Africa 2012: Night Game Drive and Starry Night Dinner at Vic Falls, Zimbabwe

After a full day exploring Cape Town, we woke up bright and early for our flight to Zimbabwe. We flew to VFA using British Airways with a few hours transit in Johannesburg.

We found it amusing that on the flight going out of South Africa, they bug(?)-sprayed the entire plane before taking off to Zimbabwe. I’m guessing it’s to prevent airborne disease transmission, but it left the plane smelling like toilet cleaner and not really a smell I wanted to travel with.

Day 6 – November 8, 2012

About an hour after leaving Johanneburg, we arrived at Zimbabwe. This dry terrain is all you see out the window, a vast difference from the lush South Africa. It’s crazy how worlds apart they looked, even though they’re really only a few hours flight away.

The VFA airport was pretty chaotic. There were only three immigration booth, and the line was long as everything was done manually including getting visa on arrival, which was literally just a sticker with handwritten notes on them. We spent over an hour before we were able to get out. Then we got a taxi from outside the airport which costed us a hefty US$8 per person.

A few years ago, I had heard about the crazy hyperinflation that hit Zimbabwe in 2006/2007 and peaked in 2008. As a result of this, the zimbabwean dollar became pretty much non-existent and is worth nothing more than a monopoly money. We used our US Dollar, Rand and Botswana Pula for monetary transaction. They don’t really take credit cards without charging fees, so we dealt in cash.

Here’s a picture of Serena handling thousands of US dollar in cash to pay for all of our activities in Zimbabwe…

Everything in Zimbabwe was remarkably more expensive. This is our dodgy adventure lodge at Vic Falls and was the cheapest accommodation we could find. Even then it wasn’t very cheap at US$80 per room especially for the kind of place we got, with leaky bathroom that wet the floor after each sh0wer. At least it felt clean…?

After dropping off our stuff, we were picked up promptly for our night game drive in a legit Safari truck!

We took a drive around the small village. Everything in Vic Falls seems to be bathed in golden rays…

Then we reached the entrance of the national park, which has Zebras and Warthog grazing outside in the entrance. Not sure what they’re grazing at cause there seems to be nothing on the ground!

We drove around for a few hours and saw a few Giraffes. They really do walk ever so gracefully.

And of course, some african elephants…

Also spent some time watching some rhinos feeding. They got really scary and aggressive at some point because (I assume) we got too close to them. The baby was so cute though!

Other than that we also saw monkeys, kudu, antelopes and Impala crossing our roads. Pretty mild yet fascinating stuff for our first game drive.

We watched the sunset and broke out some local Zambezi beer before heading off to our starry night dinner. Since there is (obviously) no electricity at the park, it got really really pitch dark pretty quick. We had to use a torch to be able to see the road clearly.

Then, finally something exciting!

A herd of elephant was caught crossing our path. The herd probably consisted of about 8 elephants. They let the kids pass by first as one of the adult watched us warily.

We waited for the elephants to cross the road before continuing to our dinner point.

Save for the few candles we had on the table, the place was really dark. Since it was a clear night, we were able to see so many beautiful stars in the sky. Too bad my camera can’t capture the view!

Dinner was cooked by our chef on the spot. It was delicious! The meal consisted of a rice dish, chicken curry and some sort of beef and vegetables. I had seconds of course :)

After dinner we headed back to the lodge. Our next day consist of crossing over the border to Botswana!

PADI Scuba Diving Certification Trip to Tioman

Two weeks after the quick KL trip in June, I went back to Malaysia again. This time I went for my PADI Open Water Certification with my friends AP and Melvin. We managed to get a really sweet deal with Simply Scuba for only S$365 at the diving expo earlier that year! Their SSI Certification is even cheaper, but since our other friends all have PADI we decided to make things less complicated and got the same thing.

Getting to Tioman was quite the journey. Friday night after work, we took a 6-hour night bus to Mersing. We arrived at Mersing around 1-2AM and resumed our journey with another 3-hour night ride on the jetty. I was fully asleep throughout the jetty ride (I’m talented at catching some Z’s no matter the situation), but AP and M went up to the dock to see night stars and was treated a view of starry skies!

We arrived around 5am and was assigned to our respective room, and went for a quick nap before going off to our first lessons at 8am.

Our room was complete shit. I guess accommodations for diving trip is not always the best, and we didn’t pay that much at all for this trip anyway, so it was alright. I consider myself not very high maintenance but I definitely was having problems with the bathroom being a bit sketch and missing tiles here and there… let’s just say I was pretty ecstatic to be back in Singapore after that.

HOWEVER! We did have an awesome beach access from our room! This was the sunset view right outside our door….

AP and I went for the Open Water certification while M went off on his own to do his advanced certification. We did a total of five dives in two days and now we are a happy, certified divers :D

I found diving to be relaxing and natural. I didn’t have any problems being under water and have to thank my dad for putting me in the water since I was a 6 months old baby. I guess all those swimming lessons I did when I was younger is good for something!

In one of the dives, which involved descending down via a rope, I was the first one in the water going down. This was an example of when visibility was low and we couldn’t see anything beyond five feet in front of us. Our instructor had to help one of the group members who was having trouble so we were left slowly descending down by ourselves.

It was really creepy being the first one down. At some point, I looked back to AP, who was right behind me and wanted to tell her that I really can’t descend more because I was scared, but then managed to tell myself to keep going. There is just something eerie being in an open space yet not being able to see anything around. It was one of our deepest dives at 18 meters down.

There was also another dive where the current was incredibly strong, that we didn’t have to fin our feet to get around. Just stay still and the current will take you away. Of course, this had to be done cautiously and under supervision of an experienced diver, or else you might end up getting lost. There was actually a group of 7 divers who were lost in the sea for over 24 hours that same weekend. They were really lucky to be spotted by some Indonesian fisherman the next day.

On the way back, I tried the infamous Ramly Burger at the Mersing terminal. I wanted to see what the buzz was all about, and while yes, it was delicious, I will never touch Ramly burger again. Why? Because I got a REALLY bad diarrhea that night after getting back to Singapore. I’m just thankful it started after I’m safely in my apartment and not while I was still in Tioman, or worse… on the bus ride to Singapore -_-. I referred to this incident as “getting ramly-ed”.

A Quick Weekend Trip to Kuala Lumpur

Let’s take a quick break from Africa, shall we?

Back in June, I took an impromptu trip up to Kuala Lumpur to see my good friend Harry. He moved to KL last year from Singapore and got an awesome two bedroom condo there ALLLLL to himself, so there’s really no reason for me to not visit!

I booked things very last minute, like literally the day before, so I had to get to KL by bus. I booked with Luxury Tours & Travel coach after looking at all the options, since they pick up conveniently close to my place at Concorde Hotel on Orchard Rd. The journey itself took approximately 5 hours with minimal traffic. It was annoying going through immigration twice (once for Singapore side then once more for Malaysia side), but the rest of the ride and the bus itself was very comfortable. I chose to fly on the way back though, since I heard traffic getting into Singapore is hellish.

Once I got to KL, I took a taxi to H’s place. Traveling in Malaysia by myself is not a problem since I kind of understand Malay, it’s about 90% similar to Indonesian. KL itself reminds me a lot of Jakarta – a big, chaotic metropolitan city with not much else to do but eat and enjoy the night life.

H’s place is really really nice! We took a quick dip in the awesome pool. I’m still a bit miffed that he pays the same rent as I do in Singapore, and he gets a whole two bedroom condo to himself in the middle of KL and I only get a small bedroom!

Then he took me to one of his favorite lunch place at a nearby mall, Madam Kwan’s

I LOVE char kway teow!

Right outside the mall is the famous Petronas Twin Tower, which lights up brilliantly at night. Unfortunately I was only there during the day.

At night H took me out with his friends for a quick peek at night life in KL, which like Singapore is dominated by a bunch of expats. We went to this new place called “The Pool”, and partied till 3AM. I was absolutely knackered the next day so we just had a quick brunch with his friends (I forgot where, was still nursing my hangover) and couch potato-ed at his condo for the rest of the day watching some TV shows.

We had a quick dinner with his friends again at a nearby Indian-Malay place. That Chicken Tikka Masala was the bomb.

I left soon after dinner to catch the bus to KLIA airport for my flight back to Singapore, and that concludes my super quick trip to KL!

Africa 2012: Boulders Beach and Cape of Good Hope

We continued our drive down the southern coast of Cape Town after our random wine tasting at Cape Point Vineyard

Day 5 – November 7, 2012

Our first stop is Boulders Beach, known for its colony of wild African Penguins. We paid our R45 entrance fee and were happily on our way for some penguin sightseeing!

Except we went to the wrong beach. The penguins are at a part of Boulders Beach called Foxy Beach, which is fortunately just a short walk away from the beach we accidentally went to. So we took the boardwalk down, and it wasn’t long before we started seeing penguins around us!

Met this cheeky little guy, picture courtesy of Serena.

When we got to the entrance of Foxy Beach, we simply showed the ticket we bought at the other beach and they allowed us to go in. We walked a little bit to the beach, all the while seeing penguins left and right!

Apparently this colony was started by just a pair of penguins in 1982, and have since multiplied in size

Can you spot the pair of penguins walking side by side? I’m extremely proud of this shot :)

The wind was still super strong which results in medusa-like appearance by my hair, and sand in our eyes.

After Boulders Beach, we continued on to Cape Peninsula, which includes Cape of Good Hope, the most south-west point of continent of Africa. Not as cool as being at the south-most point of Africa but this one is definitely more scenic! We paid R90 of entrance fee since it’s part of a national park.

Spotted a family of baboons inside the park! How cute are the babies??

Also spotted some Zebras, which was actually hard to spot when in the wild. But we knew something interesting is around when there are a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road..

Tons of Ostriches as well!

We arrived at Cape of Good Hope, the most wouth-west point of Africa continent. We tried to take some pictures with the sign but failed miserably as the wind was just too strong! I did manage to snap a cute pic of K and J though :D

Then we took the cable car ride up the hill to Cape Point  for R49 since we weren’t about to hike up. Once you get up there, the view was absolutely gorgeous!

Spotted Singapore and apparently I was 9,667km away from home.

Kudos to Serena again for capturing a decent picture of me amidst all the wind. My face wasn’t even visible in the other pics thanks to my hair…

We drove back to Cape Town, which took nearly two hours, and had a traditional South African dinner at a restaurant called Karibu in Waterfront.

I had one of their Braai menu (Afrikaan word for “grill”), with a side of Chakalaka, a South African side dish that reminded me of mexican baked beans. I think this was called “Devil’s Peak”, which had Boerewors, Lamb Chip and fillet Sosatie.

The food was good but I guess it was nothing too memorable since I can’t recall what I had without looking up the menu online! It’s definitely a tourist place to go when you want to try some exotic meats. They had ostrich, venison and springbok on the menu.

We went home for a good night rest before our early morning flight to Vic Falls in Zimbabwe!

Africa 2012: Chapman’s Peak and Wine Tasting at Cape Point Vineyard

Karen and Jason, Serena’s friends from San Francisco were due to arrive in Cape Town that morning. Serena and I picked them up from the airport and from there, we went straight to Camps Bay for some Cape Town sightseeing — without even dropping their luggage off first! We hit a ton of spots that day and I’ve got to give it to them both, they didn’t complain or seem tired at all from their long flight from London…

Day 5 – November 7, 2012

It was such a gorgeous day, the sky was as blue as it can be and the sun was out in full force… except, so was the wind. It was possibly THE windiest day I’ve ever experienced, ever!

Serena drove us up to Camps Bay for a quick brunch, as well as to show K and J her favorite place in Cape Town. Here is an illustration of how windy it was: Karen put down her bag on the ground while taking pictures, and her hand bag was blown off a few feet away into the sand by the wind!

On our agenda that day was Chapman’s Peak, Boulders Beach for some Wild African penguins and Cape of Good Hope.

First stop is Chapman’s Peak, arguably the most beautiful point in Cape Town.

We parked our car, ran up the small hill for some quick pictures and gasped at the beautiful scenery in front of us. Chapman’s Peak is definitely a must-visit spot on a good day! The sea looks rough, peppered with little white waves due to the super strong wind.

I am amazed Serena managed to take a decent picture where my hair doesn’t look like it has a life of its own!

There’s me desperately trying to keep my hair down, while everyone else look so effortlessly… normal -_-. And if you were wondering why I’m not scared my dress will get blown away by the wind, it’s because Karen lent me a pair of shorts. Thanks :D :D

We continued our scenic drive on the freeway by the ocean, which included crazy half tunnels like this!

Our next stop was Boulders Beach, which was quite a bit of a drive away from Cape Town. But since we had some time to kill, we allowed ourselves to get a little side-tracked and made a left to Cape Point Vineyard ;)

This is a typical sight in South Africa – Grape Vines as far as the eyes can see!

Wine tasting in South Africa is crazy cheap, especially compared to Singapore where alcohol cost an arm, legs and your firstborn.. So for only ZAR60 (S$8.64), of course I chose the flagship tasting menu!

The wind kept blowing off our wine glasses, so we had to hold them down by the base!

After the wine tasting, we were off to our next destination: Boulders Beach and Cape of Good Hope!