eaten by a shark. I paid about as much attention to that as I do the colour of my bed sheets. I was way too excited for this. We boarded our boat (Nemo) and took the ride for about 45 minutes to the location where they would attract the sharks. Surprisingly it wasn’t all that far from the beach. We changed into our wet-suits and got a show from a not-so-shy European girl who couldn’t get her wetsuit on (sorry guys, no photos) and watched the seamen/boatsmen throw fish guts and blood into the water to attract the sharks. After 10 minutes it brought a lot of seagulls and fish but no sharks. Ten more minutes and I was thinking this is a sham (yeah I am impatient) before there was a shark sighting, I couldn’t see it but my girlfriend did and so did some others. Eventually I saw some and the first group got into the cage and went under.
    It was amazing to watch the sharks from above water, they were trying to catch a fish head tied to a rope that they were using to tease/attract it. They told us they never feed the sharks as they don’t want them to hang around the water expecting to be fed, like I said it was close to the beach.
    Soon it was my turn to get in and boy was I eager. First one in and almost fell of the cage getting into it. The water wasn’t warm, it was damn cold actually but soon enough I had my mask on, respirator in (the great thing about this group was they had the respirators attached to an air tank so we never had to surface for air).
    I was blown away. The sight of seeing these mammoths in their natural habitat was amazing and the size of them. The cage was probably 2 meters wide (there were 5 of us in there) and one of the sharks was longer than the cage. In total there were about 4 main sharks and 4 who came and went. I was lucky enough to stay under for about an hour just watching these creatures rubbing up against the cage, I was very tempted to attempt to touch one as it swam past but pulled my hand away, just in case.
    On to the negative side of Cape Town, on the outskirts of the city there are A LOT of shanty towns. If you’ve seen the movie District 9 it was essentially like that. It was so depressing to see and that is how some people live.


    Johannesburg


    After Cape Town we went to Johannesburg to start our tour through South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
    I spent less than 24 hours in Johannesburg and my only opinion of it was that it was very very hot, especially compared to the somewhat tepid Cape Town.


    Kruger National Park


    I will preface this by saying I’ve been to Kruger National Park before and did it at a private lodge where we could drive almost anywhere to see the animals. If you ever do go to Kruger National Park do it with a private lodge/safari group rather than public like we did, it is infinitely much better.
    Kruger is a national park with lots of animals (and even more impala) and it’s probably my favourite place in Africa, if not the world. The animals are amazing, completely ignore the cars and go about their lives like its business as usual. Except the monkeys and baboons, we stopped for lunch at a public area where people could have lunch and the baboons and monkeys have no qualms about going into the vehicles looking for food.
    We saw the big 5, elephants, rhinos, lions, leopard (barely) and buffalos although we never got close to the lions and the leopard. Ultimately because of my previous trip to Kruger I was a little let down by this trip to Kruger but, don’t get me wrong, it was still amazing, and like the Great Whites, it’s fascinating to watch these animals in their natural habitat.


    Photos:
    Cape Town: http://s1129.photobucket.com/albums/m516/dgndj/Africa 2011/Cape Town/
    Cape Town Cage Shark Diving: http://s1129.photobucket.com/albums/m516/dgndj/Africa 2011/Cape Town/Shark Cage Diving/
    Kruger National Park: http://s1129.photobucket.com/albums/m516/dgndj/Africa 2011/Kruger National Park/






    Mozambique


    We entered Mozambique and headed to their capital Maputo, which was my first voyage into a truly third-world country and it saddened me. The city was a rubbish bin. Literally. Rubbish was everywhere and it looked like they didn’t even have rubbish bins. Aside from the rubbish there were cars everywhere and they don’t really follow any road rules. It was crazy and I was certainly glad I wasn’t driving.
    We spent one night in Maputo and it was enough. We went to the beach and like the city it was a dump. It was dirty, there was rubbish everywhere including broken bottles in the sand. It was astounding to see kids playing on the beach, bare-foot, in this rubbish. It was a tetanus breeding ground.
    I was glad to get out of there the next morning and we headed to Vilanculos/Tofu where the beaches were much better. I would actually live in Vilanculos, it has all I would ever want, a great beach, scuba diving, and a lot of marine-life. We spent two nights there and went on an ocean safari. The goal of the safari was swim with whale-sharks which unfortunately was tough. Visibility wasn’t the best and we caught site of one Whale-Shark. We could barely see them which was unfortunate, we did however see Dolphins and Humpback Whales, we tried to swim with the dolphins but they were not feeling social and in the end we swam with the fish for a little bit and a few people got stung by jelly-fish.
    Next up we travelled along the eastern coast to Inhambane which, again was a magnificent beach where the tide rose and fell every 6 hours. We took a dhow (boat) to the Bazaruto Archipelago where we got to snorkel with the beautiful marine life, whilst dodging incredibly sharp coral and had a great lunch.
    The next day we took a day trip into the village and spent time at an orphanage which was barely a wooden shack. The original orphanage was blown away in a cyclone/tornado. The orphanage had about 15 kids with one matron who looked after them. We gave them books which had them excited…whether it was to write in or trade them, I don’t know. After the orphanage we went to a church which was quite an experience. There was well over 100 people crammed into the church and sitting outside listening, and they were very much into it. They sang, they preached and even though I couldn’t understand a word of it, you could tell they were a people with strong faith. As we left we actually had to say a thank you to them which was quite daunting but our guide translated for us into their village dialect.
    Outside the church we spent some time with the children who were quite fascinated with our camera and to be in photos we took.


    Photos:
    Mozambique: http://s1129.photobucket.com/albums/m516/dgndj/Africa 2011/Mozambique/


    Zimbabwe


    After Inhambane we took the long drive to Zimbabwe and spent the first few days at Antelope Park, why it was called Antelope Park, I do not know because it was a Lion preservation project called ALERT. I loved that place, we got to do so much with Lions and Elephants.
    ALERT, as I said, is a Lion conservation project. They breed and hold lions in captivity and attempt to breed them in a way that would eventually re-introduce them into the wild. They plan this via 4 stages. The first stage is breeding the lions; these lions live in cages and smaller enclosures. We got to watch a cub feeding and an adult feeding. The adult feeding was unreal (as you will see in the video) and the purpose of it was to determine who the alpha male was. We were also able to walk with 6 month old cubs who are taken for a walk every morning and afternoon.
    The second stage moves these bred, adult lions to a 300 acre piece of land where they would live as they would if they were in the wild. I was lucky enough to do some research with the researcher there and got to study these Lions in the morning. There were 9 lions in stage 2, one cub named Wakanaka (which is some sort of meaning for Alpha as he was the first who was bred in stage 2), 6 females, two of which were pregnant (and a third possibly pregnant) and the pride leader named Milo, who had a magnificent mane on him.
    Aside from the Lions we got to see the elephants. They have 4 elephants on sight and we watched their training and tricks they can do. I never realised how intelligent these creatures are, they would perform tricks like standing up, lifting a leg and even kicking a soccer ball. Afterwards we were able to feed them and sit on their backs. The elephants were around 23 years old and there were 3 females and 1 male. The male was an irritable one. I was feeding one female who I got to sit on and feed and I gave some to him. He wanted more and when I didn’t have any more, he smacked me across the stomach with his truck and trumpeted his displeasure. One of the trainers forced him back with their metal stick they use to keep them in line/train them. The elephant grabbed the stick and threw it on the ground. It was quite a tantrum and very funny.
    Antelope Park was my favourite place on this trip and I can’t wait to go back there.


    We left Antelope Park and headed to Bulawayo, the second biggest city in Zimbabwe. There we were taken to Matopos National Park in hunt for a White Rhino. By hunt, I don’t mean we were going to hunt and shoot them rather we were going to find them and watch them. As you expect with national parks, it was huge and it certainly isn’t easy to find a rhino.
    Our ranger was a serious guy but he was very good. When he would stop the truck after finding tracks we would have the option to go out with him or stay in the truck and he’d come back for them. I went with him with some others and we learned a lot about tracking animals, telling the difference between the droppings of white and black rhinos (white is more grassy, black has twigs etc), determining the tracks of the cats. It was awesome.
    One walked involved us walking for about an hour at a good pace through the parklands, we saw a giraffe, a big bone and not much else, I realised we were walking in a national forest that has giraffes, hippos, rhinos and leopards roaming around. And I realised how insane that was.
    Anyway, I clearly survived and we didn’t see the rhinos until sunset as we were heading back. It was a long day but very interesting.
    The trip ended at Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls national park is stunning. The falls themselves are stunning. But the best part of Victoria Falls was White Water Rafting on the Zambezi River. The walk down was crazy, it was steep and about 70 flights of stairs (the walk up was worst). This was my first time rafting and I didn’t know what to expect, the guides were great though, even if they exaggerated a little bit. There were 21 rapids and we managed to get through the first 12 fine, including a couple of grade 5s and then it happened. We had the choice to go through a grade 3 rapid on the left or a grade 5 on the right. We chose the right. I sat in the front of the raft. A big wave hit us and I was gone. Swept away into the water and it was scaring, I was pushed and pulled in the water like it was a washing machine, the power of the water was astounding and it felt like I was underwater for at least a minute (turns out I was under for about 10 seconds). I was saved by a group in front of us, they pulled me in and then we hit another wave and the entire boat flipped. I managed to last 12 straight rapids and then got wash off and flipped on a raft in succession.
    The next rapid we had to walk around as it was a grade 6 and we not able to do it (and it looked insane). Apprehension hit me as we went through the next couple of rapids, now that I’d be dunked I thought they’d all get me off the raft and I was the only one in our group to have gone off the raft.
    Then it happened. We flipped the entire boat. I was reprieved, everyone was out. It was so great.
    The scary part was during a long stretch of calm water we were able to jump in the river and flow with the currents and we’d never noticed the crocodile that were basking on the rocks on either side of the water. Another wtf moment.
    The next day we headed into Zambia to Livingstone Airport and back to Johannesburg. The day after we flew to Bangkok and then Phuket.


    Photos:


    Antelope Park: http://s1129.photobucket.com/albums/m516/dgndj/Africa 2011/Zimbabwe/Antelope Park/
    Matopos National Park:
    http://s1129.photobucket.com/albums/m516/dgndj/Africa 2011/Zimbabwe/Matopos National Park/
    White Water Rafting: http://s1129.photobucket.com/albums/m516/dgndj/Africa 2011/Zimbabwe/White Water Rafting/


    Thailand


    Thailand is an interesting place. It was very warm, even when it was raining and boy did it rain. The next few days we were there we decided begun our Open Water and Advanced Scuba Diving course.
    I have fallen in love with Scuba Diving, it is such a thrill to explore the marine world. To see the fish, the coral, the sea urchins (which I almost put my hand on one) and the wrecks. It has actually gotten to the point where I am obsessed with it and so sad it is expensive in Australia to do on a regular basis. Diving in Phuket is stunning, especially the King Cruiser which is a wreck near Phi Phi Island. We did 11 dives in total and I never wanted it to stop.
    We also went to Phuket FantaSea which was an amazing show involving elephant and acrobatic and magic tricks, recommend anyone who goes to Phuket to see it. I also got a chance to see a White Tiger and have my photo taken with a Tiger cub.
    The rest of Phuket was spent exploring when we could (it rained a lot) and then we headed back to Bangkok where we went diving (yes again) at Siam Ocean World with the sharks, rays and large fish. That was good fun, although I couldn’t touch the sharks and they are damn scary to see, especially their teeth.

    Bangkok itself is busy, smelly and different. So many people cook on the streets. Massages are a dime a dozen (proper massages) and the shopping is plentiful.
    We spent time at Siam Paragon, MBK and Siam Discovery and did a bit of shopping. I am amazed that these places survive considering they are so big and so close to each other. You are definitely spoiled for choice.


    Photos:


    Scuba Diving: http://s1129.photobucket.com/albums/m516/dgndj/Africa 2011/Thailand Scuba Diving/
    Siam Ocean World: http://s1129.photobucket.com/albums/m516/dgndj/Africa 2011/Siam Ocean World/
    Bangkok Madame Tussauds: http://s1129.photobucket.com/albums/m516/dgndj/Thailand Madame Tussauds/
    #1
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  2. JCBRAVE

    JCBRAVE Tweet me @JCBRAVE

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    So this is where the brothers in the hood learned this from. I can't tell you how often random black dudes on the street ask me for money. It's actually rather disgusting how often this happens.

    Also don't let GoT find out you went all "Hakuna matata" on us.
    #2
  3. Deuce Wayne

    Deuce Wayne Damnit, I cant find my driving moccasins anywhere!

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    Gunny = [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuRswqo-EZA&feature=related"]Scuba claude hippo - YouTube[/ame]

    No f'ing way I'm going anywhere where wild animals are loose.
    #3
  4. JCBRAVE

    JCBRAVE Tweet me @JCBRAVE

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    I'd LOVE to make this trip. I just hate traveling long distances, I'm way too impatient to be on a plane for hours and hours and hours.
    #4
  5. Deuce Wayne

    Deuce Wayne Damnit, I cant find my driving moccasins anywhere!

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    I freak out if someone's dog is loose. Much less a fking lion.
    #5
  6. Smash

    Smash Soccer God

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    I'm going on a 10 day trip to Kruger in February on a private lodge. Looking forward to it.
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  7. JCBRAVE

    JCBRAVE Tweet me @JCBRAVE

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    Well now we know who Gunny is in real life.
    #7
  8. Gunny

    Gunny Lord and Master Tip Jar Donor

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    Private Lodges crap all over what I did this trip. I went in 2009 for 8 days at 2 private lodges and it is amazing. You can go off road and get really close to the animals.

    Do you know which lodge/s you are staying at?
    #8
  9. Gunny

    Gunny Lord and Master Tip Jar Donor

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    Don't stalk me, bro.
    #9
  10. Gunny

    Gunny Lord and Master Tip Jar Donor

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    How long is the flight from the states to Sth Africa? Shouldn't be too long?

    Regardless I recommend you do it. It's amazing.
    #10