East London, 261 nautical miles south of Durban, has a population of only 267,000 compared to the 3.5 million in Durban. Sitting at the tip of the Buffalo River, it is the only river port in South Africa. The town is home to a huge Mercedes-Benz plant, which provides many needed jobs. The only real dodo egg in existence is under lock and key in the East London museum. The dodos, a large flightless bird, only existed in South Africa, the Seychelles, and Mauritius, until the early Dutch settlers decided to eat them all to extinction a few hundred years ago.
Our third and final safari today was at the world class Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve, less than an hour away. We were greeted by Xhosa singers and dancers and served refreshments before heading out in our 10 passenger safari vehicles for a 2 ½ hour trek through the more than 100 square kilometer reserve. The roads were the bumpiest yet, even when Joe, our guide, was going slowly and carefully over and around the many ruts and through giant puddles. Everyone’s back got a workout, but the reserve was the nicest yet. We initially saw the smaller antelopes, gazelles, kudu, eland, and nyalas and then headed for ostriches, zebras, and wildebeest. They all peacefully coexist because they eat different types and heights of grass. At the top of a rise, we photographed about 6 or 7 giraffes, males, females, and some youngsters. We finally saw elephants, 2 males at the beginning, and a mother and calf near the end of our drive. A special treat was being able to see a pride of lions, some of them white, and to take close up photos. This may not be entirely natural, but the lions were fenced off in their own large area so they would not eat the giraffes, etc. They were fed cattle and other animals from local farms and thus had no interest in us, even though we could almost reach out to them only a few feet away. We got phenomenal photos of the group. We just did not get to see hippos and rhinos today. They were in another area of the reserve further away. This excursion seemed to be given a thumbs-up by all participants, at least everyone we spoke to. We had a quick drink at the end of our tour and got to shop around a bit. We found a hand-made beaded rhino and elephant that we decided to purchase. We could tell that lots of painstaking work went into creating these, and the artist was doing the selling.
We returned to the ship in time to participate in trivia. We actually came in second today. Mac and I decided we did not want to get dressed up for dinner tonight, so we ordered room service food and watched a movie. We also are passing up tonight’s show, the Great American Song Factory, which we have seen 4 times already, in order to write about today’s events and send some photos that we hope you enjoy.
It is 544 nautical miles to Cape Town, so we will have a sea day tomorrow. The seas are expected to be about 15 feet high and a bit rough as we sail around the Cape of Good Hope to get to Cape Town on the Atlantic Ocean side of Africa.
Yours in travel,
Pat & Mac