What a start to the trip! I had just finished my immigration and was waiting for the rest to join me when an official approached me and wanted to know if I was Sumitra or belonged to her group. As I nodded he asked for my passport and rechecked my visa and says –‘see ur visa is OK. But one of your frens has a transit visa and so we can’t let her out.’ WHAAAAT! I went to the baggage collection to send Sumi back to immigration and start the beginning of what seemed an endless wait. 2 were missing – Nalini and Smita. Finally Sumi returned …but only with Nalini – mixed feelings …whew for Nalini (they kept her passport for a day and allowed her out), and bewilderment for Smita – where the hell was she? We walk out and see her standing there – she had been up and down to the hotel 3 times in the shuttle looking for us! A porter accosts us and offers to show us the way to bus stop for the shuttle. But we had heard so many horror stories about Jo’burg that we found it difficult to trust him. On hindsight – what were we thinking? That one man is going to kidnap 20 of us!!!
A quick nap and lolee (yummy Sindhi style paranthas) courtesy Meeta’s mom and off we were to the Lion Park. The Lion Park - neither a game reserve nor a zoo, is split into two areas – one area for the herbivores such as zebra, giraffe, antelopes etc and the other area for the carnivores.
First stop was the Cub World area where sub-adult lions and cubs are housed and where we could enter and actually play with lion cubs. Awww…the cubs were sooooo cute…playfully pulling at our laces and trousers. I just didn’t want to come out of the cage.
Then off to the herbivores area where they roam freely around and we can interact with them at close proximity. The Giraffe was the cutest…eating peanuts from everyone’s hands and seemingly having a very intimate conversation my friend.
The baby Meerkats suckled while the mother stood patiently and majestically. Other sightings were Zebras (first time for me), Ostriches and deer and black wildebeest.
This was followed by the Self-Drive through the Main Park – first through the antelope area where our guide pointed out various species like Gemsbok, Springbok & Blesbokthen and Black Wildebeest, followed by the wild dogs’ enclosure where we saw what tops the list of the 5 ugliest of South Africa.
And then the highlight – we entered the cheetah and lion enclosures. There were 2 Cheetahs and they were like the synchronized swimmers – they were sitting in identical postures, facing in the same direction and when they moved they seemed to move in sync! The Lions and lionesses were very impressive, specially the white lions. But now I know why patience is required when you go on wild life safaris. Initially we couldn’t see the front of the 2 lionesses sitting as we entered the enclosure, so we asked the driver to move to the other side. But as luck would have it, before we all managed our pictures, they decided to turn to the direction where we came from. It was if they were trained to show only their backsides ;-)
And the lions were sleeping away peacefully - lazy bums refused to get up. But we waited patiently and patience pays. Because we finally saw them get up and I even managed a beautiful picture of one of them yawning. Unfortunately, my memory card got spoilt after a few days and I lost all the pictures of the first few days L
As we moved away, one of the lions emerged from the bushes and crossed the track right in front of the vehicle behind ours. Did a personal ramp walk for them – lucky people!
I was having so much fun that I just didn’t want to leave. The thought of Pan African cuisine at one of the top restaurant in Jo’burg pushed us into leaving and off were to the stylish Moyo restaurant at Melrose Arch. It had started to drizzle and sitting on the diwans under a Moroocan tent, with fire bowls close by – very, very exotic! I am told by M to go visit the loo – she doesn’t tell me why, but has this smirk on her face. Not getting into the details, but I have yet to see a more erotic loo!!!
Live music was playing inside so we moved to the bar after some time where some enjoyed the African Amarula (like the Baileys Irish Coffee).
A winding, spiral wooden staircase took us up to our tables. The waitress comes with a big bowl and a water jug and makes us wash our hands. They also paint our faces with intricate tattoos… a lot like what the Bengali brides do. The starter– a moyo flat bread with dukka spice and olive was awesome. Yummy carrot, coconut & cumin soup, chickpea, chilli & feta salad and abampofu salad and my tummy was nearly full. So I just nibbled at the main course of Tanzanian mango chicken, North African lamb tagine and tagine seven vegetables as I wanted to keep some space for the dessert. And thank god for that – the never ending bowl of toasted almond ice cream was sinfully yummy! I thought I’ll have a few bites and leave the rest…but it was just impossible to stop.
Thanks to Sumi and South African Airways we had an awesome time in Jo’burg. I now can definitely say – I enjoy wildlife holidays the MOST!!!