Some Like it Hot

Written for my Travel Writing class 2021

Perfectly matte. No moisture anywhere to be seen. Not one drop. I was staring at my server’s face in awe. Here I was, makeup dripping off, sweaty face, sweaty butt, and my hair expanding every second. It was 90 plus degrees, like the feeling after tasting the Thai chili, sweat building on your upper lip, with humidity through the roof. We missed the water festival by a few days, but I could’ve used a hosing down. I was sipping a crisp mojito, extra lime, in Koh Samui, Thailand. Koh Samui is known for its turquoise beaches and diving sites, particularly Sail Rock. 

Earlier that day, I had a once in a lifetime experience of diving amongst whale sharks. My friend Michael and I had been diving the day before, and were hoping to get a glimpse of these gentle giants prior to moving on to the Elephant Hills. As everyone geared up for our dive, an excited shout rang throughout the boats bobbing up and down around the rock. Whale shark! No hesitation, I jumped into the salty water, and frantically searched the endless underwater horizon. Finally, we saw her. A juvenile, but still approximately 13 feet. She maneuvered her way through the swarm of divers, and made one more pass before saying goodbye.

On our way to the Elephant Hills we stopped at a roadside shop complete with gas pumps and questionable bathrooms. I timidly approached a stall, praying they had toilet paper and not a hole in the ground. I was pleasantly surprised to find a Western toilet, although instead of toilet paper they had a trough of water. A scoop drifted around in the water, like cilantro in a soup, something I cannot stomach due to an apparent gene problem. I quickly decided I did not have to use the bathroom, and rushed into the store to buy some snacks. 

Three little peanuts stood behind me, their school uniforms perfectly pressed, staring up at my blonde hair with beaming eyes. I doubt they had seen many pale, blonde, blue-eyed women in their lifetime. I smiled at them and paid for my Thai candy bars. Just a little sugar to keep me going for the hour long drive ahead. 

After settling into our luxurious tented room for the night, we headed to the dining area. A spread of fruits and other snacks awaited us. Mango, pineapple, melons, and red papaya, which I soon found out was not the only type of papaya that could be eaten. After a lovely dinner of traditional Thai dishes, we were entertained by a group of local girls who performed a ceremonial cultural dance.

Next on the itinerary was a cooking demonstration. Papaya Salad. I pictured a sweet fruity dish. The woman displayed all of her ingredients in organized piles. The only red ingredient I saw on the table were cherry tomatoes, not the juicy papaya I was expecting. After muddling all of the ingredients together, she dished out a small sampling for everyone in the audience. My mouth exploded with flavor. Sweet, salty, savory, with a lingering spice. I was in love. Who knew fish sauce, green papaya, and peanuts could taste this good? 

After we devoured our share, she asked the audience if anyone would like a spicier version. She split the remaining papaya salad in half. One half was given to those who could not handle the heat. The other half was zhuzhed up with additional Thai chilis. I of course was all for the additional chilis. Closing my eyes, feeling the burn, and smiling. Some just like it hot.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Elephants Cruise into Camdeboo: Rewilding the Karoo

Elephants Cruise into Camdeboo: Rewilding the Karoo

Written by: Laurie Sullivan (Provided by Africa Media)


Through my binoculars, I could make out two rock-like objects next to a broken white Shepherd’s Tree. Penny Pistorius, the elephant-monitor for the next year (dubbed “the Elephant Lady” by Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve’s staff), had spotted them with her sharp eye. The rocks were actually two elephants, a mother and baby. Mount Camdeboo is now home to the Big 5, with its new addition of three lions and, most recently, six elephants.

The three adult females, one young bull and two calves came from Atherstone Nature Reserve, where the elephants were overpopulated and at risk of being culled. Elephants, Rhinos & People (ERP) helped facilitate the relocation. Steve Turner-Smith, the general manager of Mount Camdeboo, said the wheels have been turning for years now on reintroducing elephants to the Karoo.

He explained how Iain Buchanan, the busy reserve owner, has been taking all the necessary steps to ensure the successful relocation. These have included open communication with neighbouring reserves to strengthen security measures, increasing perimeter patrols, as well as conducting an ecology study on the vegetation in the reserve. “It’s pretty special. The vision was Iain’s dads, and he passed when Iain was pretty young. He decided to continue the dream and the legacy.”

Transporting elephants is no easy feat, but ERP has it down to a science. Using helicopters, they wait for elephants to naturally group together for safety, ensuring that the relocated units are a family. Once together, they are darted simultaneously and loaded into trucks using a crane. Afterwards, they help them stand up using ropes, keeping them conscious but still sedated. All of the elephants except for the baby were placed in one truck, to keep them calm for the long drive. The reason the baby was separated was because of the concern for him being stepped on. In total, the journey from Atherstone to Camdeboo took around 20 hours.

Not only do the new elephants have to deal with being separated from the larger herd, but they also have an unfamiliar terrain to explore. The family comes from a flat sandy region, nothing like the mountainous Camdeboo. Penny explains how the matriarch, normally the oldest and wisest of the herd, develops a mental map of their surroundings, food and water sources, as well as other wildlife around. Because of the relocation, that map is now wiped and the matriarch will have to start from scratch. This might explain the odd behaviour the elephants have shown the first week at the reserve.

The herd immediately went up the northern mountain. This is unusual, since they’ve never been in mountainous terrain before. It may be due to the fact that they came from the north, which was the direction they knew as home. “Most animals have that magnetic compass in them,” explained Steve. “We’ve lost it. We’ve lost our instincts to navigate like that.” After 24 hours, one female and her youngest calf separated from the herd. This is definitely not normal in elephants, and could be the effect of a few different factors. One of the theories is that they  received three different types of tranquilizers for their journey, one of which has mild effects that can last for up to seven days. This could have caused slight confusion.

Another theory has to do with an old farm fence on the reserve. The elephants managed to cross it going up the mountain, but because of the angle at which it was leaning, Steve  doesn’t think the baby was able to get back over, forcing the mom to stay behind with him. “I was thinking about the conversation that that mother had to make with her middle calf… to say you’re not coming with me now, you have to go with them. That must have been a proper conversation, and a big, big choice to make,” said Steve. After the discovery, the team removed several large sections of the fence to make it easier for them to trek back down.

Fortunately, the six have reunited and have kept to the north mountain and valleys. They’ve also been seen on the fence line communicating with the elephants from the neighbouring reserves. Elephants can communicate up to 10 kilometers away and also use infra-sound to send and receive messages. It can take months or even years for them to settle into their new environment. Steve is hopeful that with Penny checking on them daily, the elephants will adjust to their new home.

“I’m pretty excited,” he said, “I want them to settle down so we can see them regularly. But the elephants absolutely come first. That’s what it’s all about.” While the elephants explore their new home, guests at the reserve can still see multiple native species such as cheetahs, lions, various antelope, zebras, and more. “There’s a lot of other experiences that can be built here that are equally impressive.” I’m lucky I got to see a faraway glimpse of them with Penny. Soon, seeing elephants will be added to every visitor’s Mount Camdeboo experience.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Downtown Delights in Mossel Bay

Downtown Delights in Mossel Bay

Written by Laurie Sullivan (Africa Media)


Do great white sharks swim in shallow waters? I wondered as I looked over Santos beach inhabited by surfers, sunbathers, and swimmers. Not too far out from the beach was a small island with about 3000 Cape fur seals as its only occupants. Boats anchored off the island reminded me of the predators possibly circling below. How crazy are these people? I would never get in the water so close to an apex like a great white. The shark cage diving company, White Shark Africa, is just five minutes’ walk from the harbor – seems like a much safer choice.

IMG_0231(My killer shot of a great white after cage diving with White Shark Africa)

Mossel Bay is a coastal town located off the N2 in the Garden Route of South Africa. The town as a whole might be small in size, but its downtown area alone is a destination within itself. The sea is an important part of this town, as the harbor is one of the primary economic sources for the area. It’s also from the sea that the first European explorers, like Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu Dias, came to discover the town as a port in the 1400s. My favorite aspect of this town is the closeness to marine life and seaside activities.

I turned away from Santos beach and walked the hidden back route towards the harbor and yacht club – now known as the Mossel Bay Waterfront – where the Garden Route Scuba shop resides. There are boat dives available as well as a shore dive, which I’ve been on. Between the different varieties of marine life as well as a sunken Ford bakkie, there are plenty of fascinating submerged views to capture.

2bb27a84-8208-43e5-82a1-bc75facb0551(Hannah and I getting ready for our shore dive. I’m glad we had the boots and hood)

The harbor also houses an impressive selection of restaurants. For a fancy dinner out, there’s the Oyster Bar for sushi and cocktails. You can sit on the deck overlooking the bay while sampling gin and enjoying good seafood. Kaai 4 has a laid back, eclectic vibe and specializes in braai meat and roosterkoek. They even brew their coffee over the open fire.

IMG_0154(Kaai 4’s gnome garden)

The Sea Gypsy Cafe was the first restaurant at the harbor and offers great views and a large seafood menu. Down the road from that, the best fish and chips in town is served at The London Bus, a quirky restaurant converted from a red double-decker bus. If you walk halfway up the hill towards town, you’ll find La Peron, which has won TripAdvisor’s badge for the best food in Mossel Bay for the last three years in a row. La Peron has a tiki vibe with its sand floor, palm-covered beach bar, and blue harbor views. The staff recommends the seafood platter or prawns.

IMG_1119(My candlelit fish and chips dinner from La Peron)

Overlooking Santos beach and the harbor is the Dias Museum Complex. My original intent was only to stop by the Shell Museum located in the complex, to learn some more about the town’s marine species and history. However, there were too many other wonderful things on offer not to explore the other exhibits – one ticket gives you access to the whole complex. The museum opened on February 3, 1989. It’s easy for me to remember, seeing as it’s my exact birth date.

The Post Office Tree, a large twisted milkwood over 500 years old, forms a canopy over a bronze shoe postbox. If you mail something from here, you can get the special post office tree frank. It might take a little longer to get delivered than normal post, but in my opinion, receiving a postcard from a tree is something quite special.

The Maritime Museum holds a life-size replica of Bartolomeu Dias’ caravel ship, along with the history surrounding early Portuguese, Dutch and English navigators. You can walk around the towering ship around which the whole building was constructed, viewing the beautifully detailed paintings along the way, and if you’re keen, you can also board the ship.

IMG_0041(Bartolomeu Dias’ replica ship)

My last stop was the shell museum, which houses a massive collection of shells donated over decades from all over the world. Besides the large number of shells, there are live fish tanks and an interactive shellfish touch tank. “We think we have a very important role. We teach the children how to handle animals and to understand that they are animals. They are not just playthings,” explained Belinda von Schütz. When asked about the top-floor “exhibit” of plastic and other pollution in the ocean, which shows the lifespan of each material, she said: “We teach children and even adults to respect sea life and, of course, to talk about pollution.”

IMG_0039(You can spend hours in the Shell Museum)

Up the street from the historic museum complex, an unexpected and well-established coffee community thrives in downtown Mossel Bay. At the top of Bland Street sits an unsuspecting cobalt-blue building, The Blue Shed Coffee Roastery. The Blue Shed’s coffee is rich and their mocha is delicious. You can either sit on comfy couches or sit outside for an ocean view. Located on Marsh Street is the airy Object Cafe. They pride themselves on local homemade food and invite customers to visit their kitchen. Fearless Cafe, a quaint corner coffee shop on Marsh Street, resides in the same historical building of the Green Door Guesthouse. Loretta de Moor, the owner, is a vivacious powerhouse of positive energy. Her motto, ‘Love conquers all,’ shows in the details of her menu. She has more traditional choices (filtered coffee or lattes) but also adds a twist with options such as french press or Aeropress coffee. On Bland Street next to De Jagers, what used to be an old mechanic shop is now The Merchant: an eclectic coffee shop with knowledgeable baristas and quirky artwork. You can sit outside or in their quieter upstairs lounge.

IMG_9987(The vibrant Blue Shed)

Not a coffee person? More of a beer person? Further down Marsh Street, you’ll find a cluster of bars, each with its own personality. Patrick’s Pub and Restaurant has a large selection of beers as well as pizza and Irish cuisine. Across the road at Friends Pub and Grill, you can play pool, chill at the bar, or even sit by a fire depending on the night. If you’re looking for live music, the artsy Zeppelins is the place to be. They serve burgers, pizza, tapas, and are vegetarian-friendly.

If you wander onwards, you end up at The Point. Looking up, I could see the St. Blaize lighthouse perched atop the cave where the St. Blaize hiking trail starts. Below that, The Point Hotel and Spa overlooks the water as well as the campground at the bottom of the hill.

IMG_0206(The St. Blaize lighthouse beams over the moon rising)

Nestled in between The Point Hotel and the boardwalk lining the rocky shores lies a small, interactive aquarium owned by Alan Jardine. As you walk into The Shark Lab Aquarium, you’ll find a few fish greeting you to your right and receptionist Creshanda Austen, who I sat down with, warmly welcoming you. “It’s very unique,” she describes the aquarium. “It has an eccentric, cave-like raw atmosphere to it. There’s nothing plastic about this place.”

IMG_9990(Betty Blue followed me as I walked by)

Although small, there’s plenty to see and learn. The aquarium has various local and tropical species, including pinktail triggerfish (which Creshanda calls the Barbie dolls of the sea). You will also spot starfish, an octopus named Betty Blue, two smoothhound sharks, anemones, and rosy goatfish. “When people visit our aquarium, they realize that fish are not just fish. You learn to love them because it’s not just a creature. They’re so much more,” says Creshanda.

After leaving the aquarium, I browsed the large selection of food trucks and ice cream carts at the tip of the Point. The caramel-coated vanilla cone from Ice Cream World comes highly recommended. I sat with my cone on a bench as a flock of pigeons fought for my attention.

IMG_0152(The impressive mountain-lined horizon paired with the aqua water make it hard to leave)

As you wander around Mossel Bay’s downtown sidewalks with its stunning sea view, it’s easy to see why one would want to live the rest of their lives here. Too many coffee shops to count, plenty of restaurants, antique shops and museums all contribute to the traveler’s experience when visiting. While I ate my ice cream from The Point and watched a seal playfully swimming through the waves, I realized: I’d definitely swim here, probably more than once. Sharks and all.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Days 9 Through 11

For our first weekend trip, Annie drove us all the way to Cape Town. Jeff, Andy and I were the only ones who signed up for the trip, because some of the others were going at the end of the month. We arrived at our hostel, Stoked Backpackers, which is in Muizenberg, Cape Town. Even though it was dark out, I could see a beautiful mural painted on the side of the building.


IMG_9638 - Copy (2)(Swinging my blues away at Cape to Cuba)


After settling into our private room (yay) we drove down to Cape to Cuba; a cozy, eccentric, colorful, chill restaurant that has Samuel L. Jackson’s stamp of approval.


6193eb8f-1dbd-4288-840f-fb58cdffd747 - Copy - Copy(We were excited to eat all the food ❤ )


You can buy Cuban cigars, have a cocktail on the veranda overlooking the water, or sit on the swing inside the restaurant while chandeliers dangle overhead.


IMG_9631 - Copy(My impressive prawn dinner)


I decided to get a fun cocktail and the prawns for dinner. It was worth the heap of napkins I had at the end. After dinner, we went to the attached bar which they call Hemingways. The floor is made of sand and you feel like you’re on a secluded island somewhere while lying on the floating beds. I had my go-to: classic mojito. It was refreshing and perfectly fit the setting.


IMG_9634 - Copy - Copy(Hemingways Bar… my kinda place)


We got up early the next day and drove to hike Table Mountain. We went up to the steeper route because I’m not a fan of wobbling along ledges in high up areas! (The other route had sections that would’ve made me too uncomfortable) I have a thing with heights but was willing to climb up for the experience.


IMG_9648 - Copy(We conquered Table Mountain… 3558 feet up!)


Needless to say, this mountain kicked my ass! I had to make multiple stops, as did the rest of the group. Every time we stumbled upon a spot with any shade available, we would squeeze into it. At one point we were huddled behind a bush! I was amazed at people running up and down the mountain. They made it look so easy.


IMG_9985(Photo by Jeff Rotta)


After two and a half hours, we made it to the top. The view was stunning, and you could go on either side of the plateau. False Bay is on one side, and Cape Town on the other. I hung out on the Cape Town side for about an hour waiting for everyone to reconvene. You could easily tell which people actually trekked the hike (the sweaty gross ones) and those who took the cable car up.


IMG_9677 - Copy(Stunning views with every shade of blue)


After everyone had caught their breath and got all the snapshots in, we took the easy way down… the cable car. I was a little nervous (remember the heights thing?) but it went a lot faster than I imagined, and I just held on a little tighter than everyone else.


IMG_9693(Taking the fast pass down)


After taking a sink bath in the public restrooms and changing into something more presentable, we drove to the V&A Marina Waterfront. We purchased our aquarium tickets and walked to the V&A Food Market. This place is my dream come true. I tried to gorge myself as much as possible.


IMG_9703 - Copy(A food lovers dream)


There are plenty of options. They had pizza, oysters, sushi, lots of meat, salads, and much more. I had a mango smoothie, a spicy tuna poke bowl, and bought a box of gourmet chocolates to go.


IMG_9705(Find this sexy spice bowl at Hokey Poke)


Once we finished eating, we went to the Two Oceans Aquarium. Aquariums are my favorite. I try to go to every aquarium when I visit a new city.


IMG_9727(The Red Frogfish… looks fake doesn’t it?!)


Two Oceans has a beautiful kelp forest exhibit, penguins, jellies, and shark tank. I sat watching the sharks and schools of fish swim by. It made me want to plan a dive trip.


82c73625-587c-4059-a40b-609ad182786d - Copy - Copy(Admiring Ms. Shark)


We were then set loose to explore the waterfront. I pretty much window-shopped and listened to all the street musicians for two hours. After grabbing a cappuccino and reuniting with Jeff and Andy, we found Annie by the car and grabbed our sweaters for dinner.


76690fdb-b7ad-4590-aee7-c2a323ed883f - Copy(Proud of our accomplishment!)


There are plenty of restaurants along the harbor to choose from. After browsing the menus, we decided on Karibu.


IMG_9759(Dinner with a view of Table Mountain)


I went with the trout, while Andy and Annie split a fancy meat platter. It consisted of crocodile, ostrich, springbok, beef, kudu, and eland.


IMG_9767 - Copy(My South African dish- Trout with a cream sauce)


Jeff had an ostrich dish (which everyone agreed the ostrich was the best) and I finished with stewed peaches, cream and ice cream.


IMG_9768(Delectable dessert! I love fruit for a sweet ending to a meal)


After dinner, we took a ride on the Ferris wheel and then finished our night with a beer at one of the many bars on the wharf.


24fe3d82-574f-422a-a1e5-0d08b90cdcce - Copy - Copy(Beers to celebrate a memorable day)


Sunday morning we drove to Simon’s Town, a quaint coastal city that the South African Navy calls home. The town’s architecture is that of a Dutch town. I could see myself living in a cute cottage nestled in the rocky terrain overlooking Boulders Beach, where the African Penguins nest and swim.


IMG_9873(Boulders Beach… Can you guess why it’s called that?)


We walked along the boardwalk, trying to spot penguins in the shrubbery. Every once in a while we could hear the cries of chicks hiding under their mothers for protection. Once we reached the open beach, there were penguins sunbathing everywhere! Luckily for the penguins, people have to stay on the boardwalk as to not disturb the clumsy birds.


IMG_9844(Soaking up the sun)


After taking photos and cooing over the brown chicks, we went to the open beach where you can occasionally spot a penguin swimming in the freezing water. People in the Cape must have thick skin because a few were swimming. (And trust me when I say it was cold!)


IMG_9861(Mamas nesting, and the chicks starting to explore)


Our last adventure in Cape Town was at the Cape Point, or Cape of Good Hope; the most south-western point of the African continent. (see picture) We mosied around, balanced rocks at the beach, and hiked up to a lighthouse.


capepoint(Have to have the cliche photo)


The baboons by the lighthouse were terrifying and extremely intelligent. There were signs everywhere warning you to close your car windows, lock the doors, and not have any food or drink with you.


IMG_9935(Colorful views from the lighthouse)


One guy walking up with his girlfriend learned the hard way. He had a can of coke with a straw, and as soon as that baboon saw him from 30 ft. away, it was a done deal. After circling the man, he eventually resorted to throwing the can in the bushes. The baboon proceeded to grab it and run away while drinking the soda, while a handful of baboons followed after. Maybe he’ll learn to follow directions next time!


IMG_9942(Naughty baboons)


We drove back to Groot Brak, the sun setting as we inched closer to our home for the month, Annie’s killer playlist blasting the entire way. Cape Town will definitely see me again at some point. ❤


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 8

The last few days had all been about writing and coffee shops. This morning we left extremely early to drive to Monkeyland and Birds of Eden. Monkeyland and Birds of Eden are both ethically run places that help out primates and birds who cannot be released back into the wild and follow strict protocols to ensure the safety of each animal. It was about a two to two and a half hour day drive. We packed the van like sardines, but Andy Varsha and I got lucky as we had the back to ourselves.


IMG_9564(The signs pointing to either Monkeyland or Birds of Eden)


I quite liked the drive looking out at the mountains in the distance. It was really nice seeing a cloud perfectly perched on top of one of the mountains, almost as if the mountain was using the cloud like a scarf. The greenery reminded me of my time in Ireland, just slightly more tropical. We reached the point where the Indian Ocean is the stunning focal point in view. I hope we get to go to the beach stretched across with its white sandy beaches.


IMG_9370(The ring-tailed lemur looking cute)


The road to Monkeyland and Birds of Eden looked desolate as we pulled off the main highway. It’s basically in the middle of nowhere, at least from my foreign eyes. There were only a few cars parked in the driveway, and we all got our things in order. Ashleigh and Annie talked about not wearing any scarves or jewelry because some of the monkeys can be naughty. I made a mental note to hold on to my phone extra tight. We walked into a foyer made of chainlink doors. Again I pictured Jurassic Park, especially with the sounds of howling, chatting primates filling the air around you.


IMG_9422(Hanging out on a scary bridge…no biggie)


Andy, a charming tall guide, took the photography and journalists as his pupils for the day. He loves to tell jokes, as well as call to the monkeys in their native voices. The first primates we saw, were the ring-tailed lemurs from Madagascar. They were so fluffy and adorable, with wide eyes that paid no mind to us snapping photos and cooing over them.


IMG_9381(Sitting like a human basking in the sun)


They seemed to appear out of nowhere, walking right by you as if you were a ghost. Their main concern was a table filled with oranges and apples. Occasionally a capuchin would come down to steal some of their breakfast. The lemurs have such a light, squeaky call to one another which made me laugh. They just chat away or call in one long high note up in the trees. As we walked through the forest, we would see them cuddled up with one another soaking up the sun wherever they could catch a patch.


IMG_9449(A cute capuchin grabbing some oranges)


The capuchins are extremely expressive, and intelligent monkeys. Andy talked about how they use tools to open nuts and find bugs in the trees. They’re also very curious and would look at you upside down in a tree. Watch out for falling poop though! Always look up with your mouth closed.


IMG_9398(My personal favorite: the squirrel monkey)


One of the primates that looks very unassuming, but is apparently the most vicious is the Squirrel Monkey. These tiny, yellow-orange tinted monkeys are the epitome of cute. They’re also quite fast… running by us in packs. I had to watch all around me in fear of stepping on one, also so they wouldn’t ambush me!


IMG_9405(Don’t be fooled by this cute face)


The gibbons call sounds like a loud water droplet coming out of a faucet. Andy called back to them, as we made our way towards their call. After almost giving up, we found them in a tree branch dangling above a pond. They were a lot smaller than I imagined since their call was extremely loud.


IMG_9454(The gibbons grooming each other)


After Monkeyland, we went to the neighboring Birds of Eden. I love birds and immediately started naming the ones I knew. (Eclectus, Macaw, African Grey, and many more) Even though I wanted to pet them, I knew to leave them be. The sanctuary is all about rewilding these birds and I completely understand the need for education when it comes to something like keeping birds as pets.


IMG_9484(A male Eclectus parrot)


Birds of Eden is like a tropical paradise. Mist floating through the air, colorful birds fly above, and water flows through the center. A floating bridge runs perpendicular and overlooks the creek below. My favorite part was in the back where the flamingos and other colorful birds relaxed.


IMG_9457(The magical Birds of Eden)


At the end of our trip, I interviewed Vijver (pronounced favor) who is the Social Media Manager at Monkeyland. I can’t wait to share my articles that will come out regarding the new Monkeyland KZN as well as the #HOTGR about Vijver herself.


e6fa6b35-ac3b-4fc9-8336-83e38798a829(Vijver Jonck – Photo by Jeff Rotta)




Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Day 8

Day 4

indalu1(Overlooking the landscape at Indalu)


Varsha arrived today and shortly afterward we set out to the Indalu Game Reserve to walk with the elephants. The van jumped with every bump on the dirt road towards the gate which reminded me of entering Jurassic Park. When we got to the office and home of Gerhard Van Rooyen, the owner of the reserve, we hopped out to a magnificent view of rolling hills with Impalas and Springbok hidden in the shrubbery. Gerhard wore a safari hat, a puffy vest, and the warmest smile. He was extremely charismatic and you could tell he really loved the animals on the reserve.


indalu2(A herd of Impalas)


We loaded into the jeep with blankets and made our way into the reserve. The first animal we encountered (Eddie) was a Springbok who decided he would much rather be in the bush than near us. Next, we saw a herd of Impalas who were curious, but played it safe and stayed at a distance.


indalu3(Moketsi walking out of the bush. Our first meeting)


As we stopped at a clearing, I saw him. An elephant head sticking out from the trees. I started to get excited. Elephants are my favorite animal. I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent time with Asian Elephants in Thailand, but never African Elephants. Moketsi and Bacardi slowly followed their ‘buddies’ (Mark was our walking guide) out to the clearing. Hannah started getting emotional which in turn made me emotional. (Thanks mom for the crying gene!)


indalu4.jpg(Showing him how much I love elephants!)


Gerhard and Mark became photographers and took our pictures with the elephants. Afterward, Hannah, Varsha and I walked with Moketsi and Mark for about a kilometer. Mark has been working at the reserve for eight years and says his relationship with Moketsi is only because of food. (sounds like my dogs) We also discussed how Indalu is an ethical reserve. The elephants walk if and when they want and only receive positive reinforcement. Once they’ve had enough, they walk away into the bush.


indalu10(Moketsi is very particular on how much food he wants)


I want to touch on the topic of ethical tourism because so many times people go to a ‘sanctuary’ or ‘reserve’ and don’t do any research. Elephant ‘sanctuaries’ are not legit when they allow riding of the elephants, just like the Tiger Temple in Thailand who drug the Tigers allowing tourists to get a snapshot.  Please do your research and pick ethical sanctuaries and reserves.


indalu5(Annie and Francina hug it out)


After the walk, we got back in the jeep and I got to sit in the ‘adventure’ seat, located on the front of the jeep. It’s exhilarating to be up front as if you were on a rollercoaster. As we drove up to an area with a few buildings and a large clearing in front, we saw Francina. Francina is an extremely sassy ostrich who thinks she is an elephant. Gerhard let Annie out to hug her (she’s her favorite) and I snapped a few cute photos.


indalu6(Varsha, Hannah, and I feeding Moketsi. Mark (our guide) is leaning on the fence)


The elephants were making their way up the road with the second round of guests. We carried the buckets of fruits and vegetables and each person took one. We reunited with Moketsi, who demanded we fill his trunk and would not move until satisfied. Needless to say, the food quickly disappeared and we snapped a few more photos before saying our goodbyes.


indalu8(Saying my goodbyes)



On the last leg of our ride, we encountered Impalas, one of whom had just had a baby. We also came across two Giraffes. One of them decided to show off and strut in front of the jeep. A dazzle of Zebras ran into the hills. They were not interested in any encounters with us. Indalu is a must see if you come to South Africa.


indalu7(This beauty is a show off)


For dinner, Rouxne and Annie took all the interns to Piza e Vino. It was a perfect way to end an incredible day. I had a mojito to celebrate Cinco de Mayo (yeah yeah I know it’s no margarita) and ate a cheese and mint ravioli in a tomato-butter sauce topped with parmesan. As a side dish, I paired my pasta with a side salad consisting of eggplant, feta, avocado, red onions, green olives, tomatoes and greens with a light vinaigrette.


piza(My delicious dinner)


Hannah and I ended our night with facemasks and writing about the event-filled day we had.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 3

Who loves farmers markets? I do! This morning we drove to Wild Oats Farmers Market in Sedgefield. ( Link here! ) It was overcast and slightly chilly and rain was in the forecast. I was excited to scope out the merchants for souvenirs, artwork, and most importantly food. (You know my love for food)


0d8ca254-8e97-4279-9849-de0f5c1fa563 - Copy(The market was crowded despite the rainy day)


Speaking of food, we started our day by walking thru the stalls, checking out the large selection of goodies. There was everything from falafel, breakfast sandwiches, schwarma, pastries, tarts, to vegan omelettes. I chose a smoked salmon croissant with scrambled eggs and chives.


6e9d2bc9-0ac9-47cd-8288-74072b12f6fe - Copy(Smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and chives. A delicious morning treat)


Prince of Tarts looked too good to pass by, so I splurged and brought home a few: lemon curd, raspberry cheesecake, and chocolate caramel. I also sampled a Brazilian pastry called Lolita, which contained a guava filling and had powdered sugar and cheese on top. To wash it all down, I went with a classic cappuccino. Hannah and I sat with our drinks at a make-shift table comprised of an old tree stump.


IMG_9066(Delectable desserts)


We perused through the crafts section. I picked up a few small gifts (sorry no telling) and got something for myself. Annie’s friend crafts beautiful ceramic sculptures of animals. I picked out a gray-blue sperm whale with beautiful markings. A fun little fact about me is that I always grab a local artists work from every country I visit. I got a great piece from an artist named Jurgens Walt. You can find him on Instagram at Click me 🙂


6c53459a-5c0e-4a76-b7c2-a08f24875f84 - Copy(Hannah’s americano and my cappuccino)


On the way home from the market we went to the Garden Route Mall in George to see Avengers: End Game. I had been wanting to see it but had no time prior to coming to South Africa. I won’t spoil anything, but make sure you bring a box of tissues. It was a great end to a Saturday out!


PS: Happy birthday Annie 🙂


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 2

We were all excited to be able to sleep in this morning. All of us were still jet-lagged and getting used to our new environments. We were told to wear our swimsuits, which made us nervous because the night prior Ashleigh had us watch a short film on the Ice Man…Look him up, he likes to submerge himself in frigid water and take hikes up icy mountains in shorts. Needless to say, we were a little apprehensive to see what our instructors had up their sleeves.


IMG_8961(Halfway down the many sets of stairs to the rocky beach)


Pinnacle Point is located inside what appears to be a golf/resort community that has gorgeous modern homes sitting atop cliffs overlooking the ocean. Like the day prior, we had to climb down (and then back up) many sets of stairs to get to the beach below. Annie had us find a pebble that resonated with us. Mine was an opaque, blush-tinted stone. We then had to find a spot to meditate. I climbed up on a boulder far enough away from the rising tide, but close enough to hear the lapping of the waves as I closed my eyes.


IMG_8979(Some of our rock balancing overlooking the long stretch of beach)



After meditating for a good ten minutes (four of which I spent watching the waves), we scoured the beach for any interesting shells or stones used for a later activity. Annie found a rib bone she thought belonged to a dolphin. At the long stretch of beach, we practiced balancing stones. (Andy and Jeff’s creations were impressive! Mine…not so much.) After we finished our own, we collaborated to make a large ‘art’ piece. I think we did a great job considering what we had to work with. (see picture)


IMG_8970(Our collaboration featuring the rib bone, flowers, shells, and greenery)


More climbing of rocks ensued as we trekked up to a cave. Oh no… Get into our swimsuits? (insert looks of dread) On top of us being in swimsuits, slightly cold and uncomfortable, we then painted each other with Okra, a burnt-orange colored rock which Annie had made into paint. We made our way down to the rock pool and held hands entering the frigid water. (Trying to use breathing techniques from the Ice Man)


IMG_9029(Ready to conquer cold water)


When it reached our shoulders (brr!) we formed a circle, holding hands to use our body heat. Annie had us let go of each other’s hands just to see how much our body heat helped. The rush of cold was unbelievable, and we gripped each other’s hands. Three of us got out and sunbathed on the boulders surrounding the rock pool while the others (crazy people) stayed in for a bit longer.


IMG_9030(Using body heat to make it more bearable)


After our morning adventure, Annie treated us to ice cream. Dinner consisted of a braai, which is the South African equivalent of an American BBQ, cooked over an open fire. As Annie cooked, she had us play with Ashleigh’s African instruments. We surprisingly synced up right away and shared a lot of laughs. We ate like our ancestors, with our hands, and relaxed the night away.


IMG_9033(Our toasty fire)


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 1

Why am I in South Africa?

This whole month for me is really about personal growth and education. I’m here for an internship with Africa Media as an environmental/travel-writing journalist. I am fully immersing myself in the local culture and education being provided to me. I will be blogging throughout the month about my experiences. Enjoy!

Day 1

On day one we woke up around 6:15 AM and although I was still exhausted from traveling the entire day prior, I was excited to get started on my new life in South Africa. The house we are staying in is quite old and rustic but very beautiful. The dark, worn hardwood floors and high ceilings along with tall elegant single-pane windows remind me of my parents home which had been built in 1898.


africamediahouse1.jpg(Hannah posing on the steps under the clear blue sky. The charm of this house on the hill is hard to describe in words.)
After we ate a quick breakfast, Ashleigh (the photography instructor) took us to see the sunrise at the beach. The sand was frigid on our bare feet, but it awakened the senses and really allowed us to get back in touch with nature. She had us stretch and taught us about Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian fighting dancing style. At first we were all a bit stiff and uncomfortable, but we laughed off our nerves and eventually loosened up. We ventured out into the sun and practiced a few breathing exercises while she played her tongue drum. The sound reminded me of a marimba (my favorite instrument to play) and the calming sounds of the Caribbean. The airy sounds of the drum along with the waves breaking were very therapeutic. For the first time in what seems like forever, I finally felt relaxed.


a9a2fac5-900d-4899-a724-ebc92fe393aa(From left to right: Me, Hannah, Jeff, Nick, and Andy)
Next, we played a name game to break the ice and get to know one another better. There are six of us interns. Hannah and I are already close and are both in the journalism program. Andy and Nick are in the wildlife film program and Jeff and Varsha (who will be here later) are doing wildlife photography. Besides ice breakers, they really want to emphasize the element of play in our lives. They say it induces creativity, which I can definitely see! We played coordination games, such as boom-slap-clap, and movement-coordination where one leads, and another had to follow.
Walking down the beach with our mugs full of hot tea and coffee, I stopped for shells and enjoyed making up stories in my head about the footprints already there, along with the cute dog paw prints. Hannah and I taught a mini yoga session (mom are you proud?) and then walked back towards the car with the warm sun on our backs.


8b54384f-bc1c-44af-84ba-77e54ae7c18a(A successful relaxing first morning that incorporated play and mediation.)
Later that afternoon, Ashleigh took us on a three and a half hour hike through some wooded areas, up a stream to a dam. (She did the whole hike barefoot! She’s a free spirit and an amazing person) At the entrance to the trail is a leather factory with cows grazing along with a few of their babies. I was also excited to see a group of mischievous monkeys playing in the trees, though I don’t know what kind. (Side note: I’ve been to Costa Rica three times and the monkeys always evaded me! I was really excited to finally see a monkey in the wild.) Ashleigh led the pack, with a stick in her hand as if she were leading a marching band, so she wouldn’t get spider-webs in the face. The hike to the stairs leading up to the dam was not bad at all with the exception of a few rolled ankles from walking over rocks.


cow1(Resting from a long day of grazing)
However, once we started up the stairs it seemed like an eternity, and we had to stop a few times on the way up to catch our breath, give our legs a break and grab a drink. The overlook at the top quickly whisked any negative thoughts away when I saw the spectacular views of the water, forested landscape and the canyon below. We reveled in the beauty for a bit, and then made our way back down the never-ending stairs. Once we got back down, Hannah, Nick, Andy and Ashleigh went for a swim in the crisp water while Jeff and I soaked up the toasty sun. It was a great first day that reminded us all to stay in touch with our animalistic instincts and to stop and smell the roses.



4495b30b-1770-491a-bce5-2b432cc8711d(Post-hike overlooking the pasture where the cows graze.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wanderlust made easy.

Hi and welcome to my blog that will help you better enjoy your worldly travels.  My name is Laurie and I’m a Chicago native who loves to experience different cultures around the globe. My love of travel started when I was around the age of 20 when I first swam in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. Jump ten years, and I’ve now been to four continents, hoping to reach all seven in the next few years.

This page is all about helping you enjoy a seamless vacation. I will provide links to my recommendations for hotels, hostels, Airbnb’s, bed and breakfasts, as well as my favorite restaurants, museums, and much more.

I hope to ignite your passion and ease any concerns you may have about traveling to a new, unknown place. Whether you’re traveling with a companion or solo, this blog can help you get the most out of your trip abroad.

Keep that wanderlust alive!


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments