Monday, October 4, 2010

The long and winding road

Why, when we leave on holiday do we try to get to our destination in record time? I even know people who budget for speeding fines in order to achieve this objective.
If you make the journey part of the holiday, and then the whole experience becomes much more fun.
My fiancée and I recently traveled to Mozambique to swim with dolphins and decided to turn this eight hour drive into a road trip.
Our first stop was off the N2, about twenty kilometers from Pongola.
Shayamanzi house boat is berthed on the Pongolapoort Dam (also known as Lake Jozini) Is it a dam or a lake? Does it really matter? It is the only body of water in South Africa that contains the crafty Tiger Fish.But we were not here to catch fish,it was rest and recreation that we were after.
Shayamanzi is able to sleep ten people in five cabins and the view over the dam from each is spectacular.There is even a Jacuzzi on the rear deck!
We spent part of the afternoon cruising the dam until we found our mooring for the evening.
Tender boats enabled us to get a closer look at the birds and wildlife both in, on and around the dam.Elephant and black rhino have recently been reintroduced, but there is variety of other smaller game species.
Like our accommodation, our meals were superbly prepared on board by chef Michael.The close attention to detail on Shayamanzi is what made our experience so special.
I was able to go out for an early morning boat ride (my fiancée is not a morning person) to see a breeding pair of Fish Eagles, and enjoyed breakfast on the house boat while we cruised back to our main mooring.
We were transported back to Shayamoya Lodge and spent the afternoon relaxing on the balcony of our chalet.The view of the surrounding bush, and the dam in the distance is spectacular.
The indigenous gardens that surround the lodge contain a variety of aloes and succulents, some of which we had never seen before.Both the lodge and the houseboat are owned and run by the Blevin family.The attention to detail that we found on the houseboat was echoed in the lodge.
The food was well presented and served by cheerful staff.
We were also given a tour of the old Blevin family home which has been turned into Tamboti Ridge B & B, which offers a self catering option.
After three wonderful days on and off the water, we headed for the South Africa/Mozambique border post at Farazela.
It was mid-week, which explains why it was the easiest border crossing we have ever done, with helpful staff on both sides.Week-ends could get a lot busier. (The Mozambique visa will cost you R17.00 and having the exact change is always helpful)
We did not take our vehicle through as a 4x4 is needed to get to Ponta D’Ouro; however there is a safe car park on the South African side.
With the help of the team from Dolphin Encountours (Angie, Harry and chef Roxie) and Ocean’s Essence facilitators Michelle and Arnold Sachs, my fiancée was about to fulfill her lifelong dream of swimming with dolphins.
The campsite offered two types of accommodation, either reed rooms or wooden huts.Both offer the same basics; bed, mozzie net and electric lights.
The huts have an added advantage of having a plug point and an electric fan.
We dumped our luggage and headed for the beach which was about twenty meters away!
Before being allowed onto the boat, or in the water we had to attend a safety briefing first. Once done, we were allowed to test our snorkeling abilities (from the beach) under the watchful eye of skipper Harry and lifeguard Jabu.
The excitement was almost palpable the next morning as we walked to the launch site and our first swim.We could see the dolphins from the beach!
A short ride and we found ourselves surrounded by a pod of inshore bottlenose dolphins.Once Harry had given us the all clear we slipped quietly into the water.
The clicking sound of their echo location can be clearly heard even before we saw them.
We were able to spend about twenty minutes in the water with them, before the pod left us.
My fiancée seemed intent on trying to swallow the entire Indian Ocean as she laughed while the dolphins played all around her.
Once we were all on the boat and headed by, the earlier anxiety was replaced by excitement and cries of “Did you see…?”
The swims are all conducted at about eight am, as the wind tends to pick up in the afternoon.
Back at the camp, there was time for a hot shower before a wonderful cooked breakfast. Chef Roxy and her staff outdid themselves with every meal, and sea air can make you really hungry!
Michelle, who aside from being a ‘dolphin addict’, is also a qualified reflexologist, laid on a series of talks and activities.These ranged from meditations to foot massage as well as talks about the dolphins and environmental awareness.
Holding my fiancées hand while we swam with the dolphins is the overriding memory that will remain with me.A very special shared moment.
All too soon the week was over and we headed back to the border and our trip to Amakhosi Safari Lodge.
Situated off the N2 and about forty kilometers from Pongola, Amakhosi has the best lodge accommodation we have ever stayed in.My fiancée was still in sensory overload,not only because of the dolphins,but on her last swim she had seen a Whale Shark.
After sampling the Amakhosi high tea (we recommend the chicken wraps and the mini melk tarts) it was game drive time.
Both our ranger and tracker were very knowledgeable without being intrusive.
Our last sighting was a coalition of male lions that were within touching distance of our vehicle.
Dinner brought a surprise. Palate cleansing pineapple sorbet between courses.Something we had never experienced at a lodge before.
Our meal was well presented and delicious.
My fiancée missed the morning game drive as she believes that she can have a look at my sunrise images at a more convenient time…like about ten am!
I spent a few hours birding, and getting to see some of the larger species of game (Amakhosi has the Big 5)
Alwyn Wentzel, the lodge manager offers frogging safaris on the property, a first for any game lodge I believe.
After a cooked breakfast on the deck overlooking the river, it was back to our car and the highway.
Even the trip back to Johannesburg was interesting as we drove through rather than past some of the smaller towns on the way home.
When next you plan a holiday, try and stop over rather than drive through.
You will get to see more of our wonderful country and you will arrive at your destination relaxed and ready for a REAL holiday! Contact details:

Contact details:
Phone number: 034-41 3-2299
Fax number: 034-413-2396
Web site:
Phone number: 034-435-1110
Fax number: 034-435-1008
Web site:

Contact details:
Dolphin Encountours:
Angie Gullan
Tel: 011 462 8103
Fax: 011 462 5886

Ocean’s Essence:
Michelle Sachs
Phone: 011-786-1268
Cell: 082-458-1302

Contact details:
Phone number: 034-414-1157
Fax number: 034-414-1172

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