Table Mountain (6 merged photos)Holiday Photos South Africa, 2004
  South Africa, 2006.  
  We enjoyed South Africa so much from our first visit a couple of years before, so, in November 2006, we went back. This time we stopped off in Johannesburg to visit Jane's cousins. Dave and his wife Joy were kind enough to put us up and to show us around a little of Jo'burg. In the evening we met up with another of Jane's cousins, Jackie, and her husband Ron (Jane's other cousin Cathy unfortunately couldn't make it).  

Joy Dave and Ashton Ashton Ashton
Joy Dave and Ashton Ashton Ashton
Jackie and Ron      
Jackie and Ron      

  South Africa, of course, is well known for its sunshine, which is why we were sooo comforted by everyone telling us how unusual it was that it had hardly stopped raining for the entire two days we were in Jo'burg. This limited a little the places worth going to, but we did have a good look at the Botanical Gardens (cue obligatory shots of flowers and birdies).

A weaver bird Cycad Weaver bird nests Weaver bird nests
A weaver bird A cycad Weaver bird nests More weaver bird nests
Waterfall Gloriosa Superba    
A waterfall in the Jo'burg botanic gardens Gloriosa Superba "Rothschildiana"    

  After Jo'burg we went to Cape Town, where our first stop was the Vineyard Hotel. We stayed here last time (and obviously liked it) but unfortunately this time the restaurants were undergoing renovation, which meant there was a very limited menu during the day (i.e. for Ray, just chips. How upsetting he found that.). The views of Table Mountain, and the rest of Cape Town, were just as magnificent as before, though, and (after some very heavy rain when we first arrived) the weather cleared up as well and was what we had traveled this far in November for.

Table Mountain Vineyard Hotel path Vineyard Hotel tortoise Helmeted Guinea Fowl
Table Mountain, from our hotel room The path from our bedroom to the breakfast table The Vineyard Hotel tortoise gets quite cross if you photograph him while he's eating Another of the numerous creatures that wander round the grounds (a helmeted Guinea Fowl, I think)
Cape Town harbour area Strelitza Hibiscus  
The harbour area of Cape Town A Strelitza in the gardens at the Vineyard An hibiscus in the Vineyard gardens  

  The Vineyard Hotel is only about 5 minutes drive from the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and that was always on our itinerary. (Cue more shots of flowers that only grow in super-heated conservatories in the UK - and birdies as well, of course.)


Leucospermum Jane at Kirstenbosch prinia Leucospermum
I call this the "fireworks plant". People who know what they're talking about call it a Leucospermum. Jane, and a mountain. A Prinia Another leucospermum
A Strelitza A flower A protea Proteas
A Strelitza  
  Nope, don't know what this one's called Nothing quite looks like a protea though or even a bunch of proteas
Water lilies A protea A protea A protea
Water lilies OK, they're all proteas, but they are all pretty (king proteas in fact - the national plant of South Africa)
Another Leucospermum      
There are definitely some weird looking plants around      


After the Vineyard, we went east along the coast to Grootbos, a private nature reserve just past Hermanus. Grootbos won Conde Nast's Tatler Magazine award in 2006, as the "best family hotel in the world", and has won many other awards, not just for the hotel, but also for the conservation work they do. It also featured in the Saturday Telegraph's holiday section (after we'd been there, of course - trendsetters that we are). It's easy to see why it wins awards - our cottage was bigger than at least two flats I've lived in, and the restaurant was very haute cuisine. On the day we arrived, we couldn't get into the (small) car park, because the South African Minister for the Environment was holding a one-day conference in the hotel.

The main attraction Grootbos held for us, though, was the wildlife...


Big cockroach Big caterpillar A flower, possibly an Iris Round-eyed bulbul
As cockroaches go, this one's a biggie - and apparently it squirts a nasty purple liquid when it's frightened. And as caterpillars go - good grief! No, I don't know what it grows into (whatever it wants to, I guess). This looks like some sort of Iris, but I'm not sure We got loads of these (round-eyed bulbuls) outside our cottage

  When we say "the wildlife", what we particularly mean is "the whales". Between about June and December, South Africa provides some of the best whale-watching in the world, particularly around Hermanus and De Kelders (hence the timing of this trip).

Having in the past spent 2 hours on a boat heading out to sea off the coast of New England to find whales, it was a bit of a shock to park the car in a municipal car park to stretch our legs, step out and find a whale cavorting off the beach no more than 20 yards away! Even though we were at the end of the whale-watching season, there were dozens of whales visible from the beach without needing to use binoculars. Whales, however, specialise at being difficult subjects to photograph, so cue pictures of black (and white!) blobs.


De Kelders beach Whales at De Kelders Whales at De Kelders Whale and calf
The beach at De Kelders Two whales (I think) Two whales A whale suckling its (white!) calf
Whale and calf Whale and calf Whale  
Same mother, same calf Same mother, same... The shore slopes down very steeply, and the whales can - and do - come literally just yards away  


Grootbos doesn't have large wildlife - it's not a safari park - but little creatures make cuter photos.


Striped mouse Lizard Mad-eyed Rock Kestrel  
OK, it's just a mouse, but it's a cute, striped, South African mouse It's a lizard - not exactly a rarity in South Africa, but we're not South African A mad-eyed Rock Kestrel  


When we left Grootbos, we went back down to De Kelders (it's only a few miles) because we didn't feel we had quite enough photos of black blobs in water yet.


Whale Whale and calf Whale's tail  
A bit of a whale , with bits of other whales in the background Mother and calf A whale waving us goodbye  

  Our last stop this trip was Constantia, a suburb of Cape Town, where we stayed at Constantia Uitsig, which is a full-scale vineyard producing some very nice wines. We seem to have ended up with a bit of a foodie trip this time - Constantia Uitsig has two restaurants that consistently feature in "top 10 restaurants in South Africa" lists, and its main restaurant has been named the best in South Africa for the last two years running.  

Constantia Uitsig Our cottage at Constantia Uitsig Our cottage at Constantia Uitsig Our cottage at Constantia Uitsig
Constantia Uitsig Our cottage Our cottage Now, November in England - or lying in the shade in South Africa. Hmmm, tough choice.
A flower      
An hibiscus at Constantia Uitsig      

  Once we left Constantia Uitsig, we had several hours (most of the day, in fact) to kill before our flight - so what better way to spend it than sitting in Kirstenbosch, reading and having lunch.  

Kirstenbosch Gardens Cape Starlings Hadedah Palm tree
Kirstenbosch Gardens (a bit of them, anyway). And Jane. Cape starlings A hadedah ibis - unusually actually up a tree Palm tree
Strikingly patterned restio      

And that's it. (Until next time!)

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