South Africa – Safari Lodge

April 2009

My friend’s dad owns a private safari at Sabi Sands called Jacobin in Kruger National Park.

Main Living Area – Kitchen, Dining Room, Swimming Pool
Chalet 4 where we slept
Our outdoor shower
Jacobin backyard

Fire pit

Elvis & Maria
Elvis & John
Dinner being cooked

Grand Anse Mahe, Seychelles

June 18th – 22nd, 2016

June 18, 2016
Today we arrived in Mahe, Seychelles. This was the tail end of our adventurous trip to Africa. We decided to take it easy and hang out at the hotel and the beach. We stayed at the Hilton which was a nice hotel. The room we had was amazing we had a private pool and an excellent view.

June 20, 2016
One of the days we hired a boat and just rode around on the water and ended up going to a someone’s house for lunch. It turned out to be a nice lunch the family was friendly and made a killer meal.

We got on the little boat and went to a private island that had huge turtles on it. We hiked around the island which took about an hour, and after that, we headed back to the hotel.

June 21, 2016
The next day we took a private driving tour around the island, and we ended up meeting this french guy named Jean-Louis Marchesseau. He was commissioned by a museum in Paris to build a replica of one of the French ships. We ended up purchasing a ship called La Maquette. Every piece on this ship is handmade which is amazing.

Once again we are excited to pack and get ready to go home. There’s no place like home!

John

Maria

Maria

Jean-Louis Marchesseau & John

Our private dinner on the beach.

Andasibe, Madagascar

June 15th – 16th, 2016

June 15, 2016 – Today we left in the morning for a three-hour drive to the Vakona Forest Lodge. The name of the area is Andasibe. The drive was cool because we got to see a different side of Madagascar because what we’ve seen so far is not good the central city Antananarivo is impoverished, dirty and unsafe.  On our way to Andasibe, we stopped at this amazing crocodile farm which had 40 of the largest crocs we’ve ever seen and about 60 different species of lizards, moths, frogs, and snakes. It was pretty amazing. From there we proceeded to the lodge to check in.  When we got to the lodge, it was located in a forest which was jungle like it was a very cool place to spend a night.

After we checked in our tour guide took us to see the lemurs on lemur island.  It wasn’t too far from the lodge which was good because we spent about 3 hours in the car already and we had enough.  When we to lemur island we took a short canoe trip to where the lemurs are they don’t swim, so there is no need for fencing they are pretty safe where they are.  This was the first time John and I had ever had any interaction with these cute animals.  As you are walking in the forest they just jump on you looking for food; we were given baby bananas to feed them.  At one point I had one on my head grabbing onto the rim of my hat.  As I was walking I had four jump on me, and I can handle one or two but having four on your arm, shoulder and head were a bit much, but we still had a very good time.
After lemur island, we headed back to the lodge to get ready for dinner.  The dinner we had was fantastic I had a traditional Madagascar dish made of zebu which is a type of cow with horns. I have to say it was incredible it was called Malagasy Romazava it’s a sort of stew served with white rice.

June 16, 2016 – This morning we decided to leave Vakona Forest Lodge instead of tomorrow which was our original plan because the drive back to Antananarivo was three hours long and the road is pretty much one lane all the way there and back.  We had a flight to catch tomorrow to go to Seychelles, and we didn’t want to risk missing the flight in case there any problems on the way to the airport.  Either way, we had a great time hanging out with the Colonel and his associate. We ended up meeting up with the Colonel and had dinner at the best restaurant in Madagascar called La Varangue. After dinner, we hung out at the bar and talked to the colonel for about 2 hours and headed upstairs to finish packing and get ready to leave in the morning.

Follow us on our journey the next and last destination on this trip is Grand Anse Mahe, Seychelles.

John
Maria

Maria

Antananarivo, Madagascar

June 13th – 14th, 2016 & June 16 – 17th, 2016

June 13, 2016 – Today we flew from Zambia to Antananarivo. The second we got out of the airport we ran into about five different men who wanted to help us with our luggage. We had no idea how poor Madagascar was we had a 30-minute drive to the hotel, and our driver only spoke French which was very annoying. While driving to our hotel John and I were both blown away at how dirty and overly populated Antananarivo was. We saw many people walking and running with no shoes. We felt sorry for them. We saw people washing their clothes in a dirty river, and then they put their clothes on the grass to dry. Once we arrived at the hotel, we were relieved that it was nice so we decided to stay there and settle in. After unpacking, we decided to go to the shops in the lobby and buy a few souvenirs, and after that, we went to the bar for a few drinks.

After having a few drinks at the bar, we decided to have dinner in the hotel since we felt unsafe to walk in the streets while we are having dinner we were lucky enough to see a whole bunch of ROTC kids and an active Colonel.

We had a great time speaking to the Colonel and some of the young kids it was pretty exciting they explained that they were there because of a program that the US has where they help the military in Madagascar with training. One of the great things the Colonel gave us was pointers on where to go shopping and what to see while there.

June 14, 2016 – The next day our tour guide took us on a tour of the city we saw the Kings home its kind of interesting to find out how people lived back in the 1800’s. After seeing the city, we decided to go back to the hotel and relax before going to dinner. The Colonel recommended a nice place, and we took a taxi had dinner and took a taxi right back to the hotel. We had to get back and pack to leave in the morning for Andasibe.

June 16, 2016 – This morning we decided to leave Vakona Forest Lodge instead of tomorrow which was our original plan because the drive back to Antananarivo was three hours long and the road is pretty much one lane all the way there and back.  We had a flight to catch in the morning to go to Seychelles, and we didn’t want to risk missing the flight in case there was a problem on the way to the airport. Either way, we had a great time hanging out with the Colonel and his associate. We ended up meeting up with the Colonel and had dinner at the best restaurant in Madagascar called La Varangue. We had great food, great atmosphere, a lot of laughs and most of all they knew the Colonel, so we got the best treatment. After dinner, we hung out in the lobby and talked to the Colonel for about 2 hours and headed upstairs to finish packing and get ready to leave in the morning.

June 17, 2016 – This morning we woke up and met with the Colonel and had breakfast with him. After that, we had our tour guide take us to the airport. John and I were very excited to go to our next destination.

Follow us on our journey the next destination is Andasibe – Vakona Forest Lodge.

Livingstone, Zambia

June 7th – 13th, 2016

June 7, 2016

We started our journey from Florida to Zambia. After an 18 hour flight, we finally arrived in Johannesburg for one night our flight to Zambia is tomorrow morning. The Hilton Standton Hotel in Johannesburg (Joburg) was very nice we only spent one night there.

June 8, 2016

Today we woke up and got a taxi ride to the airport to officially start our Zambia Zambezi River adventure. We arrived in Zambia and took an unbelievable helicopter ride to my friend Tina’s river lodge. We flew into the gorge which was incredible it was an experience you couldn’t have had anywhere else. We flew over Victoria falls the view was breathtaking about twenty minutes later we arrived at Royal Chundu River Lodge. Upon our arrival to our river lodge we were greeted by Aggie & Hessah after a brief orientation we then boarded a boat for a short trip to our island lodge where Tina had set up our five days four-night stay and our chalet number four. We had lunch upon arrival and about two hours later we had a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. After the cruise, we went back to our room to freshen up before going to dinner. When we got to our room we had a wonderful surprise at our room the tub on the deck was full of warm water waiting for us it was an unbelievable experience to be in the jungle and while bathing you hear the grunts of hippos is something city folk aren’t used to. After our amazing and relaxing soak in the tub we headed to the main area for our dinner we were very tired from jet lag.

June 9, 2016

The next morning we had a rough time with waking up at 5 AM to go on our first adventure, but we managed. We took the boat back to the River Lodge to meet up with our driver for the day. It was so cold on the boat that we nearly froze to death. It’s cold in the morning and by the afternoon it heats up and it’s much warmer.  We drove about an hour away tomorrow to Mukuni Big 5. The first part was an elephant ride for 45 minutes which was fun. We saw what they normally do when they are in their natural habitat. Almost every step they took they would eat from the trees in the pathway.

After the elephant ride, we were introduced to two seven-year-old female cheetahs. Suzanne and Lulu were their names. At first, John and I were both nervous because even though they were raised from babies with humans, they are animals who belong in the wild and have natural instincts to hunt and kill for survival. One cool thing is that cheetahs are the only large cat that purrs so hearing the cat purr made us comfortable because you knew they were ok with you around them. After about half an hour we took them for a stroll in the bush.

After we were done walking the cheetah, it was time for them to get exercise. There was a lure attached to a pulley that the cheetahs chased while being timed and afterwards they got a chunk of meat as a treat.

The next adventure was the king of the jungle a 22-month-old female and male lion siblings. The lion’s name was Milo, and the lioness’ name was Dina. This experience was very different than the cheetahs because they don’t purr they are very quiet. The way we knew they were ok with us was by their body language. After about 40 minutes petting and walking with the two lions we were taken to meet two seven week old cubs

They were so cute and playful. We even got to feed the cubs milk from a baby bottle. Overall we had an unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime experience at Mikuni Big 5.

Our next stop on today’s day of harrowing adventure was to see one of the seven wonders of the world Victoria Falls. The first part was an incredibly wet walk around the falls which was pretty amazing. The sheer force of the water flowing down and shooting back up was like a monsoon rainstorm even though we had ponchos on our bathing suits were soaked.

John decided to be daring and swim in part of the falls which is called Angel’s pool. It’s pretty close to the edge which is crazy. After swimming in the falls, we took a picture while sitting on a rock right at the edge. One false move and we were going over. Luckily the guide told us they hadn’t lost anybody.

We then started our one hour journey back to Royal Chundu, and once we arrived, we had a lovely early dinner and then went to our chalet for our nightly soak tub and right to bed.

June 10, 2016

We woke up at 5:30 AM and took the same cold boat ride to the River Lodge to meet up with our driver for our safari guide to walk with the white rhino. The beginning of the excursion was cold but as the day went on the sun warmed us up while walking through Mosi-O-Tunya Park looking for the Rhino. We finally found the rhino and her baby.

This was the only thing we were doing today, so we drove back to Royal Chundu on the way there we saw a herd of elephants crossing the street.  They were the biggest elephants we ever saw and there was a baby with them as well.  We arrived at the lodge just in time for the daily sunset cruise which we looked forward to every day. After the cruise, we went back to our chalet to soak in the tub and get ready for dinner.

One thing I found comforting about the lodge was every night after dinner we had a guard walk us back to our chalet with a flashlight and a taser because in the evening hippos come out of the water and onto the island to eat. They are known to kill more people than any other animal in Africa.

June 11, 2016

Today we decided to relax and hang out at the lodge after travelling so far and doing the excursions the past two days we needed to relax and unwind. After lunch we decided to participate in a four-hour private river safari it was quiet and very peaceful.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see much we saw some birds, a lot of baboons, two crocodiles and a family of hippos. After the River Safari, we relaxed on the deck of our chalet once again and read our books. We took some time out of our relaxation to take part in the sunset cruise luckily we enjoyed a private cruise, and after that, we decided to have dinner and then went back to our chalet and enjoy our warm bathe before going to bed.

 June 12, 2016

We had such a great time on the river safari yesterday that we decided to participate in one early this morning.

The only thing that was an issue if you were doing anything early in the morning it was freezing for the first two hours, but as the sun came up, it became warmer which is pleasant.  We followed our river safari with lunch and the sunset cruise, soak in the tub and dinner.

June 13, 2016 

Today we woke up completely relaxed and ready to travel to the airport to catch a flight to Madagascar after a final drive down the unpaved road as the driver called it a free African massage we boarded our plane for our flight.

Follow us on our journey the next destination is Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Maria

Royal Chundu River Lodge

Maria
John
Maria & John

John
Maria

Maria & John
Maria & John
John
Maria
Maria & John

Maria & John
Maria
Maria & John
John
Maria

Maria
Maria & John
Maria & John
Maria & John
Maria & John
Maria & John

Maria & John

Maria & John

Maria & John
Maria & John

 

Cairo, Egypt

January 27th, 28th, & 29th, 2009

The days leading up to our trip the news was filled with images of the unrest in Egypt. Egyptians were trying to overthrow Mubarak.  We were on the fence whether we were going to go on the trip or cancel it. We decided that we should continue with our plan.

The day finally arrived for our flight, we were excited, and when we reached the airport, of course, there was a huge snow storm, so that caused a lot of flight delays. We boarded the plane, so we thought that we were going but as we were sitting waiting to take off the ice was forming on the wings they tried several times to get us going but were unsuccessful. Finally, around midnight they canceled our flight and told us to come back the next day. We should’ve taken that as a sign but we didn’t.

The next day we were back at the airport waiting for the flight while watching the news it looked like Egypt was not a safe place to travel to. We decided to call our tour company Abercrombie and Kent, they told us not to worry, and they would never put us in harm’s way this happens all the time, and it would be over in a day or two.

This time the flight took off. Finally, after 11 hours we arrived. We were met by a representative from the tour company, and he told us we could not get to our scheduled hotel because it was too dangerous so they took us to an emergency hotel which made us nervous. Upon arrival at the Fairmont hotel, the security gave us a hard time getting in which didn’t help the bad situation we were already in. After about five minutes of back and forth, they finally allowed us entry. We checked in an decided to settle in and get ready for a quick bite to eat since it was late. As soon as we turned the Television on Secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was on, and she said: “I urge all US citizens not to travel abroad to Egypt.”

John and I looked at each other and said “WOW that’s great” We decided at that moment that we needed to get out of there as soon as possible. John called our American Express representative, and she scheduled the flight out the very next morning. Other people that were on the same tour with us decided that they were going to wait a few days to see if the issues were resolved.

The next day we headed back to the airport along the way we could see the military all over with guns and bayonets attached and heavy weapons. There were massive amounts of traffic, so I thought we would never make it to the airport. Once at the airport it was a zoo, a total nightmare we had to pay $5,000 to buy new tickets. At that point, if they cost $10, 000 I would’ve paid. The chaos was nerve wracking we didn’t speak the language people are yelling, and you have no idea what they are saying.  We decided since we were already that far from home we should change our plans and head to Europe so off to Paris, France.

Follow us on our journey next stop Paris, France.

Snow storm that delayed our flight

John at the Fairmont Hotel in Cairo
Military presence in the streets of Cairo
Traffic heading to the airport
An advertisement showing us the only pyramids we will see for many years

Nelspruit – White River, South Africa

March 30th & 31st, 2009

Today we drove from Kruger National Park to Nelspruit (White River) to stay at my friend Tina’s house for a couple of days. The area she lives in is very private and gated. It was another short stop we were only going to be here for two days.

The next morning we had an exciting visit to this elephant sanctuary called Elephant Whispers. We learned so much about elephants that we never knew before this visit. We also had the pleasure of riding an elephant which was fun.

Follow us on our journey the next and last stop on this trip is Capetown.

Six dozen roses that Tina bought for her home
Maria at Elephant Whispers
John at Elephant Whispers
Maria & John – Young Elephant at Elephant Whispers
Maria & John – Elephant ride at Elephant Whispers
Maria & John – Elephant Whispers