8th December 2017
The Heartbeat of South Africa – Ben and Lisa
From baboons running around in the wild to hippos grazing and a close encounter with a grasshopper – Ben and Lisa Grima recall their adventures in South Africa.
Newlyweds Ben and Lisa Grima always wanted to go to South Africa. “We wanted something different to the norm. Europe is lovely, but we wanted to experience a different culture and lifestyle.”
They spent a whole month abroad (“a break very much needed after finishing off a house and planning a wedding”, they said). The journey to Cape Town took 17 hours, with a 3 hour lay-over in Dubai, but the flights were extremely comfortable and South Africa’s time zone is the same as Malta’s, so jet lag was not a problem, they explained.
“We hired a car (all planned beforehand through our travel agent) and drove around South Africa for the first two weeks. For the first five nights, we were based in Cape Town. We tried to see all the top sites; we went up to Table Mountain where we saw spectacular views of the city and then headed off to Signal Hill to view it from the other end. We also visited the penguin colony in Boulder’s Beach and took a day trip to Robben Island, which was a very interesting experience.”
But the main scope of the visit was to get close to the incredible wildlife the country has to offer and they didn’t have to wait long to witness some spectacular species. “Whilst driving around the Cape of Good Hope we encountered baboons running around in the wild as well as a herd of ostriches crossing the roads and roaming around the rocky lands.” Driving along the garden route, one of their first stops was Hermanus, best known for whale watching and shark cage diving.
They continued to Swellendam, Mosselbay and George & Wilderness, finally arriving in Knysna where they spent two nights. “We had the most spectacular accommodation there – a ‘tree house’, right in the heart of a forest on a hilltop, not visible from the streets. Whilst in Knysna we visited an Elephant Sanctuary where we interacted with these magnificent animals. What we loved about this is that they care for elephants who have been hurt in the wild and would have not survived if left there.”
They also toured the wine region, starting off with Montagu and then onto Franschhoek, driving past Ashton, Robertson and then via the spectacular Franschoek Pass into the picturesque Franschoek Valley. “We fell in love with this place, not just because we are both wine lovers, but also due to the landscape and surroundings! One of our best days on our honeymoon was here as we spent a day on a wine tram which goes around various wineries in the area where you can stop and taste different wines paired with various dishes. The tram is the best way to see the wineries and landscape; with the benefit of drinking and not driving!”
The next day, they drove back to Cape Town to take their flight to Johannesburg to start the next stage of their adventure: a safari in Kruger National Park. Excitement started to build as soon as they arrived at their lodge on the border of the park, when they saw hippos grazing while they ate dinner. The next day, they made their way in with their guide.
“Whilst driving we were constantly on the lookout for wild animals and our guide was extremely knowledgeable about the area and she was following the various animal noises to identify where the animals were. We felt like little kids, sitting at the back looking out of the window spotting wild animals. It was spectacular.”
The following day, they continued driving into the park towards Kapama Game Reserve, which they describe as “pure luxury”, spotting some more animals on the way. Whilst there, they settled into a routine of eating, going out on a safari and relaxing.
“One of the funniest moments (though not so much for Ben) happened while driving in Kruger Park. On these safaris, no one is allowed out of the vehicle unless in designated zones for safety reasons. So, we were driving and Ben was happy taking photos with the window down when, suddenly, we heard lots of noises and many small ‘objects’ hit the car. The guide told us to put up the window - these were grasshoppers and Ben is petrified of them! Unfortunately, we weren’t fast enough and we saw something fly past us to the back of the car. A hopper made it through! In a state of panic, the guide stopped the car and Ben was scrambling to get out. But he wasn’t allowed to, so we had to somehow jump over the seats for the guide to be able to release the insect which was stuck in the back!”
Despite the incident, both Ben and Lisa count the safari experience as the highlight of their trip. “Being so close to wild animals and encountering them in their natural habitat was something special,” Lisa said. “At times a bit scary as well!” Ben added, though he hastened to affirm that “seeing those wild animals so close and roaming freely around was incredible! Being a photo-lover, this was by far the highlight of the honeymoon.”
After their last morning safari, they flew back to Johannesburg and made their way to Mauritius, where they spent their final week getting some well-deserved rest.
“We would go back in a heartbeat, though there are also other lovely areas in Africa which we also hope to visit!”