Jill's African Adventure
* The Golden Lion Film Festival
* St. Lucia
* Coffee Bay
* Hiking in Nature's Valley and Hogsback
* Adventures in Oudtshoorn
* Cape Town
* The Problems of Zimbabwe
* Visiting Isabel
* A Day by the River
* Practical Stuff (But please read!)
* The Elephants Don't Want Me to Eat
* Its a Small World (Blantyre and Beyond)
* The Night Bus: From Nkhata Bay to Zomba
* Lake Malawi
* Reflections on East Africa
* The Long Road to Malawi: Part 2
* The Long Road to Malawi: Part 1
* Parc National des Volcans
November 24, 2005
One of the towns I was most looking forward to visiting in South Africa was St. Lucia. St. Lucia has 5 different ecosystems and is thus know for its biodiversity. I unfortunately had only about two days to explore, but I was still able to see quite a lot.
I arrived in town around mid-day and decided to spend my afternoon going for a walk. One of the owners of the backpacker's place I was staying at handed me a town map and told me where to go to get good views of hippos and crocs -- only a 15 minute walk away. That sounded like a good walk me and I was off. The area I was headed to was where an estuary met the ocean. A very interesting ecosystem -- the water was partly salty from being right next to the ocean is therefore one of the few, if not the only place in the world where there are hippos, crocs, and sharks.
I did indeed see some hippos and crocs (the water was way to silty to even attempt to see sharks), but that was far from the highlight of the walk. On my way there I saw a group of banded mongeese (yes, I know its supposed to be mongooses, but I like mongeese better). There were about ten of them, basically just foraging for food on the grassy area on the edge of the woods next to the road. Occasionally one would stand up on its hind legs and look around for a second. They knew I was around and occasionlly watched me cautiously, but they they weren't scared. I watched them for probably ten or fifteen minutes before they walked off into the woods.
I then walked on to see the hippos and crocs. I was able to easily spot lots of crocodiles on a sandbank. As is usually the case with crocs they were not moving at all and were therefore not all that interesting to watch. The hippos were slightly more active and I got some good sightings of them, but for the most part they stayed unterwater. What was more interesting than the hippos and crocs were the birds. I saw storks and egrets and got to see a pelican opening its gaping mouth. I saw a fish eagle in a tree and saw a hawk fly through the sky, watching it move its tail. I saw a beautiful small metallic-colored bird. But was it yellow, green, blue, purple, or black? The bird (a sunbird I think) seemed to change colors depending on how the sun caught it, though in general in was lighter on top and darker on the bottom.
I started the next day off early with a short kayaking trip on the estuary. Unfortunately, we didn't see a bunch of wildlife, just crocs and birds. Our guide, however, also managed to see at least one hippo. Well, thats what he said anyway. The highlight of the trip was difinitely going for a short walk on shore or, to be more precise getting to and from the kayaks and the shore. To do so we had to wade through lots and lots of mud and sometimes ended up sinking almost to our knees. This made the walking quite difficult, but also, I thought, quite fun.
That afternoon I went for another walk, this time through some woods, also a short walk away from the center of town. I thought I was just going to walk through the woods for about a half hour, but my walk was much more interesting than I had expected and I ended up staying in the woods for about three hours. I was expecting to just spot trees and birds, but before I'd been in the woods too long I saw an unidentified mammal scamper off through the trees. Not long after I saw what was definitely an antelope (later identifies as a steenbok). From that point on I started walking very slowly and carefully trying to see as much and make as little noise as possible. As I was hoping to spot more antelope I came upon a beautiful green meadow on the edge of the estuary. There I saw a warning sign to beware of crocodiles. This did indeed make me more cautious. Nothing quite like the feeling of knowing that you are not at the top of the food chain.... I walked through the meadow for a little while, watched some birds, and then went back into the woods.
Back in the woods I started sighting lots more antelope (all steenbok). Two sightings were particularly interesting. I watched one steenbok just eating in the woods, probably for about then minutes. I was watching through my binoculars and got a really good look. The antelope started to come out of the woods toward me, not seeing me. Just as it was coming out of the woods I put my cinoculars down which started it, causing it to run a short distance away before disappearing into the woods on the other side of the trail. The other sighting worth noting occured just as I turned a bend on the trail. There, coming toward me, was another steenbok. We both froze and watched each other for a few minutes. I was the first to move. I through that as soon as I stared to move it would bolt, but instead it also started walking along the trail so that we were headed toward each other. Eventually though, when the steenbok was only about 15 feet away it decided that we were a bit to close to each other and ran off into the woods.
But my fun in St. Lucia was not yet over. I was not leaving until mid-day the next day, so I had the opportunity to go whale watching the following morning. I was up at five in the morning and on the beach waiting for the boat to launch at just after six. Unlike most boat trips I have been on, we were not launching from a harbour. We would be going into the water directly from the beach, against the waves. Before we boarded the told us that all of our stuff (cameras, shoes, etc.) would need to go into dry boxed, but I don't think we really started to get the picture of just how wet we would be getting until they handed us all our long heavey-duty raincoats...
And I must say, the boat ride was much more noteworthy than the actual whale sightings. The boat was small - kind of like a very large motor boat that held about fifteen of us comfortably. The boat was definitely small enough to feel each wave and swell. Going out into the ocean against the waves was really something else. Wall of water after wall of water coming straight at us, at least one wave just towering over us. And we did get really wet, but I didn't really mind because the ride was a lot of fun and it was mostly just the raincoat getting wet. Out at sea, the swells were rather big and sometimes they just surrounded us making it feel like we were at the bottom of a bowl, which was a really cool feeling. As for the whales, we saw about a dozen of them and we were able to get rather close. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see any jumping, but we did get to see one repeatedly slapping its tail against the water -- apparently a mating signal from a female.
Posted by Jillian on November 24, 2005 02:07 PM
Category: Southern Africa
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