Today was such a busy day that I am writing this the following morning. Sorry for the delay. Richard’s Bay is a deep-water port and the 2nd largest exporter of coal in the world (one port in China ships more). Coal trains come from the mines and are hundreds of cars long to travel here, as we would experience later in the day. The town is easily accessible and fairly modern. We left the ship at 8:30 to begin our trek to the Hluhluwe Game Reserve, an hour and a half away. After driving through the town of Richard’s Bay, we got on the main highway, Route 2, heading north into Zulu territory. Here there were much simpler, traditional dwellings, round buildings with thatched roofs, and roadside tables with food and crafts for sale to those passing by. There were cattle, goats, and chickens wandering freely, sometimes in the middle of the road. We saw a few rural schools and clinics that natives from this area would use. Unemployment in South Africa is about 26% and the government is working to lower this number.
When we reached the reserve, we had a quick comfort stop before boarding a 10 passenger jeep for the game drive. Mac and I sat on opposite sides, so we could get photos wherever the animals were. Our guide, Jan (pronounced Yan), stopped at all the wildlife we found and gave everyone ample time to photograph. First off, we spotted a male and female lion sleeping under a tree very close to the side of the road- how convenient was that! We watched them move position slightly and then took more shots. Down the road the watering hole was full of Cape buffalo with a lone endangered white rhino off to the side. During the 2 hour safari (not nearly long enough) we spotted giraffe, impala, nyala (a larger antelope), warthogs, monkeys, and some lovely birds. The only thing missing were the elephants, hundreds of whom tend to stay in the opposite end of the park near a lake, when water hole levels are low. It was too far to drive there in the allotted time, but it was a wonderful experience anyway.
Arriving back to the ship after 2:45, we quickly changed and freshened up to leave again at 3:15 for our second world cruise special event, Dinner in the Bush at Zulu Nyala Private Game reserve. Back in the buses for another 1 ½ hour drive retracing most of the route we had taken earlier in the day, the old Murphy’s Law was in effect as we got pulled over for speeding and delayed about ten minutes here. As we approached the reserve, we needed to take a left over the railroad tracks and met 2 of the several hundred car coal trains blocking our access. Another 10-15 minutes for the trains to pass and we finally reached the reserve. We got into large jeeps again to drive to the dinner venue, but by now it was almost dark. We were still hoping to see some animals, and we did, but the driver must have been told to get us to the venue quickly (we were the last bus), so he raced past the zebras, wildebeest, warthogs, and impalas we saw fleetingly and with no hope for a photo. I would not call this a game drive, just transportation.
The dinner area was beautiful and lit by many candles and lanterns. After a welcome drink and some appetizers, we found a table with eight of our friends. Since it was cloudy, we did not see the spectacular sunset I had imagined over the bush. The buffet dinner was quite good with some chicken, pork chops, and beef items, as well as vegetables and salad. We shared several bottles of wine. Entertainment was provided after dinner with young Zulu men and women chanting and dancing. Mac and other passengers joined the dancers. We all got back into jeeps and returned to the buses, arriving back at the ship after 10:30 for an 11PM departure. The next port, Durban, is only 100 miles away and can be managed overnight. We were actually tired (believe it or not) after this busy day, took a shower and went to bed.
Yours in travel,
Pat & Mac