The Mommy Lab Team’s South Africa Adventure!

by Rashmie Jaaju on September 9, 2011 · 37 comments

in My Travelogue

Friends, it feels good to be writing and connecting with you after a lull of three weeks over here. To tell you the truth, it also feels bad that our Mommy Labs team (Pari and Rashmie) was out of touch with you all for such a long duration without letting you all know where we would be; what we would be doing all along.

So, well, let me share without any pretexts – we'd gone to South Africa for a three-week vacation/learning/expedition. Did I hear – "Voila" in unison? You bet. Also, did I hear "what a surprise"? But, honestly, I never intended it to be a secret or any such thing. I had meant to do an 'announcement' post about this vacation a day before we were leaving, but thanks to some last-minute rushes, I never got around to writing it. I convinced myself that I would do that post after landing in Cape Town. Never knew Cape Town would hold me captive to its effervescent, breezy (actually, windy) charm and resplendent natural beauty, leaving me with little time and inspiration for even my devout passion – blogging.

This South Africa trip, if I may say so, happened on a whim

We had almost planned to go to Malaysia in July when we heard and read about the extreme humid conditions that can so dampen the spirits and drain your energy. No, we had had enough heat and grime in Delhi to take more of that even when holidaying. So, we changed our mind and plans. We then considered New Zealand and Switzerland before realizing that South Africa would perhaps be our best option given our passion/obsession for nature and wildlife. (My hubby and I are devout Animal Planet/Discovery/National Geographic lovers).

So, in a span of two weeks, we devoured every bit of information about South Africa in order to plan an itinerary. Packaged tours don't excite us. Hence, an extensive quest to find out what place/activities would suit our interests as well as Pari's. And, of-course what places to stay, events to attend, mode of travel within South Africa - flights/trains/self-drive.

And, you know what – the decision to do a self-drive expedition across South Africa starting from Cape Town in the southern most corner to Kruger National Park in the North East – has been the most rewarding. Except for a train journey somewhere in the middle, Avie, my hubby drove over 4,000 Kilometeres! To support this, the GPS (Garmin) came in really handy. Without it, it probably would not have been as easy. 

Self-drive was the reason we were able to explore at our own will and convenience and without shelling out hefty taxi fares. Well, not that car rentals are cheap in South Africa. Seriously, they aren't. But, it turned out far more reasonable than the taxi affair. 

This is what our itinerary looked like

We came up with this itinerary after much reading and research and also keeping a 5.5 year old's interest/education in mind. Hence, sharing this so it will help my readers who may plan a SA holiday with your kids. Nailing this list was all the more daunting given that we had to submit it to the South African embassy with day-to-day confirmed accommodation bookings – two weeks before we had to leave – which means, within two weeks after we made up our mind to go to SA! 

Cape Town – 4 days

  • World Famous Table Mountain – emerging from two oceans – the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. It's called "Table" mountain because it's flat at the top – just like a table! Right from the journey up through the cable car to the 6 hours we spent at the top – filled us with a life-time experience. It sure deserves to be one of the seven wonders of the world.

  • V&A Waterfront

 

  • Boulders Beach – home to the African (Jack Ass) Penguins

  • Cape of Good Hope, Cape Peninsula, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

  • Top Stone Gemstone Factory in Simon's Town – near Cape Town

Drive Northward from Cape Town:

Stallenbosch – 1 day

  • Vineyards and wine-tasting

Hermanus – 2 days

  • The best season and best spot in the world for land-based as well as boat-based Whale watching and Shark cage diving.
  • Other activities – paragliding, scuba-diving


Y
es, that's Pari in blue leggings. This girl has go the grit!

Knysna (pronounced – 'naaisna') - 4 days

Knysna is part of the breathtaking Garden Route. Here, these words ring really true - "Journey is the destination".

  • Knysna Elephant Sanctuary

  • Plettenberg Bay
  • Wilderness Nature Reserve
  • Strawberry Picking in George

  • Many trekking trails
  • Knysna Heads to watch the views and the sunset

Outdashoorn – 1 day

  • Cango Ostrich Farm

We had one of the most memorable interaction with these fastest birds in the world with the fluffiest of feathers and the most alluring eyes!

  • Cango Wildlife Ranch

Tsitsikamma (pronounced Sit-si-kaamaa) – 1 day

This place is called "the garden of the garden route" and rightfully so. This is a piece of the earth that looks more like a paradise – dotted with ancient Milkwood, Yellowwood, Ironwood, Stinkwood trees dating back to more than 1000 years; air so ridiculously pure and fresh you will feel 10 years younger from within; and the magnificent mountain range through which age-old rivers seek their path. Witness to this divine beauty are the endemic birds like the Knysna Lourie and others in a myriad of colours who cannot help but regale in the atmosphere with their incessant melodies.

We stayed here for 1 day and swore right then and there that we are coming back here for sure and for a longer stay. Just a day here will cause unthinkable misery to your heart and soul. The highlight of this part of the trip was the Canopy Tours in the Tsisikamma forests.

Train from Port Elizabeth to Johannesberg

We chose the train over flight first and foremost to keep a chek on our budget and secondly to be able to see more of the country be means of a train journey. In hindsight though, flight would have been a better option primarily because we could have had a day more had it not been for the train. 

The last leg of our trip – in the Graskop and Kruger area – is so darn out-of-this-world that a day lost in train journey was regretted big time. But then, yes, we did save on money! Amen.

Drive from Johanneshberg to Sabie (450 Kms)

Kruger, Sabie, Graskop – 4 days

The Panorama route is considered one of the most beautiful routes in the world as it winds through the rugged mountains of the northern Drakensberg range and surrounds the towns of Sabie, Graskop, Hazyview and Origstad. Our jaws dropped as we watched the splendour of the 1400 meteres deep Blyde River Canyon from various vantage points – God's Window, the Three Rondavels, Bourke's Luck Potholes.

A visit to the 240 millions years old Sudvala caves turned out to be the most interesting and educational destination for Pari and for us too . We were able to see massive Stalactitte and Stalacmite formations; bats hanging overhead and listened in rap attention the stories of the cave dwellers narrated by the tour guide.

Elephant Plains Private Game Reserve (Sabi Sands – Greater Kruger)- 3 days

This was the last leg of our journey and time for the wild-side of our African dream adventure! I had always dreamt of an African safari with the best digital photography gear in tow. Prior to this trip, I bought a Canon telephoto 100-400 IS lens, exhausting the last drop of savings that we had. Wise or not, I will leave that for you to judge. (smiles) But, in the middle of the Safari, when we witnessed that collaboration of three male lions digging their canines and their claws into the beheaded wild buffalo, every bit of the expense was accounted for. Or, when we were privy to a baby leopard's playful tender love with her mother, we realized that our money was much better off – outside the savings account (winks).

Keep an eye out for exclusive photos of many more wild encounters in another post.

Gasp…!

It was a rather long post, friends. And yet – just a cursory look at and an outline of our 3-week expedition through South Africa! May I humbly put – three weeks sound like a whole lot. But, in all honesty – that's like scratching the surface of a country that is limitless when it comes to nature, wildlife, vegetation, marine life, birds and adventure activities.

Not without reason is South Africa called "a world in one country". We second that whole-heartedly.

And, on this note, I can't help sharing this wonderful blog of a lovely South African home-schooling family. They live in Fish Hoek – near Cape Town. Incidentally, on our way to Simon's Town, we drove slowly through Fish Hoek, admiring the relaxed pace and soothing beauty of this town. Meet the seven+1 family.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Farnoosh September 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Incredible photos. Welcome back! I am so happy that you had such a fantastic time, dear Rashmie!! Yes, money on photography = pure wisdom. I will always have your back on that one! Big hugs { } !!
Farnoosh’s recent fabulous post..Falling Into the Seth Godin Way through Reading “Linchpin”

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 11, 2011 at 12:48 pm

My dear Farnoosh,
I knew you will agree about the money spent on photography gear. :)
While I agree with those who say money cannot ‘buy’ happiness; I also think money CAN buy happiness when spent to pursue our passions, isn’t it?
Love and hugs back to you, dear friend. So glad you like the photos. It was a mammoth task selecting those 15 after sifting through more than 5000 photos…! Talk about ‘dilemmas’! :))

Reply

se7en September 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Wow, what an awesome trip… I think you just took the dream tour of our country!!! I am so glad you enjoyed it and your photographs are beautiful… looks like you had such a fabulous time!!! Thanks for linking, you are too kind!!! Have a fun weekend!!!

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 11, 2011 at 12:52 pm

@se7en – Thank you for visiting and for your kind comment. We’re so enamoured by your country, I think we will go back to SA again and again and the next time around, we will visit you guys for a face-to-face chat with your adorable “hoods”. :)

Reply

Laura@art4littlehands September 9, 2011 at 2:54 pm

How wonderful! I love your pictures. Looks like a really great trip. I am jealous.
Laura@art4littlehands’s recent fabulous post..Lego Boy

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Hi Laura,
You’re jealous this time but I am ever so jealous of your lovely home with the most awesome vantage point.
My dear readers – I would like to introduce you to my friend – Laura@artforlittlehands – who has a river flowing right through her backyard. :) Can anything else beat this?!
Thank you Laura for stopping by. Glad you like the pictures… :)

Reply

Ashu September 9, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Wonderful post Rashmie.After reading ur post i wish life gives us some chance to visit SA…Ahh amazing activities, i m just blown by watching and reading about same…Will read blog couple of more time, enjoyed it so much.Lovely pictures caputred….

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 11, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Dear Ashu,
So happy you enjoyed seeing the pictures and reading about our experience and even more happy that you are inspired to visit South Africa some day. Yes, you must try to make it possible. This is one country that has to offer a world of enriching experiences.
Thank you, dear, for your sweet comment. :) Give my hugs and love to Khwaish.

Reply

Aparna September 10, 2011 at 12:52 am

Great photos of what seems to have been a great trip!!! Yup you definitely would not have got the same experience with a package tour. I’m sure Pari will treasure these memories for a lifetime.

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 11, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Hey Aparna,
So delighted to see you after a really long time. Hadn’t heard from you after you shifted to Gurgaon.
How are you, my friend? How’s the little one?
Thank you for stopping by and sharing your comment. Yeah, you’re right – Pari will cherish these moments for ever and what a learning experience for her!
Do keep in touch….. :)

Reply

Taryn September 10, 2011 at 5:26 am

What a wonderful trip to our country! I saw your comment on se7en’s blog and came over out of curiosity! It looks like a most amazing time. Thank you for your kind words about our beautiful country. :-) from Taryn (another Cape Town homeschooling mom!)
Taryn’s recent fabulous post..Micah’s 3rd birthday DAY

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 11, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Hi Taryn,
Am delighted to meet you – one more homeschooling mom from Cape Town – now, my favourite city! Wow, it seems homeschooling is really catching on in SA. Or was it always there? It’s wonderful to know so many parents are taking up homeschooling there unlike here in India, where it is still at a very very nascent stage and in-fact most don’t even know there is such a way of educating your child. And out of those who know, they don’t think it a viable option. Arghhh….

And yes, we did have the best time of our lives in your beautiful country…. :) What else can I say. It’s beyond words..!
Thank you, my friend, for stopping by to connect. Do stay in touch… :)

Reply

Bindu September 10, 2011 at 11:51 am

lovely post Rashmie..this will really come in use when we plan a trip to SA.

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 11, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Thank you, Bindu. Whenever you plan a trip to SA, don’ hesitate to come back and seek any information you want… :)
I will be sharing more pictures and info about some locations in the next few days. So keep an eye out.. :)

Reply

Taryn September 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm

oh! and – if you come back to South Africa and want a great family cottage to stay in that I can highly recommend – my parents run a self-catering cottage in Onrus (5 minutes outside of Hermanus, the famous whale watching town) that sleeps up to 10 people comfortably, is absolutely PERFECT for children, with an enclosed front lawn and is right on the coastline, so the views are just magnificent – you can see it for yourself: http://www.capebreakaway.co.za :)
Taryn’s recent fabulous post..Micah’s 3rd birthday DAY

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 11, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Taryn,
Your parents’ cottage is really nice, I must say. I had a look at the website and the location as well the rooms are so pleasant. I will keep it in mind for our next visit and in-fact will recommend it to my friends and family too. Thanks for sharing here.

Reply

Natalie September 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm

How awesome is that – so-so jealous! Of course, it’s a shorter trip for you than it is for us on the US West Coast :)
Natalie’s recent fabulous post..What My Child Is Reading – Books about Trees

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 11, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Natalie,
Yeah, you’re right – the distances and hence flight time from US West Coast to Cape Town is really massive. From New Delhi it takes about 12 or 13 hours including a stop-over in Dubai. Whereas from where you are, it takes about 7 or 8 hours more. Whoa! With kids particularly, it is a LOT!

Reply

Srishti September 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Oh my my…amazing shots. Eager to see the next lot. I am surprized to see pari in the scuba-diving/paragliding shot…wasn’t she scared?

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 11, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Srishti,
So glad you like the pics. Will post some more in the next few days. :)
Yeah, I was surprised too that Pari wasn’t scared one bit. She did the canopy tour as well – all by herself, in Tsisikamma, which was no small deal. In this, one glides through a cable – called zip line – from one tree to another. Each tree has a small platform around it built more than 100 metres above the ground. The longest zipline is 100 metres.
Well, good for her – to become little bit of an adrenalin junkie!

Reply

Pritam September 12, 2011 at 5:46 am

Awesome Pictures !! What a wonderful trip….
Looks like Pari and you all had super fun…with lots of activities !
@ last foto, wasn’t Pari scared looking at it..

Amazing one in Sudvala caves – loved this the most!

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 13, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Pritam,
Yeah – lots of activities so much so that you need to prioritize big time!
About that wild encounter with Lions partying on the buffalo – well, honestly – we all were – a little scared – that is! ;) I mean, we had never anticipated we would witness such “caught in the act” scenes and from so close. We were less than 50 metres away from those super-hungry three-some!
Rashmie Jaaju’s recent fabulous post..Camraderie, Not, Candle Light Dinners, is the Key to an Exciting Married Life

Reply

vitoria antar September 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Dear Avie, Rashmie and Parinita, what a beautiful description of your trip, the idea of driving yourself is much better and with the GPS no questions asked! I am deligted reading and seeing the photos, you choosed a great place to visit. One of my late Father’s brother has a chain of Hotels in Joannasberg, I met some of the family years ago in Brasil, but never took the opportunity to visit them. I keep “regrets” along the way but too old to duel in it, and yet, thru you once more I have traveled to another wonders of the world – Africa! I know how excitated Pari was and for sure she had fun and is old enough to remember this trip as she gets older and keep memories. Great adventure dear friends. Thanks for sharing and happy that you are back home and soon life will be back to normal again. Much love and best wishes, yours, Vitoria
PS: Nate took the time to see the pictures and said: they have “guts”… The camera was a good investment for the future vacations, enjoy LIFE now!

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm

My dear Vitoria,
Africa sure is a wonder of the world – as you rightly put. I wish you had gone years back when you had an opportunity. But then, your own native country – Brazil and your home town – none other than the ever-so-vivacious Rio – is one of the most gorgeous places on earth that I wish to visit some day. :)
You are right about Pari – that she is at an age when she won’t probably forget these memories and the learnings. Besides, she has those pictures that she’s clicked herself and the videos that she’s captured. Nothing better than doing it yourself to be able to retain for ever!
PS: Pls convey my thanks to Nate for seeing the pictures and for the compliment… :)
Rashmie Jaaju’s recent fabulous post..Camraderie, Not, Candle Light Dinners, is the Key to an Exciting Married Life

Reply

victoria antar September 17, 2011 at 9:28 pm

got your reply thru skype. It is so much that I dont know about all these new tech. good to hear from you. Love to all, Vitoria

Reply

Michelle September 13, 2011 at 3:35 am

Wow! Great pictures. What an absolutely wonderful adventure for you guys. I love that you can just pick up and go like that! It’s definitely a trip that you will never forget. I love the picture of the table top mountain. That’s incredible! Thank you so much for linking up with us at the Show Us Your Town Hop!!
Michelle’s recent fabulous post..Tuesday Twitter Hop

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Hi Michelle,
Thank you for visiting and sharing your sweet comment.
About picking/packing and just going like that – haha :) I agree. It does seem whimsical for such a long, elaborate and far off trip like this. But, glad we did it rather than engineer too much, as we would tend to if we had the time…
Thank you for the opportunity to link up, Michelle :) Your town hop linky is wonderful. One gets to see so many destinations in just one place!
Rashmie Jaaju’s recent fabulous post..Photo Feature: ‘Nature Platter’ and My Experiments with Happiness

Reply

Caroline September 13, 2011 at 8:14 am

*Oh *Rashmie….what a stunning dream filled living experience…so enriched by your awesome recording of all that touched your heart…and hence… see here, so too all of ours too! *Rashmie all of your descriptions come with such a beautiful melody of your enchantment in this mind blowing saturation of life…I am soo happy that you *ALL had this wonderful time to share and enjoy. Your picture of you on the Cango Ostrich Farm, well *Honey I really see the joy in your heart bursting…wow! And YES, well worth going the extra yarn to get the new cam…..WOW…*Rashmie…its AWESOME!!!!!! ;O) I Love it!
So wonderful…I just cannot wait to see more!!!
The Biggest, warmest *Rainbow filled Hugs to *YOU*Rashmie… :O))

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 13, 2011 at 6:42 pm

My dear Caroline,
YOUR words have the same vibes that I feel in my heart after such an exciting trip. With the energy and excitement in your comment, my own excitement has doubled. :)
And, you are so bang on about your analysis of my pic on Cango Ostrich Farm – I was indeed “bursting with joy”. It was the most amusing and unbelieveable thing I was doing. They called it the Ostrich’s massage for your shoulders! It was in-fact very close to a massage :))
Thank you, Caz, for being here and for radiating this place with your vibrant and positive energy as always…
Rashmie Jaaju’s recent fabulous post..Mother’s Day Special: 5 Super Foods For Your Supreme Health and Beauty

Reply

param September 14, 2011 at 7:36 am

Awesome clicks and what a beautiful place Rashmie…SA is a must visit for travel freaks. So much to see and explore…the scenic views, the wild life, everything is so enchanting….Lucky you. Waiting to see your next post:)

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Dear Param,
You’re right – if you love traveling/nature/wildlife, South Africa must be in your must-visit list. Glad you liked the pics.
Hey, the next post is up today. :)
Hugs :)

Reply

Chhavi September 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Oh boy! Rashmie! This looks like a real awesome trip. Excellent pics as usual.
Zapped to see Pari – must commend her. Its also good in a way that when u experiment such adventures early in life then the phobia of it never returns in times to come. Must show them to Vasavi; only when we are prepared to take her there coz I’m sure thats the next comment that’ll come from her:)
And this account of the entire trip, must say, is quite an educational guide for us lesser mortals who’ll think of adventuring into SA some day. It’ll be quite handy then.

Reply

Rashmie Jaaju September 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm

My dear Chhavi – it was wonderful talking to you some time back :)
About introducing kids to such adventures early on – yes, you’re right – it does not leave space for any phobia as such when they are exposed to possibilities while their persona is still shaping. And these ‘adventures’ could even be mundane and everyday stuff like lighting a matchstick or hammering a nail.

So glad you like the pics dear. This trip was immensely educational for us all and when writing it down it makes me read up all the more about all that we saw and did.
For exp – the Sudvala caves – once back home, I was eager to read more about them, how they were formed etc.

Reply

Angelique Felix September 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm

South Africa a little bit Dutch also, so special to me also! Beautiful post and your girl reminds me so very much of mine. I am sure they would fit perfectly well together.
Thank you for linking up to the WorldAnimalDay , the picture with the lions eating the buff is breathtaking real, the circle of life. It must have been an amazing experience for all of you.
Smiling to you as a conscious mom to another great soul, Angelique
Angelique Felix’s recent fabulous post..World Animal Day 2011 @ AngeliqueFelix.com

Reply

Esther October 8, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I’m so glad you enjoyed our country. Yes South Africa is great. And so glad you even went to the Kruger Park (in my valley-not now but I wish to go back there).
One thing – it’s Oudtshoorn. I like the way you write the pronunciations. I never really thought about all these names in our country.
Esther’s recent fabulous post..Blogging and Sharing – or not?

Reply

Esther October 8, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Great post. I’m glad Pari learned to face some of her fears, or work through them. My oldest is a soft child and quite fearful of some things, even while I tried not to carry my fears over to him, by keeping calm in situations. But I see that at 7 years he is also starting to face them as he sees that nothing fearful happens in that situation.

I also believe that as they get to know the world better and as their perception of the world change with maturity, they can work through fears and conquer them.

Esther
Esther’s recent fabulous post..Blogging and Sharing – or not?

Reply

Esther October 8, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Oh, my comment went on the wrong post. Please delete these to if you can
Esther’s recent fabulous post..Blogging and Sharing – or not?

Reply

Leave a Comment

Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree

Previous post:

Next post: