Jamie’s in Africa! – Final Blog

Well, we have just completed our three full days of lively chairmans circle meetings and tomorrow morning will be checking out of the One and Only Hotel hotel, embarking on a full day wine tour, then we will start our 31 hour journey home tomorrow night (unless the snow storm in Amsterdam continues, in which case we may be out of luck!)

We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in South Africa and Capetown. The hospitality has been incredible and we have felt 100% safe the entire time. We will definitely be returning someday. There seems to be a consensus in our group of well travelled agency owners that this has been a highlight and truly a trip of a lifetime. If you ever get the chance to come to Africa, please do!

To update you on our activities of the last few days, there was a harbour catamaran and speed boat tour. Mark and a few others went cage shark diving for about $200, it was an early morning start and takes a full day as it’s 2.5 hours driving each way. It was well worth it for the unique experience and they got up close and personal with several great whites!  Yesterday Mark and a few others tried sand surfing, which was an hour away and was only $50 including transfers and equipment and today they were doing a Cape Peninsula tour, including a visit to the penguins… so the spouses have had quite a lot of excitement while we were in the meetings!

Last night we all tried to have sunset at Table Mountain, but it was closed from the wind, so we had some time at Signal Hill before having a sunset dinner at Paranga restaurant in Camps Bay about 15 min away – spectacular!

I am looking forward to visiting the wine region tomorrow, but will then be ready to head home in time for the holidays!

Thanks for following our blog and I would love to talk about Africa if anyone has thoughts of going. You can email me at jamie@uniglobecorporate.com

Jamie’s in Africa! Part 5

We arrived in Capetown on Friday, Nov 30, welcomed by a very bumpy landing and howling 100km winds, which are very unusual at this time of year. Thankfully the wind improved by the next day, although it’s still been cooler than normal.

The One and Only hotel in Capetown is perfectly located beside the Aquarium and steps from the Victoria and Alfred waterfront area.  The staff is friendly, the hotel itself is lively and the rooms are enormous and gorgeous! Some of the group even saw Charlize Theron in the lobby. I guess she’s staying here, so I’ll keep my eyes peeled! 🙂

We have done lots of shopping, walking and eating. There are so many choices within an easy walk that it’s hard to pick! It is also nice having time to catch up with everyone in our group before the meetings and real work start! Sounds like everyone enjoyed their safaris and time in Africa as much as we have.

I am constantly surprised by how inexpensive everything is. Our meals for two with drinks have typically been $20-35! A steal!

We went to Robben Island yesterday and were able to go in Nelson Mandelas cell and hear all about the political uprisings of the 1960’s thru the 1990’s when Apartheid ended and the political prisoners were finally released. It was interesting because it’s so recent and I remember when Nelson Mandela was released. The ferry ride is about 20 min each way and the tour was about two hours.

Today Mark is off with another member of our group to see the great whites from a cage in the ocean (eek!), and I am off to the spa for a massage before we all meet up for the cocktail party and official kickoff to the Chairmans Circle tonight.

Jamie’s in Africa! Part 3

Our morning drive from 6-9am was good, but fairly uneventful; the only new animals were water buffalo and black backed jackals. We saw lots of giraffes, zebras, impalas, water bucks, kudu, etc, but none of the big ones we were hoping for.

After a big breakfast and bigger nap, we spent a relaxing afternoon getting massages at the spa. Well worth the $50 or so for an hour!

Our evening drive started at 6pm and right off the bat, it felt like a lucky night. Dozens of giraffes, water buffalo, zebra and different kinds of antelope right away… but we wanted to find the elephants. Soon we came across a herd of a dozen elephants, lots of babies and when we looked to the other side of the vehicle, there were two white rhino grazing three feet from the jeep!

We left the area only to see two more rhino, a male and a baby. We saw hippos hiding in a dugout but not much more could be seen than their noses. We commented that seeing the big daddy lion would be awesome. Next thing you know we drive up a cliff and he’s a few feet away, roaring and all! We went down the cliff to get a view from below – it was awe inspiring and sure got the heart pumping! We saw a jackal feeding on an impala and just before heading home, we got a good look at a leopard by driving like maniacs through the bush, over trees and logs. It was pretty exciting!

So that tops off our wish list except a cheetah, a hyena and Mark says a crocodile.

We finished the day with another great meal by the bonfire, good company and a stroll under a full moon. A perfect end to a perfect day! 🙂 Tomorrow morning, it’s elephant riding!

Jamie’s in Africa! Part 2

The good thing about jet lag? I’m up at 3 am and have time to blog about my first game drive before heading on my second one in two hours.

Our driver and ranger is Stephan, not to be confused with our tracker Steven. We share our open jeep with two ladies from Brazil and parents and their 8 yr old daughter from Richmond, VA. Our drive started slow, seeing some warthogs and a bunch of Impala, but we were enjoying the fresh air and the feeling of adventure. After a while, we came upon a few zebra, then a whole field of zebra mixed with kudu and a wildebeest. I kept thinking that it felt familiar and I realized it smelled like it does as home after a rainfall and that it wasn’t terribly different than going for a drive with my dad through the game reserve at home, looking for deer and antelope and spotting ducks and geese… The impala and nyala look very much like deer and we saw some geese and fish eagles, similar to our Canadian geese and bald eagles. There was definitely a sense of deja vu.

That lasted until we started seeing lions and giraffes… Then it was like “OMG, I’m really in Africa!” After the field of zebra, we stopped for a sundowner drink to watch the sun disappear behind the mountains. As we drove away, we came across a huge male giraffe. I have awesome video, but wont be able to send it till I’m home.

Not long after that we came across three small toddler lions, but they went into the bush before we got very good photos. Then we heard her – the mama lion. We took a
couple turns and there she was, lying down and calling for the rest of her pride. I have super photos and video of her criesm she was only a few feet from our vehicle. Afterwards, i was surprised we weren’t more scared with her that close, but at the time it was just a feeling of utter awe!

We followed her for a bit as she looked for her pride, then eventually went back to our lodge. It’s amazing how cool it gets when the sun goes down, but we had a gorgeous, warm sunny day during the daytime. It was perfect.

Back at the lodge, we had dinner at the Boma with our guide. It was like a huge outdoor BBQ party with a big fire pit. The staff were singing and entertaining and the food was awesome. I even tried curried kudu, which is much better than crickets! 🙂

I can see why Africa is a trip of a lifetime, I have fallen in love with it… Although our guide did spend dinner telling us about the deadly snakes its possible to see at the lodge. Running into one of those might change my mind!

Going to try to get another hour of sleep before our morning drive. Goodnight!

Jamie’s in Africa! Part 1

I was lucky enough to be asked to attend Uniglobe International’s annual chairmans circle event in Capetown, South Africa. Since we were flying all that way, we decided to add on a safari before hand. This is something I have always wanted to do and is sure to be a highlight.  Come along on our adventure!

On November 24 we left Saskatoon bright and early and flew Westjet to Calgary, then KLM to Amstersam and onward to Johannesburg.  All of our flights were ontime and uneventful. We paid the extra cost for exit row seats – a nice treat if you are tall as the total travel time was 32 hours!  Both KLM flights had inseat personal entertainment, friendly staff and decent food.

We had arranged our Safari tour with Wildlife Safari Adventures. When we landed in Johannesburg, they had a driver waiting for us and they transfered us the 10 minutes to the Airport Grand hotel. The hotel said our reservation had been cancelled, but they had a room for us anyway and by morning they had straightened it out with the tour company. The hotel was clean and comfortable, which is all we wanted for the six hours of sleep we got before we were up and taking the hotel shuttle back to the Johannesburg OR Tambo airport. The Airport Grand Hotel has a rack rate of roughly $100 CAD including breakfast and airport shuttle.

We took a one hour flight from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit, near Krueger National Park.  We are spending the next three nights at the Kapama River Lodge which is adjacent to Krueger and is only 15 minutes driving from the Hodspruit airport. They have two flights a day on South African Express from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit so it’s easy to access. On the 15 minute transfer we saw zebras, warthogs with lots of babies, and baboons. Since we arrived we have seen lots of monkeys and deer type animals roaming through the hotel. The welcome was warm – all the people we have encountered in South Africa have gone out of their way to be helpful and pleasant. We had a quick nap, a delicious lunch and booked massages for tomorrow afternoon at the wellness center. They are a steal at around $50 CAD for an hour. I am trying a traditional African one and looking forward to it! The rooms and hotel are very comfortable and well done, while keeping a rustic African feel so it blends into the landscape. I absolutely love it!

We are off on our first game drive in a few minutes. We will update again soon!

Kenya & Tanzania Highlight – Ed’s Africa Adventure – Last post

October 15, 2011

It’s our day to bid farewell to Africa but first we need to get to the airport.  Shouldn’t be a problem…drive to the Botswana border, go through their “customs”, board a small boat to cross the Chobe River, meet up with our driver on the Zambian side, clear their “customs”, drive the hour to the Livingstone airport and board our flight – simple!

Or is would be if our driver from the Chobe River Lodge wasn’t late.  Our guides and drivers are never late, they are always early. So as we watch several other people get picked up and we wait and wait, our anxiety builds and builds.  We ask at the front desk and they phone to see where our driver is.  We’re told not to worry; our driver is on his way.  Fifteen minutes later, we still have no driver and no one can tell us when he is coming.  Our concern is that we have been missed in the planning and whether our driver on the Zambia side will now actually be there.

However, our concerns were for not as our very apologetic driver shows up claiming that the customs office was very busy and the people he had to pick up first were delayed.  He radios his dispatch to ensure our Zambia driver is waiting on the other side and off we go.  Long story short, there are no problems at either border, our driver is waiting for us and after purchasing a few trinkets and things from the street vendors on the Zambia border, we are off to the Livingstone airport.

The very small airport is clearly not well equipped for the departure of the 737 British Airways flight and we barely get through security and our flight is being called.  However, it is a smooth flight to Johannesburg where we will have to wait some 6 hours before our next flight.  The Jo’burg airport is a wonderful facility, very modern, clean and passenger friendly with lots of shops.  This is appealing because we have had severe weight and luggage restrictions on our intra Africa flights meaning we could not buy much along the way.  We purchased a few souvenirs and headed for the British Airways lounge.

We are flying First Class on British Airways (BA) from Jo’burg to Toronto via London.  This was accomplished by converting some of our Avion points to BA points several months ago when they had a promotion on giving us 1.5 BA points for every 1 Avion point.  So, this allowed us to book in First Class for the roughly the same amount of points it would normally have cost for economy…it was a great deal.  This allows us access to their lounges, fast track through security avoiding all the line ups and we board first…very spoiled.

The wait in Jo’burg goes quickly and we board our BA 747.  Wow, the first class cabin  is very nice with wonderful, comfortable lay flat beds.  The service is fantastic as they offer great onboard services like an upscale wine list, fabulous menu and get this, duvet service.  When we are ready to sleep, they come with pajamas for us and “make or bed” with a pad on the seat and these very soft and comfortable duvet’s.  Talk about spoiled…really the best flights we have ever been on.

The 10 hour flight goes quickly and I actually slept 5 – 6 hours.  I had forgotten how much I like the 747.  It has been quite a while since we flew on one.  Arrival in London is very smooth and because we are in First Class, we are invited to go the BA Concorde Room, exclusively for their First Class passengers.  The best airline lounge we have ever experienced.  A full and complimentary bar service, a restaurant, shower facilities, massage and spa and even cabana’s (unfortunately you have to book these well in advance and we were not able to use one.)

We have nine hours in London but that goes by quickly as we enjoy the restaurant for both breakfast and lunch, have our complimentary 15 minute massage, have a shower and lose ourselves in our books.  Next stop…Toronto.

We enjoy another great flight to Canada.  We thought we would be bagged after the long trip from Botswana to Canada, so we decided to overnight in Toronto and for convenience, stayed at the Sheraton right at the airport.  Great to be back in Canada but a bit shocking with our bill for breakfast…30 bucks and we split the Eggs Benedict…yikes. Anyway, a relatively short flight and we are finally home and even though we had an amazing Africa Adventure, as Dorothy
said…”there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…”.

For those that have been following our blog, thanks for sharing in our adventure!

Kenya & Tanzania Highlights – Ed’s Africa Adventure part XXII

October 14, 2011

Today brings a tearful goodbye to our friends this morning as they head back to Canada.  Our flight is tomorrow as we were unable to get the space we needed using our frequent flyer points.  In many ways we wish were travelling with them to Jo’burg so we wouldn’t have to go through the border process alone.  However, I am happy to spend one more day in Africa (Karen is ready to go home).

We decide to stay close to the lodge and we both have an hour long massage.  After all the travelling, it really felt wonderful.

After lunch, we opt to do the boat cruise again as Karen missed it the first time.  Nothing much different than what I saw the first time I did the cruise but it was a beautiful day and we sat right at the front of the boat so we had the best seats for viewing the animals.

The one thing that was different though, was that we saw elephants swim from the mainland to the island on the river, it is interesting to see how they help the smaller, younger elephants across the water and how they hold their trunks out of the water.

A quiet dinner and finish packing for our long trek home tomorrow…