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Travel and diving in South Africa

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Travel Story, safari and scuba diving in South Africa in Durban Umkomaas with sharks: Tiger, Oceanic Blacktip, Ragged tooth, Angel, Bull, and Great White Shark

Cool group which is going to diving in South Africa in Umkomaas

divers south africa

Philippe, Sandra, Dagmar, Hans
Andrea, Dirk

Where is South Africa?

map south africa

About South Africa:

South Africa has an acreage of 1.219.912 km2. South Africa abut, from west to east, to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. Lesotho is an enclave within the Republic of South Africa. South Africa has a coastline of approximately 2800 km. On the west you'll find the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean on the east side.

South Africa currently has 9 provinces with each their own capital: Cape Town in West Cape, Kimberley in North Cape, Bisho in Eastern Cape, Pietermaritzburg in KwaZoeloe-Natal, Bloemfontein in Free State, Mafikeng in North West, Johannesburg in Gauteng, Nelspruit in Mpumalanga and Pieter Burg in Limpopo.

The landscape of South Africa consists of highland inland of the country. Along the coastline are rugged hills and narrow coastal plains. In the east you'll find the Dragons Mountains, the Njesuthi (3408 m) and the Mafadi (3450 m) as the highest points. These as well are the highest points of the Republic of South Africa.

The natural resources of South Africa are: gold, diamonds, platinum, tin, chromium, copper, manganese, iron ore, nickel, antimony, coal, natural gas, phosphates, uranium, vanadium and salt.

The major tourist attractions in South Africa are: the Kruger National Park, Cape Town because of the Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope and Robben Island, the Cape Winelands in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, Johannesburg and Witwatersrand, the Garden Route, the sandy beaches of the Indian Ocean in Durban, the mountains, the Blyderivierspoort Dragons and Sun City with the Pilanesberg National Park.

South Africa has a very rich fauna and we often talk of the Big Five. This name refers to the most dangerous animals to hunt down, these are the elephant, the lion, the buffalo, the leopard and the rhinoceros. Except for the Big Five there are, of course, other large animals. These include two types wild beasts, impalas, giraffes, zebras, mottled hyenas, hippos, crocodiles, various types of antelopes, etc. Some species are endemic (Not found anywhere else in the world.), e.g. the Reverine rabbit threatened with extinction, which can only be found in Karoo region.

In terms of flora, South Africa has more than 20,000 different types of plants. This is 10% of all known plant species on earth.

The most famous and largest wildlife park of South Africa is the Kruger Park. Other large and well-known wildlife parks are the Karoo Park, the Agulhaspark, the Augrabiespark, Rietvlei Nature Reserve and nature reserve Mpofu.

South Africa has major problems because of the AIDS epidemic and the high degree of crime that they can't seem to get under control. The trade in narcotic drugs as well, causes can increase in the amount of trouble.

Travel story scuba diving in South Africa - Durban Umkomaas on shark, safari the Kruger Park and more

Wednesday 4 March 2015:

From Brussels to Cape Town in South Africa

Around 15.00pm, our six-hour flight from Zaventem towards Doha in Qatar sets off. We have deliberately chosen a small detour via Qatar, since the ticket prices were significantly lower than e.g. a direct flight with KLM, from Amsterdam to Cape Town. We take the transit time of three hours as it comes and explore Doha's airport true shopping paradise. All large (expensive) brands are present. At 2.00am our night flight to Cape Town sets off, which will approximately take nine hours. The flight is almost fully booked, so taking a nap will be a hard task, but fortunately the seats are pretty comfortable and we're able to get a few hours sleep anyway.

Thursday 5 March 2015:

From Cape Town to Goose Bay

Around 10.15am we arrive in sunny Cape Town. After the usual immigration procedure, retrieving the luggage and taking out a sufficient amount of South African Rand, we meet the local representative of the Dutch travel organization, South Africa Online. He gives us the detailed route planning and the required vouchers. Furthermore, he assists us when picking up a rental car. Our South African adventure can finally begin!

The first obstacle we have to overcome is driving on the left. In the beginning it's somewhat strange, but after a while we can get our way around it. Only the roundabouts remain a bit awkward, with a fiendishly touch!

Since we're going cage diving with White sharks tomorrow morning, we stay at an B&B in the surrounded area, so that we don't need to get up in the middle of the night.

Except for some bad traffic, due to road works, the two-hour ride to Goose Bay runs smoothly and we get to see some beautiful landscapes. We're already in love with this beautiful country with its many different facets.

Around 15.00pm we arrive at the B&B Die Stroom, where we're welcomed by a lovely lady. After we've put our stuff in the room, we explore the Kleinbaai and the nearby coastal strip. It's quite windy here and the sea shows some large waves. This isn't very promising for tomorrow!

Recommend by our host, we enjoy our evening meal in the local pub. We order a tasty rump steak and a few drinks. For two people we only pay 300 Rand (ca 21 euro).

We're knackered and quickly lay out our material for tomorrow. Then it's time to call it a day.

Friday 6 March 2015:

Cage diving with the White sharks in small bay

Shit! We've overslept, because our clocks were still set on Belgian time. We wake up around 6.22am, while we're expected at 6.30am in small Bay for our diving adventure with the White sharks. We jump out of bed, quickly brush our teeth, put on some clothes and haste to the agreed rendez-vous place, where we even find time left to quickly eat a sandwich and drink a cup of coffee. Then we get a playful, but extensive briefing about the do's and dont's during the cage diving.

We had booked this trip online via www.whitesharksafaris.com (1350 Rand per person, to be paid on the spot), but in the end, it turns out to only be a marketing organization and the actual expedition is held by Shark Lady (www.sharklady.co.za - same price).

Kleinbaai in South Africa visiting the Great White shark

witte haai great white shark south africa kleinbaai

Pictures - Photos of small Bay in South Africa to the White shark - great white shark

Around 7u30am we leave the shore, with 15 participants on board of the Shark Lady. After fifteen minutes saling, 'full-speed' (medicines for seasickness are certainly not a superfluous luxury), we arrive at 'the place to be'. This place has the greatest Great White shark population in the world. The chance that you don't get to see anything here, is therefore extremely small.

Once we arrived on the spot, the crew begins spotting and luring the Great White sharks. This luring is also called chumming or baiting. Via fish waste, blood, fish oil and other greasy stuff a trace in the water is created, which sharks seem to love. Next to that, a rope is anchored, on which a large fish head dangles and the sharks hunt for. Yum!

In the meantime, the first group of five divers needs to get ready to step into the steel cage. All necessary accessories (5mm wetsuits, bones and mask) are provided by the organization, but gloves and snorkels are required to bring yourself. The gloves are particularly useful as the water, in which you're in for a while, is quite cold (11°C in march). The goggles are particularly useful to be able to see under water for longer.

Each group has approximately 15 à 20 minutes in the steel cage. This way, everyone will get ample opportunity for a 'close encounter' with the White sharks. Enthusiasts may even go a second time. Unfortunately, at this time of the year, because of changing seasons, there's only little visibility under water and observing the sharks from the upper deck offers better a view than in the cage. A shame, but it still is a unique experience to stand eye to eye with a Great White shark!

During this excursion, we're on sea for about two hours and have a total of seven Great White sharks visitors. Mission succeeded and with a number of beautiful photos, we sail back to the Kleinbaai. Here, we're offered a warm tomato soup with bread and interested parties can purchase a DVD of their Great White shark adventure (300 Rand).

great white shark south africa kleinbaai

Pictures - Photos of the white shark - great white shark in South Africa small bay

Shortly after the afternoon we drive a short way to Cape Agulhas (mainly on gravel roads), the most southern point of Africa. On this magical place, the Indian and Atlantic Oceans come together. There are also beautiful rock formations in the sea to admire and the crashing fierce waves. A beautiful spectacle that's certainly worth a visit.

Then we make our way to our B&B A Vue (www.avueguesthouse.de/en and-booked via booking.com - 765 Rand per night, per room) in Somerset West. Here we'll spend the next two nights.

Saturday 7 March 2015:

Drive to Cape of Good Hope

After a good night's rest, we're spoiled for breakfast with eggs, homemade jams, warm bread rolls and fresh fruit. After, the German owner Michaela gives us comprehensive advice about possible excursions in the surrounding area.

We opt to go to the Peninsula and drive to Cape of Good Hope, a panoramic ride along a few cozy, but also very touristy resorts, such as Muizenberg, St. James, Kalk Bay and Simon's Town.

From Somerset West, we first drive along a beautiful coastal strip, with some idyllic bays that overview the vibrant Atlantic Ocean. We decide to stop for some photos in Wolfgat, but are quickly detained by the police with the message that this region isn't safe for tourists. According to them, several murders have been committed. Better safe than sorry, so we quickly continue our trip.

On the way, we indeed pass a few big slums, where poverty is clearly present. It's striking that many of these cardboard cottages have a satellite dish antenna at their disposal. Very strange.

kaapstad townships south africa

In Simon's Town we visit the African penguin (Jackass penguin) colony on Boulders Beach (60 Rand per person). It's a demarcated nature area, where the comical penguins have a free range of walking space. Some creatures are hidden in the surrounding scrubland, but most penguins are of course found on the beach. Today, they're reasonably active and go in and out the water very regularly. It's very funny to see how these small creatures fight the battle against the strong current, in order to get out of the water, time after time. In addition to the hundreds of African penguins we see some Dassies (Rock hyrax that looks like a giant guinea pig) and a shy Mongoose (family of the Meerkat).

The Jackass penguin (black foot penguin) in Simon's Town

kaapstad jackass-pinguins south africa

Pictures - Photos of the Jackass pinguins (black foot pinguin) in Simon's Town in South Africa

Then we have to make our way to the nature reserve of the Cape of Good Hope (110 Rand per person). Near the entrance, there's a large group of Baboons, which according to the info signs may act quite aggressively (especially when they see the chance to steal your food). Close your doors and windows of the vehicle properly is therefore the message!

Baboons, Dassies, Mongoose alongside, ostriches and seals at Simon's Town

kaapstad baboons dassies mangoes ostrich zeerobben simons town south africa

Pictures - Photos of baboons, wanna watch dassies, mangoes alongside, ostrich and seals to Simon's Town South Africa

Because of the recent outbreaks of fire in the surroundings many byways in the nature park are closed off. Fortunately, the main road to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope are accessible. At the most southern tip of Cape Point, there's a large parking lot, from which you can start a short, but fairly steep walk to the lighthouse. You can also take a cable railway to the top (45 rand per person - single journey). Once arrived at the lighthouse, there's a magnificent view over the Atlantic Ocean. Which with its savage waves clashes in to the rocks in the sand.

Then we drive, only a little, to the final point of the Cape of Good Hope, where we of course take a picture of the world-famous name board. Here as well, you can make a short and steep walk, which efforts will be rewarded with a splendid view of the 'end of the world'.

The Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point

the Cape of Good Hope Cape Point South Africa

Pictures - Photos of the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point

On our way, back we notice a few ostriches near the water. The last place we'd expect these animals!

We want to end this beautiful day with a panoramic drive along Chapman's Point and the Atlantic Ocean, but here as well, the road is closed due to recent fires. We can approach reasonably close and can see the flames on the hill flanks very clear. Four helicopters are continuously dropping water from a nearby lake on the blaze, but because of the strong wind it's very difficult to extinguish the fire. The day afterwards we hear on the news that one of the helicopters even crashed.

Cape Town with its 12 apostles

cape town 12-apostles south africa

Pictures - Photos of Cape Town with its 12 apostles

We finish our day with a tasty meal in a Cuban restaurant in Kalk Bay. Delicious and certainly not expensive!

Sunday 8 March:

Tour Cape Town and domestic flight to Durban

After another nice breakfast in B&B A Vue, we pack our last luggage and say goodbye to our German hostess and Dutch host. We drive along a beautiful route along the Atlantic Ocean and we pass some amazing nature including Gordon's Bay, Rooi-Els, Betty's Bay and Kleinmond. From the different parking places along the way, you can admire the savage waves and on the other side, of the course the stunning views of the mountains.

On Kleinmond, we go back inland and we set course for Cape Town, that we should be able to reach in an hours drive. The closer we're approaching Cape Town, the more slums we pass. It's really distressing to see so many people living in poverty!

The first thing we see when we arrive in Cape Town is of course the world-famous Table Mountain. Its summit today, is hidden in the clouds, making it not much sense to take the cable lift to the top. Further today, we pass the far north of Cape Town and the tourist district of the V&A Waterfront, the ultra-modern football stadium which was especially built for the World Cup in 2010 and a few posh hotels.

As in most cities, there's very heavy traffic and thereby a specific cycling race today, which means tons of cyclists on the road. We don't know where to look, to keep track of everything. On top of that, there is no free parking spot and we don't want to leave our car unattended, with all our luggage in it. In accordance to all brochures and owners of B&B's break-ins in cars, in the South African cities, occur far too often. We don't want to take that risk and therefore decide to head down south and leave the city via the coast, quick as possible.

Among much more, we pass the seaside resorts of Clifton, Bakoven Bay and Camps Bay, which at the local Beau Monde are known as 'the place to be'. All hipsters troop and meet each other in this rich area of Cape Town on the beaches and inviting terraces, to show off their wealth and toned and ripped bodies.

Cape Town and Table Mountain in South Africa

cape town table mountain south africa

Pictures - Photos of Cape Town and table mountain in South Africa

Since the access road to Chapman's Peak was closed yesterday, we now try to drive there via Hout Bay, but unfortunately also this route is closed. Unfortunately, we have to miss out on the beautiful views from Chapman's Peak!

In the meantime, it got time to drive towards the airport, where we'll catch a domestic flight to Durban. When we return the rental car at Bidvest, we count 901 km on the odometer. We've already driven quite a bit of the Cape Province, but certainly haven't seen it all. An extra day to also discover the wine region around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, would have made it even more perfect.

From Cape Town to Durban, we fly with Mango Airways. Since this is a low-cost airline, the cabbin luggage is limited to 20 kg. 45 Rand per extra pound needs to be paid. Fortunately, the hand baggage doesn't get weighted, otherwise it would have been a big charge.

At 19.25pm we leave Cape Town and after a flight of about two hours, we safely land in Durban, where an employee of the dive club Scuba Addicts awaited. When we leave the airport, the sultry air is immediately noticeable. There is significantly less wind compared to Cape Town and as it were, the heat pastes on our body.

From Durban to Umkomaas it will take another hour to drive. In Umkomaas, we'll spend the next week diving with sharks. Just after our departure from the airport of Durban, we see lightning by air cleaving in the distance and it doesn't take long before we're treated to various rain showers. The rain's pouring down, which makes it very dangerous to drive.

When we arrive at the diving lodge Scuba Addicts in Durban Umkomaas around 22.00pm, it thankfully stopped raining. We get a quick tour on the domain. After our luggage is unpacked and the diving equipment for the following day is laid out, we crawl in our bed, in our extremely hot room. Unfortunately, there's no air conditioning and we may do with a small fan.

Monday 9 March 2015:

Diving on sharks in Durban Umkomaas in South Africa

The storm of the previous evening has fortunately completely blown over and we wake up to a radiant sun. All rooms of the Scuba Addicts diving club have views over the murmuring Indian Ocean. There are worse ways to start the day!

At 7.00am we're expected for breakfast. The offer is somewhat disappointing, because we can only choose between bread, a few slices of cheese, yoghurt, preserves, cereals and fresh fruit. Eggs and bacon are unfortunately, not provided at this 'continental breakfast'.

During breakfast, there is a short briefing about the forthcoming dive days and then it's time to start the real work. After everyone's assembled their own material and put on their wetsuit, we step into the trailer and five minutes later get dropped off at the beach from which we leave in the RIBs (boat).

Around 13.00pm we get back to in the dive lodge, where we get a limited menu (a few salads, burgers and sandwiches) from which we can order lunch.

The late afternoon, we go shopping at the mall of Scott Burgh where we purchase some water, wine, biscuits, chips, cola and rum, to at least, have some fun the upcoming afternoons and evenings.

Since the dive lodge of Scuba Addicts doesn't serve dinner, we get dropped off at an Italian restaurant in Scott Burgh. The food is all right, but definitely not wowing! After we've paid the bill, the restaurant owner rings the diving school to pick us back up.

Tuesday 10 March until Friday 13 March 2015:

Diving with the sharks in Durban Umkomaas in South Africa

The coming days we will live a similar pattern: breakfast at 7.00am, in the morning two (sharks)dives, lunch at Scuba Addicts, laze by the pool in the afternoon, advanced aperitifs, dinner in a local restaurant or 'braaien' (South-African BBQ) on the private domain and subsequently mull over the day, with a good glass of South African wine before we find our king-size bed. Sometimes life can be that simple and delicious!

On one of our free afternoons, we also visit a nearby crocodile farm, where at 15.00pm we can experience the feeding of the animals. This is clearly the highlight of the day and the crocodile troop to the front of the pond together, to catch their tasty snacks. Very impressive to see this, because the rest of the day, the crocodiles hardly move.

Description of the diving and dive sites in Durban Umkomaas in South Africa

We've booked all our dives with the diving school Scuba Addicts (www.scubaaddicts.com) Umkomaas in Durban in South Africa.

Scuba Addicts uses 12l steel bottles for diving. This requires less lead than aluminum dive tanks. The Diving school Scuba Addicts both offers DIN and International single cranes. The diving bottles are filled cold, 220 to 232 bar.

The Captain is very experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to sailing on the waves, which is rare and very remarkable. Even the sailing in very strong and high elongated branding was still pleasant.

On the RIB (boat) with hard keel, 7 divers, a dive master and 14 diving bottles can come along. The space is more than sufficient and as we're with only 5 divers, we've been put in a luxurious situation.

Boat in South Africa - Umkomaas

boat south africa umkomaas

The dive briefing is clear and complete. Questions afterwards are possible. Oxygen and drinking water are present on board, but since we're simply used to drink a lot, drinking water was a little restricted. Bringing an extra bottle is certainly recommended.

After the diving the sinks in the diving school are ready to clean our material. Everyone gets a personal drying place assigned. This prevents chaos and is very well controlled. Showers are also present to rinse of the salty water of your body. The communication and the commitment of the diving school is sublime.

The dive sites are about 10 to 30 minutes sailing from the beach to the diving school.

Monday 9 March 2015:

Diving on North Sand in Durban Umkomaas in South Africa

On the dive site North Sand in Durban Umkomaas in South Africa we square dive on a sandbank and low rock formations with cavities. The maximum depth is 16 à 18m. Totally unexpected, we see Ragged Tooth shark, which is normally only present in November and December. The Parrot fish, Butterfly fish, e.a. here, are remarkably larger than in other countries. On this dive, we also spot a few Morays, Nudibranchs and lobsters. Finally, various schools of about of 25 to 50 big fish regularly pass.

Diving on Umkomaas Raggie Cave in Durban in South Africa

On the dive site Umkomaas Raggie Cave in Durban in South Africa we go square diving on a sandbank and low rock formations with cavities. The maximum depth is 9 à 19m. We have a Washing Machine dive, which makes it difficult to take photos. The vegetation is modest but there are Bryozoa, Brick anemones, Alcyonium digitatum, small Clineo Patera, Black coral, e.a. A very large grouper and a turtle form the biggest attraction during the dive. Unfortunately, this time we see no sharks, but this chance was reported in advance during the briefing. The Parrot fish, Butterfly fish, e.a. are here, are a remarkably larger than in other countries. On this dive, we also spot a few Morays, Nudibranchs and lobsters. Finally, various schools of about of 25 to 50 big fish regularly pass.

Diving in South Africa - Durban Umkomaas

diving south africa umkomaas

Pictures - Photos diving in South Africa - Durban Umkomaas

Tuesday 10 March 2015:

Diving on Cathedral in Durban Umkomaas in South Africa

On the Cathedral dive site in Durban Umkomaas in South Africa, we go diving on a plate of low rocks with sand. The maximum depth is 27m and the current is quite decent. In a cave, we see 15 Ragged Tooth sharks and when we dive further, we spot a very large Angel shark. Subsequently, we dive in the blue and our dive guide creates a sound with a plastic drinking bottle. The first 15 minutes we see totally nothing, but when we start our stair safety, two Great Ocean Blacktip sharks swim upon us. We extend our stair safety with approx. 15 minutes, so we can take some good shots of these creatures. Once we start ascending to get back on board, we come across a large tuna and the Blacktips remain swimming underneath our fins. Exciting!

Diving on Amphitheater in Durban Umkomaas in South Africa

On the amphitheater in Durban Umkomaas dive site in South Africa we go diving on a plate of low rocks with sand. The maximum depth is 27m and the current is quite decent. Normally, there's a bit opportunity to dive with Bull sharks and Tiger sharks is, but unfortunately, they don't show up today. Although, we do we see a giant Grouper of approximately 2 meters long, which loves the attention and additional photoshoot. Never before we've seen such a large Grouper!

Diving in South Africa - Durban Umkomaas

diving south africa umkomaas

Pictures - Photos diving in South Africa - Durban Umkomaas

Wednesday 11 March 2015:

Shark diving in the open Indian Ocean Umkomaas in Durban in South Africa

When scuba diving on Sharks with bait, in the open Indian Ocean Umkomaas in Durban in South Africa, several additional points to the briefing are added:

During the first dive, we may take up to 70 minutes and see more than 30 Oceanic Blacktip sharks and 3 Bull sharks. During the second dive, which takes 65 minutes, again we see more than 30 Blacktip sharks, but nothing else. It's a fantastic experience to swim in the blue with so many sharks around you.

Diving in South Africa - Durban Umkomaas

diving south africa umkomaas

Pictures - Photos diving in South Africa - Durban Umkomaas

Thursday 12 March 2015:

Shark diving in the open Indian Ocean Umkomaas in Durban in South Africa

Again, we go shark diving with bait, in the open Indian Ocean Umkomaas in Durban in South Africa. This time we hope to see Tiger sharks and Bull sharks, but from a better photo-distance. With three boats, we're relatively close to one another and the sharks swim from bait to bait. We see more than 20 open ocean Blacktip sharks, orbiting around us. Despite the very strong odor track we sadly, don't see Bull sharks or Tiger sharks. When we come back to the surface, the ocean has become very wild.

Diving on Cathedral in Durban Umkomaas in South Africa

Again, we dive at the Cathedral dive site in Durban Umkomaas in South Africa. In the cave, we see seven Ragged-tooth sharks, a large Grouper, which isn't camera-shy and a rare Pinnacle fish. When we go diving, we spot a large turtle, two Mobulas and a Bull shark, larger than 3 meters.

Diving in South Africa - Durban Umkomaas

diving south africa umkomaas

Pictures - Photos diving in South Africa - Durban Umkomaas

Friday 13 March 2015:

Diving on Cathedral in Durban Umkomaas in South Africa

Again, we dive at the Cathedral dive site in Durban Umkomaas in South Africa. In the cave we see five Ragged-tooth sharks and a large photogenic Grouper. The rare Pinnacle fish has made its return. As a result of a previous group of divers on the same location, the visibility is in the open cave is limited. When we go diving, we spot an Angel shark.

Shark diving in the open Indian Ocean Umkomaas in Durban in South Africa

Since the diving school wants to give us the chance to see Tiger sharks, we make one last dive with bait, on our last day. In the worst case, we see a large group of open ocean Blacktip sharks, which of course would also be cool. After 10 minutes, we're lucky and we approach by a Tiger shark that curves around us, several times. It's a pity that the visibility this time only is about 8m and not 15 à 20m as with the previous dives. During the last 10 minutes of the dive, an even larger Tiger shark starts circling around us and with its muzzle pushes against the bait. Due to the limited visibility, the photos unfortunately are of very poor quality, but we've been on less of a distance than 8m with a large Tiger shark! We couldn't have been happier. Our mission is more than succeeded, because during this trip, we've seen Bull sharks, Ragged Tooth sharks, Open Ocean Blacktip sharks, Angel sharks and Tiger Sharks.

Diving in South Africa - Durban Umkomaas

diving south africa umkomaas

Pictures - Photos diving in South Africa - Durban Umkomaas

Saturday 14 March 2015:

departure to St. Lucia

Today we can sleep in because breakfast is postponed to 8am. After packing the dive equipment and the other luggage, we say goodbye to the crew of Scuba addicts. The driver drops us at the airport Durban, where the rental car awaits.

After wading through the paper mill to (2200 Rand deposit and 920 Rand extra for the return of the car in Johannesburg), we set off to St Lucia, where we, according to the GPS will arrive two hours later.

We make use of the various toll roads (9 Rand, 11 Rand and 37 Rand), but this way we'll reach our final destination fastest. The passing scenery is beautiful, but not to the extent that we want to stop regularly to take a picture.

Around 13.30pm we arrive in the Elephant Coast Guest House (www.elephantcoastguesthouse.com) in St. Lucia, run by Albert and Cisca, a Dutch couple. We once again, are warmly welcomed and get a detailed explanation about the guest house and the sights in the region.

The guest house is very stylishly decorated with many African accents and accessories. Our room is a true gem. In addition to the usual bedroom, we also have a cozy seating area, a semi-open bathroom / shower and a private terrace. Today is a very hot (30°C) day, so we're very happy with the air conditioning in the bedroom!

Since St. Lucia is known for its large hippos population (800 in total), we decide to immediately drive to the lake where the animals spend the day. We're lucky, because quite closely to the banks, there are about seven hippos to admire.

Hippos and birds in St. Lucia South Africa

st lucia south africa hippos

Pictures - Photos of St. Lucia with its hippos and birds in South Africa

During the day the animals aren't very active and they remain in the water, but as soon as it starts to get dark, they come ashore to dispatch their daily portion of mellow grass (40 kilos per beast). From then hippos are also dangerous to humans. Our host encodes us, not to walk or hike the field in the evening, because hippos can be quite aggressive and attack passing strollers!

Near the lake of St. Lucia is a pub/restaurant with terrace from which you can observe the hippos, crocodiles and birds perfectly.

Crocodiles and birds in St. Lucia South Africa

st lucia south africa crocodile

Pictures - Photos of St. Lucia with its crocodiles and birds in South Africa

When dawn kicks in, we drive back to the town/s center, where we order a tasty seafood platter at 'The Ocean Basket', The best seafood restaurant of St. Lucia. This is not expensive at all and so definitely recommended!

Finally, we crawl in bed at around 22.00pm, because at 5.00am, we/ll be picked up for our first safari trip, this holiday.

Sunday 15 March:

Jeep Safari in wildlife park - Imfolozi Hluluwe

Ouch! An extremely early rise, because at 5.00m, we get picked up by our private guide for our drive (ca 900 Rand per person, including entrance and afternoon braai) in Hluluwe - Imfolozi, the oldest wild park of South Africa. When our guide hears that we speak Dutch, he immediately switches to South African. It/s initially hard to get used to and some words are hard to understand, but it does give an authentic touch to this trip.

The wild park is about three quarters of an hour drive from St. Lucia and during our trip we get spoiled with a wonderful and red as blood, sunrise. Our inhumane early rise does get softened this way.

After we drive in in the park, we first get some time to gormandize the breakfast we got at the guest house. And we/re lucky from the first minute, because in the distant we can hear some elephants make their morning walk. The first of the Big Five (elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino and leopard) can immediately be ticked off!

With the jeep and private guide, we enter the wildlife, that isn/t very comparable with the Kruger National Park. In Hluluwe / Imfolozi has a greater variety of mountains, bush, rivers and savannas.

The next animal species which we encounter are some Common warthogs, which apparently are part of the 'Ugly Five'. We think they are very cute and the beasts are definitely not camera-shy.

The rest of the day we also see lashings impalas, multiple (white) rhinos, buffalos, wild beasts or gnus, a solitary kudu, several zebras, an elegant giraffe, but the highlight of the day is a herd of elephants of more than 20 adult and young animals, which slowly and very close pass our jeep. Such a thrilling moment!

Hluluwe - Imfolozi Wildlife Park in South Africa with its wild beasts or gnus, kudus, giraffes, elephants

hluluwe imfolozi game park south africa elephants

Pictures - Photos wildlife park Imfolozi Hluluwe - in South Africa with its wild beasts or gnus, kudus, giraffes, elephants

In the distance, we/ve also spotted a lioness with her prey, walking to the river, but unfortunately weren/t able to take any sharp pictures. Four out of five, in regards to the Big Five. Not bad for a first safari!

Around 11.00am it/s lunch time and we drive to a kind of picnic area where different BBQs are available. Our guide slams a few slabs of meat and sausage on the fire and 20 minutes later we can fill our faces in this unique environment. Thankfully, a few restrooms are available here (and also spread over the rest of the wildlife park).

After lunch, we pick the wire back up, but the afternoon sun, burns in all its severity and most animals found a spot in the shadow to relax or sleep under a tree, making it more difficult for us to spot them. We see a few impalas, buffalo, rhinos and zebras, but it's widely known that most animals are most active and hunt for food, early in the morning or late in the afternoon

Hluluwe Wildlife Park in South Africa with its impalas, buffalo, rhinos and zebras

hluluwe wildlife park south africa rhinos

Pictures - Photos wildlife park Imfolozi Hluluwe - in South Africa with its impalas, buffalo, rhinos and zebras

Around 14u45 our trip is over and we leave this beautiful wildlife park - Imfolozi Hluluwe, that you also can visit without a guide. Disadvantage in this respect, is that you in an ordinary car sit a lot lower and spot the wild animals not as well. The trained eye of a guide spots the contours of the animals much faster, which is certainly a big value.

Three quarters later, we get dropped off at the Elephant Coast Guest House, where we take it easy, the rest of the afternoon. At night, we pick a nice meat restaurant (Reef & Dunes) and call it a night, because we feel our eyes getting tiny, after such a long, but amazing day.

Monday 16 March:

Boat trip with hippos, crocodiles and a journey through iSimangaliso Wetland Park

After an exceptionally good night's rest,we settle ourselves at the extensive breakfast table at 8.15am, with a view of the beautiful garden. In contrast to the previous days we can take it easy this morning, which creates an extra relaxed feeling.

At 10.15am we're expected at the meeting point for our two hour boat trip on the Delta river in St. Lucia. Which is home to 800 hippos and a lot of crocodiles. We have booked one of the smallest boat (225 Rand per person), which ensures a more personal approach and accompanying explanation by a biologist.

We have been lucky because although the boat offers seats to 15 people, we are the only passengers on this tour. Pure luxury!

Directly after we've left the shore, on the opposite side of the river are already a few hippos grunting each other. During the rest of the trip we see four hippo families, but no crocodiles. According to the skipper / biologist this is due to the wind, which today is a lot stronger than other days and makes most of the crocodiles move to a secondary branch of the river. A shame!

Also, the number of hippos that we get to see here and the degree of their activity is a little disappointing, because the animals we observed on the other side of the shore, the day before, were much more visible and playful.

Overall, it can be said that this is a nice intermezzo, but certainly not a must. You better go to the banks of the river (near Ski Boat Club) and find a place from which you can see the hippos in all their hustle and bustle.

Shortly after midday, we drive to the nearby iSimangaliso Wetland Park (42 Rand per person + 47 Rand per car), that's declared South Africa's first natural World Heritage Site by Unesco. It is a unique region of 280 km long, which counts up to eight ecosystems. We know that none of the big Big Five will be appearing here, so our expectations are rather low.

The natural park knows only one main road and also has a few gravel roads that loop back to the main road time and time again. Therefore, it's impossible to drive the wrong way. Among others, we see some zebras, elegant kudus, cute Common warthogs, masses of impalas, water bocks, wild beasts and a number of playful Vervet monkeys on the beach of Cape Vidal. No large or dangerous beasts, but it's a very nice environment to drive through. Even more, because it's a very varied landscape, with some beautiful view points on the Indian Ocean and the neighboring wetlands.

At 20h00 we get picked up at the Elephant Coast Guest House for a Night tour through the same iSimangaliso Wetland Park (425 Rand). This tour aims for some other animals. We were lucky because straight at the start of the trip we collide on a hippopotamus that's looking for a nice grassy meal. The animal isn't very charmed by the intense light of our spots and walks off, but however, we can follow it for a long time. Amazing!

Further during this night tour, we see a few zebras, a cute chameleon, multiple bush babies, golden orb web spiders, that construct some impressive webs and little springboks, an evil looking buffalo, Southern reetbucks, divers, impalas, etc. So, we have numerous different types of antelopes in front of our lens, but unfortunately no rhino or leopard.

The iSimangaliso wildlife park in South Africa

iSimangaliso south africa wildlife park

Pictures - Photos wildlife park iSimangaliso in South Africa

During the entire ride, lightning is showing up in the distance and our guide fears that he needs to cancel the tour abruptly, to avoid the bad weather. Fortunately, it's not till 23.00pm, on the way back that we see some torrential rain.

Tuesday 17 March:

ride to the Mlilwane wildlife park in Swaziland

Since we can't drive from St. Lucia to the Kruger Park in one go, we make a pit stop in Swaziland, a small kingdom in east Africa, with a little more than 1 million inhabitants.

According to the GPS we'll have a short five-hour drive of 380 km ahead of us, so at 10.30am we decide to leave St. Lucia, after a quick stop to get the necessary supplies for the coming days.

We've already heard a lot of wild stories about the time-consuming administrative trouble at the border crossing from South Africa to Swaziland, but fortunately we don't experience any of this. As soon as we arrive at the immigration office, we immediately get served and with one stamp in our passport, we can continue along this road. Simple and efficient!

Whites are in Swaziland a curiosity, apparently. The school children we come across on the way, wave at us enthusiastically. We feel like real celebrities and wave back at them as if we don't know any better! We do need to be careful and don't accidentally hit the many stray cows and goats, because they cross the road as if they own it.

Around 16h00 we arrive at the Mlilwane wildlife park (40 Rand per person), the first wild reserve in Swaziland, where we stay at a beehive hut. These are round cabins, which are in accordance with the traditional Swazi culture, fully built from reed. From the outside, the cabins look quite small, but ultimately you have quite a lot of space inside. For the demanding western tourists, each hut is accomplished with a bathroom with toilet, washbasin and showers.

Beehives in the Mlilwane wildlife park in Swaziland

beehives mlilwane swaziland wildlife park

Pictures - Photos of the beehives in the Mlilwane wildlife park in Swaziland

After check-in, we make a short afternoon tour through the park and we really don't know where to look first, because we're surrounded by zebras, impalas, blesbuck, common warthog, gnus wild beasts and funny waddling guinea fowl. Very nice!

The Mlilwane wildlife park in Swaziland

mlilwane swaziland wildlife park

Pictures - Photos of the Mlilwane wildlife park in Swaziland

At 18.30pm we're expected at the Hippo Haunt restaurant for dinner, what unfortunately is a buffet. For the first time during our South Africa trip, we get to try exotic meat, because there's baked impala on the menu. Nice, but rather tough meat. The level of the Eswatini Swazi kitchen is far below that of the South African, because our pieces of steak and cake are rather dry. Fortunately, we're only here for one day!

After dinner, there's also a traditional dance and folklore show at the central campfire, but we don't really feel like this commercialized hassle and remain in the quiet restaurant. In this beehive camp, there's not much else to do, so we make our way to bed fairly early to enjoy the sound of the crickets in the background.

Wednesday 18 March:

Ride to Kruger National Park in South Africa

Since the beehives don't have windows, today we aren't woken up by the emerging natural light, but by our departing neighbours, because the cabins are everything except soundproof.

After breakfast, we take a few photos in the camp with the residential impalas and Hogarths and around 9.00am start our four-hour trip to the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

During the night, it has rained a little and the air still is dark gray. When we're driving through the mountains, it's so fogg, it's like looking into a cake of ice. Fairly dangerous!

Fortunately, it gradually clears up and we can swap unsunny Swaziland for the trusted South Africa sun. Once again, we have no problem or administrative hassle when leaving this cheerful kingdom.

Once we cross the border of the Republic of South Africa, it's still an hour's drive to the Male Lane Gate of the world famous Kruger Park, where we arrive around 13.00pm and register the rental car at the guards (528 Rand entrance in total, paid at the reception of your stay).

After a short five minutes, we already encounter a large group of elephants, which includes a few small elephants as well. Very cute and a great start to this tour!

The Kruger National Park in South Africa with its elephants, rhinos, warthog, giraffes, kudus, birds

kruger park south africa rhinos

Pictures - Photos of the Kruger Park in South Africa with its elephants, rhinos, warthog, giraffes, kudus, birds

On the way to the rest camp Berg and Dall, where we will spend the night tonight, we get to see one after another animal: rhinos, impalas, beautiful greater blue eared-starlings, Common warthog, a few elephants, zebras and giraffes. And all of that, on the first 12km's of this imposing domain!

The Berg en Dal rest camp is one of the more recent and smaller accommodations in the Kruger Park including 92 bungalows, which are equipped with kitchenette, small bathroom, air conditioning and terrace with 'braai facilities'. The sleeping places are rather functional, without personal touch, but we can't really care about that. In the camp you'll also find a grocery shop, souvenir shop, restaurant, swimming pool, tank pump and washing machine. Wi-fi here is unfortunately not available.

Around 14.30pm we go for a little exploring, but as usually in the warmest hours of the day, there's little to see. We have to do it with the elephants, some colorful birds, Common warthogs, impalas and giraffes. We also peer the treetops hoping to spot a leopard or sleepy Lion, but this is like searching for a needle in a haystack.

The Kruger National Park in South Africa with its elephants, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, kudus, birds

kruger park south africa giraffes

Pictures - Photos of the Kruger Park in South Africa with its elephants, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, kudus, birds

Later this afternoon, the animals get more active and we spot in addition to some elegant kudus, some zebras, impalas, rhinos and end the tour with some beautiful elephants.

The Kruger National Park in South Africa with its elephants, impalas, rhinos, zebras, warthog, giraffes, birds

kruger park south african elephants

Pictures - Photos of the Kruger Park in South Africa with its elephants, impalas, rhinos, zebras, warthog, giraffes, birds

At 18.00pm everyone should be back at the camp, as the roads will be closed, so the animals can spend their nights peacefully.

We go for a quick bite at the only restaurant available and enjoy a nice piece of kudu schnitzel. The rump steak is rather tough and would certainly not be recommended.

Finally, we take our take in the bungalow and start dreaming of the massive crowds of impalas and elephants.

Thursday 19 March:

Tour in Kruger National Park

We get up extra early, so we can start to explore the Kruger National Park. We even skip breakfast and enter our carriage at 7.20am, hoping to spot as many animals as possible, today.

First, we encounter a baby Mongoose, a group of zebras and an elephant. We then decide to take a sideway to one the gravel paths, but here seems nothing to be going on. Bad decision, so we go back and continue our path on the main roads.

Initially, except from the two crossing rhinos and a group of wild beasts far in the distance, there's not much to see and we don't really succeed. But suddenly we see a large herd of buffalos heading towards a water place, where also impalas and a marabou stork are dipping their feet in the water. Beautiful shots assured!

The Kruger National Park in South Africa with its mangoesten, buffalos, rhinos, gnus wild beasts, elephants, birds, Maraboes

kruger park south africa giraffes

Pictures - Photos of the Kruger Park in South Africa with its mango sten, buffalo, rhinos, gnus wild beasts, elephants, birds, Mara Boes

When we stop for a picnic and leg stretch, the info board tells us, that several lions have been spotted in the area we've just have passed. We take the gamble and drive back via the H4-1, along the Sabie river to the indicated place.

The Lions have unfortunately left but, nevertheless it's been worth to make this detour, because in such a short distance, we've never before seen so many different animals. Among others we spotted a giraffe family, Blue monkeys, baboons, a solitary kudu, a waterbuck with a little one, a huge herd of elephants of more than 100 animals going along the Sabie river, a colorful rainbow rock lizard, a kind of hawk, some funny rhino birds, two massive buffalos and warthog, taking a mud bath. This road is a big recommendation within the Kruger Park!

In the meantime, we've lost a lot of time and we must speed a little to get out of the park. When we drive along an open savanna, suddenly a few lions show up between the high grass. Hallelujah, this is what we've been looking for!

Then we drive back to the Orphen Gate and along the road we see a group of drinking elephants, a giraffe, some baboons that are quietly and peacefully eating a piece of fruit, multiple leopard turtles, two buffalo, a solitary wild beast and several hippos in a water pool.

The Kruger National Park in South Africa with its lions, elephants, giraffes, baboons, leopard turtles, water axle stands, buffalo, warthog, birds

kruger park south africa lions

Pictures - Photos of the Kruger Park in South Africa with its lions, elephants, giraffes, baboons, leopard turtles, water axle stands, buffalo, warthog, birds

Around 17.30pm we reach the Orphen Gate and according to our GPS, it still is a 45-minute drive to the Pezulu Tree House Lodge. One of the name signs along the road is placed incorrectly and we loose some time. In addition, our GPS doesn't recognize the final location.

We opt for the good old fashioned way, step into a local pub and ask for the right way. They're very friendly and helpful. In the end, we find the right exit, but yet, have to drive another 10km on a very bumpy road. In the meantime, it has become dark. The route appears to wane endlessly but, ultimately, we reach the Pezulu Tree House Lodge (www.pezulu.co.za), which is located in the Guernsey Conservancy domain.

The Pezulu Tree House Lodge has 10 tree cabins, which are all equipped with all modern facilities. We even have the choice of whether we want to take a shower inside or outside in the open air. Great concept, but not always practical, because the tree huts are completely built of wood, with thatched roofs and crevices in the floor, so that vermin always has a chance to get in. Here applies: don't unpack and keep your suitcases closed.

We nearly scare ourselves a heart attack, when suddenly a frog jumps out of the knotted mosquito net. Fortunately, we can catch it and put it outside safely.

Pezulu Tree House Lodge in Guernsey Conservancy domain in South Africa

kruger park south africa pezulu tree house lodge

Pictures - Photos of the Pezulu Tree House Lodge in Guernsey Conservancy domain in South Africa

Friday 20 March:

Morning walk in Guernsey Conservancy and afternoon safari in Kapama

Today, an early rise awaits, because today we've planned a morning hike from 6.00am to 8.00am. The walk goes through the domain on which Pezulu Tree House Lodge is situated.

Covered in soap, our showers come abruptly to an end, no more water! Annoyingly, there's no one present to resolve this problem either. We solve this problem with our own creativity and rinse off with our own bottles of drinking water.

The walk in the Guernsey Conservancy domain is a bit disappointing, because we only spot a zebra mother with her little one and some impalas. Furthermore, we see an antlion in its little hole, which is part of the 'Little Five'. Finally, we find some traces of a leopard in the sandy path, a hyena and a kind of fox, but unfortunately the animals themselves are not found. Also no sign of any giraffes in the wildlife park.

After the walk, we enjoy our breakfast in the open air and until the afternoon we have time to enjoy the sun, while relaxing at the pool. Unfortunately, we aren't allowed to explore the wildlife park by ourselves, because there are buffalos on the area. Our elbow room is limited to the inhabited i.e. area which is a bit of a disadvantage to this lodge.

At 15.00pm we get picked up for an afternoon and evening safari in the nearby Kapama wildlife park, an extension of the Kruger Park. This morning, our Argentine lodge neighbors, have spotted here, next to elephants, rhinos and buffalo, also three male lions from a very close distance. Our expectations are therefore quite high!

Our enthusiasm however drops very quickly, when up arrival, we notice that we'll drive in to the park with 4 jeeps at the same time. Furthermore, each jeep is occupied with 8 à 10 persons. This makes our elbow space and the chance to take some good photos very limited.

At the beginning of the trip, we're even more disappointed when our jeep leaves third. This means, that the wild will have long disappeared, when we pass the original place. Fortunately, the cars split after a while and each goes its own way.

On our route, we come across heaps of different wild life, among others a hippopotamus, a waterbuck, a giraffe, a rhinoceros bird, some wild beasts and a nyala antelope. The cap is a group of nine lionesses, lazing at the side of the road. They seem not to be disturbed by our presence and quietly enjoy their afternoon siesta. What a wonderful experience!

The Kapama wildlife park with its many lions, is an extension of the Kruger Park in South Africa

kapama wildlife park in south africa lions

Pictures - Photo;s of the Kapama wildlife park with many van Leeuwen, was an offshoot of the Kruger Park in South Africa

Afterwards a short break is held at a lake with water turtles. The picnic basket with drinks and snacks is brought up and in the meantime, we also enjoy a beautiful sunset.

Around 18.30pm it's totally dark and we start the night part of our safari trip. We soon come across a bush baby leaping in a tree and some impalas frolicking on the road. On this place, we again spot four lionesses, which clearly are on the hunt for their supper. We try to follow them, hoping that they will be able to catch a prey, but they're too smart and disappear between the bushes, in the dark night.

Subsequently we spent an hour in the park, but don't get to see any more significant animals. Generally, it can be said that the Kapama Wildlife Park is a spectacular addition to the Kruger Park (specially to spot lions), but that there are significantly fewer animals present.

After our return at the Pezulu Tree House Lodge we can immediately slide our legs under the table and fill our faces with some deliciousness. On the roof of the accommodation we see a civet sneak away, but unfortunately are unable to take a photo.

Saturday 21 March:

Panorama Route to Hazyview

After breakfast, we mess around with our luggage for a bit, say goodbye to our tree house, which this morning, once again was out of water. Apparently refilling the reservoirs doesn't belong to the strongest points of this accommodation.

We haven't left the camp and already pass one of the eleven giraffes, which are present on the domain. In addition, we see a beautiful luna mot, two overzealous scarabs, a waterbuck and an Impala. Great way to start the day!

Via Class Erie we start the 210km long and four-hour panoramic route along the Blyde River Canyon, which on some moments, shows similarities with the Grand Canyon.

The views of the mountains are spectacular, but unfortunately there isn't always a good stopping place equipped to take photos.

Around noon we stop at a cozy restaurant to enjoy the local cuisine and to stretch the legs. They offer fresh mango juice for a bargain (20 Rand). Of course, we take a glass and it tastes delicious. Also, our filet mignon and trout salad are very yummy.

We continue our way on the Panoramic Route and drive higher and higher into the mountains. On one of the highest points, we make a stop at the viewpoint of the 'Three Ronda Sheet' (10 Rand per car), where you have a beautiful view on the colourful canyon. In the car park, there are also several souvenirs stand and we can't resist to buy an engraved cowhorn (200 Rand). Another trophy to add to our collection at home!

The Dragons Mountains panorama route and potholes in South Africa

south africa dragons potholes mountains panorama route

Pictures - Photos of the dragons and potholes Mountains Panorama Route in South Africa

The next stop is 'Bourke's Luck Potholes' (80 Rand in total), a rock formation that's hollowed by the Blyde and the Treur River. Apparently, this place is also known as a kind of recreation park for the local population, because it's very lively, full with people, singing and braaiing.

Finally, we make our way through rolling green and wooded area to the Idle & Wild B&B ( www.idleandwild.com) in Hazyview, where we arrive around 17.00pm. After a warm welcome and the necessary explanations about the room and the B&B, we go into town for a bite to eat.

Recommended by our host of the B&B, we let our eyes fall on Pioneers Grill, one of the better and more expensive steak houses of the surround area. Since it's our last night in South Africa, we don't mind going a bit wild and order the kudu fillet and the largest portion of the ribs. Both dishes taste absolutely delicious and form a worthy end to our South Africa adventure.

Sunday 22 March:

Drive to Johannesburg and flight back to Brussels via Doha

After a tasty breakfast including toast, fresh fruit and eggs, we explore the charming garden of our B&B. It's a pity we can't jump into the inviting swimming pool, but we still have a long drive to go.

Around 10.30am we hit the road to the airport of Johannesburg. During the first part of the journey, we drive by a green hilly landscape with some beautiful views and somewhere in the middle of our journey we make a pit stop at a cute looking diner for a small bite to eat.

In the meantime, the sky has turned dark completely and we see lightning in the distance. This doesn't look very promising. And indeed, as soon as we get back in the car, it starts to rain and say goodbye to the hot South African sun.

A little after 16.00pm we arrive at the airport in Johannesburg and our odometer indicates that the past nine days, we have driven about 1876 km. In Johannesburg, it's remarkable colder than in Hazyview and we nearly shiver to death. We exchange our summer outfit quickly for long trousers and a jumper, so our trip back to Belgium can begin.

As our flight doesn't leave until 20.45pm, we still have sufficient time to enjoy a pizza. Strangely enough, they don't serve alcohol in our eatery, but don't think it's a problem that we pop open our own bottle, bought at one of the airport shops.

Our flight to Doha in Qatar takes a short eight hours and fortunately we can sleep a little. We then need to fill a 2.30h transit time and have a look around the shops. We set off for our last flight to Brussels of approximately seven hours. At 12.30pm we land safely and are another travel experience richer.

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Useful information about South Africa:

Medical information about South Africa


malaria mosquito


Hyperbaric Chamber and emergency contacts in South Africa:

Recompression Chamber in Berea Mayville Durban, South Africa:

Emergency Numbers:

The climate in South Africa:

South Africa knows 4 different climate zones, which are very different from each other.

The time difference in South Africa vs. Belgium







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