Life on the way to St Helena

It takes five nights and days to get to St Helena Island, in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is a retro reminder of what ship travel was like in the 1950s, with deck shuffle:

Swimming in the salt water pool:

And of course there are romantic tropical sunsets:

Five course meals are served in two sittings. This particular trip is special, with nearly thirty French pilgrims, travelling to St Helena for the bicentenary of Napoleon’s exile to the island:

Here they stand to attention to sing the Marseillaise. We also had to dress formally for drinks with the captain, and had the opportunity to dress up for a creative hat competition. Marijke is an ostrich!

With 130 passengers, you could usually find a spot to relax, or socialise, according to preference.

The highlight of the cruise is day five, when we wake to the sight of the volcanic cliffs of St Helena rising foreboding from the Atlantic ocean. We can begin to understand how Napoleon must have felt.


Last Harrahs for Royal Mail Ship

Yesterday afternoon we boarded the Royal Mail Ship St Helena, bound for this remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean. This is to be one of its last voyages, as the ship is to be decommissioned next August. The opening of St Helena’s airport in February means that the passenger part of the ship’s service will no longer be required.

After the usual safety briefing, we settled down to a five-course feast in the dining room. By the time we finished, the Atlantic was rolling the ship about and many of us retired discreetly to check out the effectiveness of our seasickness remedies.

This morning, after a cooked breakfast, a few lucky volunteers were treated to a tour of the ship’s bridge with its navigational equipment. Since the Costa Concordia rang aground in Italy, procedures on the bridge have been upgraded and now two ship’s officers are on duty at any time.

The passengers are a friendly bunch and include twenty-seven French Napoleonic enthusiasts making the journey for the bicentenary of Napoleon’s exile to St Helena. As are we. Others are coming to set up the essential requirements of the new airport and harbour: fuel, air traffic control and security. Then there are some St Helenians returning home and South African holiday-makers. It all makes for some interesting conversation in two languages.

Tonight we dress formally for a cocktail party hosted by the captain.

(Written 3 October but not posted till 21 October due to high data costs on RMS and St Helena!)

Fabulous Capetown 

The Waterfront has a vibe by day and night, with brightly decorated sculptures of rhinos and tastefully restored remnants of days gone by.

People are posing for photos in front of Table Mountain even though it was blanketed by cloud.

But this morning we awoke to a fine day and caught the Hop-on Hop-off double decker bus and braved the hour and a half queue for the cable car, along with half the city.

Table Mountain was a riot of Spring colour, both human (see top photo) and floral.

The Red tour took us back along the coast, where more locals were at play.

We topped our sightseeing with a walk along the waterfront canal system and photographed high tea at the six-star One & Only hotel.

We felt as content and weary as this seal near the canal.


Puppies and hyena mums play before sundown

Coming out from their culvert home beneath the Kruger access road, mothers chilled out with their young.   

The chocolate coloured pup is very young and hasn’t yet developed his spots. It was most interested in suckling.

But it also experimented with cutting its teeth on a stick.  

His playmate was still chilling.  
And so was Mum:

A zebra trotted across the savannah

And as the sun set behind a giraffe with elegantly long eyelashes, we felt sad that this was our last Kruger game drive.


Wallowing in the heat at Kruger

At a waterhole just around the corner from Jocks Lodge, we came upon three elephants cooling off by spraying themselves with water.


 Just as we were setting up our cameras, they scrambled out.

  The cause was two rhinos that had arrived and chased them off.

  After checking out the lie of the land, they too wandered away, leaving the muddy waterhole deserted. Estien, our guide, took the 4WD down to a larger muddy wallow, where four rhinos were placing mud packs on their delicate complexion.

  On the back of one, the red-beaked oxpicker birds were cooling off; their beaks wide open. 


Cute baby animals with zebras, lions and a “Tusker”!

Our guide from Jocks took us out before sunrise and what a feast for wildlife enthusiasts!

Lions by resting the waterhole were a highlight:

But first Estian, our guide pointed out a trio of distant zebra.

Then a family of hyenas. One cub walked under the 4WD and sniffed at the running board.


Then we came across a rhino family. The curious baby sniffed it’s mother’s dung.

As the sun rose higher and the day became hotter, a hippopotamus kept cool in a wallow, watched over by a bird.

To top the morning game drive, we rounded a corner and came across an elephant with huge tusks. Estien pointed out that such “tuskers” are now rare due to previous poaching and genetic tendencies.

The end.


Beyond the five – other Kruger wildlife

Today’s game drives showed us some more of the diversity that is Kruger National Park. Estien, our guide, started by driving down south to see a pack of wild African dogs. He found them.

We also found a mother hyena and pup:

Impala are plentiful in the Park and and as graceful as ballerinas:

And let’s not forget the iconic giraffe:

Finally is the kuda with its amazing pink ears:

That’s enough for tonight. Time to go to bed in preparation for the five am wake-up call.