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South Africa has definitely been an adventure-filled, once in a lifetime trip. We had a great group of 20 join Abyss Scuba Diving for 15 days for both land safari and shark diving expeditions.
After a couple of long haul flights, we stayed at a wonderful resort to have the day to relax, get settled, and explore around Johannesburg. We got to visit Nelson Mandela’s house and learn a bit about the new culture we were immersing ourselves in.
The next day we headed off on our overland truck to Kruger National Park where we stepped straight on to an evening safari and got to experience our first big game animals, from impalas and kudos to hippos and giraffes. As the sun went down, a toast in the national park was the best way to kick the trip off into full swing.
We then got to experience the big five in action the next day along with some amazing interactions with some of the different animals. We had big bull elephants with attitude come within inches of the truck and show its dominance, we had a lion overlooking his territory, we had rhinos rolling in mud bogs just metres away from the truck, huge herds of bulls, even one rearing its horns at us, and a leopard eating his fresh warthog kill in a tree. That’s just the big five! We had rare sable antelope come up to the truck showing off their amazingly long horns and beautiful colouring, zebras, hippos, giraffes, a huge variety of birds, just so much to see and an experience we’ll never forget.
After a few days at Kruger, including an informative lesson on animal poo as we walked through the game park, we then went to Swaziland where we had much closer encounters with the rhinos. We had a mum and bub just sitting on the side of the road blocking our way and as we went around we got to get out and walk close to other grazing rhinos with nothing but our guide and a wooden club to protect us. One rhino came right up to us and our guide fooled the rhino into thinking he was a snake and scared the rhino off - one of the scarier moments of my life! That night was a relaxing African sunset and lightning storm mixed with the casual lions’ roar and the hippos grunts.
Before we kicked off the diving we had one more big game drive in St Lucia where we were particularly lucky to see the elusive black rhino. We enjoyed a few drinks onboard a river cruise that evening to see the herds of hippos staying cool in the water, flamingos standing on the sandbanks, and the crocs floating down the river. It was a great way to transition from the land tours to the underwater leg of the trip.
We had a total of 5 days of diving between Aliwal Shoals and Protea Banks and had some great shark interaction here too. While the diving was a bit challenging with deep negative entries, ripping currents, and very adventurous boat launches through the surf, it was well worth it!
We had tons of Grey Nurse on a number of the dives that would really get nice and close to you on the dives, we had Oceanic Blacktips particularly in the baited dives, and on a couple of dives we had huge schools of hammerheads, hundreds of hammers, even a couple strayed from the pack to come to check us out! We had a couple of bull sharks, a couple of tiger sharks, guitar sharks, dusky sharks, and a pod of dolphins even stayed with us for about ten mins on one of the dives! At one point we had both dolphins and a school of hammers - didn’t know which way to look!
It’s definitely been a trip to remember and is sad to be calling it an end, but it has just gotten me that much more excited for our next shark trip to Fiji next year to dive with the bull and tiger sharks!!
By Andria Payne